Talk:Wikimedia Foundation bylaws/June 2015 - Term Limits

Latest comment: 8 years ago by Lyzzy in topic Next steps



Initial discussion pertaining to this proposal


Not certain why this was not included overleaf, but for background, commenters may find it useful to read Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Thinking about the WMF Board composition and its talk page. Risker (talk) 13:53, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Thanks Risker. -- phoebe | talk 14:13, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

What is the issue?


Thank you for sharing this proposal for discussion. I, however, regret that no explanation has been provided of the reasons for the proposal. Last election has clearly shown that there is no incumbency advantage under the given electoral system. So I wonder what you intend to fix with the proposal? I am also worried that term limits can weaken the board, as it increases the probability of inexperienced board members. Some other concerns with term limits are expressed in Nelson Polsby, Constitutional Mischief: What's Wrong with Term Limitations. In: The American Prospect. December 4, 2000. and Peter Schrag, The Populist Road to Hell: Term Limits in California. In: The American Prospect. December 19, 2001., even though not all of them are applicable to a foundations board.

Second, I wonder why the founder seat is excluded from the proposal. I would appreciate, if you could provide with a few explanatory words on this. Thanks! --Theredmonkey (talk) 07:48, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

I looked for a clearly articulated rationale for these changes, but have not found them. If they exist, could someone point them out to me? I'm also not convinced of the propriety of the current board extending their terms and adjusting the election process prior to the new board being seated (assuming the new board hasn't been seated yet, I could be mistaken there). Nathan T 13:23, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I do not know where the rationale is written, but this has been discussed for a long time. The main reason for reform is that 2-year appointments are unusual in the nonprofit sector and it would be expected that if the WMF had a stable board, then the appointments should be longer. A major challenge to this idea could be to say that the WMF does not have a stable board. Already the organization has very unusual appointment process through election by organization members, and that is a strong indication that instability should be the norm.
Assuming that the elections are a path to good board appointments, then considering this is a volunteer board and historically has been filled by people without financial means that are commensurate with the responsibility of being on this board, then giving them more time could be a way to increase the chance that they will grow into the position to be effective. Consider any organization which you feel is comparable to Wikipedia, and consider how that organization's board is managed. It will be very different, and this board is very unusual.
This board is unusual because of the legacy of unusual circumstances under which it was convened. One of those unusual circumstances was the creation of a founder seat. Wikipedia could have been a one-person project, but then there were concessions granted to the community that there should be several board officers and a lot of instability, then more board officers and more instability, and now there is a trending demand to make this board and WMF governance more like a comparable organization. A problem with this scheme is that it is very difficult to compare the required strange parts of WMF's governance (founder's seat, community elections, chapter seat system) to that of any other organization. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:04, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Thanks. There are two parts to the proposal:
  • Three year terms: we've found over several generations of board members that two years feels like too short a time to get up to speed and really contribute effectively to governance. It takes about a year for either elected members or appointed members to really find their feet on the board. Then, they are only on for one more year. As you note, inexperienced board members can weaken a board, so we are trying to alleviate that.
  • Term limits: at the same time, we want to encourage diversity on the board and also encourage both elected and appointed members to step down after a period. At this period in the WMF's development -- as a relatively stable and mature organization with strong senior leadership -- we can emphasize getting new voices on the board as a priority. As you note, there's a built-in mechanism for that to happen for elected members. But there is not the same mechanism for appointed members. While all our members are fantastic, 6 years feels like the right amount of time for someone to serve on the Wikimedia board without getting burnt out, and to contribute fully to the organization. Also note that this specifies consecutive terms -- if someone loses an election or terms out, and they are still active in the movement a couple years later, they can come back. As for why the founder is excluded, it's the same reason we call out the founder seat in the first place: our founder is still an active and extremely helpful part of the movement (though doesn't run the board or WMF, as some speculate!) and we appreciate his contributions and want him to remain a part of the board as long as he chooses.
per Nathan's question, no, the new board hasn't been seated yet. I hope that they contribute to the discussion though; and as noted, I don't think this actually affects the terms of any of the members on the board currently with the exception of Guy (who was just seated a few months ago) and Jimmy. SJ, Maria and I lost the election; Patricio & Frieda will, if they choose, be up for election next year; Jan-Bart and Stu have indicated they intend to step down; and Alice can serve one more appointed term under term limits. -- phoebe | talk 14:09, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Three years term seems to be good. People need quite some time to get in. The term limit - I am not sure, sometimes it is difficult to replace someone. Ziko (talk) 21:36, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Increasing community accountability


