[Osmf-talk] 13k OSMF members by end of 2010?

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Tue Aug 4 08:35:29 UTC 2009


    Nick has written on his Foundation 2010 page 

"In order to be a healthy, democratic organisation, the OSM-F needs to 
grow its membership. By the end of 2010 the Foundation should aim to 
have 13,000 members throughout the world."

Frankly, the thought frightens me. I'm all for growth but 6500% in the 
scope of 15 months (that's more than 30% growth per month) sounds 
everything other than "healthy" to me.

Nick argues that

"In order to be a healthy, democratic organisation, the OSM-F needs to 
grow its membership."

There may be some truth to this, but such growth has to be healthy and 
has to go along with establishing proper democratic structures. The 
members are the ones who constitute the Foundation and they need to be 
able to have a certain degree of control about what is done in their name.

I'll use a far-fetched example to make my point. Let's assume that OSMF 
decides to create a well-paid director post and then hires someone who 
happens to be not really suitable for the job but a good friend of four 
of the seven board members, thus getting a majority of votes. Which is 
bad, and cronyism, but these things happen in large organisations. The 
Companies Act says that members making up 10% of the vote (i.e., roughly 
20 members if we're 200) can call for an extraordinary general meeting, 
in which if course the employment contract can be cancelled and the 
board fired if there's a majority of votes.

Now do the same thing in an organisation of 13,000 members. It *can* be 
done but that needs healthy and grown democratic structures, like for 
example a watchdog that has (read-only) access to all board business and 
has the right to communicate with the membership at large through the 
usual channels. Call be paranoid but I *have* been a member of an 
organisation where members were so apathic they couldn't be bothered to 
read anything more than the monthly membership email issued by the 
board, and the board did exactly what I wrote above.

I'm not prepared to agree to anything more than a doubling of membership 
figures every year unless there is a very clear plan in place that 
details how these members will be enabled to do their job in deciding 
what OSMF should do, and controlling that the board really does what 
they want. Otherwise these members are not members but just donors.

Frankly, my impression is that Nick has started out with his ambitions 
plans of hiring lots of paid staff and then needed to present a credible 
source of funding, which led him to make up these membership figures. 
Growing 6500% in 15 months is not about strengthening democracy, it is 
about sourcing funds - and in my eyes it comes close to sacrificing 

Yes, we should grow, but in a healthy fashion.


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