Wikimedia Conference 2012/Documentation/Day 2/board-chapters

Day 2 of the WMCON2012, joint meeting between the WMF board and the chapters



on voting transparency

on fundraising

on the Funds Disseminsation Committee (FDC)

note: PP = payment processing

personal remarks from the board members

  • Board has been discussing this for a long time.
  • People are talking too much about fundraising, not enough about what we're doing.
  • Haifa letter was clear, and we've come back to it many times, needed more clarifcation, so people kept getting back to it.
  • Discussion face to face was really rewarding.

Arne Klempert

  • What we did in Haifa was a good decition, but in a hurry.
  • issues were flagged to us as a board,
  • Understanding about what was done in Haifa wasn't as good as thought,
  • Appreciate all the papers and statements produced by the chapters, helped board to understand.
  • Everyone expected something different from what was actually delivered.


  • Wanted to see us come to a decision that left the possibility of PP open.
  • Don't think we have the capacity to do this every year.
  • very satisfied by the FDC resolution
  • spent a lot of time thinking about how to do something really great.
  • Happy with the outcome that was achieved yesterday
  • Tense, emotional topic
  • Triggers strong emotions.
  • Very important, have to spend time to have these debates publicly, even if it results on so much volume on Meta
  • Resolution on PP:
    • Challenge with PP is the same as challenge with talking about PP: Want to make sum of all knowledge available to all, but have to find a way to drive quality and a way to pay for it all. The money problem is solved. We need to successfully find smart ways to spend it. That's the challenge.


  • The Paris finance meeting was great
  • Q&A in panel discussion: board was surprised at how much everyone appreciated seeing them argue with each other.
  • Normally you argue in private, commit, and show a combined public face.
  • The human side was valuable: showing the conflict
  • Board has learned a lot recently, wants to be more transparent.
  • Matt came in more leaning to centralization, wants to protect the brand (fiduciary responsibility as board), but balancing decentralisation
  • Funds dissemination committee doesn't exist yet. It seems to be a good way to achieve decentralisation. How do we make it work? Assume good faith!
  • Goal is to have funds disseminated as needed.
  • Will take at least a year or two to get it right.
  • Most people moved from their original positions to reach compromise, so that we could focus on programmatic work.


  • This issue: money is one of the most difficult and dangerous for our movement.
  • On wiki, just turn of your computer, it's gone.
  • When money is there, it's about people's jobs, incentivized people to come into the movement sometimes for the wrong reasons.
  • People doing amazing work in wealthy and less wealthy countries. This will only increase in future.
  • All the chapters need funding: how do we share the wealth? This will lead to emotional decision? What about chapters that aren't as effective and need to be defunded?
  • There will always be battles about allocation (it's never perfect) - WMF needs structures and culture around the issue: show that we're well-meaning and want to do good work.
  • There's always next year! Right now there's a moritorium on new chapters doing PP, but in 2015, review! Find new 5-year plan.
  • PP in particular: Jimmy wants to centralize it! Feels strongly that it's a technical question, and shouldn't be one about control. Not a judgement on chapters' maturity. It's got to do with data laws etc.
  • Duplication of infrastructure that's already there in WMF!
  • The deep, hard question is how much money do chapters get? What do they do with it? How do we measure what chapters are doing? This hard work is still to come.


  • Small discussion 3 years ago: "Money is poison" -- Jan-Bart
  • It's a big distraction.
  • JB voted for all the resolutions (huh? what does this mean? I missed this!!) [there were 3 resolutions - voting transparency, FDC, funds dissemination] -- phoebe
  • Chapters can do a lot without money! If a chapter does a lot with 5k, let's get them more if that will make them more effective through the FDC, without making them stress about where it will come from
  • We will have to focus on donor communication, which is a big issue for many chapters. Last night was about finishing the three resolutions. Donor relationships/communications is coming up next. It's a complicated issue, we're at it!
  • Board needs to change the way they do things
  • Many staffers were also working on this, creating lots of text. Was valuable, but not completely harmonized. Need more of this!

