Funders and infrastructure projects communicate differently.
FOSS contributors are sensitive to wording. As they often follow a not-for-profit approach, market terminology tends not to go down well. Projects might dismiss a call for applications because it uses terminology invoking innovation or business. When misinterpretation leads to misunderstandings between funders and infrastructure projects, trust can break down and relations permanently sour.
- As we have seen with adoption, FOSS contributors are often critical of the concept of growth. At the same time, growth is still applied as a measure of success by many funders. Scale, on the other hand, is seen by projects to be more responsible and resilient.
- Infrastructure contributors don’t often conceive of their work as a product to be distributed and marketed. Product thinking – taking a “user” perspective of a problem that needs solving – is not the norm (or at least not explicitly so), even though it would suit the work of a community that is adverse to process and structure and often follows a “scratch your own itch” approach.
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Understand that the path into FOSS is perceived as formative, and people often identify strongly with the path they themselves took; criticizing it can lead to developers taking the criticism personally. Instead of arguing for greater diversity, approach the issue by first helping the project work out which people, skills or perspectives the project needs to be successful – and where these could be found – and work from there.
By choosing what kinds of work to support, funders send a message about what kinds of work are valuable. When working with projects in which essential management roles already exist, support them to the same degree as the developer positions. Refrain from focusing solely on developer positions. At the same time, avoid filling non-coding positions with people from underrepresented groups; this can reinforce the idea that coding is performed by higher-status people
If grantees do not make use of external offers of support, one reason might be the absence of a trusting relationship. Personal introductions and recommendations can help build this.
Try to avoid marketing terminology; e.g. use “identity” instead of “brand” or “outreach” istead of “market”.
To make discussions about results as “products” meaningful, frame them within the context of usability and usefulness instead of marketing.