Wikimedia movement organisations will be governed by inclusive, diverse, and accountable boards
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
Wikimedia movement organisations will be governed by inclusive, diverse, and accountable boards. They will actively review and reflect on their own performance and composition, and take steps to ensure their membership includes people from a range of backgrounds and experiences reflecting the diversity of the communities and partners they seek to serve as well as the skills required, and to dedicate time and effort to the onboarding, training and development of Board members.
We recognise that movement organisations will have a wide range of contexts and levels of maturity, and the method of achieving this recommendation will vary between different entities. However, in most cases we expect that movement organisations will have some Board members elected by their membership and/or the Wikimedia projects together with appointing a number of members to broaden their reach.
We expect this principle to be embodied in our Movement Charter or whatever fundamental documents we create.
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
- To build a really equitably movement, we need not only to generate instances of participation for those who have been historically left out, but to ensure that decision-making represent our diversity and include the voices and perspectives of those who, for example, are not yet actively involved within the movement.
- The current boards also do not represent the diversity of profiles and perspectives that make up a Wikimedia community today. Representatives of other communities outside the Wikimedia movement with whom we already work or will work in the future need to include in decision making process in order to become the essential infrastructure for free knowledge.
- Ensuring the participation of those who have been historically excluded is not enough. We need to guarantee their presence and leadership in the decision-making spaces of the movement.
- Mixed Boards - selected and appointed - are not only necessary to ensure greater diversity and inclusion but also to strengthen the organisational development of the affiliates in a way that is appropriate to their needs, contexts and regardless of their level of development.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
This recommendation is driven by several mutually supporting rationales.
- Diversity in decision-making groups results, on the whole, in better decisions. Diverse teams are better able to challenge each other and more likely to consider a wider range of courses of action.This effect is commonly cited in management literature (as well as being reflected in Working Group members’ own experience). Therefore, an organisation whose Board is composed of similar people (e.g. all men, or all Wikimedians) is unlikely to reach its full potential.
- Wikimedia movement organisations operate in a complicated environment. They are required, both by the Wikimedia mission and strategic direction and also by regulatory requirements, to act in the furtherance of free knowledge. They are also expected to understand and work closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including (for example) with Wikimedia communities, partner institutions, and communities not currently represented within the Wikimedia movement. Drawing Board members from a broad range of places relevant to the specific context of an organisation will richen the organisation’s perspectives. As part of this overall commitment, it is also clearly important for organisations that work with or for Wikimedia project communities to be accountable to those communities and to draw on those communities for their governance.
- Achieving the Strategic Direction’s goal of knowledge equity also requires active efforts to broaden our reach as a movement. Organisations with Boards composed for instance only of men, or of white people, are unlikely to understand the needs and thinking or effectively engage with the communities we do not presently reach. Representatives of other communities outside the Wikimedia movement with whom we already work or will work in the future need to include in decision making process in order to become the essential infrastructure for free knowledge. Ensuring the participation of those who have been historically excluded is not enough. We need to guarantee their presence and leadership in the decision-making spaces of the movement.
- Similar principles to those in this recommendation have also been adopted by a number of current movement institutions, including the Wikimedia Foundation and several chapters, and those organisations have found it useful.
Further, Wikimedia organisations will continue to work in a wide range of contexts and exist at a range of levels of size and maturity. For this reason we have avoided setting out too much detail - for instance, we have consciously avoided trying to set quotas. We envisage that there would be a set of common standards (embodied in the movement charter) which are expected of large and well-established organisations, while these standards would represent an aspiration for smaller and newer organisations.
We expect that governance-related committees or subgroups of movement organisations would also approach this in a similar way to movement Boards. For instance a committee making decisions about e.g. funds dissemination or affiliate recognition should have regard to the same principles.
Given the importance of elections in this recommendation, we further recommend that movement organisations use a method of election that is structured to make the representation of a range of views and perspectives more likely. For instance, we suggest preference voting systems electing several candidates at time, eg. Single Transferable Vote, Condorcet or Schulze methods rather than First Past the Post or Approval Voting. Another method which organisations should consider is setting thresholds, where appropriate, to ensure the results of elections reflect particular characteristics (e.g. a movement organisation might decide that in an election where 7 persons are to be elected, at least 3 must be women)
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
The direct impact would be that all movement organisations who do not already act in this way would be required to do so, or at least develop a plan towards doing so.
This is going to impact the following way:
- Governance structures with more appropriate expertise in line with the Strategic Direction. Governance structures that promote and strengthen the development of organisations at local, regional or global level, with the aim of being the essential infrastructure of all knowledge by 2030.
- Governance structures with diverse profiles representing the entire ecosystem of the free knowledge they represent.
- Governance structures that respond to the community they represent, their diversity, their needs and in their context.
- Governance structures that represent the global diversity of the movement and that ensure the equitable participation in decision-making of all communities, especially those that have historically been excluded.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Any formally organised part of the Wikimedia movement.
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
Different elements of this recommendation carry different risks:
- Elections for community/membership elected Board members might become highly ‘political’ and dominated by issues connected to on-wiki or real-world politics
- Alternatively, such elections might see high levels of disengagement and low participation
- Appointed seats could be filled with “yes-men” unwilling to challenge the dominant faction within a Board and possibly complicit in misguided or illegal decision-making
- By giving movement organisations a high level of autonomy in how to implement this recommendation, there is a risk that is is implemented ‘in name only’ without any real commitment , and therefore it does not achieve any effect
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
We believe this recommendation is designed to mitigate these risks inherently, by balancing two methods of Board selection.
We also expect that movement entities would continue to be accountable in some forms to other movement entities, which would (as presently) provide additional mechanism to identify and resolve problems with the governance of movement bodies.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
This Recommendation takes good practices used by some movement organisations and asks all movement organisations to follow them.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
This recommendation relates to all of our recommendations but has no dependencies, it could be implemented in its own right.
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
This recommendation relates in particular to the Diversity and Capacity Building WGs
Q 9 Who needs to make a decision on this Recommendation?
This Recommendation needs to be decided by the WMF and also by a significant majority of (preferably, all) incorporated movement entities
Q 11 What type of Recommendation is it?
2. Complicated – further work is needed to plan in detail how this recommendation will be decided and implemented. A project management or logical framework approach will probably be useful. Scenario planning could be useful.
Q 12 How will this Recommendation be implemented?
Movement organisations will need to embrace this recommendation and go down the path of altering their own Board processes and possibly their governing documents. Where an organisation entirely refuses to engage with this recommendation,
Q 15a What is the timeframe of this Recommendation in terms of when it should be implemented?
We believe many movement organisations can and should substantially implement this recommendation within a year, though in practice some may take longer.