Earlier this month, we hosted a conversation on maintenance and the labor of open infrastructure, a dialog designed to dig into issues surrounding the underlying labor required to develop, maintain, and sustain open source technologies. Video of this discussion is now available.

We were joined by Jessica Meyerson, Co-Director of The Maintainers, a global research network dedicated to the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, and repair, and Luis Villa, co-founder of Tidelift, known for their approach to supporting the ecosystem of open source project maintainers and compensating them for their work.

Top left, clockwise: Jessica Meyerson (The Maintainers, Educopia Institute), Luis Villa (Tidelift), Kaitlin Thaney (Invest in Open Infrastructure). 

We’ve also curated a list of resources mentioned during the call for those looking to read more about approaches and work to address issues surrounding maintenance of our shared systems and infrastructure.

Tune in to hear more from Jessica and Luis on the history of “innovation speak”, the inspectability and visibility of labor, the “romance of open” and its relationship to volunteer labor, and how we can begin to move towards a more equitable, sustainable ecosystem where labor is recognized and compensated.

Our thanks again to Jessica and Luis for sharing their expertise and time with us! Be sure to check out the video, recommendations list below, and stay tuned for more on our next call happening June 30.

Here are a few recommendations from the call (with special thanks to Jessica and Luis for their help in curating!) :

Anna Hoffman on “Terms of inclusion: Data, discourse, violence.” New Media & Society. September 2020. doi:10.1177/1461444820958725

  • “Always more, never no.”
  • “Insidiously, this reasoning (calls for more inclusive data sets and input fields) subtly normalizes a near total absence of the word “no” in discussions of data ethics. It neutralizes critical calls to not collect certain kinds of data or build and deploy certain technologies by reframing the issue as exclusively one of iteration, improvement, and doing things more inclusively.”

Indigenous Data Sovereignty Movement


Critical Appreciative Inquiry:

Community Cultivation, Governance, and Facilitation AKA Social Infrastructures

  • Tyranny of Structurelessness by Jo Freeman
  • Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society by Raymond Williams, in which he explores the meaning of specific words, including ‘community.’ He describes the community as “warmly persuasive,” “never to be used unfavorably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.” Equity benefits from specificity about the types of social/human infrastructures that will be provided to make full participation accessible for community members.
  • Emergent Strategy by adrienne marie brown on the components of liberated relationships and functional interdependence
  • Community Cultivation - A Field Guide by Katherine Skinner, Educopia Institute
  • Vision in Formation: Articulating Your Community’s Purpose - A Facilitator Guide by Jessica Meyerson and Katherine Skinner, Educopia Institute (see the Resource Library)
  • Anti-Oppressive Facilitation for Democractic Process - This facilitation guide, created by members of the Anti-Oppression Resource & Training Alliance (AORTA), is a foundational resource for anyone who is facilitating a group for the first time - and is a grounding, evergreen resource for seasoned facilitators as well! The guide starts by defining what effective facilitation is all about and what the role of a facilitator is. The guide also covers community agreements about norms and accountability for upholding them, considerations for the culture you will help to create as a facilitator, the value of real-time synthesis and mirroring back to the group, decision making, common mistakes, and specific tools for addressing power imbalances and dynamics within a group.
  • Facilitation Strategies - This resource, paired with the AORTA guide described above, are essential reading for anyone playing a facilitation role. Similar to the AORTA guide, the resource starts by defining facilitation and the role of the facilitator. The rest of the resource includes a list of eight facilitation strategies and detailed descriptions of what they mean and how to apply them. These strategies range from “developing group agreements” to “building facilitation capacity within an organization or group.” This resource is published by Organizing Engagement, an online publication dedicated to advancing knowledge, understanding, and practice at the intersection of education, organizing, engagement, and equity.
  • Liberating Structures - Based on the research of Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless, “Liberating Structures are easy-to-learn microstructures that enhance relational coordination and trust. They quickly foster lively participation in groups of any size, making it possible to truly include and unleash everyone.” The creators of Liberating Structures provide a menu of thirty-three different designs for group interactions. Each microstructure provided in the menu has associated information about the purpose of the structure (e.g., brainstorming versus decision making), tips and traps for proactively addressing any issues that could arise when using the structure, variations on the structure, examples on how to use the structure, and minimal specifications on how to implement the structure (e.g., how to frame the invitation to the group, how the space needs to be arranged, how the groups or subgroups are configured, the sequence of steps to follow, and the estimated time for each step).
  • Session Lab Library of Facilitation Techniques - The Session Lab Library is a wonderful resource that aggregates facilitation exercises and techniques from many different sources across the web (including Liberating Structures). The facilitation exercises are organized using categories that reflect the exercise’s purpose or intent. Categories include “energiser,” “idea generation,” “issue resolution,””issue analysis,” and “action.” When a user clicks on an exercise, a window appears that provides a complete description including the goals of the exercise, materials needed to complete the exercise, the sequence of steps to follow in order to complete the exercise, the amount of time allotted for each step,  structural tips on ways to run the activity with a group, and the original source of the exercise. Unlike Liberating Structures, Session Lab resources enable comments from users that have used the exercise, which can be additional useful information for deciding which exercises might be the best fit for your purpose.
Posted by Kaitlin Thaney