Movement roles/Initial Questions/Responses/Gomà
Vision and Mission
- Are you familiar and comfortable with the vision and mission of the Wikimedia Foundation?
Yes I am familiar but I am not comfortable with them unless they are complemented with the values. Without the values that mission and vision could perfectly belong to a for-profit-company or to a hierarchically structured non profit.
- Do you and your organization share this vision and mission?
We share them but our reach is not that global: “around the world”. We focus on a small corner of the world.
The strategic planning project framed the following goals for the movement:
- Secure the infrastructure
- Increase global participation
- Improve quality
- Expand reach
- Support innovation
With that in mind:
- How applicable do you think these goals are to your role in the movement?
As a wikimedian active on Wikipedia and Wikibooks my main role is in improving quality. For example I actively participated in the project List of Wikipedias by sample of articles or contributed substantially to 14 of the 17 featured articles of mathematics we have in Catalan Wikipedia. As member of Amical Wikipedia (I hope future Wikimedia CAT) our contribution to those goals is:
- Secure the infrastructure: Contribute to collect economical resources and pay for our fair share of the costs to maintain and improve this infrastructure.
- Increase global participation: Contribute by increasing local participation in our region.
- Improve quality: We don’t act directly on the contents but we are helping in indirectly improving quality for example by:
- developing tools to facilitate maintenance tasks.
- Increasing participation from universities and collectives that can improve quality
- We are in process of reaching an agreement with Catalan academic authorities to externally survey the quality of the contents and periodically monitor it.
- Expand reach: Keep media informed of Wikimedia news, advocate for the use of the projects at schools and universities, and in our particular case working to improve the Google position of Catalan Wikipedia articles which is very bad.
- Support innovation: We provide financial and organizational support to wikimedians wiling to start innovative activities in favour of the projects.
- How can the Wikimedia movement best meet these goals?
From my point of view there are two key points. Facilitate the tools necessary to uncover the enthusiasm we have in the communities and in the society to contribute to them. Second stick in the main values that have made this project a success: non hierarchic community driven project and maximum transparency.
- Should the movement spend its resources on goals/activities of groups that are not wholly aligned with the strategic goals?
Resources come mainly from donors and sponsors. I think that the will of them has to be respected. The movement should spend the resources on goals/activities that fall clearly under the scope of what we said when asking for donations. By default if we say nothing the resources should be spend mainly in supporting and promoting the projects and in the regions from where the donor is giving. Taking that into account while we believe that strategic goals are the better way to prioritize the activities the resources should be spend only in activities aligned with them unless donors otherwise stated.
Roles in the Wikimedia movement
- What role do you see for you and your organization in achieving the vision, mission and strategic goals?
The role for me is the same as that of any other author contributing with my small piece of work to compose Wikimedia projects. I also like to play the role of helping in organizing and promoting the movement outside Internet.
For the organization I belong: Amical Viquipedia who has proposed to become the chapter Wikimedia CAT I see the same roles as other chapters. I don’t see the roles of chapters as a monolithically set but as a framework to be tailored to the needs of each community as I’ll explain later when talking about them.
- What role should other groups play in achieving our movement priorities?
I see two groups in the movement: Communities of the projects and Chapters plus the additional player of Wikimedia Foundation who is not a group but an entity created to support the whole movement.
There are other questions asking for the roles of WMF and Chapters. So now I only comment the roles of the communities.
The Communities are the authors of the projects so they are the providers of the biggest asset of the movement. They also provide the biggest cut of the infrastructure: the distributed infrastructure consisting on hundredths of thousands of personal computers, internet connexions, personal libraries etc. According to the mission, WMF and chapters have to empower them and provide them essential infrastructure and an organizational framework to do their job. They have to play the role of supervising the activities of chapters and foundation, lead the projects, and raise their voice in any decision to be taken.
- What do these groups need to fulfill this role?
Communities need support from chapters to facilitate their activities and from the WMF to have a good hardware and software infrastructure to hold their works.
I think that Chapter’s needs are pretty well fulfilled with the tools the Foundation is giving to them.
- What do they need from others to fulfill this role?
Mainly share information of best practices and experiences. They also need to cooperate in projects at larger level than that of a single group for example in groups sharing a common language like Spanish speaking chapters or groups sharing a common legal framework like European chapters they have lots of opportunities to engage in shared projects.
- What do they need to provide others to fulfill their roles?
Same as above but seen from the other side.
- Which interactions with other groups in this movement are critical for each group to play their part?
For me the critical interactions are those related to the communities of the projects. Give to them transparent information of the activities of each group, ask their opinion and hear their voice.
Entities in the Wikimedia movement
- What should be the core tasks and roles of the Wikimedia Foundation in the movement?
I see WMF as an entity created to support the community.