I appreciate the spirit of this proposal, but I'm more concerned about the lack of community accountability for appointed seats than I am about term limits. I would propose that the two seats being vacated at the end of this year by appointed trustees be replaced with two community-elected seats. The entire 5 community-elected seats could then be staggered so that each year, 2 seats or 1 seat becomes open for community election. --Pine 00:23, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Erm, there *are* 5 community seats. The "chapter/thematic organization" seats are selected by community members. Mind you, nobody really knows which community members (what with it never having been reported, to date), or how many community members, or whom they represent, but they're still selected by community members. Even though I have freely pointed out in the past that the chapters and thematic organizations are not the community by themselves, they are most certainly a part of the community. Risker (talk) 00:51, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
No. These people who elect these two seats are not this kind of "Comunity". It's a small group of the "alwys-the-same" who haggle two seats out. This is not democratic. It's the same spirit as 9 board members select a 10th of them. Marcus Cyron (talk) 14:35, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Perhaps I should clarify my terminology. If my proposal is enacted, then the board would have:
  • 1 founder seat
  • 2 seats appointed by chapters and thorgs (and, preferably, user groups)
  • 5 seats elected at-large by the community (instead of the current 3)
  • 2 seats appointed by the other trustees (instead of the current 4)
This wouldn't be a cure-all for everything that would be nice to have in terms of board improvements, for example by having some structural ways of ensuring geographic and gender diversity on the board, but this proposal would improve the accountability of the Board to the community. Also, by staggering the elections as I proposed, there would be more continuity in the elected seats since a maximum of 2 at-large elected positions would change each year. Perhaps the 2 chapter seats could be chosen in the year when only 1 at-large seat is elected, to further improve continuity of the Board.
So in other words, you are proposing a solution that is less likely to see diversity on the board (geographic and otherwise). Risker (talk) 01:36, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • The intention is to increase the accountability of the board to the community. The last I heard is that WMF is having trouble with finding candidates from the "global south" for appointed seats, so at least as far as that diversity metric is concerned I don't think that there will be a significant difference in the diversity of the board by transitioning two seats from appointed to elected status. Also, a significant number of women run for public elected office in the United States (there are currently 104 women who are members of the United States Congress), and plenty of people run for public office in "global south" countries, so I think it would be worth a systematic effort to figure out how more women and more "global south" citizens could be encouraged to run for elected WMF board seats. That kind of research and outreach would be compatible with what I've proposed above. --Pine 02:28, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
The Board is not, strictly speaking, accountable to the (editing/chapter) community; it is accountable to the Foundation. The editing/chapter community is a very important part of the Foundation, but it is not the only part. There is also the readership, for example; the partners in the GLAM sphere and Wikipedia Zero, the partners in the open source community, and so on. Each of them has a different weight (and one might think the end users/readers should be given more weight than they usually are). With a majority of seats on the Board having been selected by at least a part of the community, there is still nothing to stop the Board from selecting some or all of its members from the same community; that is what they did with Alice, after all. But we now have 1 of 9 members from outside of Europe and North America. We have gone from four to two women on the board (one of whom is a Board appointee). None of the editing/chapter community selected members have a strong background in business, finance, law; they are heavily weighted toward the academe and technology. The only women who ran for the board this time were incumbents, and there were some fairly sound indications that they might not have run at all if other women had stepped forward. The highest ranked "global south" candidate came in sixth (and was a white male); the first non-white candidate came in 12th. The editing/chapter community selections are making for an increasingly homogenous board, not a more diverse one. Risker (talk) 03:31, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • As I see it, the Board governs the Foundation, not the other way around.
  • User:Pundit is a professor of management.
  • I think that having some people with technical backgrounds on the WMF Board is a good thing.
  • I agree that it would be good to have more female and "global south" Board members, and as I said above I would support an initiative that researches and works to encourage more people from those demographics to run for elected Board seats. --Pine 04:11, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Pundit is an academic, he is not a businessman. (He's also a lovely person, and I enjoyed working with him on the FDC. It's not a criticism of him that he's not a businessman. It does suggest that some people may have difficulty seeing the difference between an academic who specializes in management and someone who has strong experience in business.) We just had an election where half the candidates were from the "global south" and not one of them managed to get elected. We had an active campaign this year to encourage candidacies from outside of the usual North America/Europe/white male candidacies, and not a single candidate who was not a white European/North American male was elected. The community elected possibly the least diverse group of candidates that it ever has in the history of WMF elections this time around, despite all of the work that went into seeking out candidates who *weren't* white European/North American males. Risker (talk) 04:22, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Regarding diversity, I'm not sure what else to suggest. If the Board can't find candidates in the "global south" that it thinks have the qualities that it wants in an appointee, and the community doesn't elect GS candidates, then maybe there should be some research into how existing community members from the Global South could have their skills developed to the point where they would be stronger Board candidates for elected or appointed positions, both for affiliates and for WMF. Regarding Pundit's qualifications, I agree that there are relevant distinctions in the skill sets between academics who study management and people who are practitioners of business management, but I think having at least one of those two skill sets on the WMF Board is a good thing. You said "None of the editing/chapter community selected members have a strong background in business"; perhaps you misspoke there? I too would like have one or more people on the board with strong hands-on experience in business management, but we can be grateful for the valuable and diverse experience that the elected candidates do bring to the Board from this round of elections. --Pine 05:47, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
To be clear, this is separate discussion from both the challenges of diversity and the number of seats for specific purposes. This is simply a proposed change on term limits because we want to implement those and it has been on the Agenda of the Governance Committee for quite a while. And to agree with Risker: The board is responsible for the governance of the Wikimedia Foundation, its task is not to "represent" community members. However a board members ends up in the board, they really all have the same responsibility: governance Jan-Bart (talk) 06:14, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • Agreed that this is a more expansive discussion than the discussion solely about term limits. I hope that the Board will also look into issues of composition and diversity. I agree that all board members have a responsibility for governance; the issue is, to whom are they accountable for their actions? If we believe in the principles of crowdsourcing and democracy, then I hope that we also believe in the wisdom of the crowds to choose good candidates for board seats and to keep board members accountable for their actions in regards to their governance functions. --Pine 07:12, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
My point remains that the Board requires the flexibility of appointing sufficient members to accommodate both diversity and specific expertise; two seats is not sufficient for the Board to ensure that these issues are addressed. The community/chapter selections have failed to produce trustees with specific expertise or levels of diversity, so granting them more seats and removing the Board's ability to appoint for those seats does not make sense. Risker (talk) 14:43, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Random thought: I wonder if it might make sense in future for some of the board appointees to be drawn from a pool of candidates who have run for election, without quite getting the threshold. This might encourage more quality candidates to run, and have a community process, while still opening it up to those who might not come first in a pure popularity contest.--Pharos (talk) 14:53, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply


