Digital Infrastructure Incubator

The Digital Infrastructure Incubator at Code for Science and Society seeks to bridge research recommendations and open source digital infrastructure projects. It will host a cohort of project leaders seeking to implement best practices surrounding questions of governance, sustainability, and community health over a 6-month period (October 2021-March 2022). The Digital Infrastructure Incubator is part of a cohort of grant funding provided by the Ford Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Omidyar Network and the Mozilla Open Source Support Program in collaboration with the Open Collective Foundation.

Read more about the cohort and funders here. Read more about the work CS&S does here.


CALLS FOR PARTICIPATION: DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE INCUBATOR @ CODE FOR SCIENCE & SOCIETY

The health, stability, security, and sustainability of open source digital infrastructure now comprises the subject of a wealth of research recommendations. Reports and white papers have identified the gaps in the maintaining digital infrastructure; ethnographic research has pointed to the impasse that the lack of diversity and meaningful inclusion presents to more sustainable growth; increasingly, even mainstream media discourses identify the precarity of digital infrastructure within wider discussions of breakdown and repair across the public ecosystem. Given the challenges faced, however, both research communities and projects in practice are struggling to make gains implementing flexible, creative, and meaningful solutions. While “digital infrastructure” becomes a more prominent buzzword among funders, policy makers, and in the media, the unsustainability underpinning it continues.

And yet, change, as Octavia Butler reminds us, is the only lasting truth. So how will open source digital infrastructure communities envision and embody it? Proposing to spin the “incubator” model from its intimacy with venture capital to alternate political horizons, Code for Science & Society invites expressions of interest for participation in a Digital Infrastructure Incubator to run for 6 consecutive months from October 2021 through March 2022.

Are you leading strategy, designing growth, or building community at an open source digital infrastructure project? Do you long for different social, cultural, political, creative infrastructures to support and sustain the work of maintaining open source digital infrastructure? Do you yearn for space and comradery to think and strategize about governance, sustainability, or community health? This is for you!

A range of concerns may bring you here. The incubator may support leaders and emerging leaders in the development of organizational literature (mission, guidelines, documentation); it may host projects plotting collaborations or flexing lateral engagements (sketches and agreements); and it may brook leaders seeking to address enduring socio-political questions as they are reflected structurally in their organizations and their work (how to decolonize; how to meaningfully include; how to repair relationships). In sum, the CS&S Digital Infrastructure Incubator aims to hold space for projects to imagine possibilities around the implementation of research recommendations governance, sustainability, and community health in open source digital infrastructure.

Tangible outputs may include:

  • Organizational literature addressing process, governance, community engagement guidelines (ex. codes of conduct)
  • Organizational models for conflict resolution and decision making
  • Strategies for growth, hiring, revenue development
  • Plans for collaboration, cooperation, partnering, or lateral growth/exchange
  • Reports on the state of x - research + change in the community
  • Organizational manifestos, visions, or plans -- providing that they engage questions of governance, sustainability, and/or community health
  • Reflections on a recent process of building, drafting, or implementing such;
  • Others!

Joint proposals are welcome. Feeling out a collaboration? Need space to consider a partnership? Would the ethos of such a confluence address questions of diversity, equity, inclusion, community health? This is the kind of work we’re hoping to support, incubate, and help bring to fruition.

Project leaders may be output-oriented (as in the list above) or they may be longing for what adrienne maree brown calls “collaborative ideation.” That is, as part of their tenure in the incubator, projects may be looking for comradery in ways of thinking through tangible blockages. In pursuit of better governance models, implementation of strategies to increase sustainability, and robust community health, project leaders may be interested in questions like:

  • What can we learn from movement thinkers and makers across the tech landscape and outside of it?
  • How can we connect this work to larger constellations of labor and labor organizing?
  • What would it mean to decolonize digital infrastructure and how would those efforts affect what sustainability, maintenance, health, and inclusion look like?
  • Can strategies for implementing research recommendations take inspiration from afrofuturism and other forms of speculative science?

Digital Infrastructure Incubator participants will receive:

  • A one-time grant of $5,000
  • Tailored curation of available research recommendations
  • Regular design/strategy sessions to iterate challenges and design approaches
  • Bi-monthly cohort meetings to meet and exchange iterations and strategies with peer projects
  • Monthly mentor exchanges to get feedback on strategy design and development

Projects engagement may be tailored as structures, capacities, and goals allow. We seek a commitment of up to 5 hours of synchronous time and between 10 and 20 hours of asynchronous time per month between October 2021 - March 2022.

Apply! Expressions of interest due via this form by September 15, 2021.


FAQ

This sounds... different. How do I know if I am eligible?

We are building a model for holding space, imagining possibility, engaging in collaborative work, and holding each other accountable. Reach out with your thoughts! Some general guidelines follow:

Ideal projects may:

  • Have experienced recent growth and are navigating shifts in project or employee remuneration
  • Have experienced recent contraction and are navigating distribution of responsibilities
  • Have tried or have set intentions to address governance issues
  • Have tried or have set intentions to address diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Have succeeded in part or failed in part at any of the above
  • Are thinking about, designing, or implementing community-building efforts

Selected projects must:

  • Be open source digital infrastructure projects or a subgroup of engineers, maintainers, or organizers within such a project
  • Have a point person or small team (applicant) with interest and capacity to engage the Incubator cohort, paired mentor, and incubator program manager
  • Have some degree of awareness about the challenges their project faces and and equal awareness of which of these they have bandwidth to try to address
  • Have an interest in engaging research on and questions of governance, sustainability, and community health
  • Be able to commit to designing and implementing a plan in collaboration with Incubator participants (advisor, program manager, cohort) during the period October 2021 - March 2022.

Interested projects need NOT:

  • Already have a clear idea of the research-recommendations available to address challenges they face
  • Have a wealth of material resources available to or experience in addressing these challenges
  • Projects need not operate in English; Incubator participants need basic English-language fluency

What is the timeline?

August 1, 2021 - RFP Opens

September 15 , 2021 - RFP Closes

October 2021 through March 2022 Design, Testing, Implementation

March 2022 through May 2022 - Reflection and write up

Could you walk me through some of the terms you're using?

Yes! But these are more starting points for thinking than lines in the sand.

digital infrastructure -

governance -

sustainability -

community health -

I'm not a good fit but I know someone who is. Do you accept nominations or referrals?

Absolutely! Please email [email protected]

Other questions?

Please email [email protected]