The Bridge model is one of intentionally creating a community of practice, where students, expert developers, community leaders, companies and entrepreneurs collaborate and learn together.
Most Bridges follow the original RailsBridge “viral workshop” model with open source curriculum and in-person events. Students become TAs become Teachers. The best teachers are those who have learned most recently, and have a passion for giving back to a community that fostered their own development. Companies benefit when we expand the talent pool, and their staff who volunteer at workshops become more expert through teaching and improving their leadership and communication skills. Bridge leaders are encouraged to innovate with new techniques for creating diverse and inclusive communities, for example, the GoBridge podcast and Slack community.
When curricula are developed for a programming language or subject matter area or volunteers start to engage in this work, we traditionally choose a name that includes the word “Bridge.” For example, our curriculum for Ruby on Rails is referred to as “RailsBridge.”
Naming note: so we can explore IP protections and in the future accept checks for any Bridge, we consider all the Bridge names are technically synonymous with Bridge Foundry.
The current structure of our organization is illustrated in Bridge Foundry Operations Overview
The officers and board of directors are identified in our corporate docs
Volunteer Bridge Leader
Separate from the creation and availability of curricula for a particular technology, volunteers may opt to create a Bridge leadership board, so they may promote use of a particular curriculum and provide deeper guidance and support for curriculum users. Bridge Leaders complete our Volunteer Agreement, which references specific Bridge Leader Policies.
Most of the groups we work with are Independent Communities (usually referred to as “Communities” for short). Communities use a Bridge curriculum, agree to our Workshop Guidelines, and align themselves publicly with Bridge Foundry by using one of our official names (like RailsBridge, ClojureBridge, etc). They are not legally part of Bridge Foundry, Inc. but we support them in a variety of ways, as requested, including guidance, grants, and access to our online resources.
Chapters have a lot in common with Communities. They agree to our Workshop Guidelines and use a version of one of our official names. They can access the same resources like fundraising advice and use of Bridge Troll. They also have some additional benefits:
- Access to finance infrastructure, such as Pex cards and online donation processing through their website
- Access to the benefits of being part of a nonprofit organization, which can include things like discounts and access to some in-kind gifts
- In the future, active Bridge Foundry Chapters will also be covered by our liability insurance, in the unlikely event that there’s some kind of legal action.
In order to become a Chapter, groups will:
- Have one or more leaders who make a commitment to lead the chapter (for at least one year)
- Have some track record with the organization and plan to hold at least 2 events in the upcoming year
- Complete our Volunteer Agreement
- Meet with their Bridge leader and/or a volunteer mentor once a year to share knowledge about successes and challenges
Sometimes we support groups that don’t follow the Bridge model for engaging underrepresented communities, but are clearly mission aligned. Women Who Go is an example of this type of program currently; Test First Teaching and the Teaching Kids initiative are past programs that are not currently active.
While their needs are slightly different, programs like these generally follow our operational guidelines for fundraising and expenses, as well as following our Code of Conduct or approved equivalent. They may also have an opportunity to access the additional resources available for Chapters (as a “Program”) provided that they have active leadership in place and we have capacity to support them. Leaders of Programs that operate as a legal part of Bridge Foundry, Inc. (similar to Chapters) complete our Volunteer Agreement, which references specific Program Leader Policies.
Volunteer fundraisers are just what they sound like: individuals can help raise money generally for Bridge Foundry, or specifically for a Community, Chapter, Program, or Bridge. The main caveat is that all funds raised technically need to be unrestricted funds to allow the organization to act when volunteers become inactive. (“Unrestricted” is a technical term in the fundraising world that indicates the money can be used generally to support our mission, rather than needing to track and report on funds allocated and spent for very specific purposes.) Volunteer Fundraisers complete our Volunteer Agreement, which references specific fundraising policies.
We have inspired a global movement, with workshops using Bridge curriculum offered around the world. Yet there are logistical limits to the activities our formal US corporation can directly pursue in other countries. At this time, we are not able to legally operate in other countries, so international groups cannot become Chapters. We also cannot provide grants to individuals in other countries, so international Communities aren’t currently eligible for financial grants. We do have communities with relationships with nonprofits in other countries, and we’re learning about whether we could extend those relationships to help more Communities internationally.
What international groups CAN do is: * Operate as an Independent Community and make use of open source and open online service we provide * If you are interested in further operational support outside of the US, please review open issues and if there is not one for your country, file a new issue
How funding works for these roles
Chapters that have a Volunteer Fundraiser are able to raise funds directly for their activities and spend those funds using a few different methods. See more detail in the Chapter Leader Policies.
Communities may also raise funds for their activities via a Volunteer Fundraiser, and they need to apply for a grant to receive those funds. We will approve the grant as long as those raised funds are available and both the application and the Community follow our policies. Communities may apply for a grant for multiple workshops to reduce the administrative work of multiple applications. Grants are usually paid out as reimbursements for expenses, but having Bridge Foundry pay vendors directly is also an option.
We also provide grants to both Chapters and Communities that are having trouble locating a sponsor. These grants are approved on a first-come basis. They are always approved as long as we have funds available and the application meets well-documented guidelines, where innovation is allowed and encouraged with a review process. To really scale, we rely on local fundraising, so we’re also looking at creating a local fundraising kit so we can encourage volunteers in each region to develop these skills and relationships.