Talk:Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/October 2020 - Call for feedback about Bylaws changes and Board candidate rubric

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English requirement[edit]


This time seems like a good opportunity to stop requiring that Board members know English.

We are an organization that has the words every single human being in its vision, and if we count all human beings, most of them don't know English. They don't just know English as a second language; they don't know English at all. If the whole Board knows English, it represents a minority of the humanity, and since language is the primary vehicle of knowledge for all humans, this is highly relevant.

There was such a requirement in the last two elections, in 2015 and 2017. I don't see such a requirement in the "Prerequisites to candidacy" section on the page Wikimedia Foundation elections/2017/Board of Trustees, but the page Wikimedia Foundation elections/2017/Board of Trustees/Call for candidates includes this part:

All potential candidates must be able to communicate and discuss in English, since this is the language we use in all our board discussions.

So first, this is misleading: one page has a requirement that another page doesn't. Notice also that the "Call for candidates" page says "must" and "should", so this is clearly a requirement, and not a guideline or a recommendation.

But most importantly, there is not supposed to be a reason to require this at all. It's OK if English is the main working language of the Board; it's not OK to exclude people because of this. It is totally possible today to use interpreters to communicate to people who don't know English, and to translate written documents for them. Recently, several online conferences took place in the Wikimedia world, and whole lectures were interpreted online, successfully enhancing the audience and increasing participation.

I see that the proposed form at Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/October 2020 - Board candidate rubric has this section:

Diversity: Language
The candidate is a native speaker of a language other than English.

Indeed, having people who are not native speakers of English on the Board increases its diversity. But as I've written earlier, most people in the world don't know English at all, so this is not enough. So this question about Diversity is fine to keep, but the new bylaws must go further and specifically prohibit filtering candidates who don't know a certain language, so that the future calls for candidates will never say anything like All potential candidates must be able to communicate and discuss in English.

The Equity in Decision-Making Strategy Recommendation suggests creative a representative Global Council. The Board, however, should represent humanity, too, otherwise it's not really equity.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg famously said "Nine" when asked how many women would be enough on the Supreme Court of the United States. In the same spirit, the Board can go the extra mile and encourage people who don't know English to become candidates, so that most Board members will not know English, and so the Board would look like humanity does.

Thank you. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 16:39, 7 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

