COMOSA Open Workgroup Policy

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Policy Name COMOSA Open Workgroup Policy
Purpose To establish a policy for stakeholder engagement and open governance processes to support COMOSA objectives.
Intended audience
  • Members of the COMOSA Board
  • Prospective COMOSA community members
  • Stakeholders of open schools in the Commonwealth
Status Drafting
  • COMOSA was established at a meeting from 23rd to 24th November 2009 at New Delhi, India
  • A Constitution was agreed at this meeting articulating the COMOSA objectives.
  • An interim Executive comprising a Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary and Treasurer were appointed.
  • An vehicle for community engagement and ownership of policy development is needed.
  • Commonwealth of learning arranged an online OER Policy Consultation Forum from 1 to 15 February 2012 to establish the context in preparation for a face-to-face meeting in the Seychelles.
  • A draft open workgroup policy will be tabled for discussion and refinement at the March 2012 COMOSA workshop in the Seychelles.
  • The COMOSA Board has the authority to establish sub-committees and approve policy.
Supporting documents
  • None
Proposed to the community To be scheduled
Effective date
  • To be determined

Policy for the establishment of COMOSA Open Workgroups


  • Workgroup refers to a group of COMOSA members working together to achieve a common community goal: the development of guidelines, policies, and technology-related changes that will have a community-wide impact. Although the term workgroup, or working group, continues to be used freely within COMOSA to refer to groups working on projects of many sorts, a project deemed of broad importance to the COMOSA community can be established as a Community Workgroup in accordance with this policy.
  • Community Workgroup means a Workgroup initiated and operating within the ambit of these policy guidelines.
  • Board refers to the Board of COMOSA established by the COMOSA constitution.
  • Board member refers to a member of the COMOSA Board.
  • COMOSA member refers to any staff member working at a COMOSA institution or associated member institution.


Commons-based peer-production is a concept coined by Yochai Benkler[1] to describe a new model of economic production referring to systems which encourage open and unrestricted participation by large numbers of individuals, typically enabled by Internet technologies. These open projects are unique in that they subscribe to collaboration, transparent process and self-organisation rather than hierarchy and control (Tapscott & Williams 2006)[2]. Consequently, COMOSA processes need to reflect these cultural and operational differences when compared to organisations structured and operating as traditional hierarchies. Our open systems should:

  • Encourage and support participation and innovation from all members of the Community recognising the freedom of any member of the COMOSA community to establish a Workgroup;
  • Ensure open transparent process, requiring all COMOSA Workgroups, including those established by the Board to work openly, licensing their contributions in accordance with the principles of the Free Cultural Works Definition.

Statement of purpose

Icon objectives.jpg
The purpose of the policy and supporting guidelines for COMOSA Open Workgroups is to:
  • ensure and promote open, transparent and community-based collaboration for guiding the evolution of the COMOSA initiative
  • distinguish between Community Workgroups and Project Workgroups which are constituted for supporting project and content collaborations in the COMOSA network
  • help and support COMOSA members to establish Community Workgroups
  • provide minimum criteria for the establishment of Community Workgroups whose outputs could be tabled for consideration and approval by the COMOSA Board

Differentiating between Community and Project Workgroups

Workgroups are a popular methodology for groups of interested COMOSA members to collaborate on achieving a common goal. COMOSA differentiates between two types of workgroup:

  • Community Workgroups: which are established for developing community-wide guidelines or policies. Before these community-wide guidelines or policy proposals can be ratified, they must first be approved by the COMOSA Board. Any COMOSA member may propose the establishment of a workgroup. Once the criteria specified in this policy have been met, a Community Workgroup is established. The establishment of a Community Workgroup does not require the approval of the COMOSA board except in cases where the outputs of the Workgroup will have legal, financial or governance implications.
  • Project Workgroups: which are established to support individual projects, content developments or interest nodes in COMOSA and will not necessarily have a community-wide impact. Project Workgroups are not required to adhere to the guidelines proposed in this policy as their outputs are not intended for community-wide adoption. However, Project Workgroups are free to use these guidelines and supporting resources to assist with the effective achievement of their goals.

