Structure of a Community of Common Interest Workgroup

Public Participation and Processes. Primary conversations take place via the online discussion tools the CONNECT community uses today, and which can be followed either by Web browser or email client. Anyone may register and join in the discussion, and the discussion is archived publicly and permanently. Side conversations are not forbidden, but the general understanding is that if it's an important point or conversation relevant to the workgroup's mission, it must be done on the forum, to maximize access and involvement.

A "Mission Statement" is created that forms the core definition of focus and scope for the workgroup.

An Initial Set of Committed Participants. These are corporations, government agencies, non-profits, or individuals whose involvement is sought at the time of initial launch to be a part of a public announcement, and who commit to represent their interests and goals through the public processes. They further commit to working through technical and business differences towards a common goal. Their involvement at the beginning is key to creating momentum for the workgroup from the beginning. However, the decision-making weight carried by the committed participants is expressed not through formal votes or exclusive rights, but through ideas expressed and actions taken throughout the process. That same weight can be carried by new participants after launch, as well. A common term for this approach might be a "do-ocracy".

Simple Leadership Around Consensus-Oriented Governance. There are two co-chairs for the workgroup, one employed by the public sector (government or non-profit), and one employed by the private sector. These co-chairs are identified publicly, and drive the process (detailed below) against a schedule and roadmap that they maintain based on ideas and input from the other participants. The co-chairs will have assistance in this from the CONNECT Project Management Office at HHS/ONC. However, these co-chairs should consider themselves facilitators rather than core implementers.

A Public Wiki is used to maintain the persistent content related to the workgroup: its project plan, its mission statement, the iterations of different ideas under development, etc. The workgroup's co-chairs may decide whether "write access" (the ability to create or edit a wiki page) is wide open or limited to a set of specific participants. By defualt, "write access" to the wiki is allowed to any registered member of the public.

A “Tracking" Database - that is, a tool for collecting requirements, "user stories", or other key artifacts of the development process, such as the one currently used for CONNECT Gateway development. This will assist the workgroup in managing the set of possible work items as a database, allowing for prioritization, endorsement, sorting, assigning, and tracking to closure by the workgroup co-chairs and others. Whereas the online forums can be thought of as an informal place for raw conversation, and the wiki for brainstorming or documentation, the issue tracker shall be thought of as the formal workflow database of items relevant to the workgroup's process.

A Software Source Code Repository. Any software development activity that takes place in conjunction with the workgroup can be done using the publicly-available source code repository managed by the CONNECT initiative. A separate space will be created to avoid conflict or confusion with the main CONNECT code development process. Here, the workgroup can also create a branch from the main CONNECT Gateway code tree, if the ideas require deeper architectural changes to the code that, if all parties agree, may be merged later upstream into the mainline CONNECT Gateway code. While the repository is publicly readable, "commit privileges” are granted by the co-chairs to parties who ask for it, based on their participation in good faith in other parts of the workgroup.

In-Person Meetings and Teleconferences are encouraged but not required. Such tools may be helpful for group communication, brainstorming, education and consensus-driving. However, it is important not to disenfranchise the participants in the workgroup who could not attend, so it is recommended that no "important" decisions be made in in-person meetings or teleconferences without reflecting that decision-making process online. "Important" decisions are those that affect the direction of the pworkgroup in a substantial way. A decision to adjust a minor aspect of a proposed interface or address a certain aspect of the source code would likely not be considered "important" enough to wait for public input. But ratification of a standard or release of newly-written code as final should be surfaced online for consensus first.