How an open source technology organisation co-created solutions with an upstream community

How an open source technology organisation co-created solutions with an upstream community

A case study on the open principle of community

The Challenge

A leading open source technology organization had been observing for decades how people with a common goal would come together to build solutions. They had been implementing these practices in an open way to run their organization as well. As the open source community began to ask for more information on how they too could organise for work differently, the question was raised: How can we co-create a consistent set of principles for organisations and teams of all types, in an open way? And further, how can we do this in the same way an open source community co-creates and maintains lines of code?

The Solution

A community-driven project was launched to lead a global conversation about the ways open can influence how people work, manage, and lead in their organisations. This encompassed community members generating knowledge and sharing strategies about building organisational culture and led to the identification and articulation of the Open Principles of: inclusivity, transparency, collaboration, adaptability and community. 

Defining the project

Before any work could begin, the supporting organization came together to determine:

  • How they would describe this project
  • What the goals of the project would be
  • And the needs of the community

The project definition would be the guiding purpose for those who chose to participate. Without a clear definition and set of goals, there would have been no central premise for the community to gather around and move forward.

Architecting the community

With a clear project definition, goals and objectives in place, the supporting organisation sought out champions for the project internally and externally. They formed a small internal team and announced publicly that they were looking for collaborators from around the world in varying industries and job roles. They then formed a core group of thought leaders from diverse backgrounds and locations, the Ambassador team, to architect and lead the open knowledge community. 

Once established, the community took over the role of defining the types of contribution and participation levels that would be expected of members. They set up pathways to contribution at various levels, with community roles and descriptions to support the pathways, and ensured that feedback and engagement opportunities were built in through social media and other avenues.  Finally, the team openly sourced and then established governance structures for the organisation.

Co-creating on projects

All community projects and contributions by community members are conducted on the open development platform, GitHub. This allows for anyone publicly to see the project board, the stage various projects are in, submit tickets with suggestions, and to fork completed works. 

Every month the Ambassador team comes together to discuss topics, the needs of the community, and provide general project updates that keep the flow of information moving forward in an aligned way. 

The community has found that with various contribution pathways and channels for engagement, they can accomplish more together in a faster period of time. They ask the community to assist in publication review and editing processes, or the most requested need. 

Openly licensed

The community has spent some time discussing how best to license the work of the knowledge sharing community and the answer involves an open solution. All authored materials for the community are openly licensed with a Creative Commons license for share-alike (CC-BY-SA 4.0) with attribution to the organisation and authors. 

This open licensing model allows for the sharing of and forking of materials. Some community members have taken materials and translated them into other languages to help them be more inclusive and accessible.

"The Open Organization community is more than any combination of platforms, tools, or projects. It's people, all working enthusiastically together to help spread open principles and practices. Those people are what make our community so great."

The Outcome

Over the course of six years, the organisation has fostered a global upstream community that collaborates on creating knowledge resources. These resources include definitions, maturity models, practices, over 500 articles and 6 co-authored books published in an open sourced way. And, for the supporting downstream organisation it has provided resources to shape conversations and solutions with their own customer base. Overall, community has helped the organisation innovate and grow far beyond what they could have hoped to achieve alone.

Community enabled the company to:

  • rapidly innovate through contribution of many ideas
  • create resiliency through the input of diverse skillsets
  • and grow sustainably through open engagement and contribution

About this community

This study featured The Open Organization community which is an upstream community supported by the Red Hat Open Source Program Office. If you would like to explore the work of the Open Organization or access the many available resources, visit The Open Organization, Open Org TV or join the community on Discourse.

About this study

This study was authored by Jen Kelchner who has actively served and contributed to the Open Organization community since 2016. Jen has also served as an Open Org Ambassador since January 2017 and as the Open Org TV creator/maintainer since 2021.


Kelchner, J. (2021). How an open source technology organisation co-created solutions with an upstream community. Interchange CC-BY-SA 4.0