Talk:Wikimedia Foundation bylaws/December 2018 - Affiliate-selected trustees, term limits, and diversity

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This is the talk page for a proposed amendment to the Wikimedia Foundation Bylaws, under discussion in December 2018. It has been approved for community discussion by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.

User groups are unknown to Wikimedia community[edit]

Neither this amendment nor other discussion elsewhere acknowledges how different and unusual user groups are compared to chapters. The language in this proposal starts with an assumption that user groups are approximately the same and chapters or thematic organizations - the differences are great!

The Wikimedia community knows who the leadership of chapters is, which is part of the accountability process for chapters getting votes. For unstated, undisclosed WMF and non-community reasons, the user group recognition process is private. The Wikimedia community does not get access to the wiki-user names of the people who register and operate user groups.

  1. Can someone explain why the WMF set the precedent of making user group registration a private process?
  2. Does the board stand by the current practice of keeping the privacy of user group leadership and registrants?
  3. To what extent do private Wikimedia user groups making votes align with Wikimedia community values?

Blue Rasberry (talk) 17:09, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Bluerasberry, could you clarify what you mean by "user group leadership"? Some groups might not have a formal leadership at all.--Strainu (talk) 18:01, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
@Strainu: There is variation but the default leadership roles are with the individuals who register the user group. The founders of the user group register it in an off-wiki process and have their application reviewed in an off-wiki process. At the founding of a user group there is no disclosure of who founded it and who at that time controls it. Later, some user groups publicize a leadership, but identifying the wiki identities of the people who manage the usergroups is not the default.
Despite the variation, how do you feel about private leadership at all? Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:14, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
I don't feel this is an issue. On one hand, there are ways to confirm the voter's identity and on the other hand, in how many elections do you know all the voters?--Strainu (talk) 20:02, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
I do feel that it is an issue. Checking the identity of the voter is not an issue. Checking if the voter is actually voting according to the membership wishes is an issue. Most thematic Usergroups precisely do not do collect info about members wishes. They have no such processes. So how do you avoid the contact voicing his opinion rather than the group opinion ? Anthere (talk)
Who is we here? The only persons that should be interested on how the user group representative is voting are user group members. If someone in the community believes that a group they're a member of might be misrepresented by their representatives, that person should raise the issue within the user group, because the representative can do far more serious damage than voting for the wrong candidate. Strainu (talk) 05:54, 9 December 2018 (UTC)
I tend to agree. Users groups have been created and approved with other criteria in mind: giving them an official role in the selection of trustees will change the meaning, cost and structure of incentives. Suddenly, approving an additional group will become a cost for a governance process to be weighed against other benefits. People will be encouraged to join and multiply users groups for reasons other than doing things
Also, because they are generally not incorporated, they have no legal guarantee of democracy. Even for user group members, it's often hard to understand who are the representatives of a user group, how they were selected and where or how to discuss fundamental decisions about the user group. Any legal right for user groups to participate in a process enshrined in the WMF bylaws should be restricted to legally incorporated entities with approved bylaws.
Finally, if the user groups include large amounts of users who are currently unable to join a chapter, that's great! Let's help them form a chapter in their regions. This will make sure that the user groups are not hijacked by people in few countries just for the purpose of influencing the WMF elections. It will also avoid the bizarre situation of WMF flying its ED around the world to sign papers which can't possibly have any concrete effect because WMF has no operations in those areas. Nemo 18:03, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Bluerasberry, all user groups have a public wiki page with the group information. This is a requirement for affiliation. The process is similar to chapters and thematic organisations, with the submission of the application to Affcom, and a public announcement of the creation of the user group if said application is successful. Also, I would argue that not all chapters are the same - and neither are user groups. Some are incorporated, some are not, some are big, some are small. Establishing a difference by type of affiliation, as opposed to type of organisation, seems of very little value here. And there are other factors at play - we are seeing many user groups coming from emerging countries. Countries, in some cases, where it would be unfeasible to have an incorporated organisation. Our challenge is how to incorporate those voices to the global conversation and the global governance of our movement. It could happen that some user groups will decline the possibility to participate in the selection of trustees, as some chapters currently do, once a process is determined by the affiliates - but why shouldn’t they have the option to participate? Saying that they are not known by the international community, when there are more than 100 user groups around the world, appears to me to prove that in fact the opposite is true. Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 19:53, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

