Movement roles/Questions about chapters whose territory doesn’t match a state

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Originally Wikimedia CAT was a proposal to set up a chapter in a territory defined in base of a cultural community instead of the political borders of a state.

This proposal was evaluated by the ChapCom and they decided they could not recommend this chapter because the territory was in four countries and because there were overlapping territories with existing chapters WMFR and WMIT.

Although we still believe that the original proposal is better than the current one, the proposal was reshaped to erase the problems pointed by the ChapCom and now it is waiting for approval by the board.

Galio formulated several questions specifically addressed to the example of former Wikimedia CAT proposal. We think movement roles is a project aimed to discuss general issues instead of particular ones but we agree this example is a case that illustrates some deficiencies of the idea one chapter <= one state.

I translate the particular questions to English and give them a general approach.

Please Galio if my translation and interpretation aren’t precise enough feel free to add new questions asking for the details not covered.

Lucien leGrey (President of the Wikimedia España proposal), Góngora (member and supporter of both chapters) and Gomà (President of the Wikimedia CAT proposal). Have been explicitly invited to answer this interview but feel free to add more answers mainly from people related to other chapters or proposals or groups to enrich the points of view.


Do you think there is a possibility to have an articulation between those chapters and a chapter in one of the states where they are working?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Creen que sea posible una articulación con Wikimedia España?

I think that this link must be established not only with one chapter but with all other chapters and I think this must be one of the roles of chapter’s committee.

In case of Wikimedia CAT to participate in European Union funded research programs we are much more interested in establishing links with European chapters other than those in the countries where we are already established.

--Gomà 19:24, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

Is it possible in some way to integrate those chapters in the structure of a chapter based in one of the states where they are working?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Es posible que Amical/WMCAT se integre de algún modo dentro de la estructura de WMES?

I don’t know if in some cases this could be possible but I think this is not desirable because they follow completely different models. Personally I think the state model will be much less efficient so there is not any reason to do this. When a state and a linguistic area and culture coincide you can’t see the difference but when this is not the case things are very different.

A chapter based on language and culture can be build in a bottom up approach you can start with Wikipedians promoting projects in the streets, they can earn the confidence and the complicity of the communities of the projects and then when they feel they need a legal entity to give coverage to those activities you can finally create a chapter.

In a chapter based on political borders when those borders doesn’t coincide with languages and cultures you have a contradiction because Wikipedia and sister projects are based on languages. Then you will have huge difficulties no mater if relationships between those communities are conflictive or not. This leads to a top down approach with a group of people writing bylaws, being approved by a committee without direct ties to the projects, and only then starts to try to do something.

In Catalan case I think this is impossible because none of the people supporting us are also members of WMFR or WMIT and only tiny portion also supporting WMES proposal (See Wikimedia CAT/Members and Supporters and Wikimedia España#Participantes).

--Gomà 19:29, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

Which are the reasons that make possible or impossible to do that integration?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Qué lo hace posible o imposible?

The following reasons apply for the Catalan case in other cases there can be more or less but I think the big picture will be very similar.

I'll classify them in three groups: Internal reasons are those based on wikipedian movement characteristics, social and legal reasons those based on the characteristics of the society and legal systems they want to serve, and finally economic reasons when they have economic advantages by not following the state model.

But for people who don’t live this situation where sate territory doesn't coincide whit linguistic and cultural territory perhaps the best way to understand why this approach is better than the sate based one is think in the European Union Case. Why not to merge WMFR, WMUK, WMPO … in a huge European Chapter? There heve unified external political borders, single currency, relatively uniform legal systems … But if you have enough critical mass, if you have a linguistic and cultural community, if you have a legal system ... then you can perform much better following cultural areas than merging in an heterogeneous bigger group where you will have to abandon your native language and use English to coordinate everything.

Reasons based on wikipedian movement characteristics[edit]

