2021 OSI Board of Directors statement of intent

This first appeared on the Open Source Initiative Wiki. In light of the election update this year, I am republishing my statement of intent on my personal blog.

No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive.

Mahatma Gandhi

I believe in the value of upholding the Open Source Definition as a mature and dependable legal framework while recognizing the OSI needs to work better with works that are not Open Source. My ambition as a candidate is to support existing work to enable a more responsive, more agile Open Source Initiative.

Twitter: @jwf_foss

Why should you vote for me?

I bring a public sector perspective to a conversation where it seems missing, despite the dependent relationship of the public sector to Free and Open Source works. In my work, I provide Open Source mentorship and coaching to humanitarian-driven start-ups hailing from 57 countries. I am an excellent communicator, I understand a subset of challenges faced by Open Source communities, and I have a collaborative nature.

I am also a millennial. The GPL was first drafted before I was born. My lived experience with Free Software and Open Source gives me a vantage point not well-represented in Open Source legal and policy work. My personal experience with Free and Open Source software is impacted by years of untangling my own digital life from technology decisions made for me, not by me. With that in mind, I realize not everyone can afford to be a Free Software purist, but we can still uphold the values of Open Source even if we do not use it exclusively.

Who am I?

I work as an Open Source Technical Advisor at UNICEF in the Office of Innovation. I manage and support an Open Source Mentorship programme for start-up investments and teams building Open Source products and communities from more than 57 countries. I also provide Open Source support to other UNICEF colleagues and recently coordinated UNICEF Innovation’s participation in the [on-going, at publication time] Outreachy round.

Outside of work, I have contributed to the Fedora Project for almost six years. I am soon ending a year-long term as the Diversity & Inclusion Advisor to the Fedora Council. I am a founding member of the Fedora Community Operations and Diversity & Inclusion teams. 

What are my qualifications?

I first contributed to Open Source as a teenager. I was a community moderator and staff member of the open source SpigotMC project. There, I handled user reports for a community forum with over 400,000 registered members. This is one of the most unique communities I have worked in, as the Spigot Community is a population of hundreds of thousands with an age demographic concentrated between ages 13-25.

Additionally, I am on the advisory board of Open @ RIT, the Open Source Programs Office for the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. This enables me to work more closely with academia, which has a growing interest in the growing ecosystem of academic Open Source Program Offices.

Finally, I regularly work with teams building Open Source solutions in support of children and UNICEF’s core work. I have lived experience of coaching teams on Open Source best practices across six continents. I have seen where Open Source worked well and where it didn’t. I bring this background and perspective into the work I would do as a member and representative elected by the Open Source Initiative constituency.

In summary, my lived experiences in Open Source, my connection to academic Open Source, and the humanitarian focus of my work make me a uniquely-qualified candidate for the OSI Board.

Interview responses

Luis Villa published four interview questions for OSI Board candidates on Opensource.com. I originally tweeted my response, but I copied it here for wider visibility too.

Q1: What should OSI do…

“…about the tens of millions of people who regularly collaborate to build software online (often calling that activity, colloquially, open source) but have literally no idea what OSI is or what it does?”

I am excited at the opportunity to contribute here. The UNICEF Office of Innovation (and my own Open Source Mentorship programme) rely on the Open Source Definition to guide our international Open Source work, even if we are still learning how to do it best. But without the OSD as a guiding light, our work is much harder. My team is well-positioned to be an advocate and voice of support for the Open Source Definition in policy environments where Open Source is not. This relates to on-going Giga connectivity work to connect schools worldwide to the Internet for equitable education opportunities for children.

So to directly answer the question, we have a conversation. Avoid anger when others choose software that is not Open Source. Avoid exasperated frustration when people pick licenses that are not Open Source. But the first step is always to teach & educate on the stories, values and history of the Free/Open Source community.

Q2: If an Ethical Software Initiative sprung up tomorrow, what should OSI’s relationship to it be?

The good folks behind the Ethical Source movement have done so. The OSI needs to be open to collaborate and engage with other orgs who steward legal works that do not adhere to the OSD.

I want to invite the Ethical Source folks into the conversation. How can we better partner together? If elected, I would commit myself to organizing a public town hall or community discussion with the Ethical Source folks. Coraline Ada Ehmke, Tobie Langel, and many other folks are doing great work in this space. So, let’s collaborate and work together.

Q3: When a license decision involves a topic…

“…on which the Open Source Definition is vague or otherwise unhelpful, what should the board do?”

The OSI needs to improve at saying what it is not. We are more clear on what the OSD is than we were even last year. As a candidate, I don’t have crazy ideas for the Definition. But there are things that are not Open Source. The world is changing.

We need to adapt. We must be nimble in changing with the world, or the values and motives of the original Free/Open Source movement are at risk of volatility. As a candidate, if presented with an unclear situation, I would take one of two options:

  1. If the proposed work stands against a principle of the OSD, it should not be approved as such, or the OSD becomes meaningless; OR
  2. Take an interpretive, “living document” view of the OSD for new copyleft innovations where the OSD is not clear or ambiguous.

For context, I am a copyleft believer. Promoting and advocating for the stability and integrity of Open Source licenses is a fundamental part of my interest as a candidate for the Board.

Q4: What role should the new staff play in license evaluation (or the OSD more generally)?

I don’t have an answer to this one. Foundations are mostly new to me. I would defer to expertise and listen to what others with more years have to say. I want to better understand the capacity and ambition of the OSI to take on new work with a steady staff.

I am a collaborator by nature and a team player. So, I want to enable the work for the OSI to be more agile and responsive in what I see as core, critical work.

That’s it. If you have specific questions, you are welcome to get in touch with me on Twitter or add a comment below.


  1. Dear Justin,
    I (@[email protected]) came across your name when reading a toot on mastodon by @[email protected] Then I read further, I found your blog and site, and I saw that you are writing about giga. What a coincidence! We are engaged as consultants in a project in Tajikistan, and UNICEF wants to roll out giga here, too.
    This note is to say hello, come into contact (if you wish), and ask a question:
    Is it true that giga is not built on open source right now?
    Or am I mistaken?
    Best regards,
    P.S. Feel free to answer via mastodon or email, if you wish to answer at all.

    • Hi Jele, great question.

      I work with folks on the UNICEF Giga team, but I am not directly a part of this work. My understanding is that Giga’s most significant impact is in policy and funding environments for investing in new communication infrastructure. This is in line with Giga’s mission to connect schools worldwide to the Internet. But there are still software pieces there. Most, if not all, are built Open Source by default. For context, UNICEF is experimenting with Open Source since 2007, so there is a long history of our work being in the open. We have not always communicated it most effectively though. 🙂

      See “UNICEF’s Open Source Approach to Innovation” for more context on how we approach Open Source in our work like Giga, the Venture Fund, and more. Hope this answers your question!

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