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6/1/2014
	
  
	
  
iSPIRT Volunteer
Model	
  
A Whitepaper
Prepared By:
Manjula Sridhar, Avinash Raghava, Sharad Sharma,
	...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 1
Version1.0
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1	
   OVERVIEW – WHY THIS WHITE PAPER? ........
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 2
Version1.0
1 Overview – Why this white paper?
iSPIRT is a Think Tank focu...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 3
Version1.0
2 FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES
Two key distinct principles guide vo...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 4
Version1.0
more frequent meetings to track results and program management...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 5
Version1.0
3 Operating Practices
Operating practices describe how to defi...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 6
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3.3 Challenge Creation
Challenges are different from goals/tas...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 7
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3.7 Completing a Challenge
Tracking a challenge to completion ...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 8
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4 Culture - the intangible force of iSPIRT
Defining the cultur...
iSPIRT Volunteer Model
Effective 4/0/2014 Page 9
Version1.0
5 Acknowledgements
This whitepaper is a summary of the hard wo...
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iSPIRT Volunteer Model

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This whitepaper describes the foundational principles, operating practices and culture of this network. This is the volunteer model that underpins the network and (through it) all actions of it. The whitepaper is for public consumption and will be available in public space for other organizations to emulate if they see the merit in these models.

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Transcript of "iSPIRT Volunteer Model "