@Raystorm: I fail to understand how what you are saying is a response to my questions. Do you have anything to say about the privacy of wiki account names of the people operating user groups? Are my questions unclear? Blue Rasberry (talk) 21:09, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
Weren't you referring to participants being listed on wiki? Raystorm (talk) 21:16, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: Yes. Ideally I would like all the participants of user groups to be listed on wiki. I think that is reasonable, but if that is unreasonable, then at least I would like the leadership or the people in charge to be listed on wiki. Right now neither of these things is required. Blue Rasberry (talk) 21:38, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
My understanding is that user group pages list participants, and a random skimming seems to confirm that. But what you are describing is a process issue - the how - which is not something that is going to be included in the bylaws (same as the community elections, the process is not included in the bylaws either). The discussion of the requirements the different affiliates must comply with in order participate in the ASBS is completely fair - but it is a different discussion than this one, and can only happen after determining that user groups (under certain circumstances, if you will, like chapters), can be eligible to participate. Raystorm (talk) 17:04, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: Okay, you see a bigger picture in this than I do, so I can go with what you say. I find it strange that the board has come to the conclusion that user groups should vote, but is comfortable with ambiguity about what user groups are. The entire user group situation around privacy is strange in general and strange by Wikimedia standards. I do worry that the Wikimedia Foundation board lacks understand of what user groups are and I do not feel entirely assured by what you are communicating.
My wish in all of this is that it would be possible for the Wikimedia community to know the wiki account names of the individuals operating user groups. Despite your spot checking a few, there is no requirement for user groups to disclose their leadership. I care less about what the governance actually is, although I do wish that there was a rule for user groups to have governance mostly by people with Wikimedia user accounts.
When I read this proposal about user groups, my worry is that the board is giving voting rights to (1) people without Wikimedia accounts (2) people who are unknown to the Wikimedia community (3) people who do not care for Wikimedia projects. Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:00, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
Could you please elaborate your worries a bit more? I am not sure what you mean by people without Wikimedia accounts. It is a requirement for people applying for user group status to have “At least 3 members with 300 or more contributions to a Wikimedia project on a registered account that has existed for more than 6 months in good community standing (meaning they are not currently suspended or otherwise prevented from participating).” Their activities are reported back to the community, or they risk losing affiliation. User groups have been a part of the movement for a while now, and continue to thrive --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 18:59, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
@NTymkiv (WMF): Yes exactly you found the criteria. The problem is that the WMF and AffCom knows those three members, and accepts and evaluates the user group application naming those three people in private, but does not share the identity of those people or their application with the Wikimedia community. The applications are private and I want them to be public.
The practice of applying privacy protection to those three people and their applications never should have become established. I ask the board to make the change that all those applications now have to be revealed to the public, and any user group hiding those applications is in default until it reports the Wikimedia accounts of its participants or leaders. Having the Wikimedia accounts of those "3 people with 300 contributions" be private information for only the WMF and AffCom to see has always been a mistake and never aligned with Wikimedia community values, because leaders of user groups should not be a secret only for the WMF to know.
It is a bigger problem that the Wikimedia community has not been able to participate in user group evaluation and registration to date because AffCom and WMF have been withholding applications from the Wikimedia community. The user groups lack some legitimacy for not coming from Wikimedia community participation. I wish that you would share that concern. Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:24, 12 December 2018 (UTC)

I agree, with the model currently used for User Groups, it's a risk - and actually wrenching that model - to let them influence those elections. Either they are an incorporated entity, with a leadership that can be accountable for the UG and its members, like a chapter, and can be allowed to vote for the WMF BoT, or they are a kind of more informal entity as most are now, and should not be part of that process.- Darwin Ahoy! 23:33, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Per above - if we can imagine scenarios under which user groups could participate, then we are talking about process. And that's a fine discussion to have - but it cannot happen without the prior step of recognising their potential eligibility. Raystorm (talk) 17:04, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
Change that to "incorporated Affiliates" or something that assures that not all UGs (or other types of Affiliates that may me created in the future) will be participating in this process, then. Recognizing that all UGs (or other new types of Affiliates) may be eligible by principle should not be a step at all, prior or otherwise. In the case of UGs because they were never designed for that in first place.- Darwin Ahoy! 11:45, 9 December 2018 (UTC)
Again, that is a process issue, to be determined by the affiliates. To give a similar example, not all community members are eligible to vote in the community elections, and we don't include that process in the bylaws either. Raystorm (talk) 08:10, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: I'm guiding myself by the FAQ the BoT has included there: "Incorporating User Groups into the selection process more than triples the number of affiliates who are selecting trustees: there are currently over 100 User Groups but fewer than 40 total Chapters and Thematic Organizations." "Q. Which groups are eligible to participate? A. The process should include all recognized affiliates in good standing" It is very clear that the BoT envisages in this proposal the participation of all UGs in the process, which IMO is not acceptable.- Darwin Ahoy! 14:44, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Comment Comment As it has been mentioned, one thing is to make user groups potentially able to vote, and another is the process that will make them eligible if they fulfill the requirements set by the affiliates themselves. Saying that they should have at the very minimum a current affiliation agreement and be up to date with reporting is not problematic, surely? NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 21:50, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Please see The Land comments below. I've always assumed the idea was to include ALL User Groups, because that's what the BoT has written in the FAQ. I also do not agree that having an affiliation agreement and be up to date with reporting should be the very minimum. IMO the very minimum should also include being an incorporated affiliate.- Darwin Ahoy! 00:01, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

reasonable community engagement in an election costs a lot of resources[edit]

The elections process for trustees has, in the past, had a budget of $0 for education, outreach, and awareness. There is trust in a community deliberation process. So far as I know, there are no aggregated records of how community discussion of these elections happen. As a community member, I have the view that the election is a serious matter with much more impactful consequences than typical volunteer Wiki community decisions. Accessing information about candidates, organizing discussion, and doing the general education outreach of the seriousness of appointing 2 of 10 people that will approve a budget to disburse US$100 million a year is not easy for chapters, and about half of the chapters have some administrative budget to do this basic education. What process or thought has anyone put into how the 100+ user groups will be able to do the administrative labor of teaching the seriousness of this election? If chapters with dedicated staff and money have had serious challenges organizing reasonable engagement in this election, then what is the plan to expand the election on to get even more community discussion from people with even less access to information? Blue Rasberry (talk) 17:09, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Hello, Bluerasberry! It is indeed useful to discuss what kind of support is needed for the Affiliate-selection process to be effective. The organisers of the Affiliate-selection process can discuss it further along these lines when the affiliates open their process and make a request to the Wikimedia Foundation. We are already offering staff time; I think we could be open to considering financial support on top of that, depends on what and when is needed and is appropriate. Though this discussion should not happen here, as these kind of things are not going to be included in the Bylaws --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 22:43, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

transfer of power without community participation[edit]

The two votes at stake belong to the Wikimedia chapters. The board of trustees has the ability to change Wikimedia governance, and in this proposal the idea is to remove some power from the chapters and to share it with other community groups.

