Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Transition/Global Conversations/Report/January

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Online group from the Global Conversations on 23 January.
Online group from the Global Conversations on 24 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.

Overview[edit]

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.

Design options[edit]

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
Concept overview
  • Special committees assigned by the general assembly to drive the focused work (1) one for developing the Movement Charter, incl. conversations around movement responsibilities, 2)  other for ensuring movement strategy implementation oversight)
  • Coherent body (General Assembly of 40-60 people) to ensure coordination of work and high level of representation across movement stakeholders
  • Legitimacy of the process created through high level of representation in the working body
  • Special committees assigned (10-15 people) to drive the focused work (1) one for developing the Movement Charter, incl. conversations around movement responsibilities, 2)  other for ensuring movement strategy implementation oversight)
  • Coordination happens in between the 2 committees without a coordinating body.
  • Legitimacy of the process created through a movement wide ratification processes.
Structure
  • Composed of a widely-representative General Assembly, which includes about 40-60 members (see “Selection” below)
  • The General Assembly will convene two focused working groups with 10-15 members each, with the following tasks:
    1. Creating the Movement Charter and setting up the process for establishing the Global Council.
    2. Overseeing the implementation of Movement Strategy
  • Composed of two focused working groups with 10-15 members each, with the following tasks:
    1. Creating the Movement Charter and then setting up the process for establishing the Global Council based on it.
    2. Overseeing the implementation of Movement Strategy
  • Coordination ensured through a regular meeting where all or some representatives meet to synchronize and align
Representation
  • Define the expertise and representation needed for the general assembly and working groups.
  • Allocate quotas for representation using the method of degressive proportionality
    • Quotas of representation to better reflect diversity of the movement and open pathways for  underrepresented groups to movement level governance.
  • Connection with the communities will be established via representation, yet additional tools (consultations, office hours, and transparency of work) can be used to strengthen the connection.
  • External experts and advisors will be consulted or hired to provide advice and work closely with the working groups, but will not have voting rights on the Council.
  • Mapping of expertise and representation for the functions of the committees to be done prior to the appointment or community selection.
  • Quotas of representation to better reflect diversity of the movement and open pathways for  underrepresented groups to movement level governance.
  • Connection with a wider range of community members can be achieved through consultations, office hours, and transparency of work.
  • All the expertise does not need to sit with the committees as external experts and advisors can be consulted or hired to provide advice and work closely with the working groups
Selection
  • Selection process:
    • Set up a selection committee that defines the selection process across the movement.
    • Two thirds of the members of the general assembly will be selected in an open community process, defined by respective communities.
    • One third of the members will be appointed to add expertise and manage representation gaps in the assembly. These seats will be appointed by the selected members of the Interim Global Council.
  • Each community/affiliate (or group of communities/affiliates) will facilitate the selection process on their own.
    • Clear criteria will be required in order to ensure a fair and transparent selection process in each community.
    • The number of seats will be defined based on the quotas (see “Representation”).
  • Selection process:
    • Set up a selection committee representative of movement stakeholders to carry out the mapping exercise and define the appointment and local selection processes.
    • For some seats for predefined groups of communities/affiliates will facilitate the selection process on their own.
    • For other seats the selection committee will appoint the members based on their profiles and identified gaps in the membership.
  • The number and composition of seats will be defined based on the predefined criteria of expertise and quotas of representation.
Pros
  • Ensures coherence of the discussions and processes;
  • Ensures diversity of perspectives and good representation around all decisions;
  • Legitimacy of the work embedded in the representative design.
  • Smaller demand to the communities.
  • Better distribution of workload;
  • Focuses on the essentials of the topic areas which supports better progress.
Cons
  • Can take a long time to set up and start working, especially for a temporary working committee;
  • Increased risk of burnout and dropout - too much to ask for members to be present for all the work;
  • Most of the work will be probably carried by a small group of people;
  • Ratification process for the work might be still needed, which reduces the upside of the model.
  • Quotas are likely to be controversial.
  • Legitimacy will not be in representation and would require external community processes (e.g. charter ratification)
  • There is a risk of the ratification process defaulting back to the rule of majority and “loud voices”, thus doing away more equitable elements developed in the Movement Charter
  • Risk of incoherence between different work tracks
  • Working groups less representative of the diversity of perspectives
  • Quotas are likely to be controversial.
Timing
  • Setting up the General Assembly will take more time up front and push the setup of the body to the end of current fiscal year or beginning of next, which might create additional slowdown because of Northern hemisphere Summer time
  • It might be possible to shorten the timeline with faster ratification process facilitated by the representation in the actual Interim Global Council
  • It still seems that choosing the General Assembly model will mean that the actual set up of the Global Council will only occur beginning end of calendar year 2022 or beginning of 2023
  • Setting up the working groups with an appointment model is faster by design and should enable the work on the Movement Charter happening already at the end of the fiscal year 20/21.
  • The functionality of this model is dependent on the ratification model of the Movement Charter that will create widespread legitimacy and validation, which means that wrapping up the Movement Charter process and kicking off Global Council (s)elections might be more time consuming.
  • There is potential that with this leaner working group model it might be possible to set up the Global Council by mid calendar year 2022.

Summary of the discussions[edit]

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:

23 January survey
24 January survey
The results of a survey shared with the participants during the events. The survey used quadratic voting to allow participants to show their specific preference towards different options for the Interim Global Council's structure, representation and selection process.]
Structure
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.
Representation
Considering the different groups that should receive “representation” on the Council, and how to ensure they are not left out.
Selection
Defining how the Council members will be selected, with possibilities that include: elections, appointment process or a mixed model.
Timeline
Rough planning, time frame and sequence of tasks for the Interim Global Council.

Structure[edit]

Summary of the "structure" discussions
23 January (room 1)
23 January (room 2)
24 January (room 1)
24 January (room 2)

Key points[edit]

  • General agreement on creating separate subcommittees of the IGC to focus on separate tasks.
  • Subcommittees tasked with:
    1. Setting up the Movement Charter and the Global Council.
    2. 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.

Discussion[edit]

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.

Representation[edit]

Key points[edit]

  • 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.
Summary of the "representation" discussions
23 January
24 January

Discussion[edit]

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.

Selection[edit]

Key points[edit]

  • 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.
Summary of the "selection" discussions
23 January
24 January

Discussion[edit]

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.

Timeline[edit]

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
Summary of the "planning" discussions
23 January
24 January

Discussion[edit]

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.

Sources[edit]

Discussion rooms notes, from the January Global Conversations (on Etherpads):