Fixed Terms for WordCamp Lead Organizers

During the coworking days after WordCamp SF, a group of community volunteers gathered to discuss how to help grow the WordPress community in all corners of the globe. Discussion participants included Siobhan McKeown, Tina Kesova, Xavier Borderie, Marko Heijnen, Sam Sidler, Petya Raykovska, Mario Peshev, Dee Teal, Mayuko Moriyama, Shinichi Nishikawa, Catia Kitahara, Birgit Olzem, Andrew de la Serna, Brandon Dove, and possibly some others that I’ve forgotten — please speak up if you were there too!

The group agreed that entrenched leadership is a major barrier to the goal of growing global communities as well as creating more connections to the WordPress project. When only one person organizes community events (meetups, WordCamps, or both) for many years, that can discourage other community members from getting more involved, especially if people don’t see a need or opportunity for leadership in the community. Official WordPress meetup groups allow any member of the meetup to organize an event series within the group, which keeps group leadership dynamic and decentralized, but currently we don’t have any way to promote a similar shared leadership environment in WordCamp organizing. What to do?

Fixed terms! The discussion group agreed that a 2 year (contiguous) term limit for WordCamp lead organizers is a good way to prevent or fix stagnation in WordCamp leadership. The idea is that after a lead organizer has organized WordCamp two years in a row, the community will be asked to propose a new person to take the WordCamp lead organizer role. Experienced organizers would be welcome to participate in the WordCamp organizing team if they wished; they could also take a well-deserved break or become event mentors/deputies and share their wisdom and experience with organizers in other communities. Former lead organizers could take the lead role after a year off, but we wouldn’t want to see two people trading off the lead organizer role more than once or twice without seeing some new faces too.

Now you might be asking yourself: why not just wait for experienced WordCamp organizers excuse themselves when they’re ready to take a break, if ever? Why make an arbitrary limit on how many WordCamps these really experienced people can organize in a row?

It’s tricky, because we love our successful event organizers, and we want them to keep helping us lead the community. However, being a community leader entails more than just organizing an event. A good leader inspires and supports the next generation, stepping aside to let other people take the reins and mentoring those people to become good leaders themselves. Over time, the pool of people who can take leadership positions grows and strengthens the WordPress project overall.

Having a term limit on WordCamp organizing builds this expectation into the WordCamp lead organizer role. By the second year that you lead a WordCamp, you should have identified potential leaders and be mentoring them during that WordCamp to take on the leadership role in the following year. Many WordPress communities have successfully passed the WordCamp lead organizer role from person to person, including Tokyo, LA, San Diego, Portland, Kansas City, St. Louis, Sao Paulo, Salt Lake City, Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle, and Nashville, so we know it can be done.

If you have an opinion about this proposal, please comment in a reply on this post. Input on how to keep WordPress communities open and welcoming is just about my favorite thing, ever.

#wordcamps