If there’s one thing SPN should be known for after 2020, it’s for making a plan and sticking to it. 

When we started out on the journey to secure SPN as a sustainable, community-led organization with strong backbone support and a healthy financial base, we knew that we would face challenges on multiple fronts. 

Over the course of the seed-funded period (January 2019-December 2020), SPN members rose to the occasion and met each of those challenges head on—diving into the work of capacity and infrastructure building while simultaneously crafting a flexible budgetary framework that could account for the rapid change brought by a global pandemic.

Challenges of SPN’s Seed-Funded Period

The strategic challenge: how can SPN build collective capacity to enable sharing, access, and long-term reuse of software?

The financial challenge: how do we advocate for continued community investment while many organizations are facing difficult budgetary decisions brought on or worsened by the pandemic? 

The infrastructure challenges:

  1. How can SPN guide the development of community-driven, technological infrastructure while acknowledging trends towards hosted services?
  2. How can the SPN backbone staff create documentation and resources for SPN members to implement the proposed plans and activities resulting from the seed-funded period?

Community-Led Solutions

To address the strategic challenge, the Steering Committee started off the seed-funded period with establishing our goals and making them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based. From there, they divided into two groups to address a strategic community research challenge, and the financial challenge, producing our Research & Innovation Framework and a Flexible Budgetary Framework.

The SPN community and staff addressed the infrastructure challenges by building reusable project plans and activities. With practical goals at hand, working groups created riches for both the software preservation community writ large and the SPN community specifically. The Research-in-Practice and Technological Infrastructure Working Groups created research tools that can be replicated in future research projects, in addition to processes for SPN researchers to use in collectively analyzing data. The Metadata Working Group developed a draft Software Metadata Recommended Format Guide (to be published in 2021), but their work also serves as a template for developing such a guide in the future. The Training & Education Working Group took outputs created by SPN groups and affiliated projects and began to craft a curriculum for software preservation, while building out documentation for how the SPN community can manage these resources long-term. The Law & Policy Working Group contributed to national conversations that affect our ability to preserve software, and along the way held regular community-wide Law & Policy chats to build shared understanding about these activities. Every step of the way, whether through a SPN working group, the Emulation as a Service Infrastructure project, or the Fostering Communities of Practice project, the community built tools that help them do their own work while helping the community do more together. 

We also had fun. The community attended or shared knowledge at eight fabulous Quarterly Community Forums where we developed a shared understanding of the software preservation landscape, learned about key projects, and built community with each other. Our conversations had few geographic borders and invited many different stakeholders to the table. In the end, we recruited five new members: Columbia University Libraries, Notre Dame, Harvard Library, National Archives of Australia, and The Australian Academic and Research Network!

Looking Ahead

As community coordinator, one of my areas of concentration for 2021 will be training community volunteers up to take up some aspects of communications, outreach, event planning, and other coordination. To that end, the Steering Committee has begun the process of shifting SPN’s governance body to a Coordinating Committee + Executive Committee model for 2021. They are also in the process of creating a Community Engagement Collaborative that will function as a working group that assists with internal and external communications and engagement. 

We’ll recruit for these two groups in January, so look out for a call for nominations in the new year!

I am truly in awe of what we accomplished. Thank you all for a great year, and I’m so excited to see what we accomplish in 2021!

Preferred citation:

Farrell, Jess. (2020, December 15). Closing out 2020 and Looking Ahead to 2021: Updates from SPN's Community Coordinator. Software Preservation Network. https://www.softwarepreservationnetwork.org/cc-update-oct-nov-2020/