Open main menu

Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Thinking about the WMF Board composition

Contents

Clarifications and backgroundEdit

Current breakdownEdit

Just repeating this from the subject-space page for reference. The current breakdown (as defined at wmf:Bylaws) is:

3 community-selected seats
2 affiliate-selected seats
4 appointed seats
0–1 founder seat

For a total of 9–10 seats. --MZMcBride (talk) 16:51, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

I corrected an imprecision. --Nemo 07:33, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Impact on other community based entitiesEdit

A question I have heard asked off-wiki, but did not see here, is what impact - if any - will this have on - or what might it indicate about the future of - other community entities like the ArbCom, HR Committee, Audit Committee, FDC, AffCom, and Affiliates? In other words, is this an indication of changes to come to those groups? Is the board committed to the future of those entities? If so, is that commitment based on WMF values or also subject to future amending? Is there reason to believe that changes could be coming to the movement affiliates model that are a part of the desires stated on the main page? Just wanted to make sure these questions were brought up before things proceeded much. :) Thanks! --Varnent (talk)(COI) 00:43, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Hi Greg, if these are the questions the community and/or affiliates worry about, I'm glad that you raised them. I will try to give you a short yet clarifying answer. In our November 2014 retreat the Board talked about the necessity to improve the Board, it's practices and structures to empower it to develop in accordance with the organization's development. We all agreed that this isn't done with a singular change (i.e. the Board's composition) but needs a longer wind and will address issues like term limits, advisory board, decision making processes, meeting practices, Board committees like Audit, BGC and HR and more. We started with Board composition because we a) wanted to create certainty about changes to known processes sufficiently in advance of the respectes s/elections and b) thought that changes to the composition influence most of the other topics as well. That's where we come from and that's why we are talking about Board composition here and now. To address the concerns: Arbcom isn't in the scope of Board responsibilities (and it should never be if you ask me). Our own Board committees like Audit, HR and BGC will be topic at some time in this shaping process, because we want to review their responsibilities and workload, and find paths to get better without overloading the committee members. This hasn't anything to do with FDC or Affcom. These are committees which advise the Board and we are very gratefull for their commitment. And sure, personally I hope that these committees also reflect their own work and draw corresponding conclusions. For Affcom -- where I am one of the liaisons -- I know that they already do and I don't have a doubt that it is what FDC also does. For all the rest of your questions I just want to emphasize that there is no evil masterplan in the drawer. We try to get the Board to the next level, which for many reasons is harder than we've thought in November. It's not becoming easier if we mix it up with all imaginable issues in our broader community or especially affiliates. Alice Wiegand (talk) 19:53, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

The value of a majority drawn from the communityEdit

Response to request for inputEdit

My ideal Wikimedia Board would always have a majority of people drawn from the community (realizing that this is not de jure the current state), and the focus on diversity would apply to surfacing and co-opting people within the community who have the skillsets needed on the Board. I think merging the affiliate and community seats is acceptable as long as the total number of "community" seats doesn't decline; I'd actually like to see a rule binding on future boards that prevents any reduction in the community representation on the Board. The desire behind allocating board seats to chapter elections was legitimate and laudable, but it's become clear that there are many weaknesses to this method. Returning the community seats to direct election provides superior responsibility and engagement with the community as a whole. Nathan T 21:02, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I'm not sure it's really possible to have a binding rule for future boards, but I agree with most of what you're saying here. Is there a reason not to have all community-elected seats? We have an Advisory Board for outside counsel. --MZMcBride (talk) 00:06, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
The main reason has always been that there are types of people we need on the board (not just advisory) who are unlikely to stand for election, and unlikely to win if they did stand (due to not being known in the community and not able to effectively campaign within the community). There appears as well, to be no real need for a rule like that, as it doesn't seem to solve any problem that we actually have. Advisory Boards for outside counsel are no substitute for actual board membership for a couple of reasons. First, the track record of every organization that I'm aware of is that advisory boards are not very strongly engaged and it is very difficult to get them to engage at the level needed for deep understanding of the issues. Second, for the kinds of extremely talented and successful people we'd like to attract as board members, an advisory board position is not sufficient inducement - if they are going to pour their heart and mind into helping, they'd like to have some actual say in what ends up happening - a board vote gives that, an advisory title does not.--90.214.243.196 10:59, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm not familiar in detail with all the by-laws, but a measure added with the requirement that adjusting it requires a supermajority or some other very high bar would be binding for practical purposes. Nathan T 00:24, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
Indeed. (If such a clause is allowed by the Florida law.) --Nemo 11:18, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
Nemo, maybe this is the right place to make your comment on this as to the Letter to Wikimedia Foundation: Superprotect and Media Viewer?   Lotje (talk) 06:55, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

As to how many trustees it takes to make certain critical decisions: yes, I believe that can be set to a supermajority. The value of a community majority was not in question here (though the language in the bylaws, "A majority of the Board Trustee positions, without counting the Community Founder Trustee position", seems controversial with some. SJ talk  14:47, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

Ensuring community majorityEdit

As a reminder, the community must have at very least 50 % +1 seats, not including Jimbo: assurances in this regard were given, but not respected. Also, anyone who's been in the board for 5 or more years doesn't qualify for "community" in this sense. Steps should be taken to ensure that community trustees are not cornered in the board by means other than votes, like insufficient democratic protection of minorities, "harassment"/mobbing by staff or "log-rolling, self-dealing, and other corrupt practices". --Nemo 21:07, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

Not sure if you are reminding us of your opinion or the facts. If you insist on not counting Jimmy the community has always had 50% of the seats, not 50% +1 .... If you do count Jimmy as a community member (which we do) then it has always been 50%+1seat. In the example you link to Jimmy has not been the only one who chose a specific solution, but there was always at least one community (s)elected member who joined him in that vote. Jan-Bart (talk) 19:38, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm reminding you of your promises. Whether the promises were facts or vacuous statements, is for you to decide. In that example, all community-elected non-officer trustees voted in one way, and they lost because of Jimbo's vote. The community member who had been elected as officer aligned with the majority, which is a consequence of the lack of protection and representation for minorities (i.e. the community) mentioned above. --Nemo 20:47, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
I am still not sure what vote you are talking about. If 100% of the community members voted against something there CANNOT be a majority for something, regardless of how Jimmy votes... Jan-Bart (talk) 14:32, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm baffled here too. Do you mean the November 2013 Movement Roles vote, Nemo? In that case, Alice and Phoebe were part of the majority, Phoebe holding a community-elected seat and Alice a chapter-selected seat. I'm also not really clear what you mean by "non-officer" trustees here. I don't know whether Phoebe held any Board position at the time, I think Alice was chair of the Governance Committee, though I don't know why being chair of the governance committee would influence someone's views on movement roles in any particular. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 17:08, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
  • In Nov. 13 I was vice-chair, which I think is what Nemo is alluding to, although being V-C didn't have anything to do with how I voted then (or ever, afaik). To Nemo's other points, harassment of community trustees though any of the mechanisms mentioned is not a problem. We do have robust, honest debate and sometimes as individuals disagree on the best course forward. If you are talking about movement roles, that was a difficult vote for everyone, with many strong arguments on both sides. -- phoebe | talk 01:34, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
@Jan-Bart: The community is represented by 30% of Board members. In my book, 30% has never been equal to 50%, or even 50%+1, but I understand that mathematics might change depending on where you sit in during Board meetings. odder (talk) 07:04, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
Ok, we are counting the affiliate selected seats as community seats, if you do not feel that is true then please look at the fact that these candidates largely overlap (remember that Frieda & Phoebe were both (s)elected by both proceses).Jan-Bart (talk) 14:32, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
Affiliate-selected boards seats *are* representing the community, since affiliates are part of the community; actually, calling "community seats" the ones elected on-wiki is misleading. However, Jimbo is not selected by the community, and I don't see how it could be counted as community (we have never elected him...). Thus, we are exactly at 50% (which, IMHO, is not enough for our movement). - Laurentius (talk) 09:00, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

I agree that calling one of the two 'community seats' is misleading. General election v. affiliate selection? And while the language about a majority in the current bylaws is a bit convoluted (one of the sections that could be cleaned up), it is clear about which seats are counted: "A majority of the Board Trustee positions, without counting the Community Founder Trustee position, shall be selected or appointed from the Chapters and Thematic Organizations collectively and the community." SJ talk 

Thanks for pointing it out. The assumption of that sentence ("without counting") is that the 10th (optional) seat, taken by the founder, "doesn't matter" to determine the majority. However, facts have now abundantly proven that it does matter, so reality should be put in line with language by clarifying the bylaws. Solutions are hard to choose among, but easy to write down (sometimes as easy as removing those two words): eliminate the founder seat, make the founder subject to election, add "democratic" seats, reduce appointed seats, etc. --Nemo 21:11, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

I don't understand this "anyone who's been in the board for 5 or more years doesn't qualify for "community"". Is it a way to push turn-over between board members? Are you trying to set an expiration date to the experience of being part of community? --Frieda (talk) 11:02, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Frieda, you can compare it to an expiration date if you wish; but it's really just about the natural sclerotisation of collegial bodies. Ideally (or normally), there would be term limits for everyone, like Laurentius says below. Less ideally, term limits should apply to community seats. At a minimum, "ancient" board members must not be counted as a community majority, otherwise we add insult to injury. --Nemo 13:42, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't quite get it. If these members keep being re-elected for community seats by the very community, they should count. After all, I can't see any reason why the community should be even forced to choose from within itself - if the community decided to elect someone from the outside, we should be perfectly allowed to do so. This is theoretical, but shows why ultimately the mandate comes from the community support, all in all. Pundit (talk) 18:03, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Pundit, the most important thing is community support, no matter where the candidates come from.--Pharos (talk) 21:08, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't see a contradiction. We don't have perfect ways to gauge community support, so nobody can claim "I have community support and everything else doesn't matter". Considering the time served in the board IMHO helps gauge real community support. Nemo 22:24, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

Sobre la elegibilidad del Board (increasing elected seats)Edit

Hay mucho que resolver en cuanto a la gobernanza de nuestro movimiento, no hay duda. Los capítulos y organizaciones temáticas constituimos una parte esencial en el movimiento, y la diversidad que aportan es uno de los pilares del mismo, aunque haya ciertas voces tanto en la Fundación Wikimedia como en el Board que opinen lo contrario. Por fortuna son sólo eso, opiniones. Nadie es menos por ser de una determinada afiliación en Wikimedia, no es ni siquiera necesario que alguien se integre a una organización. Pero todas y todos aquellos que son parte de este movimiento como afiliados han hecho un esfuerzo extra en todos aspectos: tiempo, dinero, sacrificio de vida familiar, trabajo con muchos resultados y pocos recursos, y mucho más allá, ser la cara visible del movimiento Wikimedia ante el mundo real u organizar Wikimanía: sea mostrarse ante el alcalde de una ciudad, la directora de un museo o un grupo de estudiantes entusiastas. Y además de todo eso, un largo camino de trámites con el fin de garantizar confianza y permanencia a Wikimedia como una institución seria e internacional.

Cuando me integré a este movimiento recién había pasado el episodio de Haifa, desde entonces no me queda claro como es que una fundación por un lado empodera a voluntarios y voluntarias, les brinda confianza y apoyo y, por el otro parece querer acotar toda su valía. Cuando en realidad son una misma cosa complementaria y entre todos y todas construimos una misma misión.

Más flexibilidad para mi significa que todos los asientos del Board entonces sean elegibles. ¿Qué legitimidad puede comunicar no sólo a nuestros entusiastas sino a otras fundaciones mundiales el hecho de que parte de su comité es elegido por designio divino? En la antigüedad, los líderes expertos eran elegidos de dicha forma, por designios que los no-expertos no lograban entender. Leo por aquí algunos ejemplos de legitimidad, representación numeral y de democracia basados en el modelo estadounidense. Creo que para muchos en esta discusión no nos parece un ejemplo el sistema democrático de los Estados Unidos. Ni mucho menos aspiramos a que nuestro movimiento tenga regulaciones parecidas. En mi experiencia, como politóloga, nuestro movimiento debe aprender de la representatividad y de las formas de trabajo en la diversidad en nuestros países. La fuerza de Wikimedia, en mi opinión, crecerá por formar su propia identidad como organización y que eso se vea reflejada en sus procesos administrativos, aunque sean separados de las condiciones que le dan origen o el lugar físico en que se basa la sede.

More flexibility for me means that every seat in the Board would be elected. What legitimacy can we communicate not only to our enthusiasts, but also to other global foundations, that part of your board is elected by divine design? In ancient times, leading experts were chosen in such a way, for reasons that non-experts could not understand. I read for this various examples of legitimacy, representation and democracy, based on the American model. I think for many, in this discussion we do not see an example of the democratic system of the United States. Even less hope that our movement will have similar regulations. In my experience, as a political scientist, our movement must learn representation and ways of working from the diversity in our countries. The strength of Wikimedia, in my opinion, will grow from forming its own identity as an organization, and that is reflected in its administrative processes, even if separated from the conditions that gave rise to it or the physical place where the headquarters is based.

Para poner un ejemplo más diverso, la ONU tiene como organización dinámicas, rutinas y también intereses que son distintos de los estados que la componen, y así cualquier organización internacional, estatal o de la sociedad civil. Pero todas deben guardar una relación de legitimidad y representación (aunque sea delegada) con sus integrantes. La Fundación no tiene miembros, pero tampoco tiene accionistas. Tiene una enorme comunidad de voluntarios y voluntarias de Wikipedia, y otros proyectos, a los que se debe y a los que debe rendir cuentas. Para hacerlo más y mejor, debe tener una Mesa Directiva que pueda dar cuenta de los intereses de quienes hacen Wikimedia. De quienes le damos vida día a día: corrigiendo un pequeño pedazo de Wikisource o cerrando un convenio de grandes dimensiones con una entidad de gobierno.

Entender el Board como un cuerpo meramente utilitario, sujeto a las necesidades u opiniones del staff, es desentender su naturaleza eminentemente política. Y desconocer el funcionamiento de nuestro movimiento. Si la Fundación hace eso, pone en riesgo su propia efectividad, por eso cualquier discusión debe ser sobre cómo ampliar la participación y la representación de la comunidad, no sobre disminuirla. Menos cuando no es un planteo que venga de la comunidad: sería oportuno que se dijera de dónde viene, que los responsables de plantearlo asuman de dónde vino la idea. Mientras tanto, si a la Mesa le interesa conocer la opinión de la comunidad, no tiene más que recoger los valiosos aportes y propuestas de esta discusión, que van en un sentido bastante diferente al sugerido.

La diversidad en la elección de estos dos asientos está dada. No sé entonces si hablamos de diferentes conceptos o entendemos por diversidad algo diferente. Mi propuesta es además de tener dos asientos como capítulos, podemos añadir dos más de afiliados. Igualmente en la selección del pool de nominados, no veo que la opinión de ciertos "expertos" sea diferente a la de mucha gente valiosa en esta comunidad.

Me queda claro que todo el esfuerzo que hago no es para una corporación, es para un proyecto que hace que mi corazón lata y que como yo hay miles de voluntarias y voluntarios, no somos una empresa o corporación ya que la única remuneración que hay es ver cristalizado este esfuerzo, pienso que los que debemos tener la última palabra (o elegir) son los que hacemos este trabajo.--Wotancito (talk) 08:09, 20 February 2015 (UTC)


