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Outreachy Community Participation Guide

Table of Contents

  1. What is Outreachy?
  2. Community participation rules
  3. Intern Funding
  4. Internship project guidelines
  5. Outreachy schedule
  6. Community sign up process
  7. Mentor sign up process
  8. Avoiding mentor burnout during the contribution period
  9. Estimated number of interns
  10. Internship
  11. FAQ

1. What is Outreachy?

Outreachy is a paid, remote internship program. Outreachy's goal is to support people from groups underrepresented in tech. We help newcomers to free software and open source make their first contributions.

Outreachy provides internships to work open source. People apply from all around the world. Interns work remotely, and are not required to move. Interns are paid a stipend of $5,500 USD for the three month internship. Interns have a $500 USD travel stipend to attend conferences or events.

Interns work with experienced mentors from open source communities. Outreachy internship projects may include programming, user experience, documentation, illustration, graphical design, or data science. Interns often find employment after their internship with Outreachy sponsors or in jobs that use the skills they learned during their internship.

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1.1. Terms used

A FOSS community can be a small set of contributors that work together on one piece of software or one free culture project. A community can also be comprised of many different teams that each work on separate subsystems, modules, applications, libraries, tools, documentation, user experience, graphical design, and more.

Each team can submit one or more intern project proposals that their FOSS community will fund. Outreachy cannot accept intern project proposals that don't have an associated community.

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1.2. Outreachy roles

There are several different Outreachy roles:

A note on pronouns: The Outreachy website allows applicants, mentors, and coordinators to list their pronouns. Sometimes you may not know the gender identity of an Outreachy participant. In that case, please avoid using gender-specific language. In English, you should use gender neutral language (e.g. "person" instead of "woman" or "man"). You should use gender neutral pronouns ("they" instead of "he" or "she"). We ask that you avoid using gender-specific honorifics like "Mr", "Sir", "Mrs", "Miss", or "Ma'am". We recognize that languages other than English are heavily gendered. It may not be possible to use gender-neutral language in your native language, but we ask you to do so when communicating in English.

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1.3. Outreachy intern skill levels

Outreachy interns come from a wide range of backgrounds. Interns could be university students, code school graduates, people switching careers, or people coming back to tech after starting a family or other long absence.

Outreachy interns can be people of any gender. If you do not know what a participant's pronouns are, please use gender-neutral language and they/them pronouns.

Outreachy applicants have a wide variety of skill levels. Most Outreachy applicants already have some general skills to make contributions, such as some experience with programming, technical writing, graphic design, etc. Outreachy mentors often have to help applicants and interns learn or improve skills specific to their project.

Many Outreachy applicants have not contributed to open source. Some applicants may have made small contributions, but not worked on a larger project. Other applicants may participate in open source events or groups but don't know how to make a contribution. Some applicants may be using open source. Others may have their first experience with using open source through Outreachy.

1.4. Outreachy intern demographics

cc-by 2.0 WOCinTech-Chat

Photo CC BY 2.0 WOCinTech Chat

Outreachy is open to applicants around the world.

We invite people to apply who face systemic bias or discrimination in the technology industry of their country.

Outreachy expressly invites applicants who are women (both cis and trans), trans men, non-binary people, and genderqueer people to apply.

We also expressly invite applications who are residents and nationals of the United States of America of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, Native American/American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.

Past Outreachy interns are:

  • 92% women
  • 4% transgender, genderqueer, or non-binary people
  • 64% people of color
  • 12% people from a historically disadvantaged caste or tribe

Statistics are based on responses to the 2019 longitudinal study of Outreachy alums.

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1.5. Applicant Eligibility

Outreachy applicants submit an initial application. Outreachy organizers use the initial application to determine whether the applicant is eligible for an Outreachy internship. Outreachy organizers also review the application essays to see if they align with our goal of supporting diversity in open source.

Mentors often want to know if an applicant they are interacting with is eligible to participate. Due to privacy concerns, we do not list the contact information of all applicants with accepted initial applications. However, only applicants with an accepted initial application can record a contribution through the Outreachy website. If you see an applicant has recorded a contribution to your project, their initial application has been accepted, and they should be eligible for Outreachy.

Rarely, we find applicants are not eligible for Outreachy after they have been selected for as an intern. This typically happens because they excluded information like school terms from their initial application, or because they accepted a full-time job after they filled out their initial application. In this case, we will contact mentors privately to ask them to pick another intern.

