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Mon, 16-Aug-2004 15:51 GMT


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eRiding Principles
Submited by Teresa Crawford
Hi folks -

Hope everyone is rested up from our long week in Philadelphia. For those of you who were unable to attend you were sorely missed. Rarely do we get these opportunities to come together as eRiders and folks working outside the US.

We had 3 days of networking and learning at the NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference, an exciting day learning everything we ever wanted to know about Open Source at Penguin Day and then a day and a half together discussing eRiding, learning more about evaluation techniques and tools for eRiders such as Tech Surveyor Offline. Alot of interesting initiatives and ideas were proposed and several participants will be following up over the next few weeks. Everyone agreed that the ideas and initiatives had to be opened up to the larger group of folks represented on this discussion list. No one of us wanted to move forward without all of you. What follows is a long email but please keep reading if you want to be part of the development of the eRider movement!

In a start on some of the follow up I agreed to take on pushing forward a discussion that actually started much before Philadelphia. This is a discussion of our shared principles as eRiders. Many questions over the last few months have centered on: What is eRiding? Why is it different from mainstream technology consulting? What do our clients get from eRiders that they would not necessarily get from others? How are different eRiding projects alike? A declaration of shared principles could help answer some of these questions.

A great example:

One experienced eRider who worked on early eRiding projects was asked to join a new eRiding project in his country. He knew the folks implementing it well and wanted to be involved. But the more he learned about how the project was to be implemented he felt it was not really eRiding. They were using the name but did not really understand what eRiding was. Rather then be involved in something he did not believe in he left the project. But he did not have a document to point them to or a clear declaration of what eRiding is to use in his arguments with them. He could not go to the management of the project and argue his case. He needed something from the community that he did not get.

The work so far:

In Istanbul several eRiders began to discuss some of the things the eRider community could do to support individual projects. One of the issues that came up was to put together a declaration of principles that define the work we do.

Following on Istanbul I included a 1.5 hour session as part of the Global eRider Days in Philadelphia to open the principles discussion up to a larger group of mostly eRiders but also eRider supporters and other members of the nonprofit technology community. In a facilitated discussion led by Gunner we asked the group of 28 participants 3 main questions:

1) Why do you eRide? (example: personal investment/more then a job)
2) What piece of advice would you give a first time eRider? (example: be patient and realistic)
3) Why are you part of the eRider community? (example: to improve our effectiveness and stop waste of resources)

These questions elicited a lively debate and questions began to emerge. Are some principles ones you personally hold? Are others ones the entire group hold? Do these conflict? Is open content/open source a personal principle you abide by or one all members of the group should? Can an eRiding organization be for profit? Can eRiders work for non profits?

We brainstormed a long list of possible 'principles' for eRiding and everyone left agreeing that they wanted to expand this discussion beyond the group in Philadelphia. To develop a set of shared principles we needed much more input. We needed to test them in different geographies and different cultural settings.

Next steps:

It was agreed that I would lead a group of eRider leaders to push things forward. So far we have outlined several steps that can be taken:

1) Post to the discussion list the background on the eRider principles discussion (this is also available at:
2) Solicit members of the lists ideas and brainstorms about the 3 questions we posed and the way to push the principles discussion forward
3) Encourage eRider managers and leaders to also engage others who are not on the list
4) Create a small principles working group who can take the brainstorm from Philly and from the list and work to group them into main themes. We will also work to determine where there are conflicts and places to encourage more discussion with the larger group.
5) Keep the discussion open for the next few months as we find other opportunities to work together face to face including in September in London at the UK Technology Conference
6) Set a closing date after which the working group will craft the brainstorms and ideas into a declaration with approx 10 - 15 shared principles. At this point the community will vote on which ones they think are central to the eRiding concept and model

So this is Step 1. Step 2 to follow later today. Please do not hesitate to e-mail me or the list if you have any questions on this discussion, principles, want to suggest additional steps or if you want to help facilitate the discussion.

If you wonder what a principle is here is the definition from dictionary.com:
A basic truth, law, or assumption: the principles of democracy.
A rule or standard, especially of good behavior: a man of principle.
The collectivity of moral or ethical standards or judgments: a decision based on principle rather than expediency.
A fixed or predetermined policy or mode of action.
More to come.

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