Wikimedia Chapters Association - Organisations Seminar/Minutes Wednesday

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WCA Wikimedia Organizations Seminar

Ziko's talk

  • Community (Gemeinschaft) vs. Society (Gesellschaft)
  • Wikipedia as a self-perpetuating system

Who are you?

People presenting themselves (the list may not be complete):

  • Ziko van Dijk (Ziko), president of Wikimedia Nederland and deputy Chair of the WCA
  • James Hare, President of Wikimedia Washington DC
  • Matej Grochal (Jetam2), Wikimedia Slovakia
  • Marek Blahuš (Blahma), Wikimedia Czech Republic, Esperanto user group "ELiSo"
    he mentions Esperanto movement faces similar challenges around participation
  • Kirill Lokshin, secretary of Wikimedia Washington DC
  • Ginevra Sanvitale (Atropine), Wikimedia Italia member
  • Susanna Ånäs (Susannaanas), Wikimedia Finland vicepresident
  • Claudia Garad, Wikimedia Austria Executive Director
  • Sandra Rientjes, director of Wikimedia Nederland
  • Lorenzo Losa (Laurentius), Wikimedia Italia secretary and WCA council member
  • Asav Bartov, Wikimedia Foundation
  • James Heilman (Jmh649), president of Wiki Med Foundation
  • Jon Davis, chief executive of Wikimedia UK
  • Luis Villa, deputy general counsel WMF
  • Charles Gregory, Wikimedia Australia
  • Cornelius Kibelka, Wikimedia Deutschland
  • Pierre-Selim Huard, Wikimedia France
  • Gabriel Thullen, Wikimedia CH
  • RYU Cheol (Ryuch), chair of South Korean prechapter commitee
  • Katie Chan, Volunteer Support Organiser of Wikimedia UK
  • T. Vishnu Vardhan, CISA2K, India

At the end of the presentations, about 36 people are in the room; about one quarter of them are staff, many are (or have been) chapters board member, and a few are at Wikimania for the first time.

Inside the Chapter: Members, board, staff

Ziko introduces the session, Sandra introduces the panel. Panelists:

  • James Hare, Wikimedia DC president
  • Claudia Garad, Wikimedia Austria executive director
  • Jon Davis, Wikimedia UK chief executive

What in your experience makes a good board member?

  • James: You should be a volunteer. You have to love what you do in order to be an effective member. You have a sense of what your organisation wants to accomplish, you need a vision.
  • Sandra: You made disticntion between a working board and a governance board
  • James: working board members work twice as hard. you also have to have a sense of how your vision translates into daily work
  • Claudia: Has to be a good team player. Board for a volunteer based org is different from an org in a transition. Being reflective is important.
  • Jon: Team player, who will listen to the other board members. Agrees to sharing positions and responsibilities. Someone who bothers to read the information that they are given. Numerate and literate, coming from political background, you need to know when to ask for help. Like parenting: give them love and support but also independence. So when are we big enough to allow our staff to take over?
  • Sandra: Should all board members be Wikipedians?

2 yes.

  • Gabriel (WMCH): Depends on how you define "should be"
  • Sandra: Should have been
  • James Heilman: Board members should have a good understanding of how the community works.
  • Jon: Would someone who uses Wikipedia be a Wikipedian?
  • James H. Yes, who uses WP extensively.
  • <Name> Editing is a part of that process
  • Delphine: Good board member should know when to step in and when to step out. WM orgs need a good balance of people you are already in and those who want to get in
  • <Name>: If there is a particular skill that's needed and we don't find someone who has that skill, it's better to have someone from outside than not have that skill