Wotancito, muchas gracias por compartir tu opinión (imagino que ya aparecerá alguien para traducir, pero mientras tanto puedo ir contestando yo :-)). Como dices, a lo largo de esta discusión se ha incidido varias veces en la posibilidad de que todos los asientos sean de una forma u otra electos por los miembros de la comunidad, incluyendo los que podemos llamar "expertos", que son los únicos que no pasan por dicha ratificación comunitaria (el otro es el asiento del fundador). En la actualidad, la Mesa elige directamente a cuatro de sus miembros mediante procesos laboriosos semejantes a la selección de personal, en base a características que percibe necesita o va a necesitar. Me interesaría saber si crees que podría haber algún sistema, quizá de ratificación, que implicara más a la comunidad, y qué forma podría tener el susodicho. Por otra parte, creo que los asientos de las organizaciones afiliadas proporcionan su granito de diversidad, particularmente en los últimos años. Pienso que también puede ser culpa de la Mesa el no señalar qué clase de experiencia o características necesita: ese tipo de dirección, a comunidad y organizaciones afiliadas por igual, podría servir de mucha utilidad a la hora de elegir a quién votar. No podemos quejarnos de falta de diversidad si previamente no señalamos las carencias de la Mesa, ¿no? Me gustaría pedirte que me aclares a qué te refieres con tu propuesta de dos asientos para capítulos y dos para afiliados, porque no me ha quedado muy claro. Mil gracias por tu valioso aporte, Raystorm (talk) 16:35, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Wotancito, thank you very much for sharing your opinion (I imagine that someone will soon appear to translate, but meanwhile I can respond :-)). As you say, this discussion has stressed several times the possibility that all seats are in one way or another elected by the members of the community, including those who may be called "experts", who are the only ones who don't go through community ratification (other than the founder seat). Currently, the Board directly elects four of its members through a laborious processes for recruitment, based on characteristics of perceived need. I should like to know if you think there might be some system, of ratification perhaps, that involved the community more – and how this could work. Moreover, I think the affiliate seats provide their bit of diversity, particularly in recent years. I think it may also be the fault of the Board for not indicating what kind of experience or features are needed: such direction, for community and affiliates alike, could serve well when voting. We can not complain of lack of diversity if we previously do not signal the needs of the Board, no? I would ask you to clarify what you mean with your proposal for two seats and two affiliated chapters seats, because I was not very clear about it. Thank you for your valuable contribution, Raystorm.
Raystorm, ¡qué diferencia de actitud, qué diferencia de tono! A la luz de la agresividad de otras respuestas cabe preguntarse si querían realmente conocer la opinión de la comunidad o mostrar con qué arrogancia la desconocen (en los dos sentidos). Porque, seamos sinceros, si en este RfC se buscaban excusas para limitar a los miembros electivos la consecuencia debería ser más bien la contraria. Cansa ya que aquellos a quienes no votó nadie pongan en tela de juicio la legitimidad de quienes sí fueron electos. Si queremos diversidad lo primero es cuestionarse qué función cumplen los miembros perennes. Ojalá todos los integrantes del Board tuvieran tu misma sensibilidad. Sería mejor para la Fundación. Introducir alguna instancia de legitimación comunitaria de los actuales miembros "expertos" es ineludible y debería en mi opinión ser prioridad de cualquier reforma. Acoto que yo tampoco terminé de entender la propuesta de Wotancito, ¿se refiere a incluir puestos donde también elijan los WUG? Saludos, Galio (talk) 17:18, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Raystorm, what a difference in attitude, what difference in tone! In light of the aggressiveness of other responses may wonder if they really wanted to know the opinion of the community or show the arrogance of the ignorant (in both directions). Because, let's face it, if excuses were sought in this RfC to limit the elected members the consequence should rather the opposite. It tires me that those who did not vote for anyone put into question the legitimacy of those who were themselves elected. If we want diversity, the first question is what role is played by perennial members. I wish all members of the Board had your same sensitivity. It would be better for the Foundation. Introducing some instance of community legitimization of current "expert" members is unavoidable and should in my opinion be a priority for any reform. I add that I also did not understand fully Wotancito's proposal, are you referring to including positions that are also chosen by the WUG?
Mi propuesta es que en vez de reducir asientos de la comunidad ampliemos esta representatividad, por ejemplo manteniendo los actuales pero sumando otros dos asientos donde también participen los grupos de usuarios de la elección. Wotancito (talk) 00:55, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
My proposal is that instead of reducing these seats, the community broaden this representation, for example maintaining the current seats but adding two more, which also involved user groups in the election. Wotancito
Los grupos de usuarios están compuestos a lo sumo por dos o tres personas, y por las razones que sean, es un modelo que no termina de arrancar. Dar a tan poca gente la habilidad de crear un cambio tan grande con dos asientos parece desproporcionado. Sin embargo, podría emplearse un sistema proporcional con los asientos afiliados para que los grupos de usuarios también puedan participar. ¿Cómo lo ves? -Raystorm (talk) 10:12, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Probablemente la mejor solución para incorporar la opinión de los Grupos de Usuarios al proceso de selección de miembros del Board consista en que sean consultados formalmente por los Capítulos y las Organizaciones Temáticas. Como el proceso de selección debe ser aprobado por el Board, se podría requerir alguna modificación en este sentido sin necesidad de modificar los Estatutos. Patricio.lorente (talk) 11:58, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Probably, the best way to add the input of the Usergroups to the selection process could be that the Chapters and Thematic Organizations should require their opinion in a formal fashion. Given that the selection process needs the Board approval, the Board could ask for a change in the process to address this issue without the need of introducing any change in the Bylaws. Patricio.lorente (talk) 11:58, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Representation according to the importance for the "movement"Edit

50+1% of the seats must be elected by the communities. Extern expertise? Okay. But not such externs like the current chief of the board who decides to spit in the face of all the volunteers who made Wikimedia big, while he actually contributed nothing to it, but has visions that must make every Wikimedian who worked since 2001 for the projects sick. But in the end it's not about who is elected for the board, but that the elected have the respect for us that we deserve. --Julius1990 (talk) 16:19, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

As I assume that this refers to me, please let me know when I was misunderstood. I have always been incredibly impressed by the motivation of thousands of volunteers who make the different projects a succes (editor or otherwise)? Jan-Bart (talk) 10:17, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
I think you know very well what you have thrown in our faces on Lilas talk page last autumn. And i have seen nothing that comes close to an understanding of us and a sorry that we can feel as humble on honest. If you really need the link, let me know, but I hope that you remember when you really messed up (I honestly can't forget that incident, and it affects my work here a big deal). If you shouldn't remember, it makes me doubt even more on you and your qualification to work for the movement. --Julius1990 (talk) 11:00, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Also confused. What did Jan-Bart throw in our faces? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:11, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Okay, here we go his comment and the reactions. A wonderful example on how the Board helps to nuture the projects. --Julius1990 (talk) 11:42, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
My apologies if that comment affects you and your work a great deal, but I honestly still stand behind everything I wrote there. If writing something like that shows that I have no understanding whatsoever of the projects I really think you are not being all that fair to me. I realise that there will always be tension between people who have a different view of certain challenges we have, but to completely disqualify any knowledge/motivation me based on my opinion is a bit strange, and very extreme... 81.207.75.89 19:41, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
No, Jan-Bart, you show a complete misunderstanding of the role of the Board in the Wikimedia movement. The comminities have build all this up and you have just a position to administrate this, you can give input, but you don't govern the movement. This is a bottom-up project, not a top-down like it would be in a company. And that's why the chair of the Board should come from the communities. There should be community elected seats by region (Northamerica, Southamerica, Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania) and then there should be two experts appointed by the chapters, two experts invited by the Board and the Founder. What makes a nice 6 to 5 ratio for the communities, for those who actually do the work that gets appreciated by our users. It would give legitimation to the Board that it has lost for many of the volunters, and you are one of the reasons for it. And I'm not the only one affected by you. After the putsch some very missed contributers stoped their work for Wikipedia. Did you do anything to help to cover the loss of quality caused by that? And when I have you here right now: Why did not the Board, why did noone of its members, why did noone of teh Foundation at all think that it would be needed and a sign of respect for 1000+ petitioners to respond to the Letter to Wikimedia Foundation: Superprotect and Media Viewer. A shameful performance. --Julius1990 (talk) 20:06, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Leaving aside your opinion of me (which you are entitled to), how would these regional elections work. We have a hard time getting people to vote on the elections. Does everyone get to vote for every region, or do only people from "that region" get to vote on candiates from that region? Jan-Bart (talk) 20:23, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Tja, you don't have to care about my opion about you. But for the good for the project that I have dedicated nearly half of my life too I would wish that you would make your homework and for example get real insight in why we crushed the Britannica and all teh other classical encyclopedias and so on ... It would also help your reputation in big parts of the communities what can't be out of your interest, but anyway ...
First of all there would need to exist the will to actually hand over control to the communities, what I honestly don't think exists in the Foundation. What is a pity, but a reality. That left aside, I think such an election could be organized this way that candidates from that regions get elected by all users. This way also the "Global South" members of the Board would have the mandate of all users from all projects. And when it comes about the less involvement in elections. I don't go to vote in a system where i just would legitimate a structure that I bleive not in. I feel my interests not represented in the current structure of the Foundation. And with this I mean not that you over there have always decide to my opion, not at all. But I miss the basic respect for the democratic other, the care for the values of our project. Instead I see a sillicon-vallization and that has nothing to do with what the Wikimedia projects were and are. And here we come back to you, I think you never took any effort to understand this.
And since you again ignored it: Why should any of us 950+ voters here + those from outside vote in a Board election, when neither the Board nor any other of the Foundation paid us the respect of at least an answer when we raised our voice? But then like in a autocratic system we should happily go to vote for the Board so that the numbers look nice? Funny. Also why do you never come actually into the local projects, but always hide in Meta or Mailinglists? Contact with the voters? Oh god! No! --Julius1990 (talk) 20:36, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Julius, speak for yourself. I am a volunteer, and Jan-Bart never spit in my face. You are absolutely out of line and that does not make your point more credible.Ziko (talk) 23:48, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Ziko, already written a poem to Jan-Bart or written a grovelling Kurier article? I speak not just for myself, since there is not just me unhappy with Jan-Barts performance in thsi discussion. Just as starter, Mautpreller and me nearly never share a position, but we both felt that Jan-Bart was wrong. And I also can ask for 950+ people why there was never a reaction, what would be basic respect? And I ask why with this lack of respect we should support the system by our votes. Ziko, you crossed lines again and again in your search of closeness to power, so step away from me. --Julius1990 (talk) 23:59, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

Comparing and improving current selection methodsEdit

Community v. affiliate selectionEdit

Merge community and affiliation seats (concerns)Edit

In my opinion this point is in conflict with the point to look for diversity. We know that in the community some regions and languages have more weight than others while in the chapters there is more equality (a small group has the same number of votes of a bigger one). Smaller groups or emerging communities can have their voice outstripped by stronger communities because the rule of giving votes is different (1 vote per user for the community and 2 votes per groups in the affiliation seats). In my opinion the merge will reduce automatically the diversity without the introduction of some barriers and rules during the election (i.e not more than 1 representative per language). The question is not that the affiliated groups can vote twice but that the members of the community vote with two different criteria. Considering that any member of the community can participate in an affiliated groups, basically it's up to any member of the community to decide to vote as users and/or as member of an affiliated group (if he/she has interest to be member of an affiliated group). --Ilario (talk) 21:04, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

  • +1. Ensuring two ways for the community to express itself increases diversity. For instance, there is no protection for minorities, all the more so if the catastrophic decision to abandon Schulze method is confirmed: it's possible for some groupthink to emerge and seize all the seats of either group, but both at once is harder. --Nemo 21:10, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
Ilario, you assume that the affiliations' members make the decision about the affiliate seats, which isn't the case for all affiliates, is it? Alice Wiegand (talk) 21:53, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
That is correct, Alice - I have not seen a list anywhere, but some organisations hold polls of their members/community, some have resolutions at their general meetings, some have the Board make the decision.Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 21:59, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
I would challenge the claim that there is more equality among chapters than in the community at large. Chapters have a heavy bias towards European countries - and, indeed, a bias towards chapters themselves (as opposed to user groups or thorgs). From an organizing perspective, European chapters have a huge advantage and a much greater influence over the affiliates in general - witness the simple fact that the WMCON has always been in Europe and drawn a largely European pool of attendees. I agree with Ilario that there is a risk of reducing Board diversity by merging the selection process into the boardvote - but this is a risk that the Board and community can mitigate by surfacing diverse candidates to run in that election process. I have heard and understand that candidates who have agreed to be chapter-selected appointees may hesitate to run in an open election, but I think the transparency and democratic nature of the election process outweigh the benefits of the closed, somewhat secretive appointment status quo. Nathan T 22:31, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
  • The best argument I've heard for continuing the affiliate-selected seats is that the whole-community election is too heavily influenced by the largest projects (mainly the English Wikipedia). I don't know whether this is actually the case (perhaps someone with some time could find some figures?) and even if it is, there are other possible solutions; and it is not the only argument; but it is certainly something to think about. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 21:57, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
    We definitely need to think about systemic bias in all of the selection methods. Voting privileges the largest communities (if they tend to elect 'their own'), affiliate voting privileges the people who choose to form or join organizations (also correlated to larger & european communities, depending on which affs have a vote), appointment privileges whatever the board self-identifies as needing, which can lead to feedback loops. SJ talk  22:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Only to sum to this argument: From the 41 existing affiliates in 2014, by the time of elections, 11 were from the so called Global South, that means 26.8 percent of them. I'm not authorized to reveal how was the votation that took part in that time but at least I can say that from voting affiliates near to 30% of them were from the Global South. Thats quite a good ratio for that part of the world. For a reason there's more participation from that part of community in that kind of elections and, consequently, in the Board seats coming from it. Salvador (talk) 00:10, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
nb: I've requested the stats on voter/wiki origination to see about the influence question. Philippe Beaudette, Wikimedia Foundation (talk) 23:15, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
    • My problem is that chapters already have too much power and the Affliations Committee has been way too interested in protecting the status of existing chapters. Chapters can make and have make life hell for those in their "jurisdiction" who dont tow their line. Having two seats elected only by Wikipedians who have managed to carve out their fiefdoms is not exactly inclusive.Thelmadatter (talk) 22:03, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

I think there are a couple of issues here in tension with maintaining the status quo. The first is the typical democratic principle of one voter one vote. In the current arrangement, chapter members - by and large European - have a much greater influence over the composition of the board than do those not represented by any chapter (including, incidentally, most Americans). It should be obvious to anyone that the great majority of our community members are not associated with any affiliate. The other issue is transparency... The affiliate selection process is opaque, even secretive, and obscure even for people who are or have been members of an affiliate, let alone the many who have not. No one would argue that transparency is not an important principle of the Wikimedia movement, and I think most would agree that at least in our voting processes we try to be democratic in extending the same franchise to all participants. The process of allowing affiliates to select Board representatives fails on both principles, and this will only become exacerbated as it becomes much easier to organize affiliates as user groups or thorgs. Nathan T 22:23, 16 February 2015 (UTC)

(edit conflict) If the goal here is to look for diversity, I'm not sure a vote among the chapters is the best way: over half of them are in Europe. 14 chapters didn't vote in the last election; I don't know which ones those were, but my guess would be that the geographical distribution is even more lopsided when you look at who's actually participating.
Also, while it's true that "any member of the community can participate in an affiliated group", not all affiliated groups can participate in this process: user groups, which are the only affiliated groups we're really adding more of at this point,[1] are excluded. Tough luck for users living in Algeria or Côte d'Ivoire. Emufarmers (talk) 22:33, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
@Nathan: the European chapters represent more languages (even if European), so it's aligned with the perspective of the difference of languages (I would say also a difference of culture). Instead at the moment the majority of chapters/groups are not European, so the geographic diversity is assured too.
@Alice: I assume that the decision is made by the General Assemblies or consulting the members. Where this doesn't happen, there is a general problem of the community involvement, but it happens for any kind of decision not only for the affiliated seats.
@Emufarmers: Do these chapters will vote if the vote is merged with the community? Probably the invitation to vote within the affiliated group will invite them to give their opinion (and if they have a democratic basis also to consult their communities), and not the opposite. In the last selection of the board the first affiliated group has been admitted to vote, but the acceptation depends on the decision of the affiliation committee. In addition there will be more opportunity for an user of Algeria or Cote d'Ivoire to be voted by affiliated group than by the community (if he/she doesn't have a strong popularity).
@To all: I am not saying that the current structure is perfect but that the current structure gives more opportunity to the diversity to emerge. A merge using the current system of vote of the community cannot assure the diversity. Nothing can exclude that a strong linguistic community can vote all five members within their own community. --Ilario (talk) 22:54, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
  • In my view it is quite natural to have two parallel systems: via community and affilation seats. This election system reminds me of bicameral parliament where both chambers are usually elected using different systems. In our case community-elected seats are a sort of U.S. House of Representatives where everyone has one vote, while affilate-elected seats are a sort of U.S. Senate where each group has two votes. These systems do not have necessarily the same representation, but fundamentally both of these seats represent the community.
    • Community seats tend to represent the Meta community, i.e. people active in discussions on Meta (and predominantly English-speaking), while affilaion seats tend to represent people involved in various Wikimedia-related projects in their countries (mostly multilingual).
    • Community seats poorly represent non-English speaking users, affilation seats poorly represent people uninvolved in real-life projects, both poorly represent users uninvolved in discussions
    • Community seats can be impacted by an activity of a large community (e.g. a user who is popular on one large wiki can change the result if election is well promoted on this wiki and a lot of users from this community participate), while affilation seats require approval from a large number of communities
    In my opinion it is important to keep both of these groups represented on Board as they do not represent our community in the same way. At the same time, it would be helpful to look into some statistics of community votes (such as home wiki, native language, level of English, probably home country if publicly available) to check whether such results appropriately reflect our community — NickK (talk) 23:04, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
The comparison to the US bicameral system doesn't hold up, because every citizen of the U.S. still has a vote in a Senate election. In contrast, though it hardly needs stating, only a teeny tiny percentage of eligible voters in the Board election participate in an affiliate of any kind. The chapter selection process is capable of providing greater diversity to the Board, but that doesn't mean it is the best system for doing so. There is nothing inherent in the chapters, however, that convinces me that they ought to be stakeholders almost on the same level as the entire community itself. Nathan T 23:28, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
What NickK says has an analogy also in Switzerland where both chambers are voted by people but they are "asymmetric" in order to balance the vote of the stronger cantons and to have more diversity (please remember that Switzerland has 4 national languages, two main religions and 25% of Swiss citizens are not native Swiss). A chamber is voted by cantons (each canton has two seats) and another Chamber is voted by number of inhabitants (the biggest cantons have more seats). Even if any citizen has one vote, in the first case the vote of cantons with less inhabitants has more weight than in more populated cantons, when this weight is compensated electing the second chamber. This structure helps to have a proportionate numbers of parties but with members coming from different communities. --Ilario (talk) 23:42, 16 February 2015 (UTC)
Unless I misunderstand you, the effect is the same as the bicameral system in the U.S. Congress... with the same crucial difference from our current Board process: most members of our community have zero representation among affiliates. I've seen an argument that diversity is important on the Board, but nothing that says privileging the chapters is necessary to achieve that goal or inherently warranted. Why are chapters so important and crucial that they should be the "other chamber" in our system? Is there something about them so valuable that they should be treated as nearly on par with the rest of the community, despite their small numbers? Certainly there are some great contributions from chapters - Wikidata, WLM, toolserver, etc. I'm not convinced that the value they have contributed, however, earns such power in the movement. Nathan T 00:29, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
I think that the fundamental value of chapters in the system is that they are the only way to ensure geographic diversity. There are no other movement roles that would be country-based, thus so far it is the only way to submit a vote in the name of the community of a particular country — NickK (talk) 01:16, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Agree chapters do offer an assurance of geographic diversity, the dominance of European chapters has more to do with their capacity to obtain funding and assistance than many other chapters. The failings in the ability of non-european chapters to grow shouldnt be used as a reason to disallow participation but rather should be seen as a challenge to facilitate and build the capacity in other areas. Gnangarra (talk) 02:34, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
I think everyone will agree - we need to keep the ratio of community members (and Chapters and Aff are part of it) vs appointed. If the board want to expend his members, to allow more "professional" trustees - we must increase at the same time the community seats. The board, who aim to represent Wikipedia can't "be controlled" by more outside trustees vs members within the movement.
Regarding merging community and chapters seats - I'm against, many reason, especially about diversity had been already proven here by others, and I don't see a reason to repeat others. They are totally correct. Each election allow selecting different community people, and this diversity is important to the movement --Itzike (talk) 08:44, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

It's harsh to see the legitimacy of community-selected seats being routinely questioned on "technical" or practical grounds when self-selected seats are not questioned. Not just their existence or they number, also their appointment process, including giving some kind of participation to the community in helping select "experts", etc. Thankfully other people have already provided valuable insights about the role of "expert" seats and the possibility to move at least part of them to the advisory board. I'll focus on the political nonsense of alienating affiliates. "Nonsense" is an euphemism.