  1. Wikipedia and sister projects are based on languages not on states. It is easier to build good relationships between chapters and projects if chapters are based on linguistic and cultural communities. State chapters mainly focuses in teritorial boundaries and then come the projects, Linguistic and cultural chapters mainly focus is in projects and then comes the territory. In a territory you don't have any background to start then why the projects should accept you? In the projects you have the background of the communities of authors then the territory comes in a natural way.
    In the Catalan case we have a very good relationship with communities of Catalan Wikipedia and sister projects. They feel Amical as “their” association.
  2. When those communities live in more than one state then trying to merge them in one of the estate chapters is artificial for the people from the other states.
    In the Catalan case it is highly artificial for Spanish Catalans to merge with Wikimédia France or for the French Catalans to merge with Wikimedia España or for Andorrans any of them.
  3. Wikipedia and sister projects are organized by languages not by countries. In some cases projects in different languages have similar ways to organize but in others project rules are very different. In those cases where there are huge differences joining those communities in the same chapter is not a good idea because they have very different views of the projects. Even more in some cases there are conflictive relations among projects. Trying to joining people from those projects is a clear opportunity to be always arguing instead of focusing in promoting the projects.
    French and Spanish wikipedias are very different from Catalan and Occitan ones. And relations are even hostile. For exempla in French wikipedia erased the Occitan names of the towns from the introduction and relegated them to a section in the article, in Spanish Wikipedia they use outdated names for the Catalan towns. This is seen as offensive and humiliating for Catalan and Occitan people.
  4. Chapters in states with strong communities should take preventions to avoid being controlled by one of those groups or communities. But simultaneously this excludes those communities from being interested in participating in something they can’t control.
    In the WM ES case they have taken preventions to avoid that the board be occupied by members of Amical or any other similar association. (See: No podrán presentar candidaturas las agrupaciones de socios en las que todos ellos o su mayoría, de hecho, pertenezcan... ...en general, cualesquiera asociaciones de cualquier tipo ajenas a Wikimedia España). In some way they are prohibiting the participation of Amical in WMES.
  5. Communities that demographically are in minority don’t feel comfortable mixing with another that presumably always will hold the majority of voting power.
  6. Wikipedia movement is based on freedom. If the people want a chapter based on a territoy different than a state and they show there is a community working hard to promote projects in this basis we must provide them the support they need.
    Looking at the list of members of WM ES, WM FR, WM IT and WM CAT you will see that in WM ES case there is some common members but they are less then 4% of the spanish WM CAT members, in WM FR and WM IT caser tehy dont have any member from Catalan areas nor from all Sardinia.

Reasons based on characteristics of the society and legal systems they want to serve[edit]

  1. In almost all states in the world there is only one official language or a dominant language. Joining communities of bilingual people with monolingual ones is lethal for the minority languages because they will tend to use the dominant language in internal relations. Monolinguals will only use their language and bilinguals will have to abandon their native language or will need to do an extra work translating to de dominant language.
    WMFR and WMES working languages are French and Spanish. Not all our members understand French and Spanish for those who understand they won’t be very happy by having to translate every internal document from Catalan to French or Spanish.
  2. Culture and knowledge is much more than Wikipedia. In those cases where the real world is organized following cultural and linguistic criteria instead of political borders it is easier for a Wikimedia chapter to establish relations with cultural entities if it adopts the same background and structure.
    In the Catalan case there is a broad network of cultural associations in Catalan territories that they are connected and organized according to the territories where Catalan is spoken. They are much more receptive to cooperate with an organization with it's same background: Catalan culture and language.
  3. Priorities and strategies to promote projects in monolingual populations are very different than those for a plurilingual population. When the language and culture in a state are not uniform it is not a good idea to try to establish a uniform organization for all the territory.
    French and Spanish people are mainly monolingual Catalans are mainly plurilingual we have different priorities and strategies.
  4. Social situations sometimes have their legal background that allows creating chapters that don’t follow state borders in advantageous situation.
    In Catalan case our associations are working under Catalan and Andorran laws. There are differences in our legal systems that are important for us. For example Catalan and Andorran law allow us holding General Assemblies thought Internet but Spanish law imposes that General Assembly must be in person. In practice this means that we hold General Assemblies very often and our associations are governed democratically by its members while the board is just an operational body. In practice Spanish associations only hold yearly general assemblies and the board is the de facto governing body leading to a structure we feel not democratic enough.
  5. Wikimedia is mainly interested in education knowledge and culture not in politics. In cases where legal situation has recognized the cultural situation up to the point that legal systems about education and culture doesn’t follow states it is not a good idea to establish chapters following states.
    In Andorra and Catalan areas of France there is a plural educational system with an important group of schools following the Catalan educational system. In Spain for some autonomous communities, culture, education and association issue doesn’t belong to Spanish government but to Autonomous governments. This is the case for all Catalan speaking autonomous communities.
  6. In territories where you have overlapping cultures you have complex social systems and sensibilities. Wikimedia Chapters should be shaped to attract to the movement the maximum support among all sensibilities. If this can be done with more than one chapter overlapping in the same territory this option has to be considered.
    Catalan society is highly complex there are a lot of sensibilities. Many of them will be more inclined to support Wikimedia thought a Catalan associations others will be more inclined to do so with French or Spanish ones. We are sure that having those chapters simultaneously we can reach all of them thorough one or other way. But mixing two we can lose almost all of the potential supporters.

