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AFFS workings (was: [Fsfe-uk] Resignation from AFFS committee)

From: Alex Hudson
Subject: AFFS workings (was: [Fsfe-uk] Resignation from AFFS committee)
Date: Sun, 05 Jun 2005 18:11:42 +0100

On Sun, 2005-06-05 at 18:08 +0100, Graham Seaman wrote:
> >It didn't happen at a meeting, so no, I'm afraid it hasn't been minuted.
> >But it did achieve the required majority: when, I don't know, I thought
> >it was before Mark left. I might be wrong about that.
> Since these emails are presumably being archived for anyone to examine
> in the future, might it be a good idea for someone to explain for
> posterity and those of us not on the committee what's going on? 


Basically, the committee meets a few times a year - recently both on the
phone and at a venue in London - but decision making happens outside
those, as and when the need arises. They're usually "smaller" decisions
- more about stuff happening day to day.

The process of how the committee runs the organisation on a day-to-day
basis isn't formalised in the constitution, so we adopt practises which
seem to make sense at the time. Basically, someone puts a proposal
forward and we vote on whether or not it should carry.

>  How can you have the 'required majority' outside a meeting, whether
> minuted or not?

Because our meetings are fairly infrequent, we take decisions outside of
them. If we didn't make decisions between meetings, a lot of the topics
we need to decide stuff about (who to send to X event, whether or not we
should support a specific project, etc.) would be out of date.

> Lack of time and volunteers? The organisation has been taken over by a
> cabal?  Ambitious constititution without the means to implement it?
> Political disagreement? All of the above?

Oh gosh, probably all of the above to some degree. There certainly are
political and constitutional differences; the more important ones have
been discussed on here before but there are smaller problems (which
mostly don't cause disagreement, I think). I think I've already stated
some of the areas I think are problematic, and there are a few
no-brainer changes to the constitution that I think all would like to
see adopted (or, at least, have been completely uncontroversial in my

There is definitely a lack of time and volunteers: Chris stepped forward
to help out with the AGM planning (which we will need to start getting
on with very soon), and we could definitely use more people (especially
"on the ground" - we try to attend events when and where we can, but
probably don't go to enough, and aren't able to do other tasks like
visiting M[E]Ps, etc.). 

There isn't a *need* for any of this to be done at committee level - in
fact, a while ago, we setup the AFFS-Project mailing list to act as an
organisational medium without overloading this list with unwelcome
traffic. It hasn't really worked though, I'm not sure why (I mean;
obviously just adding a new mailing list doesn't do squat, but we did
think there were people out there for whom it would be useful). I
suspect the main reason is that "doing AFFS work" isn't even nearly as
interesting as "doing [X task I want to do] under the AFFS umbrella",
even though the two are hopefully the same thing. There are certainly
many other reasons, though.

We've also occasionally asked for people to help with various specific
projects in our mailing list. That has been pretty helpful in terms of
information gathering, I think, but again not with the "bodies on the
ground" aspect.

It probably is cabal-ised to some degree, but I would say that would be
fairly easily remedied by other people stepping up to the plate: I know
of at least one person who has already said they want to be considered
for co-option, and others who would be interested. Committee was
designed to be quite large: we can have up to eleven people involved,
but we haven't really come close to that watermark ever. 

AFFS has done a number of things well; I think we're a good source of
information (particularly in person), we have good links with other
friendly organisations (FSFE, FFII, Schoolforge-UK, etc.) and with

Anything that has required people to be there has been difficult. We
haven't engaged with people on a local level particularly well (e.g., we
were recently speaking at a "Liquid Culture" talk in London; but there
are similar initiatives and projects all over the UK), similarly
super-national stuff (e.g., lobbying in Brussels - we have members
going, but no AFFS representation). We rarely present outside the UK
(e.g., LinuxTag). So, I think we're better at national level than below
or above (which again speaks to the 'bodies' thing).



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