The board will make its own decisions, but can anyone show any evidence of community consultation about this? So far as I know, there are no published discussions about this decision, and this proposal is the first notice to chapters that a power around which the chapters are organized is being discussed for re-allotment. Blue Rasberry (talk) 17:09, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Indeed, the current affiliates should be consulted more formally and asked to provide an official opinion, both individually and as a group. It's also unwise to further extend and dilute the process before a complete assessment of the last expansion (from chapters to chapters and thematic orgs). It's just bad governance to make such decisions without regard to evidence.
After an assessment, if the WMF board really believes in the importance of giving user groups a role in the selection of trustees, they could show they're honest about it by giving them one of the seats currently reserved to appointments by the board. This would also make sense logically, because the appointed seats are supposed to be used to compensate skills and characteristics which are either too abundant or too scarce in the "usual pool" of people likely to be selected via the other methods, and the main feature of the user groups (according to the text of the proposal) is that they're a very wide cross-section of the Wikimedia movement and related groups, so they should be able to cast a wider net and offer better suggestions for those seats than the HR firms have so far managed to provide. Nemo 18:33, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
The community discussion is happening now, but conversations about this were happening in a lot of venues. In the discussion about "power", I think it's useful to revisit the reason explained for the chapter-selected seats when they were instituted in 2008. It's a useful guiding point to remember what we hoped to achieve:

Why are you adding two chapters positions?

… It's important to that the two chapters-selected seats are not intended to represent chapters' self-interest. The chapters are being asked to select two trustees who they feel will best represent the interests of the Wikimedia Foundation, and help it fulfill its mission as well as it possibly can.

For example, recently, the question if and how other affiliates can be welcomed was discussed at least during Affiliate Chairpersons meetings in July and November --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 22:52, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

AffCom participation in the voting process[edit]

AffCom appoints user groups so AffCom is shaping this election. Previously this election was imagined as a Wikimedia community organization process. To what extent is AffCom a Wikimedia community organization?

  1. Can anyone list all the Wikimedia Foundation employees, consultants, or any other paid staff who are paid to engage with AffCom?
  2. What budget or estimate of a budget for AffCom can anyone show? Can AffCom start publishing an annual budget, if its money is more than 0?
    1. Include an estimate of paid staff who do admin for AffCom
    2. Include travel costs to convene
  3. To what extent is AffCom and voting part of the WMF administrative process? Are the designated AffCom staffers independent of other WMF roles, or do the AffCom staffers mingle with other interests and potentially bring those into AffCom
  4. To what extent do any paid staff set agendas, discussions, goals, or do strategic planning for AffCom?
  5. What sources of funding does AffCom have?
  6. What is the history of paid staff in AffCom? When did this start, where is the documentation?

The point of me asking about money is that in the past, it was imagined that AffCom was a community organization which operated on a budget similar to other Wikimedia community groups. I am curious about the extent to which this might have changed, and the extent to which money gets involved in the decisions which AffCom makes, the discussions it has, who shows up to participate, or whatever happens in AffCom with money that might not happen without money. Blue Rasberry (talk) 17:09, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

This is outside the scope of the bylaws discussion. Go to the Affcom talk page, ping me if you wish and I will reply to you there. Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 19:57, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: AffCom seems intimately connected to which user groups get recognized to vote. AffCom probably also has its paid staff and funding processes interconnected to user group recruitment and outreach, but so far as I know, WMF has never reported on this. Can you say what about this situation is obvious to you, but which I fail to see, that leads you to recognize that my questions are out of scope?
There is an idea that the ~40 Wikimedia chapters with their resources have some independence to think for themselves. With 100+ user groups appointed in secret and tied to the WMF administration through AffCom and themselves typically having no budget, I question their independence. My guess is that the annual budget of AffCom (US$150,000+?, for 1 FTE and travel) is more than the annual budget of the bottom-resourced 50 user groups combined (perhaps $0?). To what extent is it unreasonable for me to imagine that an influence of money or resources or other conflict of interest can be in play?
If the budget question is out of scope, then is there any other way that someone can explain the extent to which, if any, AffCom has influence over user groups?
Is there anyone with authority who can state the AffCom activities which are most likely to influence votes, or otherwise, state that no AffCom activity influences votes? Blue Rasberry (talk) 20:58, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
Here's the link, forgot to add it before. Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 21:19, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: - have at it - I x-posted this election discussion to Talk:Affiliations_Committee#AffCom_participation_in_the_voting_process. Blue Rasberry (talk) 21:45, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Term limits and cost of appointments[edit]

Term limits have served WMF well and should not be increased. The supposed problem of energies being wasted on recruitment is entirely self-created: the WMF has continued to use ineffective recruitment methods even after they were shown to be a total failure; and has chosen plainly wrong criteria for selection of its appointed board members, by affirming a supposed requirement for the trustees to be more similar to the groupthink of staff and WMF executives (a self-serving criterion often sold as "professionalisation" or similar), while forgetting the actually necessary criteria.

