Recommendation C (participation): Recognize privileges / Design for equity
Certain members of the movement have had particular privileges and everything, including resource allocation decisions, has been built with them in mind. Now, it’s time to acknowledge this and start shifting.
While we are advocating equitable participation in our movement, we need to be aware of key barriers some people and communities are experiencing. People don’t have the same opportunities for participation within the structures of decision making. Our structures have been built by communities with access and privilege that the people we look to serve do not all have. This has made it difficult or impossible for communities with less access or privilege to join our movement and participate in the structures of decision making. In order to increase diversity of the people who make decisions and to ensure equitable allocation of resources, we need to design for diversity. This means allocating resources to ensure that the people making decisions reflect the equity we want to achieve through our resource allocation framework.
At the same time, even though we recommend a participatory resource allocation system, we acknowledge that many things can go wrong in attempting to design such a system. Implementers must be mindful of this to avoid the following: amplification of elitism, gatekeeping, corruption, lack of inclusivity.
Our current system of engaging volunteers in resource allocation decisions only creates room for those who:
- Are already in the privileged system to continue to participate;
- Are currently able to live in a context where they can use the privilege of information, language, skill sets, accessibility, etc. to participate;
- Have the time, luxury or enabling circumstances (money, job security, time, etc.) that allows them to easily take up such roles or participate in such opportunities.
In order to make resource allocation more equitable for everyone (current and new) we need to take into account those with existing privileges and plan to equitably distribute those privileges to those who lack. We need to pay or otherwise compensate people to participate (to avoid making it a luxury or an option for only those who can) so that their existence is not threatened (their ability to meet their basic and social needs) by working on what others can afford to do as volunteers. We also need to remove the barriers of participation to ensure equity in decision making. It is important to ensure accessibility of information to existing opportunities (documentations, sites, etc.) and including language diversity in the decision making bodies.
Some privileges are not possible to transfer. In those cases we need to focus on raising awareness of this for the people with privilege.
The solutions we are exploring (tentative recommendations) are:
- Payment for ‘necessary services’ to ensure equity in who is able to spend their time being a Wikimedian. We’re thinking about Boards, and other 'functionary' roles (Fund committees, etc.) that require special privilege access to data/tools, and have a 'term' for their role in which they are considered to be on duty (e.g. 2 years), and for which they are personally responsible.
- To pick up on a specific point of ‘paid editing’ - we are focused on equalizing priviledges, and in some cases compensating for time in this way may be appropriate. This may be decided on a regional hubs level.
- We are wondering about the angle of allocating resources to increasing diversity on online Wikimedia projects.
- Making sure there is a system for knowledge exchange and learning (on and offline). This is to help new people so they don’t start from scratch. It also prevents single points of failure.
- We also need to look at solutions addressing language and accessibility.
- People with current privilege need to do work to make this recommendation a reality. Equity process will require more of people with privilege than just making room. There is a need for a lot of internal reflection and unlearning journey to open up the blind spots people with privilege have. We need to facilitate and resource this process.
- Current leadership positions and decision making bodies include people who can afford to make the time or have the luxury due to their privileges (time, money, access, job, etc.), hence systematically excludes others without these privileges.
- There is no current design for true equity in the way professionals are hired for these decision-making positions.
- There is no current design for true equity in the way volunteers are integrated into decision-making for resource allocation.
- There’s an assumption that volunteers want to be involved in distributing resources.
- This recommendation is also based on the assumption that better decisions will be achieved with more diversity.
From Community conversations:
- Arabic community: “Resource management is problematic in many regions.” “Many users misuse grant money in their home countries. Some take grant money and disappear without any accountability mechanisms or tracing from WMF.” “Giving resources to members in one country does usually affect in a bad way user in other neighbouring countries (examples: Strong and rich community in India Vs Pakistan, Chapter in Armenia Vs UG in Azerbaijan). The political American support is very visible in this.”
- Arabic community: “In many regions, all Wikimedians are volunteers. They have a time constraint and cannot allocate time to offline projects.”
- To ensure equity we need to plan for it. If you don't design ways to include people you wish to make decisions for, you only continue to maintain people with current privileges: the status quo prevails.
- Current decision making bodies are solely based on years of policies or framework (volunteerism) that does not work for the regions/communities we wish to include in decision making (because the lack the social security to volunteer their time), hence the need to strategise to meet their needs or ensure they are present (have all the necessary conditions to be present).
- Things can go wrong when we build for participation, and we need to be very mindful of that too.
- People who could not access those positions before will have access.
- Decisions will be reflective of the diversity we envisage, in perfect line with our vision and strategic direction.
- People with current privileges will make room for the people who have currently been left out by our structures and privileges. They will do their internal work to understand their privilege and unlearn blind spots.
- We want to affect the people who will be making decision making (positively)
- The professionals who decide on resource allocation.
- The volunteers who decide for resource allocation.
- Ultimately the recipient of resources because they will have people who understand them to decide on how resources are allocated.
- Risk of losing existing volunteers.
- People who are not in need may receive support.
- Backlash from the privileged who will see their privileges stripped.
- If not properly designed this could lead to issues such as tokenization.
- The dependency on a salary/stipend could stifle the new decision makers’ independence and corrupt their judgement.
- Existing volunteers should be briefed before effecting changes - and change training will be needed.
- The stipend to be provided should just be a compensation to ensure participants can have the privilege to freely participate and should be clearly explained to be a compensation for their time and effort (not necessarily a salary).
- The issue of independence can be mitigated by ensuring people who fill such roles sign an agreement that stipulates their roles and clearly defining that the stipend is not an inducement but support to insure their participation and commitment to the tasks.
- This recommendation encourages changes that can be effected within the current structures or in newly proposed structures.
- It focuses on policies for creating a criteria for an award or compensation which can be built on top of whatever exists or will exist in the near future.
- It connects with our recommendation on participatory decision making by ensuring a framework that will create the ease for participation or allow everybody to participate regardless of their personal circumstances.
- It connects to Regional Hubs as a potential vehicle to decide who will be provided with resources to participate, and to work on preventing participation pitfalls.
This recommendation addresses a participatory challenges of Q1 How can resource allocation support structures that empower different actors within the free knowledge movement long-term? How is power connected to resource allocation and how can we utilize resource allocation to create change?
It shows what needs to be taken into consideration so that the resource allocation structures are truly empowering and equitable.
- Roles and responsibilities:
- What are the structures of decision-making participation and decision-making accountabilities?
- Who currently makes the decisions on behalf of the movement?
- Are the current participants in decision making the people we expect to effect the equity we strive to achieve?
- Community Health - principles of inclusivity, things that could harm communities and volunteers
There is a variety of opinions on this recommendation within the working group; we will be working to resolve this for the final version.