Improving the OMRS Scholarship Process

Hi everyone,

As many of you know, every year we offer 15-20 scholarships to attend our annual Implementer’s Meeting, based on available resources. Our criteria/process for submitting and reviewing scholarship applications is outlined on the Wiki.

After last year’s meeting, we surveyed scholarship recipients and talked to the scholarship review committee to find out how we can improve their experience. Here’s what came out most clearly:

  1. Notify recipients and start making arrangements earlier.
  2. Make it clear what the scholarships cover and what they do not cover
  3. Make it easier to review applications.
  4. Clarify how applications are scored

Good news: we’re already working on #1!

More good news: @christine has developed scholarship packages that offer different combinations of conference costs (registration, airfare, accommodation, etc). The idea is to have applicants request a specific scholarship package, based on what they can cover and what costs they need help covering.

About the application and review process…one idea is to use criteria from the Developer Stages and OMRS Stages as a checklist to help applicants put together their applications. Example: Applications offer a different checklist based on a specific dev and/or omrs level. Applicants can then use the checklist for a specific level (i.e.: /dev/4) to pull together and submit a “portfolio” that includes a summary, links or examples of their contributions for a given period. As an additional benefit, we can use this to advance people up through the dev or omrs levels.

When it comes time to review applications, a checklist based on the dev and omrs levels can make it easier to set up a standard scoring sheet for the scholarship committee to use during their review. We can also put together scoring guidance so that it’s clear how to use the scoring sheet.

What does the community think of this approach? I’m particularly interested in hearing from those who have applied for and/or received scholarships in the past.

@tendomart @jwnasambu @irenyak1 @ssemakadde @ssmusoke @carina @samuel34 @ggomez @ball @rmahloane @k.joseph @rlebatla @jmpango @johnblack @bistenes @taremwatadeo @terry @dkayiwa @burke @c.antwi @mseaton @ivange94

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What happens when am at a reasonably good developer or omrs stage because of my participation in the past, but have not been active, in the community, for a number of years? I just showed up during the scholarship application process. @jennifer you hopefully remember why am asking this. :slight_smile:

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Great question! And I will respond with more questions. :slight_smile:

Are we looking at overall contributions? Annual contributions? Or a combination? Do we give special “points” for contributions since the last meeting?

Just my thought, Since we are having annual meetings, the contributions for last one-two years should have more weight than the overall contributions.

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some recent dev/2 or dev/3s may also be good having entire sponsorships than being denied portions of the package when in most cases they may not be able to afford for themselves extra funds which in some cases dev/4s or dev/5s can, I remember when i joined about 7 years ago before dev stages when i could afford nothing extra than a small upkeep while on the event, all that was considered was my need of the scholarship and what i was doing then for the community as a volunteer which wouldn’t come close to a dev/4. So i think there should be a balance between activity vs one’s need.

I also think some old dev/4 or dev/5 may wish to bring some new freshness in the community through some session on the event or something else and may wish to only show up if allowed a scholarship and so i think his/her previous contributions should still count in-case his/her application is sugared with some clues of why he/she most especially needs the scholarship for the particular event after some years of hibernation. There are also people backing up implementations with tons of previous experience who may almost have no time staying active over the web but may have a lot to share during these implementer’s meetings if allowed scholarships, think of PIH guys for-example and i think for such their previous contributions should supersede their current activity.

BTW some experienced good implementer’s around may not even be close to dev/2 so we need to strike a balance when insisting on dev stages lest we miss these great people who are most likely to bless these implementer’s meetings. It could also be an implementer we have never seen or heard from before until he/she applies and through their application let us know their OpenMRS experience and how we are contributing to their success.

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@jennifer your approach works well. The issues I wished you to shade more light on has been highlighted by @k.joseph and the question you posed to the community.

@jennifer I applaud your early initiative on this. Bravo!

Since this is the OpenMRS Implementers Conference, it would be great to use other measurements beyond /dev levels and coding contributions. I don’t know if anyone uses omrs levels. The wiki document is still in draft (since 2016) and unclear about the process for application/approvals.

We should aim for equity with scholarships. Recipients should represent gender and geographic diversity. (Maybe other areas to consider?) Not sure how this has been processed in the past, but the scoring process didn’t seem to clarify that.

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This is a bright idea. I admire your reasoning girl!

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Excellent points and ideas all around!

I believe one of them does cover all of the costs associated with attending the conference, with the exception of meals not included in the conference package. We know it can be difficult for students in particular to cover all of the costs, so what do we think about offering a special student plan?

