Apereo Values: Section 6 - Incubation: Growing Sustainable Solutions for Education
6. Incubation: Growing Sustainable Solutions for Education
Creating a successful open source software offering, and a community to sustain it, is considerably more complex than uploading some code into Github. An incubation process plays a significant part in the formative steps on the path from software innovation to sustainability. It supports a critical part of the software and community lifecycle, bringing to bear the experience of those who have travelled the path before – successfully or unsuccessfully – for the benefit of new initiatives.
Some of the collective experiences represented in the Apero Incubation Process are relatively hard-edged; the need for a consistent inbound and outbound licensing regime, for example. Others, such as growing sustaining communities around software, reflect specific experiences and contexts that are less easy to codify. This is why incubation is, at core, concerned with scaffolding a systematic mentoring process, rather than simply laying down a set of "rules" to follow. The process is two-way: in addition to the benefits for the software community in question, incubation will add to the collective experience of the Apereo community as a whole.
The Apereo Incubation Process
The Apereo Incubation Process was established shortly after the Foundation was formed. It benefits software communities seeking to grow open source solutions together with adopters of those solutions. It benefits creators by providing scaffolding and structured support in the early stages of software and community development. Adopters, in turn, gain clarity around the steps early-stage projects have taken to guarantee clean intellectual property, and build a sustaining community. You can discover more about the Apereo incubation process on the Apereo website - www.apereo.org.
The objective of the incubation process is not to guarantee sustainability, but to ensure that a number of criteria drawn from collective experience are met at a formative stage of development - before a project or community is approved as an endorsed Apereo Software Community. The incubation process serves as an entry point for a project or community seeking to become part of Apereo.
Whilst it is important to draw general lessons around software sustainability from the experience of projects and communities, it is important to remember that sustainability is a concrete issue, rooted in the lifecycle and context of a specific software community. There are therefore likely to be limits to the transferability of a model or models. This is why the Apereo incubation process provides both a written checklist, summarizing distilled community experience, and community-based mentors to provide advice for an incubating project.
A project that does not progress from incubation to operate as an endorsed Apereo Software Community should not be considered a failure. There are a variety of reasons why this might happen, ranging from technical feasibility to lack of broader community interest. The process is designed to identify such issues and test the viability of an initiative from a number of perspectives at an early stage. This outcome of the process acts to mitigate against an extended investment of resources by institutions or individuals where this is inadvisable. This, in itself, represents a significant benefit of incubation.
Into the Future: Accelerating Incubation
The Apereo incubation process is unashamedly borrowed from the proven Apache incubation process, with tweaks and modifications to ensure a better fit with higher education. The process is regularly reviewed and developed by the Apereo Incubation Working Group and Board of Directors. Responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have sharply demonstrated a need to further develop higher education software resilience. An urgent future focus for Apereo incubation work will be to examine ways that we can learn from business and other software accelerators, and add greater agility and speed to incubation.
Benefits of Apereo Endorsement
Participation in the community brings a series of tangible benefits for a software initiative. These range from access to the experience of others working in similar fields as mentors, through to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) management, technical expertise, licensing, legal, meeting, and communications infrastructure. Participation also provides access to a range of potential global adopters and contributors, and to the outreach resources of the Foundation itself. Fundamentally, participation allows a project or community to become part of a larger network, and gain the benefits of network effects. This network is not confined to membership of the Apereo Foundation. We seek to build reciprocal relationships with other similar organizations. This is at the heart of our growing relationship with the LAMP Consortium in North America, ESUP-Portail consortium in France, and our developing regional foci in Japan, South Africa, and Europe. Apereo is a global community.
Distributed under a Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 License
Illustrations by Giulia Forsythe