Elections are being held this week for two open seats on the Sakai Foundation Board of Directors. You can see the slate of candidates here. Votes are due in by a week from today. In the interest of transparency, I have invited all candidates to blog about their respective platforms here on e-Literate. Time is tight, so I may not get submissions from everybody, but I hope to get as many candidates as I can to post. I feel strongly that voting decisions should be based more on just, “Hey, I’ve seen that person’s name on list a lot; s/he must be good.”
As a sitting Board member myself, I feel it would be inappropriate for me to comment on individual candidates or even advocate specific platform preferences. But I do think it’s worth talking more about how to pick a good Board member in general. I invite members of the Sakai community—particularly past and departing Board members—to respond here in comments with your own suggested criteria, but here are some possible angles to consider when you’re evaluating the candidates:
- Influence: Sakai doesn’t have a strong central command-and-control structure. At the end of the day, progress depends upon getting various institutions (both schools and commercial affiliates) to step up with resources. It’s important to have members of the Board who can make connections with resource owners, both in their own institution and in others, to encourage greater participation in and commitment to the community.
- Leadership: Once again, because the Board doesn’t have a lot of power, it’s important to have somebody with both an attractive vision for the future of the community and the ability to articulate that vision in a compelling way. The flip side of this coin is the ability to listen to community members and become a voice for them. Board members should be good communicators.
- Expertise: At the end of the day, the Board manages a non-profit organization that fosters a community that develops software. This managerial role requires knowledge of finances, legal issues, and open source community management (among other things).
- Representation: Sometimes it’s important to make sure that a particular institution is at the table because of the resources and/or leadership that it brings to the community. Electing a representative of that institution can be a good way of ensuring continued or even growing commitment.
- Service: This tends to get over-weighted when people make quick “oh-I’ve-seen-them-on-list-so-they-must-be-good” voting decisions, but on the other hand, service should not be discounted by any means. People who have already demonstrated their commitment to the community are likely to honor their commitments as Board members as well.
- Diversity: It’s important to have a range of perspectives represented on the Board. Of course, diversity can mean a lot of things. It can mean big schools vs. small. It can mean universities vs. commercial affiliates. It can mean technical vs. non-technical stakeholders. Or international representation. Or gender, race, etc. You have to decide which kinds of diversity are most important to you. But any way you slice it, you’ll want to look at the makeup of the current group as you think about who you want to add to it.
Again, this is just a partial list. I invite you to add your own thoughts in the comments.