Organisation democracy (was: Balance relationships with companies)

Mirko Boehm mirko at
Thu Sep 26 20:27:17 UTC 2019


at the risk of beating a dead horse - repeating an argument does not make it tru-er. This issue does not go away because it remains the essential weakness of FSFE in its current form. Sure, "FSFE was founded to rely on a number of trusted individuals”, but that was 20 years ago. Outside of this echo chamber, 3/4 of them today are invisible or inactive. This hurts FSFEs reputation and impact. 

To speak in Albert Hirschman’s terms, everybody faces the choice to raise their voice to influence an organisation their care about or to exit. If people’s voices are made irrelevant, they will eventually stop trying to change things and looks for better ways to invest their energy. I am contributing my time at OSI now. They do have elections.



> On 26. Sep 2019, at 10:42, Bernhard E. Reiter <bernhard at> wrote:
> Paul,
> Am Montag 01 Juli 2019 12:12:58 schrieb Paul Boddie:
>> This reminds me of the still-unresolved matter of
>> organisational democracy that was helpfully shunted over to the rogue
>> mailing list only to disappear.
> the question of "organisation democracy" in the FSFE has been discussed many 
> times (over the ~18 years of FSFE's existence).
> (From my perspective it has been answered so many times that it 
> is getting boring because arguments repeat themselfs,
> new arguments are rare. And without arguments people won't change
> their position.)
> So a short summary from my personal perspective:
> * Democracy is "a system of government where the citizens
>   exercise power by voting." The question is: who are the citizens?
> * FSFE is a social group (which "can be defined as two or more people who
>   interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively 
>   have a sense of unity." backed up by a Germany registered association
>   ("eingetragener Verein") and recognised tax charity to hold assets.
> * The association itself internally is governed by a membership
>   assembly where votes are used according to the German association law
>   You could call this "democratic" if you accept the members of the
>   association to be the "citizens". If so we are fully "democratic"
>   as the German courts and tax office monitor this.
> * It is normal to only accept members in a social group, if they share
>   similiar goals (and matching personal behaviourial standards). 
>   It is similiar normal for an association to only accept
>   members if they share the constitutional goals. There is and cannot
>   be a rule to accept everybody that is citizen in a country, aka real
>   democracy, in an associations as this does not make sense for a social
>   group holding on belive that wants to convice others. (As if the majority
>   joins, it is the same representation that in the overal society, which
>   already is reflected by the democratic government.)
> * To be able to hold and steer Free Software values for many years,
>   FSFE was founded to rely on a number of trusted individuals (that
>   originally FSF and Richard Stallmann approved of, and then let act in
>   independency as a backup if they get in trouble somehow) in order to have
>   long term stability. This was the reason the FSF* name could be used.
> * While everyone can easily join FSFE (as social group), the association
>   is kept small, so that people individually know each other and can find
>   a way to talk and come to an opinion over long term matters. But the
>   association only facilities the work in many way. So the social group
>   has a huge impact. But of course all social groups have power structures,
>   so some people have more influence than others (just like everywhere).
>   Introducing voting or more governance wouldn't change this.
> * There have been changes over the years in how many people join FSFE 
>   and its associations, so it is discussed, things are tried. A long term
>   trend ended as we found that people were not really interested in holding
>   temporary seats in the association. So we are doing something else, to make
>   it easier to join FSFE (both) and to promote and help Free Software.
> * FSFE (in both senses) has been growing (most time of its existance),
>   more people, more diversity, more employees, more topic, contacts
>   and obligations. Which is a challenge as personal contact between people
>   is becoming more difficult and there is so much going on. 
> * This all is an ongoing challenge for 18 years and we are facing it.
> Regards,
> Bernhard
> -- 
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Mirko Boehm | mirko at | KDE e.V.
FSFE Team Germany
Qt Certified Specialist and Trainer
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