I prefer to expand access to scholarships rather than limit it, so I would not insist on anyone going through the dev levels in order to apply for or receive a scholarship. When I look at the dev (and omrs) levels, I see a list of ways that people can contribute to the community - and that we can re-use as a checklist for the scholarship application process. We could also give applicants an option to share their dev or omrs level and tell us if they are interested in being upgraded. Or we could leave out all reference to the dev or omrs levels. Perhaps we need to put up a strawman application form to see how well this would work.

Agreed! There are so many different and valuable ways to contribute to OpenMRS that go beyond coding. Some that immediately come to mind: making our community a welcoming place, documentation, QA, project management, UI/UX design, participating in our discussions, mentoring others, sharing resources/lessons learned, etc. I’m sure I’m leaving something out!

This also means that we’ll probably have to review the dev and omrs levels so we don’t leave any kind of contributions out of the application checklist.

The current question on the scholarship application form is “How do you contribute to the OpenMRS project and/or implementations?” So I think these contributions can be to the OpenMRS community on the web and/or specific implementations.

How would you encourage gender and geographic diversity through the scoring process? Points based on gender and country? Or do we use scholarship award allocations - ie: no single country receives more than X awards, X awards go to women, etc? Some other way?

It sounds like a few things need to happen from here:

  1. Look at the dev and omrs levels to see if they cover a variety of contributions - and decide how to address any gaps
  2. Revise the current application and share it for feedback
  3. Come up with some scoring guidance for the scholarship evaluation committee to use

It would be great to have a small group or two work these over the next few weeks. If we have a revised application form soon, we can give everyone a longer application period. Anyone interested?

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The ideas suggested here are great, particularly what @ball says about equity, and having different scholarship packages. I also think that there should be deliberate efforts within the scholarship awarding process to bring in new people into OpenMRS. If the scholarships are very much tagged to /dev/ stage or omrs level, we will eventually have only the gurus in the conference. We will create an exclusive, elite group, which I don’t think is good for OpenMRS. New people might even have inertia to join a conference (or convincing their organizations to fund them) because they haven’t been at a conference or delved deep into OpenMRS yet to be inspired. There could, for instance, be reserved quotas for new people (of course with some criteria to judge their potential to contribute to OpenMRS, e.g. from their motivation statement and experience outside OpenMRS), and there has to be a mechanism to follow up with these enthusiastic new comers to help them contribute to OpenMRS after the conferences (so that there is return on the scholarship investment :slight_smile:)

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perhaps we need other stages, dev stages to be left for developers and omrs stages for any other kind of contributions, a dev stage would evaluate to a similar omrs stage but omrs stage would go beyond a dev stage parenting it. am not sure if we already have omrs stages ATM. we can end up offering 90% scholarships to omrs stage qualifiers and 10% any other qualifiers or other percentages as long as more are given to omrs stagings.

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Thank you for all of your ideas and feedback!

I’ve drafted a “checklist” that is not in any way connected to dev or omrs levels. It simply lists all of the different ways that anyone can contribute to OpenMRS - and I’ve included some space where more contributions can be listed as this list likely has gaps. Please feel free to add anything that you think is missing.

I need one or two people to review the draft application form and accompanying spreadsheet. Please volunteer here or PM me if you want to give this a test drive.

And @k.joseph, we have omrs stages. Right now, I think they are in draft form and, to my knowledge, we have not been actively implementing them.

perhaps we need other stages, dev stages to be left for developers and omrs stages for any other kind of contributions, a dev stage would evaluate to a similar omrs stage but omrs stage would go beyond a dev stage parenting it. am not sure if we already have omrs stages ATM.

We initially created dev stages to encourage engagement in the community. Later on, devs decided that dev stages should reflect a developer’s technical OpenMRS knowledge/skills independent of community engagement. Rather than simply removing the community engagement aspects of dev skills, I moved them into a draft “ones stages” that we could revisit if we wanted a metric of community engagement again. I don’t see them as a hierarchy; rather, I see them as complementary. dev stages reflect technical skills and omrs stages reflect engagement in the community (and, obviously, doesn’t depend on someone being a developer). A /dev/2 + /omrs/5 would be a leader in the community with modest technical skills; a /dev/5 + /omrs/null would be someone who could do anything with OpenMRS technically but not involved in the community.

Given that community engagement was the initial purpose of dev stages, I’d love to see omrs stages realized. Plus, it would give targets for non-devs to achieve.

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