Establishing Community Workgroups

A Community Workgroup may be established by any member of the COMOSA community to improve the way we work; or for the specific purposes of the Board in accordance with the COMOSA constitution. There are two distinct phases for a Community Workgroup:

  1. Initiating a Workgroup including process requirements for Workgroups planning to develop a community-wide guideline or policy
  2. Formally constituting a Community Workgroup

Initiating a Workgroup for a community-wide guideline or policy

COMOSA encourages community members to initiate Community Workgroups to address aspects of COMOSA's working environment in need of improvement. The following steps are provided as policy requirements for initiating a Workgroup which is intended to evolve into formerly constituted Community Workgroup:

  1. Announce the idea on the main <insert name and link to COMOSA community list> . Determine interest. Collect feedback. Is the stated issue/idea a community-wide problem/challenge?
  2. Set up a draft Workgroup page <specify an open technology space for collaborative editing>.
  3. Invite volunteers to join; Create a section of the Workgroup page where participants can sign on to help. At least one person should be listed as convenor and take responsibility for successful completion of the Workgroup's activities and tasks.
  4. Create a draft Workgroup charter.
  5. Post to the main <insert name and link to COMOSA community list> providing a concise summary of the Workgroup and requesting community review and comment on the Workgroup charter, including a minimum of 30 calendar days for discussion with clearly stated deadline for comments. Collect the comments and suggestions in a section of the charter or corresponding talk page.
  6. Revise and amend the charter based on feedback and post a notification of the final proposed charter on the <insert name and link to COMOSA community list> calling for approvals of the charter by signed-up participants of the Workgroup.
  7. COMOSA members are free to sign up as active participants of the Workgroup at any time.
  8. Prepare for formal constitution of a Community Workgroup.

The Workgroup charter

A charter is a statement of the scope, objectives and participants in a project or working group. It documents a preliminary delineation of roles and responsibilities, the group's objectives, a process for collaboration, a project plan, and a method for on-going evaluation. The charter serves as a reference of authority for the future of the working group. Most groups or teams working collaboratively to achieve a particular goal will benefit from the creation and maintenance of a charter. COMOSA community wide workgroups must create and maintain a charter.

Creating a charter for a proposed Community Workgroup

The first work for a prospective Community Workgroup is to draft a charter.

The charter should be openly accessible for all to participate < specify preferred technologies>.

Use the boilerplate at Help:Workgroup charter (general guidelines for creating a charter for group collaboration on a project) to create the Workgroup charter.

Include the following in the relevant sections of the charter:

  • Under Purpose: Explain how the Workgroup process and outcomes align with core objectives of COMOSA.
  • Under Ground Rules (The Process): Note that the chosen method for communicating among Workgroup members should be consistent with the values of open governance. That is,:
    • Be transparent: any COMOSA member must be able to read and access the communications.
    • Be open:
      1. any COMOSA member must be able to contribute to the discussions, and
      2. communications must use open file formats: contributors should not be required to purchase non-free software in order to participate in the discussions.
    • Be licensed as free content: CC-BY, or CC-BY-SA or published under a public domain declaration.
    • Be easily accessible by all: conducted in one location, with clearly identified links on your Workgroup page to where the discussions are taking place.
  • Under Resources: Respond to the following, in determining the resources required:
    1. Does this Workgroup require financial resources?
    2. Are there any legal issues that might be of concern?
    3. Does this Workgroup impact on community governance issues?
    4. Are there any technological dependencies or technological related security risks which might be difficult to support?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, provide an explanation of the requirement or impact as well as any proposed solutions. In addition, the Workgroup's charter will need to be approved by COMOSA Board before you can formally constitute a Community Workgroup.

Formal constitution of a Community Workgroup

The intent of this policy is to provide mechanisms and authority for COMOSA members to convene and constitute Workgroups for the development of community-wide guidelines and policies without unnecessary bureaucracy or hierarchical delays. The COMOSA Board is responsible for the stewardship of the Communitys' formal and informal structures, rules and procedures that guide the activities of the COMOSA initiative including the fiduciary responsibilities associated with good governance incorporating both economic and societal responsibilities for the custodianship of our community ethos, values and purposes.

As an open project, the COMOSA Board as a governance body, is not required, nor has the authority, to make value judgements on the substance of operational policy or guideline proposals. All Board members are free to sign up as participants of any Community Workgroup in their capacity as members of the COMOSA community. For this reason, this policy enables any member of the community to establish a Workgroup under the minimum criteria which are designed to ensure transparency and due democratic process. Policy or guideline proposals which do not meet these minimum criteria will be deferred back to the Workgroup concerned.

A Workgroup initiated for the development of community-wide guidelines or policy is formally constituted when the following criteria have been met:

  1. The Community Workgroup was formed according to the procedures for initiating a workgroup listed above.
  2. A minimum of three COMOSA members are signed, active participants of the Workgroup with at least one of the workgroup participants having <specify some criteria for an "experienced" COMOSA member>'.
  3. A minimum period of 30 calendar days was provided from the date of the community announcement on the <insert name and link to COMOSA community list> before approvals of the charter by signed participants of the Workgroup.
  4. A majority of signed members of the Workgroup approved the charter, provided that voting participants signed up before casting their votes for approval. (This means that COMOSA members are free to sign up as active Workgroup participants within the 30 day period specified above.)
  5. All Workgroup participants provide and list an active email account.
  6. All discussions and decisions are recorded openly and transparently in using an open accessible technology.
  7. The work group will NOT result in legal or financial implications or changes to existing COMOSA constitution. If so, the COMOSA Board is required to approve the charter and subsequent establishment of a Board sub-committee prior to formal constitution of the Community Workgroup.

