Talk:Chapters Council/Draft charter

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Why? Is missing[edit]

I believe any charter should start off with an explicit (and very, very, short) definition of the mission and objectives. Without understanding why all these people want to talk to each other, the rest is bureaucracy. Unfortunately I have not seen a stable statement elsewhere, yet, to copy in here and until this is agreed I think a charter is a bit premature. Thanks -- (talk) 09:21, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

The "Why?" is in the Preamble: "having recognised the need for an efficient and effective means to make collective decisions, issue joint statements and review each other's work". That will probably go through quite a few edits before being finalised, but it's not missing. --Tango (talk) 12:21, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Yes, it probably will. In the first instance I would expect it to match (or just point to) the definitions used at Chapters Council rather than creating a second location with a quite different statement of possible mission to discuss. -- (talk) 13:37, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the responsibilities described on that page are quite good. You know where the edit button is. --Tango (talk) 18:55, 7 March 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the invitation, though I can't see the point in investing my time on these details until the Chapters Council has an agreed mission. -- (talk) 08:38, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
How do you think the chapters are going to agree on a mission if nobody invests the time to propose one? --Tango (talk) 15:45, 8 March 2012 (UTC)
I assume you are overlooking my point above, this is the second place where a Chapters Council mission is being drafted from scratch. Why would I argue against agreeing the mission? -- (talk) 16:36, 9 March 2012 (UTC)


If a chapter is expelled, what's the process for bringing them back into the fold? Is there a mandatory waiting period? Or is this to be defined by the Council? If so, it should be stated. Philippe (WMF) (talk) 00:54, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

Good question. I haven't thought about it. Does anyone have any suggestions? --Tango (talk) 16:12, 9 March 2012 (UTC)


What is the term of the Chair? Philippe (WMF) (talk) 00:57, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

Since selection of representatives happens once a year in my current draft, I guess a year makes sense. Does anyone have any thoughts? --Tango (talk) 16:14, 9 March 2012 (UTC)


Hello, if I understand it right, then the committees will have the power to take decisisions in place of the Council? I understand committees as groups of Council members preparing decisions of the Council itself. Ziko (talk) 23:43, 9 March 2012 (UTC)

You could have committees that just make recommendations to the Assembly, in which case there is no need to mention them in the Charter. I think it is good to at least give the Assembly the option of creating committees that can actually make decisions, though. As discussed on internal-l, there are currently about 40 chapters and it seems likely that that will grow to 60 within a few years (there is disagreement over how much it will grow after that, but 100 chapters doesn't seem impossible to me). Once you have an Assembly that large, it will become very difficult and impractical for it to make every decision as a whole and delegating decisions to smaller committees will be essential. I think it is good to put that power in the charter from the beginning so that it can be done easily when it is needed. If we don't include it now, it will need a supermajority to add it later. If we don't try to add it until we're already finding it difficult to make decisions as a whole, it will be very difficult to make the decision to add it. Two thirds of a 60 member Assembly is 40 people - trying to get the representatives of 40 chapters to agree on something as inherently controversial as delegating powers will be very difficult (which is part of the reason for requiring a supermajority to make amendments to the Charter, of course - we want some stability). --Tango (talk) 15:37, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Yes, the Council will work with committees ('house committees' in US politics), I was not sure whether to mention them explicitly. But I left them out because the Council can do that anyway. The committee is discussing issues and then makes a recommendation to the council plenary, and usually the recommendation is accepted. The decision itself must be the right of the Council, otherwise one would have to make much more provisions with regard to the committees - they would become real organs of the whole association. Ziko (talk) 21:58, 10 March 2012 (UTC)
Unfortunately, you can't just decree that the recommendations would usually be accepted. We Wikimedians have a tendency to get bogged down in details and, if we're not careful, I expect the Assembly will be no different. One way the Assembly can avoid getting bogged down is to delegate actual decision making powers over the routine, largely uncontroversial stuff. Yes, there will need to be detailed provisions about exactly what a committee can do, but I don't think they need to be in the charter. They can be decided when each committee is created. --Tango (talk) 22:26, 10 March 2012 (UTC)

