Movement roles/Working group meeting 2011-1-29/tough topics

Tough Topics edit

five clusters of tough topics were identified needing serious attention:

  1. Roles and Activities (addressed together, with index cards / a bulletin board and a MATRIX below)
  2. New models for groups
  3. Legitimacy and Accountability
  4. Finances and the flow of money
  5. Communication (considered too large to address here; to pursue online)

The first was addressed in group brainstorming, the next three in breakout groups. We did not have time to address the last properly; that's one of the topics to work out in the coming month.


See the topics and roles matrix for the results of this brainstorming

Additional notes on roles and types of groups:


Foundation : Board vs. staff

Chapters : All Chapters vs. 'some' chapters

("some" seems to mean, in this context: 'there is some distinction among chapters such that this task only falls to some of them'. for different tasks, different chapters will be among the set of 'some chapters' that share ersopnsibility for it)

Groups : Committees vs. other official groups

...and established unofficial groups vs. ad-hoc groups

Individuals : community leaders vs. other volunteers. Other?

Related ideas: Is the presence of staff in a chapter a useful distinction? do we want to create more categories that enable chapters to have models for their work? do we want to highlight regional or subnational chapters as a type? should we break out Boards from organizations? Just the WMF Board?

A: we should not be asking specific things of the community or of community/project-groups. this working group should decide higher level? [more formalized organizational?] things
D: there is confusion about these matters, and we should recognize it here.

Q: are we talking about groups like chapcom or MR? where do they fall?
D: we have no agreement here.
A: Brasilians are a group & CAT are an official group?
D: there's a huge difference between a legal entity and another group of volunteers?
D: exchanging 'legal entity' for 'official group' is one undefined for another

R: we have confusion about groups. [where I live, "legal entity" isn't such a big factor in determining what one can or can't do, or how much money one can handle]
C: brasilians/wikiprojects working with culture v. people who can enter into tm agreements?
A: 'I agree with everyone' we must decide
- what sort of group ChCom is
- where 'legal entity' matters a lot (and what it means. every individual is a legal entity.)
- when is 'use of trademark' really at issue? individuals or wiki-ten get to too.
- note we didn't set up an official org to run WM (and had a brand issue)
Q: Is the roles matrix addressing current role or ideal role?
D: undefined. Both at once?
Q: can anyone but indiv's participate (directly, editing?) yes if you include 'free hoarded knowledge'... archive releases, script/bot use, &c.

Q: What are the basic roles?

Q: What are the levels of involvement? [1-5]? doing it alone / with others / doing just a tiny bit?


(sj, galileo, morgan)

- Non-chapter options: non-geographic, non-exclusive options.
- Non-state options: better definition of subnational or regional chapters (cf. New York, Hong Kong)

1. Wikimedia Partner Organizations
Groups that are formally recognized and approved, with broad trademark use and many other tools currently reserved to Chapters.

Q: what tools and process would be different, between Partner Orgs and Chapters? (few differences, most would be similar)
1. Trademark agreement - yes.
2. Communication - public policies, laws, membership, commitment to movement ideals; full info about organizers, supporters. transparency.
3. Fundraising - WMF, targeted grants
4. Engaged with chapcom? - if it makes sense to expand its scope. discuss w/ chapcom and WMF Board.
5. Approval - by chapcom or equivalent.

2. Wikimedia Associations
Informal organizations that self-define and identify themselves to the rest of the movement.

Q: what tools and process would be different, between Associations and Chapters?
1. Communication - main contact, contact information, public information
2. Trademark use - ok for events
3. Fundraising - support
4. Approval - automatic, with review and possible revocation.

NB: Central groups would choose (or review after the fact, for Associations) whether we want to be associated with any groups. This can be done by articulating values that we see as non-negotiable, and defining some simple measures and standards that groups can apply to themselves.

[Other ideas]
Ideas for a broader session might define why to have a decentralized structure in the first place. What are they trying to achieve? Are alternatives competing with this idea?
C: Flat hierarchical structures on online Wikimedia projects have been successful, can we replicate the same for IRL/offline work
C: Additional recognition for Associations that go beyond the minimum requirements is easy, should not require another named 'group'

- Many groups want various subsets of what chapters provide, so they all want to be called a chapter. this makes it hard to separate out a priori what sort of models would work for them just by asking.
- We currently have only the chapcom working on identifying and shepherding through new group formation. bound to focus on a definition of 'group' which requires geographic scope, some agreement with any national body, and requiring incorporation.
- Interesting but unrecognized groups lack one or both of these.

Other options:
--> Interchapter organizations -- wait for this. we don't have one asking for recognition yet.
--> Cross-pollination
--> Tiered sections within national chapters.
--> Subnational/regional chapters: these are independent.
--> Chapter sections: these would be subsidiary to a chapter (none exist today). We don't have to regulate sections as a movement -- every country can have its own bylaws/ideas.

  • do we consider subnat chaps as something that 'should not hinder' national chapters in the future? let local groups have recognition within a national group, as well as making sure subnat orgs don't hinder the develompent of national orgs. Make sure that this does not feel 'lesser' at different levels, just descriptively different.

D - That may not make sense in small countries - so don't generalize and make it case by case. [imagine having 10k members in one General Assembly!]

A supported way to get local involvement could be a group of WM Associations, non-exclusive. (compare this idea with 'independent sections' or 'satellites of a mother group' each geographically exclusive. Associations would be by default independent orgs.)

A - you can do this through WM Associations, with low overhead.