I don't think that it is practical to have people who don't speak any English in charge of a US-based organisation whose working language is English. I really don't want to have a person in charge of the critical infrastructure of our movement who does not fully understand what they are voting for, as risks are just too high. And it is much harder to participate in a discussion if you are using a translator and other people around you do not. It would probably make sense for the Global Council but not for the WMF Board — NickK (talk) 17:52, 8 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
It's totally practical. That's what translators and interpreters are for.
What seems actually impractical to me is to have a board on which everyone not just happens to know English, but is required to know it, and to get this board to make major decisions that affect people who don't know English. If people who don't know English aren't directly represented, these decisions cannot be totally good. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 12:55, 13 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Englischkenntnisse sollten völlig irrelevant sein, Kenntnisse allein in Englisch allerdings ein klarer und eindeutiger Ausschlussgrund. Wer tatsächlich nur eine einzige Sprache beherrscht, der hat in einem solchen Gremium nichts verloren. Kennis in het Engels zou volledig irrelevant zijn, kennis alleen maar in het Engels zou op de ander kant een reden zijn, om niet in de BoT mogen te werken. Als je allen maar in een taal kan praten, heb je helemaal geen behoefte, om in deze gremium mee te doen. Knowledge of English should be completely irrelevant, knowledge of only English should be a reason for exclusion. People with knowledge of only one language should not have any higher position in our movement. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 15:41, 13 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I wouldn't go so far even as a joke :)
Knowledge of more than one language is already a bit of an advantage, but excluding people who know only one is an exaggeration. I can easily imagine a person who knows only Turkish, or only Chinese, or only Spanish, and can be a good board member. These are the people that I want to see on the board the most! And currently they are completely absent!
And surely there are good board members who know only English. It's fine to have such people, just not too much. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 18:22, 19 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
We are an international community, people with such restricted knowledge and experience are valuable as contributors to their monolingual projects, but not as board members (or C-level staff) for the whole Wikiverse. What should they know of England who only England know? Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 20:39, 19 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
@Amire80: It depends what we expect from the WMF.
If we want WMF to look like the United Nations, then yes, board members who do not speak English are acceptable, as decision-making is slow (plenty of time to prepare translations), there is no brainstorming, workshops or spontaneous debates (no need to be flexible), and most exchanges are either prepared session speeches (easy to interpret) or bilateral behind the scenes discussions (you are rich enough to come with your own interpreter). However, United Nations are not known for reacting quickly, nor for efficient decision-making. This is typically a rubber stamp board, and in WMF context this would mean that board would not decide on anything, and all decisions would be prepared by staffers.
If we want WMF to be a relatively efficient organisation, capable of reacting quickly to outside challenges, and good at thinking out of the box, then all key people need to speak the same language. Imagine a board where 14 people speak English (including second language), 1 speaks only Turkish and 1 only Chinese.
  • They will not have an efficient mailing list: all emails will need to be translated twice (and emails from the Chinese speaker to the Turkish speaker will probably go through English), and unless you have translators available 24/7 this will mean roughly two days delay between messages.
  • Spontaneous discussions will be also impossible: either time will triple (all comments need to be translated twice) or simultaneous interpreters must be available 24/7 with participants permanently wearing their headsets (including coffee breaks and lunches).
  • Brainstorming or workshops will be also hard: 14 members will contribute (e.g. on post-its) in English, 1 in Turkish and 1 in Chinese. The two non-English speakers will need to have interpreters with them at all times who will translate their contributions into English (they contribute two times slower) and translate contributions by others into Turkish and Chinese (they react more than two times slower as it is very hard to analyse unknown words).
In the best-case scenario we would need an extremely expensive setup: translators and interpreters available 24/7, including Chinese<>Turkish ones (and we can have a wilder mix, let's say Chewa<>Bengali for which interpreters are perhaps nonexistent), for board workshops enough translators available to make all materials trilingual (likely as many translators as board members), headsets permanently available for all in-person events, including for coffee breaks and lunches — and the board will still be less efficient. In the normal scenario (some translators and interpreters available, but not 24/7 and to and from English only as we are an NGO) the Board will be roughly [number of different languages] times less efficient then it can be, and decision-making by email would take days. In the most likely scenario the non-English speakers would be ignored or would just rubber stamp decisions made by others, and will get just 'token diversity'.
I know what it looks like, as a Ukrainian living in France I participate in quite a lot of bilingual Ukrainian-French events (obviously due to monolingual speakers on both sides). You definitely feel that the event is two times slower, and even good translators frequently simplify and omit some cultural context, and almost always lose emotions. And while this is nice for a two-hour discussion on some cultural topics, this is really tiring for a two-day-long board session. During lunches or breaks people have discussions in groups by language, and monolingual French- and Ukrainian-speakers hardly ever mingle with each other. If all people bar one or two around the table speak the same language, they opt for this language and the remaining person or two is basically excluded. I also participate in some bilingual groups and mailing lists, misunderstandings are relatively common, and most people prefer writing bilingual messages if they can.
Thus honestly no, I would absolutely not recommend non-English speakers on WMF board. It would make more sense to invest in these potential board members by helping them learn English. Of course I had some kind of privilege by being able to learn English in school, but I would equally defend Arabic as a monolingual working language of WikiArabia even if I don't speak it — NickK (talk) 23:11, 24 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Democratization of the board[edit]

