May Community Call Recap – The who, what, when, where, why, and how of making a community playbook!

This month’s community call was an opportunity to talk about community playbooks, and the impact they can have on a community or team. 

We were joined by three members of the CSCCE community of practice, each of whom recently created a playbook as part of their participation in our newest online course Creating Community Playbooks (PBK): Allie Lau (American Physical Society), Martin Magdinier (OpenRefine), and Sophie Bui (National Center for Supercomputing Applications).  

In this blog post you can watch recordings of each of the presentations and find out more about the questions and discussion their talks inspired. We’ve also included more information about the PBK course – registration for our next cohort closes on 21 June 2024! If you have questions about the course, do reach out to

What is a community playbook? 

Community playbooks exist in various shapes, sizes, and contexts – and they can have a whole range of different names (collaboration guides, team handbooks, lab manuals, etc.). In essence, a community playbook is a shared resource that brings together documentation that addresses a collaborative need. For example, you might create a community playbook for your members that supports them in onboarding to the community, which contains technical information about how to access and use the community platform as well as a code of conduct and information about regular community gatherings. Or, in another scenario, you might create a “behind the scenes” guide for your community team that curates talking points about the community, guidance for hosting community events, or procedures for handling expenses. 

Understanding the “why” of your playbook is a vital first step in creating it, and it’s where we start working with participants in our Creating Community playbooks course. In this month’s call, each of our speakers addressed a slightly different “why,” and our Q&A / discussion at the end of the call explored some interesting topics related to maintenance, socialization, and the unintended knock-on effects of creating a playbook. 

Community playbooks in action

Allie Lau, who manages the JNIPER (Joint Network for Informal Physics Education and Research) community for the American Physical Society, designed an “operations playbook” for her assistant community managers and colleagues on the APS Communications Team. With her playbook, she is working to document core processes and workflows related to regular community programming, as well as answers to FAQs from community members. Allie’s playbook exists in a Google doc, and in her presentation you’ll learn how she’s using both the intrinsic features of that tool (e.g., an auto-generated table of contents) as well as customizations (e.g., emojis and callouts) to share information. 

Martin Magnier, Project Manager at OpenRefine, is also using Google Docs to curate playbook information. He began his presentation with a brief history of the organization, and how the evolution of its governance structure has influenced the creation of supporting documentation and volunteer engagement in that process. Martin identified a need for three separate playbooks, each with a distinct purpose: one with directions for how to update the OpenRefine website, a contributors guide for volunteer developers who work on OpenRefine’s code, and an operations manual to document general organizational processes. 

Like Martin, our final presenter Sophie Bui (National Center for Supercomputing Application) is working with an open source community: Parsl (Productive parallel programming in Python). Sophie’s playbook is community-facing, and designed for her community members to use regularly to navigate community activities and resources. In creating her playbook, she made the most of her community member’s comfort with using GitHub, developing it entirely on the platform, and also played to her own talents as a designer. Sophie’s playbook is public, so after you watch her presentation, feel free to take yourself on a self-guided tour! 

Documentation can set you free!

Creating a playbook for your community or staff team is a great way to support them in their work…and it also helps you as a community manager by creating a single place for people to visit when they have a question. You can even distribute the work of maintaining your playbook to your colleagues or community volunteers. To reap these benefits, however, there is work to be done in socializing your playbook and helping people to appreciate its value. 

After Sophie’s presentation, we opened the call up to Q&A and discussion, and we talked a lot about different ways of socializing a playbook. These included ensuring it’s a substantial part of the onboarding process for new members, gently reminding folks about it in thank you notes and other communications, and directing people to relevant sections when they ask questions that it is designed to answer. 

We also talked about some of the unintended impacts creating a playbook had, including prompting website updates, refining a shared understanding of a community’s purpose, and as a new way of engaging members through “update-a-thons” and Outreachy activities. 

Find out more about our upcoming PBK course

As we mentioned at the top of this post, the presenters on this month’s call all took part in the pilot cohort of our newest online multi-week training course, Creating Community Playbooks (PBK). PBK is back for its second cohort in July, so if you’re seeking guidance, support, and accountability as you create your own community playbook, do consider joining us! The registration deadline for this cohort, PBK24S, is 21 June 2024


Coming up next month

Next month’s community call will be our annual mid-year social, at which we’re hosting a curated networking forum for members of our community of practice. The event is already at capacity, however you can learn more about it in this blog post, and if you’d like us to add you to the waiting list, please email

We’ll be updating our Events page soon with more information about community calls coming up later in the year, alongside an updated Mini-workshop schedule, so keep checking back for more information and make sure you’re signed up for our mailing list