  • Risker The process of appointing trustees, to the best of my knowledge, is also having trouble with identifying trustees with hoped-for diversity, so I'm not sure that there is much to gain by keeping four appointed seats. However, if there is a noteworthy benefit to having four appointed seats (and there might be if good candidates can be identified), I would propose instead expanding the Board with 2 additional at-large elected seats and 1 additional seat appointed by user groups; I believe that expanding the Board's number of seats is already under consideration and perhaps this would nicely address all of the concerns that we're discussing here, plus reducing the per-person workload for Board members, changing the board to an odd number of seats, allowing for additional specialization on the Board, and providing user groups with representation on the Board.
  • Pharos I was having a conversation with Affcom and some of the WMF Community Department staff, and am happy to say that there seems to be some early and informal agreement that a standing Elections Committee with the support of Affcom and others might make a priority of identifying and developing candidates for the WMF Board and affiliate boards. Perhaps this might include development of candidates who ran for a WMF or affiliate board seat in a previous round and who have good potential for election in a future round. Also, regarding appointing candidates for the WMF Board, it does make sense to me that one place to look for appointees might be people who did well in an election but not quite well enough to get a seat. --Pine 23:21, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
no. this is not a democracy, nor should it be. the WMF must comply with non-profit law. it ha interests other than the community. the community has not demonstrated the maturity to run anything. we'll see if you can find candidates that can actually run something, other than nullification. 03:17, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

First Step


A first good step in the right direction. But this only can finaly end, when all 10 board members are electes by the Comunities. And I say clearly: all 10! Even the "Founder". Marcus Cyron (talk) 14:38, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Simplify the transition, don't split up seats too much


No one-year terms in transition


The terms should be increased to three years. Two years is not long enough and in three years the Wikimedia community can change so much that reconsideration is merited.

In the proposed scheme there are anomalous 1-year terms scheduled because of changes in the rules. I do not support planning to invite one-year terms. Instead of this, either plan to omit these positions and have fewer board members during the transition, or give them their three years along with regularly scheduled elections which temporarily result in more than 10 people on the board.

One-year board appointments are better avoided in favor of temporary changes to the board size, barring some explanation of why they would be useful. Blue Rasberry (talk) 01:45, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Where do you see one-year terms? (crossed out due to blindness) Maybe a timeline would be helpful to get a picture of how the terms look like during the transition phase. Is anyone able to create something more visual? Alice Wiegand (talk) 07:03, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
It would seem that in theory, a person elected in 2015, re-elected in 2017, and running in 2020 will be eligible for only a one-year term. This indeed sounds ineffective. Similarly, there seems to be an idea to elect a person in 2017 for a one-year term (...1 seat with a one-year term (selected through community elections)...). Possibly a more effective way would be to introduce a 6-year limit on all current and new members, but allow for the current members to be elected/run for one more term, and make all terms, including the incoming one, 3-year long (please note a COI here, but I think this is what Buleraspberry is pointing to)? The resolution regarding Alice is not clear, as it states that ...Alice will be allowed to join for three two-year terms (totalling six years)... as she has served since 2012, but her terms were not two-year long (as she served a combination of affiliate/appointed seats, with a gap in between, which was yet not matching the 18-month bar). Pundit (talk) 07:18, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Small correction: without a gap. Alice Wiegand (talk) 14:28, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I was mislead by the info graphics :) Pundit (talk) 17:35, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Pundit Here is one way forward - Term lengths are increased to 3 years. From here forward all elected board members serve for three years. All elections happen as scheduled for all seats. Because of the changes, there will be a period when the board has more than 10 members, but the process will correct itself down to 10 board members as the extra 3-year terms end out-of-sync. Probably this is the easiest way for reform and the easiest system to explain. Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:54, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
There are at least three easier ways of doing this if we do not split community elections into two:
  1. Community elections in 2015 give two-year terms, affiliate elections in 2016 give three-year terms, then we have community elections in 2017 and on (Year1) and affiliate elections in 2019 and on (Year3)
  2. Community elections in 2015 give two-year terms, affiliate elections in 2016 give two-year terms, then we have community elections in 2017 and on (Year1) and affiliate elections in 2018 and on (Year2)
  3. Community elections in 2015 give three-year terms, affiliate elections in 2016 give three-year terms, then we have community elections in 2018 and on (Year1) and affiliate elections in 2019 and on (Year2)
This does require approving #Community elections should not be split, however — NickK (talk) 14:22, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • I will point out that the discussion on why three-year terms are a good idea also illustrates why one-year terms are not a good idea. It is almost impossible for completely new board members to develop any reasonable degree of effectiveness with a one-year term. I am not certain why one-year terms are even being suggested; it seems contrary to the purpose of making improvements to the effectiveness of trustees. Risker (talk) 14:37, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
    Good point. Three year terms make sense, I would probably experiment with the appointed seats to assure continuity, but IMHO all three seats should go for elections in the same year (I anticipate more problems from the planned shuffling than from potential discontinuity of 3/10 of the board). Pundit (talk) 17:35, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
    Agreed. We can do this without any 1-year terms. SJ talk  20:51, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • Everything would be easier and less arbitrary if the terms were kept at 2 years. I see no compelling reason to increase them by 50 %, especially as 2 years are generally enough to assess whether a board member is doing the job well. --Nemo 16:55, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Community elections should not be split


The proposed scheme is to have two years each with community elections, then a year break, then two more years with community elections.

Elections are a major community hassle. This scheme will generate fatigue among volunteer community election organizers, voting activists, and voters themselves.

All of the community elections should happen at once. They should happen in the same year. Currently they happen every two years, but if the terms were changed to three years and they all happened at once then, that might be a good reform.

The Wikimedia community volunteers who promote the election process cannot manage the stress of so much electoral process as is proposed. Doing it the proposed way will lessen the excitement and drive for each election, which will result in much less engagement for any given election and elected representatives (which is what the elected board members are) who come to power with a lesser community mandate.

