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Committee Standards

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Committees should have a clear charter outlining their mandate, role and responsibility. What authority does it have? What does it not have? What is its composition and what comprises a quorum?

  • Committees should be staffed by people with the relevant skills, experience and expertise to perform the committee's mandate
  • Committees should be staffed with enough diversity to ensure it appropriately represents the important different voices of its stakeholders, not to advocate for special interests, but to voice different perspectives
  • Committee members must be able to commit the necessary time to perform their functions
  • Committees should have an odd number of members for voting reasons (note: the current WMF Board of Trustees has an even number, which is not ideal. On the other hand, our three board committees all have three members)
  • Committees should establish term limits – which balance a good practice of rotating committee members with a need for committee stability and institutional knowledge
Working Dynamics
  • Committee members need to be able to work effectively together and resolve conflict constructively
  • Committee members should strive to build consensus based on both fact-based arguments and the willingness to change one's mind after listening to everyone's perspective
  • Committees should be staffed with people committed to building constructive, trust-based working relationships with the other members of the committee
  • Members should attend meetings well prepared and actively participate in the meetings
  • Members should understand their duty is to the committee, not to any specific interest group or individual
Practices and Procedures
  • Committees should decide how they will handle decision-making: while consensus seeking is ideal, committees need to explicitly decide how to vote when final consensus cannot be reached to avoid unreasonable delay and associated absence of progress. Can members abstain for reasons other than conflict? What about absence? How long can discussion continue until a final vote is called and how long do members have to vote?
  • The committee should explicitly discuss and decide it wants to interact: Email lists? IRC chats? Are regular, in-person meetings, IRC or skype meetings to be scheduled? How?
  • Agendas for each meeting should be built 2 or more weeks in advance of each meeting
  • Agendas should provide ample time to discuss, debate and come to good conclusions for each item
  • Pre-reading should be circulated at least 1 week in advance of the meeting. Committee members must commit to reading these materials in advance of each meeting
  • One individual, typically the Board Chair, should ensure that the meeting follows the agenda and time constraints and track decisions made and follow up items
  • Meeting dates should be scheduled 9-12 months in advance so every member can commit to attending the meetings
  • Meeting dates should be frequent enough to serve its mandate and its constituents
  • Follow up communication should include topics covered, decisions taken and next steps – and should be communicated to all stakeholders. Minutes should capture this.
  • Each subsequent meeting should compare committed action items from the prior meeting against what actually was accomplished
Committee Chair
  • The Chair should be capable of following good practices and procedures and cultivating (and ensuring) good working dynamics
  • The Chair should be respected by the Committee's members and continue to work to earn their respect
  • The Chair is ultimately accountable for the committee achieving its mandate
  • The Chair is responsible for addressing conflict that has proven unresolvable by the committee members on their own
  • Committees may decide if a Deputy Chair is also needed, to ensure continuity in the absence of the Chair, when the Chair is travelling, or when the workload is too high
Performance Assessment
  • Committees should set annual goals for their performance and project-related goals as appropriate with clear timelines. Individual goals should be set as well.
  • Committees should be assessed annually against the goals they set
  • Committees should regularly evaluate their structures to ensure they are well suited to achieving their mandates
  • Individuals should be evaluated annually on their performance against goals as well as how they interacted with their fellow committee members. Here is an example of WMF's Board of Trustees' evaluation criteria http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2010_Trustee_Assessment_Questionnaire.pdf