This is a document that was under community consultation at Guidelines on potential conflicts of interest. This is a draft version of the document. The final version was approved by the Board of Trustees on April 18, 2013, and is available at Guidelines on potential conflicts of interest on the Foundation Wiki.
Mismanaged personal interests resulting in potential conflicts of interest can hurt our movement, both in reputation and financial ways. The five below guidelines - which include a requirement to "disclose actively" potential or actual conflicts of interest - seek to promote honesty and transparency in requesting and allocating movement resources. These resources belong to the movement and must always be used to support its mission.
Movement resources include, for example, grants, staff time, scholarships, trademark licenses, fellowships, employment opportunities, travel reimbursements, and conference resources. The guidelines apply to requests for these resources from movement entities, groups, associations or persons, such as the Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, thematic organizations, movement partners, user groups, Wiki Loves Monuments, GLAM organizations, and Wikipedians in Residence.
The guidelines are not comprehensive or exhaustive. They support existing conflicts of interest and other governance policies, which may require recusal or other ways of managing the conflict.
Definition of "Disclose Actively"
Under the guidelines, a person should "disclose actively" a potential or actual conflict of interest. To "disclose actively" means (1) to report the conflict to the decision-maker or supervisor in charge of the allocation of the movement resources in question; and (2) to do so explicitly and in advance of any serious discussion or decision about the allocation or use of those movement resources.
- Example one: A Wikimedian asks to post a blog on the Wikimedia Foundation’s site, which will involve work by the Foundation’s communications team. The blog will feature a specific artist. The Wikimedian is also employed by that artist’s estate. The Wikimedian should actively disclose this paid relationship right away in her first contact with the communications team. The team can assess independently whether the blog reflects an appropriate use of Foundation resources and whether it should disclose the Wikimedian’s interest.
- Example two: A community member applies for funding from a local chapter to work on a photography project for Wikimedia Commons. His funded work on the project would result in his travelling to a city where he plans to visit his significant other. The community member should disclose this relationship and potential benefit when he makes the request. The chapter’s conflict of interest policy may require an independent review of the need for the trip. The potential conflict is that the community member may be seeking the grant to finance the trip to see a signifiant other as opposed to the real purposes of the grant - to photograph at a location of interest for the Wikimedia movement. Disclosure allows the grantor to undertake an independent assessment and determine if the proposed grant project - including its selected location - is made in the best interest of the movement.
- Example three: In a request for a grant from the FDC, a chapter trustee has a potential financial conflict of interest. Though her conflict of interest is stated on the local chapter’s blog and she believes the FDC may be aware of it, she nevertheless should actively disclose the potential conflict to the FDC to ensure that the FDC is aware of the conflict.
- Example four: A chapter is considering whether to make a grant to a consulting firm for an open source project. A chapter trustee has an ownership interest in the consulting firm. The firm and trustee must disclose this ownership interest to the chapter when making the grant request. The chapter may then manage or resolve the conflict under its own conflict of interest policy.
- Example five: A member of the FDC committee receives a gift of valuable World Cup tickets from a trustee of a chapter that is applying for the next round of funding. The FDC committee member should disclose the gift. The FDC should manage the conflict according to its conflict of interest policy and best practices.
- Example six: The board of a thematic organization decides to hire an outside accountant to help with the bookkeeping. A board member wishes to hire his sister, who is a certified public accountant and is willing to offer her services at a reduced non-profit rate. The board member must reveal this personal connection to the rest of the board before proceeding with the hiring process. The rest of the board may then treat the conflict pursuant to its own conflict of interest policies, and independently assess the proposed hire.
- Note: As a general matter, a conflict of interest normally does not arise simply because an individual previously had received a grant or authorized reimbursement from the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) or a WMF-approved chapter or thematic organization. This is so however only when that grant or reimbursement was used in support of the Wikimedia mission without personal gain and in accordance with the established policy of the organization. As a matter of good practice, applicants for movement resources should disclose whether they are trustees, officers, employees, contractors, fellows, representatives, or members of WMF, chapters, or thematic organizations when requesting movement resources.
- A passive notice about a conflict on a user page, for example, would not constitute adequate disclosure with respect to a fellowship grant. The user instead must immediately notify the decision-maker about the conflict in the user's application for the fellowship grant.