Report from 2018 In-person Executive Council Meeting

Executive Council met to discuss mission and vision of The Carpentries

The 2018 Executive Council met face-to-face for the first time last week (June 18-19) in Gainesville, Florida in the USA. So, this seems like a good time to give everyone a sense of what we discussed at the in-person meeting, and what is in store for the next several months.

Why an ‘Executive Council’?

First, I want to talk about the name ‘Executive Council (EC)’. Why are we an EC, and not a ‘Board of Directors’? In the US, a ‘Board of Directors’ has a specific meaning, and suggests financial and legal responsibility. Because we are not our own non-profit, but are fiscally-sponsored by Community Initiatives, we do not have our own Board of Directors (noting that CI, which is a non-profit, does have a Board of Directors). We also felt that ‘Executive Council’ better captured the level of commitment and responsibility of the members than ‘Steering Committee’ (thinking about getting credit, often on academic CVs, for the work of the EC).

In-person meeting outcomes

Now that we’re past the name, let’s talk about the recent EC meeting in Florida. While we have been meeting online monthly since January, many members of the EC had not yet met face to face. An important part of this meeting was to get to know each other - to better understand our different points of view and ways of communicating so that we feel comfortable voicing our opinions and challenging each other when we meet virtually.

Mission and Vision

We spent good chunk of the first day talking about Mission and Vision. We need a Vision statement that expresses what is the future we are trying to achieve, and a set of Mission statements describing how we intend to get there. We did a brainstorming session, which produced many lists of goals, activities leading to goals, and values that underlie it all. The general themes were very consistent among the EC, most notably a shared passion around building communities that are inclusive, diverse, and accessible. There was also a general sense that building communities is as important for The Carpentries as teaching workshops. Karen, Ethan, and Mateusz are leading the next phase of that process, which is to formalise the vision (what we imagine), the mission (what we do to get there), and the values that inform how we operate. See the Communication part below, about how we are going to involve the community in this!

Strategic planning

With a general consensus on vision and mission, we turned to strategic planning. Tracy, The Carpentries staff, and the many folks from the community contributing their time to The Carpentries have been doing a heroic job since the merger, and the job of the EC is to provide overall direction for these efforts. We created a timeline for the next few months (now through next elections in November 2018) that includes arriving at the final mission & vision statement; 2) finalizing The Carpentries bylaws (our set of rules by which we operate, more on that in another post); 3) elections for the next Executive Council; and 4) information gathering in preparation for long-term strategic planning.


We realise that the EC has not been as good about communication as we need to be (and that simply putting our meeting notes in a public repo is not nearly enough). Expect to see requests for community feedback, starting with the mission and vision in July. We also have a series of EC blog posts planned, so that we are more transparent about what we are doing.

General feelings of excitement

Just want to wrap up by saying that I am very excited about working with everyone on the EC. Over the two days in Gainesville, we navigated challenging conversations, heard a diversity of opinions, had our minds changed, shared much laughter, did an Irish Dancing lesson (much more laughter), and were always motivated by the vision and values of The Carpentries. Looking forward to the next few months!

Dialogue & Discussion

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