In July of this year, the community work I started back in 2016 will be 5 years old. It's been a long journey. What I had started simply as a way to give back to the world the value I had received from being part of the freeCodeCamp Community, turned into my core passion and full time role. Since then, I have been trying to figure out how to expand this work into something much bigger, how can we help more people, thousands more, across India and the world. How can we change the state of the Education system, to upgrade it to the Internet age where we have free flow of all the information needed, and yet most people are still failing to take proper advantage of it to propel themselves forward in their careers.
That was the vision I started Coderplex Foundation with, a dream to re-build the tech ecosystem of India, to make it easy for anyone to learn any modern technology, and to receive all the support they would need to become a professional software engineer. To change the identity of our nation's IT industry from "Software Service Provider" to "Innovative Product Development Engineers"
I didn't set out with a deadline, or milestones in my mind. I had made up a few along the way, but they were never in my conscious horizon, reminding me that I am falling behind and I should buckle up and work harder. I simply went with the flow of reality, grabbed the opportunities that presented themselves to me, and worked as hard as I could against all the personal challenges I had faced. In my eyes, I have failed. A lot of people on the other side of my work, the members of the community, the speakers, attendees, partners, might not think so. I am sure many have received tremendous value from the work I have done in the past 5 years, and I do acknowledge that. However, I have failed in my own eyes against the outcomes I had set for myself. I cannot say I am anywhere close to realizing the vision I had setup on 5 years ago, and that does hurt.
But at the same time, I also understand the why. Why did I fail? I know exactly what I did wrong, what I could have done differently. I could write a entire blogpost just on the lessons I have learnt, about building a grand vision of the future by yourself, of the difference between expectations vs reality, the role mental health plays in that journey, the pressure and burden of earning money for yourself and supporting your loved ones, as you keep growing older and taking up more responsibility, while also chasing your dreams adamantly. This post is not about that, this post is about the present and the future. This post is about making use of all those lessons I have learnt to make better decisions for tomorrow.
I want to re-build Coderplex Foundation, as a new collaborative non-profit organization run by the people it intends to serve. I want our organization to be a community led organization. The biggest mistake I had made was trying to do everything alone. By keeping all my vision and dreams and ideas close to my chest, sharing it only with a few select people and intending to build all of it by myself. The weight of it all was too much for me, and it crushed me so terribly that I couldn't even pull off 10% of my goals.
This time, we are going to try doing things differently. We are going to keep things simple, transparent, open, and collaborative. And on that note, I need to let you know that, the community work will no longer be my full time role. I will be involved, I will guide and mentor and direct the organization and the work, but only giving 20% - 30% of my overall time. If the organization and it's vision has to become successful, it has to take a life of it's own. It needs to be able to pull the right people who share the same vision and feelings as I do, and who want to be part of the journey to make those dreams come true.
So where do we begin? How do we do this? The first step, I believe, is to figure out who is still left behind, how big is the Coderplex Community really right now. There have been a lot of people who have joined us over the years, thousands of them, and thousands who have left as well. Our Discord server has 2000+ members, and yet not more than 30-40 at a time are online, and much fewer even engage or share anything. On meetup.com, we have 6000+ members in our group, but how many even check the latest meetups we post? How many still care? I myself have become very inactive in the chatroom, and with organizing the events.
Whatever the reason for our members leaving and not being active may be, we need to first understand how many are still here, how many intend to still be part of the community, how many resonate with the vision and values and want to participate, contribute. Another big mistake I made in the past was not setting up the operation in such a manner so as to easily evaluate and recognize the tangible value we were creating for the community members. How many were able to achieve their goals? Learn the technology, build the project, solve the problem, get the job or promotion or role they wanted to? We don't know. I have learnt that measurement of value creation is the key. Without that, we are traveling blind.
So once we understand how many people are truly left behind, once we know the actual size of the community, we can then ask those people where they are in their life right now and what their goals are. I like to think of this as their "initial state" because to be able to measure progress, you need an initial state to compare against. Once we capture their initial state, and their goals and challenges, we can try to figure out what events, activities, ideas we can work on to help the members of the community progress towards their goals, how can we act as a catalyst in their own journey. And then, every month, we can ask the members to share with us an update on their journey, how much closer are they to their goals, how much progress have they made, how much has Coderplex helped them and what more can we do?
It would be much easier to execute this in a automated manner, through an online form and a dashboard that displays the progress members are making. We can do that with our website. The current coderplex.org website is almost 4 years old, it's outdated, and not very useful. Our first goal as this new collaborative organization would be building this new website, where members can sign up, share their current state, their goals, see the profiles of all the other members, and update their progress on a monthly basis. We will be slowly adding more features to this website, like a jobs board and events page, which will also help us move away from meetup.com
I have setup a markdown file with the breakdown of features we want to build on our new website. You can check it out here : github.com/coderplex-org/coderplex/wiki/New..
This website will be open source, so we can all work on it together. I want to think of this new organization as a big group project, instead of something I am building alone, like I have mostly done for the past 5 years, with some support here and there. Every idea we work on, we work on together. We operate as a democracy, discussing the problems our members face, problems with the ecosystem, and what we can do together to solve them. Everything will be done in the open, instead of in private.
If you would like to work with us on this new website, head over to our Discord Server . We will be having our discussions there.