I am part of a Board advisory committee whose membership, while made up of community people, is entirely self-appointed. However, AffCom acts by and for the WMF Board. WMF, on the other hand, needs to constantly renew its legitimacy vis-à-vis the broader community. The Foundation has a derived legitimacy out of being in good terms with the broader Wikimedia community, or at least of having enough community advocates to defend its role from sectors from the communities that question, if not its existence, its augmented policy role. Half-and-half Board composition has been a keystone in building political legitimacy for the Foundation's "technical" action. Half of WMF board members were selected independently from the community (or even after the community chose /not/ to select them), came out of an overly opaque process, and have no particular accountability commitments. There are people that have been on the WMF Board for years without any significant community involvement --while all affiliates are not only expected but actually required to keep a close relationship with our online communities. Strangely (or not) it's not "expert" seats that come under scrutiny and questioning, but community seats!

With all due respect for Mrs. Gardner, I think many can agree with me in that her period was marked with a series of episodes of tension and misunderstanding between WMF bureaucracy and the communities, particularly with affiliate organizations. Let me be clear. It's not about the money. It's about being sensible enough to deal with the particular and diverse constituencies that the Foundation has, and to which it owes its own legitimacy, instead of acting in a way that puts no one on your side but has the potential to alienate those who can be your most fierce advocates. It's about making your mission allies feel confident in an ambiance of trust instead of being on the defensive, waiting for your next move. Wikimedia affiliates are used to find themselves "in the middle" between unaffiliated community members and the Foundation. In some sense, they are a community buffer for the Foundation, acting as a communication proxy between local communities and Foundation staff and leadership. Foundation staff would be in a much more difficult position if affiliates weren't there and it had to deal with a myriad of community demands without any valid means of channeling them.

Concretely speaking, talking of removing the ASBS reinforces the perception that affiliates are under constant attack from WMF bureaucracy, per reasons that are routinely obscured (I've heard much talk of Legal viewing all non-WMF organizations as liabilities, etc., but none of that are official arguments), but eliminating those seats won't make anyone see non-elected Board members better. ASBS don't harm anyone, have delivered very valuable members and views to the Board and unlike non-elected seats they have clear term limits, a well-defined selection process and a well-defined constituency. Which is the ultimate reason to propose such a change?

Sadly, it seems it was not Mrs. Gardner alone who pushed to eliminate or downgrade affiliates to club status. Talking of removing the ASBS would be a lesser discussion if it weren't symptomatic. The movement can't be understood from a corporate point of view where the Foundation provides a product and everyone dances to its tune. It's the communities who make the product. And affiliates reunite those community members who are most willing to devout their time and energy to advance our institutional mission. Those "liabilities" can well be the ultimate foundation of WMF legitimacy. Technocracy can many times lose context. I'm currently the head of a Wikimedia affiliate made up by a group of committed volunteers from the community who have been giving our movement their time for years. It's simply frustrating to feel that once and again we are the usual suspects from/for certain Foundation circles. Know why? Because they can't see further. For them, it's WMF and those liabilities out there. Affiliates are the closer contact they can have with our communities. If affiliates weren't there (and ASBS are not anecdotical), WMF bureaucracy would most probably lose even more touch with Wikimedia communities. The Foundation is not and should not aim to be an American corporation. Not even an the role model of an American non-profit. It's an organization that serves an international movement.

Affiliate-selected seats provide the Board with valuable input that it substantially (i.e. essentially) different from general community seats. They provide the Board with people that are used to deal with governments and GLAM institutions; people that many times will be community members themselves, but that have had this experience of being at both sides of the counter --as an isolate volunteer and as part of an organization which has to report to our broader community. Community-appointed seats are undoubtedly valid and, perhaps, the most legitimate of them. I'm all in favor of expanding their number, either keeping the current "balance" or going to a scheme where they outnumber self-appointed seats. But I don't see a practical reason why doing so should clash with keeping the ASBS. If there is any fear that Wikimedia affiliates may have undue influence over WMF, there is a practical solution to counter such worries while showing they are still valued: keep the number of ASBS constant and increase overall board composition. --Galio (talk) 21:20, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

I like that the affiliations bind people to the movement who are not involved as editors in the wikis. Those people are a very valuable part of our social fabric. Ziko (talk) 21:18, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Hello Galio, I appreciate these thoughts. Here are some in return:
All seats and processes are under discussion here.
Do we want each trustee to have a well-defined constituency? That's different than having each be accountable to wikimedia as a whole, which is the current goal of trustees.
Having expertise in dealing with governments and national NGOs (GLAMs &c), and in working with a variety of community organizations, is important. Likewise engaging devoted supporters who are not primarily editors. It would be good to maintain or increase the breadth of experience we can recruit to the board. But some of the differences between current selections may not help in that regard, and instead give rise to a sense of faction or mistrust. You express some of that mistrust well.
All selections currently share basic process: some community involvement in nominations; some vetting process or threshhold for being a candidate; some sort of vote. Can we remove unnecessary differences, while improving the range of potential candidates reached? SJ talk  22:30, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Community v. 'non-community' selectionEdit

Community/Affiliate elected VS Appointed (VS being the key word here)Edit

Just putting this remark out here: It seems to me that elected Board members are routinely tagged as "not experts" (except maybe in matters of our community?) while appointed Board members are routinely tagged as "experts" (except in matter of our community?). Why is that? (I believe the only exception to this in the composition of the board so far has been the appointment of Alice, after a term as elected member). For all I know, we could have 10 appointed people that are issued from the community, or schocking (!) 10 elected people who qualify as experts in all the roles needed, couldn't we? I find it interesting that these two "blocks" are always refered to as one somehow against the other. Thoughts? notafish }<';> 21:08, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

I would be glad if we could bridge that. That's where maybe a nominee pool comes can have a role. Imageine we had had a page/room/aquarium where we could collect potential candidates and their skills, their individual gifts to the Board, no matter of their background, being internals or externals. And then perhaps have some elected and some selected from that list. Wouldn't that be an opportunity to find good candidates outside of our common sphere? Alice Wiegand (talk) 21:20, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
I really don't understand that concept of a "nominee pool" actually. Would you keep people in that pool "on hold" until you need them? I am really not sure how that works. A little more explanation would be welcome! notafish }<';> 23:01, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Rather than keep people "on hold" you could also involve them in decision making, give training on certain aspects... see it as a "talent development pool" for the whole movement. Some people could end up on the board and some might just use what they learn in another setting within the movement. Jan-Bart (talk) 07:55, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
I hear you on this, I still do not understand however, how and when you would "collect" people to put them in that pool, and how or even if the board would derive from them at all. I guess I can't visualize this theory and it makes it hard for me to imagine it, as Alice asked. notafish }<';> 12:56, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
I think that every board member carries their own expertise. It has turned out to be hard to find community members who (besides their community/wikimedia expertise) also have the right level of other expertise (eg:financial/legal) AND who are willing& able to win in an election... The combination is just to unique...To be fair this also applies to someone like me (who was never appointed for a specific expertise)... And we are taking care to fill the future board appointed seats with more specific expertise which we do not have on the current board. Jan-Bart (talk) 07:55, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree on the fact that every board member carries their own expertise. I do think however that we have been artificially limiting that expertise to what we know, and that more often than not, Board members issued from the community have been brought back to their involvement in projects, while appointed members have been brought back to their supposed non-involvement. Which I think is reducing drastically the scope of what we actually have. notafish }<';> 12:56, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Not sure what you mean by "brought back"? Jan-Bart (talk) 13:50, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
"Amounted to"? ie. Board members from the community have been "amounted to" their involvement in projects, and appointed members "amounted to" their supposed non-involvement. Does that make more sense? notafish }<';> 00:04, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
to notafish: It does... I've been thinking about this lately. I.e., why would someone vote for me: because I'm a Wikipedian, because I have a library/academic background, or because I have a background in WMF work? Hopefully all of the above.... but we don't often do a good job of talking about this. I think inside the board we actually make way less of a distinction between community/appointed seats (everyone simply voices their opinion in discussion, and we come to consensus, and everyone makes an effort to respect concerns from the whole movement) than people in the community do when *talking* about the board! -- phoebe | talk 01:16, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree that the "VS" is something that we should work to move away from in our thinking and, additionally, is something that as it turns out doesn't have a lot of meaning in practice. It is very rare that the board is internally divided along the lines of 'community/affiliate' versus 'external' and even when it does happen it is more a matter of chance than something that actually derives from those sources.
One thing to understand is that many people who would be very valuable to our board are not going to come through our existing community/affiliate selection processes even if they are undeniably a part of the editing or broader community. I think that's a bug, not a feature. Who are the types of people who are currently dissuaded from joining the board because they don't want to run the risk of an unpleasant troll-led experience in a community election? We don't really know, but we do know that the kinds of people who do run tend to be quite similar in some respects. I'd love to see a process emerge that brings people from the community who are more representative of the global community as well as bringing people from the community who are similar to the kinds of "expertise" people we've tended to look outside to find.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 13:33, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

Affiliate v appointee selectionEdit

Narrowing Focus [on the affiliates]Edit

I would really like to know why the obsession with reducing and diminishing as much as possible the influence of the affiliates in the WMF Board is about. I really thought it would be over after Sue ceased to be the Executive Director, but the trend has not changed a bit...just in a different form. Affiliates lack legitimacy? Come on, affiliates are required to have contact and activities with the wider community (which we do regardless of being required or not, since it is the reason of our existence) while appointed WMF Board members are not. Some have argued that the Board needs members that are expert in governance, finance, IT stuff, non-profits...et cetera. But honestly, we do have wikimedians with plenty of experience in those areas and more; and by "wikimedians" I mean real ones, not persons with less than 100 edits in over 5 years. How can we consider someone with no measurable involvement in our projects is really committed to the movement and allowed to hold a position of so much power and influence? The WMF has a large Advisory Board composed of several experts in different areas that are important for the WMF and the movement as a whole, so why appointing Board members based on needed expertise if we already have that from the Advisory Board? Moreover, delegating the governance to the staff is like treating the WMF like a publicly-traded company or something like that. Next step? Wikimedia, LLC.?

Also, I find it really sarcastic that the WMF always demands "transparency" and "good governance" from the affiliates, but I don't think appointing members to the WMF Board who have zero relationship to the movement and worse, without a limit in their terms, is a good example of the best practices in governance, but quite the contrary -like the Law of the Funnel. --Maor X (talk) 19:33, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for the comment Maor X. As someone who has less than 100 edits on the public wikis over de past 5 years I do consider myself committed to the movement from the very beginning. 4-16 hours a week over the past eight years tend to do that to you. Our board does not suffer from an extremely long average term board membership, in fact our average is not that high. But you are right: a boards needs to have a healthy turnover in order to maintain its diversity of thought and avoid groupthink. That is actually consistent with the fact that we should not have a board consisting of 10 active editing wikimedians. An "all Wikimedian" board is not diverse enough to do the foundation justice. Fact is that the Affiliate selected seats do not really increase diversity (in fact lead to similar candidates) like we had hoped. Fact is that giving affiliates a "double vote" (they can also vote in the normal elections) is not that fair to all the community members who happen not to be a member of an affiliate.
Dont' get me wrong: I think Affiliates are incredibly important in the succes of the movement and are doing great things. Its not about cutting the Affiliates influence on the board but about increasing diversity and expertise. Also remember that all board members do not "represent" anyone, they serve the foundation and its mission. And our board meetings often require expertise other than wikimedia community expertise. It makes sense to broaden the expertise present. Jan-Bart (talk) 07:33, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
I'm not sure if its actually true that there is an ongoing effort to diminish the chapters. But if there is such an effort, it might be due to the failure of most chapters to demonstrate an actual impact on the movement goals despite many millions of dollars spent. Lots of chapters started off with edit-a-thons and new editor training, media outreach and that sort of thing... and there is no evidence any of that is actually worth doing. Especially not compared with, say, donating the money to build schools and train and hire teachers in Africa. There's a duty on the part of the WMF board to be confident that movement funds are well spent, and that may overlap with a desire to decrease chapter funding. Nathan T 00:05, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
That is rather a poor response saying that the chapters havent demonstrated an actual impact on the movement, the whole GLAM initiative was started by the Australian Chapter's Vice President in 2009, WLM started out of Netherlands, QRpedia/WikiTowns started out of the UK, and Germany has done untold good in creating community through in person meeting organisation along with running the toolservers... When you look around all of the outreach activity has started and maintained momentum by efforts of Affiliates, all of the global spread of projects and diversity has occurred because affiliates have taken up the ideas of other affiliates. Oh and much of those donations come about because of the work the affiliate community members put in to improving content, before you put down the affiliates like that be sure of your facts. The reality is if Chapters were given more support especially in the costs involved with begging from the PEG, FDC, IEG, if the board and WMF put greater effort in working through the community rather than building barriers to or deflecting community requests through endless pointless negotiations affiliates impact could be even greater ... Gnangarra (talk) 03:39, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
As a member of a committee devoted to review the funding of affiliates and their impact, I agree that there is, in general, a failure to demonstrate actual impact (which doesn't mean there is no impact - in fact, there are a lot of amazing projects done by affiliates with great impact). But that is not something unique of the affiliates; the Foundation has the same problem and is easy to find very expensive projects that haven't got any clear impact. This is something inherent to complex projects like ours. In any case, there are different groups that have been working on this problem (including WMF staff, volunteers and affiliates) and all processes for giving grants have put a focus on delivering impact. FDC, for example, has a strong emphasis on impact and you can see in our decisions that when we haven’t seen clear impact, grants have been reduced. So, there shouldn’t be worry that we are giving too much money for organizations that don’t have impact, because there are already processes working on this issue.
However, the reduction of funds itself is not a problem; is a symptom accompanied by other symptoms, like the freezing of recognitions of chapters for the following years and the current proposal to remove affiliate seats. It may be a coincidence and the Board doesn’t have any problem with the affiliates... but there are too many symptoms at this moment just to ignore the illness. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 14:37, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

Appointee selectionEdit

Re-thinking appointed seatsEdit

Although the introduction of this discussion says that there were some troubles with the selection of the appointed members, I haven’t seen in the rest of the appeal any real discussion regarding those seats (I mean, we have a problem with appointed seats, so let’s reform the elected ones?). Some community members have already raised some points about this but I think it is important to have a serious discussion regarding the appointed seats and re-think their current situation. Even though there are more appointed seats than those elected directly by the community and those by the affiliates, those seats have not clearly defined selection processes, terms and responsibilities, something the rest of the seats have. Some of the points that I think we should address are the following:

  • Reasoning behind the appointed seat members: Why does the Wikimedia Foundation need appointed seats? Thinking of Board members with particular “technical” abilities may have been very important at a time when the Foundation was a small organization. Nowadays, all technical skills are covered by a large, diverse and well-trained staff that even helps the Board on many of its duties. What is the role of the board in this scenario? I would say that the larger the organization, the larger its staff, the role of the Board as a cornerstone for WMF community legitimacy increases. The Board is there to ensure that WMF as an organization, and its staff in particular, serve the movement and its communities. Supposing that the Board is there to serve the staff, or that the communities will passively accept to be led by non-accountable Foundation staff, is a dangerous misunderstanding. If the Board becomes less and less representative of the community, who will it represent? Who will WMF act on behalf of? And, more concretely, how will the community express its views and demands if the Foundation acts as a separate, independent body? I’ve rarely, if ever, heard complaints or worries from the community regarding community-elected Board members, including those selected by affiliates. What I’ve heard a lot is about self-selected, “expert” Board seats, and these don’t seem to be part of this otherwise healthy exercise. The Wikimedia Foundation is not the owner of the Wikimedia movement; stating this may be obvious and, perhaps, even offensive –but initiatives that disregard the fact that WMF needs community legitimacy seems to forget this point entirely.
  • Diversity: Appointed seats should encourage diversity and fill those gaps in representation that seats elected by the community have not been able to provide for various reasons. It is important to include “technical experts” that may not be selected through a democratic process, but I think it is also important to consider demographic representation. At this moment, only 25% of the current appointed seats are from the so-called Global South (only Bishakha, who sadly will leave the Board soon), which is not much different than the results of the other two selection processes –in fact, the most representative of the global diversity are the affiliate-selected seats.
  • Tenure and limits: Although the bylaws specify a two-year term for appointed Board members, the possibility to reelect them indefinitely has distorted the objectives of these terms. We should discuss the possibility to limit reelection of appointed Board members, avoiding “perennial” members, especially when they aren’t subject to any sort of validation by the community. If appointed members are selected to “fill a gap” and serve the Foundation for specific matters that elected members cannot do, then these seats should have a specific term given the Foundation doesn’t have the same needs and gaps now than 2, 4 or 8 years ago. Keeping unrestricted reelection also discourages the natural and necessary renovation of the Board, making more difficult for innovative ideas to have and space on it.
  • Selection: The process to select these non-elected members is totally obscure for the community and there is no space for participation or input, which is something that IMHO should be addressed. There is also no public participation in the reelection of those seats, so evaluation of the appointed members is not possible (something that the other five elected members do have). Currently, the selection of appointed members is done entirely by their fellow Board members, which creates a systematic bias towards the statu quo: it is much more difficult to evaluate neutrally someone who has been working as your partner for months or years, as seating Board members are requested to do when a non-elected term ends and he or she applies for a new period. In addition, the current non-process implies an incentive for appointed members to “cooperate”, voting for their reelection so they do not put their own seats in risk, reducing the possibility to have a fair assessment of their participation in the board. Board members shouldn’t be the only ones deciding about their fellow’s continuity or, indirectly, about their own permanence in the Board. This is why it is important that the community have a say in the selection process for non-elective members and, especially, when an appointed member wants to pursue a second term. There should be some sort of revalidation process done by the community, so it can evaluate the participation of these appointed members and bring some accountability of their actions in front of the movement.

