The Barnstar Country initiative is a strategic vision for a radically decentralized regional hub serving the US and/or North America communities.

A barnstar

This model of evolution highlights the barn-raising tradition as a metaphor for volunteer-driven efforts and an appreciation of local cultures and histories.

It also seeks to provide a resource pool of social, legal and technical support for a diversity of movemenent actors, and to invest in software, tools and infrastructure for information activist goals.

Frequently asked questions edit

What does this umbrella organization do? edit

This umbrella organization manages paid staff who support wiki organizations in the United States with administration. "Wiki organizations" include registered Wikimedia movement affiliate organizations and other more casual wiki community groups who are not registered.

What is a wiki organization? edit

A wiki organization is a community of Wikimedia volunteers who are collaborating in programs and events which include off-wiki activities. Common programs and events include meetings, trainings, group wiki editing events, photography walks, cultural partnerships with knowledge centers like universities or museums, and social events for Wikimedia editors. Wiki organizations may have regional participants who are local to a community and able to meet in person, or they may be thematic and include anyone who shares an interest in a topic.

Differences between wiki organizations and on-wiki communities include that the wiki organizations may have institutional agreements with partner organizations, such as contracts for media sharing or co-hosting events. Anonymous individual users with Wikimedia accounts are not able to effectively enter such agreements, so consequently, there is a need for more formal organizations for some projects.

What wiki organizations may take support from this umbrella organization? edit

As of 2022 are more than 10 registered wiki organizations based in the United States, with Wikimedia New York City, Wikimedia DC, Wikimedia Cascadia, Wiki Project Med Foundation, and Art and Feminism being ones which have incorporated as 501(c)3 nonprofit organizations. There are between 10-20 additional wiki community groups which have been organizing projects.

These wiki organizations may join this umbrella organization if their membership wishes.

What support will this umbrella organization offer? edit

The umbrella organization's primary goal is to offer administrative support in completing activities which maintain organizational existence in good standing. Those activities include annual accounting of finances for United States tax compliance, corporate reporting to maintain legal status as a nonprofit organization in the United States, and annual reporting as the Wikimedia Foundation requires. As a secondary goal, the umbrella organization provide services of use to multiple or all regional wiki organizations, including fiscal sponsorship or centralizing conversation.

Why is this umbrella organization and its support necessary? edit

Having this organization offer administrative services is a proposed solution to the recurring problem and burden that Wikimedia community programs require specialized labor which the Wikimedia community is unable to crowdsource with volunteers. There is agreement that we want the organizations to exist and to do their community programs. For that to happen, there is a continuous need to complete administrative tasks.

Members of wiki organizations enjoy volunteering to provide community programming with each other and with universities, museums, libraries, and community centers. However, for every 100 volunteers who want to give their time to organizing community programs, only 1 person will volunteer to do certain essential but boring administrative activities. Wikipedia community volunteers have organized thousands of meetups for tens of thousands of participants who have contributed hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to the Wikimedia mission. With all that crowdsourcing, there is near universal consensus that doing office work is tedious, boring, and awful, except for a person who is paid market rate to do it as a job. Additionally when trying to crowdsource administrative labor from unskilled volunteers, this has on occasion created legal problems which are more costly than simply hiring a person to complete the task as a professional service.

Considering the size of the Wikimedia volunteer community, the scope of its programming, the high profile nature and public attention of all things Wikipedia, and the Wikimedia Foundation's multi-year budget plans being more than a billion dollars, the cost effective solution to solving the administration problem is hiring an administrator. The cost of recruiting volunteers to do boring administrative work is much higher than the cost to pay someone outright to complete it.

Why was there not an administrator hired in the past? edit

The Wikimedia Foundation has historic policies in place which tend to get applied globally regardless of circumstance and without considering differences in situation. One of those policies is that Wiki organizations should not hire administrators until and unless they grow to a certain size. This simple rule was effective for growing some wiki organizations, such as national Wikimedia chapters in Europe. In the United States, there has been no national chapter for reasons including the large size of the country, the desire of regional groups to only organize programs in their region, and Wikimedia fears that if there were a United States chapter then it would overpower other smaller wiki organizations. Consequently, no single wiki organization in the United States ever passed the threshold of growth to qualify to receive staff funding for an administrator, even though collectively the United States is home to a huge amount of Wikimedia community programs.

Why is now the time to hire an administrator? edit

Several things have changed in 2022 which make now the time to hire an administrator. Those changes include broad community support in 2021 to implement the Wikimedia Movement Strategy published in 2020; the drafting and anticipated publication of the Movement Charter; the recognized stability of revenue in the Wikimedia Foundation; the recognized global instability of wiki organizations around the world who do not have staff administrative support; regional community demand in the United States; and repeated consensus and approval from many Wikimedia community conversations and meetings over the past few years.

What governance does this umbrella organization use? edit

The governance of this organization will be modeled after the governance practices of Wikimedia New York City and Wikimedia DC.

As an organization with a mission to provide administrative services, it is anticipated that consensus decisions of other wiki organizations will design, guide, and oversee its activities. This umbrella organization will avoid strategic planning, programming, innovation, and the accumulation of power. Instead, it will seek to be neutral and support by deferring these things to wiki organizations in the United States. The power in governance of this organization may come from wiki organization statements or individual wiki editor survey responses. Nothing that this organization does should be surprising, and its activities should all be approved by other wiki organizations.

Of all wiki organizations, this umbrella organization should be the most transparent and have few or no secrets. If there is a need for privacy, then that activity is probably out of scope for this organization to manage, and would be better managed by any other wiki organization. Openness in activities promotes trust in the region, in global Wikimedia activities, and between the Wikimedia Foundation and volunteers.