Hubs/Workshop November 27, 2021/Invitation

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Hello, my name is Asaf Bartov, I work for the Wikimedia Foundation. I want to talk to you about regional and thematic hubs with a view to inviting you to an event to be held later this month in November 2021. If you're watching this after that this is just an introduction to some of the issues around hubs mentioned in the Movement Strategy. So… The creation of "Hubs" is called for in the Movement Strategy and specifically regional and thematic hubs. Regional hubs being thought of as covering a region, such as the Latin American or Ibérocoop region or Central and Eastern Europe or Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia etc. And thematic hubs being conceived as hubs centered on a particular topic or group of projects such as GLAM or Medicine or a particular language that spans a lot of countries in different regions -- these can all be thematic hubs. So what does that mean to create a regional or thematic hub? What would that look like? What does it do? What can it do for me? These questions are questions that we need to start digging into as we prepare to implement hubs, to implement the strategy vis-a-vis hubs. So very simply: Hubs are thought of as organizational units that support more than one volunteer community. If this unit only supports one volunteer community then it's probably an affiliate of some sort, a chapter, or a user group. But hubs are expected to support more than one volunteer community. And the idea that we should have hubs is some kind of response to a very central issue in the Movement Strategy, which is the desire to share power, to decentralize, and to move the decision-making about certain things closer to the actual communities involved, and away from some center such as the Wikimedia Foundation. It is also expected that these hubs give us greater efficiency if we make decisions closer to the communities because they have better context, they speak the local language or at least some of the local languages, and it is expected that would be more efficient compared to the current model, where a lot, not all, but a lot of decision-making is centralized at the Wikimedia Foundation. However, at this moment, there are no clear definitions for what a hub does? How a hub comes into existence? How might it go out of existence? What is the relationship between this hub and the Wikimedia Foundation or between this hub and the communities that it serves? All of this is up in the air and needs to be figured out. And specifically, while a lot of details can be hammered out iteratively down the road, we are at this moment about to draft the Movement Charter, as you know. There's already a drafting committee that is beginning its work and it is expected that this Movement Charter, this sort of constitution-like document, will provide some sort of outer boundary for what hubs may be. So the very, very basics of how hubs come into existence, who oversees hubs, you know, questions like that, are expected to somehow or other be addressed in the Movement Charter to provide at least an outer framework or boundary for a lot of the detail that could be figured out later about how hubs operate. So this is an excellent time to share thoughts about these roles, responsibilities, challenges, concerns, things we want to think of in advance. And that is what this invitation and this event are about. I want to spell out for those who have not done a lot of thinking about hubs so far, that a lot of people have been thinking about hubs. Of course, the people who were involved in the strategic recommendation to begin with and a lot of people since then. People have different expectations of hubs and they're projecting those expectations on hubs. And everybody is certain that their idea of a hub is going to be the idea of a hub and that is again a chaotic situation that is worth trying to defuse or elucidate. So among other things, people expect hubs to give legal support, to do grant making, to provide funding, to do capacity building and skill building, to coordinate among groups covered by the hub, to do technology/software development. to provide mentorship, to do evaluation of projects, and all kinds of other ideas for what hubs should do. Of course, be a some kind of intermediary or communication vehicle vis-a-vis the Foundation, maybe vis-a-vis partner organizations or other regional networks. All of these things are things that some hubs might do, could do, it is doubtful if all hubs do all of these. I'm laying this out so that you can already see there's a whole set of expectations, and wants and needs, that people are expecting to come from hubs, and on the understanding that different hubs are going to be different, we can expect that not all hubs will fulfill all of these roles. So it's complex and we can anticipate that different hubs will have different shapes, and this leaves us with a lot of open questions. And the event is supposed to help us brainstorm about at least some of these questions. If you're not yet convinced that there's a lot to talk about let me walk you through some of these questions and I hope you'll agree with me that it is a bit complicated by the end of this. So, first question, the question of value: What is the value of hubs? What is the benefit of becoming a hub over status quo? Today we already have some regional networks, we have some thematic organizations, what is the value of becoming, say the CEE hub as distinct from the existing CEE regional network (which is not a legal entity)? What is the value of becoming the Ibérocoop hub or some other hub? Given that we already have some kind of Ibérocoop network. That's the first question, but that leads to the more general question of the life cycle of hubs: How does a hub become a hub? Who recognizes hubs and how do they get promoted? Suppose we have a hub and it wants to grow when it wants to be more