Organisation democracy (was: Balance relationships with companies)

Paul Boddie paul at
Fri Sep 27 16:00:28 UTC 2019

On Friday 27. September 2019 12.30.19 Bernhard E. Reiter wrote:
> > 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.
> Depends on the task, if the idea is to support the social group,
> I'd rather have people that do not want to be in public light
> and work constructively in the background.

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. They might be happy with the way 
everything is going but what does that actually mean, ultimately? Especially 
if those people are inactive and just retain their membership because it is 
nice to have.

Some people might claim that various voting members are not really inactive 
because they still develop or promote Free Software, or whatever. Well, if so, 
that doesn't make them any different from the rest of us. (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 and not communicate with the 
people whose money that was, but apart from small things like that.)

> > 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.
> Like everywhere people will have to convince others that their proposed
> change is for the better. Same with FSFE and a lot of change done over the
> years. If you propose something and cannot convice enough others, you can
> leave but you can also stay in the organisation sharing the same values, as
> you never get all proposal implemented.

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. 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.

Of course, people can withdraw their support at any time, too, if they feel 
that the direction of the organisation has diverged from their own priorities, 
or even if they simply feel that the sense of community is no longer there. 
Although this will happen anyway because you cannot satisfy everyone 
completely, if the only alternative to complete (and probably passive) 
satisfaction (or apathy) is to quit then the result will not be a vibrant and 
healthy organisation.

Now, there was that FSFE-in-2020 survey done a while back. I asked about it 
again in February, but no response was forthcoming. If supporters cannot be 
fully included in processes that some of them may have participated in 
themselves, then they aren't going to feel very included or that the 
organisation is very transparent. They will feel that the organisation is not 
being run for them or for their benefit, that it is an "inhibitor" rather than 
an "effect multiplier" of their own activities furthering supposedly shared 

(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.)


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