A formally constituted Community Workgroup has the authority to develop community-wide policy and guideline proposals for approval and ratification by the COMOSA Board.

Making decisions

Community Workgroups must use a consensus decision-making process.

In the event that a Workgroup is unable to achieve consensus, the difference of opinion and relative support for the contesting views needs to be included in the report submitted to the COMOSA Board for consideration. The Board may decide to 1) refer the document back to the Workgroup with suggestions on how consensus may be achieved, or 2) set up a community-wide referendum, e.g., in the case of an essential decision with significant impact on all COMOSA members.

Community Workgroups at work

Some Community Workgroups may be short-lived, e.g., a Workgroup charged with the creation and implementation of a specific narrowly-focused policy, completing their work easily in the scheduled timeframe. Others may be charged with crafting a complex policy or the stewardship of an ever-evolving aspect of WikiEducator, requiring more substantial support and maintenance efforts over the lifetime of the group.

Making a submission to the COMOSA Board

We expect that the first output for most Community Workgroups will be one or more policies or sets of guidelines to define their area of work. All proposed policies and guidelines must be submitted to the COMOSA Board for approval and ratification. The Board's sole purpose in approving policy and guideline proposals is to ensure transparency and due democratic process.

To make a submission to the Board:

  • Submit the Community Workgroup report for inclusion in the agenda of an upcoming COMOSA meeting.
  • Include links to 1) the Workgroup charter, 2) the Workgroup report, and 3) the proposed policies and/or guidelines.

The Workgroup Report

All Community Workgroups are required to prepare a summary report of activities to accompany the submission to Board of proposed policy and guidelines. The purpose of the report is to summarise progress and achievements for COMOSA members who were not active participants of the WorkGroup. The report should:

  • Contain an executive summary.
  • State the purposes of the Workgroup.
  • Confirm official approval of the Charter in accordance with this policy including a summary of the group members' relevant experience.
  • List the outputs achieved by the Workgroup, including any specified outputs which were not achieved.
  • Report on the completion of project tasks as specified in the project plan, detailing any slippage on planned project dates.
  • Contain links to relevant open collaboration pages as well as the community notifications posted on the main <insert name of COMOSA community list>.
  • Document any minority opinions or issues where consensus was difficult to achieve, providing the reasons and how the differences were resolved.
  • Include a brief reflection on lessons learned to assist future Community Workgroups.
  • Include a formal request to the Board to approve and ratify the policy.

Being responsive to changing conditions

Online collaborations are dynamic and participative communities. Community Workgroups are responsible and accountable to respond to changing conditions. In the event that circumstances change necessitating substantive revisions to a Workgroup's plans, processes or activities these revisions should be implemented and communicated openly and transparently to the COMOSA community.

When substantive changes to a Workgroup's charter are necessary, the revised charter must be approved in accordance with the procedures for charter approval adhering to proper notice and minimum time periods for approvals.

Making substantive revisions to a Workgroup's charter

Circumstances may change during the life-cycle of a Workgroup, requiring substantive revisions to the charter, for example: where the Workgroup has underestimated the scope of the task necessitating material changes to the project plan; where it becomes clear that participation in the Workgroup activities has been less than optimal taking into account the significance or impact of the Workgroup's tasks; or where it appears unlikely that the Workgroup will achieve consensus on a substantive concern, a revision to the charter may avert a deadlock or impasse situation.

In cases requiring substantive revisions to a previously approved charter, the following steps are required:

  1. Any Workgroup member can propose a substantive revision and should consult with Workgroup members regarding their proposal.
  2. The Workgroup collaborates in revising the Workgroup charter to address the proposal, keeping an open copy of the original charter for historical record and including a link to this archive from the active charter page.
  3. Assuming general consensus about the proposed revisions, the Workgroup convenor (or a designate) must:
    • Prepare a statement summarising the main changes to the Charter and explaining the reasons for the substantive revision.
    • Post a notification to the main <specify name and link of the COMOSA list> specifying the summary and reasons for the changes and the date for approval of the revised charter which should not be less than 15 days from this announcement.
    • Contact all group members requesting approval of the revised charter by the specified date, under a new subheading in the approval section, entitled "Approval of substantive revision of charter dated ..." (Earlier approvals should not be deleted and the statement of reasons and changes must be included under this heading.)
  4. Workgroup activities continue in accordance with the revised charter.
  5. The Workgroup incorporates the processes for substantive revisions in the Workgroup report.


  2. D. Tapscott & A. D. Williams (2006). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Online: