Culture, Collaboration, Community, and Connection: The 4 C’s of an Open Source Community Sprint

By Katharine Bierce | February 14, 2019 | Conferences & Events, Education Cloud, Education Data Architecture, Higher Education, Nonprofit, Nonprofit Cloud, Nonprofit Success Pack, Volunteering

Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprints Shape the Direction of Salesforce Products

As management theorist Peter Drucker once said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” And nowhere is that more true than Salesforce.org. Why?

While events like Open Source Community Sprints are nominally about technology, since people suggest and work on current and proposed features, in reality, it’s about 3 things: Collaboration, Community, and Connection. In short, three key elements to creating a great culture. As the community has evolved, it’s shaped and informed the evolution of Salesforce.org. Our user conferences are different because we allow the community to show up authentically, and decide the topics they want to discuss. In the opening and closing of the event, attendees can talk about anything they want. Our community is a unique group of people who believe in harnessing the power of collective impact, open solutions, and community to change the world. Here’s more about how the community works together.

Open Source Community Sprint attendees get excited about discussing ideas.
Open Source Community Sprint attendees get excited about discussing ideas.

Collaboration: An Attendee-Driven Unconference

At a Sprint, Salesforce.org customers, partners, and employees come together in an “unconference” format to brainstorm new feature ideas, improve existing products like NPSP and HEDA, and solve problems in small groups.

What’s interesting to note is that as an unconference, the attendees in the room are the ones who set the topics and features discussed. While the event hosts keep the coffee flowing and coordinate the daily events, it’s not a typical conference where attendees sit back and listen to presenters. It’s truly a collaborative experience where everyone who shows up can contribute something! Veteran sprinters contribute expertise, first-timers bring the ever-valuable “beginner’s mind,” as Suzuki Roshi might say, coders can code and non-coders write documentation, discuss priorities, and create software specs and more.

Side note on wording: The name “sprint” comes from the agile software development terminology where a team works on a prioritized list of features that are delivered in a short period of time. A “sprint” is the duration of time to deliver one or more features (usually a few weeks). I personally like the name “sprint” because a “hackathon” sounds like you’re breaking something, rather than building something, in my opinion! But remember — you don’t need to know how to code in order to sprint!

Matthew Poe and Sarah Amin in front of NPSP/nonprofit CRM related ideas at the Denver Open Source Community Sprint, summer 2018
Matthew Poe and Sarah Amin in front of NPSP/nonprofit CRM related ideas at the Denver Open Source Community Sprint, summer 2018

Community: A Brief History of Sprinting

The community was first, even before Salesforce.org started to run Sprint events. Salesforce.org team members serve a supporting role in the sprint community by making themselves available and present in order to answer questions and provide input on various sprint themes and topics. Here’s a bit more on how the community has led the way towards greater innovation and collaboration, and how we’ve evolved together.

Initially, the HEDA and NPSP sprints were separate, and higher education institutions and nonprofits didn’t have as much of a chance to collaborate with each other.

During the closing circle at the Boston 2016 Sprint, Corey Snow, Salesforce evangelist and Solution Architect at Harvard University, shared his “Aha!” moment: “We absolutely have to have this for education.” At the Boston 2016 sprint, it was focused on nonprofits, and Corey (who is famous for his Sprint selfies, by the way) was the only one from higher education at that sprint.

The first HEDA Workshop was in January 2017 held at Harvard in the wintertime (brrr!), with 3 weeks notice, and the organizers expected just 25 people. Instead, with the help of super-connector Kathy Lueckeman and along with Education-focused Salesforce.org staff, it sold out. The first HEDA Workshop had 75 attendees from all over the US and Canada, which set the stage for future Sprints!

Fast-forward to July 2017, when Salesforce.org hosted a Higher Ed Open Source Software Community Sprint at Harvard, which was inclusive of other solutions like the Interactions for Student Recruitment App on top of HEDA. The community helped test Interactions, which was an open source app created by the University of Miami through a 2016 Salesforce Technology Innovation grant. The organizers began to realize that the verticals had more in common than differences, and began to transition the Sprints to the way they are today, with emphasis on solutions that solve problems rather than direct contributions to singular products, and continued to build the community across industries. With the combination of nonprofits and all of education, including K-12 beginning with the first Sprint of 2018 in Orlando, the Denver Open Source Community Sprint in Summer 2018 was one of the largest – with 150 attendees in the room!

Word to the wise: While Sprints are totally awesome and you should attend one in person if you can, you can also interact with community members in the Power of Us Hub, and find the same great people online!

Katharine Bierce leads an afternoon yoga stretch break to help re-energize the community. Photo credit: Joanna Iturbe
Katharine Bierce leads an afternoon yoga stretch break to help re-energize the community. Photo credit: Joanna Iturbe, via Twitter

Connection – Internally and Externally

One aspect of the Salesforce culture is how people take the time to connect to each other, whether it’s over dinner, drinks, or chats in the hallway. I for one felt more connected to the community after having the opportunity for several long conversations with people whom I’d previously only connected with via email.

Another way the community connects to inspiration is by taking a few moments for mindfulness. One community member, Ashima Saigal, led us in a moment of mindfulness first thing in the morning, before we got started on projects. Several people commented that having a moment to pause and breathe was pivotal in helping them find more calm and focus at an otherwise very busy unconference! One attendee shared: “It’s always a great way to start a sprint. Many thanks to Ashima for her guidance.”

As a Salesforce employee who also enjoys teaching yoga, I led a brief mid-afternoon yoga stretch break on the second of the two-day sprint. I find that around 3 pm, everyone starts to reach for their third soda, espresso, or sugar rush and that getting moving can help folks wake up and re-energize!

Community-Driven Innovation: The Key to Technology Success

In summary, Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprints are a unique experience because you find out just how incredibly generous, helpful, and collaborative people are. As one community member said what’s unique about the Salesforce community is “This is a different way of building enterprise software.” When you choose Salesforce, you’re not just picking a technology platform, you’re joining an amazing group of people who care.

You, too, can experience the magic of the Salesforce.org community this year! Registration for Sprints go live three months in advance. Here’s how to stay in the know:

  • Follow the #SFDOSprint hashtag on Twitter to experience the Long Beach Sprint from home
  • Join the next Sprint in Detroit, Michigan from July 10-12, 2019
  • Mark your calendar for the Philadelphia, PA sprint from Oct 16-18, 2019
  • Last but not least, stay connected with the Sprint group in the Hub!


JOIN SPRINTS IN THE HUB