Economic reasons[edit]

  1. Where there are aids and grants addressed to promote languages in endangered status it is interesting to shape the WM Chapters in order to be eligible for those aids and grants.
    In Catalonia, Balearic Islands and Andorra there are important aids grants addressed to support Catalan associations that in their bylaws explicitly state they promote Catalan and Occitan languages. WMFR, WMIT and WMES don't state this in their bylaws so they can't apply for those grants. Althought Amical is promoting projects in several languages we are interested in explicitly mention Catalan and Occitan in our Bylaws because this makes us eligible for those aids. Even if we are accepted as WMCAT with the new proposal for bylaws (where this statement has been erased to follow ChapCom recommendations) we should keep alive Amical do have access to those grants.
  2. It is also interesting to offer potential donors the best tax deductions possible according to each county’s laws, when this is easier to be done with non state chapters this has to be taken into account.
    In Spain associations as ours fulfilling some conditions and working for a minimum of two years are entitled to file for tax deducible donations. WMES will have to wait for two years to have this advantage.
  3. Money is important to run things in real world. Where people are more inclined to give to a chapter not based in a state then this option should be considered seriously.
    We recently surveyed the readers of Catalan Wikipedia about a lot of things. We got more than 800 answers. One thing we have investigated is their inclinations to donate. About 50% are more inclined to donate to a Catalan Chapter, 40% to Wikimedia Foundation and only 10% to French or Italian or Spanish chapter.

--Gomà 19:42, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

In case this is not possible. How will be solved the overlapping territories issues?[edit]

  • Original question: Si no fuera posible, ¿cómo se resolverían las competencias solapadas de representación en los territorios donde planea operar la propuesta de WMCAT?

We already did a proposal. I’m sorry the document is bilingual French and Catalan. I think it could be almost the same for other cases except for the tax deductions where the situation can be the other way around.

--Gomà 19:44, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

Do you think it is possible another kind of recognition instead of that of being a Chapter to provide those “chapters” the resources needed to develop their functions?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Creen posible otro tipo de reconocimiento, distinto al de capítulo, que pueda proveer a Amical los recursos necesarios para desarrollar sus funciones?

The word “Chapter” is loaded with a political bias because many people immediately think in “national” or “sub-national” and we understand that choosing another word can help in accepting in the movement organizations not based on states. It can be Partner Organization, or whatever else. It also can be interesting to think on putting them or not in the same list where the sate based chapters are and avoid printing them in the world map divided by states.

In the Catalan case we are also open to accept a chapter established only in Catalonia Balearic Islands and Valencia. Our members from Andorra France and Italy agreed to affiliate to this kind of chapter. In the past we also proposed the creation of our chapter in Andorra and all the members agreed to join a Wikimedia CAt based in adorra. (See Mail sent to the WKF board on January 9 2010)

The only important thing is having the same tools the chapters have: What_is_a_Wikimedia_Chapter?#Tools_available_to_chapters

I think it would be immoral to provide less tools to the weaker languages and cultures than those the stronger ones have.

--Gomà 19:48, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

What is the difference between the chapters whose territory is defined based on the territory where you have a cultural community instead of the territory based on political borders?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿En qué se diferenciaría de un capítulo, …..

The main difference is that this is not based on a state. A minor difference is that overlapping will be bigger than in state based chapters cases.

--Gomà 19:51, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

What kind of relationship would have cultural community based chapters and political borders based chapters?[edit]

  • Original question: … qué relación tendría con el capítulo de base estatal?

I see relationships among chapters based on common interests. Comon interests may be around a common language a similar socioeconomic situation a common geographic or politic situation or practices generally applicable.

Those situations happen between any kind of chapters so I dont see special differences.

In the Catalan case we are interested in cooperation with European chapters to participate in European Union research programs, with French speaking chapters because French is one of our languages, with Spanish speaking chapters because Spanish is one of our languages, with chapters developing programs of cooperation with universities because cooperation with universities is one of our strategies...

--Gomà 19:53, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

Do you think this solution can be generalized to other cases?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Creen que la solución que proponen pueda generalizarse a otros casos?

Today the Catalan community is the first plurilingual one extended in a territory among more than one state with the will to work together and with a critical mass to create a Chapter. If Wikipedian movement grows then more and more communities will reach this level of maturity and this will be only the tip of the iceberg. You can find a clue looking at the supporters of the Catalan chapter among Esperanto Wikipedia, Basque language Wikipedia, Tartar language Wikipedia and many others.

In the age of globalization even the smaller companies are multinational. Personal ties are stronger than political borders.

I think that this also can be a good idea for large cultures but with relatively small wikipedias like Arabic community.

--Gomà 19:57, 26 January 2011 (UTC)

How those cases could be characterized?[edit]

  • Original question: ¿Cómo caracterizarían esas situaciones?

I see two characteristics. First when you have a community spread among several countries where you can reach a critical mass to form a chapter gathering all the people but you can’t in each single country or they have the will to work together, second when you have a language without a sate.

I think accomplishing one of those conditions is necessary but not sufficient to create a chapter.

From my point of view the key points should be: 1) There is a group proposing the creation of the chapter with enough critical mass to expect it will succeed 2) The communities of the projects where they wish to serve support them.

In the Catalan Case we have the 290 more active Catalan Wikipedians supporting this chapter and 430 supporters from all languages and projects.

--Gomà 19:59, 26 January 2011 (UTC)