What's a meta-organizer?
A meta-organizer works with event organizers and venues so that lots of Open Source Comes to Campus events can happen, typically in a given locale. As OpenHatch has grown from 1 event per year to more than 2 per month on average, we've spread out who's doing the heavy lifting of making the event happen.
The event's organizer is responsible for the event, through and through -- they reserve a room, handle food logistics, set the schedule, and more. They're very welcome to delegate that, but they're the person primarily responsible.
The organizer is supported by a meta-organizer -- a person who works with the organizer to help them run a great event. The meta-organizer makes connections between the organizer and prospective mentors, helps the organizer decide on a schedule, answers funding questions, and more. Typically a meta-organizer is someone who has organized events before and has wisdom to share.
If you're reading this, that might be you!
Meta-organizer is a relationship you have with a particular event rather than a title one keeps forever. It's OK to be a meta-organizer for an event today and be an organizer of a different event tomorrow!
Keep reading and you'll see how to be a great meta-organizer for an event.
How we meta-organize
OpenHatch maintains a spreadsheet with prospective organizers and schools interested in running an event, the status of each upcoming event, and which meta-organizer was responsible for making sure that event took place. This helps us keep track of who's doing what, where, when.
In general, we share this with every person who has been a meta-organizer for an event.
- Periodically, some people who have been meta-organizers get together to brainstorm and send emails to prospective event organizers.
- To find event organizers, we look through the list of past volunteers and organizers and people who have contacted OpenHatch expressing interest in running an event.
- We also sometimes look through big lists of computer science organizations (such as this List of academic organizations interested in Women in CS) to see if any of them might be interested in organizing again or for the the first time.
- For each prospective event, we assign a prospective meta-organizer. That person sends out emails to their potential organizers.
- They follow up with those who have questions or are up for it.
- The meta-organizer helps the local organizer pick a date for their event and find volunteers, and answers any other questions the organizer has.
Strategies for Recruiting Organizers
The path often looks something like: attendee --> mentor --> organizer --> meta-organizer, but that's very rough and often steps are skipped. Lots of mentors don't start off as attendees, for instance, and sometime attendees are ready to jump right into organizing!
Places to look for organizers
- Look at your list of attendees and local mentors, and see if you have repeat volunteers. If some of them are students at the host institution, they might be up for stepping into the organizer role for an event.
- At the beginning of the event, announce that there will be a table at lunch for people interested in how the event was organized, so that attendees who are curious can begin to learn about the inner workings of the event.
- Ask past attendees & mentors & organizers! And when you ask, ask for nominations as well. They might know someone perfect.
Information & Skills Needed
These are the things you need to know and be able to do to be an effective meta-organizer.
Growing the Potential Event Organizers & Mentors List
Every event needs an organizer and some mentors. We need to keep growing the list of people so that people who would enjoy doing that are able to do it!
- A list of past organizers, friends, volunteers, and anyone you can think to be a mentor
- A list of past organizers who might be interested in organizing
- A list of colleges/universities you are willing to email people at -- even better if there is a computer club or women in CS organization
- Other humans' suggestions for who to ask
- Ability to ask for help convincingly
- Participation at events where you can recruit people to the list of potential organizers & mentors is hugely helpful
Actually recruiting event organizers
- A brief pitch of what organizing is and why they should do it
- Prior experience organizing goes a long way in explaining what it entails
- Ability to email people you don't know
- Email writing and follow up, remembering to follow up, following up, etc.
- Ability to keep track of who's been asked, when, and what they said (spreadsheet!)
Helping organizers pick a date & create sign-up page
- Organizer's availability
- Availability of mentors if you know some who are tentatively interested in attending the workshop
- Knowledge of where to announce the event once it's scheduled (for example, events.openhatch.org)
- Tolerance for email back-and-forth (or Google Hangouts meetings/phone calls) to determine date of event
- Willingness to convince the organizers they need a sign-up page
Hosting organizer kick-off meeting
Great events often start with a kick-off meeting between the meta-organizer and the organizer(s). We often do this before the date is picked, but it's OK to do it after the date is picked.
- Who is organizing
- General stuff about organizing, to answer their questions
- Ability to schedule a phone call/video chat/meetup with all the organizers
- Excitement about OpenHatch and Open Source Comes to Campus events
- Ability to answer questions about organizing
Helping the organizer(s) get connected with mentors
Every Open Source Comes to Campus event needs mentors. The organizer is fundamentally responsible for getting a mentor involved, but they typically need help finding the mentors. That's where the meta-organizer comes in.
- List of people's names & email addresses & general info about them, who are possibly interested in mentoring
- Knowledge of what mentoring options are available
- General stuff about mentoring, to answer their questions
- Ability to email prospective mentors, preferably with a suggestion of a specific mentorship task they'd be good at, CC:ing the event organizer(s)
- Willingness to follow up with prospective mentors if they don't reply
- Ability to stay organized with these emails
Making sure the event is actually being planned
- Date of the workshop
- Whether or not the organizers are planning the event
- Ability to follow up with organizers to make sure things are going okay
- Judgement to determine if one of the organizers is doing all the work, to see if you can help spread the load
- Communication skills to help resolve issues with organizers / mentors / venues should they arise