When we talk about changes to the board, we should start thinking about real changes. Inflating it doesn't end up making it more diverse and certainly not more democratic. We need other changes. First, all seats have to be chosen by the community. In this sense, chapters and organizations are not a community. Even as a member of the board of Wikimedia Germany, I didn't have a real opportunity to influence the vote, the chairman did that more ore less alone. So. Whether 10 or 16, everyone has to be voted directly by the community. Everything else has led to massive alienation between the board and the community in recent years, the result of which is also evident in the conflicts of recent years. becomes. And even if the board and employees of the WMF always dream of a new community, this will not exist if they have learned something in recent years. But you can very well adapt the board to the needs of the community. Second, it is really no longer in keeping with the times that Mr Wales is still being given a post. If he wants to be on the board, he should run like everyone else. This special position is also out of date and must come to an end. The blocking of a seat is deeply undemocratic and has nothing to do with the appreciation of an achievement. So - yes to changes. But please me a correct approach. -- Marcus Cyron (talk) 19:02, 7 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Note that all three elected members of the board have expressed their support for increasing the number of elected members. ("I believe the community influence on the Board could be bigger, and I even presented a proposal to make all Board seats elected by the community." - Pundit, "We need to make the board more democratically elected by increasing the number of seats elected by the community." - Doc James, "I would like to increase the community-elected seats." - Raystorm.) --Yair rand (talk) 21:27, 7 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks User:Yair rand and that is still my position. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 18:29, 6 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Agree with Marcus Cyron. The entire board should be elected by the community. Technical and outside governance expertise should be brought in to the board committees only in an advisory capacity. For too long the corporate governance of the Foundation has been separated from the community, and it needs to change. – Ajraddatz (talk) 23:33, 7 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I am specifically opposed to appointed members. Currently 40% of the trustees is appointed by the trustees. I understand that the trustees need knowledge beyond their own knowledge. However I would prefer that the trustees appoint advisors, who attend meetings, but do not vote. Sincerely, Taketa (talk) 13:47, 8 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • I'm 100% in favour of general democratization of the board, but would like to retain Jimmy Wales, retain ~20% of appointed members and give a 20—25% quota to chapters and organizations. If 50% (or slightly more) of the board is elected by the community (in your sense), it's in my opinion a reasonable compromise with the current board which is surely unwilling to devolve its powers to influence the board composition to the community. Ain92 (talk) 13:08, 9 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I could imagine a middle course: The Board can propose to appoint members up to a set maximum quota (which should be less than now), but these appointees need to seek approval by the community. I still think that external expertise can be beneficial for whatever the WMF wants to be called in the future. If these people are chosen well, they will be backed by the community. → «« Man77 »» [de] 13:23, 9 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • I go along with Taketa: especially no appointed members by the trustees. If indeed in need of advisors the 10 board members (no more) can order expert assessment. Those documents should be published at this Meta site, so the community can get a glimpse which sort of matters the board is occupied with. It is well-known that any bureaucracy tends to expand it's 'bloated machinery'. Up to what ultimate aim? I've seen no reasonable and transparent description of stringent necessity for more than 10 board members. -- Justus Nussbaum (talk) 18:59, 12 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]


Why does Jimbo still have a guaranteed seat in the proposed model? What value does he bring? I would much prefer to see another community seat, or the spot just left vacant to give the community a majority. – Ajraddatz (talk) 23:37, 7 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

I like the idea of Jimbo beeing in the board. Without him Wikipedia would not exist. He took his own money to start and run Wikipedia in the beginning.
Further more he could have made Wikipedia a commercial product and earn quite some million USD for himself. But instead he "handed it over" to a foundation.
So to me: yes we should honor this and yes he should have a seat in the organization which only exists because he decided so
...Sicherlich Post 11:11, 8 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
There were many, many people involved in the creation of Wikipedia. It has never been a one man show, and even if it was, that was two decades ago. I think it's time for modern governance structures that represent the modern challenges that the Foundation and our movement faces. If the board insists on retaining appointed seats, Jimbo could be appointed to one of those -- assuming he meets the criteria. – Ajraddatz (talk) 18:03, 8 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
many people involved in the creation - sure, thats the way it always works: without electricity no Wikipedia. Without computers no Wikipedia, without the internet no wikipedia. Without the writers no Wikipedia. Does not change what I said. ...Sicherlich Post 20:08, 8 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
you are lucky jimbo did not make this an all appointed board as at the Gates Foundation [1] and many others. all of the naive "community rules" defies the history of non-profits in this country, and their governance. i would not trust this community with a dollar, much less an endowment. Slowking4 (talk) 11:11, 9 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Jimbo does not have a "guaranteed seat". The board reappoints him every three years. At this point in time, IMO, he is an important voice on the board. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 18:27, 6 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Talk Template[edit]

I added {{Foundation talk/October 2020}} to the top of each talk page for better navigation. –MJLTalk 05:07, 14 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Sixteen people, a little too much?[edit]

In my humble opinion, sixteen people in a committee would make it basically ineffective. The two-pizza rule is a good rule of thumb. How many NGOs have sixteen people as members? Amir (talk) 19:37, 19 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

