Community Viability

As essential part of maturity for communities in formation is testing their viability, reaching out to new constituencies to circulate ideas, services, and products.  This move represents a shift from internal community stabilization and grounding to external validation in the world. In the “validation” stage, communities often need to strike a careful balance between focusing on continued development while also expanding networks of support.

The BitCurator Consortium (BCC) is one example of a community in their validation stage.  Launched in 2014 to provide a foundation for the BitCurator software environment, the BCC is an independent, community-led membership association that supports the ongoing work and practice of digital forensics in collecting institutions. BitCurator is an open source software environment that packages digital forensics tools for managing born-digital content. The project was a collaborative effort between UNC Chapel Hill SILS and the Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), receiving support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation throughout its initial phases of development and implementation.

The BCC began engaging in “Validation” work with Educopia in 2015 as the membership organization formally launched and opened to new members. As a key component to this effort, BCC’s elected leadership established its mission, vision, and values statements, and also conducted a market analysis and SWOT analysis. To strengthen its community engagement levels, BCC designed and implemented multiple channels for members, prospective members, and allied organizations to engage in communications, events, and research projects.  

Simultaneously, BCC’s leadership began working with Educopia to ensure its fiscal records are available, transparent, community reviewed, and able to appropriately inform budgeting, fundraising, and other functions. In compliance with its new Privacy Policy (released in 2018), the community also fully integrated and is now using CRM software (Salesforce) to improve its understanding of its extended community of members, software users, and collaborative partners across sectors. The net result to date is a strong, growing network of individuals and institutions that are embracing and adapting digital forensics methods and tools within libraries, archives, and museums.  

With its improved infrastructure, BCC is now working with Educopia’s Communications Manager to create tailored outreach addressing specific user needs. Due to its market analysis and extensive research work into digital curation workflows, BCC is able to inform this outreach effort with detailed ROI data that can be presented to different groups of prospective members, explicitly addressing how the BCC adds value to each group’s digital curation efforts. Using email campaign tools (e.g. MailChimp) the BCC is also able to both efficiently reach a wider audience of potential members and analyze the effectiveness of specific campaigns.  

The significant growth of the community’s infrastructure through concrete, well-planned activities during “Validation” positions the BCC beautifully for the next step in its maturation: moving into “Acceleration” in 2019. 

– Sam Meister and Alex Chassanoff