Last month I had the luck to listen to Muhammad Yunnus speak about leadership and change. His speech was full of inspiration and hope, his work showed that radical changes can start by questioning what we take for granted.’  Mr. Yunnus reported a dialogue with the director of a bank where he went to ask for them to start lending money to the poors. Quoting from “Banker to the poor”:

Yunnus: “But if you are certain that the money will be repaid, why do you need collateral?”
Bank director: “That is our bank rule.”
Y: “So only those who have collateral can borrow?”
B: “Yes”
Y: “It’s a silly rule. It means that only the rich can borrow.”
B: “I don’t make the rules, the bank does”
Y: “Well, I think the rules should be changed”.

And then he went on and created Grameen Bank, radically changing those rules.

I see in his logic the same kind of logic that lead Richard Stallman to start developing the GNU system.’  He knew the rules of copyright were being used to deprive computer programmers of freedom to learn and evolve software, so he changed them with copyleft.

The lesson I got from this is that if the rules seem broken then it’s time to fix them, even if everybody else takes them for granted.

Bradley is right to be excited for the phone call he received from a socially responsible investment company. While social responsibility has become a big issue for many companies, corporate reports focus mainly on projects to protect the environment, to sustain developing countries and to improve working conditions of their employees and contractors. So far, use and support of Free Software doesn’t appear in social responsibility reports. Companies instead mention more and more their support to Free Software (often using the term “Open Source”) in their marketing brochures. As a bad result, many people believe that Oracle is an ‘Open Source’ company, together with Google, nVidia and Intel since these have ‘Linux’ and ‘OSS’ all over.

I think we need a way to measure how close the actions of corporations are to the values of the Free Software movement and put such measure into corporate reports. We might discover that what they do is (or is not) far away from what they say in their brochures.’  This index (call it Free Software Fairness Index) could serve as a basis for classification of Free Software Business, on which socially responsible investment funds can decide to invest. This FSF Index could be an indicator of the adherence of the companies’ actions to the principles of the GNU Manifesto.

It’s not simple to summarize real life actions into a number, but there examples out there that we can draw inspiration from.’  What do you think?