I'd say a number like 14 or 15 is very typical for large NGO boards and even for-profit boards of directors in the US, and numbers up to 20 are not uncommon. That's off the top of my head, though I'm sure I watch these things more than most other people. Perhaps you could come up with some data to prove otherwise? Smallbones (talk) 14:56, 22 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I tend to agree, 16 starts becoming very hard to work effectively due to its large size. Reaching agreements, sharing knowledge, coordinating efforts starts to become much harder as the group grows past 9 or 10 people. I certainly would not go any larger than 16 but I think it will work, just more slowly. I support the view that a number such as 14 or 15 would be a better number to work with.--Discott (talk) 08:24, 26 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
User:Ladsgroup and User:Smallbones would love to see the data on typical NGO board sizes. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 19:21, 6 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

I'm sure there are better ways to do this, but @Doc James: I just started searching for various non-profit boards off the top of my head: Khan Academy 7 members, University of Illinois 16, American Red Cross 16, United Negro College Fund 17 (at large) plus 15 (institutional), Hershey Foods (for-profit company - I was looking for the non-profit) 14, Hershey Trust (non-profit) 13, United Way (Worldwide) 13, WHYY (public broadasting TV and Radio) 26, Corporation for Public Broadcasting 8 (appointed by US president, confirmed by Senate!) Not representative of course, but a mix. Smallbones (talk) 20:12, 6 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

@Doc James To compare: American Red Cross assets is more than $3B (20 times bigger than WMF, correct me if I'm wrong). For such org, 16 people makes much more sense but as said before, slowly increasing the number to have dedicated roles sounds much better to me. Amir (talk) 09:15, 7 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Extreme short deliberation period[edit]

@NTymkiv (WMF), Qgil-WMF, and Whatamidoing (WMF):
As the period for feedback for this massive and extreme changes is far too short (instead of 3 weeks at least 3 month would have been appropriate), I've changed the date to 26 November for now, but I expect it to be even more postponed. I don't want to so BOLD to change it here as well to an appropriate date. Could you please do this yourself? October 26 is by no means anything appropriate for any valid discussion of such extreme changes. I'd prefer January 26 2021, but a wee bit later could as well be fine. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 07:52, 24 October 2020 (UTC) PS: Discussion is going on here, my boldness was this.[reply]

I have reverted your edit to avoid public confusion. Qgil-WMF (talk) 10:38, 24 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
My change was reverted, but the original date is of course invalid, as there was far too little time to discuss such extreme changes in the bylaws. If you really stick to that timeline, it must be read as another assault by the central entities on the community. This short deadline is just ridiculous. Please show, that you care about the community by extending it by at least 2 months. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 10:40, 24 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I have replied in the main discussion topic, where you have brought this first. Qgil-WMF (talk) 11:01, 24 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Update after the first feedback round[edit]

Hi, the October 26 deadline was defined by the fact that there was a Board Governance Committee meeting on October 27 where the feedback received was reviewed. This doesn’t mean that the conversation ends here. In fact, it has just started. These three weeks have proven useful to gather very relevant feedback about the proposed Bylaws changes and the candidate rubric / evaluation form . We continue welcoming your feedback.

In response to comments from community members, the Board Governance Committee has agreed to incorporate the following suggestions immediately:[1][2]

  1. Replace the definition and repeated use in the Bylaws of “Chapters, Thematic Organizations, and User Groups” with “Affiliates”. This is meant to make the language simpler, as well as not require a modification to the Bylaws if movement affiliate models change.
  2. Clarify when the CEO is and can be excluded from executive sessions. This further explains the current standard practice.
  3. Change the name “rubric” to “evaluation form”. This addresses issues of confusion and difficulty of translation related to the term “rubric”.

In the next committee meeting on November 17, we plan to continue discussing the following proposals:

