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June 1, 2022

In contrast, this is an example of an uncommon profile. Photo by Marin Tulard on Unsplash

If you’ve been keeping up with the Question Set Library, one particular set stands out: the Common Profile. It’s used by a range of groups, has hundreds of entries, and came from an ongoing multi-stakeholder Collabathon– but how does it work, and how can it work for you? 

If you’re part of any group that enrolls members or does outreach to the public toward a goal, you know the challenges of onboarding. You need the maximum amount of information for your project, while minimizing the time investment you ask from potential participants, all while maintaining confidentiality.

In the context of the OpenTEAM goal of connecting users with a range of specialized opportunities and resources, it was immediately apparent that we needed a way to both collect and manage this information and share it seamlessly between groups. As the developers put it, “By using a common onboarding question set, we can onboard farms into one program and reduce duplicate data input for other current and future programs.

The Common Profile is a foundational piece of the forthcoming Ag Data Wallet, which is designed so that users can easily and securely reuse their data across tools and platforms, providing mechanisms for individuals to safely exchange data. The logic behind question sets is also part of our larger goal of codifying consistent data structures across diverse programs, such as the Farmer’s CoffeeShop. For an overview of how these and other network tools and structures interconnect, take a look at the OpenTEAM Community page. 


In many ways, creation of the Common Profile followed the same collaborative process as other tools in the OpenTEAM ecosystem. It came out of community discussion by stakeholders who identified key issues, collected feedback, and set up an iterative, flexible development process with ongoing structures for modification and improvements. 

Here are some of the needs that came up in early conversations: 

  • A single survey that can provide correct information to multiple potential opportunities or programs
  • A way to identify categories of interest 
  • The ability to tailor logic based on user input
  • Ways to incorporate feedback 

One of the strengths of working in the OpenTEAM community is “an understanding that everyone is interested in collaboration and making tools that have broad benefit,” as Common Profile designer Greg Austic puts it. OpenTEAM often refers to this “pre-competitive space” for development, with shared values that influence how ideas turn into action (Ed: Kindergartners refer to this as simply “sharing”).

In practice, this looked like a series of collective meetings focused on whiteboarding and sharing questions, then one-on-ones with the designers and interested group or hub members to pull out key questions, adapt similar sets, and coalesce around shared information. The result is a Question Set with around eighty thoughtfully designed entries, and with nearly unlimited capacity for customization. 

How It Works 

So what does this mean for users? If you don’t have an onboarding survey already, it’s as simple as creating a survey in SurveyStack, adding the Common Profile from the Question Set Library, and customizing it to suit your needs. Aside from the core required questions, you can hide any questions that are not relevant to your needs, re-label questions with wording suitable to your organization, and add supplemental questions or Question Sets.  

However, most of our hubs and partners already have some sort of onboarding survey that they’ve used in the past, and they want to preserve comparability with historical data. We recently collaborated with Pasa to turn their existing onboarding form into a specialized survey using the Common Profile. For them, the process looked like this: 

  1. We took their original survey and listed their questions in a spreadsheet, along with the questions in the Common Profile. 
  2. We then mapped the questions 1-1., identifying which matched without changes, which needed modifications, and which required addition as new survey questions. 
  3. This map gave us a framework for discussing parameters of similarity and difference, and we categorized which additional questions should be part of a supplemental Question Set to add to the library, and which were only necessary for internal use. 
  4. Finally we put the pieces together, creating a survey with the Common Profile & supplemental questions together, hiding unneeded questions and relabeling questions to fit Pasa’s needs, organizing survey logic, and adding Pasa-specific resources to list questions. 

Image from the survey builder showing the Common Profile questions highlighted in green, and Pasa's custom introduction survey text.

Now their new onboarding survey is ready for immediate use, and Pasa members who fill it out will have their information stored in a format that can be pushed directly to other services as soon as they opt in, without duplication of efforts.  

Sarah Bay Nawa, Research Coordinator for Pasa, gave us the following feedback: “As our research projects continue to grow, we need to gather farm data more efficiently and uniformly. It was a simple process to work with the team at Our Sci to customize the common onboarding survey to suit our needs. We are eager to use this new tool this season and appreciate Our Sci’s help and enthusiasm!” 

What’s Next? 

Another benefit of the Common Profile, and all Question Set Library resources, is that it’s easy to implement updates and changes as the Question Set gets improved. By selecting the yellow Version button at the top of the question set, you can see update notes and details, and accept changes.  

Update text from Common Profile Version 44 to Version 48 showing maintainer notes
Update details showing that modifications will be reset if you apply an update.

Although currently this process will reset individual edits such as new questions and relabeling, our developers are actively working on a pathway to implement changes while preserving modifications. 

Interested in this process for yourself or your organization? Contact Greg, Sienna, or Vic to find out more! Or join the Common Profile group on Hylo to be a part of the team working to make the Common Profile better. We’re just getting started!