FSF Adopts New Governance Measures: a Board Member Agreement and Code of Ethics

The Free Software Foundation's board "has approved and implemented two new measures designed to help make FSF governance more transparent, accountable, ethical, and responsible," according to an FSF announcement. First a Board Member Agreement "enumerates the responsibilities of board members." And there's also a Code of Ethics "that lays out principles to guide their decision-making and activities." The new measures are the first products of a six-month, consultant-led review. They formalize crucial aspects of the FSF's governance, and will guide board members to understand and embrace their responsibilities to the nonprofit's worldwide mission to promote computer user freedom. The new Board Member Agreement spells out nineteen duties and responsibilities, including minimum expectations for organizational and financial oversight, participation in board activities, the recruitment of associate members, and annual performance reviews. The Code of Ethics details thirteen specific provisions establishing how the board of directors will conduct the business affairs of the organization in good faith and with honesty, integrity, due diligence, and competence. All current board members have signed and committed to upholding the new governance standards. The agreement clarifies that Board members "do not have individual direct authority over FSF staff. Individual board members will not try to give staff instructions about what to do in their FSF work, nor try to pressure them about what to do." Board members also agree not to participate in discussions and votes where they might have a conflict of interest. "In signing this document, I understand that no quotas are being set, that no rigid standards of measurement or achievement are being formed. I have confidence that other board members will operate in good faith to carry out these agreements to the best of their ability." "The FSF has always been a steady beacon for freedom and against the widespread mistreatment of computer users," says FSF president Geoffrey Knauth in the announcement. "In the last year, the board realized that we faced a challenge and opportunity to improve our governance practices and recruit new leaders to the FSF board. I'm proud of this important step in that ongoing work."

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