Brussels / 4 & 5 February 2023


Centering DEI Within Your Open Source Project

The CHAOSS project represents a potential force for power and good in open source. This session includes speakers who took part in a two-year long reflection on DEI practices within the CHAOSS project. The session will help other open source projects in their work towards improving diversity, equity, and inclusion by exploring practices within the CHAOSS project first, then using those examples as points of reference for other projects. Our efforts have focused us on newcomer experiences, community surveys, and sustaining the people within the project. In particular, the session will discuss these efforts, aimed at answering the question of: How do we help open source communities to be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive?

Intro: Our CHAOSS DEI reflection team is amazing. We have been able to work together over the last few years, building and establishing direction for the CHAOSS project and others. Our work has resulted in many improvements within the CHAOSS project as well as external engagements aimed at better centering DEI within open source.

Main idea 1: Supporting new contributors and making your onboarding process smooth helps with contributor retention.

  • Supporting detail 1: Challenges include language barriers, time zones, access to tools from bandwidth limitations or other access limitations, merging in and accepting contributions in a timely manner

  • Supporting detail 2: Helpful strategies include improving documentation, open office hours, welcome slackbot, accepting contributions of all kinds, having a newcomer space in slack/communication channels, onboarding calls

Main idea 2: Our two-year reflection process did not always go as planned.

  • Supporting detail 1: Building newcomer experiences has been challenging. The CHAOSS global community has grown tremendously, for example, the African chapter has grown to over 180 members in the last few months– and as such, newcomer onboarding and paths to contribution became a priority for us. Our expectation was to make a difference and directly assist newcomers in CHAOSS since many of us can relate to their pain of getting overwhelmed by the many parts in CHAOSS. It is true that we made a significant impact; however, we had to reevaluate our first plan and improve on it. For example, office hours didn't get as much attention as we would have liked, so we adjusted the time and cadence, then went one step further with documentation diversity for newcomers (specifically the teams' sheet and quickstart for newcomers). More recently, we started a strategy document for newcomers' onboarding and have kickstarted newcomer onboarding calls.

Main idea 3: Strategic use of community surveys helps you to better understand the feelings, emotion, and qualitative feedback of the community.

  • Supporting detail 1: Make sure the community survey is completely anonymous and no personal information will be collected, and is GDPR compliant. Access to data should be limited and only report aggregated data on a high level. Have clear goals for what you want to learn more about, but be open to organic community response. Also consider troll-ish responses, and follow set standards when asking about demographic data.

Conclusion: We have learned to be patient with our work. Advancing DEI in open source is challenging as we attend to corporate interests, community needs, and, most importantly, the safety of people for whom our efforts have an impact.


Kristi Progri
Photo of Justin W. Flory Justin W. Flory
Photo of Ruth Ikegah Ruth Ikegah
Sean Goggins