Building and Sustaining Carpentries Subcommunities

Next steps for the Community Development Program

In October of last year, the Community Development Team (CDT) announced that it would be launching a new effort to support community building across The Carpentries organisation. The primary goal of the Community Development Program is to improve how The Carpentries’ subcommunities are supported to maximize benefits to our community members and to ensure the long term sustainability of the organisation as we continue to grow globally. We define a subcommunity as a group of community members serving in the same role within the organisation, located in the same geographic region, or who come together because they share common interests.

Process and Recommendations

Over the past few months, the Director of Community has conducted interviews and collected data from a number of our community members who currently serve in subcommunity leadership roles. This effort resulted in a number of recommendations that will guide the development and implementation of the Community Development Program over the next year.

Recommendation 1: Develop roadmaps for diverse subcommunity types

Recommendation 2: Develop resources (tip sheets) for each stage of a subcommunity’s roadmap

To reduce the administrative burdens of running a subcommunity, the CDT will develop a series of roadmaps that match the needs of diverse subcommunity types. Each roadmap will provide information in digestible chunks around common areas needing support for each type. The information will be distributed through a series of communications and tipsheets that allow subcommunity leaders to move a subcommunity forward at a pace that is not overwhelming and easily managed over time. Tipsheets will be drafted by the CDT and brought to community members interested in contributing to each one through a series of co-working sessions.

Examples of three tip sheets that could be created through the program. The communications tip sheet provides information on setting up communication channels, available tools and templates, a style and branding guide, and best practices for sharing impact. The convening your community tip sheet provides information on setting up a website and event calendar, running monthly community calls, and hosting CarpentryConnect events. The recruiting and retaining members tip sheet provides information on raising awareness of your subcommunity, welcoming and onboarding new members, recognition and appreciation, and matching members to available opportunities.

Recommendation 3: Start hosting quarterly community calls for subcommunity leaders to network and share ideas

Considering the lack of time available to many of our subcommunity leaders, we need to ensure that they do not have to reinvent the wheel, trying to do things others have already figured out. Everyone will benefit from the sharing of ideas and resources, so a quarterly community call will be initiated to facilitate this. The first one will be held Tuesday, 15 March at 2:00 PM UTC (find your time) and the second at 11:00 PM UTC (find your time). Details for joining are available on the community calendar, and anyone in the community is welcome to join to learn more about the future of this program.

Recommendation 4: Collect data on what is minimally required to sustain each subcommunity type to provide guidance and resources

As the CDP program develops, the CDT will be better informed to offer guidance and resources on what is required to effectively sustain a subcommunity. Additional data is needed, so this data collection effort will be ongoing over the next year.

Recommendation 5: Develop a glossary of relevant terms with an accompanying visual that shows how community roles align and intersect

In conversations with community members, the Director of Community found that consistent terminology has not been adopted within the organisation. A glossary of terms will be created to standardize how we describe community activities, community management, community building, and community member roles. A graphic demonstrating how various activities and subcommunities align and intersect will improve understanding of how our community functions.

Recommendation 6: Develop an official subcommunity registry that will be available online

As an open community, the number of subcommunities that have emerged organically over time within The Carpentries is unknown. This makes it difficult for community members to find other members in their area or who share similar interests. The CDT will develop a way for subcommunities to officially register with the organisation through a subcommunity registry. This registry will be made available online so new community members can identify and reach out to subcommunities they are interested in joining.

Recommendation 7: Request information on ongoing activities, websites, and communication channels in subcommunity registry

This will increase awareness among our members of what activities are being led and supported by each subcommunity.

Recommendation 8: Conduct audit of existing communication channels

The CDT will begin an audit of existing Slack channels and TopicBox listservs to identify those that are being used and those that are inactive. Detailed descriptions of each channel and listserv will be added to each platform so community members can easily find which communication channels each subcommunity is using and ones they might be interested in joining.

Recommendation 9: Develop an official event registration

An event registration would provide an opportunity to categorize an event as being officially sponsored or supported by The Carpentries and could be marketed by the CDT through our communication channels. As with the subcommunity registration, this would also allow individuals to find events they would have interest in attending.

Recommendation 10: Pilot a project that has a subset of subcommunities conduct a minimum set of activities, allowing us to evaluate how such requirements might benefit community reciprocity

Sustainable communities require contributions, of any size, from all members. The CDT will pilot a project that has a subset of subcommunities conduct a minimum set of activities (e.g., contribute two blog posts/year, lead a themed discussion session/year, enhance or develop one community-relevant resource annually, provide Instructors to one centrally organized workshop annually). These activities would allow us to evaluate how such requirements might benefit community reciprocity.

Recommendation 11: Build on an existing GitHub repository to share and tag relevant resources using a defined tagging ontology

We can continue to build on an existing GitHub repository to share and tag resources relevant to community development and management. A tagging ontology will be developed to ensure that this is done consistently. The CDT will identify common topics that emerged from the interviews that will be used to seed this resource (e.g., document templates, checklists for running monthly calls) and topics for quarterly community calls.

Recommendation 12: Initiate a “Subcommunity Highlights” communication series to increase awareness

A “Subcommunity Highlights” communication series will increase awareness of subcommunities by highlighting their activities through a blog and accompanying themed community discussion.

Recommendation 13: Collect more data on who in the community is supported in their Carpentries work through their employer and to what degree these partnerships might determine a subcommunity’s capacity

Many subcommunities are currently run by individuals who are doing this work through a paid position or with grant funds. This could potentially results in unequal access to serve in leadership roles. Because many subcommunities lack any governance structure, power imbalances could also result with no clear path for transitioning leadership roles. This is a complex situation that requires a detailed understanding before it can be fully acted upon. Only a subset of subcommunities were interviewed to inform the program. Therefore, more data needs to be collected on who in the community is supported in their Carpentries work through their employer and to what degree these partnerships might determine a subcommunity’s capacity. Using information from the interviews already conducted, the CDT can develop a form to distribute more broadly for collecting information to better inform next steps.

Recommendation 14: Reinstate the Carpentries Champions program to provide support to new, emerging subcommunities

Community members continue to show interest in starting a new local or regional subcommunity as interest in The Carpentries grows globally. The Carpentries Champions program, which became inactive in 2019, aimed to “help support the growth of existing communities and attract new communities to build digital skills capacity at research organizations around the world.” Based on our findings, we plan to pilot a relaunch of the program to provide support to new, emerging subcommunities. Champions would utilize the resources and collaboration opportunities described above to support these new groups.

Next Steps

Our community management challenges are complex, which will require care when implementing any of the above recommendations. An evaluation plan for the Community Development Program will identify metrics and success indicators for each recommendation to determine if it is effectively addressing each challenge. As the program is implemented, the community will continuously be consulted. Resources will continue to be co-created and initiatives will be piloted before broad-scale implementation.

If you are interested in learning more about this program and being engaged in its development, we invite you to join the conversation on Slack (#community) and to join our TopicBox email listserv. We also welcome your ideas and feedback by emailing


We would like to thank all the community members who provided feedback to inform these recommendations: Aleksandra Nenandic, Annajiat Alim Rasel, Benson Muite, Damien Irving, Daniel Chen, David Perez-Suarez, Giacomo Peru, James Desjardins, Jannetta Steyn, Megan Guidry, Mike Trizna, Naoe Tatara, Paula Martinez Lavanchy, Rabea Müller, and Sarah Stevens. The Director of Community also attended meetings with Instructor Trainers and Maintainers to get their feedback. This work was done in consultation with the Center for Scientific Collaboration and Community Engagement (CSCCE).

Dialogue & Discussion

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