Status quo on the Foundation, October 2011

It has been a while since I have blogged about the Foundation status, but the Steering Committee have been very active on this topic in the meantime. Now that we are handing over to the new Board of Directors, it is good to document where we have reached.

First, we are delighted that the elections of the first BoD are now official. As promised, the Steering Committee has ceased its existence, and the TDF members voted on the new BoD in an open, transparent and meritocratic way. Gratifyingly, the Members have elected the core of the former Steering Committee onto the Board and I’m thus able to use “we” interchangeably in this report! The next election to take place will be the one of the Membership Committee, so expect an official announcement on that soon.

On to the status of incorporation. As previously planned, we approached three German federal states, and got very valuable feedback from them. One of our three candidates showed very strong support and is most likely to be the final location for The Document Foundation. We don’t want to pre-empt any result and therefore will not communicate the state’s name in public, but the secret will hopefully be revealed very soon.

We have included many improvements into the legally binding statutes, based on extensive input from many sources. We are right now in the process of translating the German legalese into English, so our new Board of Directors can make a final review. Based on the Board’s decision, we will hand over the documents to the authorities and hope for a positive reply. As soon as we receive that, the legal setup of the Foundation will be started and we will finally be incorporated.

We’d like to take the chance to respond to some questions on the process of legally establishing our entity. It has indeed taken much longer than we had initially expected, and we have to admit that our estimation on the necessary timeframe was wrong. However, the whole lengthy process has been educational and has led to a much more considered outcome. Together with the community, we have worked extensively on bylaws we wanted to have reflected in the legal entity of the Foundation.

In contrast to the the former model of having a single corporate sponsor – and different to what many other legal vehicles could provide – the Foundation we are creating guarantees endurance, safety and stability for the whole community, both for end-users and for private as well as corporate contributors. It also gives the community very strong rights. While previously – legally speaking – any community rules were arbitrary, the rights given to community members in this new model are not only binding, but legally enforceable by every single member.

Again: The rights we promised will be legally binding and enforceable by our members. There are not many – if any at all – communities giving such strong rights to their members.  Creating such an intentionally durable and strong structure from the beginning is uncommon and we found that this has been something innovative and new for our advisors as well as the authorities, which has led to the slow progress we’ve encountered.

We invested lots of time to express fundamental and legally binding rights for our community and that task has admittedly proved enormous. But the time invested so far is justified by the goals we wanted to achieve from day one – an open, transparent and meritocratic organization, independent from any corporate sponsor and designed specifically for the purposes of The Document Foundation rather than borrowed from elsewhere. We are sure spending this time has been very much worth it.


  1. By Jeff

  2. By Dave F.