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InfoQ Homepage Podcasts Victor Germano, Deepti Jain and Angie Doyle on How the Agile Alliance Supports Community Initiatives

Victor Germano, Deepti Jain and Angie Doyle on How the Agile Alliance Supports Community Initiatives

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In this podcast recorded at Agile 2019, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to with Victor Germano, Deepti Jain and Angie Doyle about the ways the Agile Alliance supports community initiatives. 

Key Takeaways

  • The Agile Alliance supports many initiatives which are the way that community members get involved with the work of the Alliance around the world
  • Initiatives are mainly member created ideas which support the value dials of the organisaiton: increase the depth and breadth of agile, create an inclusive and global community, bringing value to members
  • There are a wide range of initiatives already underway, and the Alliance is always looking for more opportunities to expand the way they reach and serve members around the globe
  • There is a process to follow and people who want to help get new initiatives established
  • Before proposing a new initiative examine the ones which are already underway to see if what is needed can be met through one of them 

Show Notes

  • 00:00 Shane: Good day, folks. This is Shane Hastie for the InfoQ Engineering Culture podcast. I'm at the Agile 2019 conference in Washington DC, and I'm sitting down with Victor Germano, Deepti Jain and Angie Doyle. Victor is the treasurer of the Agile Alliance and the initiative shepherd. Deepti and Angie are leads for two of the initiatives.
  • 00:27 So what we're going to talk about in this session is the work of the Alliance and what these things we call initiatives are actually about.
  • 00:36 Welcome. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us today. Victor, if I can start with you as the treasurer and the initiative shepherd, I suppose, has been the role that you've taken on the Alliance.
  • 00:48 What does that mean and what do we mean by an initiative?
  • 00:52 Victor: First of all, Agile Alliance is a nonprofit organization with the mission of increase the depth and breadth of agile over the world. So as a way to connect with the community and the different communities over the world that exists, we as an organization funnel some of the support and the resources into helping members of the community run their own ,we call it initiatives, which are mostly projects, events, user groups that need support from an entity. And my role as a shepherd over the years has been how can we set up initiatives to success to being accepted, to be funded, how we create experiences that connect multiple initiatives, and how can we reach out to a broader audience and a broader community than an event like agile conference can do. Here we have around 2,500 people attending the conference. But an initiative that can actually reach out to the whole country and support a whole country to their journey on agile is much more effective and can reach out to hundreds or even thousands of people.
  • 02:02 Shane: What are some of the initiatives that the Alliance has been running?
  • 02:07 Victor: We've being running multiple initiatives, they might be initiatives like Five Saturdays initiative, which the main goal is to teach agile principles and practices to young kids during their studying and might be an introduction to software development; it might be learning about TDD and BDD practices.
  • 02:25 We do have an initiative called the Agile Manifesto Translation. Which is helping connect communities that want to translate the agile manifesto to their own language. There's also both of the initiatives that Deepti and Angie are running right now, but will leave it to them to explain, but there are initiatives like the product management initiative, which help meet up groups.
  • 02:46 There are specific focus on agile product management to run, so it might be funding a meetup. But so that it can help them to set up ; it might be sponsoring a speaker to go to a meetup group. It's so that we can participate and we're running from technical debt initiatives, agile product management initiatives, supporting conferences, the conference sponsorship initiative that we can support new conferences to run.
  • 03:12 And yes, you can find a lot of information in the Agile Alliance website that explains the process of submitting a new proposal. That explains the process, what initiatives are running right now, and how we can participate into those.
  • 03:24 Shane: It's a mechanism for the agile community, the members of the Alliance to engage and actually do something.
  • 03:34 Victor: Yes.
  • 03:35 Shane: And they're run by volunteers.
  • 03:37 Victor: All of them are normally run by volunteers. We do have initiatives that the organization itself organizes, like conference sponsorship, these days is run by the staff members of the Alliance. But ultimately our goal is the community running their own initiatives, their own projects, and we help fund those projects.
