Constellation model in OSBR

September 25, 2008 § 4 Comments

Over the summer, Tonya and I published an article in Singapore’s Social Space journal about the constellation governance model used by the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Environmental Health. This is a way of organizing NGO partnerships in small clusters — or constellations — based around interest, skill and passion. Obviously, some similarities there to how many open source projects work.

The people at the Open Source Business Review picked up on this and asked to republish the article with an open source spin. It’s out today. Here’s the abstract:

The constellation model was developed by and for the Canadian Partnership for Children’s Health and the Environment. The model offers an innovative approach to organizing collaborative efforts in the social mission sector and shares various elements of the open source model. It emphasizes self-organizing and concrete action within a network of partner organizations working on a common issue.

Constellations are self-organizing action teams that operate within the broader strategic vision of a partnership. These constellations are outwardly focused, placing their attention on creating value for those in the external environment rather than on the partnership itself. While serious effort is invested into core partnership governance and management, most of the energy is devoted to the decision making, resources and collaborative effort required to create social value. The constellations drive and define the partnership.

The constellation model emerged from a deep understanding of the power of networks and peer production. Leadership rotates fluidly amongst partners, with each partner having the freedom to head up a constellation and to participate in constellations that carry out activities that are of more peripheral interest. The Internet provided the platform, the partner network enabled the expertise to align itself, and the goal of reducing chemical exposure in children kept the energy flowing.

Building on seven years of experience, this article provides an overview of the constellation model, discusses the results from the CPCHE, and identifies similarities and differences between the constellation and open source models.

This issue of Open Source Business Review is all about the intersection of open source and social innovation. Some interesting stuff, including a piece on the OLPC as educational innovation and something on the McConnell Foundation’s approach to community engagement.

§ 4 Responses to Constellation model in OSBR

  • michaellewkowitz says:

    Mark, great to see the open source and social innovation dialogues converging. Have you seen any other intentional mergers like this in other publications? Could this maybe be the emergence of some Canadian leadership again? It’s early days as the content demonstrates but I do believe there are some strong common threads and important contributions to be made.

  • msurman says:

    Nope, I haven’t seen others make the same link as OSBR in print. However, the fact that Young Foundation and Lien Centre for Social Innovation are both hosting Open Everything events shows others are thinking in this direction.

  • bentrem says:

    Not sure what’s up but the Singapore URL points to an entirely different article, and a search for your name yields no results.
    Thanks for linking to the other version.


  • Are you pursuing your work on self-organized action teams? I found you two via Ben ziegler and would like to learn more as I and also writing and consulting on collaboration and believe self-organized project teams are going to be increasingly popular as are the connections between clusters. Thank you

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