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Movement roles/Working group meeting 2011-1-29/notes

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Movement Roles meeting notes
January 29 and 30. Frankfurt, Germany

Facilitator: Jon Huggett

Prepared by: Sam Klein, drafted by everyone present at the meeting. (We used Etherpad to good effect, often projecting it on a screen while the meeting took place.)

As better revised summaries of the notes become available, they will be broken out into their own pages and sometimes linked directly from the meeting page (which also has a general overview of the meeting context). The discussion was in plenary session, with all participants present. The tough topics were handled specially, and have their own detailed notes pages.


C: comment                     A: agreement   
R: reply/rebuttal              D: disagreement
Q: Question                    S: [re]search/review needed
MR: Movement Roles

Opening session[edit]


Jon, Arne, Bence, Delphine, Alice, Lodewijk, Sam, Bishakha, Morgan, Austin, Galileo, Anirudh, Barry

  • Review what we have heard on the wiki and through interviews
  • Share understanding of best practices within Wikimedia and among peer movements
  • Review tough topics, cluster and prioritize
  • Discuss in smaller groups, share results
  • Plan future participation of the movement
  • Sketch out suggested elements of a charter

Future goals:

  • A draft charter by late March, to share and discuss in Berlin with the chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation Board.
  • Final recommendations by August, to share at Wikimania in Haifa.
Meeting guidelines
  1. Confidentiality: people should be comfortable speaking and not having any fear that every single of their words are going to be broadcasted. Be as comprehensive in a public kind of way as possible. (aside on note-taking practice)
  2. Agree to disagree. Note disagreements in the notes; we won't resolve all D's.
  3. Be respectful of each other opinion. reflect the true conversation in sharing results.
  4. Make sure everyone has a voice, pay attention to non-English speakers.
  5. Focus on the big picture and on solutions rather than problems. Avoid getting mired in specific issues that can dominate the conversation (and may not contribute to the discourse)
  6. Create a *parking lot* section (see Open Items) for areas where we need more work or discussion, or for issues that we believe other working groups should take up
Notes before starting
  • There has not yet been enough outreach with current chapters.
  • Information gathered is more about problem/edge cases than success stories.
  • The pieces of the 'draft charter' might be alternatives or concepts, not a single proposal.
Personal goals of attendees
  • Approach this positively, not just from problems perspective. Discuss tough issues deeply.
  • Be descriptive, not prescriptive.
  • Repeat assumptions about roles we are [not] covering, so others can define their own parts.
  • Spend enough time tmw on a good synthesis for ppl not here
  • Pick up the pace on this work
  • Have good alternatives rather than a single 'right answer'.
  • Facilitate discussion helping Foundation and chapters enter real discussions/conversation.
  • Resolve as many questions as possible, but focus on clear direction and plans for the coming months.
  • Have a clear idea of what we must do in the coming week to spur work next month.
  • Be bold. We tend to react; so provoke, to get reactions.
  • Confirm our consensus, not just disagreements.
  • Get something we can work with. The best decisions tend to be made iteratively by movements.

Movement Roles foundations[edit]

we revisited the group's founding docs

Our purpose still reads well.


The deliverable - can it be refined? who are recommendations made to?


The role of the individual volunteer is being erased. It makes it seem that entities are crowding them out. Can we say "network of organizations and individuals"?

A - that's a good point.
A - we should be sure to reach all contributors in all languages; if people feel isolated by this we wont get their input. A - there is so much of the movement with no voice at this table. If we really want 'endorsable by all', what does this mean?
C - 'the individual volunteer' is always part of the whole. we might not write this everywhere, but should keep in mind that it should make sense for someone who is alone (not part of a Thing).
R - we are not here to tell the community what to do. we can advise orgs how to act to give individuals support and resources. 'all Volunteers' is broad, it is hard to make recommenations to them. think of the interface b/t the volunteers and the community.
Q - [when] is the community a decision making body[ies]?
S - We seem to be inconsistent to 'purpose of the project' and 'deliverable'


who is expected to endorse? chapters, wmf. who else?

would the community as a whole endorse a presentation of a movement charter? (as they were asked to endorse a revised mission statement?)

