The president of your committee is doing most of the work and none of the management. The secretary hasn’t written the minutes for any of the meetings for the last 6 months (you wrote the last 4 agendas on the day of the meeting). The treasurer can’t access the bank account, and you haven’t heard from your publicity officer since you started planning the big event. Welcome to the fun of volunteer communities!
Communities form around points of interest and commonality, but this doesn’t mean that everyone in the community has the same interests or even much in common with each other. Rarely does this come to the fore as clearly as when you gather together with a group of people, form a volunteer committee and try to achieve something great! In a perfect world, these committees would work smoothly with no excess over-head and awesome events would just fall out like clock-work.
The real world is far from perfect. The people in your committee are volunteering their time, effort and resources to make something happen, yet their skills probably lay in entirely different arenas. For example, by day they might be a developer, not a treasurer; or a systems architect but not a project manager (president). Your fellow committee members may also have conflicting ideas as to what their position means; and they almost certainly have different motivations for participating in the first place.
This talk is about building communities and surviving in committees, from small user groups to running big conferences. There will be some amusing anecdotes, stories from the trenches and a bunch of suggestions from war heroes on how some of these issues could have been avoided earlier.
Jacinta Richardson runs Perl Training Australia, a micro-business offering courses throughout Australia. Both as part of her job and a massive free-time sink, she is involved in running conferences (linux.conf.au 2007, Open Source Developers’ Conference (Australia) 2004-2008, Australian System Administrators Conference (SAGE-AU) 2008-2009), attending conferences, writing perl-tips, speaking at Perl Monger meetings whenever she’s in the right town, participating in on-line Perl forums and promoting women in IT. For her work in the Perl community, Jacinta was awarded the White Camel Award in 2008. When away from the computer, Jacinta enjoys scuba diving, cycling and baking.
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