Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Recommendations/Sprint/Community Health/2
Redefining power structures to better serve the communities
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
Building on best practices developed by project communities previously, the working group recommends to reform power structures in order to break up old structures and limit the amalgamation of power in one person. To that end, it has modeled three pathways communities, one of which or combinations thereof to be adopted on a project level. All functionaries, defined as useright roles with access to non-public information (see Recommendation: “Privacy and security for everyone”):
- Separation of powers: To protect volunteers better from burnout (see Recommendation: “Investing in building an inclusive global community”), and to limit the risk to privacy and strengthen community-internal checks and balances in self-governance, the working group recommends that no volunteer user holds more than two of the following roles in a given Wikimedia language community at the same time:
- Administrator and
- Arbitration Committee member / comparable institutions or
- Checkuser or
- Oversight or
- Other roles that might be deemed necessary to spread out responsibilities within a community
- This separation of powers also applies to the international movement - there needs to be a limit to the number of roles one individual can hold at the same time.
- Elections: For all onwiki volunteer roles with access to non-public information, elections and re-elections have to be conducted through a safe, non-public selection mechanism (see Recommendation: “Investing in equity-centric technologies”). The majority requirements detailed in the global policies for oversight and checkuser roles set by the Foundation do apply.
- Terms: For all onwiki volunteer roles with access to non-public information, re-elections are due after the first access to a user right was obtained: no less than two years after the initial access has been granted in the user rights log and no less than within five years. The choice with the range a community makes has to be documented on the relevant policy page on Meta prior to taking effect locally.
- Term limits: Where projects have a sufficient pool of active functionaries, it should be considered that a user cannot run for successive re-election more than twice. It is intuitively plausible to rely on people who have done a fine job with difficult issues previously. However, while plausible in individual cases, structurally such a combination risks burnout for the people carrying these burdens as well as limiting the skills and experiences needed to serve communities well to too small a group - in turn re-enforcing the reliance on sitting functionaries in an unhelpful circle. To address the issue, term limits for communities of sufficient size are recommended.
- Similar term limits apply to affiliates, but need to be determined by the governing bodies in conjunction with the local context and expectations, depending on the maturity of an organisation
- Establish new structures which allow equitable distribution of power in all structural levels of communities and invest in developing trust in these structures within the communities.
- We also need to support communities in responsible and inclusive self governance, so they can grow and adapt to meet the future challenges posed by the Strategy 2030
- Facilitate and support community leadership via capacity building and support for (potential) leaders, introduce mandatory training for certain community roles.
- Ensure good representation of all groups involved in the community in the governance structures
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
Knowledge equity can only be achieved if our movement imposes equity in decision making within our communities. Current bureaucratic structures and decision making processes do not counteract established inequality in informal community power relations (eg. veteran editors vs newbies, dominant groups vs marginalised groups, global governing body vs affiliate). Nor do they encourage active participation in decision making and governance by a wider section of the community. This jeopardizes community health in many aspects, affecting a range of people from volunteers to paid staff. By having a system that promotes balanced distribution of power within communities, we can achieve knowledge equity.
In order to overcome the sometimes biased informal structures which are formed in our community, we need to have a set of criteria for functionary roles which emphasise social qualities and qualifications for a specific role which positively impact the community and good intention in contributing towards projects.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
The CHWG survey of volunteers found that volunteers often hold themselves back from expressing their opinions or vote to avoid repercussions. This recommendation will help break the barriers to participate in the selection of functionaries by establishing a non-public voting process (see “|Privacy and security for everyone”). Moreover, volunteers will also have a better opportunity to get into the leadership pool with no heavy emphasis on personal contribution or stereotypical leadership aspects but instead considering other values that help improve the community in various aspects. Many CHWG survey respondents described the emphasis on the number of edits as an obstacle to developing new leadership and improving community health. Marginalised communities should have better access to power positions. Marginalized communities expressed the need for them to have better access to power positions during the April Community Conversations.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
The power relationships in our current communities or projects create a hierarchy which discourages people to participate.
- It should be a requirement for functionaries to go through training especially related to their social skills, before commencing their roles. In that case, functionaries can work better in managing social aspects within communities, instead of solely focussing on content.
- more and more diverse group of people take on a role in community leadership and decision making by ensuring decision making and election processes are designed fairer
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
WMF, project communities, affiliates, individual editors.
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
- Individuals might see the new recommendation limiting their contribution; eg. functionaries are not allowed to hold more than 3 roles at the same time.
- Too complex or bureaucratic structures could overwhelm the people involved in these structures and make the goals unachievable
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
Proper explanation that the upcoming recommendation is mainly considering individual health (prevent burn out) and creating opportunities for other members to learn and dive into new roles.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
Redefining power structures will stop current dominant and abuse of authority while introducing new potential community members into functionary positions. CHWG survey respondents expressed frustration with the existing power structure for these very reasons.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
Yes, it is closely related with 3- Leadership.
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
It is related with Roles & Responsibilities and Diversity Working Group.
- Arbitration Committees and comparable institutions that sign NDAs as part of their selection process can add additional rights from the list above to their sitting members as part of exercising committee responsibilities. If a community goes down this route, it has to be documented on the relevant policy page on Meta prior to taking effect.