Code for BTV, like many brigades, has been struggling with this for years. Right now the struggle has become “are we over-doing it?” There is a lot to be said for clear process, and careful thought going into a brigade making a public commitment to a project. But at the same time, the more significant the process and gate-keeping that is going on with projects, the less nimble we become, and the less we are able to quickly harness volunteer excitement.
For example in thinking about resource constraints - especially if you consider your volunteers to be project resources… while it is extremely easy to think of the volunteers in the same way that you think of employees working on a project, they are not employees and are not driven by the same needs or desires as those working in “a job.” So … and this is a current discussion in our brigade … can we reasonably consider the volunteers, broadly, as a resource to manage? Or is the reality the opposite … perhaps the core team is the resource that the volunteer project teams are using?
In terms of politics… Brigades, and CfA state we are non-partisan, non-neutral. We fight for issues, but not for candidates. In such a polarized country, it is easy to think of people as being all for or all against your ideals, but if we step back to just focusing on particular issues, we may find it easier to support political movement without broadly or specifically supporting a candidate. You always need to be careful with politics of course… and I won’t pretend to be some kind of person that even knows more than you… I’m just saying how our brigade thinks about it.
Our core team members are involved in specific projects, and our project delivery lead presently has his thumb in all the project pies, but we don’t really think of the “leadership” team as being required to have direct involvement in building or developing a project. Rather, presently, we have so few formal brigade projects that we can listen to them for what their needs are, and provide specific support as requested.
I think I’ve read that some brigades effectively wait for a project to reach a certain point, and then adopt it. That may be a good model. We don’t do that. We determine before a project starts if it makes sense (in terms of ideals and goals, likelihood of failure, achievability, needs), and then if it gets our stamp, we work to put human resources to it… a PMP, a tech lead, and whatever other necessary volunteers it might need (programmers, UX / design, QA & testing, promotion). Just as importantly, we do not take on a project, currently, without the project having a “client” … an individual who represents the client organization, who can be involved in the development, and who can provide the domain knowledge that our volunteers won’t have. The client is also the final recipient of the project work… because our brigade does not want to host or run any sites or services or tools… we want to build and hand-off.
I’m not sure if this muddies the waters, or not. But at least this is what we do right now. I started a Slack discussion in the #small-brigades channel today on the topic of how important gate-keeping is… as that is our current concern. We have trouble finding the volunteer developers, and are not sure if it is because we are too discriminating about projects such that we squash the sort of dynamic volunteer energy that often starts new projects?