improving fellowship communication (GA motion)

Daniel Pocock daniel at
Mon Oct 2 08:10:53 UTC 2017

Hi all,

Since being elected as one of the fellowship representatives, I've been
looking at various ways to perform this role effectively.

For people who joined FSFE through the FSFE fellowship program, the
fellowship representatives are the most senior elected representatives
designated in the FSFE constitution[1] and therefore it would appear
logical to me that as the representatives, we would be the ones trusted
to make decisions about communication with our constituency.  In
practice, however, this is not the case and people in various parts of
the organization (this was discussed in the GA list) have expressed
various concerns (e.g. data protection laws, member expectations) for
not empowering the fellowship representatives to communicate directly
with the people who voted for us.  The original request I sent to the GA
is at the bottom of this email.

Personally, I felt these concerns demonstrated a lack of trust and
confidence in the fellowship representatives and in fact even a lack of
trust and confidence in humanity to organize ourselves democratically. 
Having served in various representative roles in the past where
membership lists were always available to me I actually felt somewhat
insulted by these responses and uncertain about whether the fellowship
representative role is meant to be only an illusion of representation
rather than an active representative.

I put forward a motion for the GA meeting to address this for the
future.  To maximize the possibility of achieving consensus at the GA
meeting (motions are not usually voted on), the motion is not
retrospective and does not attempt to clarify the current status of
membership data under privacy laws or whatever else, it is only about
avoiding further ambiguity in the future.

To ensure the GA can understand how people feel, it would be interesting
to get opinions from the community:

- when you join an organization such as FSFE and you provide personal
data such as your name and email address, do you expect that office
holders and elected representatives would have some access to this data
in performing their roles?

- do you feel it is reasonable for people who are in a position of trust
to have some discretion in how they use the data as long as they do so
in the best interests of the organization, it's mission and it's
members?  Or do you believe the organization should strive to obfuscate
the data so that even office holders can't read it and put systems in
place so communications are sent out to members through an opaque process?

- what are the practices you have seen in other community organizations
in the free software space and can we learn anything from them in
developing best practice?

Proposed motion:
The GA recognizes the stark difference between the way FSFE coordinates
contributor data and other organizations are doing things.  FSFE
supporter data is only available to Reinhard, Jones, system-hackers(?),
ISP staff and third-parties involved in payment processing.  The GA
resolves to let supporters choose to be a "silent" supporter who simply
donates and expects nothing in return and contributors who choose to
volunteer and are identifiable to other contributors through a PGP
keyring, directory or other means.  Where somebody chooses to be in the
former category, their personal data will remain under a somewhat
default data protection regime (need-to-know access only) whereas if
they choose to be in the latter category, they will be informed that a
less stringent data protection policy is in effect.  Where somebody in
the latter category (contributor) provides information that is only
required to process a donation (credit card billing address, payment
card details, etc), that information will remain under strict privacy

Background to this motion: In Debian, for example, all trusted
contributors are identified in a publicly distributed PGP keyring and
many more contributors are identified through resources like and the Ultimate Debian Database.  Many people
feel that a de-centralized organization like this is more appropriate
for robustness and for empowering volunteers.




-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject: 	improving fellowship communication
Date: 	Mon, 14 Aug 2017 10:53:27 +0200
From: 	Daniel Pocock <daniel at>
To: 	ga at

Hi all,

As I've been elected as a fellowship representative, I feel it is important

a) to know who I am representing

b) to be able to communicate with them directly

I've asked Erik if he could provide contact details for the fellowship
and he stated that data protection prevents this and requires all
communication to go through Reinhard.

It is standard practice for just about any other elected representative
to have this basic data.  For example, when I was elected as employee
representative on a pension committee, I was given a full list of all
members.  In most countries people who run for public office are given a
list of all the people registered to vote at the deadline, this also
helps with transparency and detecting errors.

I feel it is important for FSFE to address this.

Personally, I would like to email a report about my own activities to
fellows from time to time, probably using a reply-to header set to the
discussion list.

I would not object to signing a confidentially agreement, committing to
store the data securely, limiting my use of any such data to FSFE
purposes and committing not to use the data to promote myself or endorse
any future candidates in fellowship elections.



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