Ting Chen

  • Delighted that we got this result.
  • "I consider you to be leaders of the movement"
  • Let's not fight this fight again in five years. it costs us energy and gains us nothing.
  • Leaders like to think we do things that last forever but that is not true. Things will change
  • In a sense we've postponed our decision.
  • Don't know how the world will look in 5 years, so re-adjust.
  • Chapter people have to make sure that it works for the
  • Coming from a slightly different perspective
  • would be happy not to participate on another money discussion again on the board.
  • A lawyer: will always focus on the way things can go wrong.
  • That's why initially she was in favour of centralization: safer.
  • Resolution settles the question: Haifa letter wasn't clear enough.
  • Now we can concetnratio on other things.
  • Like Jimmy, believes that PP is a technical detail - so unpack the issues that are confused here:
    • Donor relations
    • Power flow
  • Funds dissemination committe will help with these.

Bishakha Datta

  • Signed on to the Haifa letter, believes in enforcing move-ment
  • Not rigorous enough - but was a starting point for dialogue.
  • People were unhappy, but people accept the requirement to enforce discipline.
  • Wikimedia projects are decentralized
  • Thus We should work towards decentralization in the organizational side of the movement
  • How can we assure accountability, efficiency, etc, within the framework of decentralization.
  • IN a decentralized framework, diversity is important. One size will not fit all!
  • FDC is a movement towards decentralizded decisions.
  • May not get a perfect implementation immedialtely, but hopefully we will get something that will last for a long time.
  • Personal choices were: abstain or vote against centralised fundraising.
  • These 4 chapters should clearly be allowed to PP, but what do we do about chapters that also meet these criteria?
  • Didn't go far enough!
  • Was in a situation of conscience and consensus
  • Spent more time on this issue than anyone else! Has been gruelling.
  • Major recommendation to the board was that PP should be centralized, meaning no chapter fundraising (on Wikimedia Foundation sites).
  • Recommended that because she believes it's the right thing.
  • Also presented a compromise view, because maybe the centralzied option might not be accepted.
  • OK with the compromise because it's not a black-and-white issue. Many issues play into this, e.g. donor incentives, efficiency, donor relationships etc.
  • Not obvious what the right answer is, and reasonable people could differ.
  • As Ting said, we can't discount people's emotions.
  • Afraid of people spending the next 3 1/2 years building the case for PP. No chapter should, neither should the WMF.
  • Better: hope that we spend the next 3.5 years building a fantastic FDC that makes excellent decisions on how to spend the money.
  • Don't expect problems, but hope we put our energy in the right place.
  • Will be transformative if we build a