  • Address concerns about the possibility of having a minority of community-sourced seats compared to Board-selected seats. Our intention has always been to maintain the current structure of having a governing majority of community-sourced trustees, and the Bylaws should reflect that. Commenters have pointed out that the current draft of the revisions would allow, in an extreme case, for there to be a 9-member Board with 7 Board-selected trustees, 1 Founder, and only 1 community-sourced trustee. We will edit the draft to ensure that is not a possibility.
  • Clarify what it means to have a “community nomination process”. Many commenters have expressed concern that the proposed Bylaws language would allow the Board to select community members to appoint to the community-sourced seats without a community voting process. Specifically, concerns have been raised about whether there will be a community vote on nominated trustees.
The Board’s priority for the revised community nomination process is for a process that enables diverse and equitable representation from communities across the Wikimedia movement, in keeping with the goals and values of our movement and strategic direction. The final process may feature voting; it may integrate other means of community representative selection -- we are looking at various models from communities and cultures around the world.
At the end of the day, we are committed to having a trustee selection process that gives meaningful voice to the Wikimedia communities. For the purpose of this effort, we will consider how to ensure that 1) the Bylaws confirms the principle of community governance; 2) the selection process delivers the diverse and strategic movement leadership required for the future of our movement; 3) the selection mechanisms ensure appropriate community input and agency in keeping with our culture and values.
  • Increase the amount of time it takes for the trustee term limits to reset. This addresses the concern that the current period of time, 18 months, is fairly short compared to the term limit of 9 years.
  • Remove or change the structure of the Founder seat. This seat is unique in that it is reserved for one person (Jimmy Wales), and it is not subject to term limits. Commenters have suggested eliminating this seat, converting it into a different type of seat, or converting it into a different, non-trustee role.
  • Adjust the approach to community discussion for these governance changes. In addition to further refining these Bylaws changes, we are hoping to launch the discussion of community-sourced trustee selection pathways in early 2021. We have heard the requests to have longer discussion periods and to have multiple rounds of discussions. We will take these requests into consideration as we plan our timeline of next steps. The Board expansion is meant, in part, to provide additional Trustee capacity to engage directly with Communities in such discussions, and we look forward to creating the conditions where this exchange can take place more frequently.

We will post another update following our November 17 meeting.

In the meantime, we will update the documentation to reflect the current status and to explain the process through which we expect to discuss and make decisions on the topics above. This will include the conversation about selection pathways. We are also thinking how to organize these conversations in ways that make them enjoyable, open to nuance and collaboration, and accessible across the diversity of our movement.

We welcome your ideas on this as well. Pundit (talk) 18:19, 29 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

[1] Diff for the Bylaws revisions page
[2] Diff for the evaluation form (formerly “rubric”) page


Es wurden also ein paar Kinkerlitzchen geändert, während die Hauptprobleme, wie z.B. die Abschaffung von dem Begriff Wahlen, nonchalant übergangen werden. Wie das aktuelle Board mit dem Prozess zufrieden ist, ist mir ehrlich gesagt eher egal, das wichtigste Gremium des Wikiversums muss zufrieden sein, die Community. Die Community ist das zentrale Wesen, das hier alles geschaffen hat und unterhält, die Zentrale in SF ist nur ein Servicegremium. Bevor hier irgendwas in Richtung Größe und Zusammensetzung geändert werden sollte, muss zuerst das Wahlverfahren festgezurrt werden und klargestellt werden, dass die Community unter allen Umständen die Mehrheit im Board stellt. Warum die benannten Mitglieder auch derart massiv aufgeblasen werden sollen, wurde bisher nicht schlüssig dargelegt. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 07:22, 30 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

If Our Ideas Were Actually Welcomed[edit]

Then no such reply would ever contain the phrase "the final process may feature voting." Any discussion is completely dead and these are nothing but diktats from on high so long as the board sticks to this reprehensible path. Based on the conduct so far, I think that 0 appointed board members would be the optimal distribution. You are not the movement. You are not the community. You are hijacking something that you did not dream, that you did not build, that you do not personally fund. You. Are. Thieves. CoffeeCrumbs (talk) 16:46, 30 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

This is untrue and unhelpful. The current Board is chaired by someone chosen by the community, and includes a majority of thoughtful community-selected trustees, any one of whom I trust to make good decisions on behalf of the Foundation. Their consideration of doing away with voting reflects real concerns with the current process, about the governance of the foundation that sustains something that most of them have personally built and devoted much of their lives to. –SJ talk  18:19, 3 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
If you're so happy about doing away with proper *accountable* community oversight of what the *community* owns, I don't trust you, either. What's unhelpful is praising the destruction of the very basis of the movement, as you are. The idea that board members ought to have the power to take away community voting rights, including board members who *arbitrarily extended their personal terms to do so* is abhorrent. CoffeeCrumbs (talk) 15:08, 5 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
I am not praising any destruction; rather making a different point: The consideration of abandoning voting here is by people selected by and from the community. They did help dream, build, raise support for the projects. They can nevertheless make decisions that weaken the movement, or reduce accountability of the Foundation to the movement. So having 0 appointed board members would not necessarily avoid this progression along this branch of the path of the iron law. Indeed if we recognize such an end-state is dangerous to our movement and mission, we may want advisors and Trustees with expertise specifically in helping to avoid that, whether or not they have already spent years working on the Projects. –SJ talk  19:34, 10 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
They can nevertheless make decisions that... reduce accountability of the Foundation to the movement. Isn't that exactly what we're seeing here by removing voting! BethNaught (talk) 23:39, 10 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Please stop saying "community-sourced"[edit]

It should be community selected, not -sourced.

