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Clearly Defined Roles


In collaborative, community-driven projects there can be a lack of clarity around who is responsible for making decisions.


Collaborative projects involve regular engagement and discussions with users. Some projects encourage contributors to be part of the project’s governance. When this is the case, it should be clear where the responsibility lies for making final decisions. Is it with the community or with the project leadership?


Ensure that the project roles and responsibilities are well defined. Clarify how people are given those roles, eg by being Granted Privileges or Automatically Acquiring Roles.

Successful collaborative projects involve regular engagement with contributors, to encourage and support their work in order to achieve the project’s goals.

Some projects are led by a project team, which has ultimate responsibility for decision making, for example on the scope of the project and what data is included. In contrast, some projects are more decentralised, allowing members of the community to participate in the governance and decision-making processes.

Regardless of the model that is adopted, it is important that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. This will help resolve potential disputes and ensure that contributors know where to turn to for help and support.

If the community is involved in decision making, ensure there are Published Policies for seeking and documenting agreement. If the project leadership makes the final decisions, ensure you have Visible Processes so that decision making is transparent.

Roles and responsibilities can be managed in different ways. Projects led by a core team will have those roles assigned through team membership. Other projects might allow contributors to be given roles through Granted Privileges, eg giving them the ability to review and revert the work of others. Projects might also rely on Automatically Acquiring Privileges as a means to share responsibility. Regardless of the approach, there should be transparency around how roles are assigned.

It should also be clear which members of the team or community have specific roles, making it easier to know which person to approach for help and advice. You can publish a list or indicate roles on user profile pages

Related patterns

Automatically Acquire Privileges

In a large community it can be time-consuming to individually assess contributors in order to grant them specific privileges or roles.

Published Policies

Collaboration across distributed groups requires clarity around rules, policies and procedures.

Visible Processes

Trust needs to be built within the community.

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