Starting in 2019, OpenRefine explored a new sustainability model by leveraging grants and corporate sponsorship. Four years into that process, OpenRefine is now fiscally sponsored by Code for Science & Society Inc and has secured four significant grants from three organizations. As a result, the project matured with the creation of the Advisory, Steering, and Code of Conduct committees and started hiring contractors to advance our roadmap. During that time, OpenRefine went through tremendous growth, doubled the number of active contributors, increased the number of languages translated, and continued seeing more users relying on OpenRefine.
In 2023, the advisory committee is looking to revisit OpenRefine’s governance model. We want to improve community involvement in decision-making and ensure the project’s long-term sustainability. The current system, where the advisory committee makes most decisions, isn’t working as well as it could. It needs to involve more people from the community and make it hard to grow or find new leaders for the project.
Proposed new organization
Therefore, we would like to transition the steering committee to a bigger group called the ambassador council to address these issues. The idea of an ambassador council emerged in the second half of 2022, during conversations between the advisory committee, active members of the steering committee, and the project director.
The ambassador council’s will act like the legislative branch of OpenRefine.
- They’ll participate in OpenRefine’s decision processes by participating in a monthly call and engaging with the community on the OpenRefine forum. The council will run the project and make day-to-day decisions, such as applying for grants, fund allocation, hiring people, or establishing partnerships.
- They will build OpenRefine’s governance with the community’s input by setting up guidelines and identifying areas where help is needed.
- They’ll also represent their communities within OpenRefine and share examples of how their peers used OpenRefine. They will help the project build connections and partnerships with funders and partners.
The ambassador council will initially comprise 5 to 10 people. However, down the road, we would like to grow it up to 25 to have voices from every community using OpenRefine.
The advisory committee will act as the executive branch of OpenRefine. For now will stay the same with three members, at least 51% of whom will be volunteers. The advisory committee will be responsible for the legal aspects of the project, by ensuring the project follows governance rules and owning financial and contract issues with Code for Science & Society Inc and other partners.
The project director will have a new role as a conductor and will be in charge of the project’s day-to-day operations. The project director reports to the advisory committee and helps the ambassador council run smoothly. Part of the role includes preparing monthly meetings and ensuring all the ambassador council members remain engaged. They’ll also help with grant proposals, including budgeting and writing.
In addition, the project director will be responsible for formalizing the project roadmap in coordination with the ambassador council and continuing to develop and document governance processes to support onboarding and leadership development, particularly as part of the CZI Diversity Grant. The director will also help recruit resources to support approved grants, coordinate OpenRefine’s participation in internship programs, and ensure the project’s financial sustainability.
In conclusion, the new governance model for OpenRefine aims to improve community involvement in decision-making and ensure the project’s long-term sustainability. Hopefully, this will result in a clearer and more powerful voice for the OpenRefine community and enable the project to attract and build relationships with more people.
While this post defines the high-level structure, much is left to be defined. We welcome feedback and suggestion on our approach. The advisory committee will also reach out directly to those who already express interest via the 2022 annual survey or other channels.