Sourcing says nothing about who has agency in decision making [for instance: who can vote, with what impact]. We have a broad community; the Board could choose a set of appointed members who fit any predetermined profile [including "position on a critical governance decision"], who happened to be drawn from the community. Indeed, the Board has often done so -- as the community includes people of a wide range of backgrounds, experience, and skill in charitable governance, who have already committed themselves to our movement. Those appointees have always been recognized as being Board-appointed, and not community-selected. This language confuses the matter. –SJ talk  14:45, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

I imagine, looking at their language choices and the "evaluation criteria" or whatever they're calling it now, that the intention is for both the community and appointed seats to fill all of the diversity requirements. And I assume they are trying to match the diversity of the population as a whole, rather than the diversity of the editor base from which the community seats would normally be derived. I think the community-sourced language is quite explicit and aimed at selecting a board that is less white, male, cis, and from the developed world than the one we have now.
Lack of diversity and representation is a problem with society at large that is reflected on Wikimedia as well, and deserves attention and action to address it in both arenas. But if the community's voice is reduced even further than it currently is on the board in the name of fixing those wrongs, that isn't a positive thing either. – Ajraddatz (talk) 15:24, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
That is a critical challenge, yes. Removing the mandate for a community majority does not address it. Removing the role of community-run bodies (such as a community election committee) in defining related process, does not address it. The most concrete challenge for the WMF is counterbalancing the inherent centralization of funding, messaging, and skill-development in a few organizations, countries, languages. Anything we can do to get there will have a positive impact on diversity and sustainability of the movement. –SJ talk  16:15, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Completely agree. – Ajraddatz (talk) 18:09, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Exactly--Ymblanter (talk) 20:31, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
There could be clearly defined diversity criteria, enforced by a community-elected committee. There some kind of positive discrimination system with a score that combines vote outcomes with the evaluation rubric. There could be dedicated seats/votes for underrepresented communities. There could be separate votes for 4 community representatives and 4 "ombudsmen for the next generation of editors". Etc. There are plenty of ways to set up a system where diversity is taken into account but all of the non-predetermined input is still coming from the community. "Community-sourced" sends the (unintentional, as it has been by now established) message that it is not important at all whether the actual act of selection, whichever rules it has to follow, is done by the community. --Tgr (talk) 23:44, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]
  • Community-selected is non-negotiable, and yes, the status quo with functional approval (exceptions nothwithstanding) is interpreted as such. I personally am firmly against any binding rubric or non-electoral method, but whatever method is used must a) have no non-community decision-makers (current exceptions aside) in it, and b) must be clearly laid out before any by-law change. Nosebagbear (talk) 14:08, 6 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Jimbo agrees with Tgr. See Talk:Wikimedia_Foundation_Board_noticeboard/October_2020_-_Proposed_Bylaws_changes#Jimmy_Wales_comments_against_"community-sourced"_wordings.--Epiphyllumlover (talk) 05:23, 8 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Selection process process[edit]

Pundit writes:

we will update the documentation to... explain the process through which we expect to discuss and make decisions on the topics above. This will include the conversation about selection pathways. We are also thinking how to organize these conversations in ways that make them enjoyable, open to nuance and collaboration, and accessible

Thank you for this addendum. The current discussion seems to paint us all into a corner of negative feedback loops. Leading with something controversial (what if we ended voting) without a replacement (and figured out the alternative later) on short notice (including for the postponed election which still has not been set) during a globally tense moment, may limit enjoyable and nuanced discussion.

