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Modeling our future: the Roles and Responsibilities Working Group meets in Utrecht

The working group in Utrecht

Continuing the momentum of bringing diverse, distinguished voices from around the world together on Movement Strategy, the Roles and Responsibilities Working Group met in Utrecht, the Netherlands from 5 to 7 July, 2019, kindly supported by Wikimedia Nederland. The meeting was an opportunity for the group to consolidate and enhance their efforts from the past 11 months in drafting recommendations that will collaboratively shape the future of our Movement, as the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. It also represented a first for Movement Strategy, combining fully integrated in-person and remote participation. The packed 3-day schedule included a guest speaker from an acclaimed organization and external expertise on organizational development and change management. In line with enrichment, insight from communities and affiliates was also included in the discussions.

Reaching for equity in participation

Remote participants, designated facilitator, and the in-person group

A thematic area as cross-cutting as roles and responsibilities requires a diverse range of perspectives, and it was important for the Working Group to have participation from as many members as possible. When travel arrangements did not manifest for two members, a hybrid virtual participation format was implemented so they could actively take part from Purulia and Singapore. This pilot effort from the Movement Strategy Core Team was appreciated by the group in an attempt to leave no one behind.

"Honestly speaking, I didn't expect much when it was decided to arrange remote participation. But, the active and helpful coordination by the facilitators and core team to update the remote participants about almost everything happening in the event and engaging remote participants in major exercise and decision-making processes was surprisingly effective."

- Bodhisattwa Mandal,
West Bengal Wikimedians User Group

"Remote participation gave me flexibility in participating and to use technology more, like drawing the organizational structures on my computer and feeding it live during the discussion phase of the event, and the usage of cloud storage to view & edit the work products in real time. This creative strategy within the movement strategy process surprised me."

- Butch Bustria,
East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional Cooperation (ESEAP)

A model approach

Inspiration can sometimes be found in unexpected places! On day one, the Working Group benefited from a presentation by Buurtzorg, a Dutch home-care organization. While outside the box when it comes to the Wikimedia Movement, Buurtzorg is globally renowned for its self-management approaches and small teams in distributed leadership, has been featured in Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations, and was proactively sought out by the group. This valued input, further enriched by external expertise on organizational development and change management, inspired the members to contemplate the short-, medium- and long-term changes their recommendations could bing and to develop models for the Movement’s future.

These models, whose names - ‘Elgafar,’ ‘Quotiel,’ and ‘Situla’ - have taken various incarnations to be non-hierarchical, represent various ways to look at core commonalities originating from the group’s discussions. These commonalities comprise: distribution of power and responsibilities; decision-making; management; principles; accountability; governance; and, foci of authority; as well as the required staffing, leadership, capacity, diversity and inclusivity.  

To make them more tangible, the Working Group also assessed their models on the basis of the following key criteria, namely whether they:

  • encourage evaluation, reflection and learning;
  • encourage sharing and connection;
  • allow for strengths and interests to be leveraged;
  • allow for different types of affiliates and partners;
  • welcome and support new and future voices;
  • allow for flexibility and adaptation to internal and external change;
  • have checks and balances;
  • enable conflict resolution; and
  • are equitable and inclusive.

The last two points in particular have been ubiquitous to Strategy discussions and Wikimedia debates as of late.

The group adopted another uncommon methodology in decision-making principles, set out in Steven Johnson’s Farsighted, it entails doing a pre-mortem on the models, asking selected individuals with organizational expertise to imagine a given model has failed, and to work backwards to autopsy the circumstances.

Frameworks and models in practice

Holistic ways to envision 2030

A supportive organization on the ground (Wikimedia NL), a well-planned and executed schedule, strong facilitation, external guests, and remote participation for members that could not join contributed to participants progressing towards milestones that may have seemed overwhelming and perhaps unattainable not too long prior.

“For 3 days we worked side by side to design the Wikimedia Movement of the future in order to become not only the essential infrastructure of free knowledge in 2030, but a movement where all voices and communities that have been historically left out, feel welcome, included, empowered and represented. [...] The great result  has been that our sense of responsibility with this process and our commitment with our work have increased and strengthened even more.”

- Anna Torres Adell, Wikimedia Argentina

Insight from Strategy conversations over the past few months with diverse stakeholders from across the Movement, namely community conversations and input from affiliates, was vital to the discussions. Insight included topics and programmatic examples relating to autonomy, inclusivity, organizational structure, trust, leadership, management, and distribution of funds.

Via their holistic and rather noteworthy models and ongoing discussions, the Roles and Responsibilities Working Group will continue to deliberate and develop their draft recommendations in the lead up to Wikimania. This work will advance thereafter, and the group will begin to socialize their ideas with stakeholders, harmonize with other Working Groups, and further engage with communities and affiliates.

Look for them at Wikimania. And in the meantime, participate in the community survey, and let us know what the future of our Movement looks like to you.