How FSFE is organised (was: Organisation democracy)

Bernhard E. Reiter bernhard at
Tue Oct 8 15:44:02 UTC 2019

Hi Paul,

Am Freitag 27 September 2019 18:00:28 schrieb Paul Boddie:
> It seemed to me when I last looked at any minutes from FSFE meetings that a
> lot of people eligible to vote were either delegating their votes to the
> leadership or just not voting at all. 

those formal meetings of the association are best done briefly.
This keeps the minutes small and makes it easy for the tax and courts
to verify that it is formally fine. This is good as it is a formal framework.
The actually work is not in different times and places.

> Admittedly,
> the rest of us don't tend to do things like park $100000 destined for
> improving Free Software in a bank account for four years 

This is book-keeping, the association is the formal employer of people
and because some incomes and costs for FSFE's mission come unplanned, 
we want to make sure there is a reserve so we can be a proper employer.
Because FSFE is a public charity we must give a reason for the reserve.

> and not communicate with the people whose money that was,
> but apart from small things like that.

People trust us to treat other people fine, this includes being a good 
employers, paying all releveant social security taxes and a lot more.
I don't believe we should communicate all those details which are "normal" for 
an organisation that has a few employees.

On the scale of what FSFE does, we write, microblog and even video a lot,
this increases over time. For this year I've quick-counted 26 entries on so far. 

> I think that after a while it becomes tiresome to play the games of
> convincing people supposedly working towards the same goals to step outside
> their comfort zone and to pay attention to matters of genuine concern
> amongst those who support and fund the organisation. 

The main concern of FSFE is furthering Free Software, empower people
and society in the area of software technology. As there are many volunteers 
within FSFE and we are all humans, there are different ideas how to pursue 
this goal. And from them there are directions formed (and asked and 
communicated about). This also means that no all ideas can be followup on 
equally. Still what we as social group FSFE know is evolving, this process is 
never to end for the good, because the world keeps turning.

> Democratic mechanisms  are meant to provide ways of informing
> the leadership and direction of organisations; removing them puts an
> obligation on the organisation to discover whether it is still doing the
> right thing by its supporters. 

FSFE has this obligation anyway, which is good.
Also if our supporters were in the majority going to support non-free 
software, FSFE cannot follow suit because this is outside the limits of our 

There are many way how supporters, (previously) external people and folks can 
influence what we (as FSFE) do and where we go. One is to bring up a good 
idea here on the public discussion list or voice it in one of the meetings.

> Now, there was that FSFE-in-2020 survey done a while back. I asked about it
> again in February, but no response was forthcoming. 

Answered now, sorry for the late response, thanks for the reminder.

> (Which brings me to the matter of FSFE's opaque legal conference that may
> or may not be funded by the supporters, out of which they get a list of
> vague topic headings and reassurances that it was a worthwhile exercise.)

The conference is mainly a meeting of the legal network, see
and we report on it each year.

The main advantage of the meeting that people can exchange themselves,
so there is no direct aim for a result. (FSFE was criticised before for not 
forcing the agenda, but most people in FSFE believe that we cannot force
people's opinion, while it is good at the same time to bring people together 
that are genuinely interested in Free Software licensing together.) only has a short report
and it could be longer. The one from 2018 almost seems too long for most 
Some donors of FSFE specifically sponsor the Legal conference,
so I'd personally expect this actually to be something that financially 
supports other activies of FSFE. However this probably varies from year to 

Best Regards,
FSFE -- Founding Member     Support our work for Free Software: | contribute
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