Handing over - looking for our new Executive Director

Dear GNOMEies,

In 2017, I was attending FOSDEM when GNOME announced that I was to become the new Executive Director of the Foundation. Now, nearly 5 years later, I’ve decided the timing is right for me to step back and for GNOME to start looking for its next leader. I’ve been working closely with Rob and the rest of the board to ensure that there’s an extended and smooth transition, and that GNOME can continue to go from strength to strength.

GNOME has changed a lot in the last 5 years, and a lot has happened in that time. As a Foundation, we’ve gone from a small team of 3, to employing people to work on marketing, investment in technical frameworks, conference organisation and much more beyond. We’ve become the default desktop on all major Linux distributions. We’ve launched Flathub to help connect application developers directly to their users. We’ve dealt with patent suits, trademarks, and bylaw changes. We’ve moved our entire development platform to GitLab. We released 10 new GNOME releases, GTK 4 and GNOME 40. We’ve reset our relationships with external community partners and forged our way towards that future we all dream of - where everyone is empowered by technology they can trust.

For that future, we now need to build on that work. We need to look beyond the traditional role that desktop Linux has held - and this is something that GNOME has always been able to do. I’ve shown that the Foundation can be more than just a bank account for the project, and I believe that this is vital in our efforts to build a diverse and sustainable free software personal computing ecosystem. For this, we need to establish programs that align not only with the unique community and technology of the project, but also deliver those benefits to the wider world and drive real impact.

5 years has been the longest that the Foundation has had an ED for, and certainly the longest that I’ve held a single post for. I remember my first GUADEC as ED. As you may know, like many of you, I’m used to giving talks at conferences - and yet I have never been so nervous as when I walked out on that stage. However, the welcome and genuine warmth that I received that day, and the continued support throughout the last 5 years makes me proud of what a welcoming and amazing community GNOME is. Thank you all.

Cheers,
Neil

13 Likes

Thank you very much for all your great work and passion for the GNOME project!

Thanks for your work as ED!

Thanks for all your work Neil!

Sorry to hear that you’re leaving, @nmcgovern ! Thanks for all your work, and best of luck for what comes next.

Hi all,

As the President of the board and Neil's effective manager together with the Executive Committee, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on his achievements in the past 5 years and explain a little about what the next steps would be.

Since joining in 2017, Neil has overseen a productive period of growth and maturity for the Foundation, increasing our influence both within the GNOME project and the wider Free and Open Source Software community. Here's a few highlights of what he's achieved together with the Foundation team and the community:

  • Improved public perception of GNOME as a desktop and GTK as a development platform, helping to align interests between key contributors and wider ecosystem stakeholders and establishing an ongoing collaboration with KDE around the Linux App Summit.
  • Worked with the board to improve the maturity of the board itself and allow it to work at a more strategic level, instigating staggered two-year terms for directors providing much-needed stability, and established the Executive and Finance committees to handle specific topics and the Governance committees to take a longer-term look at the board's composition and capabilities.
  • Arranged 3 major grants to the Foundation totaling $2M and raised a further $250k through targeted fundraising initiatives.
  • Grown the Foundation team to its largest ever size, investing in staff development, and established ongoing direct contributions to GNOME, GTK and Flathub by Foundation staff and contractors.
  • Launched and incubated Flathub as an inclusive and sustainable ecosystem for Linux app developers to engage directly with their users, and delivered the Community Engagement Challenge to invest in the sustainability of our contributor base ­­– the Foundation's largest and most substantial programs outside of GNOME itself since Outreachy.
  • Achieved a fantastic resolution for GNOME and the wider community, by negotiating a settlement which protects FOSS developers from patent enforcement by the Rothschild group of non-practicing entities.
  • Stood for a diverse and inclusive Foundation, implementing a code of conduct for GNOME events and online spaces, establishing our first code of conduct committee and updating the bylaws to be gender-neutral.
  • Established the GNOME Circle program together with the board, broadening the membership base of the foundation by welcoming app and library developers from the wider ecosystem.

Recognizing and appreciating the amazing progress that GNOME has made with Neil's support, the search for a new Executive Director provides the opportunity for the Foundation board to set the agenda and next high-level goals we'd like to achieve together with our new Executive Director.

In terms of the desktop, applications, technology, design and development processes, whilst there are always improvements to be made, the board's general feeling is that thanks to the work of our amazing community of contributors, GNOME is doing very well in terms of what we produce and publish. Recent desktop releases have looked great, highly polished and well-received, and the application ecosystem is growing and improving through new developers and applications bringing great energy at the moment. From here, our largest opportunity in terms of growing the community and our user base is being able to articulate the benefits of what we've produced to a wider public audience, and deliver impact which allows us to secure and grow new and sustainable sources of funding.

For individuals, we are able to offer an exceedingly high quality desktop experience and a broad range of powerful applications which are affordable to all, backed by a nonprofit which can be trusted to look after your data, digital security and your best interests as an individual. From the perspective of being a public charity in the US, we also have the opportunity to establish programs that draw upon our community, technology and products to deliver impact such as developing employable skills, incubating new Open Source contributors, learning to program and more.

For our next Executive Director, we will be looking for an individual with existing experience in that nonprofit landscape, ideally with prior experience establishing and raising funds for programs that deliver impact through technology, and appreciation for the values that bring people to Free, Open Source and other Open Culture organizations. Working closely with the existing members, contributors, volunteers and whole GNOME community, and managing our relationships with the Advisory Board and other key partners, we hope to find a candidate that can build public awareness and help people learn about, use and benefit from what GNOME has built over the past two decades.

Neil has agreed to stay in his position for a 6 month transition period, during which he will support the board in our search for a new Executive Director and support a smooth hand-over. Over the coming weeks we will publish the job description for the new ED, and establish a search committee who will be responsible for sourcing and interviewing candidates to make a recommendation to the board for Neil's successor - a hard act to follow!

I'm confident the community will join me and the board in personally thanking Neil for his 5 years of dedicated service in support of GNOME and the Foundation. Should you have any queries regarding the process, or offers of assistance in the coming hiring process, please don't hesitate to join the discussion here or reach out directly to the board.

Many Thanks,
Rob

4 Likes

Thank you for everything, Neil!

Wishing the best of luck on your next endeavors! Stay safe!!

This topic was automatically closed 14 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.