Why I want you to run for the OSI Board

The Open Source Initiative board is homogeneous, stratified across generations.

We fit across three (tech) generations of contributors to free and open source software–those who were involved in the early days of free software; those who found places in the community after open source had been established; and the group paultag humorously dubbed the GNU generation–none of us have lived in a world without the explicit concept of user freedom.

Within my cadre of FOSS-loving millennials, several of us have fairly similar stories, both inside of our FOSS lives and out: we all had formative life experiences of financial hardship, and tech helped us emerge into comfortable, middle-class lifestyles. We’re all community-focused and have worked as community managers. We’ve been finalists for the same jobs.

That is to say, while we have different opinions and different outlooks, we all come from fairly similar places.

While I would not go as far as to say the same is true across each generation represented in the board, we do a fairly good job of agreeing with one another. Occasionally we argue, but that frequently comes from practical points and specific concerns relating to the gritty logistics of making decisions for an organization.

We have a range of experiences represented when you take the board as a whole, but not as different as I would like to see.

The fact is, the board does not represent the greater FOSS community. This is why it’s important for more people to join the OSI–in order to vote in elections and make sure their voices are represented. In order for this representation to be real, we need people from different backgrounds and viewpoints to stand for election and become board members.

To say this in more explicit terms: the OSI board is extremely (exclusively) white. Two board members are European, eight of us from the United States, and there is one Canadian. I think this is a problem.

What do I want from you? If you’re from outside North America, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you’re a racial minority, I want you to run for the OSI board. If you come from a background that is a part of the FOSS movement, but not represented, I want you to run for the OSI board. Are you from North America? Are you white? Are you a college educated coder working in a cool tech job? That is -awesome-. I am some of those things. I want you to reach out to your friends with different backgrounds, experiences, and knowledge and encourage them to run for the OSI board.

Think you’re unqualified? You’re totally not. One of the things I’ve learned about life–and especially FOSS–from three of my amazing free software mentors is that we’re never qualified when we start something new–or at least we don’t feel that way. I had no clue what I was doing when I first thought about running for the OSI board. All I knew was that I wanted to do more for the community.

Think you’re too busy? You might be! You might not be! We’re a pretty busy lot, and we each put in what we’re capable of. Sometimes that’s advice and ideas; sometimes it’s fundraising, financial literacy skills, ideas, organizing, writing, and anything else you bring to the table.

Think you’ve nothing to say? I bet you do.

Joining a board is not only about you–it’s about giving back to the community that has given you so much. It’s about pushing a movement forward. It’s about bringing the ideas and voices of others to the table, and making sure that everyone is heard.

If you’re interested in running, but scared, uncertain, don’t think you’re qualified, want help, or just want to talk more about the responsibilities, please email me at molly [at] opensource [dot] org or Josh Simmons at josh [at] opensource [dot] org.

Board members also get sweet email addresses, and that alone is reason enough to run.

Previously, the board was appointed by the board. This gave them the opportunity to create a group representing a range of experiences and skill sets, as well as fill necessary niches of knowledge (licensing, technical skills, community organization, etc). Now that we have a board elected by membership, it’s more crucial for people to both nominate themselves, if they don’t see enough representation, and join the OSI. In order for elections to actually reflect the FLOSS community, wee need a strong, varied membership from all over the world. So, in addition to running or encouraging your friends to run, consider joining as an Individual or Affiliate member.