  1. 1. 6/1/2014     iSPIRT Volunteer Model   A Whitepaper Prepared By: Manjula Sridhar, Avinash Raghava, Sharad Sharma,  
  2. 2. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 1 Version1.0 TABLE OF CONTENTS 1   OVERVIEW – WHY THIS WHITE PAPER? ........................................................................... 2   2   FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES ............................................................................................. 3   2.1   Principle 1: Pulled by Passion and Pushed by Program Management............................. 3   2.1.1   Selection of Volunteers .......................................................................................... 3   2.1.2   Effective Program Management............................................................................. 3   2.1.3   Collaboration Tools ................................................................................................ 4   2.2   Principle 2: Challenge Centric Organization ..................................................................... 4   2.2.1   Challenge Hygiene................................................................................................. 4   2.2.2   Challenge Assignment ........................................................................................... 4   3   OPERATING PRACTICES ..................................................................................................... 5   3.1   Building Trust.................................................................................................................... 5   3.2   Volunteer Tiers and Structure........................................................................................... 5   3.3   Challenge Creation ........................................................................................................... 6   3.4   Volunteer Onboarding....................................................................................................... 6   3.5   Volunteer Assignment....................................................................................................... 6   3.6   Program Managing the Challenge .................................................................................... 6   3.7   Completing a Challenge ................................................................................................... 7   3.8   Feedback to the Volunteers.............................................................................................. 7   3.9   Updating the Overall Work plan........................................................................................ 7   3.10   Scaling ............................................................................................................................ 7   4   CULTURE - THE INTANGIBLE FORCE OF ISPIRT.............................................................. 8   5   ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS....................................................................................................... 9  
  3. 3. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 2 Version1.0 1 Overview – Why this white paper? iSPIRT is a Think Tank focused on the creation of a strong product ecosystem in India. It is inspired by what IT services companies achieved in the late-80s when they organized themselves as a self-help group under NASSCOM. We operate through collaboration of a strong volunteer network (“network”). This whitepaper describes the foundational principles, operating practices and culture of this network. This is the volunteer model that underpins the network and (through it) all actions of it. The whitepaper is for public consumption and will be available in public space for other organizations to emulate if they see the merit in these models. There are two foundational principles. The first one is that this volunteer network is pulled by passion and pushed by program management. Both are essential for success. The passion signifies a strong sense of mission and cause. Program management converts that energy into feasible actions and tangible results. Sustainability of the network comes from its ability to get things done. The second principle puts the “challenges” at the center of network. We expect the volunteers to become part of the network not for glory, but for being part of addressing a shared challenge. The bond generated out of working on something bigger than oneself is what binds this network together. Operating practices describe how to define a challenge, select volunteers, onboard them, and manage the project. They also describe the assessment of projects, the overall work program, volunteers and the network. Finally, there is a strong culture within the network. While no document can completely capture any organizational culture, key behaviors that have shaped the network are described here. The culture holds the volunteers together and creates a strong bond needed to deal with challenges. Opera-ng   Prac-ces   Strong  Culture   Founda-on   Principles  
  4. 4. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 3 Version1.0 2 FOUNDATIONAL PRINCIPLES Two key distinct principles guide volunteer networks. 1) Clarity of Challenges 2) Pulled by Passion and pushed by Program Management. These principles are inspired by the open- source software teams and foundations like Wikipedia. Hierarchy was the core of the first generation of scalable organizations. Later generations of organizations used workflows and processes to structure themselves. Now with the advent of tacit knowledge work, an organization can be defined around challenges. We are using this third-generation organizational model to build an effective volunteer network to pursue the objectives of creating public goods. 2.1 Principle 1: Pulled by Passion and Pushed by Program Management Both passion and execution discipline are needed for success. The passion signifies a strong sense of mission and cause. Program management converts that energy into actions and results. Sustainability of the network comes from its ability to get things done. In everything that is done, this mix of mission and practicality needs to be injected into the plans. Some of the key parameters to work in this manner are defined below. 2.1.1Selection of Volunteers It is very essential to have a first set of volunteers who understand and stand for these principles. Sometime a volunteer driven work can be misused and can be subverted from common good principle. So it is critical to make sure the initial group of volunteers is truly motivated by the cause and a sense of mission. Strong initial set of volunteers who are motivated by passion will pave the way for similar folks. The second and third tiers will be selected and pulled in by this first set. 2.1.2Effective Program Management Two types of meetings are important for effective program management. First type is for larger knowledge creation, context setting and reiteration of the principles and culture. The fine-tuning of the challenges, course corrections and discussion of the outcomes will happen in the meetings. This is usually done once a month in iSPIRT. Second set of Challenge   centric   organiza-on   Pulled  by   Passion  and   Pushed  by   Discipline  
