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20 May 2011, 12:59

OSI open reformation begins in earnest

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OSI logo The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is creating a process for wider participation through working groups and new affiliate programmes which will influence its thinking on its future mission. The programme was unveiled at last week's Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco by OSI board member Simon Phipps. The plans are the result of the OSI's planning for reformation announced in March.

On returning to the UK, Phipps talked to The H about the plan. He explained that previous efforts to set a future mission for the organisation had not been effective. "Agreeing a mission in advance is too hard" said Phipps, as he explained how the OSI was now planning how to evolve the organisation. Historically the OSI, a non-profit corporation with a small board, set out to educate the world about open source. It has also managed a definition of what open source is, and given its blessing to licences which comply with that definition. Now, says Phipps, it is time to take on the second part of the OSI's 1999 mission statement: "to build bridges among different constituencies in the open source community".

There are two prongs to the process. The first is that existing working groups within the OSI, such as the licence review working group, would elect their chairperson and that chairperson would be added to the pool of candidates for future board elections. Currently, the entire board of the OSI is appointed by the existing board members; the next election is due in April 2012.

The working group scheme should be in place by the third quarter of this year – members of the working groups will form the first part of a new electoral college for board elections. To extend the electoral college and bring in wider representation, the OSI will then create affiliate schemes for the various groups of stakeholders who have an interest in open source. The first scheme will be for open source and non-profit foundations, such as the Apache Software Foundation and the GNOME Foundation. These foundations would be eligible to become "Open Source Foundation Affiliates". Phipps aims to have this scheme in place for OSCON (25-29 July) and hopes that this scheme will provide a solid anchor for future schemes.

The next affiliate scheme would then be the Organisational Affiliate Scheme, designed for groups which are not corporations but may be for-profit organisations; an example would be the Open Invention Network. Phipps notes that there may actually be a number of sub-schemes within this scheme because of the variety of organisation types the OSI wants to get involved. Also planned for before the end of this year are a Personal Affiliate Scheme and a Corporate Advisory Board (rather than an affiliate scheme) which will allow for-profit corporations to have input into the OSI. Details for these elements are still being developed.

One thing that will probably be organisationally ring-fenced by the OSI as it evolves is the Open Source Definition. Phipps says it is too fundamental and important to the OSI to be exposed to the process. As the OSI board recently instituted term limits, it would be possible for the board to be completely renewed over the next three years and, in turn, set out a new mission for the organisation. Phipps says that the most practical way to assist the process would be to get involved with the OSI's various working groups through the group's mailing lists, or if your organisation can contribute resources to help the evolving OSI, contact


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