A - I assumed that we would have a version of this that could be voted on/endorsed by the community as a whole, similar to the relicensing dsicussion.
A - it is important for the community to be involved, or able to endorse [this sort of charter], but note: we've focused on the organizational side. [side discussion about whether the strategy was the WMF part of a larger community strategy.]
R - if we don't do that, we should be careful not to state anything that implies what the community can/should do.
R - even the strategy, which is broader than what we do here, wasn't officially endorsed afterward. It had participation and was open, but was not in the end community-endorsed. I'm not sure how a community would endorse a charter in an official way.
D - [I assumed not.] It seems hard to me to define how this would happen - would it be a vote? accepting that a majority might be overruling a minority of disagreement?


1. Board meeting - endorsed proposal, encouraged engagement
2. This meeting - Analyze best practices, develop hypotheses.
CHARTER language

D - The language for 'organizational roles/movement' is hard, and sometimes gotten wrong. Get the language right -- come up with a term for 'organizational part of the movement'.

This is the audience for a[n organizational] charter; the groups that may otherwise duplicate work, conflict, or be inefficient/develop confusion.

2009 Chapters Charter

A group focused on creating a Chapters Charter in 2009, which was drafted on Internal but put on hold. It could serve as a useful draft [can it now be moved here to Meta?]


- we must consider the decline of participation. How do we resolve broader problems? make that a front and center challenge while thinking about the movement's future.

Summary of inputs to date[edit]


- avoid drowning and steep [organizational] overhead

- a focus only on chapters distracts/detracts

- accountability of chapters to (specific parts of) movement (worries about transparency, corruption in places, takeovers)

- accountability of WMF to movement and chapters (idea that chapters balance WMF, worries about transparency & proper use of funds, representation)


- apathy: is this b/c its not clear the work matters? This can be both a question of perception due to lack of transparency and/or a reality that to date the work of WMF/chapter hasn't really made a substantive difference.

- division of focus. is it the case that community members don't caer what the org/chapers do as long as the servers work and the sites stay up?

R - perhaps not. in my experience volunteers are very concerned about structure that someone else might build and put over them. people who are paid for their work, handling lots of money; why? can't this be done by volunteers? language. lots of com members don't speak enough english, or feel that it just won't help. that people discuss internally about the EDs' salary suggests this is a lively topic in their minds though they won't express it.


- Let as many groups as possible coexist. TEDx model. (we know better now what this would feel like -- the 10th anniv was run on this model)

- Apply a graduated set of responsibilities; at one level, a country reg/fundraising role, at another special partnerships, at another disribute global roles 'to build cohesion with complementarity'

Comments and lessons from those inputs[edit]

- Differentiate b/t active roles/projects focused on growth (and the opportunity cost of stopping) and maintenance roles focused on supporting the projects,handling PR, &c -- and the opportunity cost of stopping those.

- Be honest about the impact of organization: what happens organically? what has been automated to a science? what is still speculative? What have we achieved, and do we know how it happened? we don't yet know the role of organization in most of our great successes.


- many grew up friendly without heirarchy, and had confusion later on - high standards of transparency protect all - tie votes to membership or contrip or impact or history - some have central/global approval of local CEO selection - some have interlocking boards - sharing resources is usually thoughtful and sophisticated

Many orgs grow this way - once you're at a critical point. This is opposite the way of more deliberate orgs. we have some interesting results due to our path - our board composition and our public debates reflect it. Part of accountability is saying: it is legitimate [for people] to ask why are we hiring people, &c.

Risk assessment[edit]

If role confusion is prevalent in an organization, then youend up with conflict. someone in your 'way' if there is confusion is opsitionally 'bad' even if they are also supportive of the same goals. --> accident waiting to happen.

Effective communication and sharing knowledge/progress -- ex; a summary of what chapters reports/details are read/known about by the WMF (for instance, in re: the line in the fundraising agreement asking for annual reporting)

Today many parts of the movement have more money than they expected. And we have to find ways to use it well. A straight 50:50 split of funds [used locally/globally, with no regard to local context] is rare in international orgs. What will wm:de, or :cz or :id need tomorrow to do what they need tomorrow? There is uncertainty on how to concretely spend money, and what impact it brings.

It is likewise important to do so in a way that enables evaluation/assessment to help us all get better at this with time.

C - As to effectively pursuing our current plans: I see the positive side of having a strategic plan for everyone. To what extent do we have the organization[al movement] today to support them? Could we turn the lights out (on all dynamic systems) and have them come back on again?

Defining a problem to solve[edit]

We need to be honest that we don't know well what drives growth and participation; it is not healthy to pretend that we do. Important that we take an experimental approach to the work we do.

