Run a national chapter


Running a national chapter is like herding cats in a field while the onlookers throw eggs at you.

How this helps

The FFII exists as a network of smart people who work together on the hardest problems, much like a free software project. We also need to be able to speak to governments and businesses and journalists, and this is a lot easier if we are local.


A national chapter can be a full-bodied association with hundreds of members, or it can be an umbrella for other, existing groups who promote free software, open standards, etc. and who appreciate being part of a larger network. You may face many difficulties in running a national chapter, which we will try to address very briefly here:

  • Mission - remember that the FFII is not about free software (though we like it), but about the underlying infrastructure. Our starting point is that if the legal and technical infrastructure is not free, the market and the software cannot be either. A big part of this infrastructure is ownership, and thus we are concerned by patents, copyright, and other forms of property that can interfere or enable a healthy IT market.
  • Identity - some people feel that "FFII" is wrong for a national group, and start groups with other names. This is fine, especially if the group focuses on free software or some other specific domain. The FFII is above all about meta-organisation, helping people to organise themselves. Think of the Linux kernel and kernel drives. We would prefer that national groups call themselves "FFII" but it's not that important.
  • Affiliation - it is important that national chapters, if they are legal entities, become FFII affiliates. This is a big part of resolving possible conflicts of interest, which become especially important when groups compete for funding. Friends can become enemies over money, and affiliation fixes this.
  • Microsites - translation of FFII material, press releases, campaigns is a big part of a national chapter, because it's information that helps people organise themselves. Make sure you are able, technically, to create and fill microsites. is your friend.
  • Structures - create mailing lists appropriately. Usually, a public list for anyone; a 'cafe' list for active members who take the association seriously; a press list for those helping to make press releases; a board list, etc. We identify three kinds of lists: public, where anyone can join; internal, where only members can join, and strategic, where only selected active members can join. Secrecy is not good but privacy is sometimes essential.
  • Funding - if you do create a legal entity, make sure you consult with the FFII board on how to create a good funding model for the association. Sometimes member fees are enough, sometimes we need to recruit local businesses to help.
  • Campaigns - you build a national chapter by successful campaigns that make a difference. There are many things to do. Choose some, and work on them. This site ( has lots of advice on how to make campaigns. Campaigns make people active, and when they succeed, make people happy and proud.


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  • Pieter Hintjens <gro.iiff|hreteip#gro.iiff|hreteip>