Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Transition/Global Conversations/Report/January
On January 23 and 24, 2021 about two hundred Wikimedians convened to discuss the implementation of the Interim Global Council (IGC) based on the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy recommendations. Throughout the two 4-hour conversations, and a dozen breakout discussions, participants provided diverse perspectives on the topic. The discussion tackled how the IGC will be structured, how it will represent our movement, how its members will be selected, and within which timeframe would all of that happen.
After analyzing about 25,000 words of participants’ input, the Support Team put together the following summary of the discussions. Along with the summary, the Support Team is also presenting a convergence proposal with two possible design options for the way forward, which will be open for review and comments for further development.
Distributed governance has been discussed for a long time in the movement and has also been an integral topic in movement strategy conversations. It is a core tenet of the movement strategy, with wide support across different parts of the community. It has a high impact for the future of the movement and our potential to progress well in the strategic direction, as well as the implementation of the movement strategy initiatives.
In drafting the recommendations, communities identified having a representative Global Council as an urgent need in the movement. The Global Council would take on some decisions and powers that currently reside with, or default to, the Foundation Board of Trustees. The Council, its role, and function and responsibilities is to be established by the Movement Charter. Since the Movement Charter itself may take some time to write, the Interim Global Council was thought of as a temporary solution to get implementation rolling quickly, and as a mechanism to be responsible for defining and negotiating the new powers and to author the Charter. Establishing these structures is the key goal of the movement governance cluster of the implementation.
Based on the discussions and key takeaways, the Movement Strategy Support Team has surfaced options for the design of the Interim Global Council. These options are based both on convergence that developed in the Global Conversations (January 23rd-24th, 2021), or on the Team’s analysis and interpretation from more broad discussions.
|Aspect||General Assembly model||Focused Working Groups model|
Summary of the discussions
During the events the people convened in a total of 4 different discussion streams focusing on different aspects of setting up the Interim Global Council. These streams were structure, representation, selection and planning. This report presents a high level summary of the conversations during the global conversations on the following topics:
- How the Interim Global Council should handle its different tasks, including: 1. Creating the Movement Charter (MC), 2. Setting up the Global Council (GC), and 3. Overseeing the implementation of Movement Strategy.
- Considering the different groups that should receive “representation” on the Council, and how to ensure they are not left out.
- Defining how the Council members will be selected, with possibilities that include: elections, appointment process or a mixed model.
- Rough planning, time frame and sequence of tasks for the Interim Global Council.
- General agreement on creating separate subcommittees of the IGC to focus on separate tasks.
- Subcommittees tasked with:
- Setting up the Movement Charter and the Global Council.
- Overseeing the implementation of Movement Strategy.
- A general assembly can provide a wide-array of representation and make major decisions.
- Creating the Movement Charter should precede the Global Council.
- Different arguments for whether implementation oversight should be handled by the IGC or by a different body.
Given the diversity of the Interim Global Council tasks and high level of estimated workload, there has been near consensus that it would be more effective to split the work between different subcommittees that can focus on one task at a time. The subcommittees can be flexible in terms of their potential scope and commitment: each can have a certain number of “core” members for the full duration of the IGC, with others joining or withdrawing according to their availability.
While there was consensus on establishing separate subcommittees, there were significant discussions about the need to coordinate closely between these subcommittees, perhaps through a “general assembly”. This way, each group will be able to focus on its own area of work while the assembly makes essential, uniform decisions for the entire council. The assembly needs to be more representative of the movement than its subgroups, so that the legitimacy of the IGC is ensured.
Nevertheless, since the Movement Charter is supposed to frame the set up of the Global Council, it has not been perceived feasible to run these two tasks in parallel: the Charter subcommittee will necessarily precede the Global Council subcommittee.
Overseeing implementation, on the other hand, is a very different task that needs different skills. The GC could be more well-suited for this task than the transitional IGC. An open question is the responsibility of the oversight prior to the set up of the GC: that is, whether the IGC should have a role in this or it should be delegated to some other body.
- There is a need to include both expertise and diversity in the Interim Global Council.
- Quotas should be allocated in the IGC to encourage diversity.
- Agreement that underrepresented communities and online communities should be prioritized for representation.
- The stakeholder groups that will be represented should be clearly defined.
- Compensation or financial support should be considered for members in need, given the extensive workload.
The number of representatives on the IGC should achieve balance by being large enough to represent the many communities, and small enough to stay active and focused. It needs to be kept in mind this is an interim body, there’s room for improvement and iteration in the next stage.
The composition of the IGC should focus on both diverse representation and expertise. There needs to be a clear definition of stakeholder groups and mapping of differences and overlaps between them. For example, the “underrepresented communities” is a wide category in need of a better definition that also seems to cover less extensive categories like minor language speakers. In addition, the overall range of diversity that needs to be present for delivering the tasks of IGC needs to be defined.