Please set the terms of the coming election, and organize this discussion, before removing the protections in the Bylaws for community oversight. –SJ talk  16:15, 31 October 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Request for an update from Nov 17 meeting[edit]

@Pundit: @Raystorm: November 17th has passed, and I presume the meeting took place as scheduled. When and where will the community receive an update? Megs (talk) 02:50, 23 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Megs, this is just a note to say that an update is coming. Qgil-WMF (talk) 22:19, 23 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Qgil-WMF, Thank you for letting me know WMF has seen this! Do you know where and approximately when it will be posted? Megs (talk) 22:29, 23 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]
Qgil-WMF many thanks! Pundit (talk) 10:47, 30 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Update after the Board Governance Committee meeting on Nov 17[edit]

The Board Governance Committee met last week and wanted to update you on where we are.

We are committed to completing the selection process for the three seats that were postponed by June 30, 2021, so that the trustees can be appointed at the Board’s July/August 2021 meeting. We also hope to fill the three additional seats contemplated in the proposed Bylaws revisions as well, but only after due consideration of the best processes for doing so. We plan to discuss these improvements with you during January - February (dates to be confirmed) in order to start the nomination process around March - April. We recognize that discussing and designing this new process might take longer, and while we hope to make the June 30th goal, we are open to consider the possibility of selecting these three additional trustees at a later date, if June 30 is not possible.

As part of those discussions we open in January, we want to be very clear about how the governance of the Wikimedia Foundation works, the role of the Board, and how it functions. We will come in prepared to discuss in more depth the biggest problems we have identified with the current situation, particularly that:

  1. We need more Board members. The current members of the Board are stretched thin working for a movement whose size and complexity have grown since our current Board structure was put in place over a decade ago, and we need additional capacity if we are to steer effectively.[1] More Board members will allow task specialization, which might help us respond more rapidly to our sometimes rapidly evolving situations.
  2. Our goal is to find candidates with the skills the Board needs to perform well. Currently candidates are not assessed based on skills that may serve an international organisation of the size and complexity of the Foundation.
  3. We perennially experience a lack of diversity in candidates. We want to be sure that our processes are equitable across our movement and result in a Board that reflects our commitments to diversity (in the Bylaws, in the movement strategy, and elsewhere).

The feedback received about the Bylaws revisions and related discussions shows that there are very different opinions. We need to be on the same page on these important points in order to work together towards building solutions.

We hope to have more information after the December 9 Board meeting to share about timelines and plans.

[1] The Board has had 10 members since 2010, at a time when the Foundation had 80 employees, an annual budget of less than $18 million, and around 25 affiliates. All of those numbers are now over five times larger.

On behalf of the Board Governance Committee, Qgil-WMF (talk) 21:51, 25 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]


If We need more Board members, amend the bylaws to change Art IV, Sec. 3, Para. (C) from "Three Trustees" to "Six Trustees" (or whatever), and Para. (D) from "Two" to "Four" (or whatever) [2], then hold elections, and we'll have more Board members. It'd be a lot of faster if the Board just asked the community for feedback on that, without all the other changes. Sounds like something that can get done in less than six months. Levivich (talk) 00:27, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

There's a bit of confirmation bias in that point and the footnote :) The fastest way to get more done is via delegation. When the Foundation had only 1-2 employees, the board was smaller, but significantly more active -- meeting more often, making more decisions, communicating 10x as much online, and working through a number of appointed committees (made up primarily of non-trustees but reporting to the Board; unlike the product/governance committees which are simply subsets of trustees).
Adding trustees is like adding lanes to the highway to reduce congestion. It is a common argument for expansion, and sounds reasonable, but one can observe that it does not speed things up in practice. (scheduling gets harder; each person struggles more to be heard; you form less of a bond as a team and less of a coherent vision. One rule of thumb is that beyond a group of 7, each new person reduces speed of decision-making by 10%). Obviously an oversimplification, but highlights a commonly accepted point that any enthusiastic expansion plan should address.
There are other reasons to expand a board -- having representatives from each of a range of support or member networks; or, on boards with an executive committee, filling out well-defined functional committees. But you may want that quality of delegation, and greater clarity about the board's work [policy driving? partnerships? funding? community empowerment?] before "more seats" translates to more work. –SJ talk  23:42, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Given that the current members of the board are "stretched thin", wouldn't it make sense to hold elections immediately, to replace them? Given that the relevant resolution sets a deadline for "any required changes to the Bylaws by June 30, 2020", it seems that it's hard to believe that the current trustees will be able to complete this process. It's time for the current board to step aside and allow a future board, one capable of giving these issues the time and care they deserve, to address them. It's also probably time for the community to consider how to best exercise its oversight of a failing Board of Directors. TomDotGov (talk) (hold the election) 01:16, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