Also, if the appointment is such a big problem, the most logical solution is to reduce the number of appointed seats. Elections have proven much more effective at selecting competent trustees (from what I recall they had on average more experience in comparable organisations and not even one so far had to resign because of some ethical scandal or other incompatibility with the purpose of the board!). Nemo 18:13, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

+1 Anthere (talk) 21:17, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
I disagree as well with the increment of the term limits of appointed trustees to three, for the reasons stated by Nemo_bis. And I very much agree that the appointed seats on the BoT should tend to zero, being replaced by elected seats, instead of being strengthened with yet another term.- Darwin Ahoy! 23:18, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
The methods used to recruit trustees are only a failure if they fail to find good candidates. The recruitment processes have found good candidates, though they have at times taken far longer than we would have liked, resulting in periods (like now) with one or more vacancies on the Board. The proposal to allow for the potential of longer tenures on the Board is a method of reducing the frequency of the trustee recruitment process. The different selection processes for trustees tend to prioritize different types of expertise among candidates. Over the years, each selection process (community, affiliate, and Board) has found good candidates who have made invaluable contributions to the Board and its governance of the Foundation.
Still, the process can be improved, but exactly how would be hopefully clearer after the Strategic and governance conversations we are having now. For now we want to make sure we can keep valuable board members for an additional term if their perspective will continue to benefit the Board and they would like to stay on. The Board members would still need to approve the person in question again, the community or affiliates would still need to select the person again, and the person in question would need to be able to commit time and efforts to be a good board member. It is absolutely not a given that a person who joins the Board will be able to serve 9 years --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 23:46, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
  • I sincerely hope that we'll be able to revise the whole process in a way that will warrant actual experts join the Board (with a a significant influence from the community though) before the term limits even apply to anyone. Pundit (talk) 08:52, 9 December 2018 (UTC)
    • I second Pundit. This whole process seems to be inverted. We should start by deciding which process(es) would assure a competent set of experts joining the BoT, and then discuss what terms would be best for them to execute their mission without a risk of self-perpetuation.- Darwin Ahoy! 11:39, 9 December 2018 (UTC)

I'm opposed to extending term limits from 2 to 3 terms for a couple of reasons, but primarily because as a whole the Trustees have not proven trustworthy enough to be allowed to hold more than two terms. Issues include the decision to expel James Heilman as well as the "Superprotect" matter. I could add to this list. I doubt enough Wikimedians will ever organized to vote out individual Trustees who have failed to show they have the projects' best interest, so we might as well rely to term limits to flush out the scoundrels until we have a Board Trustees who are devoted to both the goals of the projects as well as the communities of volunteers. -- Llywrch (talk) 06:52, 10 January 2019 (UTC)

Number of terms and cool-off period[edit]

I personally believe that changing the limits before the alloted time has passed (e.g. 6 years after 2015) means that the current limit has not been given a real chance to show off it's potential.

I am also not convinced by the argument that [the community] retains the ability to not renew terms after the first or second term, if appropriate, to ensure openness and avoid entrenchment., since that was also true when there were no limits. The fact that the limits were added shows that the claimed ability did not function correctly.

More importantly, your claim that Three year terms, with a limit of a maximum of three consecutive terms, is a common practice among nonprofit organizations is not backed by the source. Actually, the 3-term limit is only used by 21% of respondents, being the 3rd most used option after 2-terms (the current limit for WMF) and no limit. Assuming proportional distribution between the 2 graphs on page 18, under 13% of all NGOs use the proposed combination, vs. 26% for the 2-term/3-years combination. I could also offer the counter-argument that most democratic countries limit their leaders to 2 mandates. You should correct the incorrect statement and offer more arguments for the change - or just drop the proposal.

That being said, if the proposal will be maintained, it will also make sense to extend the "cool-off" period during which a former trustee cannot seek re-election to at least 30 month, or even 36. Otherwise, with the current proposal, a person can monopolise a seat for as much as 85% of the time (108 months on, 18 months off).--Strainu (talk) 18:19, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

Thanks for the fact-checking. I agree that such a decision should be delayed at least until 2021. Also, it's hard to state there is a need to let people serve 3 terms when a majority of the board-appointed trustees in the last few years have not managed to serve one full term, let alone two (counts may differ depending on one's criteria). Nemo 18:50, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
There seems to be a misunderstanding here about what the source says and the claim it is supporting. The claim was that having limits of three terms is a common practice. The source says that 21% of nonprofit boards have a three-term limit. That alone indicates that it is a common practice. The source also shows that, while more boards have a two-term limit than have a three-term limit, a majority of boards have a term limit of three terms or more (including no limit). A two-term limit is a common practice as well, but still a minority practice. Ultimately, while surveys of other boards’ practices are useful benchmarks, the decisions about term lengths and limits should be driven by the needs of the Board. --Charles M. Roslof (WMF) (talk) 21:50, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
CRoslof (WMF), while I'm not a native English speaker, I don't think this is a language issue. Calling something used by 1/5 of the target group "common" seems like a stretch even for legalese. Also, I don't think the argument that more NGOs have the same or more terms than the proposal makes sense - there is a clear separation line made by the report between those with a limit and those with no limit. A more accurate representation would be that, within those NGOs that do have a term, about a third use 3+ terms.
I do agree that board needs should be the main reasoning (although, as I said, I believe they have been hastily evaluated) but factual accuracy should be something that your team should aim for.--Strainu (talk) 22:18, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
I want to reiterate the key numbers that Strainu is referring to. What they say is that 42% of responding nonprofits have a 2-term limit, and 21% have a 3-term limit. Only 6% have a limit of 4 or more terms. It's true that 28% of organizations haven't enacted any Board term limits, but it doesn't seem fair to lump that into a "majority" which includes the completely different case of having no limits at all. The most common term limit is 2 terms, far more common than any other term limit no matter how you slice it. Adamw (talk) 00:36, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
Hmmm, the most common arrangement in that report seems to be two 3-year terms. I agree that three terms is also pretty normal. Still, I'm not convinced - I think the problem with Board turnover comes from having many short-lived Board members, and very slow appointments to the Board-appointed seats - not because people who have been serving six years might all have to step down at once. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 10:00, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

Saying that three-term limits are common among NGO without mentioning that they are only used by 21% of them while 42% use 2 period-limits is misleading. Misleading statements should be clarified as soon as possible. Therefore, I politely ask the redactors of the proposal document to correct that statement so that it is clear at first view that three consecutive terms is not the most common arragement adopted by NGO. B25es (talk) 17:29, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

Actual diversity measures[edit]

The proposed amendment "The Board is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both in terms of trustee composition and in other aspects of its work" is biteless and worthless. I think affirming a principle of diversity while not actually doing anything concrete towards it is pure hypocrisy which is best avoided.