  • 03:56 Shane: Right. So talking about some of the initiatives, Deepti, perhaps I can start with you. You've been involved with a couple of, you briefly mentioned women in agile is one. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that and your experience there before we go into the other?
  • 04:09 Deepti: I'm involved with the Alliance for a couple of years now, and, I would say that's my engagement with community in India as well. So pretty young and fresh on that front.
  • 04:18 So just to give a little history about how it started for me. , you start with your organization and you see, Oh, there's so much that needs to change on the mindset front, on your personal level as well. you still act as a team leader, as a manager and command and control and deciding everything on the name of being a leader.
  • 04:36 And fortunately for me, I wanted to grow as a person in terms of changing my own behavior. And I started going out and looking at meetups and events and it is only this much, you can learn from there. So, I was little disappointed. Where can I get more? And then on the name of more, it was only trainings, that you will get.
  • 04:56 And I attended a lot of them because I was hungry. I wanted to learn more. And then to my luck, somebody and I belong to Northern part of India. And there is this awesome conference that happens in Bangalore. So, somebody just invited me, you know, why don't you join us? And they wanted to basically work with me.
  • 05:14 I was like, okay, going to other city, leaving family for a conference. I've been to many of them around Northern India, and they were all after a certain point, giving me same information. So it was not very keen on going there, but you know, to my luck it happened and Oh my God, that was really awesome.
  • 05:30 And that was a germination point for me. I was like, yeah, this is what I really need, at all the levels and places in India and the knowledge and the people and the experience and the exchange in brings, that's not everywhere. It's just there.
  • 05:46 And then somebody ran into me and, he said, I'm a volunteer at XP. You know what, it's a phenomenal conference. Why don't you come there? And I was like. Heck it, let's go. So then I go to XP. That's when I started getting involved with Alliance. And I think it's your calling and it's your wives and you attract your tribe. It's actually that stuff's, I met Victor there and Juta and we all talked about it, and Phil and then I continued running my meetups and events.
  • 06:13 Because initially I was dependent on whatever was happening and then I thought, why should I wait? Why should I not do it myself? And so I started doing it. And so that's when we had conversations, Victor, me, Juta, Phil, Ray about what I'm doing, how it can be more aligned to the vision of the Alliance. And it was very much in alignment already.
  • 06:33 And so this year it is a formal initiative. And in this initiative, which is what we call Building Future Leaders and Change Agents, we start with an unconference and our coach camp at the center and before and after, there are a lot of programs which are community and volunteer run. And also we invite some experts from inside and outside the country and there is expense around it, but other stuff, which is remote and which is done by local leaders who are willing to, give away, they are free.
  • 07:03 In a nutshell, this is an initiative to grow awareness for a country as a whole by different programs.
  • 07:11 Shane: That's not a small country. We are talking about India.
  • 07:18 Angie, what are you working on?
  • 07:20 Angie: I actually have a very similar background, I think to Deepti with getting introduced to the agile Alliance initiatives.
  • 07:25 A few years ago, I actually was working with the product management community on the initiative in South Africa. So, we ran a couple of things. I knew about the initiatives, but I wasn't aware of the process to set up an initiative. And three years ago at one of the agile conferences, I actually sat down and I spoke to Victor and a couple of the other board members and shared an idea that I had.
  • 07:46 That I thought was a uniquely South African kind of problem. And it was really about the challenge that you have in emerging economies, bringing, really well-known agile speakers to the local community. There's very often a perception that people outside the country are more skilled than within the country.
  • 08:03 You almost need someone well known to come to an event to expose the local expertise to the community as well. So the emerging economies initiative was born through those conversations, and it kind of went through a few iterations to land up with what it is now, which is really where we focus on emerging economies.
