Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2024-06-27 Conversation with Trustees

The Community Affairs Committee – a committee of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees – hosted a Conversation with the Trustees on 27 June from 18:00-19:30 UTC. This conversation was an opportunity for community members to speak directly with the trustees about their work. The Board of Trustees is a volunteer body of movement leaders and external experts in charge of guiding the Wikimedia Foundation and ensuring its accountability.

June 27 Conversation with the Trustees

How to participate

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This conversation was held on Zoom with a live YouTube stream. The call lasted 90 minutes, with the first half covering updates and the second half dedicated to open Q&A.

The recording is available via the same YouTube link and on Commons.

Submit your questions

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Participants brought questions to ask live during the open Q&A, or submitted them ahead of time to askcac wikimedia.org.

Agenda

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Call notes

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These notes are not verbatim and instead summarize points made. Please refer to the recording for the full information.

Board updates

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Affiliation Committee

  • November 2022, started the process for Affiliates Strategy to help guide the Foundation in supporting affiliates. Focusing on affiliate recognition.
  • As a result of this process, AffCom recently adopted 10 criteria for evaluating the health of an affiliate, including: organizational development, leadership and inclusion, engagement and coordination.
  • AffCom made changes to user group recognition process. Process now requires live interview with AffCom, as well as a declaration of intent about the projects that are relevant for them. One-year trial period for applicants before reaching full recognition.
  • There will be a couple of months of pause of recognizing new user groups as we transition to this process, but will resume as normal in September 2024.

Sister Projects Task Force

  • Trustees and volunteer advisory members working on the process of opening new projects and evaluating success of existing projects.
  • Prepared draft procedure that people will follow to apply to open a new project.
  • Feedback was gathered on Meta and through calls held in different timezones. Input will be discussed and the proposed procedure will be amended.
  • In July it will be discussed with the Community Affairs Committee.

Outcomes of June Board meeting

  • Board met on 20 June with main agenda item to review and approve the Foundation’s Annual Plan including the budget.
  • The Foundation's fiscal year starts July 1 and runs through the end of June.
  • Annual Plan and budget were both approved by vote. Budget is balanced with revenues and expenses of $188.7M. Financial details are published on Meta along with the Plan.
  • Board also approved short term trustee extensions for Darisz, Vicki, Rosie and Lorenzo so that their appointments wouldn’t end before the results of the Board Elections are final.
  • Voted to re-appoint Luis and Jimmy for another 3 year term. Trustees are eligible to serve for up to three three-year terms, Luis is completing his first term and Jimmy has a special seat as a Founder not subject to the maximum term limit.
  • Board will meet again during Wikimania.

Movement Charter

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  • Grateful to MCDC for time, resilience and perseverance over the past few years.
  • Importance of voting in this process: first time that everyone in the movement can react to the final draft. Want to hear feedback--what is missing? What is not getting enough attention? What do you like? This is the first time ever that we will globally collect data on the Charter which is important for moving forward.
  • The world has shifted. We have limited resources, our budget is small and we have considerable risks and so have to be calculated in the way that we are thinking about programmatic tradeoffs and choices. The trustees must consider the costs and benefits of everything, and when it comes to any significant commitment we need to ensure it advances our joint mission.
  • The Board Liaisons for the Movement Charter have publicly shared feedback on drafts [1][1][2][3]. Liaisons have regularly joined MCDC meetings, MCDC has also joined Board meetings.
  • The Board will vote on ratifying the charter or not in a special meeting that will happen by 9 July. We have received our recommendation from Liaisons but have not made a decision yet and want to see the feedback from the vote.
  • Changes proposed are so big and difficult to understand how to evaluate them against the Movement Strategy. Our recommendation is to not ratify but to think about how different areas of responsibilities can progress and move forward on a smaller scale that can be iterated on and evaluated more easily. Areas of responsibilities to hand over and where volunteer oversight and input can be increased: P&T Advisory Council and funds dissemination.
  • Movement Charter is one area of Movement Strategy. We’ve already been experimenting and building other elements of Movement Strategy and that work continues and is recommended to continue.

Question and Answer

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It’s been three years since the initial MCDC process started. Why did the recommendations from the Liaisons come out so close to the vote? Why is it being said that the decision of the Board has not been made if the Liaisons already have a strong recommendation? Why is the Board sharing its opinion before the vote?

  • The Board had a meeting that ended late evening Israel time on Thursday. After that Liaisons worked to get the document out as quickly as possible. That is what led to the timing of the communication.
  • Liaisons have been communicating regularly with the Board as well as publishing commentary that preceded this note, both in February and in May.
  • Understand and acknowledge that people have frustrations; there have been two communications prior.
  • The Board is a collective decision making body. There may be one or two people with a different opinion from the whole Board. The whole Board is going to have a discussion and make a decision together. Even if individuals disagree they will need to stand by and represent the group decision.
  • Just as in other organizations, decision making isn’t happening based on what one or two individuals say.

Why didn’t the Board participate earlier?