Example: A highly-organized global Esperanto interest group.

Example: A Kurdish group could deal with everything Kurdish in a cultural sense. but another group in that cultural community willing to be a section of a national chapter would be fine too, if it cared mainly about geography.


(Anirudh, Barry, Bishakha, Delphine, Lodewijk)


  • flow of money
  • differentiation between sources and uses of money/moving money from one group to another
  • [regional] revenue needs
What is the problem?

How do we maximize income and match global/local needs were they are? (Not focused on legal/regulatory barriers to flow of money - recognizing that we need to work within these barriers in practice)

- maximize the pool
- determine who needs what for the next period of time and how to move money to where it is needed
- how to ensure that it gets spent well
- how to account for transparently

What are the problems we currently see?
- Existing revenue sharing mechanism is completely arbitrary (including the amount of funds that are available via grants) and does not account for the differences between where funds come from and where they need it
- Fundraising power is in the hands of the WMF technically and chapters are insecure about long-term viability of participation in the fundraiser
- Mutual concern/insecurity of both WMF/chapter on whether they will fulfill their commitments to agreements
- WMF is insecure in its ability to raise needed funds to support global movement priorities and this insecurity increases as new chapters are added
- Many chapters are not well positioned to spend significant resources
- Chapters face a challenge in planning relating to the predictability of availability of volunteers (might be a more limited challenge for larger chapters)
Options for allocating money more systematically
- Global annual planning process where all entities in the movement generate and share plans for spending; then we set fundraising targets and have a prioritization process that allocates overall movement revenues
- Allocation of base load funding to all WMF and chapters ADD funds via a grant-like approach for strategic (that support movement priorities) projects based on plans from the WMF/chapters ADD a grants program for opportunities that come up
Options on fundraising
- National entities "own" fundraising to maximize income including in the US where the national entities are able to fundraise professionally
- Global fundraising organization "owns" fundraising to maximize income
- Hybrid approach that combines local/global capabilities as appropriate
A - we need to organize fundraising to maximize funds available to the movement, not for sub-entities
D - on the extent to which managing fundraising locally (when done in a professional fashion) will maximize fundraising.
S - We need to engage WMF's fundraising team in this discussion and do more research on this question
we need to move from a system of pure 50-50 allocation to one that better matches priorities and needs in the movement
A - Agree that most entities struggle to spend resources available, we should match resource availability with their capacity to spend [use] well


(Austin, Arne, Lyzzy, Bence)

  • reporting and transparency
  • the whole and the parts
  • should there be synchronization of activities?
  • Do chapters have to follow movement strategy and priorities?


From where do entites get their legitimacy? Current examples:

  • WMF
    • Jimmy Wales forfeiting control of his project to a non-profit organization
    • Chapters, by way of chapter-selected board seats
    • The editing communities, by way of community-elected board seats
    • Donors
  • Chapters
    • Members
    • WMF via chapcom approval and chapter agreements
    • Donors
  • No one is clearly empowered to make movement-wide decisions

  • Minimum requirements for becoming a chapter
  • Minimum standards for continued chapter status
  • Goals and key performance indicators
    • Mandatory (ie. press, outreach)
    • Recommended (ie. glam)
    • Optional (ie. software)

Needs oversight

  • Evaluation starts within the chapter:
    • Provide processes, support and tools that enable chapters to build capabilities around reporting and self-regulation
    • Set up a safe space/channel to ask for advice / get help without shame (very important and a huge gap in today's system!)
    • Offer a process for self-reporting, or engaging a professional auditor. Explain how this can inform the annual status review.
    • Take annual reviews seriously. Define a review and/or decision-making entity that can monitor/give feedback and help resolve the issues (core to success as we want to keep chapters and help them succeed)
    • Have a clear and straight-forward mechanism for addressing chapter failure (in the extreme)

These do not necessarily have to be separate entities. The above can sound rather critical; how to frame the processes & reviews positively? [how does the WMF handle its reviews?]

Q: What defines chapter failure?

Possible related recommendations:

  • Bidirectional reporting?
  • WMF as a membership organization composed of chapters?


There is currently no single process for making movement-wide decisions. How do we settle

  • Decisions affect the editing community? (e.g. license change, flagged revisions)
  • Decisions affecting the organisations? (e.g. movement roles, organisation standards)

Possible solutions suggested in the past:

  • A Wikimedia council?
  • A community council?
  • A Chapter council? (Regional representation? removing the chapter-geographical bias)

(This was not discussed at length; but is an important part of this tough topic. More consideration is needed.)


(sj, others)

This was originally considered as a breakout group, but it is a large topic and there was not time to address it on its own. Some suggested it was too early to try to resolve it.

This is a core challenge that drives a range of issues/creates or destroys trust. It will be a thread throughout upcoming community discussions about the purpose of all of this, division of labor across the movement, why we want to achieve things together, and the original Q of why we are interested in a distributed model for our work.

Update: including across focused discussion threads through the chap meeting and beyond.
- how do we deal with private v. public lists, and the way adding org structure fragments the public discourse?
- confidentiality vs. transparency
- language barriers
- whether and how we share information
Example: the discussion on the es:wp village pump about why WMF was hiring people. The editors did not know about the strategic plan, for the most part. The final results of the strategy are not yet available in Spanish, and almost all of the planning was in English.
Example: conversely, WMF and others have no idea what is happening in the es village pump or in most communities.
- we need to work on a common vocabulary, starting ground.