At Invest in Open Infrastructure (IOI), we believe that for any organization that values openness, transparency and accountability, the structures and processes governing the organization are critical for ensuring the organization acts by its values and puts its beliefs into practice.
IOI is currently a fiscally sponsored project at Code for Science & Society (CS&S). As such, the board of CS&S takes on the legal and fiduciary obligations of a nonprofit board of directors. (Disclosure: IOI Executive Director Kaitlin Thaney serves on the CS&S board in a special board seat for fiscally sponsored project affiliates). As we seek to build an enduring organization, we take as inspiration the role of directors in both holding the organization to account and helping drive the mission forward. As strong advocates for meaningful, effective, and accountable organizational governance as a necessary component for truly community-led work, we have worked with our inaugural Steering Committee, DeEtta Jones & Associates, and our Governance & Nominating Committee to outline aspects that are crucial for our governance:
- Delineate clear roles and responsibilities: We collectively set up charters, documentation, etc., so that members of our governance bodies know what they are here to do, what the responsibilities of each body and staff are, and how we work together. We are particularly mindful of aspects like agreeing on a meeting cadence to ensure that voices are heard as equally as possible.
- Bring in diverse, additional perspectives: We involve people who would bring in specific expertise and domain knowledge, e.g., financial, operational, and those who would challenge our perspectives. We have defined lengths of service terms for governance members to ensure a flow of fresh ideas and perspectives. In addition, we develop means, e.g., Community Councils, to build a structured relationship with the community we serve and to gather and incorporate their feedback into our work.
- Provide effective oversight: We pay attention to the balance of individuals in our governing bodies and decision-making processes to ensure we avoid self-dealing. We have structures to stay informed of and mitigate bias and conflicts of interest. We keep governance bodies at a size that allows them to be agile and responsive. We build committees and advisories where specific areas of work require additional oversight, e.g. a Financial Oversight Group, a Governance & Nominating Committee.
Here, we share some of the learnings from evolving IOI's governance, as well as the documentation and resources we have built. By making these open and reusable, we hope that they may be useful for other organizations committed to openness, transparency and accountability.
Documentation & resources
- Recommendations and strategies designed by DeEtta Jones & Associates (work done in collaboration with Code for Science and Society)
- Overview: Evolving our Governance: Motivations, journey and lessons learnt
- Governance onboarding:
- Strategy Retreat design and programme
- Orientation packet to connect governance with organizational background, people, and knowledge
- Processes and Documentation
- Governance roster
- Governing bodies charters: Steering Committee, Community Oversight Council
- Conflict of Interest Declaration and Policy