GUADEC 2019 | Part 1: Passing the Baton

This year, GUADEC was held in Thessaloniki, Greece from August 23rd – 28th. I had a great time at the conference and took some time to travel after, so I was able to see some of Northern Greece, in addition to hanging out with some of the best people I know while at GUADEC.

Since there’s a lot of talk about, I’ll be doing two separate posts, one about the Board meeting (in this post), and one about the conference itself (next post). 

Board Handover Meeting

I arrived in Thessaloniki a few days prior to GUADEC for the Board handover meeting. I really enjoyed my time as President and Chair of the Board, so passing the baton to the new Board was a bittersweet moment for me.

For those of you wondering, I didn’t run for the Board again this year because I won’t have as much time to dedicate to GNOME in the upcoming months. I pride myself on being a really active and proactive member of the Board, so having enough time to spend working on GNOME-related things is important to me. 

Don’t worry though, I’ll still be contributing to GNOME. For example, I’m one of the lead organizers of the Linux App Summit, and am helping with some other big initiatives, such as our Diversity and Inclusion work, and measuring impact at GNOME

Setting Strategic Goals

Helping architect the strategy that the GNOME Foundation is following is one of my proudest accomplishments because I think it’s the most far-reaching thing that I’m leaving behind. 

When I first started on the Board in 2016, I began questioning a lot of our budgetary categories and pushing for the Board to consider goals for the Foundation and how to use the budget as an instrument of achieving those goals. I established an annual hackfest in order to start working more strategically as a Board and to do a deep-dive on the budget. 

Flash forward, and we now have goals for the Foundation! We started these at last year’s Foundation Hackfest, and Philip Chimento and I spent time earlier this year refining them.

During the Board meeting at GUADEC, we gave our list of goals as input to our Executive Director, Neil McGovern, and he helped us turn them into something that could be adopted by the Foundation and presented during the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Here are the Foundation’s long-term goals:

1. Sustainable Project & Foundation 

  • Sustain and increase funding levels
  • Increase number of contributors
  • Create and sustain infrastructure for Foundation Staff

2. Increased User Base

  • Foster a vibrant Linux desktop 
  • Uphold reputation as the most accessible desktop
  • Support improving the basic function of a desktop for everyone

3. Wider Awareness Through Leadership 

  • Develop better marketing and outreach tactics
  • Become an exemplary FOSS community
  • Evaluate and adopt new technologies to stay competitive with proprietary desktops

If you’d like to learn more about what these goals actually mean for the Foundation, check out Neil’s talk about GNOME’s Growth

It’s important to state that this is just the first step. The Foundation still needs to create KPIs, or something similar, in order to track and measure the Foundation’s progress towards the goals. 

Having publicly announced the Foundation’s goals is a move towards being a more data-driven organization and for us to be able to measure the GNOME Foundation’s impact. It marks a new stage of maturity for the GNOME Foundation, and I’m glad to have been a part of it.

Defining Board Roles

Since this GUADEC was later than other years, we held officer elections a few weeks prior to meeting in-person and had most of the transition stuff already out of the way. 

For those of you who missed it, these are the new Directors and relevant officer roles: 

  • Rob McQueen – President
  • Allan Day – Chair, Vice President
  • Carlos Soriano – Treasurer
  • Philip Chimento – Secretary
  • Federico Mena Quintero – Vice Secretary
  • Tristan Van Berkom
  • Britt Yazel

This year, the Board decided to split the Chair and President roles and adopt the gender neutral term “Chair” instead of “Chairman.” The distinction here is that the Chair helps to run meetings, while the President has some differentiating management roles and special abilities, like signing power for the Foundation. The President is also usually the one who speaks at conferences on behalf of the Foundation, in addition to the Executive Director, although, really, any Director can do so. 

Rob and Allan will work as a team to manage Neil since we found that having a duo approach worked well last year when Rob and I comprised the management team. 

If you’re interested in putting names to faces, check out this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), where the Foundation Directors and staff were presented to the community.

Approving Committees

One of the things that the Board needs to do each year is to re-approve committees. We found this out while I was on the Board, when we were re-evaluating the Foundation’s structure and doing a deep dive into the Board’s delegated powers. So, now, we approve committees and members each year. 

In order to make sure that committees are functioning well and that they have the support they need from the Board, we decided to create liaisons to the committees last year. 

These liaisons are supposed to meet with the committee members they represent at least twice a year and try to understand any pain points that the committees may have, as well as to relate the Foundation’s goals and make sure that the committees think through ways to support those goals. 

Here’s a list of the new committee liaisons for the upcoming year:

  • Engagement – Britt Yazel
  • Membership – Tristan 
  • Code of Conduct – Federico 
  • Travel – Philip Chimento
  • Sponsorship – dissolved since we now have a member of the Foundation staff to work on fundraising for the Foundation

During the meeting, we also talked about re-evaluating the committee’s membership in order to make sure that only active members of committees have access to sensitive data. This is something that the new Board will be following up on this year. 

Handing Over Tasks

At the same time that the rest of the GNOME Project moved to using GitLab, the Board created a GitLab project in order to keep track of our open issues. This allowed us to prioritize initiatives and work more effectively on complex issues. 

Luckily, I had completed most of the tasks assigned to me, so there wasn’t much for me to hand over to new board members. 🙂


That’s it for this post. Now onto the actual conference and BoF days.

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