  • 08:21 So, the big ones are South Africa, Brazil, India, Russia, China are the biggest ones. But then there's also smaller countries like Mexico and Colombia, the Philippines, Thailand, another country in Africa would be Egypt. And what we're trying to do is we're actually trying to help events or run events in those countries where we can bring agile speakers and bring agile events to those communities.
  • 08:46 But really targeting people that are underserved by the current agile community in those countries. So a lot of them will have conferences in city centers and training, but the second you go outside of those city centers, people are very underserved. So, they don't have access to training. They don't have access to conferences.
  • 09:03 And. it's out of their financial reach. So, what we do is we set up the events that are as free as they can be, so we target for them to be free. Sometimes might not always work out that way, but they need to be absolutely accessible to people that are currently underserved.
  • 09:18 There's two groups that we really focus on.
  • 09:20 One is more of a geographic location, so they're very far away from big cities and then we set up events, we send speakers, we even get local speakers to collaborate with international speakers at those events.
  • 09:31 And then there's also communities that are completely underserved by the agile community in general, these are people that do not have the means to attend training, to go to conferences. And we partner with companies and non-profits that are already working in those communities, and again, we introduce them to people from an international agile perspective as well as from a local agile perspective.
  • 09:53 So we do things like run a one-day workshop with students that are learning how to code, and we introduce an agile perspective in there. And then we encourage the local community to also come and get involved with the idea that it becomes sustainable going forward
  • 10:06 Victor: Our main idea is, we as an organization, we could start telling regions and communities what we wanted to show, what we wanted to fund, what we wanted to participate.
  • 10:15 And we find that way of thinking kind of limiting. Especially because who really knows how to communicate and how to interact and how to create new things - the local people there - they're facing the challenges and everything. So, what Agile Alliance can help is if you have an idea that you believe that needs traction, that need support, then it's funding in relates to software development, product management, agile software development.
  • 10:42 We can help you connect the dots so that your idea comes out of the paper into something real. So those two examples that you just described for us, there are amazing cause it's an opportunity for us to actually make a difference in specific countries that might never have the opportunity to people just joining in and flying all the way from South Africa to an event here in the US . And if we can help those communities also have access to the content, to the support and to the resources that we have available. This is amazing. That's why initiatives, personally to me, are so important to me, like almost the main aspect of an organization like Agile Alliance.
  • 11:21 Shane: One of the occasional criticisms of the Agile Alliance is that it is very North America centric, but I don't see any North American around this table.
  • 11:30 Victor: This is a work for that we have over the years, when Shane was part of the board, the main idea was how we create an international organization.
  • 11:39 And this is a really specific problem that we face. Of course, we have a big conference that happens in North America. We have members of the board and members of the staff that do live in the US and Canada. Why not? But the main idea is having an international organization, it's not only about having the board of directors that represent this diversity of region that we have in our world, but has to be about the resources that we invest. Are they being internationalized in many ways? So initiatives is part of that, of that work. That's why we're constantly looking for initiative directors in different parts of the world.
  • 12:16 That's why initiatives like conference sponsorship is helping many, many countries to set up new conferences. That's why an initiative like community support initiative helps local user groups that need to have access to, let's say, a Meetup Pro license. We give them that and we give a space so that multiple communites can interact.
  • 12:38 We also have the affiliates of the Allinace, one is the New Zealand affiliate, that Shane is one of the responsible,
  • 12:45 Shane: I have to declare an interest here. I am the chair of the Agile Alliance New Zealand, so we've certainly benefited from the support of the Alliance and things that we have done in the New Zealand community is bring events to the smaller towns and you were talking about in your initiative, we have the same thing. Auckland in particular, well served a very, very strong, thriving, agile community. Wellington, the second city, not too bad. Again, a pretty good community, but over the last year we've gone out to some of the, in some cases multiple years now. Places like Tauranga, which is in New Zealand standards, it's a big city. It's like 50 years, 70,000 people. In India that's a suburb
  • 13:33 Victor: That doesn't even qualify as a city in Brazil too.
