Arches Governance Initiative
The Arches Governance Initiative is a Getty Conservation Institute (GCI)-led effort to help the Arches Project transition to a more community-governed and sustainable open source project. The initiative will establish a governance framework for community participation in determining the future priorities and direction of Arches, thereby making the project more reflective of and responsive to community needs. The GCI convened an initial meeting in April 2022 with a small group of stakeholder advisors to scope the initiative. The GCI continues to lead the effort with guidance from the Arches Advisory Planning Group, advice from an open-source governance advisor, and soon-to-come input from the broader Arches community.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is this happening now?
The Arches Project is mature enough to require more community management by the broader Arches community.
A decade of investments from the GCI, and initial investments by World Monument Fund, created a stable software platform for cultural heritage data management where little existed before. The Arches platform helped to prototype effective practices around cultural heritage data management and thus further spur a movement.
Arches is a successful software platform with over 100 known implementations around the globe due to the invaluable contributions, expert guidance and support received from the broader cultural heritage community. The GCI and World Monuments Fund knew such open collaboration was essential to the success of Arches, which is why Arches was created with an open-source license and increasing investment in open-source development practices. The continued relevance, sustainability and growth of Arches requires capitalizing on more of this community-led innovation and development, bringing in additional global expertise, knowledge, and contributions to steer its future.
Is the Arches Project ready for this?
The Arches Project has followed a path towards community-led governance since its inception. In the early days, the GCI and World Monuments Fund guided the project’s development with input from a relatively limited group of external stakeholders. As the Arches platform gained adoption and developed a larger community of engaged practitioners, the GCI and World Monuments Fund began to create more opportunities for broader external collaboration and co-investment. Specific examples of these actions are outlined in a timeline on the Arches web site. From an operational viewpoint, these can be summarized as:
- Investing in technical infrastructure that encourages greater community involvement, such as GitHub for software co-development and issue tracking, moving from Google Groups to Discourse to provide for a more robust community forum, and publishing a Community Code of Conduct and a reporting protocol to help develop a healthy, inclusive Arches community.
- Establishing pathways for external funding and in-kind contributions, such as working with the Arcadia Fund, a charitable trust of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, to fund the internationalization of Arches v7; coordinating with the Google Summer of Code program; accepting enhancements from the Auckland City Council in New Zealand to create a new Arches single sign-on (SSO) function; and collaborating with Historic England since the project’s inception to receive advice on a number of technical topics, such as heritage data standards and controlled vocabularies, and to ensure the Arches platform meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
- Broadening external co-development and collaboration, such as through developer-focused meetups and User Groups (2019 and 2021).
Does this mean the Getty is pulling back its support?
No. Indeed, this transition to a more community-led project shows the GCI is thoroughly committed to the long-term success of Arches. The Arches Governance Initiative will formalize many already established means of open collaboration and outline new areas for community management. The GCI’s management roles might shift as part of this transition, but support will continue.
Who will make the final determination on the long-term structure of the Arches Project and any governance changes?
The GCI will make the final determination, with guidance from the Arches Advisory Planning Group and input from the broader Arches stakeholder community. The GCI’s philanthropy-based mission and values will be reflected in any new structure.
What is the timeline for the Arches Governance Initiative to be completed?
We hesitate to commit to a timeline, as we want to ensure ample time for discussion with the broader Arches community and possible revisions, but we expect some governance changes to be decided upon by late 2023, with implementation to follow. It is likely that there will then be a period of testing for the new governance structure to be sure it sensibly delivers on the goals of Arches and that it is ‘right-sized’ to the Arches community.
How will this impact existing Arches implementations?
The Arches Governance Initiative will not impact existing Arches implementations. Over the longer term, changes created through the Arches Governance Initiative mean those managing Arches implementations will have a greater say in the future direction of Arches.
What does this mean to my organization – will these changes impact the software roadmap?
