We are now a little over a year into the Local Groups scheme that was launched in early 2013. Since then we have been receiving hundreds of applications from great community members wanting to start Local Groups in their countries and become Ambassadors and community leaders. From this great body of amazing talent, Local Groups in over 50 countries have been established and frankly we’ve been overwhelmed with the interest that this program has received!

Over the course of this time we have learned a lot. Not only have we seen that open knowledge first and foremost develops locally and how global peer support is a great driver for making a change in local environments. We’re humbled and proud to be able to help facilitate the great work that is being done in all these countries.

We have also learned, however, of things in the application process and the general network structure that can be approved. After collecting feedback from the community earlier in the year, we learned that the structure of the network and the different labels (Local Group, Ambassador, Initiative and Chapter) were hard to comprehend, and also that the waiting time that applicants wanting to become Ambassadors and starting Local Groups were met with was a little bit frustrating. People applying are eager to get started, and of course having to wait weeks or even longer (because of the number of applications that came in) was obviously a little bit frustrating.

Presenting a more streamlined structure and way of getting involved

We have now thoroughly discussed the feedback with our great Local Groups community and as a result we are excited to present a more streamlined structure and a much easier way of getting involved. The updated structure is written up entirely on the Open Knowledge wiki, and includes the following major headlines:

1. Ambassador and Initiative level merge into “Local Groups”

As mentioned, applying to become an Ambassador and applying to set up an Initiative were the two kinds of entry-level ways to engage; “Ambassador” implying that the applicant was – to begin with – just one person, and “Initiative” being the way for an existing group to join the network. These were then jointly labelled “Local Groups”, which was – admittedly – a lot of labels to describe pretty much the same thing: People wanting to start a Local Group and collaborate.
Therefore we are removing the Initiative label all together, and from now everyone will simply apply through one channel to start a Local Group. If you are just one person doing that (even though more people will join later) you are granted the opportunity to take the title of Ambassador. If you are a group applying collectively to start a Local Group, then everyone in that group can choose to take the title of Local Group Lead, which is a more shared way to lead a new group (as compared to an Ambassador). Applying still happens through a webform, which has been revamped to reflect these changes.

2. Local Group applications will be processed twice per year instead of on a rolling basis

All the hundreds of applications that have come in over the last year have been peer-reviewed by a volunteer committee of existing community members (and they have been doing a stellar job!). One of the other major things we’ve learned is the work pressure that the sheer number of applications put on this hard-working group simply wasn’t long term sustainable. That is why that we as of now will replace the rolling basis processing and review of applications in favor of two annual sprints in October and April. This may appear as if waiting time for applicants becomes even longer, but that is not the case! In fact, we are implementing a measure that ensures no waiting at all! Keep reading.

3. Introducing a new easy “get-started-right-away” entry level: “Local Organiser”

This is the new thing we are most excited to introduce! Seeing how setting up a formal Local Group takes time (regardless of how many applications come in), it was clear that we needed a way for people to get involved in the network right away, without having to wait for weeks and weeks on formalities and practicalities.
This has lead to the new concept of “Local Organiser”:

Anyone can pick up this title immediately and start to organise Open Knowledge activities locally in their own name, but by calling themselves Local Organiser. This can include organising meetups, contributing on discussion lists, advocating the use of open knowledge, building community and gather more people to join – or any other relevant activity aligned with the values of Open Knowledge.

Local Organisers needs to register by setting up a profile page on the Open Knowledge wiki as well as filling this short form. Shortly thereafter the Local Organiser will then be greeted officially into the community with an email from the Open Knowledge Local Group Team containing a link to the Local Organiser Code of Conduct that the person automatically agrees to adhere to when he/she picks up the title.

Local Organisers use existing, public tools such as Meetup.com, Tumblr, Twitter etc. – but can also request Open Knowledge to set up a public discussion list for their country (if needed – otherwise they can also use other existing public discussion lists). Additionally, they can use the Open Knowledge wiki as a place to put information and organize as needed. Local Organisers are enrouraged to publicly document their activities on their Open Knowledge wiki profile in order to become eligible to apply to start an official Open Knowledge Local Group later down the road.

A rapidly growing global network

What about Chapters you might wonder? Their status remain unchanged and continue to be the expert level entity that Local Groups can apply to become when reaching a certain level of prowess.

All in all it’s fantastic to see how Open Knowledge folks are organising locally in all corners of the world. We look forward to continue supporting you all!

If you have any questions, ideas or comments, feel free to get in touch!