In January, I elaborated on the structure of the FSFE, owing to a request from our members to work out a plan for making the FSFE more inclusive and transparent. Since then, we've taken some actions towards this, including making a transparency commitment which is consistent with the guidelines from Transparency International Germany. We wait for a final approval from them, but our understanding is that everything is now fine (aside from a logo we needed to add, which we added last week).
We still have other work to do, but before this, allow me to recapture parts of the dialogue leading up to this point. At the FSFE General Assembly in 2015, we had an intensive discussion about the structure of the organisation which lead to Matthias, myself, Erik Albers and our fellowship representative Nicholas Dietrich, working out a proposal for changing the structure of the FSFE.
What we proposed then were to increase the number of members of the association, making it easier for active members of our community to become formal members as well as setting up a separate Board of Directors.
From the feedback we received from our current members, we developed an understanding that what is critically missing is perhaps not only ways for people to become formal members, but a clarity of how people can already become members today, something which we admittedly have not been good at communicating.
It's also been difficult to see what teams exist in the FSFE, what agency the participants have to act within those teams, and how to get involved in the work of the teams.
We've started working on both of these topics, but not completed it yet. Our transparency commitment is part of this work, as it gives details about our constitution which elaborates on how to become a member.
This needs to be extended on by more information about membership, such as how the membership applications are evaluated and how to determine whether becoming a member is the right step for someone. The latter is tricky to formulate: we do not wish to exclude anyone from applying to be a member if they have an interest in shouldering such responsibility.
At the same time, I want to make it clear formal membership in the FSFE depend on a deep commitment to Free Software. This is what Matthias and I have come up with so far as to what we feel makes a member of the FSFE:
"A member is someone who is strongly committed to Free Software and feels strongly connected with FSFE. (S)he has the long term goal to empower people to control technology, and can prove this with past activities. The person wants to take responsibilities over the decades to come to make sure FSFE's work will benefit Free Software and participate in the long term strategic decision making. If someone applies we prefer the person met other members before, so we can better assess the persons motives."
Our Fellows and volunteers support us in our day to day work, financially, through volunteer work or both. Their work, as well as the work of our staff, is made possible by the commitment of the members to secure the organisations' long term goals. Being a member is a responsibility, but an important one.
In the next months, I want to:
- Improve further on the public information on our web pages and elsewhere about the structure of the FSFE, and how membership works,
- Create a better overview for anyone as to what teams there are in the FSFE, what they work on, and where someone can engage.
Expect more on this in the months to follow.