About the Foundation for Public Code

Governance exercise

This resource

Contents

  1. Short description
  2. The exercises have three phases
  3. Preparation
  4. A current situation
    1. Background 1
    2. Exercise 1
    3. Exercise leader notes
  5. An ideal situation
    1. Background 2
    2. Exercise 2
  6. Discussion
  7. Resources
  8. Credits

This exercise lets the participants co-create a governance model. The participants will be handed a set of building blocks and instructions for two different scenarios. Each group will be facilitated during the process. Workshop time: 75-90 minutes.

Short description

The governance exercise is designed to help civil servants develop a shared understanding and vocabulary of how to make open source projects successful in a government organization. It focuses on the governance of open source software, as well as the main opportunities, risks, mitigation strategies and scenarios encountered when beginning or implementing an open source project. It is best done with a mix of developers, development managers, open data specialists, policy makers and procurement managers.

The exercises have three phases

Each of these should have an introduction to the task and explain the expectations of the outcome so that everybody participating knows what to do.

  • A current situation
    • Reason: to get their brains started and see that the process is both complex and probably incomplete.
  • An ideal situation
    • Reason: If the participants get to design a new process after describing what they have, they will be part of a process of change. Since they themselves have identified a gap to where they want to be they have internalized that change is coming.
  • Discussion
    • Reason: By discussing what they came up with they will realize what went through the different participants heads.

Preparation

Put big sheets of paper on the tables the exercise will be held on. This allows for the groups to draw explanations on them. The building blocks can also taped to them so that everything can be saved. Cut a lot of arrows, both one way and double sided in an array of colors. Use different colors for the current and ideal parts of the exercise so less meaning is inherited between them. Print and cut icons that are used for the actors. Print and cut the problem cards.

A current situation

Time: 25 minutes

Background 1

Imagine that you all are living and working in Middletown municipality. It is of decent size, not too small, but also not one of the biggest.

Together with three other municipalities you have developed an open source IT system. It is a festival management system. You use it for managing festivals taking place in your respective municipalities. It has been in use for two years. The main end users of the system are civil servants in your municipality.

You all have competent but small IT departments with some in-house developers. As a commissioning public organization you have outsourced most of the work to one developer vendor.

Each of you have a separate deployment of the system. Two each with different hosting vendors and two have deployed on their own servers.

Citizens can interact with some of the content from the system through websites about the festivals.

Exercise 1

Try to map out a likely way that this is being maintained. Include both strengths and weaknesses. That is, try to place the actors involved actors and show what is happening between them.

Feel free to draw upon your own experience and prejudice about municipal work. If you don’t know, make an educated guess.

Use the available icons and arrows to show what actors are involved. What are the relationships? Show:

  • how decisions are being made
  • information flows
  • money, etc.

Write on the arrows to make clear what they mean. You are encouraged to write on the icons to help you distinguish them better. If you need more icons or arrows, ask.

Exercise leader notes

To get them started, ask them to start placing a few actors on the paper and discuss their relationships. Make sure the groups move forward and take decisions and don’t get stuck in details. Remind them of the time constraint. When they have some actors and a few arrows down, start introducing the problem cards. If a group needs to be pushed a little bit, ask them who is involved, who things get reported to and so on. Make sure they write somewhere what the arrows mean.

An ideal situation

Time: 25 minutes

Background 2

Imagine again that you all are living and working in Middletown municipality, but in an alternate universe. This Middletown is also of decent size, not too small, but also not one of the biggest.

Together with three other municipalities you have developed an open source IT system. It is a festival management system. You use it for managing festivals taking place in your respective municipalities. It has been in use for two years. The main end users of the system are civil servants in your municipality.

You all have competent but small IT departments with some in-house developers. As commissioning public organizations you have outsourced most of the work to developer vendors.

Each of you have a separate deployment of the system.

In this universe you have already established a collaboration with the Foundation for Public Code.

Exercise 2

Try to map out how you want to maintain the system. That is, try to place the actors involved and show what is happening between them. Feel free to invent new actors that did not exist in the first exercise.

Use the available icons and arrows to show the relationships between all actors. Specify the relations are and how decisions are being made. Write on the arrows to make clear what they mean. You are encouraged to write on the icons to help you distinguish them better. If you need more icons or arrows, ask.

Discussion

Time: 10 minutes

Let two members switch groups and ask them if they can understand the other group’s results. Let them ask clarifying questions and make sure those get noted on the paper. Then switch the rest of the group and have the first person retell how the ideal situation looks like.

The first question for the both groups is to spot differences.

Ask them shortly if they believe their new models would handle each of the problems better than the first one.

Is there anything in particular that stood out to them while doing this? Any realizations that they had?

Resources

Credits

Icons come from The Noun Project and all that are used are under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution to each designer is under each icon.