A path to an Icrontic Board of Trustees

LincLinc OwnerDetroit Icrontian
edited January 17 in Community

Hey folks, today I'm announcing a change that will feel big when you first read it, but I think will be small when you experience it. The community as Brian and I helped reorganize it, initially in the form of Short-Media, is approaching its 20th anniversary at the start of June, which is also the month I turn 40. I've spent half my life focused on keeping our community together, and I want to start putting in place some things to make sure it outlasts us.

There's also a lot of room for improvement about how we communicate with the rest of the leadership team and how we make important decisions. After a few months of research and reflection, I decided the best way to accomplish all those goals was to form a Board of Trustees for the community. We can start that process now and hopefully put it in place sometime near Expo.

I've made an FAQ about what this means for folks who want all the details. The key takeaways are that we're going to do even more work this year to be intentional about how we manage this community and give more folks an opportunity to participate in making it the best it can be and ensuring it lasts.

If you're not interested in how the sausage gets made at Icrontic, you can safely ignore all this. This isn't about an edict to change the community, just in how it's managed (currently in private). If we do everything here successfully, you won't notice anything but small, positive changes over time.

What's the big idea?

Forming a Board of Trustees for Icrontic.

A board of trustees is a "governing body" for an organization. Basically, they're a small group that meets periodically to discuss high-level policy and vote on it. This is different from running the forum, Discord, or events directly.

Why form a Board?

The 20-year longevity of our community has hinged in no small part on my partnership with Brian. Brian has lately stepped back from day-to-day management and I'm uncomfortable with the position that leaves me in. There's a very big difference between a partnership and one person having a "benevolent dictator for life" role. I think it's a step backward, and it places more pressure on me.

Privately inviting others to be “co-owners” feels empty, too. All you "own" is a wild amount of responsibility and the ability to accidentally break things with alarming speed. You have to love it to do it, and it's OK to not want to commit to doing it forever. Reframing it as a “community trustee” makes it an honor and a limited-time commitment, not something you feel obligated to do.

Ultimately, a Board is a more sustainable model for community governance if we want Icrontic to be around in another 20 years.

Are you trying to quit community leadership?

No. Perversely, doing this is a lot more work for me than the status quo.

I think the system as it currently stands has a visibility & communication problem. I do a lot of work for Icrontic silently behind the scenes that gets reported to few or no one, because I've always just done it and there’s rarely reason to talk about it. I'm currently head moderator, head event planner, event host, treasurer, secretary, head of procurement, and head engineer — that’s just off the top of my head.

I think about the community in terms of 5 or 10 years into the future and there’s not a clear audience for me to discuss it with. Creating more structure will put us on a path to more clearly communicating goals and formalizing roles so that it's possible for other folks to fill them if they desire. I think it's highly likely I continue in many of those roles in the immediate future, but I'd like an orderly way to hand off some of them over time so the community isn't forever reliant on my bandwidth and I don't feel obligated to volunteer for things for which my enthusiasm has waned.

Wasn’t this a team effort all along?

We couldn’t have managed this long without the outstanding help of our moderator team and our event planning team. I think the challenge is that what we’ve most successfully delegated thus far is tasks more so than leadership. I anticipate more top-level structure will have positive knock-on effects to our entire process.

What would a board do for Icrontic?

When the Board first meets, it will do so with a charter (created by the transition team). Just like the US Constitution defines some basics of how Congress works, that’s what a charter does for a Board. It’s just broad strokes for “how does this even work.”

The charter will lay out a values statement and purpose, but that’s about it. My hope is the first Board will mostly help codify what we already have: A large committee for moderators, a large committee for Expo planning, and a small committee for managing our web server. They would do this by appointing co-chairs, giving them missions, and formally asking folks to volunteer for them each year, so we’re sure everyone is invested in the mission. I don’t actually have the energy to do this right now, so this is already a huge improvement if we get that far.

I plan to re-volunteer for most things I currently do. We’re still using ICHQ for events. This is just making space for other folks to volunteer in new ways too. For me, it’s making my opt-in explicit instead of assumed. For everyone else, it’s a structured way to decline something or offer alternatives.

Eventually, the board would presumably control community assets (domains, data, software, and logo). Note the board is NOT directly responsible for moderating the community or running Expo themselves. It’s for high-level direction and continuity, not day-to-day management.

How would we initiate this?

My proposal is forming a 7-person (probably) board from a pool of nominations made by the community. Brian and I will (probably) select the initial board with the help of a transition team, and we'll likely be members of it. They’ll meet a few times a year to check in on how everything’s going and make changes as needed.

How will the transition team work?

Use the Google Form for self-nominations below. We’ll select a few folks to help us, with the goal of wrapping up by Expo. I anticipate a few meetings over 4 months (March-June), probably mostly over Discord text chat. I’ll probably do most of the document drafting unless others are inclined. I’d like to make this a “low lift” for volunteers, not a major time commitment. The role of the transition team is consultative, not final arbiter, but our goal will be consensus. I hope to have the team in place by the end of February.

What work will the transition team do?

Drafting a value & purpose statement for Icrontic is the primary goal. That will be embedded into the charter for the board, which will need to be considered for further changes, additions, deletions. Soliciting nominations for the Board would also be helpful. The transition team will, I hope, brainstorm on what qualities we're looking for in our Board composition and what individuals would be a great fit. Most of this work will be asynchronous, but we'll meet synchronously a few times as well, as folks schedules allow.

A successful transition team will produce a polished charter (with value statement) and 10+ nominations for the Board.

How do I volunteer for the Board?

The transition team will determine how to conduct nominations to the Board and frame how we solicit them. I hope to begin that process no later than May. It should include enough details for you to gauge your interest in the required amount and type of work that will be involved.

What if no one wants to do this?

If we receive less than 10 volunteers to serve on the Board, or have other clear indications this plan isn’t going well between now and Expo, we may choose to abort the plan. We can’t force folks to be interested and engaged in self-governance, and it’s not the end of the world to keep the status quo. (Nothing about this answer should be interpreted as us being less than wholly dedicated and motivated to seeing this through, we’re just accounting for all possibilities.)

So a Board owns Icrontic now?

No. Well, maybe? It’s complicated. First, a transition team will help Brian and I draft a values statement and initial charter for the board. We’ll consider a roadmap for future governance. Key questions include whether to always have a standing board, how to select boards, what powers are initially transferred to the board, and what internal rules govern those powers. Once the board is in place, they will have the powers enumerated in the charter and may grant themselves additional powers over time with the cooperation of Brian and I. If the Board pursues legal recognition as a Social Club, we could transfer legal ownership of assets to it in the future.

Next steps...

What other questions do y’all have?

Self-nomination form for transition team: https://forms.gle/E3WeMRqhsLHt9K4Y7

I’ll close nominations on 16 February with a goal of forming a team by 1 March.

ColgeresharkydartSodaCBWinfreyCyrixInstead
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