2024 Board Candidate: Julian Sparber

I’m hereby announcing my candidacy for the board election.

Name: Julian Sparber
Email: jsparber@gnome.org
Corporate affiliation: GNOME Foundation (STF contractor)

I’ve been a contributor for about 8 years, working on a wide variety of things across the project. This includes core apps such as Settings and Contacts and platform components like Libadwaita, but also Circle and third party apps like Fractal or design tools. Most recently I’ve been working on GNOME Shell as part of the STF project.

The reason why I’m running now is because I, like many other community members, feel that the foundation is currently too disconnected from its members, and not attentive to the community’s needs. Having more contributors on the board would help with this, and I believe I’d be well suited due to having worked across much of the stack and having good relationships with many core module maintainers and third party app developers.

I also believe that the foundation needs to be more proactive with grants, and my experience working on Fractal via grants from NLnet is relevant here.

If I’m elected I plan to focus on two issues:

Get contributors paid

One of the biggest issues we’re facing in terms of attracting and retaining contributors is that there are very few jobs in GNOME/GTK desktop development, especially doing direct upstream work. Most people end up either doing consulting on GNOME-adjacent technologies, working at a downstream distribution company (often largely on downstream stuff), working on low-level Linux stuff for servers, or take jobs doing something else because they can’t find a way to get paid for GNOME work.

This means we often end up training developers for years, only to lose them when they finish university, start a family, or can’t find the time for volunteering anymore for other reasons.

I don’t think there is a silver bullet here, but we need to do more of everything:

  • Large grants: The STF grant has shown that sizeable public investment in open infrastructure are a reality now. We need to follow up on this and do much more of it.
  • Individual grants: There are lots of small grant programs out there, which we’re currently mostly not making use of (e.g. NLNet, Prototype Fund). While each individual grant is small, they are large enough to fund one developer for a few months, which is often enough to push a long-running project over the line. The foundation should keep track of new grants, advertise applying for them in our community, and help individual contributors to apply for them.
  • Corporate funding for feature work: We’re currently not offering companies an easy way to fund development on specific features they’re interested in.
  • Crowdfunding: The same goes for individual users as well - The Blender Development Fund is a great example of how this can be done well.
  • Flathub payments: While one-time payments are unproven as a way to fund free software (and increasingly even proprietary software), I think there is a big opportunity in memberships (e.g. Github Sponsors, Patreon). However, I think this is a long-term project. It’s very unclear how much money this could raise at scale, and whether it’d be enough per-app to allow individual app developers to live off of it.

Bridge the gap between community and foundation

The foundation has been very disconnected from its members for years, which has been a cause of inefficiency and conflicts. I want to help bridge this gap and re-establish trust, primarily by making sure the foundation becomes attentive to the community’s needs again, supports their initiatives rather than working in isolation, and most importantly doesn’t get in the way of community initiatives.

To this end I want to institute a policy of hiring new staff from the foundation membership wherever possible. This would ensure that the foundation can benefit from these people’s experience and relationships in the community.

I believe that it’ll take time for the foundation to regain the membership’s trust, but ensuring all new hires are from the community (in addition to more community representation on the board) would be a great first step.


Thanks to his involvement in many areas of the project, Julian can take the temperature of the project and make sure that the Foundation’s decisions are very aligned with the community’s expectations.

His experience in grant application will also come handy to raise more funds. I second Julian’s nomination.


I second this nomination.

Having the fresh blood that is building the next generation of GNOME on the board is a future I’m here for. +1


Candidacy has received enough endorsements and is approved.