This all has a lot to do with trust - to the extent that anyone in this room has to do that to develop a connection to get things done, we need to be honest about this. This gets to questions of professionalism and chapters... if staff of organizations with staff have to pretend that they have figured everything out, that makes it harder [to share knowledge, to build trust].

We know a bit about what makes sense and what doesn't. We don't have hard numbers. [It's easier to assess risk when focusing on solving a specific problem]

R - yes, [we know a bit], but aside from simple things like keeping websites up, what we're doing are things that could be done without organizations, period. In contrast to Medecins Sans Frontieres who has to fly people in and put basecamps together. We could be distributing computers to everyone in the world so they can acecss free knowledge -- people who have that don't need much more to contribute to the project. In the end, [a group that wants to help] doesn't go to Haiti just like that, but people go to WP just like that.

C: when you do a tiny task for the red cross, you know the impact. we have few of those outlets.
A: there is no specific problem to solve.
Q: there is no [specific] problem to solve?
C: Proposal: go to every person in the world and see if they in fact have access to knowledge. don't prejudge what the mechanism will be. find out if they ahvei t, measure over time, and solve region by region (observing the impact)
A: I like that A: +1
A: consider the World Bank survey in which they asked people around the world waht they have or don't have and the mst popular answer was 'lack of voice'. we could do soemthing like this for Access to Knowledge.

Tough Topics[edit]

For details, see: Movement roles/Working group meeting 2011-1-29/tough topics

Starting with a list of a dozen tough topics people had sent in or suggested in the past, five clusters of tough topics were identified as needing serious attention:

  1. Roles and Activities (addressed together, with index cards / a bulletin board and a MATRIX below)
  2. New models for groups
  3. Legitimacy and Accountability
  4. Finances and the flow of money
  5. Communication (considered too large to address here; to pursue online)

The first and last topics were broader and more vaguely defined than the rest. We decided to tackle Roles and Activities as a group brainstorm, then split up into 3 smaller groups to work on the next three. Communication was addressed only briefly, and is being worked on further.

Open Items[edit]

  • Activities and roles - is this too broad to lead to results? (no, an ok start.)
Should we iterate at a more specific level of one or the other? (perhaps)
  • Charter draft - are we drafting an outline to fill in, or actual text to provoke responses? (an outline today)
Pieces of the draft might be [multiple] alternatives.
  • Apathy/Division of Focus - Are our communities not interested in this discussion? (No. people are concerned about structure that someone else might build and put over them. connect better with those concerned)
  • Semantics: The language of "organizational movement" and "organizational community" - get the language right (don't let this linger).
Address individuals vs. organizations, creation of content & mission-advancement vs. long-term support and organization building
Focus on empowerment: what can individuals and groups do; make it empowerment not 'you must do this'.
  • This group may load up formal entities with tasks/things to do, though informal groups/people might scale well and be more traditional for our community. (but are we loading up? revisit this.)
  • Charter audience, endorsement.
is the audience mainly chapters & the WMF? 'similar' groups?
How will this work be shared with the community at large? (gradually; all thoughts, collaborative, organic)
  • How do we define relevant 'groups'? (various ways. legal entity, history of good work, size, capacity to use/benefit from resources)
Don't just exchange 'legal entity' for 'official group'; both are undefined. (individuals are legal entities)
Find ways to tie in each of: committees, working groups, official groups, formally-defined unofficial groups, ad-hoc groups, single-topic groups/projects, Partner Organizations, cultural partners, business partners, co-aligned groups, like-minded organisations.
Note the work of the breakout on new group types: WM Associations [informal, not exclusive] and WM Partner Organizations [formal special-interest groups, not exclusive, no state boundaries; approval process similar to chapters.]

Examples: An Esperanto org, a Flemish or Kurdish cultural body, an international GLAM org.