The biggest current problem with the board has clearly *not* been identified, because if it were, the result would be immediate mass resignations of the board, not another paragraph of empty corporate-speak that could have more efficiently simply said "we don't actually care about your opinions, we're going to do whatever it is we want, regardless of anything any of you say." CoffeeCrumbs (talk) 07:59, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

The current Board is not completely legitimized, thus any change by the board with the current setup must not be too huge. An increase of the elected seats is OK, but it must still be an election. An increase of the appointed seats should wait until after the next elections, and of course after the community has had the opportunity for a vote on the change of the bylaws. The next election should be started asap, the reasoning with Covid was already not strong in April, it has vanished completely now, that everything is done online even in other places, here it was always online, so Covid has no real impact on the election process. Grüße vom Sänger ♫(Reden) 11:43, 26 November 2020 (UTC)[reply]

"The current Board is not completely legitimized"-- I agree. It seems risky to change the structure under the current board; you could risk a lawsuit. I am not going to sue the WMF. Could potentially any donor or even Wikipedia contributor have standing to sue? If so why risk the reputation-loss of legal trouble? The real loss would not be the cost of lawyers, but the bad publicity which would in turn reduce donations. Also consider Section 230. If Wikipedia would like to keep that sort of protection, it needs the public goodwill since it was turned into a political question in recent months. That means not risking legal trouble.--Epiphyllumlover (talk) 06:24, 1 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
On the other hand, maybe there is some foundation(s) none of us know about that is/are offering to grant some funds to the WMF in return for recommending some board members, who are qualified anyway. If the amount in question is greater than, say half the existing yearly donations to the WMF this could still pencil out even if it results in bad publicity. That would be a lot of money; seems unlikely to me.--Epiphyllumlover (talk) 06:29, 1 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
That's not happening. Major donations are publicized, and no single donor has given over 1% of the WMF budget, and all large ($1000+) donations combined are typically only 10-12% of WMF income. Additionally, independence is a major guiding principle of the WMF, and they strongly prioritize avoiding letting any particular outside organization have such influence. --Yair rand (talk) 07:07, 1 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]
The guiding principle section you linked to states "designed to attract a variety of voices and skillsets, rather than primarily acknowledging donors or celebrities"
The word "primarily" indicates that "acknowledging donors or celebrities" is reserved as a secondary purpose of the process.
That is an extremely weak statement given that it is not uncommon for a foundation to expect a board seat allocated to a designated individual in return for a grant. Any other nonprofit which routinely appoints board members at the direction of major donors or grant-makers as a method of securing funds could have a similar statement in their guidelines or policies. If all the board members were always elected, I could accept that donations weren't a major secondary factor, but with appointing I cannot. Isn't it assumed (in general, for non-profit boards) that securing benefactors is a major purpose for appointing instead of electing?
Also, a major purpose for the Wikimedia movement strategy good behavior and diversity guidelines is to attract big donors:[3]

When nonprofits are small, they often raise money from a wide variety of sources. That’s because there are many potential donors who are able to give small amounts of money, and because a particularly inspiring executive director can stand out from the crowd and convince these small donors to give. But when very large sums of money are involved, the picture changes. Sizable funding sources are fewer, and their goals are more developed. As a result, the funders’ interests matter more than does the executive director’s charisma.

When the WMF was small, Jimbo's charisma was enough, but if you are going to go after the big donors so that the WMF can keep expanding, you need a more honed focus. On the whole, social conservatives have less money and come from less money-ed locales than social moderates. So consolidating the policies in this direction serves the purpose of making the WMF more effective at appealing to the larger donors. The timing of appointing new board members after the strategy stuff makes excellent financial sense.
I expect the "typically only 10-12% of WMF income" figure to increase substantially during the next few years should the new appointees be placed as planned.--Epiphyllumlover (talk) 04:52, 8 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

@Qgil-WMF: Any update since the Dec. 9 meeting? Thanks, Levivich (talk) 07:11, 17 December 2020 (UTC)[reply]

Approval of Bylaws amendments and upcoming call for feedback about the selection of new trustees[edit]

Hi, please see Approval of Bylaws amendments and upcoming call for feedback about the selection of new trustees. Qgil-WMF (talk) 17:34, 21 January 2021 (UTC)[reply]