[openspending-dev] [OpenSpending] Mission of OpenSpending

Tryggvi Björgvinsson tryggvi.bjorgvinsson at okfn.org
Mon Oct 21 20:34:52 UTC 2013

Hey Steve,

Thanks a lot for all of this. There were some hiccups in the mailing
list software so I didn't receive the emails until yesterday and didn't
have a chance to read them properly until today.

Comments inline.

On mið 16.okt 2013 21:20, Steve Adcock wrote:
> Wow, you've jumped into it Tryggvi. Great effort and much needed, if not
> always appreciated:)

Anyone can do this. We're a community project... but thanks for the
thanks ;-)

Also thank you for all your comments on the documents I linked to.
Haven't had time to respond to all of them. Good job!

> Please keep in mind that this effort and documentation will become the
> central foundation of the organization's data and knowledge management
> efforts and abilities. As this is a knowledge/data management organization,
> I'd call this fundamental to the goals, whatever they are chosen to be. I
> would hate for us to operate on a "do as I say and not as I do" basis. If
> we encourage data to proliferate without knowledgable organization, we will
> only serve to obscure the truth.

I assume that by organisation you mean OpenSpending (I usually refer to
it as a project so I want to avoid any confusion).

I agree with you. People may have things against meritocracies but I
love them. The more you contribute the more you're valued by the
community/project. If we stick to meritocracy I think we can avoid the
"do as I say not as I do" since we value the latter over the former.

> Tryggvi has provided us links to two documents for this discussion. The
> existing governance document from the website:
> http://community.openspending.org/about/governance/#Principles
> and the "elevator talking points for four questions" called OpenSpending -
> Next Steps:
> 1. What are we trying to do? (The mission statement)
> 2. Why are we doing this? (The opportunities if we succeed)
> 3. How diverse is the project? (What are the areas of collaboration for us)
> 4. Who can participate? (anybody - but this is about skills we're looking
> for)
> or in a later email: What I want to achieve with this is:
> * Mission statement = What?
> * Opportunities = Why?
> * Areas of collaboration = How?
> * Skills required = Who?
> I have some general comments and will add a few comments to the
> OpenSpending Next steps document:
>    1. I recommend approaching this effort as a prototype and template for
>    the governance documents of OKFN as well as it's other projects.
>    Constructed correctly, we can make this a staged and dynamic document which
>    can easily support existing and new open efforts by providing project
>    management tools and business models which allow users to largely bypass
>    the pain of setting up a local community and initiating a community data
>    access/analysis/visualization effort. I believe our OpenSpending goals at
>    this point should be
>       1. dissemination of the existing tools and workflows,
>       2. establishment of feedback/improvement loops, and
>       3. building an engagement process for volunteers

I'm approaching this as something we as a community decide on. The rest
of The Open Knowledge Foundation's projects can then look up to us and
decide if they want to follow our lead.

That being said, I do work for The Open Knowledge Foundation, they pay
me to work on OpenSpending so it's probably not going to be devoid of
its influence, but that just means we need more input from all corners
of our community.

Regarding the goals you mention Steve, I think you're right with those
but I think they lack a future vision for the project itself. I think
your goals fit well with "goals for the governance structure of
OpenSpending" and I get the feeling that you're email is more directed
at the governance document than the project goals.

Maybe I'm misunderstanding or maybe I didn't make myself clear enough so
just in case: The governance document I linked to is slightly
independent from this email thread. This email thread is more about what
the project is going to achieve, but it relates to the governance
document in that it helps all of us know where we are and what we're
working towards.

>    2. "What are we trying to do?" - This is a broader question than it
>    appears, because it depends on the granularity of the project. In general,
>    we should consider having a Vision: Where we would like to be someday; a
>    Mission: What methods we will employ to get there, and Goals: Specific
>    umbrellas, or silos, of effort intended to foster our Mission and under
>    which we can organize our projects around processes and workflows.

Here's just a different understanding of the words -- sorry, I'm not a
native business speaker ;-)

With "Mission" I'm meaning the same thing as you when you say "Vision".

Here's the hierarchy as I think of it:

Mission - Goals - Objectives

So we set a mission (the vision), then we set goals (the "methods") and
Objectives (specific things). Underneath objectives I have
implementation details (nitty-gritty howtos) and success criteria (how
do we know we've fulfilled the objevtive).

So I was just working on the vision and related field: Opportunities
(what will we have when that special day comes), Areas of collaboration
(how can we work together to get there), Skills required (whom can help
us reach that day).

Maybe this isn't the right process or maybe we just have to use
different words. I'm all for changing words or process but I still think
we, as the project community, need to answer these fundamental questions
about the project.

>    3. In general, we should divide a governance document into these
>    sections:
>       1. Purpose.  This includes Vision, Mission, Goals, and Limitations,
>       or boundaries of the effort. It should address your "What" and "Why"
>       questions.
>       2. Roles and Responsibilities. Here we identify and define all
>       permanent and temporary work functions, and who will perform
> them. We also
>       identify and define the roles of OKFN and OpenSpending as well as their
>       relationship. This section addresses your "who" and Skills required"
>       questions.
>       3. Policies. Includes ethics and principals as part of introduction
>       to this section.
>       4. Procedures and Guidelines. Since this is a crowd source effort, we
>       must also identify and define which positions are necessary to
> implement a
>       project or continue work on one. This section identifies and defines key
>       processes, workflows, and data flows. We maintain and support
> the software
>       and coding development and management projects from within this
> section, as
>       well as data wrangling projects, new communities, volunteer engagement,
>       etc. Project management should be specifically covered in the Governance
>       document under Procedures and Guidelines and there should also
> be Policies
>       related to them (life cycle and management of projects, etc.).
>       5. Standards and Formats. In this section we identify and define
>       standards for data formats, software tools used, workflow steps and
>       processes which must be supported, audit and edit requirements
> (DQA), etc.

