ITAV Community Case Study: Lever Press

Lever Press, a member-governed initiative dedicated to open access monograph publishing, recently engaged the It Takes a Village (ITAV) team for help planning for long-term sustainability. Working with Megan Forbes, former Co-Director of the It Takes a Village (ITAV) program, Lever Press leadership determined that a virtual ITAV analysis kickoff would help create a focused agenda for an in-person gathering planned for spring 2024.

The It Takes a Village framework divides sustainability up along four facets: Governance, Technology, Resources, and Community Engagement, and then three phases within each facet - Getting Started, Growing, and Assessing and Evolving. With close to 100 activities in the ITAV Toolkit supporting progress through each phase of each facet, it’s not possible - or necessary - for programs to work through each one. An ITAV analysis kickoff provides an opportunity for stakeholders to assess a program’s progress for each phase, and then decide which moving forward objectives should be the highest priority.

An ITAV Analysis kickoff is guided by two documents: a Core Data and Information Sharing worksheet that gathers key metrics about the program, and a set of Phase Analysis Checklists that list out all the “moving forward” objectives for a given facet. The first step for the Lever Press team involved determining which elements of these two documents were relevant.. The team decided to narrowly scope its analysis to focus on member organizations, so elements of the worksheet and checklists that were outside this scope were removed. In addition, while Lever Press leverages the Fulcrum open source platform for its publishing operations, the team made a strategic decision to defer the assessment of technological sustainability for the time being. This choice allowed them to concentrate their efforts on other pressing aspects of their sustainability planning.

With the groundwork laid, Lever Press convened a cross-functional team of representatives to embark on the kickoff exercise. This collaborative virtual session fostered an open dialogue, where participants delved into the Core Data and Information Sharing worksheet, exchanging insights and perspectives on the project's current state and future aspirations. Following this interactive discussion, the team worked through the Phase Analysis Checklists, allowing them to mark progress, identify opportunities for growth, and pinpoint any critical areas demanding immediate attention. An asynchronous follow-up exercise provided kickoff participants with a list of activities related to the prioritized objectives to vote on for inclusion in their spring gathering.

The above screenshot shows the results of the Phase Analysis Checklist for Resources. First, participants ranked whether they thought Lever Press had achieved an objective, was working on it, or had not started it. The objectives were discussed and sorted into columns based on average rankings - shown on the orange lines under the Objective name. Participants then voted on which Objectives they felt were most important for Lever to continue to explore. The numbers in the green circles show the number of votes each Objective received.

The ITAV kickoff exercise proved extremely useful for Lever Press, providing a structured framework to guide their sustainability planning efforts. The organization gained a better understanding of the factors influencing their long-term viability, enabling them to chart a strategic course of action.

Lever Press is a wonderful example of ITAV’s use and efficacy beyond open source software. The framework’s versatile nature makes it a valuable asset for organizations across various sectors seeking to evaluate and fortify their sustainability plans. Whether a program revolves around technology or encompasses broader organizational objectives, the ITAV framework offers a robust roadmap for navigating the complexities of long-term sustainability.