Sorry for the delay, I was unavailable. There is a lot of unpack here and I will try to avoid being too long.
From my experience, most communities are not correctly equipped to handle the needs to a transparent process. In my experience, many communities think that by making topics available at some forum or online document, things are automatically transparent.
There is a lack of knowledge of tools and processes by which a workflow becomes transparent and collaborative. Our SOPs are too shallow on these issues and training doesn’t touch this too much which leards to a “roll your own transparency” attitude by community stakeholders (or whoever has more groupies).
We need to train community leadership on how to make a process transparent and collaborative and also provide them with the tools and methods too. There are many things missing:
- Leadership needs to know how to handle long iterative drafting of proposals.
- Leadership needs to learn how to sustain an asynchronous decision process where people have a chance to input their opinions even though they might not be available during meeting/event time.
- Leadership needs to be able to answer and provide the trail that led to some decision, for the decisions that affect all the community (not for trivial stuff).
- Leadership needs to be prepared to compromise and reach a position of balance in their proposals instead of the usual “whoever has more groupies win the vote and forces policy”.
We need to behave more like foundations, charters and other committees work than the current ways we do.
I will sprout an unpopular opinion here but it is my firm belief that recognition is a double edged sword or a footgun that attracts people who sometimes wants to be in a position of glamour and power too much. If the community doesn’t have the methods and policies to do boundary checks, this leads to the establishment of cliques and possés which are harmful.
I have no idea how to solve recognition beyond the it is cool to say thank you and please those who are giving their time and effort to Mozilla. On the topic of burn out it is much much much much harder as I have been trying to copy with burn out myself due to stuff that has happened in my local community. I don’t think Mozilla itself is prepared to handle this and at least in my own personal case, it wasn’t.
In my opinion, most of the burn out situations happen due to negative emotional investment by different groups inside the community itself which tends to be fighting over which groups has more recognition or is in a position of leadership. Basically, burn out appears to be a people problem and not be something tech or politics related. This probably happens due to the hierarchyzation (can’t spell English, sorry) that occurs naturally inside each community. I believe that we need to fight the verticalization of communities and having a leadership structure, I believe the best method to avoid burn out is to horizontalize the community making it a decentralized or graph structure with no leaders or hierarchy thus avoiding all the I am better than you bullsh*t.
That is quite tricky because identification will often lead to quantification which requires objective and quantitative metrics of something that is usually a qualitative characteristic, for example: How do you measure the coding ability of someone? that is impossible to answer in general. What we need is not a method for identifying capabilities but a workflow that lets leadership surface.
I believe that the best way to enable this is to provide an environment that foster and rewards collaboration. In my view, the leader is not someone above giving orders, which is a behavior I observe a lot here, but someone that is on the same factory floor as everyone else helping.
Conclusion and unpopular opinion
I am radically against the usage of the monicker leader for anything related to community. It carries too much weight and pre-conceived meaning and behaviors. People who end up in such leadership positions start behaving like managers and owners, I don’t want that. I want secretaries, like U.N. secretaries. People who work a lot to enable others, to make policy possible, to maintain the community working.
In the Mozilla Clubs program we made the sad decision of calling people captains, it sounded cool, but it was imbued with authority. As soon as we call someone a Leader, we’re distancing them from the rest of the community members, conceptually. I know this may sound boring, but just ask any council member about regional community struggles for power and I bet you will hear some creepy story back.
If we must use the Leader word, then lets us all be cheerleaders ushering the community forward instead of the usual bossy people that believe they own volunteership and makes being a FOSS volunteer stressful (look at wikipedia community for example of struggles, it is quite a grimm tale).