  • COMMUNICATION - When do we address this tough topic?
is this a breakout group? A group at all?
how do we address multilingual communication, just to solicit input?
who are our audiences? what messages do we need to get out? For instance:
'maximizing revenue' or 'capacity to spend' -- phrases that make some people wary, as opposed to 'maximizing impact' or 'capacity to steward resources'.
the proposal to have a fair auditing mechanism feels harsh, sticks not carrots.
make clear that the idea is to have some self-responsibility
  • MATRIX STRUCTURE - We left out many suggested topics, mainly internal or governance or content-related:
• CREATING CONTENT • starting/closing new projects, both software and knowledge
• non-financial resources (human resources, access to tools)
• educational partnerships

Next steps[edit]

Communicating the results of the MR steering committee meeting

  1. Put the raw notes on the movement roles wiki. By Sunday, Jan. 30 (Austin)
  2. Write an overview of the meeting, includnig context,and post along with notes to meta. (SJ and Lodewijk)
  3. Move both overview and raw notes on to Meta. By Monday, Feb. 7, preferrably earlier (SJ and Lodewijk)
    1. Move discussion about how these notes should evolve to the talk pages (all)
  4. Break this into edible chunks and start making sense of it for others to help them get involved.
    1. Have all of these chunks on meta
    2. Revisit some of our weekend discussions for others to see.

Pursuing further lines of discussion

  1. Split up/revisit personal contact with chapters, groups, Foundation and other members who've already been reached out to, to revisit the discussion
    1. - maintain a list of things to do to get involved on Meta
    2. - send email updates, for instance to internal. these are not however private; encourage peoeple to forward them.
    3. Elaborate on issues like the tough topics, which need more work before people discuss in detail. (add clarity, parallelism, context)
    4. Start sending weekly topics for discussion leading up to the chap meeting.

Future Timeline/Agenda per week[edit]

Future work to happen on Meta; use mailing list where needed (as exception). Participation is welcome from all. If you would like to join the workgroup list as well, please contact Austin.

Principle: We value public discussion of disagreements, to help move the discussion forward.

Discussion: To improve communication, we will aim to have an 'MR focus of the week' each week, with a mailing list discussion explaining where we are and what we hope to accomplish, and a barnraising to improve that part of the proposals or drafts on Meta.

  1. Feb 7 release, general updates - Jon
  2. Feb 10 roles matrix - SJ, Delphine (co-lead), Anirudh (co-lead), Barry, Alice, Jon
  3. Feb 17 new models - Delphine, Morgan, Austin, SJ, Galio (lead)
  4. Feb 24 accountability - Arne (lead), Bence, Barry, Alice (or ABBA)
  5. Mar 3 finances, flow of money - Barry, Lodewijk (lead), Anirudh, Bishakha,
  6. Mar 10 table of contents/charter text* - Arne, Lodewijk, Bishakha, Morgan, Austin (lead), Galio, Jon
  7. Mar 17 communication, Synchronization of activities between organizations Asaf, Bishakha, SJ, Delphine
  8. Mar 24 final update [before/after Berlin meeting] - Jon (lead), Arne
* Next steps re charter will be a solid table of contents by Feb. 18, then a broader invite to contribute in advance of the discussions the week of Mar 10. [Process whip - Austin]

Team IRC meetings will alternate weekly between these times:

  • 20:00 UTC Friday
  • 11:00 UTC Friday (starting Feb. 4)

Research to be done[edit]

Is any specific research needed? Perhaps yes, case by case. (in order of priority)

  1. Want to better understand the effectiveness of fundraising between local chapters and WMF - Barry/Jon to talk to Zack/Philippe [aside: describe any lingering q/s about chapter financial transparency/document availability]
  2. Ask chapters/WMF to review roles and add where appropriate (reach out to chapters/WMF when the roles matrix is posted) Lodewijk/Austin make the list
  3. List or specific case studies on chapters/WMF that were founded that have had problems (use interviews to do this) Lodewijk/Austin
  4. Groups (that may not have a name) that exist or have existed for doing important movement projects SJ/Alice/Delphine/Arne/Jon
  5. A general movement map -- what the elements are, their size and activity
    Consider this mindmap of different roles for contributors / ways that people support the movement SJ/Alice/Delphine/Arne/Jon
  6. Peer organization charters that would serve as models for us

Berlin meeting[edit]

The MR Steering Committee will meet again in Berlin on March 24.

People invited to the Chapters conference: (covered mostly by other budgets)

  • Arne, Bishakha, SJ, Barry, Bence, Austin, Anirudh, Delphine*, Lodewijk*

Those attending only the MR meeting: (would require travel budget; assuming continued participation in the process)

  • Morgan, Jon, Galio, Alice, Delphine*, Lodewijk*

Abbas and Asaf recently asked to join the MR discussions, and may be there anyway.

* depending on whether they are chapter reps, which is TBD

Draft outline: optional pieces of a charter[edit]

Outline notes moved to Talk:Movement roles/Charter topics.