2013 Apereo Board Strategy Workshop - Summary of Outcomes

The Apereo Foundation board met at New York University on April 16-17, 2013 with the objective of identifying sustainable strategies to deliver the Apereo vision of a ‘common foundation’  in the context of the current and developing global higher education landscape. David Kay of Sero Consulting was invited to facilitate the event, including undertaking preparatory interviews with board members and supporting the Chair and Executive Director in documenting findings and outcomes.

Six key areas of discussion will be of interest to Apereo members and other stakeholders who have an interest in the potential of IT and digital technologies to advance global higher education. The first of these areas reflects discussion and deepening understanding of the nature of Apereo itself, and the role of the board within the organization. This is a necessary pre-requisite and context for the further elaboration of a strategy for the Foundation, and an approach designed to deliver against the objectives of that strategy.

The Role of the Board – Apereo is a network of organisations that share common needs, ambitions and values. The board acts as a key enabler within this network. It is the ‘glue’ that adheres crucial points of connection between Apereo and its constituents - the range of projects, interest groups and regional communities that Apereo comprises. It is also a critical facilitator of relationships with other organisations. The Board therefore has a multi-dimensional role; as a catalyst, encouraging effective internal and external connections within and without the Apereo network; as a collective strategist, ensuring informed alignment of the goals of Apereo with the needs of global higher education; as an agency of check and balance, ensuring prudent and effective use of foundation resources in realizing objectives.

The Need for Targeted Advocacy – Whilst there is greater acceptance of the value of open source software in higher education than there once was, the sector still lags behind others in understanding and appreciation of benefits. This understanding is also uneven. There is greater understanding, for example, of the role of open source licensing and IPR management in reducing consortial friction - by providing an independent entity in which to vest IPR - than there is of open source approaches to software development and coordination. In line with its mission, Apereo must work with other organisations to demonstrate the value of open source software in education, and particularly in areas that are intimately connected with mission delivery – learning, teaching and research. 

The Landscape – A complex ecosystem of grounded and sustainable software solutions is increasingly critical to the Higher Education community, the expectations of its learners, educators and researchers, and by its institutional ambitions. This is of particular importance at a point where higher education faces the challenge of constricting resources accompanied by demand for operation at significantly increased scale. Unless the solutions to these challenges are open, their value to higher education will decrease over time, as the issues of control, lock-in and migration re-occur. The board identified a number of potential points where investment and effort by the Apereo community might begin to address this. In the coming period, the board will work with the community to systematically investigate these opportunities, including new resourcing models for projects, whilst recognizing the continued responsibility to delivering support for existing committed projects and communities.

The Apereo Portfolio – The sustainability of the foundation and the health of the network Apereo represents is dependent on considered innovation and growth. The board recognized the importance of building the Apereo portfolio in terms of membership, adoption, and contribution; balancing the attractions of breadth and scale with the core values of quality, contribution and community. Growth should, however, be built on solid foundations. In the coming period, the board will facilitate community review of the Apereo portfolio, ensuring that each project is appropriately represented and promoted in communications, that governance structures are in place which are demonstrably effective for each project and community, and that focal points of potential future common strategic investment are discussed within the broader community. 

The Software Community Lifecycle – Software and other communities brought forward, incubated and sustained by existing and new members are the lifeblood of the common foundation. Apereo must provide a firm yet flexible framework to support the software lifecycle that combines local governance and informed self-assessment with strategic guidance and value-added support from the foundation. The current review and re-iteration of an incubation process is the first step towards articulating the flexible framework we require. When this concludes, during July and August, the community will begin to address further areas of the product lifecycle in detail.

Communication and Community Coordination – In order to nurture both community and opportunity, the board must prioritize working with members, partner organizations worldwide and core staff to establish realistic yet compelling approaches to partnership, outreach and communications. This activity will add value to the efforts of projects as well as to the overall reputation of the foundation. More effective communications and community coordination are a key priority for the immediate future. This will be supported by further rationalizing infrastructure, consideration of new ways for member organisations to share experience and form new initiatives, and by additional staff as soon as this is judged prudent. 

In continuing to work to strengthen the foundation in these ways, we will not lose sight of the foundation’s mission; In the next period there will be renewed focus on support for projects and their promotion – the very point of the foundation’s existence.

These areas present key challenges that will focus board attention not only in the lead up to the inaugural Apereo conference in San Diego and but also as ongoing priorities for 2013. 


During the merger process, representitives of Jasig and Sakai drafted a document outlining The Values of a Common Foundation.