From my point of view the main role of WMF is in providing those infrastructures and services that can’t be provided in a distributed way or that it is much more efficient to be centralized.
I think it also has to play the role of guarantee the chapters are always submitted to the service of the projects. The chapters not always can integrate members of the community in their governing bodies unless they are members of the chapters so the only clear tie they have to the movement is the agreement signed with the Foundation. The Foundation should play the role of promoting cooperation among chapters, communication and transparency between chapters and projects and enforce the alignment of the activities of the chapters with the global priorities of the movement and the local priorities of the community’s of the projects each chapter serves.
- What do you think should be the core tasks and roles of a chapter in the movement?
Chapters should be the organizations who do the activities that cannot be done through internet and who provide a channel to contribute to the people who don’t write but who wish to help.
One role of the chapters should be support the communities by providing them the services they need to better develop the projects. This can vary from project to project. I see very different needs in large projects or in small ones. For example large projects can relay on volunteers for side activities like maintain tools or contact media or organize meetings because their size is big enough to have a high probability that always will be somebody ready. In small projects some activities that have to be done on time can benefit from an external organization securing them.
Another one is help in making the community grow by attracting people trough other ways than internet by example going to schools, cultural organizations etc. This again varies very much according to the culture and cultural infrastructure of each society.
In the world outside Internet activities are not at almost zero marginal cost. So I think they also have the role of collecting financial resources to maintain those activities.
- How should the role of a sub-national chapter differ from a national chapter?
I think that the concept of national and sub-national for chapters is hurting the movement because it encourages nationalisms and provides chapters with a political bias. Our movement is cultural and linguistic, not politic.
The only theoretical advantage of sub-national chapters, national chapters o a supra-national chapters is in addressing public bodies. By example in European Union a hypothetical supra-national chapter could be more efficient in addressing European level public administration issues. While a hypothetical sub national chapter for Scotland could be more efficient in addressing Scottish government. But in reality everybody is legitimate to address any level of public administrations and there is not any reason to have different roles.
I think that we have to get rid off the national and sub-national things from the chapter’s concept. Countries are an important frame of reference because they define legal systems, borders, currencies, cultures, educational system etc. This can make recommendable that many chapters coincide with political borders but in creating a chapter we have to examine case by case the advantages and disadvantages of following those borders and act according to the best for the projects. And witch is mot important even in chapters coinciding with political borders avoid as much as possible this concept to not load politically the concept of chapter.
- What do you see the core tasks and roles of the chapters committee to be?
To start I have to say that I don’t see the ChapCom as an independent group playing in the movement. I see it as an organism of the Wikimedia Foundation so their tasks and roles belong to WMF. That’s why I don’t see a good thing that its members appoint new members without neither community’s participation nor Foundation’s control.
Up to now ChapCom has played a role in creation of new chapters. I hope that this role will be less active as more areas and projects are covered by chapters.
I see it playing two additional roles:
- promoting cooperation among chapters
- promoting communication between chapters and project communities
- Are there core movement tasks or roles that are not now adequately served, or that might need to be served in the future?
Sure there are a lot I don’t know. That’s one of the reasons why we must be open to innovation. But there I miss a role Catalan wikipedians often ask us and we are playing outside the specific tasks of a chapter. It is legally represent them in enforcing the application of copy left licences for third parties and defending their author rights talking on their behalf. Up to now this has to be done by the authors themselves but very often what they like is write Wikipedia not entering in these activities.
- What should other and new Wikimedia entities (groups that don’t fall within the current definition of a 'chapter', but share many attributes and goals) do?
The only other groups I see in the movement are those that don’t fulfil yet the condition of having enough critical mass or they don’t have yet created a registered entity. I think they should be supported from the WMF to help them in their activities and in growing up to the point to fulfil the requirements. Even if some of them never grow enough to become a chapter and remains indefinitely in this situation the outcome will be positive for the movement. So they should do the same things a chapter does as much as they can.
At this point I have to comment that ChapCom is misinterpreting the definition of chapter according to the rules approved by the board. I think that could be of great help if Board clarify that the requirement of being anchored in a jurisdiction offering a legal base doesn’t means that the region must coincide with a country and that echoing the goals of the Wikimedia Foundation means that they must be a subset of those of the foundation they don’t necessarily need to promote equally all the projects all over the world. This could help to avoid interpretations that refuse chapters because of political reasons. For example Arabic Wikimedians, Kosovo ones, Esperantists, Catalans and anybody else who can put on the table solid reasons to prove that Wikimedia movement is better served working in a region different than a country or in a country not yet recognized by all the international community must do it this way. Chapters are to work for the projects on the ground in the better way not to follow political borders.
Relationships among entities within the Wikimedia movement
- What should be the minimum standards of transparency among Wikimedia entities – the Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, etc.?
