Sunday, January 20, 2013

From co-organizing to putting things together

This post is continuation of my previous post: Bringing communities together.

FAST is not the only community I feel I belong to. FAST is my home, though. It's the community I consider first and last. It's my people.

I also belong to Agile Finland, and have been a member since it started.  Agile Finland is a registered non-profit. I occasionally go to their annual meetings too, even though I hate the sense of bureaucracy the "must keep" meetings create with their official agenda. If I'd want to do some session for Agile Finland, as a member, I think I would be immediately welcomed. But, I want to so sessions for Agile Finland that simultaneously are also sessions for FAST. I've notice this works out great as long as there is someone on the Agile Finland Board that participates. I've been hinting that I'm a member too, and I could represent both, but that tends to not be how things go. However, I'm welcome to invite Agile Finland members who are not FAST members to the sessions organized. But the board participation creates this "sense of ownership".

Co-organizing works out nicely, with two members of the respective boards. For FAST, we've done that with a project-oriented interest group ("differences in being project vs. test manager"), with a Java special interest group ("unit testing") and with agile Finland ("what's agile testing").  I like doing things for many communities on one go if possible, since before this started, it was quite common to do the same things twice. And the time is limited. Sometimes the premises will only fit a certain number of people, and choosing the primary community is a way to make sure we don't need to say no to quite so many people.

Sytyke, the organizational "home" for FAST, would love to say all FAST sessions are their sessions. The trouble they're facing, I think, is that we tend to be moving by inspiration instead based on a set plan of dates and topics. And when we have still plenty of time to reach our members, their members may already be dropped out of the loop with the chains of how information should flow that are not direct. 

I'm also paying attention now to something Sytyke initiated and Agile Finland is participating in. We're writing a book on Agile next weekend, in form of a book sprint. We set the scope in the start of the weekend, 20 people writing and out should come a book in Finnish about Agile. Since Sytyke initiated it, it's their book. Except that the book wouldn't have as much people writing it without other communities joining in too. And I for one, feel I still somehow in this mix represent FAST - but FAST is not one of the co-organizers. 

ISTQB Finland (FiSTB) is its own non-profit. FAST collaborates with them, as they are the same people. Yet, when they organize a session, it's not a FAST session usually because you have to pay for it. We're just about to start talking if there's a difference in organizing "in collaboration" or being a "supporting organization". FAST isn't promoting ISTQB, but we're not hiding it either. It's presented as one option people may choose from and I personally just make sure the other options and my strong feelings for the need of those options get to be visible too.

Internationally, I'm AST member. That is the only non-profit I pay for. I joined Software Testing Club, but have no idea if I should feel I belong there. And I'm connected with the EuroSTAR community, as a program committee member. These are all international, but feel hugely different.

My main lesson has been that to build a community, one should de-emphasize the community leader / facilitator and the board,  and emphasize things the members of the community do. With a board approach, members (and the board) tend to assume the board is there to organize the action. I'd love to see boards setting trust on the members organizing the action. There's bound to be rules of what is appropriate for each, but we should work on providing the rules in such a way that activities could really emerge without approval.

But finding the ways to do things for many communities at once, I still wonder if that will be easily doable. Time will tell.