I instead support introducing concrete and effective measures which have already been proven to work in other contexts, such as a prohibition to have more than 70 % of trustees identifying with the same gender (any appointment of a new trustee would be invalid until or unless compliance is re-established). Of course everyone has their own opinions on gender quotas and on what kind of aspects of diversity would be more important to pursue, but in 2018 we still have a limited basket of widely tested measures to choose from. Nemo 18:25, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

I propose money as a measure.
I would love to see a report of how much money goes to projects in various countries, toward various diversity initiatives, or which overlays any diversity goals or measurements to the Wikimedia movement budget. Blue Rasberry (talk) 19:21, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
While I think it is great that "the Board is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion" in their work in general, I do not think it should be its competence to extend that to the terms of the trustee composition. Being apt for the place is what should matter above all other aspects. Gender, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation, all that is secondary, what really matters is if the person is good at the job they are expected to do.- Darwin Ahoy! 23:47, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
Hi Nemo. A written statement, enshrined in the Foundation's Bylaws, makes a public commitment about the value the Board places on diversity. The statement itself is a reminder to the Board, the organization, affiliates, and to communities about factors to consider in selecting Board candidates. The proposed change to the Bylaws formalizes the approach that the Board, and Foundation staff supporting the Board, already take when recruiting trustees. Further discussions about how we operationalise this to make it happen are valid, such as the gender quotas you mention, but do not really negate the value about making a commitment to diversity in the bylaws that future Boards will have to follow.
To Darwin's point: That is a common excuse for perpetuating a status quo that reinforces discrimination. There's no such things as meritocracies - only systems that ingrain inequality. We must be aware that these biases exist and be willing to address them if we want to be successful in our mission. Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 16:51, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
IMO what perpetuates a status quo is the BoT validating/appointing the members itself, which goes directly against diversity and renovation. Proposing longer terms for those appointed members only makes that worst. I stand by what I've said: Diversity is good, but competence is even better. A quest for diversity should not have as a result a sub-optimal BoT, just to fill-up whatever quotas are set (even informally).- Darwin Ahoy! 18:20, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
The framing you just made about diversity ("diversity is good, but competence is better") is not only old, but unsupported by data. It's a bias - diversity raises the bar of any group. That's why it is important to address it. Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 08:29, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
@Raystorm: I believe I've made it quite clear that what I disapprove about that sentence is that it should not be the competence of the BoT to decide about its own member composition (their diversity or whatever), since it potentially leads to self-preservation, and the consequent lack of diversity which always emanates from any group self-preservation efforts - and this is what really maters to the current proposal; and also that the quest for diversity should always be conducted with good sense, so that it is not put in such a level that incompetence is brought in just to preserve diversity (just in case quotas are brought in). I doubt that, despite what you wrote, you would disagree with that.- Darwin Ahoy! 14:39, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Comment Comment Pardon me, I do not think that having diversity means lowering the bar. That is a very problematic framing. It just means going an extra mile to find people with diverse backgrounds to bring their competence and experiences to the Board --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 21:41, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
I've never said that "having diversity means lowering the bar", that's a straw man. Rather I've seen so much situations where incompetent people have been brought onboard just to keep up the quotas, and show off an appearance of diversity, that I tend to be wary of those schemes aimed at forcing diversity, sometimes at all costs. Anyway, the main point is not that, but that the BoT should not be dictating its own composition, but rather leaving that up to the community (with the general recommendation of bringing in diversity whenever possible - because, as I believe we all agree, diversity is richness, diversity is better).- Darwin Ahoy! 00:09, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

After reading last comments and answers by NTymkiv (WMF), I believe the change in the BoT policy to affirm the engagement on promoting diversity is well intended, and quite positive in the whole, and there is not any reason to presume it will be misused. I've still a lot of doubts about the rest of the proposed changes, but I Support Support the inclusion on this specific point in the BoT policy, specially if it promotes a shift from the always prevalent Westernized, 1st world POV.- Darwin Ahoy! 17:39, 4 January 2019 (UTC)

AffCom recommendation[edit]

As some of you might know, the Affiliations Committee was responsible for preparing a recommendation regarding the inclusion of user groups in the trustee selection process; this recommendation was submitted to the Board for consideration in late October. In the interests of transparency, we invite you to review the full text of our recommendation here.

While the Board is not currently planning to adopt a detailed set of rules for the selection process (as the Committee had recommended), and is instead looking to leave the details of the process up to the participating affiliates, I believe that the Committee's recommendation may be of interest to the affiliates and the broader community as they consider how the proposed new process might work in practice.

We are happy to answer questions about our recommendation, and to support the affiliates in formulating the selection process to whatever degree our assistance is desired.

