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Organization & Structure of Open Source Software Development Initiatives

Berkman Klein Center – Development Initiatives – Challenges & Opportunities Concerning Corporate Formation, Nonprofit Status, & Governance for Open Source Projects. March 22, 2017

“Freely available and open to anyone to contribute to or use, open source software is regularly at the heart of exciting and impactful innovation. Much of this innovation is a result of the ethos of the open source community and its dispersed structure. At the same time, some of the attributes that give open source projects their flexibility and spark passion in open source development communities can hinder a project’s success in the long term. To help open source projects navigate these foundational questions, this report addresses a number of key considerations that those managing open source software development initiatives should take into account when thinking about structure, organization, and governance. The guide elucidates reasons why institutional structure and internal governance processes are important and walks the reader through several models of each, explaining how they might benefit or impact the open source development initiative, and is also replete with case studies and diagrams to illustrate these ideas in practice. More than prescribing one solution to answer open source projects’ questions or treating the “open source community” as a monolithic whole, the authors seek to offer a range of possibilities and encourage those who manage and participate in open source development initiatives to actively think about available models and consciously adopt approaches that the work support they work they aim to do and the communities they hope to create.”

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