In June 2019, Funkwhale officially became an association. When the project started, Agate ran the project as a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life). It became clear that this wasn't a very good way to run things, so she made the decision to formalize the collective.
Creating an official association brought with it many benefits. It gave the project a written legal structure for decision making. It also presented a framework for handling memberships to give people voting rights. The association has been instrumental in shaping Funkwhale's democratic approach to development.
Things have changed a lot since the creation of the association.
- The original maintainers have stepped away from the project.
- A new project team has stepped up.
- The majority of the project team are no longer located in France.
As we work on the project more, our statutes sometimes feel more restrictive than helpful. In particular, the paid membership model for voters feels exclusionary. While it's possible to request a free membership, this isn't clear and can be embarrassing. Our statutes are also written in a very formal way that may be challenging for people to read. It's not an approach that a lot of people are used to.
Additionally, the running of the association is a lot of work. Making big decisions requires a lot of organization and planning. The handling of money and paperwork requires us to maintain a presence in France. And importantly, we aren't getting the amount of interest we need for new elections. This lack of interest recently led to us needing to change some of our statutes to accommodate limited interest.
We need to change something.
What are you proposing?
After some discussion in our forums, we got in contact with the Center for the Cultivation of Technology. They are a non-profit that helps free software projects handle work outside of software development. They have offered to assist us with handling financial, administrative, and legal tasks. These are tasks that we find quite challenging to work on, especially as we are trying to build the software. We are quite interested in taking up this offer, but it would mean dissolving the association.
The association is currently responsible for donations and project administration. We can't continue as an association and hand these tasks over to the non-profit. If we decide to take this path, we'll dissolve the association and let the non-profit handle the administration.
But what about members?
Members are currently able to vote on big decisions about the collective. This isn't something we can copy over to this proposed structure. This has made us think about what we currently use membership for and how we could improve it.
We would like to move to a more holistic view of membership. One that isn't based on money or any specific contribution. We'd like to move to a system that recognizes more people in our community and gives them a voice. Contributions take many forms, and we want to recognize all contributions equally. Code submissions, documentation, designs, translations, running and using the software. All these contributions are important and we should recognize this better. We can't do this with the association, and it leads to a somewhat exclusive environment.
Money collected through membership fees will be counted as donations and will still be used for the good of the project.
Has this already been decided?
Not at all! The association members need to vote to make this decision. We're writing this blog post to let everyone know what's going on and what our position is on the topic. Of course, if the association votes to keep things as they are then they will stay as they are. That's what it means to be a democracy! 😄
We want to put this to a vote in a general assembly to formalize our response. If we decide to move away from the association, a general assembly vote lets us do that. We can start the process of dissolving the association and moving our assets over.
We'd like to open this discussion up on our forum to hear your thoughts on it. Once we've got an idea of everyone's feelings, we'll create a poll. Depending on the outcome of this, we'll look at what we do next.
Thank you for your continued support!