Repost of report from GA-2015 about FSFE restructuring

Nicolas Dietrich nidi at
Di Nov 8 02:23:44 UTC 2016

Liebe Leute,

im Verhaltensregeln-Thread habe ich eben geschrieben, dass FSFE-intern
ein Umstrukturierungsprozess stattfindet. Da der - eigentlich sehr
konstruktive Prozess - nicht in der Öffentlichkeit stattfindet, möchte
ich etwas Einblick geben und einen Bericht teilen, den ich im Anschluss
an die GA-2015 in Bukarest an die Coordinators-Liste geschrieben habe.
Für mehr Kontext siehe meinen Beitrag im anderen Thread.

Wenn auch sich bei einigen der Punkten inzwischen ein klarerer Weg
abzeichnet, spiegelt der Bericht (soweit ich drinstecke) immer noch die
wesentlichen Aspekte der Diskussion ab.

Da es durchaus reges Interesse an der Frage gibt, worum es bei den
Restrukturierungen konkret geht, möchte ich diesen Bericht hier gerne
teilen und veröffentlichen, auch wenn er ursprünglich an die Runde der
Coordinators adressiert war und idealerweise besser umgeschrieben und
hier auch übersetzt hätte werden sollen. Aber vielleicht trotzdem besser
so als gar nicht. Voilà:

Hey coordinators,

following up Erik's overview on the topic, I'd like to add some more
insights on what we discussed concerning structures and communications.
For a broader view on my impressions of the GA, I intend to write a blog
post targeted at the broader fellowship community / general public.


- I learned that the fellowship representatives also have a
whistleblowing role in the GA towards the fellows / general public. I
try my best ;)

- Along with the possible restructuring of the community, there are
ongoing discussions about the role of the GA, the council, and the
structure of the organization of a whole.

- I can confirm that the GA takes our concerns seriously. The broader
structure discussion was heavily influenced by the stated needs of the
fellows / volunteers.

Feedback to the ECM proposals

Erik and I gave insights on what has been discussed on the ECM in July.
Some particular points here:

1. Fellowship vs active volunteer community

There was a broad consensus that active volunteers should be treated as
part of the community (i.e. get access to the infrastructure), even if
they're not fellows. Active members are even considered more important
than just paying members. However there is no clear separation between
active & supporting fellows, as individuals tend to shift from one to
the other, dependent on other circumstances.

2. Lowering the Fellowship fee to 12€

- The idea has been welcomed by some, whereas others think 60€/a is low
- Reinhard, our financial officer, fears that this would lead to a
significant drop of income ("one staff member would need to be fired then").
- Reinhard also stated that the transactional costs are very high (about
3€/transaction IIRC)
- Matija came up with an alternative proposal: Make the minimum
depend on living costs in the country of residence. This was generally
- In addition, it was questioned whether this point is still that
relevant, if active members are considered a core part of the community
(see above).

3. Increase number of fellowship representatives

Multiple GA members stated they're fine with an increase of fellowship
representatives to the GA if we think this would help us.

However as much larger changes are in the pipeline (see below), this
might be obsolete very soon.

If these larger changes however won't be substantiated any time soon, we
should push that topic again.

4. Wording

Major disconsensus here which I won't repeat right now, as we had the
same discussions on the ECM. A particular issue was that rebranding is
costly and needs to be well considered. The general thoughts were
understood though.

During the GA, some former proposals how to name the fellowship were
also mentioned: Free society citizens; Freedom ants & bees; Freedomship.

Decisions here were again not taken due to the upcoming restructurings.
There was some discontent that not even the things which were
uncontroversial have been decided formally (in particular renaming
"local fellowship groups" to "local FSFE groups").

5. Transparency & participation

GA understands that they seemed not very transparent. This is partly due
to GA not being very active throughout the year. The actual work is done
by council / staff / team. So it's not about lack of transparency
of the GA, but rather of the core team. Jonas pointed out that this is
not due to any malice, but just due to how the core team currently works.

I explained that volunteers & fellows care a lot about our common cause
and want to make sure their input is heard and the relevant questions
are properly answered. I put them as:

- Which are the important topics to tackle?
- What do we do?
- What do we miss?
- How can I step in as a volunteer?

Torsten, former Fellowship representative, reported that he tried
multiple times to approach the broader community in the past in order to
open up a communication channel to the GA, but didn't get much / any
response, so he stopped trying to do so.

Going further, other GA members even wondered whether there would be any
substantial input from the broader community at all. I naturally
disagreed - I'm convinced that there'd be substantial input and increase
of voluntary activity if we achieved a cultural shift towards more
transparency and participation. I added some examples of possible
community input which helped some to understand what input could be
there in the first place and how we could deal with it.

Apart from all that, we had a brief discussion whether a yearly broader
supporter summit (in whatever form, I think of 50-200 persons; not
FOSDEM) might help to improve the situation. Such a summit was warmly
welcomed by many. It'd however be quite some work for sure and require
the involvement of the active community, so we need to discuss this
separately and broader.

FSFE / GA / Fellowship restructuring

As input to the structure part, Jonas explained the reasons why the
structure of the FSFE is as it is, about the relationship with the FSF,
the framework agreement with FSF and current restructuring efforts in
the FSF.

Main input from the community side on structures was the demand of
having our voices heard, ideally by being part of formal structures. The
current GA is too small for that.

There was also input from members of the staff which desire to have a
smaller board which they can consult while taking decisions during the
daily work. The current GA is too big for that.

We exemplarily looked at the structural constitution of similar
organisations (FSF, EFF, Mozilla, Wikimedia, typical membership
associations and the model of the European Law student association) and
analyzed potential adjustment screws (certainly incomplete notes here):

- How is the membership composed?
    - currently: FSFE members = GA members self-selected / selected by
president + elected term-limited fellowship representatives
    - alternative: open membership (i.e. make all paying fellows the
real members)
    - alternative: active membership (formally self-selection, but
broader and with clear rules how to get in and how to drop out)
    - main reason for self-selection is to avoid hostile takeover

- Is there a board of directors? How is it composed? Are there dedicated
roles in that board?

- Is the executive part of that board?

- Is there a community outside of the core (e.g. fellows)? If so, how do
they fit in?

We have discussed those questioned and played through a couple of
possible models. When the time was up, Jonas stated that he thinks that
he has a solution which would make everybody happy.

My favorite model would be something like:

- Increase the size of the GA (~50 persons - make it a real "General
    - Allow active members of the community to join the GA (clear rules,
e.g. one year of active membership, confirmed by other members of the GA).
    - Have a drop-out mechanism for non-active members in order to not
let the GA grow infinitely.

- Add a smaller board (~5-10 persons, maybe just increase the size of
the council) with specific positions (e.g. president, vice, financial, 1
fellowship, 1 community, 2 FS projects) which supports the executives;
elected by the GA.

- I'm unsure whether the fellowship should be able to vote in
representatives to the GA or to the board directly. I'd rather go for
the GA as is, but get away with the term limit and use the "regular"
drop-out for those as well.

This wouldn't require much structural change. If there is a desire for
an elderly board (what the current GA is, kind of), this could be added
as an informal group.

The council will work out a proposal in the next two months and be in
close contact with Erik and me in order to check whether this meets the
wishes of the active and fellowship communities.

That's it from my side concerning structures and the GA. There were
other interesting discussions on the GA, in particular about topical
focus areas in which to engage, but I'll write about that separately, as
this part has already taken me way longer to write than expected.


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