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On Considering Sustainability and Community Health

While each project and each leadership team is different, some similarities appear in the ways in which open technology projects approach sustainability and community health. In the first cohort of the Digital Infrastructure Incubator (2021-2022), we collected some of these observations in the following list. We're sharing them in the hopes it might help project leads feel less alone as they carry out the work of making their projects healthy and sustainable and that it might help funders understand struggles project leaders face.

1. Teams want fixes (a document, a body, a tool) that they can write, assemble, or implement that would resolve a given problem, dynamic, or scope of work to be done around transparency, accessibility, DEI.

2. Teams are less excited about developing processes. There are fewer resources about developing processes - or even about sequential work.

3. Leads often do not have interlocutors with whom they can (or readily do) speak to about non-technical aspects of their work (decision making structures, how to identify bias, financial and/or communication strategies, transparency in project documentation).

4. It is hard to trace the development of processes or outputs from access to a written resource. Teams read resources, but sporadically, inconsistently, less than thoroughly. Even popular, canonical texts are often new.

5. All teams need assistance network mapping, especially across funding models (ie who is doing the work that I do but for-profit).

6. Very few teams are thinking strategically about public communication.