WordCamp Incubator Program v2: input on a new role name and a call for volunteers

When we launched the experimental WordCamp Incubator program, we didn’t know what to expect. We hoped that after attending a WordCamp where there wasn’t already a WordPress chapter account meetup group, WordPress enthusiasts would be galvanized into forming a community that would sustain itself in the future. This certainly happened in two of the three communities that hosted incubator events in 2016. Plus, SIX communities that applied to be part of the program ended up organizing new WordCamps with the support of our amazing mentors!

New iteration, new challenge

In 2018, we’d like to launch a v2 of the WordCamp Incubator program, but we have an added challenge this time: finding people to support/co-lead/oversee each Incubator event.

In the first iteration of this program, we assigned 3 fully-sponsored volunteer staff to provide leadership and support to our incubator communities. But since the number of events and communities that the global community team supports continues to grow so quickly, our full-time sponsored volunteer staff is already fully committed for next year (and then some), mostly with maintenance projects. Therefore, we need to come up with another way to provide the support that made the incubator program successful in 2016.

The job

This is a time-intensive volunteer role. We estimate that lead organizers spend about 170 hours on a WordCamp, and I figure that the folks working to support the growth of an Incubator event needs to dedicate about 200-250 hours over the planning cycle. The job is that of co-organizer, mentor, and ambassador — since it’s probable that no one you’re working with has ever actually attended a WordCamp. You’re working as a community founder in a community that isn’t your own, which requires a lot of sensitivity, experience, and wisdom. The person absolutely must have experience organizing WordCamps, preferably more than one, as well as experience mentoring WordCamp organizers. Experience collaborating with people from other cultures is also very important.

What do we call this job?

Because this is such a distinctive role, I think that going forward, calling these folks “incubator mentors” isn’t a good idea. Mentorship is part of this job, but typically I think a mentor probably spends 1-4 hours a month working with their “mentee” WordCamp, whereas this role is more likely to require 25 hours a month. So! we need a new name for this program role. Here’s some very initial brainstorming that happened in Slack today.

1) Please comment below with your suggestions for a good name for this organizer-coach-midwife-counselor-guide role! I’m certain the right word is out there, just waiting to be found.

Where do we find these people?

My hope is that this challenging job will be an exciting opportunity for experienced WordCamp organizers that particularly enjoy the “start up” phase of the community, and who have successfully transitioned out of active leadership in their local community. (This is frequently “start a community from scratch” work, and the communities have to be self-sufficient at for the project to be effective.)

As mentioned above, this role is very time-intensive and high-touch. Not everyone can commit 250 hours in a year to a volunteer role, and I suspect that we may need to lean on volunteers who might be sponsored part-time to work on the incubator program. Maybe we could even help interested volunteers pitch their companies on sponsoring a certain number of hours a week to work on an incubator event.

Alternately, perhaps a team of 5-6 people would be interested in working with multiple incubator communities over a period of a year, and share some of the workload. (This makes me a little nervous, because sometimes when everyone is in charge, it means no one takes responsibility, but maybe there could be a rotating lead position on that team?) I’m open to suggestions.

2) Do you have some ideas of ways we could recruit people to take on this work and ensure their success? Please share your ideas in a comment on this post!

3) Interested in this role for 2018? Please also comment on this post to let us know!

Next steps

Once we figure out A) a name for this incubator-mentor-guide-organizer role and, B) a solid plan for recruiting enough incubator-mentor-guide-organizers to support a v2 of the Incubator program, then we can open up a call for communities who’d like to be considered as sites for a 2018 incubator WordCamp.

I’d like to set us a goal of completing our discussion by October 6, with an eye to publishing the results by October 11, and maybe we can even make the call for incubator communities by October 16.


#community-mentors, #incubator, #wordcamps

How do we know if a WordCamp is successful?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what activities and progress our team measures, and how. Tracking and reporting on our work is important for transparency, but also for a sense of accomplishment, which can help all of us stay excited and engaged.

We’ve always struggled with the close-out phase for WordCamps. Organizers are tired and want to catch up with the work and life that they neglected in their pre-event frenzy. Mentors shift their focus to the next crop of frenzied organizers, and the cycle continues.

The result, in most cases, is that organizers get a lot of attention and support while they’re planning an event, but almost no contact after the event is over. This is a problem, because:

  1. Organizers get no constructive feedback on what they did well and what they could improve, and
  2. we lose the chance to recruit them to work on year-round community team programs.

We’ve tried, a couple of times over the past 2-3 years, to improve our follow-up in scheduling WordCamp debriefs, but they happen more as the exception than the rule. So I’d like to see if we can try to solve *some* of this problem with technology — specifically, with automation.

A Proposal

I propose we build an automated reporting tool, which will run a report about a month after each WordCamp. This report can pull financial, attendance, and other information from the WordCamp website, and publish the data on this blog, with a notification sent to the lead organizer upon publication. Then the organizing team can contribute some context around the numbers, if they like, in a comment on the WordCamp CityX Report post.

The Big Question

What do we want to measure? What numbers are relevant to measuring the accomplishments of a WordCamp organizing team? Here is a highly incomplete list of possibilities:

  • Budget data: including event cost per attendee, where money was spent, and whether there was a surplus or deficit
  • Attendees data: including number of new and repeat attendees, number of new signups to the meetup.com group
  • Speaker data: percentage of new speakers, percentage of speakers identifying as women*, percentage of local speakers
  • Organizer data: number of new organizers, number of organizers identifying as women*

What other data should we try to include? Can we capture the “feel” of the event, maybe from the attendee survey?

Anticipating some implementation questions: We could post these numbers to a special page on this site called WordCamp Reports (or something), and then post a notice when new reports were added. That way we won’t be flooding the blog with reporting data, but hopefully we also won’t forget the reports are there. 🙂

Some of this data will be fairly easy to access; for example, we can export a profit and loss statement from Quickbooks quite easily. If we like the idea of getting some “richer” data about our speakers and organizers, collecting that would require some checkboxes added to the Speaker and Organizer CPTs (new, identifies as female, local).  I have no idea how hard it would be to pull info from 1-3 questions the standardized attendee survey. I know we can access the meetup growth figures from meetup.com.

What do you think?

Please share your opinions, thoughts, concerns, and ideas on this subject in a comment on this post! I’m really eager to hear from our team about this idea.

*We definitely want to encourage more speaker and organizer participation from a broad range of groups that are underrepresented in tech, but I propose we focus our tracking on gender balance for this first attempt at automated stats.

#finances, #report, #wordcamps