Initial Publication Date: November 29, 2012

Organizational Evolution
and Effectiveness


Over its lifespan, the NSDL community was a loose federation of more than 200 projects, recruited and sustained through an NSF funding model. Initially, the organization combined two main elements:

  • A grassroots committee structure, comprised of volunteer representatives from individual projects funded by the NSDL program who were guided by policies and bylaws
  • A Core Integration (CI) team, funded by the NSDL program to develop the library technical infrastructure and to support the NSDL community library-building efforts

The long experiment with the unique combination of community-based governance and a centralized, coordinating organization working together within the structure provided by NSF funding led to a number of lessons learned.

Lessons Learned

  • The NSF funding model poses challenges for creating organizational structures that support development of a coherent and comprehensive whole and of long-term, collaborative projects.
  • Organizational structures need dedicated funding, time, and flexibility to develop.
  • Effective communication across large, collaborative organizations must be open, adaptive, and inclusive.
  • Evaluation activities require careful planning, systematic application, and integration into an organization's management.