Eligibility Rules. These eligibility rules apply to the May 2021 to August 2021 Outreachy internships round. Dates may change for future rounds.

Outreachy is open to applicants around the world. You will need to meet the following requirements:

Outreachy internships run twice a year, May to August and December to March. We have some rules around which internship round you can apply to:

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1.6. How is Outreachy different from other internship programs?

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2. Community participation rules

New communities must meet these rules to be eligible to participate in Outreachy. The Outreachy organizers and the Outreachy Project Leadership Committee (PLC) will review the community's application to ensure they meet our participation rules.

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2.1 Funding requirements

Non-humanitarian open source communities need to provide their own funding for at least one intern ($6,500 USD).

Humanitarian open source communities are invited to apply to the Outreachy general fund. If your community is approved, Outreachy will fully fund at least one intern. Outreachy is especially interested in funding humanitarian projects involving climate change, infectious diseases, and mental health.

Both humanitarian and non-humanitarian communities can apply to receive additional funding for interns.

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2.2 Licensing requirements

Outreachy internship projects must be released under either an OSI-approved open source license that is also identified by the FSF as a free software license, OR a Creative Commons license approved for free cultural works.

Outreachy internship projects must forward the interests of free and open source software, not proprietary software.

Please make sure to read through the mentor FAQ for tips on what makes a good project.

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2.3 Commercial ties

Free and open source communities that participate in Outreachy must forward free and open source software in public interest.

While we encourage companies to provide internship opportunities to people from underrepresented groups, the program cannot be used for internal company internships.

Participating free software communities can't be too tightly tied to any one company. Experienced community contributors should be employed by multiple organizations or be volunteers. The community resources should not advertise services of only just one company related to the software the community produces. Community governance should include multiple companies or volunteers.

There should be no difference in functionality between the free and paid versions of the open source project. Outreachy does not allow open source projects which use a non-FSF approved license to restrict the rights of users of the free version of the project.

We do allow communities that provide paid hosting services. However, pricing pages should put the free community-hosted version at the same prominence as commercial hosting prices.

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2.4 Community guidelines

All free software communities that participate in Outreachy need to be well-established. Core team members (either paid or volunteer) should be regularly contributing to the community.

Outreachy interns benefit from working with a variety of community members who can help review their work and answer questions.

We encourage communities with more than 5 core contributors to participate. However, this is not a strict requirement.

Non-profit 501(c)(3) charities and 501(c)(6) trade organizations of any size offering free software projects are welcome to participate as a mentoring community.

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2.5 Public work requirements

All work done by Outreachy interns should be public. While interns may communicate with their mentors privately, mentors should encourage interns to communicate on public community channels as much as possible.

Community communication channels (chats or forums) should be public. It is fine for community chat channels to be invite-only in order to discourage spammers.

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3. Intern Funding

Non-humanitarian open source communities need to provide their own funding for at least one intern ($6,500 USD).

Humanitarian open source communities are invited to apply to the Outreachy general fund. If your community is approved, Outreachy will fully fund at least one intern. Outreachy is especially interested in funding humanitarian projects involving climate change, infectious diseases, and mental health.

Both humanitarian and non-humanitarian communities can apply to receive additional funding for interns.

Funding for interns may come from a number of different sources. Communities are welcome to apply to participate if their sponsorship is not confirmed yet. Sponsorship information can be updated at any time until the intern selection deadline.

3.1 Finding sponsors

FOSS communities often fund Outreachy interns directly from their own community funds, or by using funds from the foundation or non-profit who is their fiscal sponsor.

Many FOSS communities find funding from corporate sponsors who use their FOSS project.

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3.2 Community internship stipend credits

Some Outreachy communities may have a full or partial internship stipend credit. A credit usually occurs when a community has arranged for a company to sponsor them, the company has paid the sponsorship invoice, but the community ends up accepting less interns than the amount the company sponsored. In rare cases, a community may have a partial internship credit when an internship is terminated, and either the midpoint or final internship stipend was not paid.

Community internship credits are valid for two years from the time the credit was recorded. It can be used towards interns sponsorship in future Outreachy internship rounds. If a community does not use the credit within two years, the credit revert to the Outreachy general fund.