These are some ideas that I have in mind that we can discuss, but certainly, there are some other concerns that the community can raise. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 06:11, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

Technical skills among the staff does not replace or diminish the need for having some of those skills on the board. The board is ultimately responsible for the full range of activities of the organization, and must have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform useful oversight over those activities. This is a well established and accepted principle of management throughout the world. Nathan T 00:08, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
And I'm not saying that there shouldn't be those skills on the Board. I'm saying that there should be a balance between bringing people with technical skills (and a clarity of what skills are needed and for what... I don't see this at the moment) and the needs for diversity and representation of our community, and also that expertise shouldn't be an excuse to demand those Board members some accountability to the movement.
I think expertise, diversity and representation are not incompatible, but to make this possible the Board should make an effort. Certainly, we can find someone from the Muslim world, Africa or Central Asia (just to name regions that haven’t been included in the Board yet) that have the same skills than people that have been brought from the US, the UK or Germany. And they can bring new views to the movement, especially when the strategy for the so-called Global South hasn't given the expected results in the past years. However, I simply don't see those efforts. I don't see, for example, the Board requesting recommendations from the community, especially from those countries that can bring more diverse people.
There is one fundamental expertise the Board needs: understanding of the community. It is what make possible the changes our projects need; it is so obvious, yet is continually forgotten. For example, it seems expertise regarding affiliate organizations, a fundamental part of our movement, is deliberately ignored or disregarded, which explains the proposal to remove the seats elected by the affiliates. And this cannot be more erroneous. Lack of financial or technical skills have not been the problem to implement significant changes in our projects; it has been the lack of connection with the people that make all of this possible. After all, Wikimedia is not a corporation around a product, it is a social movement about knowledge. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 02:55, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi @B1mbo:, helpful comments. One point: the foundation does ask every selection cycle for communities to suggest potential trustees, particularly from the global south. This is how we first contacted both Bishakha (deliberately focusing on India) and Ana Toni. Those wonderful people were suggested by community members, not from the recruiters we worked with, even though we also searched via more traditional non-profit channels. They made some of the most consistently insightful contributions to Board deliberation, and had some of the most community-focused perspective on the board, even though their background had been in different communities.
We do need clarity on how reappointment happens, and a regular schedule and channel for community suggestions, feedback, and nomination. SJ talk  17:53, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Thanks @Sj: for clarification. I didn't recall the Board asking for nomination, but is great to know that this already happen. However, my mistake says something: maybe not all people are aware that this happens so probably there should be more promoted or done more consistently. Not that I know how to make people more aware about this, but probably improving this we can get more great Board members like Bishakha and Ana. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 21:26, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
@B1mbo:, I agree. One possibility would be to have regular community contact each year: asking for feedback on selection criteria, for nominees (for various roles: advisors, appointed trustees), for discussion / prioritization of public nominees. This past search (over the last few months) had less community input, and it shows: our finalists were really excellent, but a larger % were identified by our recruiter; and they have a mainly US+European network. Another possible change would be to add a recruiter based in other parts of the world. SJ talk  08:52, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Time, equilibrium, diversity and appointed seats (low appointee turnover)Edit

Hi everybody. There's a fashion nowadays of supporting everything in data. I carried out a quite basic analysis about the time that every seat and type of seat has been in the Board and held authority inside the Board. The results are not unexpected but you can get an idea of where is the lack of equilibrium and where we need diversity. You can check the data and compare with the BoT Chart. In brief:

Type of seat Time (days)
Appointed 16964
Chapter/Affiliates 4230
Elected by community 13082
Founder 2915
TOTAL 37191

So, every movement done against the Affiliate seats will become in an injustice in our idea of diversity. Galringly the problem is in the appointed seats, they have ruled during the 45.6% of the time invested for all members in Board, while affilliates seats means 11.37% of time. You can take two appointed members as Jan-Bart and Stu and they together will add up to more time (6831 days, equal to 18.36% of the whole BoT time!) than affiliated seats together, that is incredible if we are trying to generate diversity and power equilibrium. It seems we have a Council of Ancients more than a Board. We need fresh blood. Let's cut some time on air into where there is an excess of it. My two cents are for changing or getting rid of appointed seats. Salvador (talk) 21:31, 19 February 2015 (UTC)

HI Salvador, thanks for your comment. This is probably the most creative way of looking at the "balance of power" within the board I have seen.... I am also happy to say that it is not that correct. First of all it assumed "two camps" (or maybe more). Seldom (if ever) do we have a situation where the community (s)elected members are squared off with the appointed members. Its almost always that different people with different backgrounds add to the conversation. As you can see from your table there are also several "appointed" members that were (s)elected as community members before whom we wanted to make room for on the board for their expertise or another reason. The big "divide" between appointed and (s)elected members simply isn't there....
And as I explained above: the affiliate seats are not identifying new talent and creating diversity, they are selecting members similar to those two get elected by the community elections (sometimes the exact same people) Jan-Bart (talk) 07:47, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Hmmm - more detailed thoughts later - but the community-elected seats are consistently filled by 2 North American, 1 European. The same is not true of the affiliate-selected seats or the board-appointed seats. Looking at people placed 4th and 5th they are more European. Not a single person from the Global South has come anywhere near being elected by the community. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 10:48, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
@The Land: I have made a count later: the best result by a candidate residing in a Global South country was 6th place in 2004 — NickK (talk) 14:14, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi @Jan-Bart:, thanks for your answer. It simply isn't true that Community and affiliated selected seats elections deliver the same candidates; as others above have already proven, the one affiliate-one vote rule has meant that developing world and non-Anglophone communities get a different chance to be heard (for the record, this is being said to you by a non-Anglophone person from the developing world, or Global South as you like to call it). There is one person who was first an affiliate-selected Board member and was legitimately elected a Board member on the Community elections after the affiliates chose to select another person. This, unlike your suggestion, is proof that both processes represent different sensibilities within our movement and select Board members with different profiles. But I don't want to lose the point. Jan-Bart, you are conveniently dodging the core of my argument: it's perennial non-elected Board members who the real threat against diversity in the Board, and now it seems they are the same who try to turn around the meaning of diversity only to secure their grip. There is surely one thing Affiliated selected board seats and Community elected Board members are alike: they are Wikimedians. Having outside views and expertise is valuable; letting outsiders decide on our movement is dangerous. Salvador (talk) 16:32, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
I Think tenure (length of time on the board) has little to do with "lack of diversity". A good example is Stu. Stu remains the person on the board with the strongest financial background and has a unique set of skills. That does not mean that we should not find someone to take over that role when the time comes (and the end of the year). But it does mean that Stu contributes to a diverse board by both having a unique expertise and some unique background... (in my case that is arguably less of an argument :) Jan-Bart (talk) 12:35, 23 February 2015 (UTC)


Let's please be accurate with out mathematical reasoning: the numbers above have nothing to do with DIVERSITY, they have to do with CHURN. Diversity is not an issue of time-in-office. In fact 2 years is BARELY enough to onramp an unexperienced board member. So we want more time for people with less board experience. What we ARE talking about is diversity of skill and understanding: for example how do we get an education expert in Asia, an international policy/free speech advocate/lawyer, an expert in media and a product strategist/evangelist on the board? How can we find them within our community? LilaTretikov (WMF) (talk) 16:51, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Thank you for taking your time to read and comment @LilaTretikov (WMF):. Sorry if I'm not exact as you desire, I'm a Global South lawyer not a Global North Data scientist. That's my interpretation of things an, as far as I understood Alice's invitation you are picking up thoughts not undermining arguments.
So, maybe the problem is what @CristianCantoro: points you are not being clear enough what you want and why you want it. You are sharing with us only the half of the argument.
Maybe you don't know that but in Wikimedia world (and other Internet lands) writting in capitals is considered as shoutting and is a lack of courtesy. Don't worry I always assume good faith and it's a honor to do it with the WMF ED. Salvador (talk) 17:30, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Lila, the problem is that appointed members, who are the largest group (according to their system of selection) of Board members, don't have any policy that helps rotation and diversity. Salvador is right pointing out that appointed members have been more days, but when you see the number of days that they have been there is much more clear the problem we are talking about:
Board members by amount of days
Name Appointed Affiliate Community Founder Total
Jimbo Wales 1814 2799 4613
Jan-Bart de Vreede 3548 3548
Kat Walsh 205 2940 3145
Stu West 3054 3054
Samuel Klein 2976 2976
Ting Chen 2478 2478
Matt Halprin 1956 1956
Bishakha Datta 1706 1706
Florence Nibart-Devouard 382 1127 1509
Phoebe Ayers 707 755 1462
Michael Davis 1385 1385
Arne Klempert 1157 1157
Patricio Lorente 1146 1146
Alice Wiegand 365 756 1121
Tim Shell 1064 1064
Angela Beesley 840 840
Domas Mituzas 838 838
Frieda Brioschi 390 422 812
María Sefidari 755 755
Michael Snow 169 426 595
Erik Möller 446 446
Ana Toni 427 427
Oscar van Dillen 205 205

Considering terms until August 31, 2015 (when the term for the new elected members by the community starts).

When you see that two appointed members (who are also males speakers of Germanic languages) have been in the Board almost more time each than the total number of members coming from the so-called Global South, it shows that not only there is a problem of diversity in the Board overall but more importantly, a problem in the lack of diversity and renovation in the process of selecting the appointed members. Half of the seats of appointed members have not been renovated in almost eight years! And there haven't been any process of public validation by the community of those seats. Other members have been there a lot years, true, but they have been reelected continuously by the community and have been accountable for their actions, something appointed members don't have.
So, there is a problem for the diversity in the current way that the appointed members are selected. Because we could have a diverse board with people from Southeast Asia, Africa, the Muslim world, males and females, from different areas of professional expertise. But the Board hasn't done this in the past and, seeing that the only proposal coming from the Board itself is to get rid of the affiliated-selected seats (the only ones that have brought a bit of diversity to the current Board), it won't do this in the future. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 20:09, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Lila, thanks for your comment. I wonder why are an expert in media or a product evangelist profiles we'd necessarily need in the Board. Surely, there can be valuable people with that backgrounds who can contribute with their experience, but as far as I understand all of those specific abilities are expected to be covered by the staff. What we need on the Board are people that are both representative and legitimate for the movement. We can complement lacking features/abilities of elected members with expert seats, including geographical diversity, but we can't impose an "expert filter" on elected seats. Elected members are experts on what non-elected and outside experts lack the most, the most important ability we need from (and for) community leadership: knowledge about the Wikimedia movement, its volunteers, its sensibilities. We've had expert seats for years and they routinely fail on the latter, of course to varying degrees and with honorable exceptions. Elected members are the ones that cement the Foundation's legitimacy and, with that, are able to advice and empower its staff. The 50%+1 is a golden rule that should be protected (if not enlarged) in WMF's best interest. Best, Galio (talk) 20:37, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Lila, the problem is that by seeking that diversity of skill and understanding outside of the movement, the risk of getting people who may be highly skilled runs parallel to being outsiders with no passion (and perhaps not even a drop of real interest) in the values of our movement. The Wikimedia Movement is not a company, we do not need a Wall Street executive, a Silicon Valley project manager or a high-profile corporate lawyer because an impact is not created with smart-looking executives who have no understanding of the movement and its thousands of volunteers because they are not who have made the whole Wikimedia movement what it is now; a ral impact is created by taking the best skills out of the diversity of our volunteers. --Maor X (talk) 00:15, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
This is just a side note, but to user:Maor X's comment above -- over the past couple of months I have been interviewing people for our currently open trustee seat, and there are a lot of people who we wouldn't classically consider Wikimedians (they're not editors, etc) who are HUGELY passionate about Wikimedia and the projects. There are lots of people from "outside" who are willing to give lots of time and effort towards what they consider the most important knowledge project of our time. So I wouldn't worry about appointing people without a drop of real interest -- it won't ever come to that. We can disqualify everyone who doesn't care much about or understand Wikimedia and still have many, many amazing people to choose from. -- phoebe | talk 01:08, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi phoebe, I honestly cannot see how can someone be passionate about the Wikimedia projects and not contributing a single edit. It's like saying "I love French language" but I don't have a single song in French, I haven't tried to take a French language course -OT, I know a few by heart :) Apart from that, I think it is cool that you have been interviewing people for the currently open seat, but that selection/interview process is like a black box -nobody knows what the Board does, who they interview, and which are the Board's reasons to accept/reject a candidate. That, is transparency, something that is required from the affiliates but the Board does not return.--Maor X (talk) 19:47, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
We can certainly talk about why we chose a candidate, when we announce it. As for what we're doing, we can also make it more clear that we are appointing a seat and ask for community ideas, but we did try to make it transparent -- this search was announced on Wikimedia-l & announcements-l on Nov. 15, plus the process status is the board minutes. As for who was interviewed, I don't think that we would make public everyone we talked to, because they were confidential talks (and it's not very nice to publish that we talked to someone and rejected them!) -- phoebe | talk 23:57, 25 February 2015 (UTC)
Actually, it would be good to know who the WMF Board is interviewing because that would show to the movement the kind of person the Board is looking for. Making an announcement on wikimedia-l that the Board is looking for someone to appoint is not transparent; what would be transparent is to know who the Board is interviewing and at the end obviously knowing who the Board decided it was the best candidate, instead of just being like when you take a bunny of a black hat and say "surprise!". --Maor X (talk) 22:16, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
As to whether you can be passionate without editing, I think you can... but I also want to point to the comment here from user:Matanya that "editors are (sadly) a fraction of the stakeholders here. Our readers, re-users and many other interested parties need to be be heard as well. So editing is important, but not telling the whole story." I agree with that view as well. -- phoebe | talk 00:07, 26 February 2015 (UTC)
That's true... but in a sense not hugely important. Generally speaking, effective non-profits ensure their trustees understand their beneficiaries and the way beneficiaries understand what the non-profit does. In many situations, appointing trustees who are / have been beneficiaries helps address this. However reading Wikipedia is a very broad experience - not so far off a universal one - and for most people not something they think much about. So "ensuring readers are heard" is not a particularly helpful criterion in working out how the Foundation board should be composed. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 16:59, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
And regarding being passionate about our movement but not editing at all, it's like saying "I support Greenpeace and all they do for the environment" but not even separating garbage in their appropriate containers because we know that someone else does it. --Maor X (talk) 22:16, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Traits of an effective board, comparisons with other boardsEdit

Representing linguistic and geographic diversityEdit

I tried to look at current election systems and I have found that actually the biggest problem of the current election system is the poor representation of linguistic and geographic diversity of the movement. While affilate-elected seats try to increase geographic diversity, community-elected seats have a huge English-speaking and Western European/North American domination. Here are a few facts:

  • The best result of a candidate from Global South (the way WMF defines it) running for an affilation seat was 1st place by Patricio Lorente in 2014.
  • The best result of a candidate from Global South running for a community seat was 6th place (out of 8) by Shizhao back in 2004.

For community elections (thanks Philippe!), out of 1809 voters there is a huge overrepresentation of several language communities (all European):

  • English Wikipedia alone represents 35.5% of voters
  • top-5 wikis (en, de, fr, it, es) plus commons, meta and office represent 74.6% of voters
  • Germanic Wikipedias are represented by 52.0% of voters (35.2% of articles), Italic by 23.4% of voters (20.3% of articles), Slavic by 6.0% of voters (14.3% of articles), Japonic by 1.2% of voters (3.2% of articles), Sinitic by 2.5% of voters (2.8% of articles), multilingual by 4.6%, all remaining by 10.3% (24.2% of articles). Source for articles. The only overrepresented groups are Germanic and Italic Wikipedias (reflecting the domination of top-5 wikis), while all other language families are underrepresented.
  • German Wikipedia is twice as big as Japanese in terms of number of articles and active users but has 11 times more voters. (Source for sizes)

At the same time, out of 41 chapters:

  • 21 represent Western Europe and North America
  • 14 represent Global South
  • 5 represent English-speaking countries and 6 represent Spanish-speaking countries.
  • top-5 languages (en, de, fr, it, es) are represented by 16 chapters (39%)

Of course, it is quite far from a perfect result (although results are even better if we take user groups into account), but at least it is slightly closer to community diversity.

