Volunteer Activities - a simple setup for non-hierarchical collaboration

This is a sketch for deploying Discourse as a collaboration hub for volunteer projects, that are supposed to work in a non-hierarchical and do-ocratic fashion.

The main objectives are providing a good overview of what’s going on, even when there is no central organization. Supporting self-management. And keeping the Discourse instance easy to maintain and administer:

Providing overview

The setup is basically built around Pavilion’s Events plugin, combined with Discourse Assign and Discourse Solved. New activities can be set up as an event, providing a start and end date and the possibility for others to join.

Assigning events is then re-purposed as leading them:

Screenshot from 2021-03-20 16-55-05

And Solved/Unsolved is re-purposed for an open or done state:

Screenshot from 2021-03-20 16-58-44

The Events plugin then adds both an agenda list and a calendar view:

On the Solved plugin, you can set solved topics to automatically close. And the Events plugin can automatically remove closed topics from the calendar view. So this plays well together, as events marked as “done” will not show up on the calendar.

Supporting self-management

There’s three main tags that every member can add to their activity: Discuss, Help and Welcome:

Screenshot from 2021-03-20 16-28-35

In my experience keeping access easy for new volunteers to join an ongoing project is an important objective that’s often neglected. The Welcome tag is a little nudge in that direction, encouraging experienced members to lead activities that are a good starting place for newcomers. And giving those new volunteers a better idea where to join first.

The overall setup to have a simple activity hub is also much directed at this. It allows to have little to no opinion about further tools employed with each activity and prevent building an ever more complex project infrastructure.

Keeping the setup simple

The setup is built with the three mentioned plugins only. In addition it uses two theme components:

The Nav Links component to show the Agenda and Calendar links on all pages:

Screenshot from 2021-03-20 17-26-33

And the Tag Icons component:

Screenshot from 2021-03-20 17-26-50