This is a model of the future organisational structure of the Wikimedia movement. It replaces the existing structure of WMF and Affiliates with a structure consisting of a “Basic Support System” providing core functions like technical infrastructure and global fundraising, and of regional and thematic Hubs responsible supporting individual volunteers as well as “Teams” which are formal or informal groups conducting impact-focused work e.g. supporting volunteers, conducting partnerships, legal support, fundraising on a local level and developing communities.
This model also creates mechanisms for support, coordination and conflict resolution. We propose the creation of a Movement Charter which embodies basic values and principles for exercising power and authority within the Wikimedia Movement. A Global Council will exist to provide coordination between the Hubs and the Basic Support System, support the continued development of global strategy, and where necessary make decisions that are binding on all organised parts of the movement. We propose the creation of a new facilitation and conflict resolution function within the movement as a key part of supporting decentralised working, with every Team supported by coaches dedicated to supporting them and an Ombuds Council acting at a global level to resolve conflicts where they arise.
Our existing system lacks clear responsibility for global decision making, capacity building and conflict resolution and the resource allocation suffers from bureaucracy that stifles innovation and collaboration (as we could even witness in the context of this strategy process), all of which have been identified as primary pain points of the current governance model.  Greater clarity of roles and authority will result in a flatter organization. The proposed system is a hybrid of two distributed organisational models - Open Organisation   and self-managing Teal organisations such as Buurtzorg.  Because neither model on its own worked on the level of a global organization, this scenario drew from the best parts of each. The Open Organization model centers on the concept of a guiding Charter that defines a mandate and the overarching processes and rules that govern activity at every level of the organization. The Buurtzorg model provided the main philosophy of self-directed, self organizing teams who are small, flexible and empowered to make their own decisions and are supported to do their work through an infrastructure of Coaches and administrative “Back Offices”. Back Offices would support local, regional or thematic work, as well as the work of Coaches who help teams to develop and achieve their goals. This scenario will allow us to “become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge”. Current trends and research on organisational development - e.g. Frederic Laloux's groundbreaking book "Reinventing organizations" - show that profit and non-profit organizations increasingly build on self-managed teams and a decentralisation of key functions because it allows them to become more agile in dealing with an ever faster changing environment. These organisational models (e.g. Teal organisations or Holacracy) promote purpose orientation and self-responsibility, based on transparent rules, flexible roles, sophisticated decision-making and conflict transformation processes.. As Wikimedia projects operate on similar principles, we believe this is a way to build on existing strengths, while being aware of current shortcomings that need to be overcome.
The Charter lays out the fundamental purpose of the Wikimedia movement and the values and principles for exercising power within it.
Movement organisations (including Teams, Hubs, the Basic Support System, the Global Council) will be required to further agree a governance framework based on the Charter setting out the structure of the Movement (based on these recommendations), and expectations about equity and diversity in decision-making bodies, rules around resource allocation etc.
A separate document, the Movement Governance Document, will set out the principles of organisation of the “organised part” of the movement, in line with this recommendation. This will have a similar status to the Movement Charter but will only be binding on the “organised part” of the movement, and will contain additional details about structures and processes.
Rationale for the Movement Charter
Volunteers will continue to be fundamental to the Wikimedia movement. As presently, volunteers will work either independently or as (formal or informal) groups, to produce, improve and deliver content.
Volunteers can receive support (including for instance access to grants, resources, events or training) from Teams, or from Hubs.
A group of volunteers who wish to co-ordinate to perform a specific task may form a Team.
Teams are groups of people who organize to support the mission of the Wikimedia Movement, and access movement resources and support to do so. For instance, groups or organisations conducting partnership or outreach activities or supporting volunteers.
“Teams” are a very broad concept that may include everything from formally incorporated organisations with a broad range of activities and a number of staff, to informal groups set up for the purpose of a specific project. Teams can be geographic, non-geographic, thematic or language-based. We recognise that informal groups of volunteers will continue to organise without wishing to become a Team, though our aim is that Teams are both very easy to create and receive meaningful support and so becoming a Team will be an attractive option.