Question time

  • Q: Do you really think this discussion is over, when most of the chapters have expressed against this?
  • A: Over until 2015 - board consensus. Important for everyone to move onto other topics for now. If there is dialogue, there won't be much ()
  • A: Payment processing discussion is closed. Funds dissemination question is the challenge of the next year or two. Apply our passion and energy to the solution.
  • A: Payment Processing has lots of controversy: how to manage that in terms of donor relations, within the model of chapters that are doing PP, and also for the others. THink about that, and work with staff on a solution that maximizes the donations that we get as a movement.
  • A: Question on Fundraising in general is still open.
  • Q: What will be the metrics to evaluate payment processing on a technical point of view, but also from chapters?
  • A (Jimmy): When we come around to 2015 to reexamine the question, will be interested in (as Kat said) unbundling the issues: donor relations, empirical data on relevance of tax deductiblity, etc. Must look at these things holistically.
  • A (Sue): Will always be an array of issues, and not possible to make the decision purely on data. Again, don't want people to spend their time on building a rock-solid case for PP. Rather ask the question : why do chapters aspire to PP? Decouple the issue: can we resolve those issues separately? Key is to build a good FDC, work through the donor relations issues. In 2015, see again how strongly people want to PP?
  • Q: Will requisites for PP be published?
  • A: It's been 16 hours and we haven't yet thought about that much. Will be an open process. WIll review late 2015
  • A (JW): No, criteria won't be published until we make the decision on what to do, especially if we're talking about PP in 2016 and beyond! If we decide to expand PP, will have to publish criteria.
  • A (Matt): Purpose of this is also to see the human voice: These questions imply that chapters are asking "how can we PP?" - we're losing active editors - who here believes that PP is the way that we'll address this issue? We're all spending our time on PP, while losing editors, so can't wait until we get over this, and have a strong FDC supporting programs.
  • A (SK): Answered on our resolution on fundraising. These are still the criteria that we think are important.
  • A (Arne): It's always a value judgement - Will have chapters who do and don't PP; this will give us criteria, but not sure that we'll have clear checklist based 100% on objective criteria
  • A (Stu): Two kinds of problems:
    • Concrete problems that are easy to understand, easy measure of success.
    • Hard problems where it's not so easy to see what to do.
  • Focused too hard lately on things like funding and PP, because the other issues (e.g. editor retention) are harder to deal with! That's the wrong way to do it. Just because they're easy, doesn't mean that they're important.
  • A (Kat): Unfair to say that people are talking about fundraising, but that's the topic at hand.
  • A(BD): Fundraising isn't that easy?
  • Q: Are you concerned that some chapters might ask their people not to donate to the WMF, but pay their local chapters directly?
  • A(BD): If chapters start a campaign that pulls in additional donors: net positive, regardless of whether it goes to centralized fundraiser or chapter, but if it's meant as sabotage, intended to jsut move money from one pool to another, that's negative. This can reduce donations.
  • A(KW): Not afraid: if chapter markets themselves well, that's OK, but if it's done adversarially, very bad!
  • A(JW): Very unlikely. There might be individuals that are so vindictive, but could a whole chapter board decide to screw over the foundation? Postivie approach: work with FDC and do some independent fundraising to be more independent as well.
  • Q: Would the foundation donors have the option to donate to their local chapter as well? Empowering local communities would be cool.
  • A(Jan-Bart): Technical/opoerational question: not within the board's scope to decide. Many ways for WMF to make sure that donors are aware of the amazing things that the chapters are doing, but will not commit to what WMF will do, beyond that we will maximize the donor revenue without too much begging and visibility and aggressive fundraising.
  • Comment (Harel): unlikely that this wolud be done, because it's PP under a different guise (paraphrase!)
  • BD: People are unclear about the chapter vs foundation, so they give money to what they know (Wikipedia) - so we should agree that we're all in this together - this is movement money
  • A(Matt): Worried about donors who think they're giving money to keep WP free forever, and think they are giving money to their local chapter but it really is going to some project within the US. Our job is to handle donor money correctly. Knows e-commerce, and if you put questions in, exit rates increase, so we'll lose donations.
  • Similar to previous answer: why would chapter think this is a good idea? Get less money but have it directly from donor, not via FDC. We know empirically that split-screen donation is bad idea.
  • A(Ting): Why are people so concerned about PP? Do any chapter have bylaws that say "we want to be a chapter because we want to be PP chapter?" No, want to be chapter because want to do good work. Need to raise funds and get the money to the chapters. Foundation is putting some of its own budget into FDC: it's movement money - unimportant who brings the money in. This is the wrong question to concentrate on.
  • Q: When do we expect the metrics in measuring chapter maturity? Will board set the standards?
  • A(Ting): Sessions about chapter council: One of the tasks of chapter council is to handle this. We all know that there are chapters that do nothing, but we don't renounce them because we don't want to be the guard of the chapters. Good for chapters to have their own entity to raise the quality of chapters in totatlity
  • A(Jan Bart): Maturity implies growth, getting better than before.
  • A Not every country has to have a GLAM project. Maturity is the way you deal with your chapter in your country there is no scale.
  • A (Stu) FDC will make the decisions about where the money goes. Maybe that's the answer to the maturity question. Simple principle: if you're doing good work and advancing the mission and spending mnoey well, that's the answer. We all want to deliver our WMF mission. If you're doing that, there's plenty of money. It's not a maturity standard: new chapters with great ideas should get funded.
  • Q: Ting said we can't discount emotions, but you discard all major suggestions.Do you think this has been beneficial to the movement?
  • A(Ting): Board members (of chapters as well) have people coming to them, and we will disappoint some.
  • A(Jan Bart): : dn't ignore - modified the position. In Paris ()?
  • A(Jimmy ): We did not make hasty decisions.
  • A (Matt) Comitted to making it work! Many decisions on the FDC were based on input. Don't want to be characterized as ignoring people just because we disagree!
  • A (Phoebe): Took some things from Meta, not all, Some from Sue, not all, and not all from each other. Thought about them, discussed on IRC, then went through them, incorporated a lot (wording and substance) and the resolutions are not what Sue wrote. Didn't ignore what we didn't include - took everything seriously.
  • A (SJ) : Lots of great inputs, and Sue is very good at framing ideas in a way that can be acted on. Want to remind people that everyone can suggest text, but it's harder to suggest concrete actions that can be acted on, than address important issues but not offering ways for the board to incorporate matters in resolutions. The board talked about the fact that allowing chapters to manage donor relationships is important, but didn't see a way to put it into the resolution as a specific thing that can be added.
  • (Phoebe): Did line-by line editing of resolutions. Lenghthly process!
  • (Arne): Didn't just spend time going through the lines - most of the time that the board spent over last 6 months was on this issue. Not just time spent in board meetings, but the time spent reading, having mailing list and IRC conversations, etc. () Yesterday the board was still split, unsure about whether we could find a resolution. All the writing from the chapters was helpful in reaching this compromise. Movements break apart over this kind of issue, and I think that we came up with a solution that will help keep this from happening. Making FDC work and ironing out issues around donor relations () There were big shifts in the positions o fboard members.
  • (Jimmy): Culture around decisions and interactions - as we get into more thorny issues (FDC etc.) - step up and challenge questions tht are phrased () It's not valid to have questions that assume insincerity , e.g. "why did you even bother asking?" etc. Challenge those assumptions. We're all trying hard, so fight about substance, but don't have tone in the conversation that leads to more distrust.
  • Q: According to WMF website, local chapters are self-dependent organisations - if we get all our money from WMF? | Is it a compromise or a divide and rule policy? Silencing large chapters, leaving small chapters to their fate.
  • A(Jimmy): Question of independence is separate from the question of PP - PP is a question of how the money flows. Even if you have a screen on the Foundation website that allows the money to go to your website, you're not independent.

