Recommendation # 4: Provide Capacity Building for Organizational Development
Or: Supporting communities in achieving their organizational development goals
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
Capacity building in our movement must take into account different contexts and ways of working, and effective formal organizations will continue to be essential for some communities in their working contexts. Developing effective organizations that serve communities and the movement will require targeted support that is different from what we offer individuals and informal collectives. We must have a way to address this targeted need, in order to build a strong network of organizations globally to serve as the backbone in our movement.
(This does not mean that formal organizations are a “one size fits all” approach to working in our movement. Different ways of working that are appropriate in different contexts will be needed, and communities need to have the autonomy to define their own paths and ways of working. Some communities will have no interest in developing formal organizations, and that’s OK. There need to be multiple paths to growth.)
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
- There is no one way to organize. There is no one linear path toward organizational effectiveness, and the best path for an organization will be defined by the needs of the community and the community’s working context. One way of organizing is not necessarily better than another.
- Organizations must lead this process. Organizational development plans must be developed, implemented, and owned by organizations at every stage or they will not be an effective tool. We can provide organizations with tools, input, and guidance, but their goals must be their own. Otherwise, long term efforts will fail.
- Relying on volunteers is complicated. We assume that the wikimedia movement will continue to rest upon volunteers and organizations. More thought will be given to the issue of how we compensate people for their time in order to support their contributions (especially in the case of organizing labor). If we continue to prioritize volunteer participation as the backbone of the movement, we may shut out participation from volunteers who would need to make difficult choices about whether to prioritize their wikimedia participation or their own livelihoods. (Between ensuring your daily pittance or giving your time gracefully to a cause you care about, the choice can be made quickly, even for a long-time Wikipedian with a deep commitment to our movement.) It will be important to distinguish between types of contributors, those who want to edit in Wikimedia projects, and those who take on organizing, administrative and leadership functions, and who will have to ultimately move from volunteer work to paid employment, in order not to lose their participation. This process often occurs in parallel with the urge to formalize organizations.
- Affiliation models will be rethought. Since current affiliations models and governing bodies are not providing a useful frame for organizational development and are not supporting organizational development sufficiently, we assume major changes to our affiliation models will come out of the movement strategy process to address these gaps.
- The movement needs to grow to move towards the strategic direction. The approach towards building formal capacity within the movement will be oriented towards growth of the movement, rather than control and containment of its parts.
- We will not reinvent the wheel. We will rely on the work that has been done to support organizations in different regional, national, and local contexts. In some ways, this work will provide more value to organizations than centralized wikimedia-specific tools. We can and must tap into regional networks to support nonprofits active in civil society efforts in their countries, in order to integrate Wikimedia organizations into robust support networks that already exist. This may mean, for example, engaging partners to provide support to Wikimedia organizations rather than having a centralized Wikimedia body do this work.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
Organizations are powerful, and they are necessary to scale growth locally and globally. Organizations are formed because communities need to make their work more sustainable in the long term, support volunteers, build collaborative capacity, build partnerships and credibility, and be able to acquire non-movement funds. For these reasons, organizations are valuable and necessary in many local and regional contexts.
Organizations are unlikely to succeed without (1) resources and (2) support.
If we provide resources and support to formal organizations, and if this approach to resources and support is rooted in the organization’s needs, goals, and contexts, we will have (1) robust organizations on the ground that drive growth locally and nationally and; (2) a robust network of organizations to drive growth at a global scale.
Organizations may be a vehicle for creating equity among communities in different parts of the world. They will be well-placed to advocate for their communities, or as a group of emerging communities in the Wikimedia movement. For example, organizations could serve as the vehicle to take part in movement-wide decision making. Providing support for organizations to develop and sustain themselves in emerging communities may be critical to ensuring that the global governance of Wikimedia is equitable in the future.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
This is a duplicate question with Q 2-2, where we describe our theory of change.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Formal organizations (including current chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups)
Wikimedia Foundation Board + Affiliations Committee
Movement structures developed to support capacity building globally
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
- Investing in formal organizations without rethinking movement structures could lead to duplicate efforts and conflict in regions with multiple organizations. Ultimately, this could scuttle our efforts to achieve growth at scale and even lead to brand damage. To mitigate this risk, these things must happen hand in hand.
- Relying on formal organizations with unpaid organizer labor as the backbone for these organizations is likely to continue to burn out volunteer organizers and will result in a structure that only includes people with enough privilege to participate without support. We should only encourage the propagation of this model if we understand these risks and if we are willing to rethink this reliance on unpaid labor.
- Investing in the short and medium term without a long term plan to sustain support is unlikely to yield any results, since organizational development is a long term project. The project sponsor must offer a long term commitment to launch this work.
- Support that is driven and defined by a centralized body is unlikely to be effectively in serving the diverse needs of organizations working in different context, and overly proscriptive support is likely to backfire and make organizations less effective. To mitigate this risk, these efforts should not be led by WMF but by a centralized global body that is well-resourced and led by multiple stakeholders.
- Power structures and support could become too focused on organizations, at the expense of other ways of organizing as individuals and informal collectives. Given the current trend of prioritizing individual support, it seems unlikely that this will occur.
- Overinvesting in formal organizations could lead to a significant resource drain with minimal impact.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality? Does it keep something, change something, stop something, or add something new?
Implementing this recommendation can be done by including organizational development into the topics, resources and activities made possible by implementing recommendations # # and #
This recommendation relates to several other structures and trends which we hope will be rethought as a result of the movement strategy process:
- Affiliations models + Affiliations Committee
- Centralization of resources within WMF
- How we think about paying volunteer organizing work in the movement
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
The following recommendations create a framework within which capacity building for organizational development can be implemented:
- CB for BC
- Recognizing volunteers
Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how?
All capacity building recommendations have been developed in response to the scoping questions and community input through Meta, local and regional gatherings, and collaboration across the Movement working groups.
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
Roles & Responsibilities (movement structures): In the event that R&R recommendations include a movement-wide assembly or governing body, strong organizations from emerging communities are needed to send their representatives to have a voice in global decision making. New movement governance structures will require new capacities, built with a focus on equity.
Q 8 Do you have anything to add that was not covered with previous questions, yet essential for understanding the recommendation?
This recommendation resulted in part from the consultation of community in Cote d’Ivoire.