[spi] Informal proposal for SPI government reform

David Graham cdlu at pkl.net
Tue Dec 10 21:25:06 UTC 2002

Note: These thoughts represent my opinion only and do not reflect the
      position of OFTC or any other person, group, or organisation with
      which I am affiliated, though this document is influenced by my
      experience with OFTC (http://www.oftc.net/).

Informal proposal for SPI government reform


- To provide all member projects with a say at board meetings
- To democratise the governing system of Software in the Public Interest
- To make SPI a more active organisation
- To make SPI a self-renewing organisation


SPI is its member projects. Without them, it serves little purpose and
  would more than likely fizzle out of existence. In its current
  incarnation, SPI is an organisation demanding to be more active
  in the community it represents.

This brief document outlines one option to create a more active SPI
  managed by the projects it represents and constitutes substantial
  reforms to the existing system.

This document is _not_ intended to be a criticism of the current
  administration of the organisation or of its current system, but
  merely provides an alternative to open up the organisation to
  renewal and to help give the organisation a more active role in
  the community.


- Provide every member project with a seat on the board

  Each project (Berlin, Debian, GNOME, GNU TeXmacs, LSB, OFTC, and OSI)
    selects one member of their project to represent them at the board
    of the SPI as part of their own renewal structure, and may choose
    their representative however they please.

  The projects may choose to send the project leaders or another member
    of the project or whoever they please as their representative.

- SPI contributing members select a board member

  Using whatever method SPI chooses, SPI's contributing members vote
    for a member of SPI to sit on the board who may or may not
    necessarily have any direct affiliation with a member project.

- The board selects its officers

  The board (possibly including any Advisors, see footnote #2) holds a
    a sequential election using something like the Borda system to
    organise the officers. The winner of the election becomes the
    President, the second place scorer becomes the Vice President, the
    third place scorer becomes the Secretary, the fourth place scorer
    becomes the Treasurer, and the remaining four become non-officer
    board members. This vote will take place any time an officer leaves
    and should be held by secret ballot, to be counted by someone with
    no vested interest in a specific result, or by computer.

  All board members would be forced to rank all other board members from
    1 to the total number of board members. The election should take place
    at the end of the first meeting of a new or modified board.

  More a matter of procedure, but the board should also be entrusted
    with the power to remove a member who is not performing his or her
    tasks or who is hampering the organisation by a 2/3 vote of the
    member's peers.

- Advisors

  Advisors are selected as a matter of procedure by the Board from among
    any member of any project or from the public at large.[2]


- Representative democracy

  This system will have the result of turning SPI into a representative
    democratic government, allowing every project to present their own
    interests to the board of the SPI while making all the projects
    one cohesive team under the SPI banner.

- Self-renewal

  The board of SPI will be made up of active people and be in an ever
    changing state as projects replace their representatives.[3]


- Scalability

  This approach is not scalable. If SPI continues to absorb projects or
    enlarge, either the board will become excessively large or projects
    risk not being properly represented.


[1] An informative discussion of alternate voting systems is available
    in the November 2000 issue of Discover Magazine:

[2] It is my opinion that Advisors should not have a vote on procedural
    matters but should be available as a conscience to voice reason and
    advise the voting members of the board, or cry foul if rules are not
    being followed.

[3] This won't happen as often as it sounds. When a project finds a good
    representative, it will not rush to replace that person without good
    reason. It is unlikely that, once the structure settles down, such a
    vote would happen more than once a year.

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