Payment based on movement priorities and goals, not how wealthy your country is, and the traffic on your website is.

  • A (Kat): Strange to talk about independence when it's still going through the WMF website. Also, only a few wealthy countries have that opportunity! Small countries really don't have this. Do we have the staff and capacity to handle the auditing etc?
  • A (BD): I run a small non-profit. If we have diverse sources of income, this contributes to our independence more than a single source. Factors can change, and it's definitely true that decisions are coming from ???text missing???
  • A (Matt): Is there a difference betweeen PP chapter and non-PP chapter in terms of indepencence? No: From the FDC resolution: "all funds from WMF sites will be distributed within the recommendations of the FDC." FDC becomes the governing body of how the funds get distributed - PP is not the basis of that decision.
  • A (Arne): Example is broken! "I get all my income from the company that I work for, but I feel independent!" The sentiment is that it feels less independent, but in reality it's not such a difference between getting donations ??? WMF sends donations to you, and this stream could be cut off any day! The need for a funding body that gives you the confidence that what happened in the past will continue - chapters will all have a voice in the FDC! This must work, becuase it will give all of us more independence, and it is a good move towards decentralization.

A: (Phoebe) Are we trying to divide and conqure? No! Will the big chapters remain silent? No Are we trying to hold the small chapters down? No! Want to get all the chapters funded: every cool project, so WP:AGF!

  • Q: 11 years after WP started, our movement is still a symbol of global cooperation. Can't survive without local ??? Global vision requires that board has a full-time presence in Brussels and Washington DC. How can the movement maintain autonomous growth?
  • A(Jan Bart): 2 ways of thinking about office location. Opted so far to open offices in countries where there are opportunities to ??? SOPA: we got into political lobbying. HAsn't been our focus so far, might be later. Starting a new strategy discussion in a year or tow: does this mean that we will need to change our focus?
  • A(Kat): The topic that I'd like to be focussing on more than fundraising. Yes, it's important, and our voice should be heard there. Haven't been so involved in the public sphere adovcacy, but we've been focusing on keeping our heads down , building great projects. We have this mision, with these ideal, can dreate something great. CAn use our credibility to take our vision out into the world. Started with some community efforts e.g. in Italy and USA. W should listen to the people who have mobilised around us. have to think about how to use our influence - can't black out for just anything, or we'd have no encyclopedia any more. Have been sending legal interns to study legistation - so send your quesitons to our office, and we can help.  ????text lost???
  • A(Jimbo): One of the hopes that many people had was that it would have impact around the world, and that people should take us into account when thinking about legislation. talking to a UK presidential aide: they're nervous after SOPA, and dont' want flak from us! Already, that action means that chapters now have the ability to speak to govt officials, etc: they now realize that they have to listen to the people from the internet.
  • A(Arne): Got the impression that we just started to think about that, but chapters have been thinking about and doing and political advocacy for years: one of the good things about a decentralized movement is that we can learn from the smaller chapters experiences and learn from them.