Movement Charter/31 May 2021 Conversation

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This is a documentation of the Movement Charter discussion on 31 May 2021. The discussion was meant as a small and experimental version to help plan the Movement Charter Global Conversations, which are to take place on June 12th and 13th.

Background[edit]

The purpose of the meeting was the following (link to slide deck)

  • To align on the Movement Charter content: what does the Movement Charter cover, and what does it not?
  • Gather inputs to design the MC global conversations on June 12 & 13
  • As was explained to the participants, the meeting was not intended as a decision-making platform - but rather as a space to brainstorm together and align.

Exercises[edit]

Results of the "compass" and "map" exercise, regarding the scope of the Movement Charter.

What is the purpose of the Movement Charter?[edit]

Exercise one: Is the Movement Charter more like a compass or a map?

  • Compass - principles, direction, high level structure
  • Map - details, full landscape, operating procedures

Results:

  • About half of the participants (13) mapped the Movement Charter to be more of a directing, high-level compass
  • 4 participants defined Movement Charter’s purpose to be in between the compass and the map with an additional comment stating that it needs to be both, depending on the area.
  • Fifth of the workshop participants (6) mapped the Movement Charter to be more of a detailed map.
  • Fifth of the workshop participants (6) did not take part in the exercise.
Leaning more towards a compass Middle ground Leaning more towards a map Did not participate
13 (46%) 4 (14%) 6 (20%) 6 (20%)

What needs to be in the Movement Charter?[edit]

Exercise two: Based on the answer to the previous question, what needs to be in the Movement Charter? (see the MURAL board)

  • Workshop participants were quick to generate a large number of post-its
  • For some participants the work became a bit overwhelming with a lot happening on the virtual whiteboard
  • There were some clarifying questions with answers that helped the participants

Emerging Themes[edit]

The post-its written by participants to answer the question of: "What needs to be in the Movement Charter?".

Analysis of the post-its helps anticipate the major themes that the content of the Charter may include. These themes can be divided, broadly, into the following two categories:

1. Governance-related topics: Topics that directly relate to the governance of the Wikimedia Movement, especially to the Global Council and to the relationships between different stakeholders in the movement. It further includes the following themes:

  • Decision-making & ratification: Clear guidelines that define who makes decisions and how they should be made, including ratification procedures.
  • Definition of Governance Structures: Definitions of the “authority” or “boundaries” (to quote the post-its) of existing bodies in the movement, including the Foundation, affiliates and communities. Some proposed this to be in the form of a DARCI Framework.
  • Global Council’s scope & responsibilities: The exact definition of the Global Council, its roles, composition, selection process as well as powers and responsibilities, is outlined in the Charter. This is expected to include transferring responsibilities from the WMF and its Board of Trustees.
  • Accountability & transparency standards: Criteria for the movement bodies to be transparent and accountable to each other, especially in their decision-making and governance processes.
  • User rights & responsibilities: A vague request, “user rights” were often mentioned, perhaps alluding to content that more political Charters may cover.
  • Representation & equity: Criteria that ensures fair and equal representation in movement processes in the context of decision-making.

2. Other topics: Although related to governance in one way or another, some of the emerging themes for the Charter are also related to various areas, such as finance and safe collaborative environments. Some of them were the following:

  • Principles: Broad principles for the Wikimedia Movement, possibly similar or directly based on those attached to the recommendations.
  • Conflict resolution: A reference to the ongoing process for the Universal Code of Conduct.
  • Resource allocation & fundraising: As two related themes, this seems to include both equitable guidelines for distributing funds among movement groups as well as identifying who is eligible to fundraise.

Discussion Summary[edit]

Map vs. Compass[edit]

After the post-its exercise, the discussion opened with the following question: “What is the purpose of the Movement Charter?”. The possible answers were either of:

  1. Compass - principles, direction, high level structure; or
  2. Map - details, full landscape, operating procedures

Although the majority of those who did the exercise on MURAL preferred the first answer (“compass”), the discussion after the exercise did not reach this conclusion so explicitly. Some participants argued that the Strategic Direction already provides a “compass” and, hence, that Charter’s added value will be in its detail. Others indicated that a Charter should be about the principles and values, leaving the details to “policies and procedures”. In case two options are not enough, it was also mentioned that neither the “compass” nor the “map” are clearly-defined metaphors, which could mean that a middle solution is best.

The “compass vs. map” discussion led directly to the problem of amendment: Is it necessary for the charter to be “perfect” from the first time, or will it be open to change over time? While there was a consensus that the document should be possible to amend, the frequency of this amendment seems open to agreement. If, on one hand, the Charter is more like a “compass”, then it should stay more or less constant. On the other hand, if the Charter is more of a detailed “map”, then its detail may predictably generate new needs that require constant change and amendment. The metaphor of countries’ “constitutions” was suggested by many participants, leading to more and less favorable comparisons.

What are the other potential areas of divergence?[edit]

The power of movement entities, and where the “boundaries” of this power lie, is apparently the number one on the list. According to the discussion, the Charter should state the powers and responsibilities of each kind of governance bodies in the movement (for example: Global Council, affiliates, and so on). It was argued that, unless something is specifically mentioned in the Charter as a responsibility of a governance body, that responsibility would automatically fall back to local communities. There were also several concerns about the Global Council replacing the communities in consultations with the Wikimedia Foundation, and whether it will help protect “user rights” or lead to giving some of them up. It was mentioned that one way to deal with this concern is for the communities to be able to “overrule” the Global Council, in case a sufficient number of them disagree with a decision.

Other anticipated areas of disagreement (or “divergence”) were:

  • Any enforcement mechanism(s) of the Movement Charter
  • Setting up the Global Council (if applicable)
  • Decision-making (for the Global Council)
  • Implementation of the decisions (for the Wikimedia Foundation)

What the Movement Charter should not include?[edit]

While it may seem to be taken for granted, the Charter should not contain anything that is “not in the interest of the movement”. What should not be on the Charter connects significantly to the earlier problem of the “map and compass”, since a more general Charter will consequently exclude particularities. Some of the things that some participants thought the Charter should not include:

  • Any universal requirements that disregard the local context
  • Anything directly binding on communities' handling of content
  • Any details of implementation
  • Any specific policies (although it can be mentioned that such policies should exist).