Affiliations Committee/February 2014 Statement

20 February 2014

Dear Community Members,

The Affiliations Committee shares the surprise and disappointment felt by many in the community with the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees’ recent decision to require all new chapters and thematic organizations to exist as affiliated user groups for two years prior to being allowed to formally organize, and the restrictions placed on the Funds Dissemination Committee.

We remain committed to serving the Wikimedia mission by advising the Board and the movement at large and fulfilling the mandate given to us, but we feel the way this decision was taken and its potential negative effects warrant public comment.

We are deeply saddened by the demotivating effect this decision will likely have on the volunteers building future affiliates, especially those who have already begun their organising work only to find out that the rules have suddenly changed. As a committee, we will continue to provide maximum support to current and future user groups, but that might not be enough to mitigate the immediate and long-term repercussions of this decision.

We are concerned that the decision sets a negative example for good governance and transparency in the movement. This decision was not made in a process consistent with Wikimedia movement values, and the Affiliations Committee has seen no evidence that this decision will achieve the Board’s stated goals. This approach taken by the board and the contradictory messages sent by this decision and subsequent communications will only demotivate the very volunteers the Foundation proclaims it is working with to engage and empower.

We share the Board’s desire to take a strategic view on how Wikimedia organisations can best achieve the goals of the movement and how we can support them in building up the necessary capacity for long-term effectiveness. Unfortunately, making a decision without any prior consultation or research does not further that discussion — it merely introduces an arbitrary change with unclear goals, impacts, and consequences.

While we appreciate the logic presented by the board, we feel ultimately that this decision was a lost opportunity to address the board’s underlying concerns. The limitations this places on future organizations creates an unfair disadvantage for developing countries and sends conflicting messages about fostering dependency on the Wikimedia Foundation for local programmatic work. By announcing the decision without proper consultation, the board has sent several mixed messages about process, alarmed groups impacted most, and discouraged affiliates from commenting by bundling and framing the two decisions in a way they fear will label them as being financially motivated to comment on.

It is our hope that the Board sees the publication of its decision as the start of a conversation and that it will commit to engage the wider community, the movement stakeholders, and experts in evaluating it. We hope the conversation will be constructive, focusing on how volunteers can best be empowered to fulfill our joint mission. We are ready to participate in, facilitate, or aid that discussion in the interests of the movement.

We encourage candidate affiliates, existing affiliates, and community members to leave on Meta-Wiki their questions, comments, viewpoints, factual briefings, and feedback on the Board noticeboard or the talk page of this decision. We are also happy to hear community members’ perspectives and hope to engage the Board in an open dialogue.

Best regards,
the Affiliations Committee.