History of BeWelcome

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This page is written in the context of BeWelcome.

The beginnings of BeWelcome and BeVolunteer can only be told alongside a history of Hospitality Club, since this is where all the founders started and learned to love the idea of hospitality exchange.

Contents

July 2000

Together with his brother Kjell, Veit Kühne founded the Hospitality Club, inspired by other hospitality exchange networks like SERVAS.

2002-2005

The later founders of the future "HCvol"/"BeVolunteer" started volunteering for Hospitality Club, covering all areas of Hospitality Clubs volunteering from programming, spam checking, accepting members, forum moderation, translation to service for Hospitality Club members.

in 2005

Some of the core volunteers from the Hospitality Club - the ones who had been working so closely with Veit for years - started to question Veit about some processes which were obviously missing in the Hospitality Club. These special topics were the following:

  • the absence of any legal status for the Hospitality Club
  • the absence of any democratic system in the way of taking decisions, at any level
  • the absence of any transparency in the management of finances, at any level

Other aspects were pointed out too: feeling of manipulation of volunteers, lack of transparency on Hospitality Club policies for members...

Those shortcomings became even more problematic to the founders of HCvol since the Hospitality Club could not be considered a baby anymore but a real project that was actually growing very fast. Concerned volunteers felt the responsibility to work on these topics so they could evolve and, with some time and efforts, be implemented in Hospitality Club.

However, Veit never focused on these problems but tried to make volunteers stick to concrete work instead. He refused to debate and chose neither to involve nor to inform even the most committed volunteers on those issues.

December 2005

After many futile and highly frustrating attempts to push the above mentioned issues further in personal conversations, the time was there for more concerted action. A "manifest" was sent to Veit Kühne requesting him to work with the concerned volunteers on the mentioned points, or those volunteers would stop all their work for Hospitality Club. Regardless of that action, those volunteers were - and still are - totally in love with Hospitality Club, and never stopped working, but motivation was decreasing.


February 2006

Finally after 2 months of silence, Veit disclosed his position: NO WAY would he accept that manifest. It was clear for him: never would Hospitality Club offer transparency about money management, never would Hospitality Club be managed by a democratic structure, and for the legal status he suggested a company status or even worse, something based in the shady tax heaven St Kitts & Nieves.

25th of february 2006

A meeting in Dresden was arranged, to discuss problems and find a new way of structuring Hospitality Club volunteer teams and rework procedures. Only an inner circle of Hospitality Club core volunteers was invited. Many attended, some coming from 1000 km of distance, to help solving these ever growing problems in Hospitality Club and the big lack of motivation after the manifest was turned down. Two later HCVOL founders, Matthias and Marco, took part in the meeting. Two and a half days of heated debate revealed that there was no room for compromise from Veit Kühne´s side, as he did not give in on any topic. At the end of the meeting, Veit Kühne finally accepted to consider an external audit for finances inspection; he set a board of 5 persons chosen by him, and in which he would keep a veto right, to take strategical decisions - but explicitly NOT empowered to discuss finances and the possibilities of creating a legal organization - anything discussed in that board was to keep secret; he considered establishing a legal team to work on defining, what would be the best statutes for Hospitality Club and he talked about creating a page explaining his point of view on Hospitality Club policy.

For some of the concerned volunteers this was still not enough, and so unacceptable.

For others it was already a good evolution, even if not enough.

The problem, however, was that none of the good intentions have ever been implemented. The board had one or two skype conferences, where nothing was achieved. Afer six months, the board was officially dissolved. Two later HCVOL founders, Pierre-Charles and Marco, were members of that board.

But there was still the hope that Hospitality Club could evolve to become the organization that is worth its incredible members!

March-April 2006

A group of highly involved Hospitality Club volunteers decided to set up HCvol, in order to build a space of communications for volunteers, independent from Veit Kühne´s control. The underlying main point of criticism of Veit Kühne was that he wanted to prevent real communication between volunteers, in order to prevent them from discussing what he decided - be it good or bad. The founders of HCvol considered it unacceptable that Veit Kühne´s had blocked many issues for so long even though whole teams didn't agree with his position.

Is HC Veit Kühne´s thing?

The underlying idea of HCvol is the question whether the Hospitality Club was `Veit Kühne´s´ thing'. The conclusion that Hospitality Club was rather the volunteers' thing, if not the members' thing, was quite obvious. Consequently the Hospitality Club should be owned by a legal non-profit organization composed of the ones who build Hospitality Club everyday: the volunteers. It is true that Veit invented the Hospitality Club and there is no denying of him having done enormously great things for it. But great inventions transcend their inventor...

