Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/2021-04-15 Resolution about the upcoming Board elections

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Diversity as a problem[edit]

I wonder why diversity is considered a "problem"? Shouldn't the board accomodate diversity rather than consider it a problem to be solved? Ircpresident (talk) 10:29, 22 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Hi there, Ircpresident! Thanks for reading the Board resolution about the upcoming Board elections. I think what is meant here is the Board's "lack of representation of the movement’s diversity" is a problem. Does that clarify things? Let me know if you still have concerns. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 18:49, 22 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
I think some more considerate wording would've come in handy here. Not like we've been through a three year strategy process where we've talked about challenges around diversity and representation and which all members of the BoT were a part of. ;-) Braveheart (talk) 19:37, 25 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Exactly, especially that diversity is not just lacking in the board, but also in staff. Ircpresident (talk) 22:00, 25 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Ircpresident @Braveheart I'm not sure I understand your points. Let me try to respond. The Board is trying to accommodate diversity as much as it is under they control. They have direct control over the trustees they directly select (I have just posted a comment in the "Appointed members" section below). They have indirect control over the diversity of staff (they can set directions to the Foundation, they don't hire staff other than the ED). They don't have much control over who runs as a candidate for the community and affiliates seats, neither who gets most voted. This is why they have explained the problem, organized a call for feedback and have made this resolution, so that the movement is as aware as possible of this problem of lack of diversity, or if you will, this co-responsibility to accommodate diversity, also in the community selection processes.
About staff lacking diversity, I'm curious what kind of diversity do you have in mind. This has been a problem recognized years ago, and there has been a lot of progress in many areas. There are about 500 staff and contractors at the Foundation, and I believe there is no public demographic data about us. Most volunteers are likely to assess our diversity based on the staff they see or other assumptions, I guess? I'd say that we agree that there is a lot of progress to do, but probably the diversity of staff nowadays is way higher than what most volunteers assume. Qgil-WMF (talk) 13:35, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Sorry, I didn't mean to sow doubt about commitment or anything, but diversity is not a problem that needs solving, but a reality that we need to adapt to. Describing it as a problem only illustrates the BoT's view that this is something unnatural and uncomfortable that needs to be "fixed". The wording is sub-par, the intent is not. Braveheart (talk) 13:42, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Braveheart But this is what I don't understand. The Board is not saying that diversity is a problem. What the Board says is that they have a problem of lack of representation of the movement’s diversity. What is wrong in considering lack of diversity a problem? Qgil-WMF (talk) 14:04, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
Because the problem of diversity among selected community candidates does not qualify in any way what kind of problem diversity is supposed to be. Shouldn't this rather be a challenge of selecting community candidates from diverse backgrounds or working towards a proper representation of the worldwide community through the community candidates? The point being, that it feels more like an afterthought in this statement than the main focus. Braveheart (talk) 14:57, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Braveheart Maybe we are stuck in words.  :) In your opinion, is there anything the Board should have decided differently in this resolution? Is there any actionable feedback for them? Qgil-WMF (talk) 20:13, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
They should have made it clear beyond any doubt, that there will ba always more legitimately elected board members then just appointed ones, and the larger the board, the more majority for proper elected members, nut just those, who are there to fill certain gaps. Appointments only legitimacy derives from existing gaps, without gaps, there should be no appointment at all. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 20:21, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@Qgil-WMF About staff, as per August 2020. where I checked out the staff one by one on the foundation site (450 staff then), there were only 2 MENA persons for example, one that is half American and the other one is in Comms. Maybe the site is not up to date and/or doesn't show all staff, but as an Arabic Wikipedia governance follower I don't see active MENA staff activity. Going back to the "problem of diversity", as a board member myself in other international organizations, I consider wording to be at least an indication or a reading between the lines of how board members feel. It might be an inaccurate assumption from my side, but I think the board must be aware of phrasing in future statements. Ircpresident (talk) 20:57, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Resources[edit]

"The committee, in consultation with Wikimedia Foundation staff, may request a delay of up to three months to implement the voting system."

That's good, but what resources will they have at their disposal for this goal? For instance they may need software development, hosting services, security audits, a consultation to make sure their ideas do not violate the laws of mathematics, translations, outreach to increase participation, etc. Nemo 20:05, 22 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

@Nemo bis Hi, the team that maintains SecurePoll is already talking with the Elections Committee about next steps about the voting software. About content, translations and outreach, the facilitation team that worked on the call for feedback about Community Board Seats is available as well. Qgil-WMF (talk) 07:30, 23 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Appointed members[edit]

Given that the board also contains a number of appointed members, I'm surprised that there wasn't more made of this. In particular, there are some skills that you need on the board, and while some of those are common in the community (experience in a small wiki, experience in a large wiki, copyright issues, dealing with trolls and vandals) others such as involvement in Academia, experience of large endowments, involvement in the cultural sector(Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), board experience in the not for profit sector are issues that you can resolve by appointing members, gender, age and geographic skews could also be resolved by appointing independents to fill the gaps left over from the election process. There is a big difference between looking at skills and diversity within an election of four members, within an 8 member community component of the board and within the whole board. Looking at this at a whole board level and using appointments to address gaps among the community members would lead to situations where an independant who was appointed because we lacked young people, east asian people and experience in the cultural sector was then stood down after a single term because in the meantime the community had replaced an old south American accountant with a young Japanese librarian.

