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Koha Governance: Observations and Options


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This presentation was delivered at kohacon10 in Wellington NZ on 25 October 2010.

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Koha Governance: Observations and Options

  1. 1. Bob Birchall FCPA, MAICD CALYX information essentials Koha Governance: Observations and Options
  2. 2. Abstract and License ● The term governance concerns how a corporation or project is structured, directed and controlled for long term survival. It is different to management, which is more concerned with operating issues. This paper will very briefly define what is meant by governance, give examples from other prominent open source projects and describe how Koha is governed and managed at present. The role of the HLT Koha Committee will be briefly described in the context of other components of the Koha governance model. The second part of the paper will focus on some perceived strengths and weaknesses of Koha's governance model. Finally, some options for strengthening the governance of the Koha project in future will be considered. ● ● Copyright 2010 Bob Birchall ● This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. ●
  3. 3. What do we mean by Governance? ● Concerns how a corporation or project is structured, directed and controlled for long term survival. ● Is collectively the set of systems that provide long term direction including strategy and accountability ● Includes systems to prevent fraud, conflicts of interest and improper conduct and to manage risks. ● Different to management: less concerned with operational issues
  4. 4. The governance function is generally discharged by a Board Its role, generally, will be to set policy, guide, coach, monitor and spot problems, BUT not discourage enterprise and initiative.
  5. 5. There is no single model of good governance. Systems must be adapted to the nature of the undertaking and the environment in which it operates.
  6. 6. How is Koha governed?
  7. 7. Koha's governance arrangements are open and informal ● Individual members, no offices, no employees. ● Discussion of issues – often vigourous – occurs on the main Koha email list. ● (Other lists – devel, translate etc – are more for management decision making). ● Another discussion forum is the IRC channel ● Regular monthly meetings are held on IRC ● Community property is held by HLT in NZ
  8. 8. Governance decisions are made at IRC meetings ● Regular meetings are held on #koha ● Monthly; mid-week; times rotated for world wide participation ● Attendance is open to all ● Chaired (usually) by Release Manager ● Content often 'managerial' in focus. ● Special meetings – again, open to all – are convened for decisions of major impact, for example: ● Foundation decisions ● Licensing
  9. 9. Horowhenua Library Trust ● Invited Katipo Communications to develop Koha ● Also sponsored development of Kete ● Rich history of support for free software projects ● Elected by the Koha community in 2009 to hold property on behalf of the community ● Holds the trademark formerly held by Biblibre and a number of domain names.
  10. 10. HLT Koha Committee ● The rules of the committee are on the wiki at A Trustee, Mr George Sue, is the current Chairman of the Committee ● The committee exists to advise the Trustees regarding acquisition, protection and disposal of Koha community assets. ● The committee is expected to consult the community on any contentious issue, before providing advice to the Trustees.
  11. 11. Other aspects of Koha governance: ● Software License: GPL 2+ – under discussion ● Kaitiaki: ● A Maori term for 'guardian' ● Role has existed since the open release of Koha ● Less active recently, but still valued by many ● Release team: ● Release manager, release maintainer, translation manager, documentation manager – elected by the community – accountable to the irc meetings
  12. 12. Has this open and informal governance model worked? ● Undoubtedly – look at the software! ● ● ● Can the governance model be improved? ● ● Undoubtedly – but in the process, let's not lose what we have!
  13. 13. How are other projects governed?
  14. 14. Apache ● Web server with 70% market share worldwide ● Apache software foundation: NFP corporation ● USA domicile (Delaware); 501 (c) (3) ● Members are individuals, not corporations ● Members (n=156 in 2007) join by invitation, then elect a Board of 9 members. ● Apache license – a free software license but not copyleft
  15. 15. Drupal ● Open source content management system with millions of installations world wide ● Drupal Association – a NFP association established in Antwerp, Belgium ● Supports and promotes the project incl. website ● Does not control development, which is responsibility of 'the community of developers' ● Controlled by 'Permanent Members' – admitted by invitation; elect the Board ● GPL v2 or later ● DrupalCon Inc. - US 501 (c) 3 organises Drupal conferences
  16. 16. Sugar CRM Customer Relationship Management software ● SugarCRM Inc. - a USA corporation (for profit) ● Community, Professional and Enterprise editions – only Community is open source ● Sales forecasting, reporting, customer portal and workflow all excluded from Community edition ● Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License (“License”) ● Other editions are cloud only, charged per user p.a. ● Pressure to upgrade!
  17. 17. ● “Free and open” productivity suite ● Sun Microsystems purchased by Oracle Corp ● Developers have left to form a competing project: Libre Office ● Project to be governed by The Document Foundation – details TBA
  18. 18. Umbrella Organisations ● NFP organisations exist to provide governance services for free software projects: ● Software in the Public Interest ● Software Conservancy – Both are USA 501 c 3 corporations ● Considered last year as alternatives to HLT and gained some (not majority) support ● Risk of 'asset lock'
  19. 19. Koha Governance ● STRENGTHS ● Mature, robust software ● Strong user focus ● Property held in trust ● Open and democratic ● Attracts developers and supporters with amazing commitment and skill ● Support companies around the world with competition in many markets ● WEAKNESSES ● Insufficient focus on policy, strategy and risk ● No code of conduct ● Roles of elected officers are onerous ● Not all property is held closely ● Competing projects have same or similar names ● Perception of disunity
  20. 20. What are the tasks of governance in a free software project? ● Develop policy and strategy (not of software) ● Appoint the officers? ● Manage the license and 'property' ● Manage relationships ● Enhance public reputation ● Prevent fraud, dishonesty and unethical behaviour ● Ensure transparency and accountability ● Ensure financial viability?
  21. 21. FLOSS CONTRIBUTION MODEL Brenda Chawna photos/68525432@ N00/5097692354
  22. 22. A word about values ● What are the things we hold dear and must retain as foundational to the project? ● Software freedom ● Open governance ● End user focus ● Respect, transparency, quality ● Others?
  23. 23. Options for the Future ● Odd that we are discussing this just a year after the HLT decision: have we given that a fair go? ● 1. Do nothing ● 2. Strengthen the role of the HLT committee ● 3. Join an existing NFP umbrella ● 4. Establish Koha foundation / association ● 5. NFP marketing co-op with either 2 or 3
  24. 24. Considerations ● Our values ● The needs and aspirations of libraries ● The models from other projects ● A thoughtful post from Marshall Breeding – open letter Sep 2009 ● Another from Thomas Dukleth 16 Oct 10 ● Support company pledges – Equinox, others ● The community is dynamic – developers, support companies, libraries will come and go
  25. 25. More considerations ● Which jurisdiction: ● France, NZ, USA, other? ● Could be hardest issue to resolve ● More data needed – and legal advice? ● Individual v corporate membership ● Role of Board v General meetings ● Safeguards against takeover / domination ● Other by-laws
  26. 26. Conclusion ● I suspect the overall mood is to proceed towards the establishment of a specific Koha foundation – but many will disagree! ● ● This will be a long and tortuous road – nobody should expect a quick solution. ● ● Therefore Option 2 (HLT) may need attention in the short term.