The Outreach Program for Women is a sponsored internship where participating organisations like KDE or Python or Gnome find sponsors to pay for interns to work on projects as a way to encourage more women to participate in free software, and has been a huge success in doing so. The Gnome Foundation runs this program for the other organisations, putting all the money through their own accounts, and charges an admin fee to cover their expenses in doing so. The problem that Gnome has is a classic cash-flow crises that often hits small businesses that try to scale up too big too fast: they needed to pay all the interns before the sponsors had paid the Gnome Foundation their promised money. As a result the Gnome Foundation dipped into their general funds to pay the interns, leaving them without any cash-in-hand to pay for their other activities. Once the participating organisations and sponsors pay their promised money then the Gnome Foundation's cash reserves will be restored and they will be able to resume normal activities.
So the real story is that OPW was such a success that it out-grew the Gnome Foundation's ability to run it in an efficient and prudent manner. I'm sure they will learn some important lessons and restructure the financial and admin side of OPW to keep the accounts separate and to ensure this doesn't happen again, because both the Gnome Foundation and the OPW are valuable contributors to the ongoing success of Free Software and it would be a real shame to lose either of them.
The story is also a healthy reminder that if you value the work done by organisations like the Gnome Foundation or the KDE eV or the EFF, then you should donate to ensure that they can continue that work. These organisations run on shoe-string budgets and even small donations can make a huge difference.
- B1 Systems GmbHLinux Consultant, 2013 - present
- University of CologneSystem administrator, 2007 - 2013
- BundeswehrConscript, 2004 - 2005
- University of CologneMathematics, 2005 - 2013
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