Report from Frankfurt - October 2006

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Report from Frankfurt – October 2006[edit]

Imagine a giant with a golden head, a brass chest, iron legs and feet of clay; to develop this into a sustainably developing living organization while preserving the essence of its life, such is our mission.
paraphrase and wink by the author of these lines are both released under GNU/FDL

How to get all the people invited to the retreat in Frankfurt from October 20-22 2006 together, 21 wikimedians, consisting of the full current Wikimedia Foundation board, the Foundation officers, representatives from the Chapters, plus one external invitee, how to get them to debate constructively all the major challenges currently faced by Wikimedia in the daytime, conversations which inevitably continue in the evening at and after dinner and as usual deep into the night, and yet also how to have them all awake and sharp again at 9am more or less punctually every next day – and all that for three consecutive days? It was done. It happened. And I was personally very happy with the shared enthusiasm and devotion I encountered as well as with our excellent facilitator, without whom things would have certainly run far less smoothly and efficiently as they in fact did (“we should seriously consider appointing facilitators on-wiki for fundamental debates” i thought). well, we were supposed to do some real hard work, and we managed to do it together.

At the closing day, when it was discussed that some kind of report (“comprehensive, yet not too long”) should be made to inform the community about what the cabal had been doing this time, my partner elise was of course not around to prevent me from volunteering (she did of course complain just now when i started to write these lines), so it's me who happens to be the one to have written these lines ;-)

Expectations and Vision[edit]

On the very first day a list of expectations and desired outcomes was sketched together, which comprised:

  • Build trust
  • Stronger organization (giant with clay feet)
  • Directions for organizations and chapters
  • Practical outcomes
  • Clear understanding governance as supports mission and fundraising support
  • Help the group moving towards sustainability
  • Role of Wikimedia Foundation, support projects
  • Know each other better
  • Shared understanding and agreement
  • Honesty that leads to peace
  • Have some fun

I daresay, all of these were effected in some way or another; if there were some difficult moments as well, we also had a lot of fun working together.

Nevertheless, even when working hard, much time was consumed by getting attuned to the topics and sometimes to each other as well, so let me here express the often heard plea for a next follow-up meeting: a next step, building on this first one. In my humble opinion a crucial next step as well, because apart from bringing more detail in a practical sense, it will also allow for much more in-depth discussions on many topics and concepts we work with, yet often seem to lack the time for real investigation together all too often.

Strategies and Objectives[edit]

In search of defining clearer strategies and objectives, among the important themes we immediately agreed to focus upon were:

  • Sustainable organizational structure for Wikimedia, Foundation and Chapters (make a distinction between Wikimedia as a movement and the Wikimedia Foundation)
  • Leadership in spreading free culture
  • Global perspective, international involvement
  • New standard-setting
  • Legal clarity
  • Multi-projects

Other themes were decided to be discussed at a later stage, “first things first” was mandatory, we couldn't do-it-all in one weekend.. Among these topics was a “Knowledge” versus “Content” discussion, which though very important is just not as urgent as many other topics.

Pretty soon it became clear there was an essential agreement about a great many things, some of which soon led to the new wordings of our vision and mission statements, that the board is currently working out in detail.

Many organizational models were drawn and discussed, finally their number was brought back to a handful, containing all essential bodies present and desired. In all models there appeared an “advisory board” as well as at least one blob named “council”, one model even had three such blobs, in other words: to be continued...

Priorities[edit]

With the help of a SWOT analysis model (analysis through assesment of Strengths versus Weaknesses, and Opportunities versus Threats, and combining the four pairs of these), strategic objectives were defined in all areas concerning “our business”, we came up with 7 categories: organizational, operations, finances and fundraising, program development, public relations and messaging, technology, and legal.

Did you ever try a complex voting system with wikimedians IRL? I can tell you this is fun, not just the voting, but also, just like on-wiki, observing people voting. IRL there is more to see however, because each person bodily participates. In our case, there were the seven categories mentioned above, each with two or more topics attached below: there were 33 of such topics in total. Each person was given 3x3=9 votes to prioritize these topics as tasks-to-do, either within 3, 12 or 24 months. “Having a longer coffee-break” because you voted soon was not appreciated to be an incentive ;-)

I will spare you all the details and instead give a summarized list of the urgent to-do topics agreed upon (mind you, since they imply action, all these begin with a verb), in alphabetical order:

  • Clarify and redefine each committees' scope, role, authority and obligations
  • Clarify requirements for chapters
  • Clarify role and function of each of the private mailing lists
  • Create events committee
  • Create relationships with educational partners
  • Design a road-map for Wikimedia technology
  • Develop regional conferences and programs
  • Expand the board
  • Improve analyses of projects and users
  • Lobby governmental educational groups
  • Manage customer/donor communication and relations
  • Start (re-)organization and where necessary staffing
  • Structure and organize PR
  • Update Bylaws

Implementation[edit]

Since the meeting clearly agreed upon the strategic objectives and their priorities, but had as such no authority to implement them officially, all of these were at the end of the meeting “given into the hands of the board”, and I can tell you the people present are as anxious as you to see stuff starting to be implemented one by one.

Conclusion[edit]

Anxious for the further implementation of the hard work we did together, as well as for the follow-up so many hope will take place, I am confident that the first step of solidifying the “giant's feet of clay” into some more sustainable substance was in fact taken properly. Yet it is a first step and many more must follow on the same path, which will step by step involve many more people than the 21 at Frankfurt last weekend. Our main goals remain unchallenged, although the exact wording may vary slightly, so we need your help as well throughout the next stages of reorganization and expansion.

May I challenge you to envision boldly what we can accomplish together, just as we were asked to do at the offset of the retreat? Can you imagine, within 12 months: “30 Chapters founded” - “500 Servers operational” - “An office per continent” - “100,000 Articles reached in 10 European-language projects” - “Wikimedia becoming the new standard for knowledge” - etcetera etcetera etcetera... Can you imagine...[[edit]]...?

Let's make it happen. oscar 23:29, 25 October 2006 (UTC)


References[edit]