Legal and Community Advocacy/LCA Announcement
Announcement: Formation of a new Legal and Community Advocacy Department
Today, 9 February 2012, we are excited to announce the start of our building of a new department called the “Legal and Community Advocacy” Department at the Wikimedia Foundation. This new alignment will carry forward the Foundation's goals of advocating for the community in new ways, ranging from fighting for content online, to facilitating community discussions about critical WMF initiatives that affect the community, to better supporting Wikimedia administrators and functionaries, to providing information about legislative initiatives worldwide that impact online content and censorship.
As part of this reorganization, Philippe Beaudette, formerly Head of Reader Relations, is being promoted immediately to Director of Community Advocacy. With his impressive Wikimedia background, Philippe will help build the Legal and Community Advocacy Department, keeping his experienced eye on the community and its interests. Philippe has been with the Foundation since July 2009. He has worked as an administrator on the English Wikipedia since July 2007. Starting as an editor in May 2004, Philippe now holds claim to 19,000 edits on his volunteer account and another 16,000 on his staff account. As a volunteer, he sat on the WMF's election committee repeatedly and continues to enjoy his role as a OTRS/email response team agent. Philippe will report to Geoff Brigham, the Foundation's General Counsel.
The Legal and Community Advocacy Department will be constructed around the Wikimedia Foundation's 5-year strategic plan. The department, for example, will be committed to catalyzing, supporting, and partnering with community members. It will highlight the importance of increasing capacity to safeguard the movement's reputation and support the advancement of legal conditions that enable unimpeded access to information online, worldwide. 
Consistent with this plan, the Legal and Community Advocacy Department will invest in community advocacy and its interwoven mission with that of our traditional legal group. We have found that our community has a keen interest in legal and legislative issues (and the policy makers in those areas return the interest), so we would like to explore new ways to better support the community within the goals of the Foundation. We want to improve our communication with international communities, ensuring that the voice of the global community is heard on important initiatives. We would like to build a community advisory board to reinforce our commitment to a global perspective while understanding and promoting communities beyond English Wikipedia.
As part of our plan, we will start engaging the community shortly and enter into a consultation period with it to brainstorm the goals and needs of the department. We anticipate that it will take us about 6–12 months to build the team and drive it at full speed. The community is invited to join us on Friday for office hours with the new Legal and Community Advocacy team, as we explain the early thinking and ask for recommendations and ideas. Details for the IRC chat can be found at IRC_office_hours. For those who are unable to attend, the chat will be logged and posted afterwards.
Many of our objectives are at a formative stage, and we want to seek out community input before finalizing them. But, for now, here are some of our initial ideas:
- Maintaining a proactive online content-protection strategy, defending the written and media work of the community on the projects through litigation and other means with the involvement of the community;
- Ensuring increasing amounts and efficacy of global community participation in WMF-generated initiatives (such as revisions to WMF policies);
- Setting up international meet-ups that recognize and support the role of administrators and functionaries, including brainstorming ways that WMF can better help these critical roles within our movement (e.g., Arbcoms, checkusers, and OTRS);
- Providing international legislative and policy support to the community, such as providing information about legislative issues of interest like global censorship laws; and
- Creating and learning from a community-based advisory board, including implementation of support ideas that serve the advocacy interests of the community and the Foundation.
This reorganization is not a simple merger of the Legal department and Community department, though we will continue to provide our regular community and legal services. We hope to build on existing talents while adding new ones to provide a more catalytic, visible, and pro-active mission that puts the community front and center consistent with Foundation goals and strategies. For example, we will continue to highlight what we have already been doing as a team: Michelle Paulson and Philippe Beaudette will continue fighting third-party challenges that attempt to bring down content – a task that they have been doing quite successfully for years. But we want to use this new department to think of new ways to support the community.
Building this new team will take time, and we will not be up and running immediately. As we discuss goals and objectives, we must realize that our resources will always be finite. With that said, we hope to be in full operation within the next 6-12 months.
LCA Questions and Answers
- So what's this about Philippe and Maggie joining the legal department?
They're not. With the help of the community, we are creating a new department. Both Philippe's team and the legal team spend a great deal of their time advocating for our community, both internally and externally, consistent with our WMF strategy. Indeed, we only take down content in about 5% of the cases where we receive such demands. It makes sense to consolidate and build on those two roles, leveraging our resources to build an even greater focus on community advocacy. We'll form the new Legal and Community Advocacy Department, of which Philippe and Maggie will be part, in an effort to catalyze, support and partner with community members and encourage the advancement of legal conditions that enable unimpeded access to information online, worldwide.
- Advocacy? I don't get it.
Yes, advocacy. WMF's five-year strategic plan includes finding ways to better support the movement and catalyze, support, and partner with community members. We are seeking ways to increase capacity to safeguard the movement's reputation and support the advancement of legal conditions that support our movement.
We want to aim for a new paradigm, one which is community-oriented and focused. We see a role to defend community content, for example, and to recognize and invest in our administrators and functionaries. Of course, as a legal team, we work for the Foundation, which remains our only client, but we wish to advocate for the community in methods that are consistent with the Foundation's strategic goals. This new organization will help us do that.
- So who does this mean will be on the new Legal and Community Advocacy (LCA) team?
Philippe is being promoted to Director of Community Advocacy. He will be reporting to Geoff Brigham (General Counsel), and Geoff's role will be to ensure that we allocate appropriate resources, including those from our lawyers, to support Philippe and his team. Kelly (Deputy General Counsel) and Michelle (LCA Counsel) will also report to Geoff. Maggie will continue to report to Philippe. We'll be engaging with the community to discuss other objectives and resources desired for this process, and we hope to form a consultative community advisory board that will assist us in shaping priorities.
- What about Zack's team? How will that change?
This change will transfer the community liaison and advocate responsibilities to the Legal and Community Advocacy team. This move will allow Zack Exley, Chief Community Officer, and his team to focus on editor retention and recruitment work and fundraising strategy and implementation (which, moreover, is evolving to support editor retention and recruitment). We are not anticipating any other redefinition of roles on Zack's team due to the creation of the Legal and Community Advocacy team. This reorganization was in fact Zack's original idea, and we are grateful to him and his team for promoting additional resources for this new department.
- Can I participate?
Yes! To start with, join us for the IRC chat on Friday - details can be found at http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/IRC_office_hours. If you can't make it, we'll be logging and posting it. Be sure to email Philippe (philippewikimedia.org) and let him know you're interested in being a part of the planning process. The success of this initiative hinges on community participation. If you just have an idea that you'd like to present, leave it for us at the brainstorming page but don't be surprised if you get drafted to help. :-)
- Do you now officially (legally) represent the community?
No. The Legal and Community Advocacy team will be promoting and advocating community interests consistent with WMF goals and strategy. For legal ethical reasons, the team can only represent the Foundation as its sole client; technically speaking, the team cannot legally represent the community or its members. That said, as explained above, the goals of the Foundation are consistent with catalyzing, supporting, and partnering with community members while supporting legal conditions that enable unimpeded access to information online, worldwide, and supporting the movement and its strategic goals. The Legal and Community Advocacy team will be constructed to advance those community-oriented interests consistent with WMF goals and strategy.
- Wikimedia Strategic Plan, p.7.