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3.3 Outreachy General fund

Communities can apply to the Outreachy general fund to sponsor interns. There are two ways to apply for Outreachy general funding:

  1. Fully funding all interns from the Outreachy general fund
  2. Funding some interns from the Outreachy general fund

Humanitarian communities are eligible for interns to be fully funded by the Outreachy general fund.

Non-humanitarian communities must secure their own funding for at least one intern ($6,500 USD). After that external funding is secured, they can apply for additional interns to be funded by the Outreachy general fund.

3.3.1 Outreachy general fund: All intern funding

Humanitarian open source communities are invited to apply to the Outreachy general fund when first signing up to participate in Outreachy. If your community is approved, Outreachy will fully fund at least one intern. Outreachy is especially interested in funding humanitarian communities involving climate change, infectious diseases, and mental health.

Non-humanitarian open source communities are not eligible for this option.

3.3.2 Outreachy general fund: Additional intern funding

Communities can apply to receive additional funding for interns from the Outreachy general fund. Both humanitarian and non-humanitarian can apply for additional funding from the Outreachy general fund. However, non-humanitarian open source communities must first have secured their own funding for at least one intern.

During the intern selection process, communities can request additional interns be sponsored by the Outreachy general fund. Outreachy will review general funding requests across all communities, and determine which ones we have budget to sponsor.

Communities can request that an intern be funded by the Outreachy general fund through the Outreachy website. When a mentor selects an intern, the coordinator can set the funding source to the Outreachy general fund.

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3.3.3 How much does the Outreachy general fund sponsor?

The sponsorship for each Outreachy intern is $6,500 USD. The Outreachy general fund typically sponsors 5 to 10 interns per cohort. The Outreachy general fund usually sponsors 1 intern per community, but it has occasionally sponsored up to 3 interns per community.

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3.3.4 How do you decide who gets Outreachy general funding?

The Outreachy organizers review Outreachy general funding requests after the intern selection deadline. We review Outreachy general funding requests across all communities. Then we apply our criteria to determine which communities get funding.

Intern free time We first look at the amount of time each intern has free. We review the time commitments the intern put in their initial application. We review the intern's final application to ensure they do not have new time commitments.

If an intern has close to the minimum required free time during the internship period, we look at the quality of their contributions. If an intern has not a lot of free time and has made lower quality contributions, they are not a good fit to be accepted. If an intern has not a lot of free time, but has higher quality and complex contributions, they can be accepted as an intern.

Contribution quality Second, we look at the quality of the contributions made by the intern.

If the intern has made simple contributions, it's unclear whether they have the skills to be successful during the internship. We may ask the mentor how they have evaluated the intern's skills.

Interns who are rated 1 ("Struggling - applicant did not understand instructions or feedback") or 2 ("Inexperienced - smaller contributions that vary in quality") are not good candidates for Outreachy general funding.

If the mentor has rated the intern as a 3 or lower ("Good - some smaller contributions of good quality"), we may have a discussion with the mentor about their evaluation of the intern's skills.

Interns who are rated 4 ("Strong - at least one large, high-quality contribution") or 5 ("Amazing - multiple large, high-quality contributions") will be prioritized for Outreachy general funding.

Alternative sponsors Outreachy needs to carefully allocate its funding. If a community already has a sponsor that is a for-profit company or a 501c6 (non-profit trade organization), we may reach out to that sponsor to see if they can fund additional interns.

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4. Internship project guidelines

What makes a good Outreachy internship project? (Credit to QEMU coordinator Stefan Hajnoczi's talk at KVM Forum for these tips.) A project that is suitable for interns to work on is:

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5. Outreachy schedule

Outreachy internships run twice a year.

5.1 General timeline

Here is our general schedule for each year:

Important Round Dates Mid-year Internships End of year Internships
Call for mentoring communities opens early January early August
Initial applications open early February late August
Initial applications due end of February early September
Contribution period opens mid March early October
Contribution period ends mid April end of October
Interns announced mid May late November
Internships start May December
Internships end August March