Please do not split the community elections. Blue Rasberry (talk) 13:45, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Seconding that. This way we would have two election years in a row: Year3 (2 seats up for election) will be followed by Year1 (1 seat up for election). I am also afraid that Year1 elections for one seat will be less interesting for the community (lower turnout, most qualified candidates would have run the previous year) — NickK (talk) 14:15, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I second the suggestion as well. I think by splitting the community elections we don't gain much, but risk election fatigue, problems in the elections (elections with one winner are very different than elections with more winners), etc. The rest of the motion looks good, but the splitting of the election. --denny (talk) 14:19, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Interesting, thanks all. I think our initial impulse was to make sure that we staggered onboarding new members so we had some (potentially) new people every year -- rather than a big group all at once and then a gap. But it sounds like there's consensus that would be bad for the elections. That point can easily be changed in the proposal, I think. p.s. I'd love to hear from election committee members on this point too. -- phoebe | talk 14:22, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I think this is possible - if we get a standing elections committee. If not, it will remain a challenge regardless of this proposal. However, this change (not considering any changes to FDC or other possible elections being discussed) would result in this calendar (as I understand it):
* 2016: Affiliate elections for board
* 2017: Community election for board, FDC election
* 2018: Year off
* 2019: FDC election and Affiliate elections for board
* 2020: Community election for board
* 2021: FDC election
That is doable, again assuming there's a standing committee, but I do wonder if the FDC terms should be changed to match up - although to my knowledge - none of the committees have three year terms at this point. Also, at this point, affiliate elections are not managed by the traditional elections committee, they tend to be managed by affiliates. I personally think that should change if a standing committee is created, but a note to consider. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 15:46, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • one consideration is also that not splitting the community elections may increase diversity (as in any system where it is not just a winner-takes-all system). Pundit (talk) 17:39, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

I like the idea of having the community selections still focused together on 2 years. To avoid too much turnover in the same year (and 'appointment fatigue' as we put out the call for external trustees), we could then shift the board appointments so that three of them happen during the 'year off'. SJ talk  20:45, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

I hadn't noticed this thread when I wrote a section further down (about 'two "tranches"' of the election). I agree with the points above arguing against the split - and add a point that splitting them will therefore reduce the number of candidates being elected each time which will therefore have a direct and negative impact on the diversity of the elected candidates. For details see the discussion below. Thanks, Wittylama (talk) 15:48, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

I mentioned it in the other thread below: I think Varnent's idea is something we should think through and consider. We need a simple circle, which is comprehensible and works for all. One question we should discuss is, how we deal with those, whose terms are already running. Take the three currently elected members. In 2020 they have served for 5 years, and if I understand Sj right, they shouldn't run again because of the 6 years limit. Patricio then couldn't run a third time in 2016, although he only has served for 4 years. Is this what the community and the Board wants? I'm ignoring myself here because we should focus on the simple and obvious cases first. I'm currently not sure if we drive ourselves into complicated bureaucracy and clauses to make ourselves fit to a pattern which is named term limits. I support term limits in general. To avoid group thinking, to avoid lethargy. But I'm worrying if the side effects on the long path to implement them are worth it. Alice Wiegand (talk) 16:55, 2 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
To clarify: I'm not against term limits. But we need a simple and fair method to implement. Alice Wiegand (talk) 17:00, 2 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

18 months break


I am a bit surprised that the time off is merely eighteen months, and not at least a full term's length. I think the change would sound more consistent if the required break was a full term. --denny (talk) 14:34, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

+1. Marcus Cyron (talk) 14:37, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I actually was thinking the opposite. Because of the cycle for community and chapter seats, saying 18 months really would mean 2 years, and would keep candidates from running alternately as a community selection or a chapter selection. (Current example is Phoebe). I think it should be upfront either one year or two years; except in rare circumstances where someone is appointed to fill an unexpired term, the selected members are seated in July or August for both community and chapter seats. Incidentally it is not clear from this proposal whether a person could be appointed to the board to fill an unexpired term if they have been less than 18 months out of office after having completed 6 years. This may not be optimal; if there is (for example) a 6 month vacancy due to resignation, it would make more sense to appoint someone with experience than someone who is unlikely to be highly effective due to the normal period of familiarization. Risker (talk) 14:50, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Risker, to your hypothetical: no, if someone have been less than 18 months out of office, they can't fill a vacated seat. A previous trustee with experience could, however: that's the main reason to provide for 'time off' and (to Denny's point) not to wait a full three years. SJ talk  20:43, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Well, by not permitting former board members who have been away less than 18 months to fill uncompleted terms, you've lost the advantage of having a former member filling the term. The structure being proposed doesn't leave any space for a previous board member whose term ends at Wikimania 2015 to pitch in before January 2017, or one whose term ends in December 2015 from helping out until July 2017. You don't have a lot of other former board members who are recently active at the Board level *and* are likely to be willing to step up. That leaves a big gap period; if someone resigns in 2016, the board is probably going to be out of luck. Risker (talk) 21:02, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I think you are right, it makes little sense for the Board to tie its hands this way: there could be a provision for this particular situation at the discretion of the Board. Raystorm (talk) 16:40, 6 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
  • Waiting at least a full term (preferably two) does sound more standard. It's however key what happens, say, if someone has 5.5 years, resigns, stands as candidate for 3 more years a few months later. --Nemo 16:52, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
    That could be clarified by saying anyone who has served for longer than 4? years can't stand for another full term without a full break. In many term limit systems, the longest theoretical term would happen this way: being appointed to fill a vacancy shortly before the start of one's first term. SJ talk  23:27, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Term length and waiting time


Hi, while all this sounds not bad I am wondering what the reasoning behind the extention of the time serving would be, as well if one wants to limit the number of terms what good a waiting time would do to break this limit again. — Rupert

Extending each term: to reduce the overhead of selection processes, to reduce turnover each year, and to match what we've seen as a good period of time for a new trustee to become effective. See also comments above
Waiting time: see comments above. SJ talk  20:40, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
somehow I am not able to read why two terms are not enough?