Different parts of the Movement work in very different legal, political and social environments and the number and nature of Teams is likely to differ between those environments. As we want to avoid differences of status or hierarchy between these environments, we recommend that there no formal distinctions between different kinds of Teams, however the way they receive support might differ according to their organisational readiness (how or how much funds they receive directly vs via a fiscal sponsor, what type of fundraising they do etc).
Teams may be self-initiated or may be proactively initiated by Hubs.
Teams are recognised and supported by a Hub and work with one or more Coaches who provide facilitation, conflict resolution, advice, contacts for peer-to-peer learning and where necessary challenge Teams to focus on their vision. Should it become necessary to wind up a Team, the responsibility to do so lies with the Hub it is linked to.
Each Team has a Team Charter, which must be in line with the Movement Charter. The length and level of detail within the Team Charter will vary - a small, informal Team might have a simple statement of purpose.
Teams are accountable to their Hubs and to the communities they work with. Formally incorporated Teams will be expected to have equitable governing bodies composed of a diverse mixture of members of those communities and outside experts (see our Recommendations).
Teams are expected to coordinate with, and work in partnership with, other movement entities with overlapping scope. Where conflicts arise then Coaches will provide facilitation and create space for dialogue.
Teams have access to movement funds, through their Hub. Hubs may provide a range of kinds of financial support including in-kind support and fiscal sponsorship, through to project funds, through to core funding (In some cases Teams may receive financial support/fiscal sponsorship from other Teams, but they would need to do this with support of their Hubs ).
Teams are also empowered to raise funds themselves, so long as they do so in consultation with other movement entities that might approach the same funding sources (e.g other Teams, the Basic Support System, Hubs…) (We do not envisage that most Teams will choose to).
Hubs may also provide non-financial support including expertise, tech and legal support, and organisation development/capacity building.
Rationale for Teams
Teams provide a flexible structure for supporting programmatic work. They can be an easy entry point to the “organised part” of the movement, but the concept also includes staffed, permanent bodies like current Chapters.
Presently, User Groups feel it that recognition by AffCom can be slow, and there is little support available after recognition. Recognition and support of Teams by Hubs will resolve these problems.
The presence of Coaches and the Ombuds Council also offers a better method for conflict resolution (and probably even avoiding conflicts in first place) than the present arrangements.
The role of the coach is to help movement entities to develop and thrive by providing facilitation, conflict resolution, challenge and capability development.
We envisage that movement entities will be highly self-organising and have a high level of responsibility. However, this level of responsibility can be a significant challenge, particularly at points where a team is just starting out, or when one encounters conflicts or external challenges. Giving more responsibility to people and teams therefore needs to come with the empowerment to make use of these new possibilities.The role of coaches is to create spaces for conversations and peer-to-peer learning, and to act as a trusted partner to identify potential problems and resolve conflicts at an early stage.
As Coaches are a new concept for the Wikimedia movement, it is also important to state what they will not do. They are not managers - they will help teams to make decisions rather than making decisions for them .Hence, they are not accountable for the success or failure of the Teams they work with, or the projects of those Teams. They are not expected to be experts in partnerships, outreach, or any other functional area and their role is not to provide skills in those areas. However, they can help to identify the needs for such experts and provide advice on how to get it (from other Teams, the Hubs, the BSS etc).
Coaches are independent and work across teams to ensure consistency and best practices. Coaches can come from teams or the community, but are hired on the basis of skill. Their skills should include experience in conflict resolution, organizational development, self-management practices, as well as strong communication skills.
The requirements for coaching’s skills may be adaptable depending on the context. Coaches may work alone or in teams, depending on the respective case and its requirements.
Coaches provide feedback at all levels of the system. They are the “seismographs” of the Movement in that they detect and track changes in the branches of the Movement. They act not only in a reactive mode but can also work proactively to identify potential conflicts and encourage their resolution.
Coaches act to enable open communication channel between the Team and their Hub. They gather needs and suggestions from Teams on an ongoing basis, and act as advocates for Teams’ needs and suggestions, to the Hubs.
Coaches provide conflict-resolution support if Teams are unable to resolve conflict on their own.