5.2 Current internship round schedule

May 2021 to August 2021 Outreachy internships round schedule

Dec. 7, 2020 at 4pm UTCCommunity sign up opens
Feb. 1, 2021 at 4pm UTCInitial applications open
Feb. 8, 2021, 4 p.m. UTC#OutreachyChat on Twitter
Feb. 22, 2021 at 4pm UTCInitial application deadline
March 1, 2021 at 4pm UTCDeadline for community sign up
March 11, 2021 at 4pm UTCMentor project submission deadline
March 15, 2021Contribution period begins
April 16, 2021Contribution period ends
April 16, 2021 at 4pm UTCFinal application deadline
May 10, 2021Intern selection deadline
May 12, 2021Outreachy organizers finalize intern selections
May 17, 2021 at 4pm UTCInterns are publicly announced on the alums page
May 24, 2021
to Aug. 24, 2021
Internships period

5.3 Timeline details

The internship round begins when the Outreachy organizers open the call for participation communities. The community CFP period somewhat overlaps with the initial application period.

Community CFP period:

Initial application period:

Contribution period:

Intern selection period:

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6. Community sign up process

The first step for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) communities who want to participate Outreachy is to fill out a community participation application. Outreachy organizers and the Outreachy Project Leadership Committee will review your community participation application.

Community coordinators will receive an email once their community is approved to participate in this internship round.

Once the community coordinator has applied to participate, they can send their community's CFP page link to mentors.

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7. Mentor sign up process

Mentors must submit their project descriptions through the Outreachy website. Co-mentors can sign up once the project has been submitted. Coordinators will approve the projects and any co-mentors.

Mentors should sign up on the Outreachy website, since that grants them special permissions. Mentors who sign up will be can be subscribed to the mentors mailing list, which the Outreachy organizers use to send important announcements. Mentors will be granted read access to applications for their project and will be notified of new applicants.

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8. Avoiding mentor burnout during the contribution period

The contribution period is often very busy and stressful for mentors. They will have around 10-15 applicants asking questions and working on tasks. It's often hard to keep track of who is working on what. You may be overwhelmed by the number of emails, chat notifications, or repository issue notifications.

Communities that have participated in Outreachy in the past have some guidance to share on how to lower stress for mentors:

8.1 Set office hours

Outreachy is open to anyone around the world. Unfortunately, that means you can get questions and contributions at any time of the day (or night!). It's important that mentors protect their personal time to unwind and do self-care. In your project description, mention what times you are best available to answer questions. Try to set aside at least one hour per week day to answer questions.

The downside to this is that some applicants will not be able to get their questions answered during their normal working hours. You may find that some applicants even shift their work or sleep schedule to be available during your office hours. This can be added emotional labor for parents with children, or people who are currently working and trying to switch careers into tech.

On the other hand, you will need to set up regular check-in times with your intern. So being up front about when you are available to help will narrow the applicants down to ones that have a window to work with you. Some mentors have been able to make working with an applicant with a 12 hour timezone difference, and some mentors have struggled. You know yourself and your work habits. Make the best call for you, while still being open to working with Outreachy interns in many different timezones and countries.

8.2 Find unofficial volunteers

You can ask experienced contributors to your community to be "unofficial" volunteers. These volunteers could be past Outreachy or Google Summer of Code interns with your community, or other community members. They don't have to be official mentors, but they can help answer questions.

Unofficial volunteers can help people set up contribution environment and tools. They can help with common contribution tools, like git or other revision control software. Unofficial volunteers can also provide experience with community norms. Community norms could be something technical like what coding style to use. Community norms can also involve communication style, like how to effectively ask for help.

Unofficial volunteers can also serve as a connector to other community members or external open source contributors. They can help introduce applicants to people who works on specific parts of the project, or external open source contributors who are experts with a particular tool (like git).

8.3 Limit simple contributions

A simpler contribution could be something like fixing a spelling error in the documentation. A more complex contribution could be something like refactoring code, writing a documentation section, or doing research. Applicants have a tendency to make a lot of simpler contributions. They may feel confident making smaller changes, but less confident tackling medium complexity tasks.

You can limit the number of simpler contributions that each applicant can complete. Keep track of how many simple contributions applicants have claimed to work on. If an applicant has worked on or wants to claim a third or fourth simple contribution, encourage them to pick up a medium sized or more complex task.

Some communities have queues of simple, medium complexity, and highly complex tasks. Once an applicant completes 1-3 simple tasks, you can point them to the medium complexity task queue.

8.4 Have applicants complete similar tasks

You can ask all applicants complete the same tasks. This task could be something like taking a screen shot showing which shows they got the contribution environment working and made a change to your project. They could also work on a document, like a review of the usability of your project or a design document for a feature they would be working on during the project.

