Everything open source
May 16–17, 2016: Training & Tutorials
May 18–19, 2016: Conference
Austin, TX

Open source foundations 101

Deborah Bryant (Red Hat), Danese Cooper (NearForm), Deb Nicholson (Software Freedom Conservancy), Stefano Zacchiroli (Software Heritage), Karen Sandler (Software Freedom Conservancy)
5:10pm–5:50pm Thursday, 05/19/2016
Business of OSS
Location: Meeting Room 9 A/B
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 5 ratings)

Open source projects are increasingly opting to form an independent entity—a “foundation”—to serve as the core of their community rather than relying on good will or corporate oversight. Foundations often hold shared assets such as money, trademarks, and copyrights, provide infrastructure, and sometimes employ staff. Open source foundation leaders Deborah Bryant, Danese Cooper, Sam Ramji, and Deb Nicholson share their experiences and provide introductory guidance on forming, managing, and leading an open source foundation. There will be ample time for you to bring your own questions.

The usual disclaimer: Deborah, Danese, Sam, and Deb can’t give legal advice, so if you decide to proceed with forming a foundation, you’ll need to engage a professional advisor. They will, however, help by offering you a solid idea of next steps.


Welcome and introduction of panelists: Deb Bryant, board director of the Open Source Initiative

Should we form a foundation or join a host organization?

  • What is a foundation and what benefits does it provide?
  • Should every project be part of a foundation?
  • Should you start your own foundation?
  • What existing foundations could you join?

How do you form a new foundation?

  • Where should you do it?
  • What “type” should it be? 501( c )(3, 4, 6), eV, Stiftung, B corp, etc.
  • Regulatory trends

How should you staff and administer your foundation?

  • Staff roles
  • Do you need an executive director?
  • Outsourced administration
  • Managering volunteerism
  • Fundraising and fund using

How can you raise the funds you need?

  • How can we spend money?
  • Should we pay for code?

Open Q&A

Photo of Deborah Bryant

Deborah Bryant

Red Hat

Deborah Bryant is senior director of open source and standards (OSAS) at Red Hat. The OSAS team is dedicated to ensuring that its upstream communities are wildly successful and that Red Hat is appropriately involved in the standards bodies that influence Red Hat’s products. This is done through direct participation in projects, supporting community events, providing infrastructure and other project resources, and helping to promote projects to ensure their use and attraction of future developers. Deborah’s 20-something-year background in tech spans three industries: private industry and startups, the public sector and government, and education. She’s long been an advocate of open source adoption, governance, policy, and economic development.

Deborah serves on numerous boards and councils with public trust agendas and an emphasis on open source as enabling technology, including on the National Steering Committee for Open Source for America, as board adviser to Open Source Digital Voting Foundation, and on Code for America’s and IntraHealth International’s Open Councils. She also serves as an Open Source Initiative (OSI) board director. In 2010, Deborah received an O’Reilly Media Open Source Award in recognition of her contribution to open source communities and advocating the use of free and open source software in government.

Photo of Danese Cooper

Danese Cooper


Danese Cooper is vice president of special initiatives at NearForm, an Irish tech firm. Previously, she was head of open source software at PayPal, CTO of the Wikimedia Foundation, chief open source evangelist for Sun, and senior director of open source strategies for Intel. Danese was also the inaugural chairperson of the Node.js Foundation. She concentrates on creating healthy open source communities and has served on the boards of Drupal Association, the Open Source Initiative, the Open Source Hardware Association, and she’s advised Mozilla and the Apache Software Foundation. Danese also runs a successful open source consultancy that counts the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the SETI Institute, Harris, and Numenta as clients. She’s been known to knit through meetings.

Photo of Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson

Software Freedom Conservancy

Deb Nicholson is the director of community operations at Software Freedom Conservancy, where she supports the work of its member organizations and facilitates collaboration with the wider free software community. A free software policy expert and a passionate community advocate, Deb previously served as the community outreach director for the Open Invention Network, a shared defensive patent pool on a mission to protect free and open source software, and the membership coordinator for the Free Software Foundation. She won the O’Reilly Open Source Award for her work with GNU MediaGoblin, a federated media-hosting service, and OpenHatch, Free Software’s welcoming committee. She’s also a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. She lives with her husband and her lucky black cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Photo of Stefano Zacchiroli

Stefano Zacchiroli

Software Heritage

Stefano Zacchiroli is associate professor of computer science at Université Paris Diderot, currently on leave at Inria. His research interests span formal methods, software preservation, and free and open source software engineering. He is a cofounder and current CTO of the Software Heritage project. He has been an official member of the Debian Project since 2001 and served three terms as Debian project leader. Stefano is a board director of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and recipient of the 2015 O’Reilly Open Source Award.

Photo of Karen Sandler

Karen Sandler

Software Freedom Conservancy

Karen M. Sandler is the executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy. Karen is known for her advocacy for free software, particularly in relation to the software on medical devices. Previously, she was executive director of the GNOME Foundation, where she has since been elected to the board of directors, and general counsel of the Software Freedom Law Center. Karen co-organizes Outreachy, the award-winning outreach program for women, and is an advisor to the Ada Initiative. She is also pro bono counsel to the FSF and GNOME and pro bono general counsel to QuestionCopyright.Org. Karen is a recipient of the O’Reilly Open Source Award and cohost of the oggcast Free as in Freedom.