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Leadership Development Working Group/Participate/Summary of the Call for Feedback February 2022

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The Community Development team at the Wikimedia Foundation is supporting the creation of a global, community-driven Leadership Development Working Group. The team held a Call for Feedback about the responsibilities of the Leadership Development Working Group in February 2022. A summary of feedback has been written. This summary does not capture all details and the team hopes to support a continuous feedback process when the working group convenes. This summary of feedback and information about past initiatives will be shared with the working group.

The call for feedback announcement was shared in 42 languages. The Movement Strategy & Governance team’s 16 language facilitators gathered feedback in their language and regional communities. Feedback was collected through multiple channels: Meta-wiki, Telegram, 1:1 meetings, community calls, on-wiki discussion boards and others.

The term “task force


The team received feedback that the term “task force” is hard to translate into other languages. In the English language, it can also have military associations.

The meaning of leadership


Community members shared different interpretations of “leader.” Some community members associated “leaders” with people who have followers, create new tasks, or have authority over others. Others shared that “leaders” are people who take responsibility, mentor others, create environments that encourage people, and help the movement stay healthy and grow. In all cases, there is a desire for leaders to facilitate and guide instead of command.

There was a conversation about whether the term “organizer” might be a better word to describe the type of people the movement wants to develop. Another community member shared their opinion that “leader” is a term that is already globally recognized and the movement should continue using this term. Concerns were shared about the movement’s current leaders and the fear that leadership is exercised in destructive or dysfunctional manners. There is a need to define the qualities of good leadership and bad leadership.

Finally, the team heard the need for multiple definitions of leadership in order to include different communities and contexts. There isn’t one definition that is suitable for everyone.

The need for leadership


Several community members commented on the need for leadership. A few shared the argument that in a decentralized and volunteer movement where all members are equal, leaders are not needed. Others agreed that leaders are needed but not in every context. Some shared that leaders can support newcomers and engage in off-wiki responsibilities such as organizing events, training people, and carrying out collaborative projects. One volunteer from the Russian community shared that there are many examples of leaders already, including those that organize editing contests, facilitate training on editing, and develop on-wiki tools. Supporting and training people in relevant skills such as communication and responding to harassment are needed.

The team received feedback that the need for leadership development differs from community to community. Leadership development may not be needed in communities that are more established, for example in the German communities where leadership roles and support structures exist.

Relationship to Movement Strategy


A few community members shared the concern that leadership development needs to be connected to an overall Movement Strategy implementation plan. Community members want to feel like movement stakeholders and initiatives are moving in the same direction. This also means that leadership development can’t be top-down, Wikimedia Foundation-led, and completed in isolation from other movement initiatives. Leadership development initiatives should be aligned with new global governance structures. The Wikimedia Foundation’s role should be to support self-sustaining local or regional community structures.

The Leadership Development Working Group


There is support for the creation of a working group. Despite debates about the term “leader,” some volunteers believe that the creation of a working group is necessary. One volunteer from the Turkish community stated that the leadership development working group encourages opportunities such as cross-project and cross-community collaborations.

In agreement with the proposal, the team received feedback that the working group should define the responsibilities, skills, and pathways to leadership roles. The working group should also focus on evaluating and tracking the progress of leadership initiatives. The responsibilities of the working group should be to coordinate leadership development projects and support regional training and development.

A few community members commented on the composition of the working group. They shared that the working group should include: people with different perspectives outside of leadership development; affiliate members and staff; and people from small and medium Wiki communities. There was also a concern that a 12-person working group can’t fulfill diversity objectives.

Regional lens


The team heard feedback that a regional or contextual lens is needed. Members of the movement approach challenges and discussions differently. The definition and plans for leadership development need to reflect those differences.

One volunteer from the Arabic community wondered about the creation of regional committees while another from Sub-Saharan Africa proposed hosting conversations with regional representatives to include regional perspectives.

Community feedback


A continuous feedback process is important to ensure diverse perspectives are considered. This includes collecting feedback from regional and local communities, and from leadership experts and institutions outside the Wikimedia movement. Feedback should be collected with a multi-lingual, localized approach. Any decision making should happen in partnership with broader communities outside of the working group. In order for diverse feedback to be gathered, quality and timely translation is necessary.

Changes made based on feedback


The feedback will be shared with the working group to review and consider. Based on the feedback, a few changes will be made immediately. First, “Leadership Development Task Force" will be changed to “Leadership Development Working Group.” Second, regionality will be prioritized in the selection process of the working group members. The application selection panel will aim to select at least one person from each of the following 8 regions: Middle East and North Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC); East, Southeast Asia and Pacific (ESEAP); Latin America (LATAM) and The Caribbean; United States and Canada; Northern and Western Europe; Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Central Asia. The team acknowledges that this will not solve the issue of diversity and representation, and plans to include diverse perspectives by continuously gathering feedback throughout the working group’s work process.