Are you looking for board members with a particular skill

  • James: newcomers on a board bring the perspective of what it is like to become a wp editor in 2013
  • Claudia: WMAT was recruiting the treasurer like that, high skills in finances,
  • Jon: appointed a treasurer who had expertise in being a teasurer in a charity. Didn't edit WP. He is now editing. Now we're looking at gaps. These are not always skills gaps. At the moment we have no women on board
  • Sandra: More and more Chapters are hiring staff. What would be your hope
  • James: Staff should fulfill day-to-day functions. Maintain contacts with institutional partners during business hours (volunteers don't have time during business hours), so that volunteers can do the fun stuff.
  • Sandra: Do you feel this could go terribly wrong?
  • James: Until we can hire an ED, the staff would be directly supervised by the board, so the risk is not too high
  • Sanrda: is there someone in the audience that could go back to the time when this decision was made
  • Gabriel (WMCH): There's a problem with Conflict of Interest policies. We have to conform with the American policies anyway. It's not possible to have someone who works like 20% for the Chapter, but still keep their day time job. Also, they have to resign from the board. It's hard to get an ex-board-member in the position without having a COI discussion. The board should always have control.
  • Delphine: doesn't agree. At the beginning, the board is the staff. Then comes some staff. There is no good model, depends on the organisation and the stuff that needs to be done. Then comes the first stage when the board needs to learn when to step out. Then staff takes more importance. There's atime when the two work together in doing. Then staff is the part that implements what needs to be done. Then comes a stage when the staff becomes so powerful that the board loses the strategic impact. The board then will be more of a counter-body than giving the impulse. There's always an adjustment period. Intertwining relationship between board and staff will go through good and bad phases
  • Manuel: Best/worst case scenarios. There was this open question how to start. Two models: get part-time staff and the board has to supervise, or bring in a manager with own expertise. The main question: are we able as board to manage staff.
  • Claudia: You make a decision based on some assumptions. Then you have to make a reality check.
  • Jon: Key to all of this is getting the right people. This doesn't always happen. In the volunatry sector there is always growth if it is successful. There's a point when you as volunteers cannot run the organisation. Employing someone is a standard process in organisations. Growth without organisation is not possible. When you employ someone, things become very scary. Employees have rights and expectations. A lot of laws you need to know. You need staff to do that. As staff: Make sure the voice of the volunteers is there when you make choices. Being a Wikipedian gives you a great start. For communications, WMUK took someone with a professional background because noone could be found from within the community.
  • Sandra: Was it a conscious decision not to hire an ED first
  • James: When you hire an ED you're really giving a lot of power away. It would be better to hire people with specific skills.
  • Ziko: WMNL 2010 decided to hire staff. 2011: hiring was delayed, they had underspending. Ziko got external advice against it. It takes a lot of time to manage a person. Do we have the resources to do so. So hiring an ED helps here.
  • <Name>: The time it needs to manage a person is more that you'd expect it to be.
  • James: Start off with directly supervising, but try to get an ED as soon as possible
  • Sandra: Questions from the audience
  • Katie: Should employees have a WM background?
  • Sandra: did not have a background. when hiring, we often find people who know a lot about wikipedia, but have no skills for the position
  • Claudia: our second staff comes from community. But has to learn a professional skills about the job. Sometimes you have to compromise and it depends on the tasks we are looking for.
  • Jon: The numbers are interesting: how many actual active wikipedians are there (in the chapter) in the UK. About a hundred. They have own careers, though. Reaching out to the donor base might be a good idea in order to have a broader base for finding someone with the right skills and knowledge about the movement
  • James H.: The community is smaller than a lot of people think: for english WP it's about 3200 people. So there isn't a large hiring pool. For medicine, there's less than 50 people who are actively involved
  • Ray: When does a chapter know it's ready to have a first employee
  • James: it's a matter of cash flow
  • Gabriel: Who pays for the employees. Chapters get money for operating from the foundation. Could the board members be paid by the foundation in order to do the work they are doing anyway?
  • Jon: not in our country. Serbia got one emplyoee
  • Asaf: not from FDC, but from grants programme. Board members will not be paid, based on the american notion of conflict of interest. It's different in Switzerland. There's room for a conversation about it, but he's not a fan. We have to be careful about the kind of work we pay for. When are you ready? Value needs to preceed funding. Don't tell us we cannot do anything before we have our first employee. There are a lot of cases the other work round. Have a portfolio of successful processes. Show that you have the potential and the audience, as well as the organisational maturity. With WMRS, there was a 9 months conversation with Asaf, and there had to be several policies in place. The way to the first employee is through grants.
  • Michal: It's possible to earn a job when you're active in the community. You're not getting paid up front, but in some situations you can earn your job.
  • Gabriel: In Switzerland, a paid staff member can be on the board.
  • Sandra: Not in NL. Ziko nodds.
  • Asaf: WMF does not allow that.
  • Sandra: Thanks to panel members.