I would like this proposal better if there was a clear commitmemt to use the appointment process to fill the skill and diversity gaps not filled by election. WereSpielChequers (talk) 13:56, 24 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

That's what I already said in the discussion of the specialisation seats: Missing skills is the only reason for application seats at all, if those are already included in the properly vetted elected seats, no applications are to be done at all. The only reason for application seats are missing skills, diversity and such. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) Hold the election 14:17, 24 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]
@WereSpielChequers Hi, this resolution was about the upcoming Board elections and this explains why there is no mention about appointed members. On the other hand, it should be clear that the role of appointed trustees is to cover gaps in skills and that they also should contribute to the diversity of the Board. The governance priorities of the Board, which mention skills and diversity, don't make any distinction between trustees. The announcement of the recent approval of Bylaws amendments mentioned the need to improve on skills and diversity without distinction of trustees.
Looking at the currently appointed trustees we have:
  • Esra'a Al Shafei, originally from Bahrain, human rights, free expression and LGBTQ activist in Middle East, North Africa, and beyond.
  • Raju Narisetti, originally from India, who brings expertise on traditional and online media business and international journalism.
  • Tanya Capuano, from USA, who brings US financial and strategy expertise.
  • Lisa Lewin, from USA, who brings expertise on the development and growth of non-profits and their executive boards.
I have heard many times criticism about the diversity of appointed trustees based on the fact that all of them are based in North America. While this is true, I think this argument misses (by lack of knowledge?) the fact that these four people do contribute a lot of diversity to the Board in terms of gender, origin, ethnic background, cultural background... Qgil-WMF (talk) 13:13, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Thanks for this concise update ~[edit]

You might link to the elections committee (and CAC) from this note. It would help for the involved committees to keep their pages here up to date -- BGC has an outdated list of advisors, and the EC hasn't been updated in a year. –SJ talk  18:09, 24 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Hi there, SJ! Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate you mentioning the affiliated pages are out-of-date. I have reached out to see if those pages could be updated with the most current information. Let me know if you find anything else. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 20:22, 28 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Governance[edit]

I have been meaning to give this feedback for a while now. I couldn't find a better place (I know this is not the best venue, sorry). It's about how should members be selected and governance of the board in general. Most of the ideas are from a famous book in political science called w:The Dictator's Handbook (The name is misleading, I by no means want to imply our current org is a dictatorship, I know what living under a dictatorship looks like). The book is mostly about governments but it explicitly says the same principles applies to orgs and board of trustees as well and even examples Xerox.

Basically in order to make governance more democratic, you need to maximize the minimum number of people the person in power needs to keep happy to stay in power (I know it's complex, a chapter of the books is just explaining this concept). For example, in a truly democratic society, you need to keep half of the adults in a country happy to stay in power. In UK, the parliamentary governance, it's 1/4th of adults (to vote for your party and get enough MPs elected). In USSR, it was just high-ranking members of the party (USSR had elections too but the options were made by the high-ranking members of the party.)

With that, things are simple, if you need to make only five members of the board happy to stay as CEO, you (consciously or unconsciously) just focus on keeping them happy. But if the community selected seats get a bigger number and reach majority, the CEO needs to keep at least half of the community (in order of thousands) happy to stay in position. It doesn't mean if we go on the "only 5 people happy" path, these people will be evil or corrupt. It'll be just a different form of governance with different focus.

What I liked in the previous board structure was that some seats got selected through a general election and some through aff elections (which by increasing number of affiliations it was getting more and more democratic, it used to be only a couple of chapters only). So hypothetically, the CEO needs to keep half of the community happy plus half of the affiliations. That's awesome. I like to keep something like that in future too and even make it more diverse on matter of stakeholders. IIRC, in Sweden (or Germany, I need to look it up). One member of board (of companies) is selected by the staff. Something like that can improve our situation a lot.

There are also arguments against democratization of the board. The most importantly (for me) is external influence. I doubt an adversary corp/government can influence Jimmy but they can easily influence an election to swing a couple hundred votes to get their favorite person in. Also democracies are messy (but that's necessary for a country)

I hope I wasn't too late on this feedback. If you have more questions, please let me know. Happy to elaborate on any point. Amir (talk) 15:38, 30 April 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Hi there, Amir, Thanks for taking the time to share such thorough feedback. It provides a new perspective that hasn't really been said before. (You're right - The Dictator's Handbook is quite a catching title!) I have noted this feedback. Best, JKoerner (WMF) (talk) 12:54, 10 May 2021 (UTC)[reply]