The issue with current community seats is that very small fraction of local wiki communities regularly participate in Meta discussions. At the same time, banners and village pump announcements become so widespread that people do not really feel concerned. The issue with affilation seats is that a lot of communities are entirely unrepresented, and not all affilated organisations actually ask their members during elections (although membership base of affilates is generally larger than that of community election voters).

The unfortunate consequence is that some fairly large wikis (e.g. Arabic Wikipedia) are not represented in elections as they neither have active voters on Meta nor active chapters.

Probably a good way to increase diversity is to ask local communities to organise internal votes in their languages instead of asking them to contribute at Meta in English. It would be difficult to manage, but at least we would be sure that all large communities are represented and have submitted their opinion. The ultimate goal of the WMF board is a) wikis in almost 300 different languages, b) projects in some 200 countries to promote them. We try to capture the second part by making chapters vote, but so far we fail to capture the first part as linguistic diversity is not well represented in the elections yet — NickK (talk) 01:13, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

the stats are nice but careful in making assumptions that those participating in the 5 languages are solely from Western Europe-North America these 5 languages are commonly spoken across the globe. They are also the oldest of our projects and the diversity of peoples understanding of these languages has contributed to a greater proportions of editors. Also these languages because of the their size and diversity are less influenced by cultural norms which attract participants who may be marginalized in their native language. Gnangarra (talk) 02:51, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree that these languages are more diverse but the main influence on these languages still remain Western European or North American. Probably the only exception is Spanish where Latin American community has a strong impact, but all five other projects are mostly driven by Western European and/or North American communities — NickK (talk) 09:48, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Another problem as I see it is treating Europe as one region. What would make more sense in my view would be to account for a major historical division into Western Europe and the Soviet block (which includes Central European countries, Eastern European countries, and also some Asian countries - all sharing some similar distinctive governance/organizational experience though), while treating the US and Western Europe as one entity (again, because of the generally similar organizational practices). I think it is a really good idea to have a more flexible design of the Board, as proposed. Pundit (talk) 08:52, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
    I agree with you Pundit, although above I have classified the entire EU into Western Europe as current Global North/Global South classification does. I agree that former Soviet block does have distinctive features but I have not added it as a separate entity as it is not a part of current GN/GS divide. If election system towards to some regional approach this would be definitely something to consider — NickK (talk) 09:48, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
    I think that GS/GN division reflects current economic welfare and for this you're definitely applying a reasonable logic. What I'm referring to is the cultural background for organizational practices, governance, etc. For instance, it is much more difficult for a person from the US/Western Europe to understand the intricacies characteristic of totalitarian, especially Soviet regimes. This is relevant, as our organization is in the heart of discussions on censorship, propaganda, doubletalk, etc. Similarly, understanding the problems of short supply economy for a person with a capitalist background is really much less viable. Soviet block was in many ways unique in this sense (it dealt with many different countries in a similar way - which cannot be said of other, contemporary regimes). While current differences in GDP do matter (even though they are often more class related than purely country related), for the Board members I would argue that diversity means also sensitivity to different heritages of organizational/governance kinds of logic. Pundit (talk) 10:11, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
    I fully agree with this (and for the record, I am also coming from a Soviet block country). The issue now is how we can better integrate this diversity into the board — NickK (talk) 11:42, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • The community did elect Ting Chen three times. I guess it depends on which definition of "from" you use for "from the Global South".
    Making pronouncements about the candidates that either process selects (including "they're both about the same") is tricky, since the chapter selection process has gone through so few cycles. If you looked at the first five years' worth of community-elected candidates, you'd find they elected a person living in France, in Italy, in Australia, in the US, and two in Germany. The more recent five years look a bit less diverse mainly because the candidates got re-elected several times (one possible virtue I'll admit for the chapter selection process is that it seems to rotate pretty quickly). A certain amount of this would have been averted if there were 5 seats up for election instead of 3. We would have elected people from Serbia, the Netherlands, Finland, Israel, Australia, the US...in fact, one of the two runners-up in every election since 2006 has been a Dutch-speaker, so there must be some sort of stroopwafel curse in play. :-) Emufarmers (talk) 10:13, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
    Just for the record, Ting Chen was living in Germany for 20 years at the time of his first election, thus I did not really consider him a GS candidate. As all candidates have to indicate residence in their nomination, I used this as a criterion for classifying candidates as GN/GS — NickK (talk) 11:42, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • NickK makes a good point which shows how we need to increase the diversity of appointment tools, rather than reduce it.
    1. As Emufarmers says, chapters guaranteed fresh blood to the WMF board. We may now need a third system to bring further diversity from the community: local votes might be a way, or the old proposal of a Volunteer Council might be reused, or any other election method can be selected. The new method could be used for 1, 2 or 3 seats.
    2. It also looks like the WMF board has increasing issues in selecting persons for the expert seats, so those could be reduced (to keep the amount of trustees constant) and/or merged to the advisory board, which would then be used more as suggested below. This would guarantee the flexibility in amount of members that the text asks for, as the advisory board has no strict limits on the number of members. --Nemo 11:14, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
    @Nemo_bis, could you explain what "local votes" could look like? (And no, there are no increasing issues, as you will see soon when we can announce our new appointed Board member.) Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:43, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
    @Lyzzy: As it was originally my idea, I will try to explain. I mean that a large number of communities apart of 5 main languages (en, de, fr, es, it) are poorly represented at community elections. For example, some large communities like Japanese, Arabic or Russian are heavily underrepresented. Under local votes I supposed to pass all or partial responsibilities to local communities who would organise elections locally so that they can more actively involve local users who are not active on Meta. At the moment, despite all efforts dedicated to announcements in Sitenotice and village pumps, 5 large wikis plus multilingual ones count for 75% of votes, which is not a fair distribution — NickK (talk) 14:12, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
geographic diversity is an issue, but it is difficoult to define. It is also in conflict with the need expressed by some to be more in contact with the "real community". it is true (even if sad) that if the community is unbalanced, a board just cannot act as a balancement... as a HR responsibile of the E.U. told me once, experts of the "glass ceiling" problem has faced the very same issue: for example you can put 30-50% of women on the board of company , but that usually does not alter the real composition of the staff. And if diversity is so important where do you stop at the end? Why not clear gender diversity? Or age diversity? IMHO the first step should be to select the good ones and only later, if strategy requires, other ones. If you need a fresh perspective sometimes inviting someone on the board is enough, and it is also a more flexible and more focused tool. In my alma mater we could invite people from the finance or industry on the board, if necessary. There was no need to have them permanently, we simply asked them for a commentary or a report and we invited them when an important decision had to be cast. Again in other subcouncils or committes some students profiles were simply invited if not elected when their opinion was considered valuable. IMHO You don't need to elect/chose the "right profile": you need members smart and flexible enough to be in contact with the right profiles when necessary.--Alexmar983 (talk) 00:24, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
I would say that we need a Board who would be as linguistically and geographically diverse as our movement. Those two criteria are crucial for our movement, as Board should be a legitimate representative of almost 300 language communities (thus should include people with different backgrounds, including those who edit other projects than largest Wikipedias) and should represent WMF to some 200 countries (thus should include people who are aware of particular challenges of Wikimedia movement in various regions, both in Global North and Global South). This is something that most of companies do not have to deal with. At the same time, other criteria like age or gender diversity are good to have but cannot be mandatory — NickK (talk) 01:32, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

A comparison (WMSE)Edit

For WMSE we have deifend a set of competences we want in the WMSEBoard

  • from the wikipedia community
  • from the education community
  • from the GLAM community

we also want to cover

  • finance competence
  • marketing/communciation/information-dissimination communty (newpapers, PR agencies etc)
  • open source community
  • non-profit org/fundrasing experience

We then look into how well the WMSE programs works and the dialogue works for the different interest groups. And if there are special challanges or new opportuniteis that can motivate special comptences on the board.

Based on this input and input from the Board and the general wish to have broad geographical representation as well as balanced repreanastion related to gender and etniccal group, we in the election commitee defines the need fo comptences for the next term. For WMSE we have found a decrease in need of represeantions from Wikipedia Communtiy and almost from education community as the program here are Mature and the dialogue is up and working also from the people being employed at the office. And this year we actualy defined as a priority a person from information-dissimination communty.

So with this as a comparison I agree with the initiative you have started looking into this, as it was many years todays set-up was defined. And in general I beleive somewhat less of repreanation from movemnet internal comptences (people from community and entities).Anders Wennersten (talk) 15:12, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Thanks for the information, Anders. What competencies and tasks has the election committee? If I understand right they set the criteria for the Board, do they also reach out to potential candidates or nominate them? Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:53, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
We in the election committe represent the key interest groups: the Wikipedia community, the education community and Glam/institutions. We set the criterias but not in vacuum, we first collect input from the Board members and from the employed personell in the office. We then first prepare a "long" list of candidates, that we reduce by ourselves to a "short" list where the criteras is one key compente to shorten it. For the names on the shortlist we the try to get more input. The whole list is checked with the chair of the Board, and parts of it with people on the Board and/or office who know of the comeptence area/candidates. And then we in the election committe take contact with the "hottest" candidates, and if the person in intrerested we invite them for an interview with me, as election committe chair, and a key person from the Board/office. And if all "lights are green" we nominate the person and put up the name as a candidate for the assemby to vote on (agree upon).Anders Wennersten (talk) 06:56, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Anders, thank you for the description. It's really helpful to hear of different ways that it is being done. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 23:03, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Limiting the termsEdit

Setting a maximum number of terms allowed for an individual, or limiting the maximum number of continous terms (with or without max limit) is a quite widespread practice in the world to keep up the diversity (and to prevent autocracy/oligarchy/etc). Vince (talk) 23:04, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

yes, it is. It should be implemented. I don't consider it important for real public elected or executive officers (even a little demagogic), but I've always supported the idea for public control and supervision committees or executive boards of private non-profit associations or organizations. Although "old" members can always find another position somewhere else in the chart, at least it states a principle.--Alexmar983 (talk) 12:50, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
The term limit question hasn't been finally discussed and decided, that's true. We will talk about this also, but wanted to start with the composition first, because it seems to be a tough question with a lot of aspects to consider and many further thinkings depend on it and may look different when composition changes. Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:49, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
it should be possible in any case to implement a non retroactive rule with a generous limit of, for example, three terms. It virtually has no real impact in the present but it gives at least a general idea, and it can always be corrected later if necessary.--Alexmar983 (talk) 23:19, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

I don't see the necessity, but if, then the entire time should not be too short, say 10 years. Also, there should be a clear rule about re-entering the board after some time. But given our experiences, this is not a real problem. --Ziko (talk) 23:28, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

Setting a term limit is an healthy practice. IMHO, it should be between 3 and 5 consecutive terms (6-10 years), with the possibility of re-entering the board after some time. - Laurentius (talk) 09:07, 22 February 2015 (UTC)

And it might be appropriate to set shorter limits for appointed seats, since there isn't any election. - Laurentius (talk) 11:13, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
Appointed seats also have a term of two years, and the Board formally re-approve the appointments with a resolution. Alice Wiegand (talk) 14:09, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Alice: that is true, but reappointment has been a fairly routine thing: there is no annual process to review potential candidates (as there is for the other Trustee seats) unless the existing Trustee steps down or is forced to leave by the others. So the Board has to actively want a change before considering anyone else; and it has been an uncertain appointment process taking quite some time, always resulting in an empty seat for some months. Which creates incentive not to change unless something is really not working. SJ talk  14:25, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Since in some comments suggests that appointed members stay forever I wanted to clarify. There's no review of potential candidates, that's true, but there is a review of the current member. And of course this review-process as well as the search (or better find-)process can be improved. And they already do with every year we do it again. Alice Wiegand (talk) 14:35, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, noone stays forever. The two longest-standing appointees announced they are stepping down. And the appointment process has gotten much better. But, to Laurentius's concern, rather than making seats unequal (different conditions), perhaps we can have a more similar process for evaluating current trustees alongside potential new trustees. SJ talk  15:37, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Alice: sorry, my comment probably was not correctly worded, I mean a limit on the number of consecutive terms, not a limit on the length of a single term (which is already defined). If there is no limit on the terms it's like copyright terms, in theory they cannot be infinite, but in practice they are extended each time :-) - Laurentius (talk)
I have always been an advocate for term limits but as we have examined them over and over in the past, it has become relatively clear that while term limits are a good idea in the abstract for governance reasons, they are actually a solution to a problem that we don't seem to actually have. There is substantial (sometimes unsettling) board turnover generally speaking, and because it takes quite a bit of time for a board member to become fully productive (there is a LOT to learn) we don't really want to push for overall shorter terms of service generally. My overall position, therefore, is that some form of term limits such as a limit on consecutive terms amounting to 10 years is probably worthwhile, but also not a very big priority right now.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 20:30, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree that a board member needs time to become fully productive; indeed, the limit should not be too short. I was thinking something like 8 consecutive years. Changing the whole board every couple of years is definitely something to avoid! On the other hand, while this might not look so urgent, it's something that should be defined in advance, before there is a need (and, hopefully, before it actually affects someone, since it's not nice to discuss about a rule that would immediately have effect on a board member). Moreover, we have a few people who have been in the board for a long time (thanks for all the work you are doing!), so it's not something far in the future. - Laurentius (talk) 16:17, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

Birds of a Feather Flock Together (minimum criteria for Trustees)Edit

Funny enough one needs a minimum number of edits to vote. But one does not need a minimum number of edits to be on the board, or be a CEO of the foundation. This sounds like i would not be allowed to vote for the US president, but i would be allowed to stand for the election to become US president. I am wondering if you as a board member ever asked yourself why you do not edit? Or how another person on the board who is not editing helps you making a better decision to make more people edit or improve the software? There is a saying "Birds of a feather flock together" - and with the most successful football clubs this seems to be true: they are run by footballers. (Contributor in the sense of making "billable contributions", i.e. to contents which users want to see and donate, as well to software displaying this contents) --ThurnerRupert (talk) 16:58, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

I keep coming back to the point that diversity is essential. That means that not all the board members have to edit. Remember that the topics that the board deals with are diverse but rarely operational to the level that specific editing expertise is needed. And luckily we have enough expertise present in this area within the board :) Jan-Bart (talk) 18:31, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Jan-Bart. Editing experience appears in my experience to have little correlation with board member performance. But it goes a bit deeper than that, as well. Editing experience has had little correlation with the way board members approach advocacy on behalf of the community. It might seem likely that board members who are editors will be strong voices for the editing community, while board members who are not will not be strong voices for the editing community - but experience does not generally bear that out.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 20:33, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Just one note on this, editors are (sadly) a fraction of the stakeholders here. Our readers, re-users and many other interested parties need to be be heard as well. So editing is important, but not telling the whole story. Matanya (talk) 11:54, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

Limiting bureaucracy and/or staff involvementEdit

If I'm not mistaken, this request from the board didn't receive any suggestion yet. I have some. IMHO this is "easy" to solve, by following common practices: namely, that only trustees participate in board discussions (in person, mailing lists, IRC or whatever). A trustee can ask a question to a non-trustee and, if the chair allows the person to speak, an answer can be given. Board meeting time is precious and when a need arises for specific staff expertise, i.e. "technical details", it means there was a failure in preparing the meeting. Can happen, but that's a last resort.

WMF now has a broad staff with a variety of expertise, which needs to be properly and systematically integrated in board decisions. It would be irresponsible to use such expertise only in last minute discussions or special-cased interaction. The only proper way to do so is IMHO the usage of committees, which can include staff to answer questions (or even with a right to speak, or full membership in special cases). The board can then receive a complete picture from its committees, without a need for additional investigations or additional processes.