  • 13:36 Shane: And then we recently did something in the Hawke's Bay, which is a largely agricultural area, and I think 35,000 people in there, but we went into one of the universities and did an event there with the university, with the local community, and bringing the concepts of agility and how this works. We have an annual event we're now doing in Duneden, which is one of the Southern most cities in the world, and we were amazed to discover when we went down there that there is a thriving community of people who are working remotely for organizations all around the world. They have chosen to move to this very isolated, often very cold city, if you go straight down, you are going to hit Antarctica, but there's a thriving multi thousand person community who are working remotely and because of that, they didn't have a lot of connection. So by the Alliance bringing an event there, it's actually formed a sustainable meetup community of people we didn't know
  • 14:45 Victor: I really like the idea of helping communities get traction in the work that you're already doing, but could take a long time to actually be sustainable or have a flow of people that are enough so they can be frequent.
  • 14:57 On the part of the internationalization as well, we are now working with multiple events. To also help create communities around the world. So we're supporting now the XP conference, which is this great spot between industry and academia. And we have this conference that normally runs on the Europe, and next year we'll be in Copenhagen and we're supporting that conference.
  • 15:20 We also support a conference in Brazil. Which started as a way for the Brazilian community to have a legal entity to support an event that was growing faster than the individuals could handle the amount of money that needs to be handled, the contracts and everything, and I also have an interest in that because I am a fiscal counciller in the Agile Alliance Brazil organization, and that was really important so that that community could have structure.
  • 15:47 So that the main event in the country actually runs itself, has a proper legal entity to sign up contracts and everything. So this is also both New Zealand and Brazil affiliates. They started as initiatives, right? So I like to say that initiatives are the way that we as an organization connect with the community.
  • 16:06 And we can connect through that in many different ways.
  • 16:10 Deepti: 16:10 . There's something very interesting which happens with me, I have a lot of people who come forward and share ideas. Definitely the burden of facilitating the whole thing and , logistics and organizing website communications, audience, all of that falls on me, but which is totally rewarding.
  • 16:25 So even within the initiative that we are running, Change Agents and Future Leaders, that's what I was saying, that the programs, which I have some eight month long programs. Not all of them are run by me. There are different subject matter experts who have ideas. There is somebody who wants to work more on liberating structures and you know, he has created his own and he's giving away.
  • 16:47 There is somebody from McKinzie who is a senior program, portfolio manager, product management. She has taken care of for tons of years. She's creating 10 sessions, learning program and giving away for free. There is somebody else. Who is ICAgile ACC, and also ICF, and she's creating a structure and probably limiting it for only 10 people, , and that is more for change agents and coaches.
  • 17:12 So the good part with the bigger initiative is it becomes an umbrella for a lot of mushrooming, wonderful initiatives. So that's what the Women in Agile and Tech that we have in India, that is also part of Agility Today. So we run this unconference and then all the women who have come, or the men who have participated in Agility oTday, they can pass on their passes. You know, a free entry to so Women in Agile and Tech is again a not for profit and absolutely free event that runs for all the Agility Today participants. So you can have your friends coming in, your wife's coming in, your female colleagues, whosoever coming in to begin with, it was more focused on women, not that we are not focusing on inclusion and diversity, but one step at a time. As simple as that, you know, to hear them out first, what is it that they need? And there had been questions, men said, why don't you run men in agile?
  • 18:05 Yes, those are the questions. But the beautiful part is it becomes very much, highly fertile ground. For a lot of ideas and a lot of people have so much energy. Somebody is actually going to host a coaching workshop based on Lisa Atkins work. There is another person who is going to host one series on personal agility , and this is so cool.
  • 18:24 And so, definitely three years have gone into having this up now, but now it's all coming back on its own and we just have to plug in each of these offerings from people and offer it to community.