When Coaches and Teams are unable to resolve a conflict, it is escalated to the Hub.
Coaches uphold and reinforce the Movement Charter at the Team level, as needed.
Coaches are employed and supported by Hubs, though it is important that the role of Coach does not become blurred with the other staff roles in the Hubs. We expect that there will be some kind of common training and support structure for Wikimedia Coaches.
Rationale for Coaches
One of the reasons for the divide we often feel between chapters and user groups and the resulting frictions and conflicts is that it often feels as if chapters get way more support and that most processes are tailored to their needs, which in many ways is true.
Affiliates who “made it” to annual plan grants have access to much more facilitation and support - particularly since the WMF grant making department made the process more of a dialogue and began focussing on developing the organisations to which they provided resources. Many of the current FDC and Simple APG organisations are success stories of this approach. But even here the process suffered from the distance between grant maker and grantee (e.g. understanding the various local contexts), was heavily dependent on the person who was the grant officer and how they thought they should fill their role, as well as a lack of staff resources to meet the full scope of the needs. All other affiliates did not nearly get the same level of support or attention. But financial growth or a certain level of formal organisational set-up should not be the requirement for support, in fact it might encourage a development that is neither healthy nor needed for some groups.
With coaches as standard services of the hubs, there would be support for every group in the movement, from people who speak their first or at least second language, who are familiar with their context, who have the skills that are needed and who are designated to provide professional levels of support .
The advantage of independent coaches as opposed to hiring managers with comparable skills is that they can be assigned from a pool of coaches on a case by case basis to ensure the relevant skills to handle a situation or challenge are available. It fosters the development and empowerment of all parts of the Team and thereby leads to a greater level of acceptance of decisions which will be done by the people in the groups and not for them. On the other hand the coaches themselves are more free in their actions and the way they can address potential issues when they are not bound by hierarchies, loyalties, biases or economical dependencies within the organisation. Many conflicts between volunteer boards and Executive Directors (who used to have a notoriously short life span on our movement) or other management staff nowadays are a result of these structures and can hopefully be avoided in future.
Hubs are regional, thematic or linguistic organisations that exist to enable and support Teams and Volunteers, and to identify and advocate for the needs of the communities they serve.
The priorities and nature of Hubs will depend on their area of focus, and different Hubs may vary widely. At a minimum, a Hub is expected to have several staff members focused on supporting impact (e.g. partnerships, advocacy, tech) in whatever area of expertise is most relevant, and staff resources to develop capacity in Teams and volunteers. Hubs are also expected to have financial systems to receive significant funds (including funds to pass on to the Teams and volunteers they work with) and legal expertise (in-house or retained) relevant to their area of focus. All Hubs are empowered to conduct fundraising activity and we expect most to do so. The work of hubs can also include tech support and/or development.
Hubs should be initiated by communities but authorised by the Global Council. Each Hub is expected to be a formally incorporated body, with a board drawn from and reflecting the diversity of the communities it works with to ensure equity among the various stakeholders (see our Recommendations). Each Hub has a Hub Charter describing how its activities will advance the Movement Charter.
Hubs are accountable to the communities and Teams they work with, to other Hubs, and to the Global Council. In particular, Hubs must maintain an appropriate level of language and cultural plurality for their region/thematic focus in order to better support their coaches and teams and must maintain total transparency of finances to the Global Council for evaluation and possible redistribution.
The Hub provides tiered levels of support according to maturity and specific needs of Teams and Volunteers. This includes allocating financial resources.
Hubs are one channel of communication between Teams and Volunteers, and the Global Council. In particular, Hubs are responsible for collecting inputs on product and technology and communicating them to the GC. Hubs are also responsible for ensuring learnings from their work and the Teams they work with are documented and shared.
Hubs are located as close as possible to the Teams and Volunteers they support.
The Hub is the Coach’s home base, and is staffed according to the specific skills needed.
The Hub provides Coaches with day-to-day administrative and interpersonal support.
Hubs are responsible for ensuring Coaches have regional intelligence and appropriate training.