Regards,
Kirill Lokshin (talk) 19:44, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
Chair, Affiliations Committee

I appreciate the recommendation Kirill. So... whilst not in practice opposed to UserGroup joining Chapters to select trustees, I am a bit perplex of how it will practically happen, in particular in the case of not incorporated groups. Being member of about 5 such UserGroups (not incorporated), I must admit that except for one case where I saw evidence of a discussion about who would be the contacts, in all other cases, I am not aware of any process that came to actually properly select those contacts, in many cases I have no idea who the contacts are, and when I do know, I have not seen any evidence of them providing any significant activity that would look like a group process. Note that in some cases, it actually does not really matter. Still... I would suggest that AffCom should give a look at how the contacts were selected by the groups (maybe even looking to see if contacts are actually active). Anthere (talk)
By the way... is there a page where is clearly outlined where, should this bylaw change be approved, we could know which uaergroups are in good standing (which means in particular have provided last year activity report). Anthere (talk)
Anthere, I believe the Reports page has the information you are requesting. I'll add a link to it in the FAQ. --Charles M. Roslof (WMF) (talk) 22:48, 7 December 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for the link User:CRoslof (WMF) ! Now... you actually got me thinking... if I look at Wikimedia_Summit_2019/Participants_List, I see that all affiliates have representatives, including those not in good standing. So, at the moment, practically speaking... I would be curious what are the rights that are typically given to afiliates, which actually drop/disappear when they are not in good standing? For example, when one group or an individual apply to a grant, and they have not yet followed all obligations (such as reporting), they can not apply to another grant (which I think is excellent practice by the way). So my question is at the moment, which are the rights that drop when a Usergroup or chapter is no more in good standing ?. What are the consequences ? Are they rules ? If they are, why are they not enforced ? Would we trust they are with regards to board seats selections ? Anthere (talk) (unless the table is not up to date ?

Comment Comment I just want to point out that we do have requirements for editors, for example, to be able to vote in the community selection process (from 2017), and no one is checking even if these edits are not violating the copyright or harassing other community members (slightly, so not to get a ban). So affiliates should be able to vote based on their contributions / activities and not just because they are named chapters or thematic organisations. AffCom’s recommendation on how the process can look like is one of the options to be discussed further: “what exactly is an affiliate in a good standing?” --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 17:02, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

@Kirill Lokshin: Thank you for supplying the AffCom source text. I see that it's recommending that one seat be selected by Chapters and Thematic Organizations, and the other seat selected by User Groups. This is a significant detail which is absent from the proposed Bylaws change we're discussing. The Bylaws remain vague on this subject. It will reduce Chapter representation on the Board by 50%, something we need to be absolutely clear about. I'm also disturbed by the single vote per organization, which is justified in the AffCom recommendations as preventing any one type of affiliate from being able to "dominate the process by sheer force of numbers". This the very principle behind voting, and mathematical devices to subvert it, such as the rules for electing the US Senate, are antidemocratic. In the USA there are active, popular movements to move away from this system and towards "one human, one vote" so I'm curious why we would be patterning our organization after a model with such deep, known flaws. Adamw (talk) 19:17, 19 December 2018 (UTC)
@Adamw: To clarify, the recommendation is just that: a recommendation. As I noted, the Board has chosen not to adopt the specific process recommended by the Affiliations Committee (or, for that matter, any other specific process); rather, it will be up to the participating affiliates to collectively determine the mechanics of the process (including whether, and how, seats and votes might be allocated). Kirill Lokshin (talk) 23:15, 19 December 2018 (UTC)

Thoughts on User Groups[edit]

I appreciate the rationale for doing this, but I think it's premature. Basically, our model of affiliations is a bit broken, because the WMF has decided that the only possible method of becoming a new affiliate is to be a User Group.

User Groups were invented to fill a need for a very lightweight model of affiliation: you basically need a cool idea, 3 people willing to make it happen, and 10 willing to say they are part of the group. Which is a real need that needed to be filled, but we have ended up in the situation where we have incorporated entities with staff and 5-figure (maybe 6-figure) budgets which are also User Groups, because no new Chapters or Thematic Organisations have been recognised for 5 years.

I think that the increasing involvement of User Groups in movement governance creates problems because it's not what they were designed for. Firstly, I increasingly hear people saying they should form User Groups in order to attend the Wikimedia Conference - which is not really the point. No doubt having a vote for the WMF Board would further increase this tendency. Secondly, User Groups are designed to be overlapping and flexible - it is a largely positive feature of UGs that you can be in a whole load of them, and decisions in them are often taken by a few people having a conversation on the talk page. But that makes them a problematic governance structure, because you can get more votes for the WMF board by involving yourself in many UGs and turning up to the conversations about who to vote for. Thirdly, while User Groups contain a lot of communities that would not otherwise be represented, on the whole User Groups still contain a heavy weighting of North America and Western Europe (and 'international'/thematic groups that are also heavily weighted to North America and Western Europe).

Also, I am a bit surprised that the WMF Board and Affcom have put effort into looking at this specific question when the movement strategy process is still ongoing (indeed, neither body has given any particular input into the work of the strategy working groups, so far as I can tell...) - it's sort of disappointing that the WMF Board has decided to look at this extremely narrow issue rather than the bigger issues about what our affiliations model might look like in future, or how to make the overall 'community' part of the board (presently formed of community elected and affiliate elected members) more diverse as a whole... Anyway, those are my views! Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 23:53, 7 December 2018 (UTC)