Of course this already happens, in particular (I think) with HR Committee, Audit Committee and AffCom. But the process can be be made clearer and more straightforward (hence more transparent). Then, nothing forbids that existing or new committees also include external expertise, including advisory board members and other persons who can't participate in the whole board work. That would also solve the issue of wider involvement without the rather useless opposition expand trustees vs. expand advisory board vs. rest of the world. Nemo 22:48, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

Role of expertise, on the board and in advisorsEdit

Role of the advisory boardEdit

Hey,

Many of the reasons for changing the board composition seems related to the need of more expertise. While asking to bring more people to the board, I think it will be helpful to expend our knowledge about the role and the involvement of the advisory board. Some of them are attending Wikimania from time to time, don't know if by their own expenses or the board budget. Their involvement in the daily work of the board or during strategic decisions are unclear. The idea behind this talented group seem to be direct solution for specific needs - for example knowledge in IT and Data centers while having strategic decisions about IT's issues, instead of bringing appointed trustee just with this expertise, or gender-gap issues and others. People who maybe [less] likely to enter the board and invest the huge amount of time needed by each trustee rather than specific periods of time and decisions. --Itzike (talk) 08:55, 17 February 2015 (UTC)

For anyone curious, wmf:Advisory Board lists the current members.
I'm not sure why we need four appointed seats when we have an Advisory Board. Why not eliminate the appointed seats in favor of community-elected seats? --MZMcBride (talk) 16:46, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
The advisory board is a completely different body with completely different commitment from its members. When dealing with the board of the foundation diversity of expertise, cultural background, community involvement etc. etc. etc. is essential. Jan-Bart (talk) 19:40, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
Only thinking loud and giving propositions, maybe an option could be to mix both ideas. Why could give an appointed seat to the Advisory Committee, a person elected internaly or (much better) publicly from that group of experts to be part of the Board. In that way we keep such committee at the same time we involve them trough a direct liason inside the Board- Salvador (talk) 23:31, 17 February 2015 (UTC)
  • Thanks Itzike for the comment -- this is helpful, thanks. The Board Governance Committee (which is a subset of current board members) is going to work in the next few months on ideas for making the advisory board more useful and we can share that with everyone. I agree, it could be a great way to bring people in with specific expertise who don't want to spend all the time of a trustee. Right now the advisory board is basically inactive; individuals who are on it participate in various projects, sometimes work with staff, etc. but as a whole the advisory board structure needs to be rethought. -- phoebe | talk 01:25, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
  • p.s. having an advisory board exactly as Itzike describes is a pretty common structure for a US nonprofit (as is having boards of stakeholders, etc), so it's definitely one of the possibilities. Right now we don't have a defined mechanism for using the very talented people on the Advisory Board, unfortunately. -- phoebe | talk 01:27, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi @Itzike:, the one perk of being on the advisory board is that WMF covers travel to Wikimania for those who want to attend. A handful do each year.
Different boards can function in many ways – as rubber stamps; as moral oversight; as operational review; as strategic focus; as networkers, fundraisers and catalysts. The Wikimedia board has shifted over the years.
For a strategic board, you want enough governance + executive expertise on the board to make it effective. Expanding networks and major partnerships takes personal capital or steady prolonged work, not well suited to an advisor. For instance: we don't need someone who knows how data centers work. But if the projects started handling exabytes of data, and this began to dominate projected expenses and planning, it would make sense to recruit a trustee who had run or worked with the largest data centers around, both to open doors and to help the board analyze what comes next. SJ talk  14:14, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
(Also: I added a "less" where I think you meant it in your last sentence.)
We have fairly long experience now with our advisory board, and different approaches have been taken over time. I also personally have experience on other advisory boards, and have talked to people at many other nonprofits about their experience with advisory boards.
The most important thing that I've learned is that it is very rare for advisory board members to be even 1/10th as engaged as actual board members. There are a number of reasons for this, not least of which that people who pour their heart and soul into something would like to have, in return, some actual say in what happens. I've seen a dynamic like this: a board member becomes engaged in some idea or issue, pushes it at the board level, and fails to gain a majority. They typically accept this, as it is part of being a board member. An advisory board member in the same situation tends to feel "Well, look, I gave my advice, and they didn't listen, so I won't bother doing it again." This can happen with no animosity, just a rational evaluation of priorities in life.
So while advisory board members are really important, it is unwise to imagine that we can compose our board willy-nilly without regard to a mix of experiences and skills and expect the advisory board to take up the slack.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:21, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

In WMNL we once discussed about introducing an advisory board. We found out that we were discussing actually about two different things:

  • Some favoured a "list of recommendators", experts or celebrities who link their good name to WMNL and support us morally. Such a list would be published on our website, and the recommendators would be invited to a dinner once a year.
  • Others favoured an "advisory board", a more select, small group of people we actually ask for advice on general or even more specific issues. We would expect them to meet on a more or less regular basis and write a kind or report.

We finally did no go on with the idea because we were not sure about the benefits. Creating such lists or boards is already some work, and we were busy with more important issues at the time.

My own idea for the Wikimedia Foundation would be a "Readers committee". A huge problem for Wikipedia and the whole movement is the lack of input from this "stakeholders group". The people who read Wikipedia have no lobby, their word does not count. Partially, WMF board members without an editors background are such "readers". But I would like to see a Readers committee consisting of experts such as teachers, journalists, scientists, parents, who represent readers at a larger scale or know about readers and their needs. The Readers committee could give advice on software developments or editing practices, or comment on IEGs etc. that are dealing with issues such as readability or reader experience, or content issues.

In theory, a Readers committee could be trusted with appointing one WMF board member instead of the WMF board itself (though the Readers committee would be appointed by the WMF board). But maybe that would pose a huge burden on the Readers committee, to find a good candidate. On the other hand, such a right would give the Readers committee more importance and attractiveness. --Ziko (talk) 14:17, 27 February 2015 (UTC)

Community selected advisory groupEdit

Building off of Ziko's suggestion and a comment that Lodewijk made off-wiki, what about supplementing the advisory board with one that is compromised of people elected by the community. I apologize if this was within some other texts, but I did not see it jump out. I am not sure they would need to be able to appoint board members, but I think some clearly defined roles would be wise (my impression is the primary advisory board's role is intentionally abstract). Perhaps regular meetings with board liaisons and the Executive Director, or some method along those lines for consistent community input to WMF leadership. I recognize that much of this naturally happens through wikis, and a more robust Community Advocacy department could help address some of this, but it strikes me that ultimately the "Wikimedia way" suggests having some direct community input. As someone that has never worked for a nonprofit that had a community elected board, I can appreciate the logic behind the changes, and would feel hypocritical speaking against them. However, I do empathize with concerns that this could reduce the opportunities for the community to have direct input on, and buy in to, WMF's internal actions. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 00:06, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

Expertise?Edit

I was thinking in the skills the Board was looking for its new composition. I'm a bit afraid of the idea of considering expertise as selective regarding valuable new people with fresh ideas. It seems there is a well-implanted idea inside the board that "expertise" is people with an impresive résumé that has directed other organizations and has an executive profile. Ours is an organization sui generis, where the community has a fundamental role with activities based on cooperation and semi-horizontal communication. So, it's hard to think in external people having such kind of expertise so specialized. I'm not against to the idea of having a couple of people coming from other organizations and non-Wikimedia experiencies that might gives us new perspectives and new ways to make things different, but, on the other hand, I fight back the idea of having a "dream team" Board made up of executives that will see WMF as any other no-profit organization or, even worst, a company. Salvador (talk) 16:44, 18 February 2015 (UTC)

Hey Salvador, I agree. I think of diversity fo expertise as the goal. That includes expertise on our projects, community and other unique aspects of our movement. I think its essential to complement these with all kinds of other expertise. This diversity should lead to a board that is able to perform best in supporting the Foundation and its mission. Jan-Bart (talk) 18:24, 18 February 2015 (UTC)
@Salvador alc:, other organizations (some much older and broader than ours) are also sui generis or support cooperative and horizontal communities. If you look at Bishakha and Ana, our most recent appointees to the board, they came from such backgrounds. You may be right that we could use one person on the board with experience running very different types of organizations, for a different picture.
The list of skills (where broader experience is especially welcome) may not emphasize some things that are expected, but are also thoroughly covered by the current trustees. E.g., experience with self-organized communities, an affinity for distributed cooperation and problem-solving. SJ talk  13:12, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
I see a real risk in the assumption that we are "sui generis" - the risk is the very real risk of "not invented here" and "the lessons of other organizations are meaningless for us". Neither is true. While we are in some ways unique, we are in many ways quite normal. We are a nonprofit organization with a need for sound governance, employment practices, financial oversight, wise fundraising practice, etc. That's not sui generis. We are a top 5 or top 10 website facing the continuing onslaught of technology which changes the environment in which we operate: the rise of mobile apps poses new challenges, Google Knowledge Graph poses new challenges, the existence and potential for commercial and noncommercial competitors who do not share our values of neutrality and openness. That's not "sui generis".
We know from long experience that editors with no management or nonprofit governance experience have a steep learning curve to become well-rounded and solid board members. That curve is just as steep, if not steeper, than the learning curve of those board members who come to us with interesting other experiences but no experience with online community or 'semi-horizontal communication'. I very strongly disagree with the notion that we may only need "one person on the board" or "a couple of people coming from other organizations and non-Wikimedia experiences". We have an absolute wealth in our community, in our staff, and in our board of Wikimedia experience. This leads us, in many cases, to be blind to threats and to be unprepared for bold change within the organization - change which, by the way, is not a matter of choice in many cases, but of survival.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 11:28, 25 February 2015 (UTC)

What's the problem?Edit

What is the problem you're trying to solve?Edit

One thing I really like of the Individual Engagement Grants application form is the first question: "What is the problem you're trying to solve?". Simple and, yet, fundamental. I don't see in the the page as it is now a clear statement of the problem that the Board is trying to solve. There are stated goals that the Board wants to reach but there is no clear reason or why WMF would want to reach it. So let's try to work backwards and see if we can infer the problem from the goals: Here they are

  • A continuous process of looking for potential trustees;
  • This looks like a very general feature that is "nice to have" for any group or committee, i.e. being always receptive of new, talented people;
  • Diversity (gender, geography, expertise, background, different Wikimedia experiences)
  • The problem here would be "There is a lack of diversity in the current board".
  • Let's look at a solution, as it has been noted by many above the process with the higher potential for diversity is ASBS. Another process that's easy to fix for this problem are actually appointed seats, making diversity (of gender, region, language, etc.) a strong criterion for appointed seats. Community selected seats are not necessarily "adding up" to the problem but as it has been noted there are some biases.
  • Finding talent inside and outside our communities
  • As the first point, this looks like a very general feature that is nice to have. I am not even considering the possibility that the board considers its current member not to be talented enough, for I know many of them and I am sure of the contrary/
  • Providing governance experience and training to potential candidates in our movement
  • The problem here would be "Current board members have a limited governance experience". Now, that's very though, because all the current trustees have a broad experience in managing organizations, albeit perhaps on a smaller scale, and this experience usually comes from serving in the board of affiliate organisations. Furthermore, as Salvador_alc has already pointed out there seem to be need for having all the board members being experts in specific fields. The role of the board is much more of giving a startegic direction. And the problem I see here is the slippery slope: "when you start deploying the non-controversial idea of expertise only selectively. you stop making a dispassionate analysis of what is needed by an organisation and you start deciding to deploy resources specifically on the basis of political ideology" (semicit). Please note that while I think that the experience of WMSE, as provided by Anders, is very useful I think that we shall consider the fact that the Board of medium and small-sized organisations has a more direct role in the management of the organisation itself.
  • Providing lower overhead ways to contribute to WMF governance and advise strategic decisions
  • The problem here would be "There is too much overhead now for contributing to WMF governance and advise strategic decisions". I don't think that any of the proposed solutions addresses this problem in any way.
  • Limiting bureaucracy and/or staff involvement
  • Same as above
  • Flexible Board composition: e.g., allowing for an extra 1-2 Trustees in some years
  • Another "nice to have" feature, does not look to be a goal in itself.

So, I feel that the problem should be stated more clarerly such that the proposed solution can be better evaluated in light of the stated problem. As far as I can see from the little analysis I have done above and from most of the discussion in this page the main problem, and the most pressing as per the number of people that are stating that *we have* a problem is diversity. Can I suggest we go back to the drawing board and we state that we want to find a a way to foster diversity in the board and we set our goals accordingly? -- CristianCantoro (talk) 01:29, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

  • Thanks, CristianCantoro. I think it's less that we think the current board is bad in some way -- we all respect each other a lot! -- and more that we are trying to look towards the future: how do we get the best trustees possible? The job is big: to govern a quite large US-based tech organization, that is also a core part of and serves a global movement of highly skilled volunteers who are producing the most important online knowledge project of our time. As a movement and a foundation we have fundamental structural issues right now: retaining skilled editors; not enough editors to produce projects that reach every single person in their own language; readers who are shifting how they use Wikipedia, or not using it all anymore; etc. Internally, the board needs to be able to give guidance and feedback to our new (amazing) executive director, who is working on how to structure the WMF to be most effective; and along with our ED we need to decide what the WMF's core priorities are and the best way to ensure a stable organization. Given all of that, we want to make sure that when we appoint someone to a board seat they bring a useful and diverse perspective, and can help the board & trustees benefit from their experience. We also want to make sure that community members who would make awesome trustees actually do run for the job, and have a chance to win. We want to make sure that voters (in both processes) have enough information to make a good choice. We want to make sure that trustees reflect the global diversity of our projects, while also having the skills needed to do a good job as trustees (including knowing enough about the role of the board that they can quickly integrate into discussions). So those are the fundamental problems, as I see them. --- phoebe | talk 01:01, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

A good question. I think all current selection processes have weaknesses, which get community attention briefly each time a process starts. It's worth reviewing in more detail what is working, what is not, and ways to do better. For instance, what we can do to:

  • Improve the low / variable participation in elections, by candidates and by voters
  • Have a predictable way for choosing the voting method & format, minimizing confusion
  • Clear up questions of suffrage & representation for affiliate selection, possibly changing the process
  • Include community suggestions or input for all candidates (esp. appointees)
  • Speed up the appointee process, have appointees selected well in advance of their term's start
  • Consider new appointees on a rolling basis, rather than waiting for a current trustee to step down
  • Address systemic bias in who stands as a candidate (different for each process, with some overall bias)
  • Review ways each process could be manipulated or attacked, and consider improvements
  • Learn over time: share what is reasonable (schedules, communication & translation, community review, tech, standing committee?) across selections

SJ talk  12:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

  • yep, agreed with all of this too. (I should have put my reply in bullet points too! so much easier to read). -- phoebe | talk 19:25, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

Why?Edit

My statement has gotten a little bit longer, so I decided to publish it as a blog post: Why oh why board? #wikimediafoundation #wmf I guess my concern with this propositions is: what goals is this change in composition supposed to achieve? What are the improved impacts a different composition of the board should bring? It's hard to comment on some changes in process and structure if you don't know what these changes are supposed to achieve. -- southpark (talk) 08:13, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

Thanks, @Southpark: I really appreciate your thoughts and proposals. I and hope you don't mind my copying it here for in-wiki responses~ SJ talk  15:06, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Not at all @Sj:. I just try to limit the number of words on discussion pages and I am not really a friedn of crossposting too much. But I guess you are right: here it should be in full. -- southpark (talk) 16:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation "oversees the foundation and its work, as its ultimate corporate authority." It is made up of volunteers who oversee the work of the Wikimedia Foundation, guide its strategy and are, in a very abstract way, the embodified ultima ratio of decision making inside the Wikimedia Foundation.

The make-up of the board and its composition are grown historically and organically. That means, they are not really suitable for standards of applied logic. They somehow they came into being. Right now the board consists of "1 founder (Jimmy Wales for eternity..), 4 appointed by other board members, 3 elected by the communities in a complicated process and 2 selected by affiliate organisations (mainly chapters) in a process one really doesn't want to know.

So it is a good idea to think about the composition of the board and if there are ways for improvement. The way I would think about it: is: "What is this board supposed to do? What is the doing? Is there room for improvement? Is there any way the composition of the board can be changed to cover this room?"

The Board thinks about its composition


The reason, why I'm writing all of this: the board really is thinking about its composition:

As to the:

WHY?

..this text by the board remains utterly silent. The only reason given is "we started to think about ways to improve". So of course it is very difficult to comment on some propositions if one has no idea what these propositions are supposed to achieve. So I really don't know why. But at least the board tells me what it would like to achive. The board writes about its objectives:
    (1) A continuous process of looking for potential trustees
    (2) Diversity (gender, geography, expertise, background, different Wikimedia experiences)
    (3) Finding talent inside and outside our communities
    (4) Providing governance experience and training to potential candidates in our movement
    (5) Providing lower overhead ways to contribute to WMF governance and advise strategic decisions
    (6) Limiting bureaucracy and/or staff involvement
    (7) Flexible Board composition: e.g., allowing for an extra 1-2 Trustees in some years
I would say: two of these (1 and 6) are about process in a narrow sense. For somebody not involved in board-action this is almost impossible to answer. Two of these objectives (4 and 5) are about process in a less narrow sense, two objectives (2, 3) are about the composition of the board and one (7) I really don't understand at all.

So I will focus on composition and on process.

Composition

As said, the board consists of 10 members. Focusing on diversity, these are:

  • 1 is the founder (a North American male from inside the community)
  • 3 are selected by the communities (due to the election process heavily favoring people from North America from inside the community)
  • 2 are selected by the chapters and amical (due to the composition of the movement favoring candidates from Europe and South America from inside the community)
  • 4 are appointed (the board is basically free to do what it likes, As far as I can see in the last years it selected one male from the USA (Matt Halin), and three females, one from India (Bishakha Datta), one from South America (Ana Toni) and one from Europe (Alice Wiegand) .


So of the 10 seats, six have a heavy regional bias by system and four are in principle available for candidates all over the world. So of course one could increase the number of appointed members to get more regional diversity. Unluckily these four (plus Jimbo) have a heavy bias against democratisation and participation. Increasing the number of appointed seats would at the same time decrease the democratic legitimsation this board has.

The other way is to change the composition of the board is to change the ways single seats are given: Since the board is already free to appoint whoever it wants (and I basically I have no idea at all how it decides) I have no idea as well, how this could be changed. Abolishing Jimbo would lead to more diversity but could bring some other problems. Changing the ways the community and affiliate seats are given could be a good idea, but also could create a lot of problems on a democratic/representative level. There we really would have to talk about details about how this is playing out.

On another level: yeah, I like diversity and on a general level I'm deeply convinced that more diverse organizations work better than less diverse ones. But there are other factors as well that make an organizsation work better and that are not part of the boards reasoning From this board statement I cannot see why diversity in this case is such a special need and overall priority, I as well cannot see what kinds of diversity are primary goals (which should have a huge effect on the kind of process finally chosen).

So I'm not really sure how this is supposed to playout and how the board will overcome the gap between its goal of a globally universal compositon of a board and an electorate that heavily weighs towards North America, Europe and South America.
 