Rationale for Hubs
Hubs fill the gap of a currently “missing layer” in the Movement. Presently, groups of all kinds from large charities to 5-person informal groups affiliate directly to the WMF. The WMF attempts to act as a grantmaking body to all those groups, but has historically had a mixed record of trying to establish new groups, reach out to new communities and set up partnerships.
The Hubs model will ensure that significant areas of the Movement’s work will be led by entities which are geographically, linguistically and culturally closer to the communities and readers we seek to reach, or donors we try to win. We also expect fewer bottlenecks, more flexibility and more options to serve communities which are hard or impossible to support by a US charity (e.g. in countries such as Russia or Iran). In areas which remain the responsibility of the Basic Support System, Hubs will provide a valuable channel for insight, intelligence and evidence which is currently difficult and expensive to obtain.
Hubs are in part inspired by the success of existing regional-level collaborations e.g. Iberocoop, CEE, ESEAP, WikiIndaba, which prove in practice to have enough scale to provide meaningful support to volunteers and organisations while also being local enough to respond to community needs.
Hubs also offer better equitable representation in decision-making, as Hub staff and boards will be significantly more diverse than existing WMF structures. Regional hubs inherently correct the pro-Global North bias that currently exists.
We have considered whether Hubs are best placed as independent legal entities or as ‘departments’ or ‘regional offices’ of a larger entity (perhaps the WMF). We recommend that they are independent legal entities, as if they are all parts of the same entity, that will naturally tend to re-introduce the power dynamic that we are trying to avoid.
We have also considered whether Hubs represent an unnecessary new level of bureaucracy. We strongly feel that while Hubs are new organisations, they are in fact important to making the movement feel less bureaucratic and act in a less bureaucratic way, as (compared to existing structures) they will be small, nimble organisations closer to the communities they serve.
The Basic Support System (BSS) is responsible for functions that cannot be decentralised without causing significant risks or inefficiencies. In particular, the BSS will hold the Wikimedia trademarks, be responsible for technical infrastructure (including, but not limited to, running the servers). It plays a leading role in fundraising and product/technology development, using relationships with Hubs to gain additional insight into the needs of the communities the Movement serves. The BSS may also hold any partnerships of a genuinely global nature, though it would be preferred for partnerships to sit with Hubs where possible.
The BSS works collaboratively with Hubs. It creates trademark agreements with the Hubs to enable them to recognise new Teams and can provide legal support if necessary (though Hubs are expected to have legal expertise in their own jurisdictions). The BSS will administer significant funds of Hubs (and thus Teams) but these funds are allocated by a framework determined by the Global Council rather than through the BSS’s grantmaking process. The decision on how resources are best spent is up to the local entities.
The BSS provides staff support for the Global Council and Ombuds Council.
The BSS is a formally incorporated nonprofit with BSS activities are subject to the rules and processes set out in the Movement Charter.
The BSS has a Charter describing how its activities will advance the Movement Charter.
The BSS operates according to the rules and processes set out in the BSS Charter.
Rationale for BSS
Some functions cannot practically be decentralised, and these should remain with one central body.
This body will naturally be influential within the movement, because of the immense importance of these functions. But it cannot be too influential, otherwise it will crowd out initiatives by others, and will start to be a conventional non-profit rather than a truly global movement.
The BSS will naturally have important relationships with the Hubs and with the Global Council. The intention of the model is not to ‘control’ the BSS but rather to embody in structures the kind of partnership working that the WMF already often employs as a best practice. The Hubs and Global Council will be in a position to supply regional intelligence and insight to help the Basic Support System achieve the maximum possible impact, helping identify the needs of the communities and audiences they work with. The Global Council also supplies a legitimacy to the BSS that helps it gain firmer commitment from project communities.
The Global Council (GC) is a global governance and strategy body for the Wikimedia movement. The Basic Support System and Hubs are accountable to the Global Council and, where necessary, are bound by its decisions.
The Global Council has no executive functions - its decisions are implemented by the BSS and the Hubs. Staff to support the Global Council and enable it to function are employed by the BSS.