  5. 5. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 4 Version1.0 more frequent meetings to track results and program management will be done by the owner/Anchor of the challenge and the set of Volunteers involved in the challenge. These meetings happen as often as the challenge demands and the frequency is decided by the anchor volunteers of those particular challenges. 2.1.3Collaboration Tools Collaboration tools enable team volunteers to associate themselves with the challenges. The tools range from a challenge tracker, program management progress tracker and volunteer effectiveness tracker. Further, collaboration tools help overcome challenges that are both time and place agnostic. There needs to be continuous investment in this aspect to use of the technology more effectively. 2.2 Principle 2: Challenge Centric Organization Ever since the inception of the modern firm, people were given tasks to do in a well-defined manner. Initially, this made sense, since firms were built on industrial-revolution models, and linear workflow was the norm. Today, when knowledge sharing is often multi directional, it makes better sense to expose people to the problem domains and letting them find a way to address the “challenges”. In essence, we have leveraged this concept to create a self-managed, open-source, volunteer organization. The volunteer will select the “challenge”, rather than be given the “task”. Over time, the network will gradually change the mix in favor of team challenges. 2.2.1Challenge Hygiene Each challenge will have a clear set of benefiting stakeholder, measurable results and constraints defined by ethics. Challenges often are hierarchical, with easy or familiar ones where some paths and solutions exist and tougher system level challenges, which are usually related to intangibles such as culture, myths and beliefs. 2.2.2Challenge Assignment The network will consciously and constantly examine the difference between good and great volunteering. The belief is that great volunteering is a cultivated skill. Easier challenges will be available to first-time volunteers. As volunteers gain experience and demonstrate results, they will be able to opt for tougher challenges. At any time, the network shall classify its volunteers into different levels of effectiveness.
  6. 6. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 5 Version1.0 3 Operating Practices Operating practices describe how to define a challenge, select volunteers, onboard them, and manage the challenge. They also describe the assessment of challenges, the overall work program, volunteers and the network. 3.1 Building Trust In certain ecosystems implicit trust quotient is high, however in many ecosystems this may be lacking and often overlooked. It is highly essential that the initial few set of people aka “Founders Circle” take extreme care in establishing the trust. Building trust involves upholding many fundamental principles such as walking the talk, giving where the credit is due, being honest and being clear about the goals and objectives. It is imperative to be and to be seen as trustworthy people. 3.2 Volunteer Tiers and Structure This volunteer network is comprised of peers, but it has a fluid meritocratic hierarchy that is based on past effectiveness in undertaking the challenges. The volunteer driven networks are by design fluid in nature. In such cases, we have found that it is important to have a few people as Anchors who can execute the program management and make sure the key principle and culture stay intact. The anchors are often from the pool of Fellows or they may be part of the Governing Council (GC). The volunteers and the support ecosystem of iSPIRT are described below. The Governing Council defines the policies and foundations on which the volunteer network is modeled. • Radical transparency -This is crucial for continued operation of our ‘peer production’ (volunteer) model. • Polycentric governance aka Panchayat system, which means that iSPIRT, is bigger than any one individual. • Open-Access or Public Goods - We work for many and not for any single company, no matter how important it might be. The Governing Council is responsible for upholding these governing principles and ensuring integrity across the board. The GC is about empowerment, not control. It helps clarify the causes and initiatives that we pursue. It is responsible to the community at large and not to donors. Fellows     • Focused  on  key  set  of   ini-a-ves  and  usually   lead  a  set  of   challenges  and  tasks   in  those  areas.       Mavens   • Trusted  experts  who   pass  knowledge  to   others  in  a  pay-­‐ forward  model  in   small  in-mate   learning  sessions  that   iSPIRT  has  pioneered.   Saarthis   • Impassioned   volunteers  bringing   iSPIRT  ini-a-ves  to   their  community.   iSPIRT Governing Council and Founders Circle
  7. 7. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 6 Version1.0 3.3 Challenge Creation Challenges are different from goals/tasks; challenges often involve creative solutions to well-known blocks. Often the paths and outcomes are not clear. But what is clear is the problem that it is solving. Hence, framing a challenge is a key activity that volunteers core team undertakes. A call to volunteers should include a clear expectation as to what is needed from them in terms of time and skills. 3.4 Volunteer Onboarding Anchors (or Fellows) do this critical job of onboarding the volunteers. To keep the momentum going, small, but early wins are critical. Hence, it is the responsibility of the Anchor to structure the volunteers around small tasks. The Anchor should be the hardest working member of the team. The Anchor is NOT a manager and he/she works through influence rather than authority. External hierarchy is surrendered in the team. CEO of a big company or CEO of a small company is the same. Instead, what matters is volunteer hierarchy in the context of the challenge. 