Volunteer structures inside WMF and responsibilities

About process: the two objectives: "Providing governance experience and training to potential candidates in our movement. Providing lower overhead ways to contribute to WMF governance and advise strategic decisions." This is a great idea. Right now the only way for volunteers to have a responsible position at the WMF is a board members. There is no tenure track, no way to hold responsibilty at a lower level and the only organised entities of volunteers on foundation level are in grantmaking. In these committees there is already a pool of potential candidates, but I'm not sure if the board is really aware of this. And of course there needs to be more - more volunteers involved, in a more defined process with more responsibilities. This is a way to develop a large pool of potential candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds, give them experience with foundation work and let the people at the community and the chapters already come into contact with them and know them.

Of course this is more demanding than a simple change of procedure in selecting board members. But at least it is sustainable and actually solves problems long-term :-)

So what to do

So, let's just assume the board has answerde the "Why?" already and the proposed "what" is the ultimate answer to the why. What I would do:

(1) Abolish Jimbo
(2) Maybe change the appointment process (although I don't know enough about it to really say so)
(3) Maybe change the election processes (but this is a matter of details and finetuning and could easily backfire)
(4) Create a lot more ways and positions for volunteers to have responsibility inside the movement / create a tenure track.

One point is wrong: 2 are selected by the chapters and amical (due to the composition of the movement favoring candidates from Europe and South America from inside the community). This selection cannot favour candidates from South America as South America has only 4 votes out of 42 (while Asia has 7 to 9, depending on definition) — NickK (talk) 23:25, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

on the whyEdit

Some of you have asked “why” we are thinking about a change in the Board composition and that in fact it is the one of the key questions. Please bear with us, when you already started to think about a change it is sometimes hard to explain your reasons in a way that makes it comprehensible for others. Furthermore any change looks different depending on your perspective and your expectations. That’s why I try to add some aspects from the Board’s point of view and hope to clarify some of your points.

First:
Our current Board is diverse (in some aspects, in others not so much), it is functioning and we all treat each other with respect and we value all those individual skills and competences we bring into this body. We respect the community and its organizations like chapters, thematic organizations and user groups, we want them all -- editing and non-editing community -- to have a role in the Board composition and we want to benefit from the assets they all can bring to the Board. At the same time we remain with the definition of the Board’s role and legal obligation which is to oversee the management of the organization and ensure that it fulfills this role.

So here come some more aspects on the reasoning:

  • As a board, we have been focusing on becoming more strategic, especially as a new ED has come on board. Obviously, the pace of change in the world is accelerating, which brings more opportunities, challenges and threats to WMF and our movement. To be successful in this environment, we need greater diversity, not only regional but also topical diversity. Since we are an international organization with a broad range of responsibilities and activities we want this to be better reflected in our Board composition, regardless of the path the Board member had to take to step into her new function.
  • WMF is a growing, complex and dynamic organization and we need even greater expertise on the board to support our ED and to accomplish our primary governance responsibility, which needs to stick with the ongoing development of WMF. That includes some management experience which is part of how to get to productivity and satisfaction.
  • There are many excellent potential board members in the community who will never participate in an election, even if it is well-run and efficient. And there are excellent potential board members who may participate in an election, but aren’t well enough known to win. We want more ways to tap these people in the community. We need to find ways to create an environment for potential candidates as well as for voters, which is more welcoming and open and which is able to identify individual capabilities.
  • We want to simplify our known processes, renew and optimize them to make them attractive for all communities and reduce the workload of our staff as well as that of our volunteers (i.e. the election committee). We also need to review roles. The election committee can contribute more than conducting a single election each year. They provide the experience of the broader community and there may be more ways that they can help the Board prosper.
  • We realize that there is a wide range of views about the current state of diversity within the Board. When we look on those who run and those who are elected, we realize that our communities are not equally represented in the (s)elections. Besides obvious missings like user groups (so far not eligible to participate in the affiliate selections), we would like to see contributors, photographers, developers, translators and all others also participating in the election process. All kinds of communities are important for the organization, there is no hierarchy and we need to find ways to approach them all and increase the participation rate
  • We need some flexibility for the Board size to have an option to get good candidates when we have the opportunity to. Today, if there is one seat to fill, we need to make a hard choice between candidates, and we lose one great potential member, because we are not able to temporarily enlarge the Board. This is not only the case for appointed members, also community members could be affected. We are limiting ourselves while bound to the restriction of the bylaws.

Does that help to better understand from where we come? Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:35, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

Yes. Interesting to read. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 20:53, 24 February 2015 (UTC)

General inputEdit

Some mixed up ideasEdit

About the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, I think that most members of the Board should be elected by the Wikimedians in a democratic way. That said, we have a very serious sociological problem. In the Global South people have far less resources –money is only one of the problems- than in the Global North. I can drive 200 km in an afternoon to take a picture and come home for supper. That’s impossible in most of Africa and very big chunks of Asia or Latin America. So if I find very difficult (in money terms) to take 15 days a year to go to meetings in –for example- San Francisco, my guess is that is even more impossible to the average inhabitant in Cariamanga or Lilongwe. It could be even worse: in most places the only people that could consider a Board position would be the filthy rich, but most of them are not interested, fortunately.

There’s one reason why the Global North is holding most positions in Wikimedia: I can edit every afternoon because I don’t need to work 16 hours a day to earn a decent salary. I’ve got time, I’ve got bandwidth, I’ve got a computer: I’m fortunate to live in the Global North, that, seen from –say- Bolivia, includes most of Buenos Aires too.

So if we want a fair voice of the Global South maybe we should ask for some kind of non-elected representatives, in addition to the elected ones. Those unelected people could be non-voting, but they would have a voice to express the interests of their “constituencies”. As I have said, the average Wikimedian in the Global South just cannot allow to attend a meeting thousands of miles away, even if their transport cost are covered. And those people that can attend are very unlikely to be “average” in their local countries.

I think that Chapters and Affiliates represent a different kind of activism from editors. They organize activities –from Edit-a-thons to GLAM to Wiki Loves Whatever- that cannot be done by individuals. In addition, they have a “group” vision of matters different from the individual one of editors. I’m both an editor and a Chapter member and I see both things as very different. But I agree that geographically established Chapters have to share their role –and their privileges- with Affiliates and other groups that are also part of the “group” vision of Wikimedia. I think that Wikimedia Community members should elect a majority of the Board. A residual group of non-voting members should be kept for particular questions, as explained about Global South, also about technical or legal aspects. Combining people elected from the projects with people from Affiliates and Chapters would provide a diverse Board with an understanding of Wikimedia vision and philosophy.

B25es (talk) 19:30, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

We have some pretty awesome people from the global south who are on international committees and make attending wikimedia movement events a priority in their life. So, I don't see it as acceptable to push them off to just a non-voting member status instead of appointing them as full voting members in order to get their expertise. We're a global movement and we need to find ways to reach people everywhere.
And the people who I work with on committees who are from the global south are not just on the committee to speak for their constituencies. In general, they are extremely talented and knowledgeable people who have a great deal of general life and career experience to bring to the movement. They are not token member who are there for one purpose...representing the global south. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 23:26, 20 February 2015 (UTC)
Elected people should have voting status. But that's not my point. I've had to explain to Spanish-speaking people why Kiwix or Wikipedia Zero do care to Wikimedia. I've had to explain them that full time access to the internet or even to electricity is something most people in this planet cannot take for granted. An article about dumsor has recently been added to English Wikipedia. The point is not that people born in the Global South are part of committees, that's great. The point is having people on the committees that understand how things are where you have dumsor, or any other of Global South's plagues.
I understand that most people with the time and resources to join a committee come from de Global North (either born there or living there), experts in the Global South are still needed. B25es (talk) 07:53, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
agree some models just dont work, and local knowledge is more than just language its the life experiences and understanding those practicalities which the current makeup misses.. 124.148.217.229 09:00, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
The point that I'm making is that it is wrong for the wikimedia movement to look at the people coming from the global north to be in control, and to have people from the global south being a problem that needs to be managed. The wikimedia movement belongs to people all over the world. We don't merely need to hear their thinking about local issues, we need for them to join in fully and influence everything about the movement. It may be an inconvenience to have to spend more on flights, manage global time zones for conference calls, and pay for translators, but it is essential for the movement as a whole to be composed of people from every where. Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 16:25, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Being a person from Global South does not mean being a poor person, nor a person who have problems with travelling. It is easier to reach San Francisco from Manila than from Madrid and a flight from Cairo to San Francisco can be cheaper than a flight from Amsterdam. An average resident of, say, Jaraíz de la Vera is not more available to travel to San Francisco a few times a year than an average resident of Cariamanga. However, most people interested in Wikimedia movement live in places with reasonable Internet connectivity and have enough revenues to have free time to dedicate to the project of their choice. The opposite is also right: most people who live in people with poor Internet connectivity and who live in poverty have no interest in Wikimedia movement (although we may try to change this). But in most of Global South you can easily find a few people per country who are qualified, have a knowledge of Wikimedia movement and are available to travel — such people are typically active in local chapters or user groups. They might be richer or more qualified than average residents of their countries, but they still have a very good knowledge of challenges Wikimedia movement is facing in their region — NickK (talk) 01:07, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
I started the article Cariamanga and I learned a few things in the process. First of all, no local people had edited it in the first place; places in Spain with the same population had all been edited. Next thing I learned, talking with people from Cariamanga living in Spain, is that even if the Peruvian border is just some tens of kilometres away, nobody had ever gone to Peru; while many (probably most) people in Jaraíz de la Vera have gone to Portugal. In fact the comparison between North and South shows these and other striking differences. For instance, compare Catalan or Finnish versions of Wikipedia with those in Arabic or Bahasa Indonesia: the numbers are simmilar, but we are comparing South languages with hundreds of milions of speakers with small European languages. How big has something in the South be to be considered globally big? It matters because we are not talking about a handful of people in some remote mountain. We are talking about big countries (India, Brazil, Nigeria...), very important literatures (Hindi, Bangla, Arabic...), thousands of milions of people. In fact we are talking about the majority of the World! It's not the Global South what's a problem: the problem is that we don't reach there. I agree that people that can attend a board meeting are not going to be average: that's also true about the North. But while we have many people from North America and Europe (one good question could be where have gone Japanese and Korean Wikimedians) we do need people with an understanding of how things are in the Global South. B25es (talk) 10:55, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
As I have already stated above, in community election (i.e. the one accessible to anyone) Japanese community has 11 times less voters than German, although German community is at most twice as big as Japanese one. This is a problem, as we probably fail to reach the right audience.
Cariamanga is a good example of a place where people are unlikely to travel in general: this is a small town in extremely high altitudes. If you take some bigger town with better location, like Huaquillas, you will still have a Global South town, but you will already find edits by a local Wikipedian and a population that can travel much easier. I think that if we want to find a potential trustee from Ecuador we should not look for him in towns like Cariamanga (like there is no point in looking for a potential Spanish trustee in Jaraíz de la Vera) but in a larger communities with higher level of life — NickK (talk) 12:20, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
A quick note on travel -- travelling for board meetings and work is a hassle for *everyone*, from big and small towns alike. Those of us who happen to live in the US have the easiest time of it, at least for meetings that are in San Francisco, but even so there are still arrangements to be made, you have to take time away from work etc. To that end, we have been having more online videoconference meetings this year, and are going to try having a full board meeting by video (surprisingly enough, for the first time ever!) this spring. Meeting in person is important at least a couple times a year for us -- but we are working actively to ease the travel burden, which as Patricio will tell you will help people coming from even the biggest cities that happen to be far away from SF (or whereever the meeting is). -- phoebe | talk 00:47, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
p.s. to B25es comment, the WMF does pay for travel to the board meetings, so a trustee does not have to pay for plane tickets out of pocket. However, you do have to be in a position where you and your employer are flexible enough to take lots of time to attend meetings, Wikimania, etc., and of course many people are not in this situation. -- phoebe | talk 00:49, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

More thoughtsEdit

I've had a few thoughts about this over the last couple of days. Thank you Foundation board for opening this discussion and not simply doing something and telling us afterwards! :-)

First of all - there is a lot that is working in the current system. On the whole we end up with good trustees. There is now a reasonable level of diversity which has tended to increase over the last 5 years (compare now with Feb 2010 when there were 6 Americans, 2 Germans and a Dutchman!). This increase is because the Board has made a conscious effort to increase diversity with its appointed members. This has also been reflected in the affiliate-selected seats.

Some more detailed observations on the different appointment methods:

Board-selected seats are usually filled to increase the range of skills and perspectives on the board, and there are 2 cases here: a) Appointing someone who has some real expertise in technology business (e.g. Stu West, Matt Halprin) - given where tech companies are located, they will often by American. b) Broadening the range of perspectives and experiences on the board, with someone from a professional background that's not currently represented and a geography that's not well-represented (Bishakka Datta, Ana Toni). There is a third case c) which was Alice's re-appointment, which was largely to increase the amount of Board stability over the ED transition. There are two issues it seems. First, some board-appointed members do not end up serving long/full terms (e.g. Ana, Matt). Second, from what the Board is saying now, it is difficult to find strong candidates from outside Europe and North America.
Community-elected seats are quite reliably filled by established Wikimedians, and are pretty much always filled by 2 North Americans and 1 European or 1 North American and two Europeans. The elections are strongly influenced by the large Wikimedia projects (particularly the English Wikipedia), and candidates from the Global South generally do poorly. (If you look at the people placed 4th and 5th in the elections ... they are all from Europe or the USA again). The Community-elected seats also have a very high level of stability; only one board member seeking re-election had to my memory had not been re-elected (and might have won if she answered more of the candidate questions).
Affiliate-selected seats also tend to produce Wikimedians, but with a somewhat broader range. For instance, in 2012, when the chapters didn't re-elect Phoebe and instead appointed Alice and Patricio, this was in part because the Board's guidance for the affiliates said 'we want more diversity'. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the affiliates are geographically diverse but concentrated in Europe and South America.

One further observation about the current Board. It's unusual (and not particularly good practice) to have a permanent member of a non-profit board. While there is no rush, at some point in coming years Jimmy and the Board ought to consider how long he should remain on the Board.

Turning to what the Board is trying to achieve, here are some further thoughts:

I think it's important to keep the strong link between the Board and the Wikimedia community. Unlike some people posting here, I am completely signed up to the idea of appointing Board members (and my experience of working with non-Wikimedians on the Wikimedia UK board is that they very quickly "get it"). However, the relationship with the Wikimedia community is particularly crucial to the Foundation (understatement of the century). When community members are concerned by something the Foundation is doing, it's an important source of reassurance to know that most of the Board is drawn from the community and shares their experiences and perspectives.
As a "chapter person", I wouldn't be concerned if the affiliates stopped selecting Board members. If I thought that there would be no-one on the WMF board who really understood affiliates, then I would be worried, but that's very unlikely to happen. Indeed, given that participating in an affiliate is a good way of a) gaining governance experience and b) gaining profile among the kind of people who vote, I think it is likely that more people involved in affiliates will end up being elected to WMF committees (including the Board) in future.
However, having looked in detail over the community election results for some years, I am not sure that merging affiliate and elected board seats would solve any actual problems. It may be that currently we have several systems whose imperfections average each other out.
There are other potential methods of ensuring community representation while increasing the diversity of members - e.g. the whole Board could be appointed, but with a principle that 6 members were always from Wikimedia backgrounds. Or one could have 5 community seats, one elected by Wikimedians on each continent. Either of these ideas would be quite radical and would come with its own problems. But perhaps more radical ideas should be explored more.
I don't know much about how the Board recruits appointed members. If the problem is that candidates are too often drawn from Europe and the USA, then are we looking in the right places? The idea of a "panel" or "pool" of potential candidates who can be drawn on when needed is a good one. For some time Wikimedia UK effectively had one. Each time we advertised to fill vacancies of different kinds, we found good people who we couldn't accomodate at the time; a number of them ended up serving on the board at a later date.