resourced or take on additional roles -- How does that happen? Who makes the decision? Yes, this hub can grow, yes, it can get more resources. How do they get demoted if the hub turns out to be inefficient/unsuccessful/torn apart by conflict/whatever can happen in a hub. Is there a process for demoting a hub or even de-recognizing or disbanding a hub? These are complicated questions. Is there some kind of minimum set of roles? We discussed the sort of the maximum set, like all the different things a hub can do. Is there some minimal set of roles that a hub must fulfill? That we require of all hubs, no matter what. And why this is a complicated question? Because the ability to do certain things actually varies by context, by region. What if there's a region where for legal reasons some of the things we want to expect from all hubs are legally difficult? Do we then not have a hub in that region? Do we want that limitation? On the other hand, if we don't set a minimum at all, does that mean absolutely any group could be a hub without meeting any minimal set of criteria? It's a complex question. Another complex question is exclusivity: Can there be more than one hub in a region or dedicated to a certain topic? On the face of it, we probably intuitively expect there to be one hub for a region, right? Just like there's one regional network in a region. But, on the other hand, we know and have seen cases where people for a number of reasons could not work together, could not agree on a path forward and decided to go their separate ways creating multiple user groups in a region for example, or dedicated to a topic. That didn't always work out well. So do we want to allow this for hubs? Do we want to allow two regional hubs or two hubs dedicated to, say, Medicine? And if we do want to allow it: do they compete for resources and we give more resources to the hub that proves itself? If we don't allow more than one hub, we don't entirely support the problem of overlap, because remember themes and regions can overlap, right? A particular project could be supported by their regional hub on the one hand, but also by the, say, medicine hub, on the other hand, because the project has to do with medicine. Or by the, say, Wikifranca hub, for the French language, if they work in the French language in a region, say, French-speaking/francophone Africa. So that's a complicated question: The question of exclusivity and overlap. Relatedly the question of coverage: Do we expect that all funded work, at least in a region or under a topic, should go through that respective hub? Or is it okay for a particular community in a covered region to choose not to work with the regional hub? And if they don't work with the regional hub, what does that mean? Do they continue to work directly with the Wikimedia Foundation? Will the Wikimedia Foundation support that? What are the benefits of that? What are the disadvantages? If we don't allow it, how do we deal with interpersonal conflict that may happen or claims of bias, which is related to questions of conflict of interest. For example: Can affiliate board members also be decision-makers in the regional hub that covers their region? Or would we consider that a conflict of interest? If we do allow it how do we manage that conflict of interest? If we don't allow it, who do we expect would be a decision-maker at the regional hub level given the governance experience required to make these decisions? Another complex issue. The support question: Who trains the trainers, right? Who makes sure that these hubs can provide support, or capacity building, or skill mentoring? Who, I mean we all agree we want a hub to do that, how do we make sure that the hubs that we create actually can offer high-level training and high-level expertise, and not just declare that they're doing this? It's a question. And questions like entitlement: Does the fact I'm a hub mean I am entitled, or we, the hub, are entitled to certain things as distinct from communities that don't have a hub? Does the fact that we have a hub automatically means something, does it mean, I don't know, some support, some grant that automatically happens if you're a hub? If there's no automatic entitlement: What is the benefit of creating a hub? -- again. And also the relationship between communities and the hubs that serve them or that that cover them: Are they opt-in? Does the individual community get to choose to opt into the hub or are they just kind of automatically covered by the hub whether they opted in or not? Again, the question of can you choose not to have a relationship with a hub and what does that mean? When projects span more than one focus area, how do we coordinate between hubs? I mentioned the example of a, say, African project covered by the regional hub in Africa that's working in the French language, so also covered by WikiFranca for example, if that turns out to be a thematic hub; and also is about GLAM. So maybe he's also covered by the GLAM hub, if we have a GLAM hub. That's like three potential hubs for this project. Do all of them support this project? If so how and how do they coordinate? What if it's a really bad project proposal and none of them want to support it? Is one of them required to support it? Complicated questions. So I hope this convinces you that there's a lot to talk about to determine the future of this central piece of organization, of work in the Movement. And so let's talk about it! If these questions sound relevant or important to you in your community, if you feel you have something to contribute from your experience, some issues you'd like to raise, concerns, join us! Sign up for this brainstorming workshop. It's going to happen on November 27th, all the details are on Meta under the page Hubs/Workshop_November_27,_2021. The hubs page itself mentions it as well. Please read the guidelines, see if this is something you want to have to participate in, and sign up! I'll see you there!