Why did we create these Principles?

This page describes the reasoning, intentions, and thoughts behind the Principles of Authentic Participation. While it does not talk about the Principles specifically, it adds background context and history for how the initial work on the Principles began.


The Principles of Authentic Participation were derived at the Sustain Summit 2020 event on 30 January 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. There, Duane O’Brien and others facilitated discussion groups loosely focused on corporate accountability in the context of open source. From these discussion groups, the following four goals emerged based on discussion topics from the day:

  1. Set and publish a goal for open source contribution relative to value capture

  2. Adhere to the Principles of Authentic Participation

  3. Publish documentation of open source policies, processes, and project governance

  4. Well-defined reporting process that is publicly available

From these four goals at Sustain Summit 2020, two went on to become focuses of an Accountability & Transparency Working Group affiliated with the Sustain Summit. What you are reading now are the deliverables created by the group focused on the Principles of Authentic Participation.

Common struggles

How did the discussion groups in Brussels agree that these Principles of Authentic Participation were important? First, consider that the original Sustain Summit 2020 discussion groups aimed to identify positive and negative characteristics of corporate participation in open source.

However, the Sustain Summit revealed a common pressure point. Folks with backgrounds in humanitarian, civic, and non-profit sectors also shared similar problems with their organizations exploring open source. Certain positive behaviors are modeled by some actors, and some extraordinarily bad behaviors are modeled by others. The best way to describe what happened at Sustain Summit 2020 was storytelling: stories about our organizations succeeding or failing at being accountable members of open source communities. The stories built an intersectional perspective including corporate open source veterans, leads of industry Open Source Program Offices, undergraduate students, academic researchers, and more.


After the day of discussions, there was a need for common language about what “participation” means in different contexts. This Working Group, originally facilitated by Justin W. Flory, arose from post-event discussions focused on defining what it means to be an authentic contributor in open source communities. This definition should be flexible enough to apply to both individuals and organizations, broadly speaking.

The Principles of Authentic Participation, as defined here, are the product of the original discussions in Brussels along with three months of follow-up audio/video community discussions.