Fedora Magazine is written for a general Fedora audience and typically focuses on content for users rather than for contributors. This article is aimed primarily at contributors, but covers an important topic which ultimately affects everyone: the practical goals we aim for as a project, and how (and why) we select them.

One of the crucial duties of the new Fedora Council will be the selection of two to four 18-month objectives (and then finding people to own and drive each of them). Although the new body is not yet in place, this is to be a community conversation, so there’s no need to wait to start talking about what we want. (If this is new to you, you might want to read the Fedora Council charter and about upcoming community elections.)

A few months ago, the Fedora Board Discuss mailing list (which is for everyone including the board to discuss high-level policies, not just the the board talking amongst ourselves) had a good discussion about “winning”… that is, what success means for Fedora. Here, I’m presenting a structure intended to bring that to a more concrete level, so we have some things we can plan around and act on.

Presenting the Logic Model

Please bear with me for a minute while I bust out an ASCII diagram:

 |            |            |             ||             |             |
 | Resources  | Activities |  Outputs    || Outcomes    |   Impact    |
 |            |            |             ||             |             |
 |What we     |What we do  |The direct   ||The specific | Mission and |
 |have: time, |with our    |products of  ||change in the| vision; our |
 |money, code,|resources   |our          ||world due to | long term   |
 |hardware... |            |activities   ||those outputs| effect      |
 | Things we can affect directly         || Out of our direct control |
 |           <----- planning flows right to left ---------<           |
 |           >------ effort flows left to right ---------->           |
Of course, in a largely volunteer organization like Fedora, we don’t just declare goals at the top and expect people to line up at the bottom. The goals have to align with what the community actually wants to do. But, that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t — or don’t! — have goals, and it’s the role of the council to help discern and articulate those, and to inspire more people to join in work on them. Having a framework for this might even be more important than in a “command and control” organization.

Beautiful! This is what’s called an organizational logic model. I like it a lot, because it draws a meaningful connection from what we’re doing to what we want to achieve — and from what we want to achieve to what we’re doing. When we need resources for something, we can show stakeholders (sponsors for funding, volunteers for time, donors for hardware) the clear line to the expected big-picture result.

Mission and Vision

A lot of times, organizations draw up beautiful mission and vision statements, put them on the wall, and then do whatever makes tactical sense based on the feeling in the moment. Fedora may be guilty of that to some degree — I think we tend to focus on our outputs — the Fedora distribution, documentation, websites, etc., and skip the connecting step. If we don’t skip it, though, we’ll be able to accomplish even more with our limited resources.

Over on the right hand side, we have our long-term impact: the project mission and vision. These are defined on the project wiki: Mission and Vision Statement. The Fedora Project’s mission is to lead the advancement of free and open source software and content as a collaborative community, while the vision asks us to create a world where free culture is welcoming and widespread, collaboration is commonplace, and people control their content and devices.

Of course, we can revisit these whenever we like, but I think they’re basically sound and I don’t think we need to overdo the fundamental soul-searching.

That said, there are few updates to the current objectives which we might consider. For example, the create-a-distro objective could include description of new Fedora.next ideas, and I think that we should focus on building one Fedora community rather than on building communities in general. And I’m not sure that “developing the science and practice of building communities” is something we’ve been concerned with much lately — maybe that too should be folded into building our own community; or alternatively, something we need to expand work on. But, anyway, this is really a tangent. Like the mission and vision, I don’t think we need to mess with this much.

Objectives and Outcomes

We do have an existing list of project Objectives, which are further to the left (that is, the more concrete side of the chart) in the model. There are about three dozen specifics, falling under three high-level categories:

  • Creating a Free (as in Freedom) distribution
  • Building open source software communities
  • Developing the science and practice of building communities

These are pretty decent, but none have a timeframe attached — they are things we want to do continuously, and guidelines for how we want to do them, rather than things we want to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we also need targets for “how much of what will be achieved by when“.

So, in the logic model framework, when we talk about our 18 month goals, we’re talking about Outcomes. Sometimes people break that box down into short-, medium-, and long-term goals, and we could do some of that if we want. For this conversation, the target is medium scale, and I think it’s fine to not overburden our own model with too many boxes.

Let’s zoom in on the top-right corner of the (did I mention, gorgeously-drawn?) ASCII diagram from above and fill in what we have:

 ... |              Outcomes             |            Impact          |
 ... | 18 Month Goals:                   | Mission: to lead the       |
     |                                   |   advancement of free and  |
 ... |    1. _________________________   |   open source software and |
     |                                   |   content as a             |
 ... |    2. _________________________   |   collaborative community. |
     |                                   |. . . . . . . . . . . . . . |
 ... |    3. _________________________   | Vision: the Fedora Project |
     |                                   |   creates a world where:   |
 ... |. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|  * free culture is         |
     |Ongoing Objectives:                |   welcoming and widespread,|
 ... | * Creating a Free (as in Freedom) |  * collaboration is        |
     |   distribution                    |   commonplace, and         |
 ... | * Building a open source software |  * people control their    |
     |   community                       |   content and devices.     |
 ... |                ...                |           ...              | 

Filling in those blanks is what this is all about. As explained in the Council charter, these will be refreshed on a continuous basis. Typically, we will make Flock, our annual planning conference, the “centerpiece” of this discussion (but always being mindful that final decisions can’t be made in a conference limited by time and space). However, with Flock just past, we don’t want this to drift in limbo until next year.

Next: Community Discussion

As I’ve mentioned previously, I have some ideas in mind for where to start (none of them surprising). I’ll post about those in individual threads on the Board Discuss mailing list over the next few days (and, given busyness with getting the F21 beta out the door, weeks). I encourage you to do the same, and comment and help improve everyone’s ideas. That way, by the time we have the initial Council in place, we’ll have a good collective idea of where to start and can seat a few of the Objective Leads quickly.