Free Geek Principles

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Inspired largely by the Rochdale Principles, these principles were approved by the council on 8-18-2004 to guide potential new Free Geeks in determining whether they are eligible to use our name and to supplement our mission statement.

Free Geek Principles

An organization that would be affiliated with Free Geek must:

  1. Have a mission that is similar to and does not contradict the Free Geek Mission Statement.
  2. Dispose of equipment in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner.
  3. Use Free/Open Source Software wherever possible and must promote the Free Software philosophy in other ways, such as transparent collaboration with others.
  4. Provide low- and no-cost computer technology and training to their community.

An organization that would use the Free Geek name must additionally:

  1. Be democratically run in a non-hierarchical way that is open and transparent to all participants in its programs.
  2. Be a non-profit business (as legally defined in their location) and must follow honest business practices and have the stated goal of advancing the common good.

Annotated Principles

This section is an attempt to explain the principles in a less formal way and it may need reworking or updating. The incorrect usage of the term "fair use" was removed from the annotated principles section by the Free Geek Community Council in January 2009. [1]

Why these principles?

As staunch supporters of Free Software and its attendant philosophies, and as reg'lar folk who just want to do what we do and not deal with legalities, we approach trademark law warily. On the other hand, our project has gained a certain amount of renown and is attracting people who wish to recreate the magic in their hometowns. These are certainly good people, but we want to have some say over who we're affiliated with - and we want to use this position to strongly suggest to certain things that we feel are essential to what a Free Geek is. Some of the principles may seem strange or unnecessary for some people, but they really do represent what, to us, is the essence of Free Geek -- so here's our attempt to unpack some of those dense sentences.

Principles for Official Free Geeks and Affiliates:

  1. Have a mission that is similar to and does not contradict the Free Geek Mission Statement. The Free Geek mission, of course, defines the explicit legal goals of our organization. We don't want to require that affiliates have the same mission statement. On the other hand, we don't want to explicitly affiliate ourselves with an organization that has nothing to do with our goals, or relies primarily on new technology to fill its goals.
  2. Dispose of equipment in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner. We're a reuse and recycling center; a large part of our mission is environmental. We prioritize the fate of equipment this way:
    • Reuse: reusing equipment is environmentally better than recycling it, even, because recycling and remanufacturing equipment does have an environmental toll.
    • Recycling locally: we do as much of our recycling locally as possible, so that we can hold those recyclers accountable and so that fuel is not wasted in transport.
    • Recycling within the US: we prefer to recycle within the US because environmental restrictions here tend to hold recyclers more responsible than recyclers abroad that would want to take our equipment. As a last resort for materials that cannot be recycled in any of these ways, we might send equipment overseas to recyclers that can document their processes and we trust will not do dastardly things like dumping vats of acid into rivers or using child labor. This sort of thought process and accountability - evaluating options and choosing the one that's the least harmful (and the most helpful) for people and the environment - is important to us.
  3. Use Free/Open Source Software wherever possible and must promote the Free Software philosophy in other ways, such as transparent collaboration with others. The free software philosophy, with its emphasis on mutual assistance and freedom, is important to what we are; all of our software, documentation, and policies are open to whoever wants to avoid reinventing the wheels we've made.
  4. Provide low- and no-cost computer technology and training to their community. It's kinda part of the mission. But there are any number of ways you may choose to fulfill it. We find the stuff-for-service model works for us. Perhaps your organization will work best as a training lab, a grants program, and a thrift store. But the important bit is getting the stuff reused and the knowledge into circulation.

Principles for Official Free Geeks

Additionally, these must be complied with if you want to use the Free Geek name.

  1. Be democratically run in a non-hierarchical way that is open and transparent to all participants in its programs. This may take many forms. Basically, the people who volunteer at a Free Geek should be able to help shape it and determine the organization's priorities and programs. At the mothership Free Geek (in Portland), we have the Council, which sets overall policy and vision, and a number of working groups which involve both staff and volunteers in developing and maintaining programs. Much of the paid staff is a worker collective.
  2. Be a non-profit business (as legally defined in their location), must follow honest business practices and have the stated goal of advancing the common good. In the U.S. most Free Geeks opt to charter their corporation under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code, that is as public benefit organizations. This form of organization allows the group to operate free of income tax and to offer receipts that donors can deduct from their own taxes. Other countries have different systems for chartering organizations. If you are in another country research how NPOs are chartered in your country.