  • The Board is aware–yes we are volunteers but we do have a special point of view. We see things that volunteers might not be able to see. When going into the MCDC process, there was a conscious decision to try to respect the process that this volunteer group was setting. We tried not to interfere. We tried to guide and give relevant information, but it felt not right for the Board to be directly involved in that work so that the Board wouldn’t influence but instead respect the process that was created by volunteers. We are not against the process in any way, there are some issues we feel need to be solved and that’s what we need to be discussing together collectively. We’ve heard from Liaisions who’ve been closely involved, but it doesn’t mean that we all immediately have the same ideas. We need to get to a place of consensus and that hasn’t happened yet.

If the Liaisons wanted the process to succeed, how did we end up here after three years?

  • How the Board members were included in the process was not very clear from the beginning. Board must take some responsibility for the outcome of the process.
  • Agree that the outcome is not ideal. We are saying now ‘let’s finish the process and take what we can’--it was not a waste, we’ve learned things and made some conclusions that will help us move forward.
  • Liaisons are also not very thrilled–the letter was difficult to write and it’s hard to transparently say that we can’t recommend approval. Understand the feeling some have that this is safe to try–Liaisons disagree.
  • We saw the final document two weeks ago with the rest of you. May was the first time we saw the first draft, along with all of you. We know that whatever is written there, if the Board ratifies, it will become a legal reality for the Wikimedia Foundation. It may not become legal reality to all contributors and affiliates, but it is going to be a legal reality for the Wikimedia Foundation. Don’t see how the Foundation would be able to put all of this into practice without extensive debate over what that would look like. Even if we can’t recommend ratification, we think that the work done and the spirit of figuring out how to progress was not in vain. It will help us all, but our recommendation is to do it in smaller chunks than what we thought three years ago in 2021.

Editors are frustrated that Graphs have been broken for over a year. There weren’t resources in the 2023-2024 annual plan to fix Graphs. What are the plans for Graphs?

  • Graphs is part of the 2024-2025 Annual Plan. Taskforce will build replacement extension
  • The new extension will initially support a small but widely-used set of data visualizations on Wikipedia articles; built in a way that new data sources and visualizations can be added in the future.
  • In terms of timeline, the graphs task force wants to build something that will allow volunteers to start creating new charts and migrating existing graphs to charts before the end of the calendar year.
  • You can talk to staff about Graphs at its talk page: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Extension_talk:Graph/Plans

Annual Plans have been centering Product and Tech work, to continue into this upcoming year. How are P&T teams evolving to be carrying more of the load of Annual Plans going forward?

  • Unifying under one department has been helpful for effectiveness
  • P&T Technology Council proposal will bring the teams closer to communities to help carry out the work. Applications will open July 1 with work kicking off September 15. This is a way that communities can  get more involved with planning and implementation.
  • As an example of how quickly iteration is happening, but just in feedback of iteration with community feedback. With the Citation Needed plugin there was a dev demo. There was a zip file with a lot of steps to get it working. Just a couple months later it was live for people to download as a Chrome extension. That speed of iteration in support of things related to Movement Strategy to make things operational and get things into people’s hands is impressive.

Four years ago, the Board approved the Movement Strategy recommendations which included a Movement Charter and Global Council. Are liaisons rejecting Charter because they’ve changed their minds on whether the Charter and Council are useful, or are they rejecting the Charter because they think the specific implementation is not the right one? Also a note that the Board had constant access and participation, so having that collaboration result in non-ratification seems like a failure. Hope that the Board takes the opportunity to reflect on how we can change the process of collaboration in the future so that we don’t end up here again.

  • The outstanding issues can’t be resolved quickly. It requires time and a different process. For example, the values in the Charter. I don't think that those values can be understood as agreed upon movement values. Those values that we fundamentally agree about are going to shape everything that comes after. That didn’t happen from the Liaisons’ perspective. Don’t feel that this proposed version of the Movement Charter is providing a sense of belonging.
  • Don’t think it was a good decision to do this in 2021. Movement Charter process was a mediation process between different parties in the movement. If some parties are not clear on what result they want, you can’t enter a mediation process.
  • Concept itself of Movement Charter is something we do need. Still agree on that. But disagree with the text even if the concept itself is fine.

What can the Foundation and community do if a chapter fails to fulfill its obligations toward an ex-employee?

  • Foundation has a special relationship with affiliates that needs to be considered when it comes to affiliate employee relations. The Affiliations Committee currently reviews to make sure that the affiliate’s charter is being followed and funding is being appropriately used.
  • Disputes between affiliates and employee will almost always be matters to be solved based on local law.

Earlier this week the UN released global principles about combatting online hate. Called on tech companies and other stakeholders to take an active role in pushing back against disinformation. How does the Foundation view itself in the new ecosystem of AI and disinformation and how will it promote these principles and support volunteer communities?

  • Wikimedia has a unique opportunity to be part of these conversations because of our volunteer content moderation model. Decision is not centrally made by the platform host but done through joint community governance model. It’s important for us to follow these conversations because we have lessons for for-profit platforms on how to do this in an equitable way. See also: Public Policy blog / Global Advocacy newsletter
  • Space for volunteers and affiliates to take on capacity building on this for the movement. There will be a panel at Wikimania on genAI and our movement with a multi-view approach. There will also be a practical workshop on how we can weave genAI into our wiki workflows. How we can harness new technologies to enhance our work
  • Different groups at the Foundation looking into genAI and experimenting. It’s a collective effort and not just one portion of the movement looking into this. Board itself is also keeping a close eye on it.

Questions not answered live

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Coming soon.