The Global Council (GC) is responsible for setting and maintaining the Strategy for the Movement and making strategic decisions, with community consultation wherever possible/viable. Largely, Hubs are empowered to make as many decisions as they can, so the GC mainly plays a role in areas where coordination is required between Hubs. In particular, the GC is responsible for setting frameworks on resources allocation, revenues etc.
The GC’s members get selected and elected from all levels (Community, Teams, Volunteers, Coaches, Hubs, and BSS). The size of the GC is large enough to accommodate the diversity of, and within, all these entities - we expect around 90-100 people. The method of election/selection needs to be designed to ensure that all voices are included, because the Global Council will only work effectively to embed equity in decision-making if power on it is shared.
Much of the work of the GC will be done by functional sub-committees to focus and advise on topics such as Legal, Finance, Governance, Technology etc. These committees may be permanent or temporary.
The Movement Governance Document defines the scope and activities of the GC and the length of time someone can serve on the GC.
The GC is responsible for making changes to the Movement Charter and Movement Governance Document if any are required.
The GC is responsible for global partnerships.
The GC is comprised of volunteers and experts.
The GC’s members get “sitting allowance”, to enable people to participate equally regardless of their background and financial resources.
The GC can engage expert consultants as needed.
Rationale for Global Council
At present there is no body empowered to make ‘movement wide’ decisions. The WMF Board in some ways has this responsibility by default, but formally it oversees only the WMF as an organisation and our evidence suggests the WMF Board lack capacity to deal with all the issues and assume this responsibility reluctantly or not at all. As a result, every “movement wide” problem has to be addressed from scratch and often lacks legitimacy.
The need for a global body is highlighted by the fact that the Wikimedia Summit has gradually been growing into a similar kind of role (albeit without any representation from project communities). Other “movement-wide” conversations happen informally in at conferences and through loose coordinating groups like the EDs Group and Chairs Group.
It is important to stress that the existence of the Global Council does not mean every issue becomes the Global Council’s problem. Hubs and the Basic Support System are empowered to resolve issues by themselves or between themselves, with the help of coaches and the Ombuds Council as necessary. Issues should only be referred to the Global Council where a genuinely global agreement is necessary, or where dialogue between entities has irreperably failed.
A likely criticism of the Global Council is that it might be unneccessarily large and possibly expensive. However, we believe that one formal Global Council will in fact be simpler and smaller than the arrangements that currently exist without it. The Global Council would replace a significant number of Wikimedia Foundation committees (for instance: the Funds Dissemination Committee, Affiliations Committee, Simple APG Committee and Elections Committee total about 40 volunteer members with significant staff support) as well as being smaller than the existing Wikimedia Summit (~100-150 participants). It would also provide the structure for any future development of Movement Strategy, making future strategy development significantly easier.
The Global Council would also have the benefit of bringing together people who work across all the strands of the movement (including, for example: contributing to the projects, technology, product, capacity-building, partnerships, advocacy, fundraising) to create a genuinely shared strategy, helping break down our existing silos.
The Ombuds Council (OC) is a global body for dispute resolution. It is responsible for upholding the Movement Charter by any level of movement organisation. Where required, it is responsible for resolving conflicts between Hubs or between Hubs and the BSS, or other significant conflicts within the movement. It will approach this more by encouraging dialogue and finding common ground, than by imposing outcomes.
We anticipate a small body (~11 people) - as with all bodies we expect a mixture of elected and appointed members from a wide range of backgrounds, but given the nature of this body there will be a particular focus on skills and behaviours, and significant training will be available to onboard new members.
The Movement Governance Document defines the scope and activities of the OC.
The BSS will provide staff support for the Ombuds Council.
Rationale for Ombuds Council
The Ombuds Council exists to provide high-level dispute resolution. While we anticipate that Coaches will play an important role in identifying and resolving tensions within the movement, it’s necessary to have a point of escalation in cases where this does not work, or where large-scale movement entities (e.g. Hubs or the BSS) are engaged in conflict. Such problems could be resolved by a vote of the Global Council (which would be binding on all parties). However, we would prefer to establish a body empowered to de-escalate such conflicts and resolve them through dialogue, rather than risk the Global Council taking on a ‘political’ character.