Entities in an International Movement (Ziko)

==The movement, that's you - chapters, thorgs and WUGs Moderated by Markus Glaser DE/WCA


  • Quim Gil, WUG MediaWiki
  • Bence Damakos, AffCom
  • James Heilman, Wiki Med

[... many things left out, sorry]

Any advices regarding the foundation of thematic organisations?
Stephan (WikiVoyage): ask your local chapter, in our case WMDE helped a lot
James: yeah, e.g. WMUS-NYC helped us lot, we copied their bylaws

Can chapters have their own thematic organisations (like suborganisations)

Bence: technically yes, but it wouldn't need AffCom approve
James: take the Québec examples, a kind of suborganisations of WMCA

Is there a way to get resources or help for the start? Is there a plan?

Manuel: yeah, WMCH did that in an informal way,. Just contact us :)
Bence: the AffCom gives you the right contacts
Markus: get in contact with WCA (Chapter Exchance)
Asaf: before asking tell us what you need, there is no plan, but there's always a way. You have to ask!
Yuri: in my POV the WMF should ask the chapters, to who they give the grants / scholarships
Asaf / Tomasz: chapters don't have the right to judge certain community members, as they don't represent automatically their community.
Markus: well, we're going off-topic here.

How could be there a good communication between chapters / thematic organisations / etc.?

James: well, normally chapters and thematic organisations don't interfere (thematically). In any case, communicate! We're an open community, open society!
Markus: summarising: conflicts may occur, they don't happen so often and there many ways to prevent them (especially by communicating)
Whats our (organisations') role in the movement? How do they shape the goals / values of the movement?
James: ...
Bence: they have a moral responsability to shape those goals, and, additionally, we force them to do it
Is the amount of money floating in the movement also shaping the goals / values?
James ...
Quim: Money can corrupt organisations (...)
Bence: small amounts can be a good catalyst. Money itself does not improve the movement.
The famous vision question: where do you see the movement in 5 years?
Bence: I want us to know what activities have an actual impact, what should we do.
Quim: what I want to see is a quite flat movement, that gets things done, not important how many memeber it has.

It's a fact that when movements grow, they build a self-defending overhead. we should be aware of that risk. it happened to so many movements.

James: we should just be aware and take care that we keep the movement accesible, not creating to much bureaucracy.
Markus closes the session.

"The Role of Money"

Ziko introduces the session by explaining the ways the money goes in the Wikimedia Movement.
Ziko introduces Delphine Ménard. Delphine introduces Garfield Byrd, Charles Greogry, Asaf Bartov.
Garfield: Foundation's money is movement money.

