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A role is a cluster of activities that an agent performs within an OVN. Roles are fundamental elements of organizational structure.

See page on Role system.


  • The role of facilitator can be seen as a cluster of the following activities: communication, planning, documentation, social media outreach, ...
  • The role of administrator can be composed of activities like: office work, documenting (reading, writing, etc...), accounting, etc.

Roles can be fixed or emergent. The experience accumulated by affiliates in Sensorica shows that OVNs or open communities require a set of essential roles in order to function properly. This set might vary according to context. Essential roles must be visible (surfaced, identified) to the entire community, they must be explicit and affiliates must be continuously encouraged (incentives) to take them.

  • animator (give soul to the venture or community, motivate, energize),
  • guide (help new affiliates integrate the community, onboarding, orientation, facilitation),
  • technical support (assist new affiliates with their problems using the tools and equipment needed for value creation),
  • administrator (perform tasks that support the venture/community and its infrastructure)
  • ambassador (perform outreach activities in order to maintain an adequate influx or resources)
  • add others...

As opposed to traditional organizations, individuals are not appointed to roles in OVNs and other types of open communities. Moreover, one individual cannot monopolize a role for any period of time. Experience shows that in absence of formal/instituted power relations (no formal authority) there is no guarantee that the appointee will maintain his/her role (it is difficult to establish accountability) as promised or agreed upon. In some cases, one can experiment with appointing a given individual to essential roles, if these roles explicitly bring with them some sort of rewards (money, reputation/influence, etc.), and if there is a mechanism to record the individual's commitment to the role and to make it public, and if there is a mechanism to punish failure to keep the commitment by affecting reputation or the ability to benefit from the system (through a benefits redistribution algorithm for example), or by other punitive mechanisms. The flow of agents to roles is part of the Role System.

Support roles are sets of activities that do not lead to specific deliverables. These activities build or extend capacity of innovation, production or distribution. For example, facilitation and coordination, helping others and making sure that time constraints are respected, are support roles.

Production roles are sets of activities that lead to a clear deliverable, something finite that can be identified, measured or qualified, transferred. Production roles are also called (depending on context) development roles.

Roles in other open organizations

In the open world, some communities operate on do-ocracy , which means that those who exercise a set of functions are de-facto occupying a role, which is the aggregate of these functions. Other communities operate on meritocracy and the allocation of individuals to roles (some of which are listed, defined) is done based on past participation, built trust, skin in the game. In both cases, people are not elected or appointed to roles they simply gain access to roles either by doing or by doing enough of something.

In traditional organizations these roles are positions. Someone is appointed to a role, using some sort of appointment process, a decision by a superior or an election. there is also the idea of permanency, i.e. occupying the position for an extended period.

Distinction between role and craft

We associate with roles: requirement, access to roles (credentials, authorization), incentives for adoption of roles (role allocation, i.e. skills allocation to processes), commitment/accountability/responsibility, authority (temporary and contextual in the case of OVN)

We associate with and crafts: skills (like engineer, designer…), experience, etc., which are somewhat independent of context.

Roles used by Sensorica

Open document

Roles and stigmergy

See Stigmergy applied in Sensorica

Roles and identity

Roles can be used to build digital identities.