The mere thought of all the volunteer work being used in the future for one man's interest was unbearable for the founders of HCvol. Trusting Veit Kühne was not enough. Building a future for HC was ensuring that the possibility of Hospitality Club being sold or used in a commercial way could never come true. This seemed more important than improving HC website or accepting more members.

July 2006

HCvol being set more or less it was introduced to Veit Kühne. There were many hopes that Veit Kühne would accept that proposal of a new organization, or at least evolve in that direction. Veit Kühne´s radical answer soon destroyed those new hopes: NEVER.

Never democracy, never transparency.

Some of the HCvol founders, who had given so much of these last years for HC were even threatened to be kicked from Hospitality Club [1], and told that their only aim was to gain personal power.

September 2006

Since nothing was moving in Hospitality Club, it was felt that a real counter-power had to be built. It was evident that having a place for the volunteers to work out of Veit's control can only be a very productive thing. Only by word of mouth many volunteers had found their way to HCvol and started to use the forum extensively for all kinds of discussions.

October 2006

Since October, HCvol is an official organization, and so submitted to democracy and transparency. A group of 9 worked a lot to set an organization as basis of work in HCvol. They (minus one founder) constitute the first "Board of Directors" (which we call the BoD), whose role is to meet weekly in order to take any needed decision, to organize HCvol so volunteers can work well, and to make sure no abuse takes place. As soon as HCvol will contain a bigger group of volunteers, there will be a General Assembly and a BoD will be elected by HCvol members.

In the middle of the month, there was a (last?) big hesitation. Wasn't the whole project a huge waste? Wasn't there any way to work on a really new project with HCvol, but including HC members? So the BoD suggested to Veit that HCvol start developing a project on a new site (new website) but that the Hospitality Club database be shared. In exchange HCvol members would help maintaning the Hospitality Club site for a limited period of time. So the HCvol site would have been like a test site, a new site, which Hospitality Club members could have used if they wanted. It would have been difficult technically, but possible. After lots of hours of discussions one of the HCvol BoD members told Veit about that idea. Well, we understand why he refuses, but for the members, however, we would have liked that compromise.

January 2007

HCvol is renamed BeVolunteer and is totally dedicated to its project, BeWelcome[2].

The majority of the topics touching the creation of that new platform are being discussed among the volunteers, decisions are taken and all the teams and routines are set.

CouchSurfing volunteer exodus

During mid-2007 many former Couchsurfing volunteers began volunteering for BeWelcome instead, including 3 of the 4 former Couchsurfing core developers active during the short-lived CS 2.0 experiment. Begun following the termination in July, 2006 of the CouchSurfing website by its owner, Casey Fenton, following a major loss of data, the main emphasis of CS 2.0 was to be decentralized volunteer participation -- Couchsurfing was no longer to be dominated by one person. But during the following year, when many selfless volunteers answered the call and helped take Couchsurfing from the edge of ruin and marginal financial stability to thriving success with a budgetary surplus, Casey Fenton and his hand-picked associates, mostly in secret, organized a top-down pyramidal corporate structure with paid employees, all of whom are close associates of Casey Fenton. Independent-minded volunteers who raised questions about the integrity of the managerial processes, or questioned Casey Fenton´s unaccountable and privileged position within the community, were blacklisted and encouraged to leave. Casey Fenton turned out to be much like Veit Kühne. Some of the major issues prompting the exodus were secrecy, unaccountability, unfair treatment of volunteers, unkept promises and an extremely oppressive, one-sided non-disclosure agreement.

Thus, many former Couchsurfing volunteers share common values with the founders of BeVolunteer, and appreciate the work they did in establishing a new home for those in the hospitality community who support the enlightened principles upon which BeWelcome is founded.

October 2007

BeWelcome.org becomes the first Open Source Software [3] hospitality website, by unanimous vote of its developers. See the Press Release (PDF)

Here we are, now.

BeWelcome has been around for a couple of years and thanks to an ongoing range of missteps at the currently biggest hospitality exchange network it's growing faster. See http://www.bewelcome.org/statistics for a detailed overview. As of December 2012 there are more than 28,000 members.

Full of motivation to BUILD something, our minds free of conflicts from the past, and full of our experiences and hopes.

Go through all this information about BeVolunteer to discover its projects and how it all works!


References

The Software which runs BeWelcome[4]

Article on BeWelcome [5]

Wikivoyage about BeWelcome [6]

Canvi article about BeWelcome (Catalan) [7]

Indymedia article about Media and BeWelcome [8]

more ?


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