Have an odd number of trustees


One drawback of a board with an even number of trustees is that a tied vote is more likely than on a board with an odd number of trustees. There are ways to handle that such as by giving the chair an extra casting vote to break ties. But an odd number reduces your chance of a tie. WereSpielChequers (talk) 17:02, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Yes. Another proposal on the table is to expand the board to 11 Trustees (or possibly reduce it to 9). That's still being discussed internally. SJ talk  20:40, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I think that the value of an odd number is often overestimated. Usually the decisions are not even close to ties. Also, often someone is not present at the voting, or there is a vacancy. Then the odd number is suddenly 'lost'. - I do find it recommendable to reduce the number, maybe to 7 persons. Ziko (talk) 21:44, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Cleanup: Removed text for clarity


I removed some extra language, to simplify the text. SJ talk  01:03, 23 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Previously, the community selection process happened in odd-numbered years; the chapter and thematic organization selection process happened in even numbered years; and the Board-selected seats were renewed two per year. This schedule matched the trustees' two-year terms.

...terms as set out in the amendments to the Bylaws within the following parameters...

Who decides?


Hi. I may have missed it above, if so, apologies, but just to be clear: which Board members will be voting on this? It's my understanding that the Board membership changes sometime in July? --MZMcBride (talk) 02:49, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Hmmmm, this is actually discussed above between Nathan and Phoebe. The timing seems a bit strange. --MZMcBride (talk) 02:51, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Hey, this is likely to be decided by the "old board" in July (we have two days in July, first day is old board voting, second day is new board voting). We usually try to finalize decisions with the people who helped prepare them. The term limits discussion has been going for a while and we want to finish it. The discussions on number of seats, election processes etc. are more complex and this is the reason why we did not want to complete them with the current board, we simply need more time and more input in order to reach the best decision. Jan-Bart (talk) 08:28, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Two community elected seat 'tranches'


This wording is confusing to me:

After the 2017 community election, the terms will follow this rotation with regular three-year appointments:

Year 1: 1 seat via community election, 2 seats appointed by the Board
Year 2: 2 seats via affiliate selection, 1 via Board appointment, 1 founder seat

Year 3: 2 seats via community election, 1 via Board appointment

Does this mean that from 2017 onwards, there will be two "tranches" of the community election seats - one with 1 seat available, and the other with 2 seats available (both for three year terms) - rather than the current system of 3 seats available at the same time? Perhaps I've misread the description/explanation?

If so, I would guess that this is to avoid large turnover of the board at once, but it also means that every three years we will have a community-wide election to find a single "winner". Not only would that be a lot of effort for a single seat election, it is also is likely to decrease diversity (winner-takes-all elections produce mainstream winners). It is perhaps also de-facto creating the idea of a directly-elected "president of Wikimedia" (chair of the board) since it's a winner-takes-all election. Wittylama (talk) 12:34, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Excellent point on diversity! It might be true that 3rd place represents a different group than the first two places (in 2015 3rd place had technical background while first two did not, in 2013 3rd place was not a native English speaker while first two were, in 2011 3rd place was a female candidate while first two were males etc.) Losing this third place might indeed have a serious impact on diversity: non-mainstream candidates (e.g. Global South, women, non-native speakers of English) might have less chances of being elected — NickK (talk) 13:07, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Exactly, I've tried to point it out above. I'd be much less afraid of a potential turnover of 30% of the Board (which is the maximum, not the norm) than of obviously decreased diversity potential. I think it should be kept as simple as possible. Community-elected members should be elected in the same time and for three-year appointments. Whether it starts with the newly elected members or not, should be adjusted to the whole circle (but again, I would rather consider requesting Stu or Jan-Bart to serve half a year longer, if needed, but keep it as all as simple as possible). Community elections exert a lot of effort, and electing all three members at once increases diversity, so this should be a priority. Then, affiliate nominations of two seats can be conducted either once, or in two instances, if needed. Finally, board appointments are "the easiest" (sort of), and thus can supplement the rest. How about community (3) in year 1, affiliates (1) + board appointed (2) in years 2 and 3? This should also be coordinated with the FDC elections, and also as Risker has pointed out, the 18-month retirement period should be adjusted to (a) length (full years are more reasonable) and also (b) possible board appointment in emergency cases (when a board member steps down, and we may want to co-opt an experienced person for a short period). Pundit (talk) 13:40, 24 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
So, as NickK and Pundit's seem to agree with my understanding of the proposed changes, then I'll make my comment directly:
I am happy with the proposed changes in general (including the three year term), but please do not split up the election of the 3 community seats into two separate groups of 1 and 2 seats. Keep them together as is currently the case. Splitting them will decrease the diversity of the board membership and double the amount of disruption and effort that running elections causes. The advantage of having 'staggered' turnover in board membership is already mitigated with the other groupings on the board, the fact that 'all three' being new at once is the exception (rather than the norm), and is a heavy price to pay compared to the negatives I mentioned. Sincerely, Wittylama (talk) 14:49, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
I agree. In general I would like to see a model of election/selection/appointment circles which is easy to understand, simple and clear. The proposed ideas in the other section are a good start in that direction. Alice Wiegand (talk) 14:54, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Alternate proposal


Due respect to Jan-Bart and the other Trustees, but this is the perfect opportunity to re-examine the chapter/Thorg seats. The Board only gets around to reviewing these sorts of issues once every few years, so now is exactly the time to address this issue. I also am quite surprised that, at the same time trustees are pointing out the difficulty of being effective for *two-year* terms, they are putting forward a plan that involves *one-year* terms, which are practically guaranteed to be ineffective.

I propose that we simply eliminate the role of the chapters and thematic organization(s) in selecting Board Trustees and move to a system where a Nominating Committee (including representatives of chapters, Thorgs and Wikimedia User Groups) seeks out candidates and accepts nominations and self-nominations, vets the potential candidates, and then recommends 6-8 potential candidates to the board for the two "nomination" seats. Similar to the board-appointed FDC candidates, there would be a brief period where community members of all stripes can ask questions of the candidates. The Board then selects two candidates from this group, based on the relevant experience, nomination, response to community questions and internal diversification needs. [Full disclosure: I am a Board-appointed member of the FDC, and was selected using a method very similar to this.]