A Representative may not occupy any staff or board position within a Chapter or the WMF[edit]

This is not going to work well for smaller or younger chapters. Volunteer resources are already stretched thin, with board positions, committee roles (often includes board members), and more. And our volunteers are busy people with day jobs / school and we have yet fewer people willing to give precious time to hop on a plane to Europe for meetings. To be involved we will probably either need to have a board member (*perhaps* non-officer) as our representative or otherwise not join the council at all. Cheers. Aude (talk) 05:41, 11 March 2012 (UTC)

I think we should prevent staff of chapters or WMF being a representative. John Vandenberg (talk) 06:24, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
I've reverted your removal of that clause. I had already put it in square brackets to indicate that is was something we needed to discuss. Let's discuss it here before deciding whether to remove or keep it. The reason it has been suggested that non-board members be representatives is precisely because of how busy everyone is. Fulfilling the obligations of both a board member and a representative would take up a lot of time and, I would expect, the duties of board member would take priority. That would make the council less effective. I haven't decided what I think on this issue, but I'm erring on the side of wanting to keep the restriction. I'm concerned that some chapters have such a small volunteer base that they can't find one or two people to represent them that don't already have other roles. Are there not people that stood for the board and didn't get elected that would make good representatives? --Tango (talk) 13:17, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
With the restriction, we may opt out of the council. It's not that we have a small volunteer base but that volunteers are tied up with board member positions, committee roles, GLAM projects, etc., not to mention organizing Wikimania (and day jobs + school). The number of volunteers interested in such "internal" matters is even smaller, and the number who have time to travel to meetings is even smaller. It's the job of board members to stay up-to-date on "internal" matters and I think it would be easier for them to be a good representative to the council. Cheers. Aude (talk) 15:48, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
For the UK charity it might be easier to recruit a trustee with this part of governance as a special responsibility rather than expect unelected volunteers with the right knowledge and skills to come forward and make a credible long term commitment. To eliminate this as an option seems damaging to desired outcome of finding the best possible representatives. -- (talk) 16:02, 11 March 2012 (UTC)
I was and still am a proponent of such a restriction. I've seen very little support for it, however, and would prefer we leave it out for the purpose of not stalling progress on the council's formation. I would still like to recommend that chapters don't select board members but would not, at this time, make it mandatory. sebmol ? 15:43, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I thought it was a good idea too, but we seem to be in the minority. I agree it should be made a recommendation rather than a rule (and therefore shouldn't appear in the charter). --Tango (talk) 17:21, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

Too detailed[edit]

I find much of the language in this draft considerably too detailed. To give an example, in the section on committees, clauses 2, 3 and 4 are superfluous. The council already has the power to create committes and delegate decision-making powers to it, so why specifically point out that it may also determine the committee's members, the "terms of reference", and that the council may overrule the committee when it can do so anyway? Such detail makes it rather easy to inadvertently cause problems, such as the council making simple mistakes because it doesn't follow exactly the detailed instructions in this charter (e.g. forgetting voting rights and membership when creating a committee although the charter mandates it). I expect the response to this will be something like, "so fix it", which I'm happy to do. I just wanted to point it out before I start editing the page. sebmol ? 16:15, 12 March 2012 (UTC)