I hope these thoughts are helpful. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 10:03, 21 February 2015 (UTC)

They are, don't worry. I think it's always important to look at what you get and what it costs. And in fact, I think we have a good mixture of skills and background in the Board currently. I'm personally coming to this discussion with the question if the current composition method is the best we can think of to support the WMF over the next years. For example I'v been thinking a lot about our transparent and at the same time daunting questioning during community elections. Mostly in English, also sometimes about ongoings and situations in en:wp, is this attractive for non-native speakers who are active in different communities? How can we change that? Would it be helpful to collect recommendations at some place during the year and then have a pool where appointments and elections can make use of. Why shouldn't the Board appoint someone coming from the community - there are a lot of qualified people - when for example had been tzhe last time that a developer or other tech people from the community had run for an election? This is not exactly an answer to your points, just things which I think are worth to tackle also ;-) Will come back late with some more structured notes. Alice Wiegand (talk) 10:33, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Agreed with Alice, this is a thoughtful set of comments, thanks. -- phoebe | talk 00:40, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
@The Land: It is actually wrong that the majority of chapters is from Europe and South America. You are right about Europe, but South America has only 4 chapters (AR, CL, UY and VE) while Asia has, depending on definition, from 7 (BD, HK, ID, IN, MO, PH, TW) to 9 (plus AM and IL). The issue is that there was no candidate from Asia at last year's elections — NickK (talk) 13:08, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Hi Nick - yes, you are correct. It often feels like there are more South American chapters, because the Iberocoop group is quite coherent and organised (and, of course, includes several European chapters as well). Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 17:21, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Since when three (Italy, Portugal, Spain) is "several"? Several sounds like....a lot of chapters. Also, when you say "..because the Board's guidance for the affiliates said 'we want more diversity'.." please speak for your own chapter, since for instance, WMVE analysed every candidate and gave voted to those the chapter members considered were the best suited for the position, not because the WMF Board said this or that.--Maor X (talk) 23:34, 21 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, though I never got any feedback from any of the affiliates/chapters in the 2012 selection process [which is an issue that we should try to fix, perhaps] my understanding from talking to people is there were many different factors the chapters considered in that selection -- including diversity, who was best qualified, wanting fresh voices, not liking how I had voted in the past, etc. These are definitely all fine reasons to make a selection, but I'm thinking that if the board let the communities know what we thought we needed (for instance, if we are lacking voices from the global south, needed tech industry expertise, etc.) that those voting/selecting could take these factors into account as well, if they chose to. Does that make sense? -- phoebe | talk 00:35, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
I think the problem it that at the moment the board has difficulties letting the community know about the election, period. There are very high chances that the election itself will be lacking voices from Global South. Of course it would be great to ask the community to make a choice taking into account the needs of the board, but a first step would be to ask the community to make a choice. The election just does not seem important enough to most of the members of the community, thus firstly we need to make people feel voting *is* important, and only secondly we will be able to ask them to consider something while voting — NickK (talk) 01:31, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Absolutely, agree entirely. Participation in the elections is a big problem (one which we would like to solve!) -- phoebe | talk 19:27, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
If the board makes clear which type of people it needs, I'm sure the community (both editors and affiliates; particularly the affiliates, probably) will listen and will take it into consideration. Clearly, the result might be differ from the board expectations, but this is an intrinsic characteristic of elections. But they would consider that. - Laurentius (talk) 16:26, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
I agree with Chris. And in the past wwe had Board members , appointed, elected or selected, which did not manage to make the best of their board membership,e.g. for a lack of time. It seems that those problems have little to do with the way someone becomes a board member. But I like to learn more about that.--Ziko (talk) 00:02, 22 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, everyone can overcommit or find that things are more time-consuming than they are able to do, regardless of how they were seated on the board. I think every member goes through periods when they are able to do more or less board work, and we are accomodating of that. Alongside figuring out board composition, though, we're trying to figure out how to streamline board work so that it is focused on the most important things and takes less overall time. This will be important for retaining highly qualified members such as Ana and Matt, who *haven't* spent many hours a week for years on Wikimedia -- and it will also enable those of us who have spent time on various Wikimedia work as community members to use our time to best advantage. -- phoebe | talk 00:39, 23 February 2015 (UTC)
Followup because I don't think I fully answered your question -- trustees (both appointed and elected) have found travel time for meetings to be one of the biggest hurdles to effectively serving in the past. -- phoebe | talk 19:30, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

thanksEdit

I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for adding your thoughts and taking the time to read and think through this pretty detailed governance topic! We all appreciate it. -- phoebe | talk 19:31, 23 February 2015 (UTC)

+1. This is really helpful. Thank you all. Patricio.lorente (talk) 20:29, 24 February 2015 (UTC)
Likewise. SJ talk 

Real democracyEdit

There is not a single reason I see why we shouldn't have all Board members / trustees elected by community (contributors & readers). It's shocking that we don't even get 50%+1. We need 100%. Anything else is medieval. And we need elections that are far more promoted to all contributors and readers of all projects. Then we will also easily find more adequate candidates. --Trofobi (talk) 19:20, 28 February 2015 (UTC)

Hi Trofobi - do you think this would result in a more effective Wikimedia Foundation board? If so - why? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 19:49, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't think it is medieval. Many boards practice expert seats, or different ways of electing community representatives (and chapter-elected members are also from within the community, after all). However, I can understand why one would prefer to have more than 50% of board members to be directly elected. Pundit (talk) 16:11, 2 March 2015 (UTC)

No system is ideal: compromises in governance are the cost of doing business. Going by the kind of governance we've seen in anglophone countries, who wants full representative democracy? For the WMF board, a modification of the current mixed model seems the most practicable way. A total number of 9–12 trustees at any one time sounds right to me. I'd give the editing communities more seats and the affiliates fewer. It is the editing communities who have created and continue to create the product, and the product is why readers donate in gratitude. I suggest:

  • A prescribed range in the number of "expert" appointments at any one time; the number of expert appointments within that range at any one time, the choice of experts, and their length of term should be at the board's behest (no other way seems logistically viable).
  • Precise onsets of terms, rather than waiting until the "endorsement" of community-elected trustees at the "next" meeting.
  • At least five seats elected by the editing communities, up from the current three.
  • Zero seats or one seat elected by affiliates—preferably zero. If one seat, an affiliate election should be conducted in a transparent and open way, unlike last time. None of us can be too happy about the potential for blocs, deals, and "arrangements" among affiliates behind closed doors. Nor can we be pleased at the failure to vote by such a large proportion of the affiliates, or the inconsistency between them concerning how their vote is decided, or the disorganised and lop-sided opportunities given to candidates (see Anders's comments after last year's vote). Another problem is that user groups are excluded, whereas thorgs and chapters are not. It's grown to be all most unsatisfactory.
  • One seat for the co-founder, Jimmy Wales (while I pushed to downgrade his role with respect to the en.WP arbcom elections, it's proper, appropriate, and of great value to the movement to have Jimmy as an ongoing trustee—there are several reasons I can put if anyone wishes).

Diversity and tech savvy should be among the priorities for board membership. Tony (talk) 13:46, 3 March 2015 (UTC)

Reforming selection process for Wikimedia affiliatesEdit

Instead of just saying this system is imperfect, let us rather actively reform it. We can bring transparency and uniformity to the Wikimedia affiliates' selection process, through common democratic methods, e.g., perhaps requiring all-member elections for each affiliate. We can also extend suffrage to the Wikimedia usergroups, who are a growing and dynamic part of our communities. The ideal is for people to have maximal buy-in from all sides, it is this that will ultimately make our board its strongest and most effective.--Pharos (talk) 19:51, 3 March 2015 (UTC)

Response to Pharos: Maybe, but the affiliate seats involve inherent disparities in proportionality:

  • The small number of Wikimedians who get to vote for these two seats, against the electorate of 80,000+ for just three seats.
  • The disparity between the size of national populations—India, with a billion people, gets just one vote (and CIS gets zip); Estonia, with just 1.3m people (0.91m Estonians), gets one vote too, a factor of more than a thousand. The US gets two, but they're both city-based. Many Wikimedians live in countries (or of greater relevance, belong to language groups) unrepresented by chapterthorgs at all—so they're excluded from this special tier of representation.
  • User groups are going to be more numerous than chapters/thorgs at some stage, and are mostly unincorporated and/or more informal groupings; yet it seems wrong to exclude them. Both options are conceptually and logistically problematic.
  • Most or all of the individuals who do get to vote for these two affiliate seats also get a vote as members of the editorial communities, thus doubling up.

A unitary system of editing-community representation would have the advantage of simplicity and fairness, without these multiple distortions and the need to reform the affiliate voting process so that it's transparent and consistent. Three community seats elected each year for two-year terms (a total of six, staggered for the sake of continuity) is sounding more attractive by the day. It would involve all members of the movement on an equal footing—provided they edit, which they should, frankly, if they're part of an affiliated group. Tony (talk) 06:16, 4 March 2015 (UTC)


Summary so farEdit

Below is a list of suggestions, concerns, and proposals seen or heard so far. It is a work in progress: please add to it and edit at will. Grayer text indicates less discussion so far or extrapolation from partial discussion. SJ talk  02:47, 5 March 2015 (UTC) (Todo: this does not yet include most of the triage notes from previous elections and selections.)

Issues that apply each year, to all seatsEdit

Public discussion of WMF's governance needs
  • share an annual review of needs and capacities
  • discuss & set criteria for evaluating new Trustees, varying with the WMF's focus & composition
    • always needed: creative people, natural leaders, who love the projects & think about the future & inspire others, with relevant experience to share
Identify potential trustees
  • Have a pool of potential people to engage, and how we've interacted in the past
  • Develop a network of community members following governance issues, provide ways to get involved at a simpler level
    • Highlight the many ways to engage (as nominees for Trustee, committee members, advisors, Board visitors, consultants)
    • Develop a community advisory group? A reader advisory group?
  • Identify experts in the community, provide community development to help them learn + share what they know
  • Identify experts in grassroots & community projects, outside Wikimedia. provide connection to wiki projects to help them learn + share what they know
Convert potential trustees to candidates
  • Find out why good candidates choose not to stand
  • Make people want to candidate: explain why it matters
  • Make it less difficult: organize and curate questions, better communication
  • Focus the candidate pool, recommend selection criteria for each selection
    • Different criteria could come from different groups.
Set clear expectations about board focus and time commitment
  • Help candidates indicate their intent early, & understand what the board does before they commit
    • Clarify the extent of the board's involvement in strategic vs. operational issues, and active vs. reactive decisions.
    • Clarify standards for activity (at least one chosen through each process has been unable to fulfill their duties)
  • Reduce time drains
    • Improve mentoring and guidance for first-time Trustees
    • Be clear and flexible about travel requirements (particularly difficult for those far from major airports)
Convert good candidates to people involved with governance
  • Follow what happens to good candidates who don't make the cut, engage them in other ways
  • Note candidates great in some aspects who may have been sidelined by simply not being well known (applies to all seats)
Inspire interest
  • Be more compelling and informative, not necessarily more blanket banners
  • Better short summaries of the process + candidates, fast translations of same
  • Better followup, triage, learning from one process to the next
    • NB: communication about this discussion here needs improvement as well: it's part of the same governance review cycle
Encourage varied participation
  • All kinds of groups should participate in selections: developers, media creators, translators, partners. There is no heirarchy.
  • Anyone can participate at some level in each selection: specify how.
  • Clear up questions about suffrage & constituencies.
    • Trustees do not have constituencies, do not 'represent' particular groups. The whole community looks together (via 3+ processes) for the best people to fill different roles & provide different perspectives.
Consider diversity & breadth of experience of different kinds
  • Background - Linguistic, geographic, gender, age ..
  • Topics - Education, GLAM, software, partnerships ..
  • Practices - Community, technical, organizational ..
Other ideas
  • A standing election committee, to support the above
  • Focus on reasonable turnover (term limits, balanced turnover across selection methods)
  • Slightly longer terms, to reduce churn ( 2 -> 3 yrs)
  • Find ways to engage readers and donors, including about strategic issues.
    • Discussing good potential advisors? Regional or topical plans? Needs & criteria for governance? Nominations for appointees?
  • Try different things. Simplify, experiment, iterate, learn from each process.
    • Make it easier to vary selection details: move details out of bylaws. Experiment separately w/ nomination, evaluation, selection.

Issues that apply to specific selection processesEdit

Community selection v. Board selection
  • Decrease the perceived 'split' here: recognize expertise in the community, and community + collaborative experience outside Wikimedia
  • Increase similarity among all processes: communication & nomination process, timeline, review of needs, supporting committee
  • Maintain or increase the % of community trustees on the board; consider increasing total # of community seats by 1-2
    • Provides greater accountability for decisions, and greater sense of shared ownership of outcomes.
Community election
  • Increase participation, all major languages
  • Have precise onsets of terms (e.g., August 1)
  • Streamline/ make less overwhelming
  • Hedge against 'popularity contests' (can be dominated by large wikis, large languages, 'Meta-community')
    • Support for candidates who might never win a one-process-fits-all election
    • Limit % of seats from any one type of [s]election


From past triage discussions

  • For candidates: less repetition, concise statements, better outreach.
    • Concern: some good candidates don't want to run: disliking the drain of weeks of public Q&A
  • For voters: reduce # of candidates for final election? , improve vote method & tool
    • Give voters enough info to make a choice
  • Simplify info: better summaries, faster translation. curated questions.
    • Multilingual discussion: make this work, by hand or other
Affiliate selection
  • Increase participation, include user groups
  • Concerns with the process overall
    • Affiliate members are overequal - few can vote (exception: WMDE), many of those 'vote again' in public elections.
    • Large variation in process across affiliates for deciding their vote
  • Preserve multiple ways for the community to express itself
    • This has provided some diversity. Support increased geographic & background diversity
    • Experiment with constrained elections (e.g., by geography), or separate criteria & pools for different seats
  • Change evaluation process
    • small-group interviews w/ summaries?
  • Change selection process: affiliate-run election, or two-stage selection
    • community election, run/guided by affiliates?
    • affiliate vote, then community election or board selection from finalists?
    • community vote, then affiliate selection from finalists?
  • Make participation transparent, hedge against closed-door arrangements
  • Switch entirely to community election
Board selection / appointment
  • Broaden public & community involvement in nomination
  • Make process visible & transparent
  • Speed up, minimize vacancies
    • Reduce # of interviews, complexity
    • Make total # of appointees and the start of terms more flexible
    • Add 1 to max possible #, while preserving a majority of community trustees
  • Review seats each year
    • Concern about self-reappointment, very-long-term trustees
    • Value 'new blood' as a trait, term limits particularly relevant
  • Encourage appointees to work with at least one wiki community
  • Change or clarify evaluation process
    • Good recent diversity but concern of potential corporate bias
    • Community input, then board selection?
  • Switch entirely to community selection


Founder seat
  • Working well.

@Sj: could you please help me to understand that table? What is the meaning of the different grey shades? What kind of comment to you expect? Alice Wiegand (talk) 19:05, 9 March 2015 (UTC)

Hi Alice, it is a short list of specific concerns or concrete improvements discussed so far. Grey items have only been mentioned by one person, or suggested in passing.
Everyone can revise or add to the list. SJ talk  09:16, 10 March 2015 (UTC)

Issues that change based on our capacity and contextEdit

Some thoughts on what governance composition and selection might look like in a community where the participants map well onto the audience impacted by the community's decisions:

  • With a large and well-balanced community, we could find many experts within its network, with excellent diversity of choice for any particular focus or expertise. We might also have a good match between the proportion of community members in a {region, language} and the proportion of that audience in the world population.
    Without that, we may want to look for good trustees outside of our direct network: posting what we are looking for, spreading the word far and wide.
  • With a thriving community in every major world language, and good support for multilingual conversations, we could comparably engage candidates and voters with many different native languages.
    Without that, it takes extra effort to balance cultural and geographic perspective, to remember how knowledge varies around the world.
  • With a smoothly running selection process, an efficient framework for Board input and decision-making, we could attract Trustees with a wide range of daily lives.
    Without that, it takes extra effort to recruit Trustees who are busy but have extensive experience and personal networks to share.
  • With a shared vision for the composition of an effective Board, and continuous evaluation of what we have and what is needed, we can choose a highly diverse board through a single selection process.
    Without that, diversity may take many processes, each with different biases, preferences, and blind spots.

With a balanced global network, a robust process, and a shared idea of the properties of an effective board, the WMF could find both internal and external board members through community nomination and selection, with changing criteria for different seats, as the overall composition changed. But today we are still finding our way. Without those things, diversifying the process can help limit systemic bias. In recent years, we've done this by working with professional recruiters to broaden our networks, and trying a variety of selection methods. SJ talk  03:27, 22 March 2015 (UTC)

Wikimedia valuesEdit

I'm afraid that several high-ranked members of the Wikimedia Foundation actually don't share Wikimedia values such as freedom, openness, respect and altruism. I believe that candidates should be checked more thoroughly to prevent this. --NaBUru38 (talk) 17:14, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

That's why the list of candidates to the Board should be made public. --Maor X (talk) 22:35, 7 March 2015 (UTC)

Where we are nowEdit

The Board didn't decide anything during it's last Board meeting. We need more time and we are still figuring out how we can improve the diversity and experience we are looking for while we benefit from our community and its expertise. Your voices in this discussion are important and we take them into account. Since the traffic and interest here has been abating, the discussion will officially been closed at the end of this month. Of course you can add your thoughts whenever you want. They will be read. Alice Wiegand (talk) 18:51, 28 March 2015 (UTC)

Given thst the update in May 2015 says "we need more time and input", does the Board plan a further outreach to the community for input? If so, when and where will that happen? Or is this page still the locus for that interaction? Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:04, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
I would be reluctant to restart this conversation all over - after all, I don't think that the situation changed so dramatically, that we need an entirely new approach. Pundit (talk) 16:21, 19 September 2015 (UTC)

Where are we now, episode 2Edit

This discussion took place last year, and the situation changed dramatically. Somehow the board managed to appoint a fully discredited person on the board, that was direct and active involved in unlawful acts in the IT business.
How could such a major faux-pas happen? Was the board informed of the unsuitability of the new member? How and by whom was this wrong decision prepared? Or was it even a decision in full knowledge of the complete unsuitability of this new board member, and thus the board is completely disavowed? And why are there no official statements in regard of the needed demotion of the discredited member? Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 14:11, 15 January 2016 (UTC)

I have asked for Board comment at Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard#Thinking about the WMF Board composition. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:20, 14 February 2016 (UTC)
  • In the absence of further comment, let alone progress, I think this page must be regarded as {{historical}}. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 21:37, 18 June 2016 (UTC)
Done. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:45, 22 July 2016 (UTC)

Specific nominationsEdit

A section for specific nominations. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:21, 30 August 2015 (UTC)

I removed some old lists of names of individuals because at this late stage it is now effectively a list of people who were not considered suitable, which seems discourteous. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 20:44, 31 January 2016 (UTC)
It would however be helpful if in future the Committee were to publish the criteria that it proposed to use to sift out candidates (as mentioned here, for example). This would allow the community to comment on those criteria, and save time and effort all round by discouraging suggestions that are bound to be sifted out immediately. Rogol Domedonfors (talk) 16:23, 14 February 2016 (UTC)
Return to "Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Thinking about the WMF Board composition" page.