Workshop on sustainable OSS communities in public sector at FOSDEM20

Thank you to all participants who attended our workshop on Sustainable OSS Communities in the Public Sector - the OSOR team had a blast at FOSDEM 2020.

The room was packed with OSS enthusiasts who brought invaluable contributions to the discussion. The contributions will feed into the contents of the Guidelines on the sustainability of open source communities in the public sector.

OSOR workshop participants

In collaboration with Dr. Maha Shaikh (King’s College London), the team presented the scope of these guidelines and analysed some of the key factors that contributed to the failure of the Bristol Council to transition to the use of Star Office. Together, we then discussed possible lessons that could be learned from the failed initiative.

The workshop participants were then invited to brainstorm the key success factors of sustainable OSS communities in three groups under the themes of community vibrance, governance and finance. All participants had a chance to vote on the most important aspects contributing to community sustainability. You can get a first glimpse of the results of the brainstorming and voting session for yourselves below!

OSOR workshop findings


The governance discussion was structured around two main ideas: the community elements of governance and the project aspects of governance. The group also brainstormed other various aspects related to community governance. The success factors that were discussed amongst the ‘governance’ group were also deemed important by members of the other two groups. In the end, “community over code” received the most votes, focussing on four factors that the participants identified as being important for all communities to respect: do-ocracy, fair decision-making, transparent power distribution, and an inclusive governance model.

Community vibrance

Four key topics emerged from the discussions held by the second group focussing on community vibrancy: community identity, relations with the outside, in-group behaviour and onboarding. In particular, two ideas stood out to the workshop participants. Firstly, a community should have a clearly defined mission and vision in order to establish a common identity. Secondly, the time that (volunteer-based) community members spend contributing to the community should be recognised by their employers as an important component of their working time.


The third group contributing to the financial aspect of sustainable communities examined two elements: government support and the general business model. These participants identified the most important government support factor for creating a sustainable OSS community in the public sector: the development of public procurement rules which enable the adoption of OSS within public administrations and ensure their enforcement. Participants identified the most important success factor for the general business model as investment in marketing resources.