I'm more than happy for you to go ahead and edit it, but I don't think those clauses are superfluous. If the assembly forgets to say who the members are and who can vote when they form a committee, then that is a rather big problem! I also don't think it is necessarily automatic that the assembly can overrule a committee (I think most people would assume that were the case, but you don't really want to be trying to decide that when there is a particular, controversial issue at stake - it's good to make it clear from the start). While the charter shouldn't go into unnecessary detail, it does need to be clear and unambiguous, otherwise you end up with constitutional crises which are never fun. --Tango (talk) 17:20, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I agree that the assembly should do those things, i.e. pick the members and voting rules. My question for every clause is rather this: is this something that needs to be governed by a document that sets the fundamentals of the organization and is meant to rarely change? In some respect, a charter needs to decide both what bodies an organization has and what they do, but also what limits there are to those bodies vis-a-vis whoever is constituting it and vis-a-vis each other. In the case of the chapters council, it's the limits of the assembly vs. the rights of the chapters. That's why it makes sense, for example, to define a quorum for the assembly in the charter because not having one could easily abridge the ability of a chapter representative to participate in and influence decision-making (a quorum limits the assembly's powers). At the same time, stating that the assembly may create committees doesn't limit anyone's powers and, whether committees exist or not has no implications on any individual chapter's right to be represented. It also somewhat naturally flows out of the assembly's power to determine for itself how it conducts its business.
With that being said, I'll make some changes to the charter that might more clearly lay out what I mean. sebmol ? 19:51, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I just ran into a problem: your charter doesn't say what powers the assembly or the secretariat actually has, e.g. there's no list of powers or responsibilities. Is that intentional? sebmol ? 20:02, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
No, it's not intentional! I realised that mistake as I was reading your last comment and was thinking things through before replying. I was going to say that I disagree with your approach of saying the charter is about restricting powers. It's not, it's about granting powers - the council can't do anything unless the charter says it can. I then realised that the charter didn't say it could do much at all! Ziko's draft has a good list of powers - I think I'll steal his as a starting point. As for the details of forming a committee - the way I see it, if you haven't specified the terms of reference then you haven't really formed a committee. A committee needs a terms of reference or it's meaningless. I think it is good to specify that the terms of reference needs to be set by the Assembly so, for example, you don't end up committees determining for themselves what they are allowed to do. You mention quorums - I was planning on having that kind of thing in the standing orders, do you think it's important enough to go in the charter itself? --Tango (talk) 21:26, 12 March 2012 (UTC)
I do. But let me ask something else: have you compared your draft to Ziko's? I'm having difficulties finding large differences in substance. The structure of the document is a little different, but in terms of the provisions, there aren't that many. Do you disagree? Would it perhaps be worthwhile to merge the two? sebmol ? 16:31, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
As you say, there isn't a great deal of difference is the actual provisions, so there isn't really much to merge. We just need to decide which layout and wording we prefer, and delete the other one (and copy over the few bits that need to be). --Tango (talk) 18:51, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
How do we do that, the deciding part? sebmol ? 18:52, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
I'm not really the person to ask. I obviously think mine is best! --Tango (talk) 20:37, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Third party opinion, if required: Continue with Chapters Council/Draft charter of the Wikimedia Chapters Association. It's the draft which take rights and obligations into account. That's the basics which need to be determined. Everything else follows nearly automatically. If there's something missing, it can be copied from here. --lyzzy (talk) 21:06, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
Those kind of basics are the easy things to copy across - if there is a clause in Ziko's draft that isn't in mine and you think should be, you can just add it. It's the general layout, structure and wording that should determine which draft we use as the starting point for the combined one. I think mine is more clearly laid out and structured and less ambiguously worded. There are quite a few clauses that would need to be copied across from Ziko's, but that can be done in a couple of minutes. Going through and rearranging and rewording things would take much longer. --Tango (talk) 21:15, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't think that it's the "general layout, structure and wording" but the alignment which should be used as the starting point. And that is where I think the other draft is more target-oriented while yours is more process-driven. --lyzzy (talk) 21:26, 13 March 2012 (UTC)
By all means, re-write the preamble, but the process stuff is important. That's the stuff that actually does something. It's good to get the intentions and goals down in writing, but they don't have any substantive effect. --Tango (talk) 21:55, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

Place of incorporation[edit]

Switzerland is stable, neutral, beautiful, and also expensive. Mexico, Austria, Czech Republic, etc. would be more affordable for working folks to participate. Any particular reason for this choice? Does incorporation imply that's where we meet? Djembayz (talk) 01:34, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

No decision has been made yet on either place of incorporation or place of operations. I would expect that decision to be made after the charter has been ratified by enough chapters, probably actually at Wikimania. sebmol ? 13:37, 21 March 2012 (UTC)