Movement roles/Proposal

The following is a proposal for a process to clarify movement roles over the coming year. The proposal was approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees in October. It calls for an open discussion and resolution of key issues affecting governance, collaboration and decision-making across different parts of the movement, and sets a timeline for compiling recommendations about these issues.



The structure of the Wikimedia movement has evolved organically without much deliberation about the direction or the roles and responsibilities of the different players. Beside the Wikimedia Foundation, there currently are 29 established Wikimedia chapters and some other groups with ambiguously defined roles. The strategy for the growth of Wikimedia calls for an expansion of the activities of chapters and for the growth of new chapters or other entities all over the world. While this expansion can bring the sum of human knowledge to many more people, it could increase organizational complexity and confusion among all of the entities within the Wikimedia movement.

Therefore, Wikimedia as a whole needs to develop clarity around roles and responsibilities within the network of Wikimedia entities now and in the future. There is a need for a shared understanding of where Wikimedia is as an organization today, and how it can grow in scale: i.e. become more successful where it already is, and become a real global organization with a presence everywhere - not just in developed countries.

To that end, the board of the Wikimedia Foundation agreed on the following resolution during its meeting in February 2010:

“The board affirms the importance of a strong decentralized movement structure and its own responsibility to lead organizational development of the international Wikimedia movement, and directs the ED to dedicate necessary resources to this.”

In the following months, Jan-Bart de Vreede and Arne Klempert had some formal and informal conversations with several stakeholders - many during the chapters meeting in Berlin - to develop a better understanding of possible courses of action. At its board meeting at Wikimania in Gdansk, the board "approved the creation of a Board workgroup to manage the movement roles project and develop recommendations that will lead to a formal resolutions to be considered by the Board of Trustees. Arne Klempert was appointed Chair of the workgroup with Bishakha Datta and Samuel Klein as participating members. The workgroup committed to presenting their first recommendations during the October Board of Trustees meeting."

Subsequent discussions and a call for nominations lead to an expansion of the initial workgroup in August (see section "Steering Committee"). Since then the workgroup had several conference calls - mainly working on this proposal. An early draft was published on Meta and announced to the Foundation-l mailing list, prompting extensive discussion both on- and off-wiki by members of the community. This resulted in significant improvements to the document.

Purpose of the movement roles project


The purpose of the movement roles project is to clarify the roles and responsibilites of different entities, groups and people working to support the international Wikimedia movement. We believe that this is crucial to prepare the Wikimedia movement for growth and success in its mission to bring the sum of human knowledge to all people particularly in reaching parts of the world that currently lack a Wikimedia community. By clarifying how different parts of the movement can support and rely on one another, we can develop a coherent global network and avoid the risks of dissipated energies or duplicated effort.

These sorts of issues can be solved more easily now, while most chapters and other Wikimedia groups (and the Foundation itself) are still developing their individual and community identities. Uncertainties about movement roles will only become harder to resolve in the future, so it is important to start addressing them now.



Recommendations for the development of Wikimedia as a global network of organizations working together to realize our mission at scale - for everyone on the planet. These recommendations will:

  • Address current issues and investigate models that support a strong, balanced global network – ideal models should include support for currently under-represented regions, not only those currently represented by stakeholders in the process
  • Build on fundamental best principles, as well as incremental changes from current structures and systems

The recommendations will include a simple "charter' which will be clear and endorsable by the entire Wikimedia movement, designed to need no revision for at least three years. That is, it should describe shared values, roles and responsibilities that all can agree on and that are unlikely to change quickly over time.