I agree with the value of 3-year terms, as well as the term limits, and would propose the following:

  • Two community seats (replacing chapters seats) selected using the nomination process described above in April 2016 for 3-year term. (Permit currently sitting chapters-selected trustees to continue to the scheduled end of their term, for a short-term expansion of two seats.)
  • Three community seats (the current community seats) elected in October 2017 for 3-year term (currently sitting community-selected trustees have a short-term extension of their seats).
  • Board appointed trustees will be appointed for 3 years with 2 appointed in December 2015 and 2 appointed in July 2017. These seats are more flexible, and it might just be reasonable that whenever an appointed seat comes open, suitable appointees are sought and the appointment is for 3 years without adherence to a specific schedule. (This avoids the "appointed for a one-year slot" issue.)

Nominating committee


I would propose that the Nominating Committee consist of 2 Board representatives, 3 representatives selected by the Affiliations Committee in a manner that its members decide, and 2 or 3 other community members. Its role would be three-fold:

  • To recommend potential community-based trustees for the two "nomination" seats. This would include seeking out candidates and accepting candidate nominations and self-nominations, basic vetting of potential candidates, and then recommending 6-8 potential candidates to the board for the two "nomination" seats.
    • The Nominating Committee would be responsible for conducting and managing the on-wiki candidate questions.
    • The Board can identify specific criteria over and above the existing baseline criteria applied to all Trustees (e.g., 3 candidates must be from the "global south", 2 must be women, 2 should have technology background, candidates may meet more than one additional criterion, etc.)
  • To assist the Board in identifying and vetting potential appointed trustee candidates, and making recommendations to the Board. Again, the Board would likely establish criteria for the type(s) of appointees it is seeking (e.g., financial background, geographic representation, prior experience on a large non-profit board, etc.)
  • To seek out candidates and accept community-based candidate nominations for the community elections. This will separate the role from the Elections Committee, which will then focus solely on running the elections proper.

The Nominating Committee may also have a role in seeking out candidates for both the Board-appointed and community-selected seats of the Funds Dissemination Committee.



The hope, when the chapter-selected seats were first created, was to bring a more diverse membership to the Board; however, the reality is that of the 6 individuals selected by the chapters, two were American, two were German, three were European, and only one comes from the "global south". Four of the six people selected via chapters selection have also held WMF trustee positions using another trustee selection process (either chapters/appointed or chapters/community elected). There was some suggestion early on that the chapters selection process would be kinder to non-traditional candidates, yet all members selected to date have been longtime Wikimedians working in large projects, most of whom held executive positions in chapters prior to their Board appointments. Other segments of the community have questioned the appropriateness of granting the authority to select 20% of the Board of Trustees to a minuscule number of members of the community through a completely non-transparent process, where not even the names of the electors are known. With the advent of the Affiliations Committee, and the inclusion of Wikimedia User Groups, the weaknesses of the chapter/Thorg-based selection process becomes even more apparent; there is no logical reason to exclude the WUGs in the process, but their participation will make selection even more cumbersome. Adding the Wikimedia User Groups to the group of organizations participating in the selection of these candidates would further weight participation to the largest existing communities and the English-language editing communities, where many of the user groups are based or are most active.

With respect to the Nominating Committee, it has been clear for a while that the Board has had challenges in identifying and cultivating good potential candidates for the appointed seats, particularly when seeking out candidates who meet specific criteria or to develop greater cultural diversity in its ranks. NomCom members from the Affiliations Committee will have both the mandate and the broader contacts (either directly, or by consulting their peers) to expand the pool of potential candidates for the Board of Trustees. This same principle also applies to all other seats: those who are actively working within various communities, or have developed close ties to other communities through AffComm, are more likely to be able to identify and encourage good potential candidates within the Wikimedia community to consider a Trustee candidacy. It is also ethically advantageous to completely separate the responsibility for seeking out candidates from the processes for running elections, which would remain with the separate Elections Committee. As has been discussed in the 2015 Election post-mortem, there is significant support for a standing Elections Committee tasked to review all aspects of the election process, in consultation with the community.

Respectfully submitted, Risker (talk) 01:29, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply



I am quite surprised by this proposal. You want to make the Board decide on affiliate seats and not the community, thus effectively switching from 5 community and 4 appointed seats to 3 community and 6 appointed seats, which looks less democratic.

The problem you seem to raise is that affiliate-selected candidates do not always match the profiles required by the board. This can be easily solved if board informs affiliates in advance, e.g. by stating that this year they need a woman with technology background from Global South. Affiliates have a large pool of qualified candidates (who usually both have an experience as a trustee and are trusted by the communities), so it would be possible to find good candidates if expectations are defined well in advance.

Concerning Nominations committee, I would welcome such committee for 4 board-appointed seats where community input is currently completely lacking. That would be a way to make this process more transparent, and it would be really great if community could see (and discuss) the candidates for board-appointed seats before they are voted by board — NickK (talk) 10:01, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Back when the two seats were first allocated to the chapters, the theory was that a process pretty similar to what I have described would happen, with the exception of the board making the final decision. It was theorized that the chapters, because they were supposedly more diverse than the voting community, would for some reason select "diverse" candidates. We can all see that has not happened. Their selection process is completely non-transparent - at least with Board appointments, the entire community knows who is making the decisions. The Board has been pushing for more diverse candidates from the chapters ever since 2009, and has gotten...well, two selected candidates who had already been on the board, no persons of colour, nobody from Asia or Africa, and a whole pile of chapter executives. Frankly, I'm not certain why anyone finds this unexpected: if you tell a group their opinion is this important, then they're very likely to see those seats as "representative" of their points of view, and to select candidates who exemplify that perspective. The candidates they have selected are entirely what one would expect from this group. (This is not to say that they've chosen poor candidates - the fact that two of them have been reappointed through one process or another after their chapter candidacy indicates they were good choices.)