For instance, if I was a hypothetical Wikipedian who worked at a library in Florida, I would probably be participating in 4 User Groups, even if I had no other interests....
  1. The Florida Librarians User Group
  2. The Wikimedians and Libraries User Group
  3. The Wikipeda & Education User Group
  4. The Wikiconference North America User Group
Which is all fine, if User Groups are a programme delivery / coordination structure. But each of those UGs might end up with quite low-participation discussions about who to vote for on the WMF Board. Why should this hypothetical person end up with 4x the voice of someone who is in a mere one User Group? Or none at all? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:48, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
That is certainly a fair point. We should worry about hypothetical inequities that any proposed changes would introduce. We should, however, not ignore the glaring current inequities. Take for example another hypothetical Wikipedian who served as a board member for a national chapter with a budget of five times that of all the regional chapters and user groups combined in the country of your hypothetical Wikipedian, despite the fact that the latter country has 260 million more residents and generates 36% more activity on the English Wikipedia. Gamaliel (talk) 18:50, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
@Gamaliel: I am afraid you have mixed two very different things: budget and voting power, and in consequence IMHO you have missed the point. What is being discussed here is the voting parity. Nowadays, all chapters (and the thematic org) are equal, regardless of their budgets, time since recognition, achievements, editors' base, readers' base etc. etc. Thus, the "big chapter" does not crowd out smaller ones. And as the side note, "activity on the English Wikipedia" is not a good metric of affiliate's significance or equity, I thought it is clear for people on Meta. Best, aegis maelstrom δ 18:08, 31 December 2018 (UTC)
This change to the Bylaws is not meant to usurp or circumvent the movement strategy process, in which the Board and AffCom are engaged. The reason for the timing is that, regardless of the timeline for the movement strategy process, the affiliates will need to select two trustees in 2019. There have already been two (2014 and 2016) rounds of the affiliate-selected Board seat process since user groups were created as an affiliation model. In that time, user groups have become an integral part of the Wikimedia movement. And user groups are very diverse, just as not all chapters are the same. In light of all that, in the Board’s opinion there there shouldn’t be another round of affiliate selection of trustees without the involvement of user groups. To answer a part of your question from 2015: yes, the Board members can decide that the name of the process should include all affiliates. Answering the other part of your question (“what steps can (or should) we take to engage User Groups with this process?”) is tactical and requires discussion between the affiliates. As we said, we do acknowledge that things may very well change in the next three years, pending the strategy process outcomes, but we do have a strategic direction now that is consistent with incorporating new voices, as opposed to keeping them out --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 17:08, 8 December 2018 (UTC)
NTymkiv (WMF), I came to write exactly what Chris Keating (The Land) wrote. It is clear to me that our current structure needs to be fixed. There are user-groups that do more than some other chapters, but there are also many user-groups that do much less than most of the chapters. I can easily name 10 people which I know who are part of more than one user group, some of them even "board" members. Iמ contrast I can't think about one person who is a member of more than one chapter. The fact is that by changing the current bylaws - we give to user group enormous power to choose the next board members. Only by the basic fact, they are 100, and the current chapters are 40. I can mention also the number of people the chapters represent and the amount of work they do compare to the user groups, but this is for another discussion. The basic fact that we can't promise equal and single voice by this change (as Charis mention, easily one person can affect the choice of 4 user groups) - it hurts the basic equality and democracy model we aim to achieve.
There is no doubt things need to be changed, and we need to think about a different model. You were part of the Chairperson retreat and I totally believe there is also a place for user groups among other forums - but not all of them, and not without thinking about how it affects the rest of the current structure. A change is needed, that's for sure:
A) I'm not sure we should run to do it before we end the strategy process and have the recommendations, which we already know that they need to address this issue among others.
B) We maybe need to consider setting different criteria such as level of activity (both for chapters and user-group) and procedures which make sure that there is a single and equal voice for everyone in this election. --Itzike (talk) 10:00, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
The proposal is simple to include user groups in some manner, not necessarily to give each user group an equal vote to that of each chapter. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 16:33, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
I would like to second Chris's thoughts. The main issues here are that (1) the current User Groups concept is broken, as many have already pointed out on this page, so making user groups part of a 'quick fix' for an existing problem is not an ideal solution. Also, I fear that (2) the board is (unintentionally) undermining the second phase of the Movement Strategy process here: The process will (hopefully) produce a more comprehensive solution for our organisational structures and governance, so further enshrining the current structure in the bylaws is quite counterproductive in that regard. --Gnom (talk) Let's make Wikipedia green! 18:21, 28 December 2018 (UTC)

Fully, democratically elected Board[edit]

May I humbly suggest that general elections for Board members would be an effective way to realize the value statement added by this new draft: > The Board is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both in terms of trustee composition and in other aspects of its work.

To summarize the current situation, we have a self-perpetuating Board structure, in which new Trustees are appointed by the Board itself. The three Community-selected members are recommended by a vote, but the choice to appoint is at the sole discretion of the Board. This has already become a point of contention, when the Board decided to expel Doc James for allegedly "leaking" private Board information to Wikimedia Foundation staff. The elections are tallied using a unique formula which has been shown to give different results than any of the normal methods, and the math runs counter to crucial democratic norms.[1]

Let's keep in mind that the Wikimedia Foundation actually began its existence as a membership organization, meaning that all Wikimedians had the power to directly elect its entire Board. This was stripped away in 2006, in apparent violation of the Florida laws which regulated the organization.[2]

We have the option of fixing these issues by taking a truly democratic approach to Board composition. Such a change can be introduced incrementally, the best practice seems to be to elect 1/3 of the Board at each 3-year interval until it has been completely renewed in nine years. As demonstrated by the history of Community-selected members, a democratic approach will reverse the current overrepresentation of people with Silicon Valley backgrounds, and most likely bring us other dimensions of diversity.

This isn't meant to be a judgment of anyone on the Board, your service to our cause is greatly appreciated. What is broken, however, is the process of selecting Board members, and this December's proposal looks like a step backwards rather than the radical turn towards the future that's sorely needed.

If the Wikimedia Foundation insists that chapters democratically elect their boards, perhaps chapters should make the same request of the Foundation itself?