Most important groups to be represented on the Interim Global Council emerged as the underrepresented communities and online project communities. Other highly-supported groups included: gender-diverse members, geographically-diverse members, linguistically-diverse members (major and minor languages), sister Wikiproject contributors, affiliate members, affiliate staff, affiliate leads and external experts (as advisors).
Additionally, it is critical to include un/underrepresented voices at this point to ensure these voices continue to exist in the Global Council: which should be ensured with allocated quotas. It is possible that a single representative could fulfil several quotas. Diversity is also needed in both composition and in discussions/consultations, as well as for the community ratification.
In writing and socializing the Charter, there is a need for governance expertise, cultural competence, communication skills and in-depth community knowledge. External experts and partners should be invited as consultants or advisors, rather than as committed members, because onboarding them to the complexities of the movement will be very time-consuming,
It was proposed that compensation or financial support should be considered for members, in order to ensure that they have the time and resources to participate. Such support for diversity will aim to include in the future of the movement the perspectives that have been missed and left out, rather than re-affirming the existing situation.
- Full elections have the risk of turning into a “popularity vote”, while full appointment risks the legitimacy of the results.
- General agreement on a mixed model of elections and appointment as the balanced option.
- Support for a supermajority of elected seats model in some discussions.
- The selection model could aim at speed (due to the IGC transitional nature), or could take time investment to (ensure groundwork for the GC).
- Suggestion for independent elections (possibly a different selection model, even) for each community or wikiproject.
While some arguments favored the selection method to be fully appointment-based or fully election based, there was a majority support for a mixed elections/appointment model. The reasoning was that a full-scale election process can take a lot of time and result in a representation for the “traditional majority”, while a full-scale appointment model can make the overall legitimacy of the process questionable.
At the same time, it is important to define the ratio between the elected and appointed seats. While one of the discussion groups (January 24) had clear support for a supermajority of elected seats, the other group (January 23) did not explicitly reach this conclusion (although, for the 23 Jan group, the supermajority model was not among the predefined options for discussion). There was both support for either: 1. taking the necessary time investment for a consensus process, and 2. for a quick set-up of the IGC that responds to urgent needs.
Certain seats may be selected with either of the two models. While the elections may ensure representation for major communities, appointments could fill in remaining gaps in both diversity and expertise. Consideration should be given to the selection method of each subcommittee in the IGC, not just the council overall.
It is important to learn from the best practices of existing movement committees and bodies. It was suggested that people selected for the IGC should not be able to join the first Global Council, as a means of ensuring neutrality of the design. Similarly, any appointments should also be based on clear and transparent criteria that ensure legitimacy.
The suggestion for the election model was to have local elections where each project or group with quotas will run their own election process. According to the discussion, while centralized elections would be an unfair process to smaller communities, local elections will need to be carefully managed so that each community is well supported and the elections are kept transparent across the different groups and projects.
A rough timeline, based on a synthesis of various proposals from the discussions, follows:
|Target date (by quarter)||Milestone|
|End of Q1 2021||Agreement upon the IGC’s scope, mandate, resourcing, structure, needed skills, representation and selection model as a DARCI framework|
|Early Q2 2021||Setting up the IGC election process (criteria, transparency, quotas)|
|Early Q2 2021||Large-scale outreach in preparation for the IGC elections|
|Mid Q2 2021||The IGC members are elected/selected|
|End of Q2 2021||Onboarding and teambuilding of the IGC members|
|Early Q3 2021||Starting conversations on the Movement Charter|
|Early Q4 2021||Consulting with experts on the Movement Charter|
|End of Q4 2021||First draft of the Movement Charter|
|Early Q1 2022||Open consultation on the Movement Charter’s draft|
|End of Q1 2022||Presenting the final Charter at the WM Summit|
|Early Q2 2022||Beginning of the Global Council’s selection process|
|End of Wikimania 2022||The IGC is dissolved|
To make the most of learnings from the past, it is critical to put together a communications strategy for the IGC consultation. The chief priority of the IGC should be creating the Movement Charter, which will need extensive consultations and a ratification process.
Socializing the Charter (along with other documents and decisions) should be built into the timeline without simultaneous, time-consuming tasks. A seasonal evaluation assessment, to ensure continued alignment with the recommendations, should be also allocated time.
The timeline should have flexibility in taking into consideration the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Discussion rooms notes, from the January Global Conversations (on Etherpads):
- Structure room (23 January, round 1).
- Structure room (23 January, round 2).
- Structure room (24 January, round 1).
- Structure room (24 January, round 2).
- Representation room (23 January, round 1).
- Representation room (24 January, round 1).
- Selection room (23 January, round 1).
- Selection room (24 January, round 1).
- Representation + Selection Process room (23 January, round 2).
- Representation + Selection Process room (24 January, round 2).
- Planning & timeline room (23 January, round 2).
- Planning & timeline room (24 January, round 2).