At the same time, we have more than ample evidence that the more traditional community election process has also been completely unsuccessful in selecting candidates outside of the North America/Europe grouping. Even this year, with very strong advocacy on the part of the Board for non-traditional candidates, we wound up with three white male Europeans/North Americans There is every reason to believe that the outcomes would be the same if the currently-chapters-selected seats were to move to community elected seats, and no reason to believe that the result would be any different. In other words, we have two "community-based" processes that have resulted in selections remarkably and almost completely exclusionary of Wikimedia community candidates who are not North American/European, despite the widespread understanding that this is neither representative of the Wikimedia community nor desirable on an international non-profit board. This cycle needs to be broken.

Perhaps you could comment specifically on the alternative timescale for determining new board members? Even if the chapters seats remain chapters seats, I think this timeline makes a lot more sense than having one-year terms. Risker (talk) 12:50, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Firstly, did anyone really ask affiliates for precise profiles? Affiliates were asked for diverse profiles, and well, the only trustee (out of 10!) from Global South is affiliate-elected, which is kind of an indicator of diversity. If you compare affiliate results (a European woman and a Latin American man), community results (three European / North American men) and appointed seats (three European / North American men and a European woman), affiliate seats are far ahead in terms of diversity. Of course it is impossible to meet the Board expectations if these expectations are not defined.
Secondly, removing affiliate seats has nothing to do with removing one-year terms. My suggestion concerning one-year terms is available at #No one-year terms in transitionNickK (talk) 14:19, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

I think this proposal addresses a number of concerns around transparency and representation with the affiliate seats. The candidates would come from the community, and be vetted by the community, so would still be community seats. I also like the idea of a standing nominating committee working to recruit candidates for the appointed seats and the community elections. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 20:46, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

There is a difference between candidates from community and candidates representing community. What I am afraid of is that trustees elected this way do not feel they were elected by the community, but feel they were chosen by the Board (as in the end Board will decide if a candidate is elected or not) — NickK (talk) 13:27, 27 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Technically - the board already makes that decision now. As the by-laws already state, the board always has final say on all candidates to the board. The nominating committee would select the pool of individuals to select from, so they will be representing the community. Technically the board can already go outside the community's selections and pick someone else anyway, but that has not happened before, and seems equally as unlikely to happen here either. Obviously there is a chance, but that chance is already present. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 13:33, 27 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
The difference is that with current procedure Board appoints two affiliate-elected candidates out of two proposed by the election committee. In the proposed procedure Board will appoint two candidates out of eight proposed by nominations committee. Thus it is entirely possible for the board to apply any criteria they like and select candidates who are not necessarily trusted by the community (e.g. select the only two candidates who support Superprotect and reject the remaining six who do not support it). This is a big difference of the current procedure (where a group of affiliate electors independent from the board has final say) and of the proposed procedure (where the Board itself has final say) — NickK (talk) 17:22, 27 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Then wouldn't it be up to the nominating committee to not put forward candidates that do not share the community's values? --Varnent (talk)(COI) 18:56, 27 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
There is a difference between Risker's proposal above and proposal by Pharos below. In Risker's version Nomination Committee chooses 8 candidates, and Board selects 2 according to their own criteria. I do agree that candidates that do not share most of community's values should not pass Nominations Committee, although Board will have right to choose candidates according to any arbitrary criteria, which will most likely result in selecting trustees with the same views as the Board majority. From this point of view proposal by Pharos is better, as Nominations Committee will appoint trustees directly from the pool of candidates for community elections, which is a bit more democratic. However, for full democratic representation of the community such committee must be elected or entirely composed of community-elected members, and not just appointed by the Board, otherwise this does not qualify for Community seats — NickK (talk) 07:29, 3 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Alternate alternate proposal


I would like to remix Risker's idea of a Nominating Committee taking over responsibility for the 2 existing affiliate seats, and integrate it also with a common process for the 3 existing community seats. I think an ideal system would include 5 or so community/nomination seats, where in a candidate pool drawn both from the Nominating Committee and from self-nominations, the top 3 vote-getters in a community election will serve on the board, as currently, but also that the Nominating Committee will have the responsibility of additionally selecting 2 (or ideally more) board members from other candidates of underrepresented skills and backgrounds from the rather wider group, who have achieved at least a basic 50%+1 support/oppose acceptance. By having a Nominating Committee that is also free to nominate both editors and non-editors, this might encourage more quality candidates to run, and have a true community process, while still opening it up to those who might not come first in a pure popularity contest.--Pharos (talk) 17:45, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Thanks Risker for the thoughtful suggestion. Pharos, integrating with a common process is a fine idea – whether the selection happens via a smaller committee, or a much larger body of representatives. That would make this more of a continuous process of nomination and collaboration. SJ talk  22:55, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply



AFAIK, this was not notified on WikimediaAnnounce-l, nor the various related on-wiki talk pages. --Nemo 16:58, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Which talk pages are you thinking of? -- phoebe | talk 16:32, 30 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

Length of appointments


I don't see the point in reducing the renewals of the appointed trustees i.e. increasing the length of the appointment to three years (points E, F). The last newly-appointed trustee was replaced in a matter of few months, IIRC; better sooner than later. Given the asserted issues with finding diverse candidates, people outside the usual suspects, people available for the work required; it's probably better to commit only to a shorter term, so that both candidates and the board can be more courageous and counter these issues. --Nemo 17:15, 25 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