The upside of having applicants work on the same tasks is they can all commenting on the same GitHub issue, which allows you to keep the conversation in one place.

The downside of having applicants work on the same tasks is that some people might be intimidated by the other applicants' work. It may also encourage applicants to copy other applicants' work. If you ask applicants to complete the same task, be sure to have some other individualized tasks that test the applicants' skills.

8.4 Encourage collaboration vs competition

Open source is about collaborating with others in a community. It's important to encourage that collaborative mindset in your applicants. Otherwise they may be focused on a more competitive mindset, focusing only on how they can improve their changes of being accepted as an intern.

You can encourage applicants to help each other. Encourage them to engage with applicants or newcomers to the community who ask questions. Keep a shared document of common questions and answers that any applicant can add to. Once an applicant has completed a medium complexity task, encourage them to start reviewing other applicants' contributions.

The upside of encouraging applicants to collaborate is you may lessen the workload for mentors.

There are several downsides, however. One is that applicants with impostor syndrome may feel shy about sharing answers to questions, even if they know the correct answer. Second, some interns may live in countries where they are taught to defer to teachers or people in authority. Answering a question that is directed at experienced developers may seem taboo or breaking a cultural norm.

Additionally, gender bias may come into play when you're looking for interns that collaborate with each other. Women and non-binary people who were assigned female at birth (AFAB) are often socially conditioned to not speak up unless they are extremely confident in their answer. You may find that men and non-binary people who were raised with masculine cultural norms are more likely to speak up and answer questions. Gender bias and gendered social norms should be considered when making intern selections.

8.5 Close your project to new applicants

Often times, Outreachy applicants will wait until the last week or two of the contribution period to start making contributions. Sometimes this results in them finding a project that has few applicants. Sometimes this means they try to make contributions to a project where many people have already made a contribution. It's important to encourage applicants who are seeking a project to contribute to projects with few applicants.

If you're overwhelmed with applicants who are already finished with contributions, you can close your project to new applicants. This simply moves your project listing on the projects page to a section called "Closed to new applicants". Current applicants will still be able to record contributions and submit a final application.

You can close your project to new applicants by finding that button on your dashboard.

It's a difficult decision as to when to close your project to new applicants. You may have many applicants who have completed a simple task, but you're not sure if any of them have the skills to succeed in the internship yet. You may want to wait to close your project to new applicants until at least one or two applicants have completed a medium-complexity task.

Don't wait too long to close your project to new applicants! Waiting too long means that applicants will apply to a project they have no chance of being accepted for.

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9. Estimated number of interns

On the project list, each community has an estimate of the number of interns it expects to accept. The estimated number of interns is the total number of interns that will be accepted for the whole community. It is not the number of interns per project.

The estimated number of interns is based on the amount of sponsorship for the community and the number of mentors a community has.

The number of interns per community is an estimate, not a hard-and-fast rule. It may increase or decrease during the intern selection period. The reasons for changing are community-specific.

Communities accepting more interns

Some communities will accept more interns than they estimated. This typically means the community has found more funding to pay intern stipends, and has enough mentors to support additional interns.

Some times communities find additional sponsors, or they ask current sponsors for more money. Other times communities request funding from the Outreachy general fund.

Communities accepting less interns

Some communities may accept less interns than they expected. Some communities may accept no interns at all.

Some times communities accept less interns because of a change in mentor free time. Mentors may decide they do not have enough free time during the internship. This could be because of personal reasons, like burn out, a medical condition, or a death in the family. Or mentors could find they simply over-estimated the amount of free time they have.

Some times project mentors evaluated the contributions and decided not to accept any applicants.

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10. Internship

Mentors and coordinators are encouraged to read the Internship Guide. The Internship Guide includes mentor duties and expectations during the internship. Mentors should familiarize themselves with the internship chat and blogging schedules.

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11. FAQ

Internship stipend details

The $6,500 USD intern sponsorship covers the $5,500 internship stipend, the $500 intern conference travel stipend, and a $500 accounting fee. The accounting fee covers Outreachy's fiscal non-profit parent organization, Software Freedom Conservancy, handle sponsor invoicing, intern payments, W-9 collection, visa request letters, employment verification letters, student internship credit letters, and tax questions.

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