Today, only the GCI ordinarily makes decisions around the project and its related software roadmap. For instance, the GCI made the decision to create the Arches for Science open-source application, and the vast majority of the work is funded by the GCI. These decisions are certainly based on user needs and developed through informal community input, but they are made by the GCI. Eventually, community stakeholders – including the GCI and other contributors – will collectively manage project priorities and the related software roadmap. Moving from a founder-led to a community-led governance model is not an uncommon growth path for open source projects. Many others have gone through such a transition successfully (see Rust and Kubernetes from the software industry and OpenReview from the scholarly publishing field).
We do not expect any governance changes to significantly impact the software roadmap in the near future beyond refining what’s already been committed.
In the short-term, organizations working with Arches will have opportunities to share their input on community-led governance (see the FAQ related to this below), while continuing to deploy a stable platform and participate in a well functioning community. In the longer-term, organizations will have more formal opportunities to shape Arches through the implementation of a new governance structure (e.g. commenting, voting, leadership positions in possible workgroups, etc).
We recognize that forthcoming governance changes might seem worrisome to some organizations, especially those without experience in how community-led open source projects work. For that reason, we are figuring out how to support the Arches community through this transition, starting with two webinars: the first providing an introduction to the workings of open-source software projects and the second on ways to participate and contribute within the Arches community. We will also share more resources and create more opportunities for dialog over the course of the Arches Governance Initiative.
What does the term ‘sustainability’ mean in the context of the Arches Governance Initiative?
As the Arches-sponsored paper Guidelines for Funding Open Source Software Development outlines, at its core, open-source project sustainability is about consistently delivering value to users while also giving “the most highly-motivated users a route by which their energy and support can be constructively organized and directed toward the project.” Moving to a more community-led governance model will give those motivated Arches users a direct channel for their insights and ideas. There are likely other project improvements to support the same goal.
The Arches Governance Initiative’s sustainability efforts will also evaluate how to expand the Arches user base and how others might find value in Arches. For example, what might users need to more deeply benefit from Arches? Could Arches investment, innovation, or support of some kind in an adjacent area further promote data management to protect the world’s cultural heritage? Lastly, the sustainability work will consider appropriate mechanisms for more financial and in-kind contributions to complement the Getty’s investments. Arches has already brought in such support in an informal way. What might a more programmatic approach look like? We expect the output of the Arches Governance Initiative’s exploration of sustainability to be a key input to the new governance structure.
What is the role of the Arches Advisory Planning Group and who is on it?
As the name suggests, the Arches Advisory Planning Group is an advisory working group convened by GCI to provide counsel on how the Arches Project can best transition to a more community-driven development model, along with other investments for greater long-term project sustainability.
Members include George Bruseker (Takin.solutions Ltd), Alison Dalgity (GCI), Gillian Grayson (Historic England), Mike Heyworth (Arcadia Fund), Eric Kansa (consultant to GCI), Angela Labrador (Coherit Associates; Johns Hopkins University), David Myers (GCI), Maggie Smith (San Francisco Planning), Dennis Wuthrich, (Farallon Geographics, Inc.), and Nina Young (GCI).
Members were chosen by the GCI for their historical knowledge of the Arches Project, their participation in the supporting service provider market and technical knowledge of the software platform, their end-user experience, and/or their mission-aligned investment in Arches. The Arches Advisory Planning Group is supported by an open-source governance advisor and time-bound to the length of the Arches Governance Initiative.
How can the broader Arches community engage to share their experience and opinions?
The Arches Governance Initiative wants to hear from the Arches community. There are several ways to engage now, with more opportunities as the project progresses:
• Share your thoughts in the Arches Community Forum under News & Announcements, using the “governance” tag.
• Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. (This will be shared with the Arches Advisory Planning Group.)
• A representative set of Arches stakeholders are being interviewed this summer. If you have not been contacted but would like to share your input through an interview, send an email to email@example.com.
• A draft of recommendations will be shared for comment later this fall.
• Other engagement opportunities might be created as the project progresses. Stay tuned to the Community Forum!
Last updated: July 2023