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You are here: Home Bulletins 2021 Fall Your support helps determine the future of the FSF

Your support helps determine the future of the FSF

by Geoff Knauth Contributions Published on Nov 16, 2021 08:27 PM

The most important work of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) is to promote and defend computer freedom for users. Since the beginning of the Foundation in 1985, the goal was not just a GNU system of software that maximizes user freedom, but also robust advocacy for that freedom.

As the years have passed, many organizations have chosen to advocate for aspects of free software that are easier for businesses and users to adopt than true user freedom, and while that has led to widespread incorporation of free software into the infrastructure of most computing now, that adoption rests largely on convenience. There is always a danger that the rights that users must have could be watered down or ignored altogether. It is the FSF's obligation to make sure that does not happen, that we never forget there are forces that would corrupt the intent of the free software movement, by removing the movement's idealism and replacing it with mere opportunism. Free software could then be mistaken for product without cost because of donated labor, or product without soul because it was not made with the intent of freedom to share and develop over time.

Some developers may indeed just want their software to be used, but the best developers want their creations to be inspiring and part of a learning process. They want their software to be extended and improved by others; like good parents they want their children to thrive and have independence and better lives. When I think of programs like GNU Emacs, or TeX or LaTeX, these are packages that started with singular creative genius, but were then enhanced by thousands of others with brains and hearts just as strong. There are many other examples of course. The important thing is that flourishing of creative freedom must never be throttled, it must always be defended and encouraged, and people must not lose heart when it comes to the FSF's fundamental purpose of fighting for this freedom.

The FSF needs to rise to meet these challenges, and that includes doing work on itself. The Board recognizes there have been flaws in our governance. We listen to and discuss at great length all that is written or said, both helpful suggestions as well as harsh criticism. We take all of it to heart. This year in particular, in 2021, the Board has met very often with the aim of addressing these issues. For many years, we met twice a year for a day or two. Since March, we have been meeting two to four times a week, sometimes for two hours, or one hour, or six hours. It has been both a struggle and a team effort. We engaged outside consultants to offer suggestions and evaluate ideas for good governance, and for improved coordination in communication.

The intermediate results being crafted are a Board Member Service Agreement, a Code of Ethics, and a transparent process for bringing new people onto the Board, people with free software spirit who can help build the future of the FSF. This process will involve associate members of the FSF through including them in the nominations process and discussions in the selection process. This work is still ongoing, but progress is substantial and I think we are nearing a point where the free software community can evaluate it. You, members of this community, are welcome and encouraged to participate in this process by joining the FSF. As we move forward in renewal, I mostly ask that we remember why we are here: free software and protecting the freedom of computing for users. We must preserve those core values, as we strive while being different to be as decent and considerate of each other as we possibly can.

Copyright © 2021 Free Software Foundation, Inc. This article is individually licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

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