Questions from the room

Susana: what do you if someone gives a restricted donation? (just for specific activities)
Garfield: that's easy, as it is mainly an accounting question. You just have to have the right (and good) records. You can't reuse specific, restricted donations.
Asaf: which was not wat they really wanted to do, and it would be sort of what was announced. But never do that - never use money for something else than it was planned. Even if it little. When you have partners, only promise what you can deliver. Can you deliver the articles to promise to a museum in a partnersip? Are they allowed to use the trademarks? No, you can't, you need the permission of the WMF. Be certain what you promise in a partnership.
Garfield: Sometimes a small chapter is tempted, that a "partner" want's to use the trademark and pays some money. Don't let yourself be fooled, the trademarks are worth a lot of money. If you need resources, let the WMF know, don't come up with such plans.
Del: I have a question. Garfield, you said that the WMF moeny is movement money, and that a chapter can have its own money. But why?
Garfield: Legal reasons, based on the basic fundraising agreement. If someone sends a checque to WMNL, that's the decision of the donor. If the movement feels that that should be changed, it can be changed, but based on agreements.
Charles: Payment faciliation. Activties in country. Marketing.
Gab: Donations: also quesiton of tax deductability. In CH, for that the money has to go through WMCH. In other countries similarly.
Asaf: I dont think that these provocations help. Funds in the movement. You say that for some chapters its important or legally necessary to fundraise themselves. We as movement had to do strange arrangements to make thinks happen. But if there is no problem, dont try to fix it.
X: Movemnt funds, WMF funds. If a chapter gets money of its own. The WMF does not care for this money. In future different. (?)
Gab: WMF I imagine you have resever, unspend moeny. What happens with it?
Garf: Reserve for the movement, not for the WMF. Should the funraiser fail once, it will serve to keep the projects run. Designated so that the movemtn has these resourcces. This reserve is growing every year. Right now, our bugdet is 50 mln dollar balanced, and after that - resevere.
Gab: Earmarks for the WMF itself?
Garf: No. We don't make distinctions about that with regard to the reserve. For tough times.
Asaf: Is conversation about whether there should be an endowment. But different conversion whether we should do that. Happening on and off, by different parties, BoT discussions.
Garf: Status of that: I made a prelim report to the BoT. NEw one will go to the audit com, and then recom for BoT. My opinion: We should the many money in reservere use differently, better. Also, what would it mean to build up an endownment, what commitments necessary (BoT, donors, movement).
Del: Invest the money - you mean to make the reserve self sustainable.
Garf: Goal to set up the reserve given the imacts of inflation. But next step: what to do to let the money make more money.
James: Something to do with donations very large ones?
Garf: BoT chose to create a ? endowment. Its about wehther to use fix percentage of endowment etc. Other question: does the WMF BoT wants to follow a small donor strategy or a high donor strategy. If nothing changes, then a endow strategy will be based on small d strat. Large donor, they have other demands. We don't want changes, e.g. don't let donor to name things. So, small d strategy, is probly the direction, but that is up to the BoT. Maybe decision over next few months.
Gab: About WMCH. In CH, Foundation is endowment. A lot of donors giving to foundation.
Lorenzo: How huge must be an edow to ensure that we have enough moeny.
Garf: Maybe i should not answer. but dont we afraid. might be 1billion.
Del: About using the moeny.
Ch: In WMAU, we have a strat plan. Also WMF strat exists.
Asaf: It is easy to spend a lot of money in technology. Needs of website. Keeping all the enginering etc is imporant and expensive. Let it do, pay the moeny, easy to predict. Also, software, similar. Rely also on huge volunt envolvement. But again, easy way to spend a lot of money for something good. Harder spending: others, etc. more editors coming from Africa. Desired outcome, but how to make that happen? How to spend money to generate editing in Africa? Of course many possiblities, but many ways we simply dont do, we dont pay people to edit. We could but it would be against our principles. Such sepnding needs a lot of attention: come up with ideas, execute, do that responsibly, measure whether we acheved sometihing by spending the money. Does it work. So, technology mucheasier to track and evaluate.
Flo: Please name... (sits to far away, speaks too softly)
Asaf: I don't mean what you mean about the external group. Eval and Design team? Ok. So. Back to Delphine's quesiton. Summary of grand makin gprogram. Consufing, and we rename them. Try to make more sence. First of all: at meta, see m:Grants:Start page. Projects and events grants. One of four. Just other names. FDC, another one. Fun Dessemination Committee. Model for large general suppor tgrants to entities. Eligible. Done succesful grants (PaEg). Annual plan grants. Complete plan, for spending of entity, and then ask FDC for the money you still dont have. Also, those funds are unrestricted within borders of the annual grants plan. You do have to report about what you did with the mone. If you do really strange things you wll not get money the next time. FDC supports fulltime staff, Paeg parttime staff or temporary full time (e.g. 4 month for org. event such as Wikimania). So then via Paeg grant. New name of "funds" is annual grants program. But committee still is called FDC. 3rd programme is the new... engagement programme, for on wiki work. (others usually off wiki) For community work for individuals. If you as individual wikipedian to do a huge job noone wants to do, like rewrite WP help pages. Maybe support possible via such a grant. Example: two wikimeidans received some funding for ther investment of time to create a roadmap for wikisource.
Z: Docmention is a problem. People who are good in activities are not necessarily good at documenting. A pity that we dont have a camera here, and few poeple contribute to etherpad.
Asaf: I am fine with failure and experimentation. But dont want to see that failure again and again, thats a waste of money. Schuleburg about evaluation. Less visible now: Jessie Wild now triy