Key Issues

  1. What roles in the movement should be played by these Wikimedia entities:
    • National chapters
    • Subnational chapters
    • Chapter committee and other groups among chapters
    • The Wikimedia Foundation
    • Other and new entities
  2. What are the rights and responsibilities of entities in the Wikimedia movement:
    • Rights of chapters and other entities to represent and initiate partnerships on behalf of Wikimedia in their countries
    • Responsibilities of chapters to dues paying members, other volunteers in the country, and the rest of the Wikimedia movement
    • Rights to use the brand name
    • Responsibility to raise money to support Wikimedia worldwide
  3. How should decisions be made within the Wikimedia movement
    • Specifically, which decisions should be made within chapters and other entities, which decisions for the movement should be made by Wikimedia Foundation, and which decisions for the movement should involve chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation. For decisions that should involve chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation, what process should chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation follow to make decisions together.
  4. How money should flow within the Wikimedia movement
    • Where is the responsibility for raising money: Foundation; chapters, old and new
    • How much money raised by any entity is shared with the movement
    • How transparent do entities need to be with money they retain or spend
    • How are movement costs distributed among entities
  5. How can the Wikimedia movement build coherence as it grows, and avoid confusion
    • Developing leadership in an increasingly global movement
    • Clarity of focus on shared goals for impact
    • Strengthening complementary relationships to bind the movement
  6. What changes need to be managed for existing entities
    • “Grandfathered” roles, duties or rights for existing chapters
    • “Sunset” schedule for “grandfathered” arrangements
    • A process for changing from current to future arrangements

Operating Principles


The project will reflect the board affirmation of “the importance of a strong, decentralized movement structure and its own responsibility to lead organizational development of the international Wikimedia movement”

  1. The process will be transparent, with participation and input open to all interested parties.
  2. A steering committee will make sure that steady progress is being made towards the determined goals. This workgroup is responsible for presenting a "neutral" view of inputs and developing a recommendation
  3. The Wikimedia Foundation Board will consider the recommendations of the workgroup before endorsing the new charter.
  4. The Wikimedia Foundation Board will ask the Wikimedia movement worldwide to support and agree on the new charter.



Key stakeholders will include the Wikimedia Foundation (board and staff), Wikimedia chapters (both existing and in active development), Chapters committee - formally a part of Wikimedia Foundation (as a board committee), volunteers, and informal groups which are looking for organizational participation or recognition.



Addressing these issues will require a mixture of facts, frameworks and facilitation.

  1. Together we will develop a fact base of:
    • Current roles of Wikimedia entities and movement members
    • Current and projected needs of entities and members
    • Best demonstrated practices within Wikimedia and from global movements
  2. To facilitate decisions we will employ select frameworks, such as:



This work will be tackled in phases, separated by the milestones of Wikimedia meetings. The main deliverable from each phase will be the preparation for decisions at the meeting.

  1. Wikimedia Foundation Board Meeting, Oct 2010
    • Confirms the composition of the extended workgroup as a Steering Committee
    • Endorses the proposal of the workgroup
    • Encourages all stakeholders to engage actively in the process
  2. Steering Committee Meeting, Jan 2011
    • Reviews of needs of Wikimedia movement
    • Analyzes best demonstrated practices
    • Develops hypotheses for decision-making processes
    • Sketches out initial draft of charter
  3. Steering Committee and Chapters Meeting, March 2011
    • Discusses draft of charter to be recommended by Wikimania 2011
    • Schedules discussion of draft charter at chapters and other entities before Wikimania
  4. Wikimania, August 2011
    • Steering Committee recommends charter to Wikimedia Foundation board for approval or amendment
    • Board discusses recommendation and input from chapters and other entities
    • Board announces its endorsement to all attending Wikimania and any ratification plan

Steering Committee


The Steering Committee to make sure that steady progress is being made to develop these recommendations:

  • Morgan Chan (Wikimedia Hong Kong board member; Chinese Wikimedia conference organizer)
  • Bence Damokos (Wikimedia Hungary board member; Chapters committee member)
  • Bishakha Datta (Wikimedia Foundation board member)
  • Samuel Klein (Wikimedia Foundation board member)
  • Arne Klempert (Wikimedia Foundation board member; Chair of the workgroup)
  • Barry Newstead (Wikimedia Foundation staff; Chief Global Development Officer)
  • Galileo Vidoni (Wikimedia Argentina board member)
  • Alice Wiegand (Wikimedia Deutschland board member; Involved in WMDE's and WMF's strategy processes)

With advice and facilitation from:

  • Jon Huggett (Consultant with 25 years of experience in the field of management of global NGOs and businesses)
  • Austin Hair (Chapters committee member and long-time community volunteer)

The Steering Committee may adjust its membership as needed.