[Foundation-l] The fallacy of power

Mike Godwin mgodwin at wikimedia.org
Tue Apr 29 06:01:29 UTC 2008

Samuel Klein writes:

>  I
> think the board's primary fiduciary responsibility is in ensuring  
> that the
> oversight of the projects not fall into the hands of any special  
> interests,
> something which giving outside experts seats on the board makes more
> likely.

The board has many fiduciary responsibilities, and the one you name  
here is not "primary" -- it's not the nature of fiduciary  
responsibilities that one is primary over the others.  As to what is  
"more likely," it is worth noting that the appointed seats have one- 
year terms, while the chapters and community-elected seats have two  
year terms (in general) -- whoever is elected to the seat currently  
held by Florence will serve only a one-year term, but the seat will  
have two-year terms thereafter.

> How is adding Board members with expertise more suitable than having a
> deeply trusted Board acquire and rely on a more broadly talented  
> advisory
> board?

You could ask the opposite of this question -- why shouldn't someone  
who qualifies as a member of a broadly talented advisory board not be  
eligible to be appointed to the Foundation board.  Either you trust  
your talented resources or you do not.  The restructuring assumes that  
trustworthy people can be found, either within the community (however  
you choose to understand "community") or outside it.

> My case for the converse is a worry about corruption.  Community  
> members who
> have devoted a significant portion of their lives to the project and
> demonstrated their gut-level appreciation of the value and necessity  
> of the
> projects are far less corruptible than interested and talented  
> outsiders;
> while the breadth of the projects' appeal has granted us the benefit  
> of
> contributions from experts from all walks of life.

I am not sure what kind of "corruption" you fear.  I'm not sure I  
grasp what kind of corruption is even possible.

> This is a strawman.   The current board is a good one, and  
> recognizes that
> the power to organize, inform, and guide the projects' social and  
> creative
> content movements lies with the community.

If this is true, then it is within the realm of possibility that the  
current, good board made a wise set of decisions and ought to be given  
the benefit of the doubt.  I tend to be an empiricist about such  
matters -- if there are changes, I try to keep an open mind and  
observe whether the changes are generating good or bad results.  Human  
enterprises being as complex and unpredictable as they are, I've often  
found that my greatest sense of doom was associated with changes that  
turned out to be for the best, while I've been blase about what I  
thought were minor changes that turned out to have grave  
consequences.  Nowadays, I try not to assume I know in advance how  
everything is going to turn out.

> 1. When the board changes the bylaws on short notice, it sets a  
> precedent
> for future boards to do the same.

The board restructuring and the concerns it addresses have been  
concerns of the Board for a long time, and not secretly either. I  
don't think "short notice" is justified.

> As an aside -- the Foundation is coming to see itself as "a multi- 
> million
> dollar non-profit" and not "a foundation to support and expand a  
> polylingual
> collaborative the size and output of the Marshall Islands".

These two notions do not stand in any logical opposition to each other.


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