As a matter of principle the board decided several years ago that all terms were to be equal for all seats. That is why they all change to three years. Jan-Bart (talk) 17:22, 27 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
A hypothetical: if one of the currently elected members runs in 2017, and again in 2020 (a far stretch, I know) will their term be capped at 1 year limit in 2020? Pundit (talk) 13:31, 29 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
They would not be allowed to run in that election, since the 3-year term would exceed the limit. SJ talk  22:58, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
It would seem that these three individuals will have their electability limited to 5 years in a row, unlike the incumbents. Pundit (talk) 17:06, 3 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
So far we don't have any limits and we have members whose termes lasts longer than 6 years. we want to implement a 6 years limitation. Is it fair to limit newer members terms to less than 6 years? As said, we need a simple solution for the transition time. Alice Wiegand (talk) 10:24, 4 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
I think there is room for flexibility with these particular cases, so they don't have to resign in Year 5 despite being reelected. Raystorm (talk) 16:54, 6 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Scope of proposal


With all due respect to everyone coming up with alternative proposals I do want to remind everyone: this is a proposal with regards to term limits. While all other thoughts are welcome, we are going to vote on the term limits proposal. Other topics like the ones mentioned above are still being dealt with by the board. I know the temptation exists to "fix everything", but terms limits really is a seperate issue. To be clear: the other remarks will not be ignored, but the board is still dealing with those. Thanks for all the feedback, especially on term limits itself ;) 17:21, 27 June 2015 (UTC)

Jan-Bart, there will be at least a 50% turnover of the Board within the next six months, and potentially as much as an 80% turnover within the year. This is your opportunity. There won't be another one for several years; the Board is going to be far too busy orienting its new members and dealing with its primary mission to bother with this again. Meanwhile, you have two seats coming open in the increasingly misnamed "affiliate" selections that will *require* a re-examination of that section of the bylaw: almost half of the affiliates are, by the current bylaw, excluded from selecting affiliate seats at this time. It needs to be addressed anyway within the next few months so that planning of the selection process can be initiated, particularly if there is a change in the timing of the selection. (Even with minor changes to the structure, this is a more complex process because the affiliates need to determine their internal process for selecting official 'voters' and reviewing candidates.) Changing the term limits doesn't help that at all and, in fact, could make the situation worse. Risker (talk) 12:57, 29 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Is there a timeline in place for the other decisions? --Varnent (talk)(COI) 23:03, 29 June 2015 (UTC)Reply
Risker: correct on all counts. As a community, we should address both in the coming few months. Varnent: the board will discuss options around affiliate seats and a possible 11th trustee at its July meeting. There's no deadline set for a decision, but the Board retreat in October/November seems like the latest possible date for a resolution. SJ talk  23:03, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

A couple of comments


Generally looks sensible to me, and I think formalising term limits is good practice. A few comments;

  1. In the preamble it says "Alice will be allowed to join for two three-year terms". Is this meant to include "time already served" or not?
  2. I share the concerns from people saying "don't split up the community elections". In my view if the community is electing 3 members at once (preferably with the STV voting system) is preferable, as it will probably result in a more diverse outcome than two elections for 1 / 2 people. As an alternative, I would suggest splitting the affiliate seat terms so there are affiliate selections for 1 member 2 years out of every 3. Because the affiliate selection is more deliberative than the community vote, I think there is more likelihood that the affiliates will say things like "ah, we already have a European in one of these two seats and there are lots of Europeans in the board at the moment, let's choose someone from a different background".

Regards, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 12:34, 29 June 2015 (UTC)Reply

1 - Yes. 2 - Fair point. SJ talk  23:05, 1 July 2015 (UTC)Reply
Thanks SJ! Can I suggest clarifying the wording so point 1 becomes obvious. :) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 12:25, 3 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Terms of upcoming community elected board members - should it be three years?


This proposal is called "Term Limits" but the biggest change proposed is an extension of the term length from 2 years to 3 years.

So far as I know, there is consensus among board members that 2 years is not long enough to be effective, considering the nature of the board's membership and the scope of its work. There has been long agreement that 3 years would be a better term length, and this has been in discussion throughout several boards going back some years. I think that there is community support for this idea also, both because there is not opposition to the idea of 3-year terms, and because elections are tiring, and because people find it reasonable to imagine that 3-year terms are a good length.

There was just an election for three community board members. They are about to join the board for 2-year terms. Since there seems to be agreement that 3 year terms are better, then before they join in the upcoming days or weeks, should their terms of appointment be three years? These benefits might come from this -

  • The three community elected positions are the most important and valuable board seats and bring the most legitimacy to the board by virtue of their being closest to the Wikimedia community. If the term is increased soon, and these seats are among the last to get the benefits of the increased term length, then that makes these seats weaker than the others. I would like for an extension to 3 years to start with the community seats, because those are the seats which ought to be most empowered.
  • There seems to be agreement that 2-year seats are difficult and 3-year seats would be easier. The community seats should have the easiest time on the board because they represent the least privileged demographic. Appointed seats are chosen with regard for professionalism and station in life to a greater extent than community seats, and should not have advantages in the board which community seats lack.
  • Now is as good of a time as any. If there is agreement that 3-year seats are the way to go, then instead of waiting either until the next community election, or instead of giving the extended terms to everyone except community, then why not begin with this term? If it is going to happen anyway because it is best, then the wiki-way is to be bold and do it now.

A disadvantage could be if voters imagined that they were electing representatives to a 2-year term, then this would be unfair. However, I think voters assumed that they were electing representatives to at least an equal term to everyone else. If the community seats are the last to convert to a full 3-year term, then I think this would be least fair to voters. The community seats should be the first to convert to 3-years.

Thoughts? Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:41, 7 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Next steps


Thank you all for your helpful comments. A lot of issues mentioned here, be it the 1-year-term, the split of community elections and the overall term length of our latest elected members, are taken to adjust the resolution draft. We are currently discussing internally and will make a decision at our Wikimania meeting. Alice Wiegand (talk) 20:42, 8 July 2015 (UTC)Reply

Return to "Wikimedia Foundation bylaws/June 2015 - Term Limits" page.