What is a team or local group?
The FSFE is organised into topical, administrative and geographic teams, each with its own defined role, authority and responsibility within the organisation. Teams may be permanent (such as the coordinators team) or time bound.
Each team has at least one, ideally two, coordinators. The coordinators are the primary facilitators for the team: their role is to enable the team to do its work, to request help when needed, and to stay in touch with the rest of the organisation. This handbook is meant to help the coordinators in their role, but may be generally helpful.
Starting a new team
If you're interested in a particular topic or live in a geographic area where you think there might be an interest in FSFE activities, but there's no one doing anything now, you may be thinking about starting a new FSFE team. Welcome!
First of all: you're going to need help. Especially for a new team starting out, it's important that it's not a single person starting an activity. At a minimum, we would like to see two people in a team, but we recommend having at least three before you start working.
If you don't know who else might be interested, want to talk about your idea, or generally need some help getting started, you should email:
The same goes if you're already a coordinator. Anything you need from the FSFE in your work: help with mailing lists, help getting in touch with others, support on press work, getting business cards, asking for expenses, and so on. You can always reach someone at email@example.com who will help.
What the FSFE can do to help when you approach us about your idea for a team is that we can put you together with others who have similar ideas (if we know of them). We can help you write something about the idea in our newsletter, circulate information to supporters in your local area, and so on to help you get started.
Once you have a few people interested in the same idea, or even when you're looking around to find people interested in the idea, you can start a QuickML mailing list to discuss. You don't need any help from the FSFE to do this.
Once you've had some discussions about the team or local group (feel free to include others from the FSFE and let firstname.lastname@example.org know about your plans!), it may be time to start the team. Get in touch with email@example.com with the following information:
- A proposed name for the team
- A short description of what the team will do
- Who will be part of the team (to start with)
- Who is the coordinator(s)
This will then be circulated to other coordinators for feedback and assuming everything looks good, you will be invited to create your team page here on this wiki, either as part of the topical teams or local groups.
Special note on local groups
A lot of the FSFE teams are local groups: national, regional or working in just one or a few local municipalities. To make sure we have a consistent structure where everyone is included and receive relevant information, we have some particular constraints when starting local groups.
First of all: be aware and check what other local groups are working in the area you are. If you mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas, they can help you get in touch, but you can also find most information on this wiki too. We try to avoid too much overlap between groups, and it's good to coordinate between them.
Second of all: in some situations where there are a lot of smaller local groups, it's sometimes difficult for all coordinators to be responsible for coordinating with every other group. It makes a lot of sense for the coordinators to coordinate mostly with the local groups in the area.
In this case, we prefer to see the formation of local or regional clusters. For instance, ten local groups in the same region may form a regional cluster. The coordinators of each local group is then a part of the coordination of the regional cluster, and between them appoint two people to coordinate the regional cluster. The ones coordinating the regional cluster is then responsible for managing also the coordination and information sharing with other regional clusters, the national team, or similar.
The role of the coordinator
Being the coordinator doesn't mean you get to decide what the team should do. It's typically the team which decides what to do. As a coordinator, your main role is to facilitate the work of the team.
The work of facilitating the team depends a bit on the team itself. Some teams need very little support, others need a bit more. For a geographical team, it's often the coordinator's job to schedule meetings, arrange locations where to meet, and send out invitations.
For any type of team though, there are a few things which we expect all coordinators to do:
Welcome new participants
When we learn of someone interested in getting active within a team, or who has an interest in an area, we will introduce them to the coordinator. It's the coordinator's work to greet the new participants, show them around the team and work with them to get them registered for accounts, subscribed to mailing lists, and so on, as is needed to become active in the team.
Coordinate with other teams
As a coordinator, you will be part of our coordinators team. The coordinators team meet virtually (in an XMPP chatroom) and physically a few times every year, and also exchange emails on the common mailing list.
When your team is doing something which will affect other teams, it will be your job to let other coordinators know about this. And similarly, if you hear something from other coordinators about activities which affect your team, you should communicate this to your own team.
Keep the wiki pages updated
This wiki carry the authoritative information about all teams the FSFE has. As a coordinator, you will be asked to review this information regularly and update it. We recommend the team use the wiki for documenting and planning their work: this way everyone helps out to keep the wiki pages updated.
Support the decision making
All teams need to take decisions about their activities. Most of the time, those decisions are taken by rough consensus within the team and there's no particular need for the coordinator to engage more. Sometimes though, the discussions become quite complex and the decision making equally so.
When there's a need, the coordinator may need to support the group in the decision. This could involve creating summaries of the discussions and outlining the different options. Ultimately, if there's absolutely no way to find rough consensus around any one option (this happens very rarely), the coordinator may need to do an opinion poll or vote on the options available, to help the group move forward.
In any decisions, the coordinator should also keep an eye on what the group can decide on its own, what it needs to consult others about, and when it needs another teams permission too. Here's a general rule of thumb for what this means:
- Decisions which concern the activities of the team, which affect no other team, and use no resources other than what the team already has, can be taken by the teams themselves (example: the system-hackers team decide to upgrade the RAM on a server using existing resources).
- Decisions which influences other teams, but use no resources other than what the team has, can be taken by the team, but the other teams (or coordinators) should be consulted before any decision is taken, and once a decision is taken (example: the web team decides to re-arrange the web page structure)
- Decisions which need additional resources need approval from the teams which has the resources (example: a geographical team wants to organise an event for which they need a budget, and thus need approval on the budget from the executive council).
You may also want to check out our notes on group moderation.
When to ask for help
As a coordinator, you will face situations and questions which you can not resolve yourself. In some cases, you also should not resolve them yourself. When there are conflicts between individuals within a team, it can sometimes be difficult to find resolutions to them. We don't expect you to manage such situations on your own and this is an example of a situation when you should reach out to our staff who have experience working with such situations and can give support.
Similarly, if you aren't sure if a decision is within the merit of the group, or who should be consulted about it: ask!
And in general: any time you feel unsure about something, want any kind of help about anything, or want to learn more about being a coordinator: ask!