That sounds like a really good structure of the document. We can use
this email thread to nail the first item. We can also move it to the
document if people don't like getting a lot of email (just let me/us know).

I'll move to that document when I see that this email thread has reached
its end (or if somebody asks me to).

>    4. "Why are we doing this", or Opportunities. "Why" goes under Purpose
>    in it's simplest form as a core statement. It's expanded from that core
>    statement into marketing and the blogosphere, but should remain relatively
>    static over the years within the Governance document. That is, our primary
>    purpose should be pretty much the same over the foreseeable future.
>    Opportunities presented don't really belong in this document except as they
>    are portrayed/implied within the Vision statement. I think the place for
>    Opportunities, is as metadata for Project justification and as part of
>    business planning discussions. I don't see a real need for documenting them
>    under Governance.

So are you suggesting we merge opportunities into the vision? I think it
might muddle things a bit since it's answering two different questions.
I'm open to any suggestions though since somebody might be better than I
am at phrasing things like this :-)

I would rather have it under Purpose.

>    5. Who can participate: This should be defined under Roles and
>    Responsibilities.

I Agree.

>    6.  "OpenSpending aims to map, analyse, understand, and display every
>    government financial transaction, plan, and contract." This might qualify
>    as a vision, but even for that it's a bit overreaching. The opportunities
>    you mention could be crafted into vision statements:
> # Opportunities (based on Friedrich's text)
> Increased participation in political processes, strenghtened government
> accountability, and less corruption.
> # Opportunities (based on initial version)
> Everyone will be able to understand government spending, and use that
> understanding to affect positive social and political change.
> I think reaching too far, or attempting to encompass all activity needed,
> is a recipe for failure. As in the real world, project creep is a killer.
> Let me make some suggestions. Perhaps these preliminary Vision, Mission,
> and Goals statements would serve the same purpose and still capture the
> spirit of what we're discussing.: *Purpose*
>    1. Vision: To create an international organization and website where
>       internet users can access online tools, expertise, and
> volunteers to freely
>       assist in gathering, documenting, analyzing, and publishing public
>       expenditure data and information.

My thoughts on reading this (pure braindump).

Is our mission to create an organisation and a website? I think those
are just a means to an end.

We should have something about government in there (just like we
discussed in previous emails), although public is correct I don't think
it's disambiguous enough to refer only to government.

>       2. Mission: To test, evaluate, and disseminate open source tools and
>       data sets for gathering, analyzing, displaying, and publishing public
>       expenditures, and to foster projects which build our community, increase
>       our analysis and display capabilities, and enhance and expand
> our data sets.

Had to read a few times to understand it fully but this captures the
core I think. Good job! Just wondering if we can simplify somehow, so it
can be easier to read.

>       3. Goals don't really belong in the Governance Document, but I list
>       some here to demonstrate how this knowledge management schema
>       works heirarchically (i.e. The Vision implies the Mission which
> uses Goals
>       to create Results [accomplished through Workflows using
> Processes guided by
>       Procedures and Guidelines] under the constraints/limitations of the
>       organization's Policies or mandates). The number of concurrent Goals
>       should be minimized so that we can use them as umbrellas under which to
>       operate projects and manage the data and information from those project
>       s:
>          1. Create Policies
>             1. Create a Data Governance Policy
>             2. Create a Roles and Responsibilities Policy
>                1. Create a Policy identifying and defining the relationship
>                between OKFN and OpenSpending
>                2. Create a Policy defining multiple levels of volunteer
>                roles and their responsibilities
>             3. Create a Data Preservation and Archival Policy
>             4. Create a Data Veracity Policy
>             5. Create Data Quality Assurance and Audit Policies
>             6. Create a Partnership and Joint Venture Policy
>             7. Create a Sponsorship Policy
>             8. Create Management and Administration Policies
>             9. Create a Project Management Policy
>          2. Create a Roles and Responsibilities document (contains contact
>          information and identifies people and their group
> associations) specifying
>          all roles and their responsibilities (real people must be
> identified as
>          champions for Administration, Goals and Projects and for each level of
>          granularity).
>          3. Create and maintain machine readable Standards and Formats for
>          financial public expenditure data
>             1. Support public definitions and standards
>             2. Create and maintain OpenSpending input and output standards
>             3. Review, research and establish a social network tool for
>             enhancing public expenditure data with appropriate
> provenance and quality
>             assurance metadata.
>          4. Create and maintain testing, evaluation, and recommendation
>          procedures for open source software used in data analysis,
> display, and
>          publication
>          5. Establish Workflows for Data Veracity Audits
>          6. Establish Workflows with Procedures, Guidelines and Standards
>          which help automate and descirbe the process of data capture, quality
>          control, verification, analysis, display, publication, and archival.
> Each goal can be treated as a master project with it's own set of
> sub-projects, tasks, and timelines. Obviously these efforts must be
> multi-threaded and each Goal requires a champion, just as will each
> Project.

Woah. This is great. I've been thinking and jotting down some goals and
objectives. I'll see if I can merge your into mine and we can work on it
as a special document (outside of the governance document).

> Hope this helps.

Oh yes it did!


Tryggvi Björgvinsson

Technical Lead, OpenSpending

The Open Knowledge Foundation <http://okfn.org>

/Empowering through Open Knowledge/

http://okfn.org/ | @okfn <http://twitter.com/OKFN> | OKF on Facebook
<https://facebook.com/OKFNetwork> | Blog <http://blog.okfn.org/> |
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