Resolution 2004-10-16.dbg.1: Committee Framework

mbc mbc at
Sun Oct 17 18:22:12 UTC 2004

Hash: SHA1

I would just like to add to this discussion. For an organization like 
SPI which is supposedly acting in the public interest and moving 
forward with such an important thing as the Free Software Movement, the 
structure of the organization is very hierarchical and antiquated. I 
think that a lot could be done to make this organization more 
democratic, more participatory and more egalitarian.

There are plenty of examples of other social movements which operate on 
consensus, in an effort to prefigure the world we want to see. The 
entire structure of a president, a vice-president and committee chairs 
seems very much like a cathedral to me, not like a bazaar, and seems 
very much at odds with the ideals of the free software community, i.e. 
that anyone should be able to participate in the construction and 
deconstruction of the ideas and structures that affect our lives.

If you're all scratching your heads wondering why more people don't 
participate in SPI, I would like to offer the suggestion that maybe its 
because the structures and bureaucracy in place prevent most people 
from participating in a meaningful way until they've spent the time 
learning how to work within them while spending less time writing 

With regard to this resolution, I have a few specific questions. It 
would seem to me that although a 501c3 must have a specific board 
structure, our committee structure is totally up to us.

On Oct 16, 2004, at 11:23 AM, David Graham - SPI Secretary wrote:

> 7. Committee membership shall be administered as follows, though a
> committee charter may specify alternatives for any of these rules:
>   i. The Board shall assign the initial membership of the committee
>   ii. The membership of the committee shall select an initial chair

Why have a chair and not a liaison? Does the chair have some kind of 
decision making power over the rest of the committee? Wouldn't a 
structure with a rotating liaison and consensus based committees be 
more egalitarian and democratic?

>   iii. The chair shall be responsible for all future committee 
> membership
>     appointments

So the chair decides who can/cannot be in the committee?

>   iv. The committee shall elect the chair annually following the Annual
>     Meeting

How will this "chair" be elected?

>   v. Any committee may dismiss any member of the committee by a 
> majority
>     vote of the committee
>   vi. The Board may replace any member of the the committee at any time
>   vii. Membership in all committees shall be between four (4) and 
> sixteen
>     (16) members and may be adjusted by either the Board or the 
> committee
>     chair;
>   ix. Committees may select officers other than a chair at their
>     discretion;

I think that the challenge set before SPI is to provide a dynamic, 
participatory organization that is representative of the free software 
movement because it allows them to take part in the decision making 
process, not because it is run by benevolent rulers who have the free 
software movements best interests at heart. Given our incredible 
technical prowess, I'm sure we can make that happen.

As this movement becomes more important and more central to all of our 
lives, its structure will become increasingly important, and if that 
structure is not set up in a participatory and egalitarian way, we may 
just find representatives sitting at the top of these hierarchies 
instead of ourselves, and our mistake will be painfully evident.

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