  • 18:36 Victor: There's two aspects of it. If you have an idea and you want to create a new initiative, it is good for you to reach out to the Agile Alliance and we'll probably start a conversation to understand how this idea works and what type of connections, what type of partnerships we can build to either create an initiative, maybe create a partnership to a different institution like we did with IBA to create the Agile Extension for the IIBA. But you don't need to actually submit a new idea to take advantage of the initiatives that we already have. .
  • 19:07 I'd like to talk a little bit about the Speakier Reimbursement initiative. Which is if you're running a meetup group today, either be an agile meetup group, a coding retreat with a meetup group. I don't know, the technology focused meetup group. You can ask for supports to one meetup event that you're doing to bring a speaker to that event and to help that events become maybe bringing more value to the participants of that meetup group.
  • 19:34 And you don't have to apply to a new initiative. It's just mostly on a website, there's all the initiatives available. If you see some initiative that are interesting in your region you can actually ask for support in those initiatives and an initiative director that is connected to the initiative will probably have the conversation with you that you need. So let's say you want to run a agile coach camp in your country or your local region. There is an initiative that has somewhat of a template and a whole explanation about how to run an agile coach camp. And you can also ask for support if you're beginning to run a coach camp with the agile coach camp initiative.
  • 20:10 So there's various numbers of ways that you can ask for support from the Agile Alliance that were really willing to support. I can say that how can we have a thousand initiatives running over the world and we can figure it out how to support all of those initiatives. And I'd like to put the word out there that we have the willingness to support many of the possible ideas that we come across.
  • 20:32 There is resources available to do that. And as a nonprofit organization, this is part of what we do. So we need to reinvest in the community as a way to help it grow, help it thrive, and if you have an initiative about teaching coding to minorities and underrepresented groups, we can help with that.
  • 20:52 If you have an idea of maybe bringing new people to the IT community then we can help with that.
  • 20:59 Angie: It was definitely something that I found with the Emerging Economies initiatives. I came with an idea and it wasn't fully formed. It was an idea of, I know that this issue exists not just in my country, and we went through quite a couple of iterations of what it actually could look like.
  • 21:13 So validating what Victor's saying , the Agile Alliance really does work with you to get to a point where an initiative takes a bit of shape and they help you build something that is actually something you can take forward into the community and keep sustainable.
  • 21:27 Victor: And process wise, there is this form that you have to fill out that normally do that together. And ,they're evaluated based on the value dials of the organization, which are: increase the depth and breadth of agile, create a inclusive and global community, bringing value to our members and of course, there's brand awareness, but that's not necessarily is the one that we're looking for when. we're looking at an initiative.
  • 21:50 Do you have an idea that can increase the depth and breadth of agile? Do you have an idea that can help us create a global inclusive community. Do you have an idea that brings value to the member community and the members at large?
  • 22:02 We can talk.
  • 22:03 In my role as a shepherd, it's normally, I don't like to think that our work is a bouncer or a gatekeeper of more of a, how can we help us spend all the money, basically, and that's the main part of the work that I'm really passionate about. It's just bring ideas, we'll figure it out, how to support.
  • 22:23 Shane: Victor, where do people go to find it?
  • 22:25 Victor: So you can go to agilealliance.org and there you find the list of all the initiatives, the content available for basically everyone that wants to access content about agile in general and under the initiatives webpage, you'll see the proposal document that you probably need to fill out when submitting a proposal, but I really, really, really suggest that you don't do that alone.
  • 22:50 We are here to help to create new initiatives, and there's much more value in having that conversation and creating something that's meaningful, they can definitely be supported and that we can help create together. So there is the contact information that we can reach out to. We set up calls and we speak multiple languages, so they'll need to be only in English.
  • 23:10 It can be in any language that you speak. We'll try to find out someone that can help out and we can make this work.
  • 23:16 Shane: Well, thank you all very much for coming along. Good luck. Enjoy the rest of the conference.

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