Photo of stones in a bowl
Common Solutions Group: Common Solutions Group:

Common Solutions Group Charter


The "Stone Soup Group" was founded in 1993 by Ken King (CREN) and Glenn Ricart (Maryland) as an experiment to begin a cooperative exploration of common solutions to IT challenges in higher education. Over its first twelve years, the Group has evolved, adopted the new moniker of "Common Solutions Group" (CSG), and become an important and influential collaborative organization.

Guiding Principles of the CSG

The Common Solutions Group has one guiding principle, and for the most part does its work through one mechanism.

Guiding principle

Intensively networked information technology is uniformly central to the work of major research universities. It therefore serves to advance their overall effectiveness rather than to differentiate them competitively. For this reason, it is critical to the overall efficiency of research universities that they act collaboratively to influence commercial providers of information technology and, where the market fails to provide appropriate technology, work collaboratively to develop and disseminate common solutions to important IT challenges. Collaborative work of this sort requires open, sophisticated interaction within and across two groups, namely the technical staff of key research universities and the senior IT administrators responsible for strategic direction and resource allocation.

Progress is also made through serendipitous ad-hoc collaborations among small groups of CSG members. Additionally, the spirit of community supports the efforts of individual members as information and strategies are shared freely among colleagues.

Core mechanism

The Common Solutions Group works by inviting a small set of research universities to participate regularly in meetings and project work. These universities are the CSG members; they are characterized by strategic technical vision, strong leadership, and the ability and willingness to adopt common solutions on their campuses. CSG meetings comprise leading technical and senior administrative staff from its members, and they are organized to encourage detailed, interactive discussions of strategic technical and policy issues affecting research-university IT across time.


Steering Committee

CSG is managed by a Steering Committee chaired by the current Coordinator and comprising the previous Coordinator, the Treasurer, the Secretary, the Membership Guru, and four or five more good and true persons. The Steering Committee convenes three times a year, during CSG Meetings, and by conference call as necessary.

Prior to each calendar year, the Steering Committee appoints a Nominating Committee of two CSG participants who do not wish to stand for election that year. The Nominating Committee nominates individuals for the positions of Coordinator and Treasurer in alternate years, for two year terms. Election is by majority vote of CSG institutional membership attending a CSG meeting. The Nominating Committee also nominates candidates as necessary for other vacancies on the Steering Committee, and these are voted on at the next CSG meeting.

Institutional Membership

The CSG has two categories of membership for organizations:

Institutional CSG member organizations are limited to 33. Consortial CSG member organizations are limited to 3. Total membership (institutional plus consortial) may not exceed 35. In practice, the Steering Committee can overrule these limits temporarily to accommodate member turnover. CSG normally will not elect new institutional members except to increase institutional membership to 27. Membership is voted by a majority of institutional members upon nominations from the Steering Committee.

The Steering Committee revokes the membership of members that fail to send appropriately senior members of their staff to three consecutive CSG Meetings, fail to pay assessed dues within three months, or fail to contribute materially to at least one CSG activity each year.


The Steering Committee can nominate individuals who have made a significant contribution to CSG, but who would otherwise be 'orphaned' either by moving to a non-member higher-education organization or by revocation of their organization's CSG membership, to be CSG Fellows. Fellowship nominations must be confirmed by a majority vote of members at a CSG meeting.

There can be no more than three Fellows at any one time. Each Fellow's tenure is conditional on continuing special contributions to CSG. Each Fellow is reviewed after three years, at which time fellowship may be renewed or terminated by the Steering Committee.

Individual Participation

Individuals participate in the CSG either:

Each institution is expected to designate a participant who brings strategic technical contributions to the group and who is able to take conclusions or lessons from the group and has the authority and/or influence to implement them on his or her campus. CSG strives to develop a mix of participants across broad executive responsibilities (e.g., CIOs) and strategic technical skills (e.g., CTOs). The institution may elect to send one additional participant or a substitute participant to CSG Meetings. In general, only one or two staff from a Member may attend the formal part of CSG meetings, and these attendees must be administrative or technical leaders.

The Steering Committee or its representative may invite individuals from member or non-member institutions to speak, represent an interest, or otherwise participate in part or all of a CSG Meeting.

When a senior participant who has attended and contributed to CSG regularly moves from one institution to another, that individual may continue to participate in the CSG and the individual's new institution will be welcomed as a member, assuming that the individual and his or her new institution continue to meet the CSG membership criteria and subject to confirmation by the Steering Committee. The former institution will be eligible for immediate consideration for continued membership.

The Steering Committee monitors all membership issues.

Agenda Management

CSG meets three times a year, in the winter, spring and fall. The Steering Committee works with the CSG Secretariat to develop a suitable template for programs, and the specifics for each meeting.

CSG Workshops

The CSG sponsors Workshops on topics of particular interest. at each meeting. Participants may include relevant staff from interested CSG members.

CSG Meeting

CSG Meetings include the following components:

Vendor Briefings

Vendors strategic to CSG interests may be invited to engage CSG members at a session associated with a CSG meeting. The Steering Committee designates a regular CSG participant to develop an agenda of particular interest to the CSG and to work with the vendor to arrange the meeting and to follow-up on issues of mutual interest.


Institutional and consortial CSG member institutions pay an annual membership fee as set by the membership from time to time ($6,000 per year in 2006). Membership fee payment must be current to maintain participation. Participating institutions or individuals normally pay all expenses of attending meetings including travel, lodging, meals and sundry expenses, except that the CSG arranges appropriate meeting facilities and meals that are an integral part of the meetings

From time to time, CSG members may vote to support particular projects with CSG funds. CSG members may also decide to use their collective influence and resources to sponsor and support projects with their own institutional funds.

The CSG Treasurer is responsible for CSG funds and will provide a status of those funds at each Meeting.


Revisions to this Charter should be brought to the Coordinator who will incorporate them after discussion with the Steering Committee, and then will bring the new Charter to the membership for ratification by majority vote of those institutions attending a CSG meeting at which a quorum (simple majority) are present.


2018/03/12 - cja: Corrected CSG founding year to 1993.

2015/01/16 - bc: Steering Committee proposal to have a 35 member limit
including no more than 33 institutional and 3 consortial members.
Ratified by CSG on January 16, 2015.

2010/05/14 - cer: addition to guiding principles to bring the Charter into
line with the actual practicies of the CSG.  Approved by Steering
Committee 2010/05/13.

Jan-Apr 2006 - gre: widespread changes to bring the Charter into line with
the actual practices of the CSG as they have evolved over the last few
years, including institutional membership limited to 27, total
membership limited to 30 (ratified by CSG on May 12, 2006)

2000/9/25, slw:  institutional membership limited to 25, total
membership limited to 35 (ratified by CSG on September 22, 2000);
"organizational members" renamed "consortial members"; typographic

1998/1/28, pel:  changes to Coordinator and Treasurer terms (approved by
Steering Committee); addition of participation
as a continued CSG membership condition (ratified by vote of the CSG on
September 18, 1998).

1997/1/10, pel:  typographic corrections.

1997/5/7, pel

1997/1/27, pel