For companies, community should be “us” not “them”

POV of a man's hand being pulled down a rocky path by a woman

When a company that sponsors an open source project, there’s a pattern that crops up time and time again. Company leaders and others who don’t participate directly in the project think of the community as a separate entity. They refer to the community as “them” as if there’s no overlap. This encourages treating company and community interests as separate, which harms long-term sustainability.

Instead, folks in the company should think of the community as “us”. This doesn’t mean that everyone in the community should be treated as a company employee (although sharing what you can with the community is a great way to build trust long-term). Instead, company employees need to think of the company as another participant in the community.

Apart from the better mental framework, this shift acknowledges reality. Even with community-led governance, company can influence what’s gone in the community by participating or withdrawing participation. Since the company is a participant in the community, we might as well acknowledge it. Plus, when budgets get tight, this helps make the case for continuing to invest in the community.

This post’s featured photo by Christopher Alvarenga on Unsplash.

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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