For me the minimum standards should be the maximum compatible with personal privacy and the necessary confidentiality in negotiations with external entities.
In particular should be totally transparent the process of taking decisions like chapter selected board members, selection of ChapCom members, and economic figures of chapters. Chapter’s activities should be at least as transparent as Wikimedia Foundation: Publish assembly and board minutes, publish periodic reports, processes of hiring or contracting...
- What safeguards should be in place between entities to protect the integrity and reputation of the movement?
From my point of view the main risks come from the chapters. Their link to Wikimedia movement is relatively weak because it is only trough an agreement with the Foundation. I think that communities of the projects should have their voice in approving and renewing their chapter status or when possible even in selecting board members as in WMF.
- To whom are the Wikimedia entities accountable? (e.g. their members, other entities in the movement, etc.)
I think that the hearth of the project is the community. Entities are accountable first to their members, second to the donors, third to the society in general. But they are accountable mainly to the communities of the projects.
- What is the right way to include various movement groups in the overall governance of the Wikimedia movement?
From my point of view the best is try to translate as much as possible the spirit of the projects to the governance of the movement. Non urgent and non confidential decisions should be taken by consensus with the participation of the members of the communities and facilitating the participation in the different languages. I think that the role of the chapters in governance should be that of providing their point of view as groups working in contact with society.
Resources for entities within the Wikimedia movement
- How should resources be secured to support the growth of the Wikimedia movement and fulfilling of the mission?
The only effective way I know is transparency. When everybody can see exactly where the money come and go nobody dare to misbehave. Other means like audits only produce the result of helping to justify every thing but not to actuate in an ethical way.
- How best to ensure that each Wikimedia entity has the funds it needs to a) survive and b) fulfill its mission?
b) never will be fully possible and a) only is convenient if b) is accomplished at certain level.
We have to take into account that the funds come thanks to the authors of the projects who have created the works that incline the donors to contribute or the public to buy merchandising or sponsors to support the project etc.
From my point of view each entity has to work to reach those donors, public, sponsors etc.
The Foundation and the already existing chapters should help new ones to start and grow but only up to a point that they can sustain themselves.
The projects are a big communication mean to reach the potential donors etc for example in fundraising campaigns. This power has to be used according to the rules of the communities and inside the communities each entity serves. In my opinion the first incomes generated by each project should be devoted to sustain the fair share of the central infrastructures sustained by WMF devoted to that project only then additional incomes can be devoted to local activities of the other entities.
- How best to ensure that money is distributed to ensure that the Wikimedia movement achieves its goals in the best way?
I think the money shouldn’t be distributed to ensure the achievement of the goals in the best way but in the more ethical way. First follow the explicit will of the donors of the money, second follow the implicit ones like sustain the groups serving the projects from where the donors gave. Then hear the voice of the communities that have created the works that inclined the donors to give. And last but not least keep the fraternity among all the members of the community. All of that with the condition of vital importance of developing all economical issues under the maximum transparency.
- To support the growth and sustainability of the Wikimedia movement, what is the one, most important change we need to make?
More than a change it seems to me that the most important is to avoid a change. I think we have to avoid by all means becoming a pyramidal organization with the Foundation on the top, a set of chapters in the middle, and the communities in the base and a hierarchical structure reproducing this pyramid and trying to “manage” the communities.
We have to stick in our soul who is the communities and found the mechanisms to keep the power on a non hierarchical self organized community. This is not easy when the system grows because almost all examples we can found outside follow a hierarchical model but I think that without this we were not what we are. It were not worth in participating and the best we could do where give up with the projects because for profit organizations could perform much better than us.
- What change could most help you now in your role in the Wikimedia movement?
I deeply believe in wikimedia principles so I think the best I can do is provide my small contribution that aggregated with many others will produce all the changes we need.
I am especially interested in helping grow small projects and in encouraging social involvement and support to those projects. Probably this is not vital for the global project but is what I like.
- How would you describe your affiliation with Wikimedia?
As said at the beginning I am active in Catalan Wikipedia and Wikibooks and president of Amical Viquipèdia, association promoting the chapter Wikimedia CAT.
- Would you consider yourself to be affiliated with:
- The Wikimedia Foundation?
I consider WMF is not an affiliating entity. I consider myself a stakeholder of WMF.
- A chapter? (If so, which one?)
Not yet a chapter. I am affiliated to Wikimedia CAT that I hope we will be recognized soon as a chapter.
- A project? (If so, which one?)
Two projects Catalan Wikipedia and Catalan Wikibooks. This is an example of non registered entities but in our culture they are affiliating entities.
- Another group? (If so, which one?)
None directly related to WM movement.
- None at all? (If so, feel free to elaborate.)
- Is there anybody else you would specifically recommend we ask for their views?