3.5 Volunteer Assignment Challenges need to be matched to the skill sets and the motivation of the volunteers. Usually in any set of eco system large number of activities can be catered by generic skills. However, certain set of activities can be quite specialized and the anchors have the responsibility to find the right ones either within or outside the network. It is also very important to channelize and effectively use the volunteers as soon they volunteer. Lack of momentum on the challenge can demoralize the volunteer. 3.6 Program Managing the Challenge Frequent tracking meetings are important to manage the challenge effectively to closure. They should be weekly, short and effective. In some cases, as deadlines come close, daily meetings are important. These are not status meeting, these are working meetings to hash out ideas and get alignment of work artifacts. Our volunteers have important and busy day jobs. They need to be reminded before their commitments become due. A lot of program management is to be diligent about this – and with a smile. Recognize that volunteers may need a short break due to job exigencies. This is to be expected and must be accommodated during challenge creation and volunteer assignment.
  8. 8. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 7 Version1.0 3.7 Completing a Challenge Tracking a challenge to completion is an essential task of the Anchor. On completion, a quick assessment will be done. Generally, the successful completion of volunteer activities is low so it is important to set a success rate at the global level. As the movement/network becomes more effective the success rate increases. Currently, iSPIRT aims at 60% hit rate. Occasionally, a challenge loses momentum and enters the living-dead state. It is imperative that this state be avoided. It must be killed or revived. 3.8 Feedback to Volunteers Every volunteer engagement in a challenge is rated by the Anchor. This is not yet an open process and will be used by the extended core volunteers or anchors to manage the challenge assignments. These ratings will also act as inputs to managing the volunteer tiers. The better rated ones can be assigned to tougher challenges and eventually can become anchors. The hierarchy is fluid and changes both ways, depending on the continuous engagement and success rate of various challenges Volunteer network is managed by the Anchors/Fellows. 3.9 Updating the Overall Work plan Anchors/Fellows also establish and update the overall work plan. Their goal is to get a proper mix to strategic and tactical objectives. Also, the goal is to make sure that the challenges don’t exceed the capacity of the volunteer network in a big way. 3.10 Scaling Scaling is a difficult challenge and often can be debilitating at worst. However, immediate issues will be the dilution of core principles, inefficient program execution and misuse of the structures. We intend to solve it in two ways: • Judicious use of tools. • Organically, building many anchors who could build on the momentum without dilution. While it is too early to comment on its success, there have been incidences inside the network where anchors took a step back and took corrective actions. This aspect needs to be monitored continuously with lot of feedback and remedial action loops.
  9. 9. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 8 Version1.0 4 Culture - the intangible force of iSPIRT Defining the culture is very essential for any organization and often the hardest task. The definition of the organization and the key anchors (Gurus or Yodas) and their behaviors often translate into the culture of the entity. Therefore it is essential to draw from various knowledge bases and crystallize the ideals behind the movement. Lot of thought and consequential action has gone into defining this iSPIRT aspect. iSPIRT is defined as “A think tank to promote product entrepreneurship ecosystem in India”. It is an initiative by the entrepreneurs to create a self-sustaining knowledge and execution paths that all entrepreneurs can benefit from. It aims to address the ground realities and tries to solve the structural issues such as government policies, funding, mentoring, access to markets and M&A. The key emphasis is on solutions and creation and in the process generating localized knowledge base. It is not an accelerator and a network for glory and self-promotion. Anchors make it a point to demonstrate this in various contexts. The culture we promote is challenge-oriented which recognize the collective good before shortsighted individual self. The culture at iSPIRT emulates the successful movements in the open source, as well as wiki model. In such models, it is essential to keep the core principles intact to avoid degeneration into standard power structures. Accessibility and transparency are key concepts to be upheld in all the activities. It is also essential “to be” and “to be seen” as a value centric entity striving to create an ecosystem for all. Our volunteers are expected to represent this spirit. While some fame and glory and other intangible benefits will come along the way, in case of high visible challenges it is essential that the ideal volunteer keeps the focus on the task and takes it to completion with integrity. There are immense tangible and intangible values that come out of the volunteer work and that itself is a great reward.
  10. 10. iSPIRT Volunteer Model Effective 4/0/2014 Page 9 Version1.0 5 Acknowledgements This whitepaper is a summary of the hard work and passion of numerous volunteers for the past few years. While it hard to name everyone who helped in this, the authors would like to thank each and every volunteer who contributed to the iSPIRT movement. The thought process and the model behind this network is not new and draws heavily from the way various cultural, community, religious and self-help institutions are organized. It also draws heavily from the new research emanating on knowledge work models. Two shifts are significant and relevant to this model. One is the shift from Causal Leadership to Effectual Leadership as espoused by Prof. Saras Sarasvathy. Other is the shift from firm production to peer production as espoused by Yonchai Benkler (http://www.benkler.org/CoasesPenguin.html). We have leveraged Elinor Ostrom's work on polycentric governance models (http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/2009/ostrom- lecture.html). We also draw heavily from Paul Romer's work where he took Adam Smith's factors of production (land-labor-capital) and made it relevant to the knowledge economy and concluded that the factors that matter are ideas-people-things (http://www.amazon.com/Knowledge-Wealth-Nations-Economic-Discovery/dp/0393329887).

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