Kind regards, Adamw (talk) 00:16, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Adamw, thank you for your suggestions. The goal of these Bylaws changes is to include user groups in the existing trustee selection process. Though more radical changes to trustee selection are not off the table in the future, they are beyond the scope of this discussion. They are within the scope of the movement strategy discussions, however. The Board is watching and participating in the strategy discussions that are taking place, and will consider additional future changes to the Bylaws if needed to respond to recommendations that come out of the strategy process. --Charles M. Roslof (WMF) (talk) 22:22, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
Hi @CRoslof (WMF):, thanks for taking this open approach to what might be accomplished in the future. I think I see your point, that the Board's excellent, broader goal of "promoting diversity and inclusion" stated in the changes is served by including user groups in trustee selection. You might be right that this would have the desired effect, although Wikimedians have been challenging that assertion elsewhere on this page. What I'm suggesting instead is that we can be *maximally* inclusive by inviting all Wikimedians to select all trustees, rather than the proposed smaller change which preserves our unusual restrictions placed on how each group of Board seats is appointed. Thank you for acknowledging! Adamw (talk) 19:39, 12 December 2018 (UTC)
I agree with Adamw that reducing the number of appointed seats is a better way to achieve the stated goals of the proposed changes, see #Term limits and cost of appointments on why. Nemo 19:49, 17 December 2018 (UTC)

A couple of worries[edit]

English is not my native tongue. If I sound harsh or something like that, it is not my intention.

  • Saying that three-term limits are common among NGO without mentioning that they are only used by 21% of them while 42% use 2 period-limits is misleading. Misleading statements should be clarified as soon as possible.
  • Increasing re-electability is by no means a diversity promoting measure, as it makes easier for incumbents to remain in their positions. There are ways to do that, from increasing the number of trustees to redistributing term periods, but opening more chances for incumbents to remain in charge is not one of them.

B25es (talk) 17:43, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi there,
A clarification on the first point was made here. If you have further concerns, commenting in that section would help keep track of topics. And we can work to clarify the FAQ.
Increasing term limits has to do with preventing loss of institutional knowledge, and facilitating long-term thinking and decision-making. The Board has experienced significant turnover in the last few years. To give an example - only three of the current trustees hired the ED. This does not mean that, depending on the movement strategy process, we don’t do other, more far-reaching changes (like changing Board composition, size, and so on). But we are tackling a known problem now so it doesn’t catch a future Board unaware later --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 21:19, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
@NTymkiv (WMF): Following your recommendation, I've added my first point to the paragraph you mentioned. But I think that the proper action would be to modify the proposal page. If I found an article on Switzerland saying that Italian is a common language there, but not mentioning German or French, I would immediately make some corrections.
On my second point, while your remarks make sense, there are other explanations to why it is so important to extend Trustees' mandates to a possible third period. B25es (talk) 17:52, 11 December 2018 (UTC)
Thanks, yes. The FAQ section will be updated soon, as there are already a few things (common topics) within this discussion to clarify --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 01:25, 12 December 2018 (UTC)

My five cents[edit]

  • I support the proposal to increase number of periods to three. We should not unncessary limit the possibility for competent persons to help the movement.
  • I have no objection to the ambition to state a stonger commitment to diversity.
  • I have serious doubts of the inclusion of User group in the election process (at this point in time). I beleive we are seeing the WMF summits evolving into some type a parlament for the movement (for better or worse). But for now I percive the User Gourp to be more obervers in the WMFsummits then the one who really influence the outcome. And it would be better await the stratgy work and let that process define the roles of the local entities in descisions and authority.

Yger (talk) 19:54, 8 December 2018 (UTC)

Hello there! Thank you for your observations. I would argue that user groups are more than observers - these affiliates work and do activities in support of our mission and our values :) --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 21:28, 10 December 2018 (UTC)

"in good standing"[edit]

Under what circumstances is an affiliate not in good standing? Tony (talk) 06:07, 9 December 2018 (UTC)

In my own experience, an affiliate may not be "in good standing" for the mere fact that the BoT (or its supporting unit AffCom) decides it isn't, without the need of presenting any evidence for that. The bottom line is that it is a rather arbitrary decision by the BoT/AffCom to decide whoever will be participating in this process.- Darwin Ahoy! 11:33, 9 December 2018 (UTC)
There does need to be some definition of "in good standing" metrics used elsewhere by Affcom having included being active for over 12 months, reporting up to date. Gnangarra (talk) 13:37, 9 December 2018 (UTC)
An affiliate is not in good standing if they are behind on their reporting, not in compliance with their affiliate agreement, or suspended or in a de-recognition period. The selection procedure that the affiliates establish may include additional eligibility requirements for affiliates to participate, like those used in other contexts (such as Iberoconf). --Charles M. Roslof (WMF) (talk) 19:41, 13 December 2018 (UTC)
Reporting and being compliant with the affiliate agreement are objective measures. This, however, only seem to depend from AffCom decisions, and may appear as totally arbitrary to the community., especially because AffCom does not seem to have any duty to justify any decision they take. By introducing this arbitrary element, IMO it jeopardizes the entire process. - Darwin Ahoy! 21:25, 13 December 2018 (UTC)

Unintended consequences[edit]

I have a concern that some usergroups are also covered by the efforts of others that this will enable a unintended bias, as described above people can be part of multiple groups in the same sphere of influence. This could cause a bias where the outcome could deny the very voices the inclusion of UG was intended to hear. There should be some consideration to only language, regional groupings while excluding project, conference groups, or over lapping sub-regional groups. Gnangarra (talk) 14:25, 9 December 2018 (UTC)

Thanks, Gnangarra. I think it will be a good point to pay attention to while discussing the process on how exactly User groups will be included. And you should definitely bring it up when affiliates start determining the process --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 21:21, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
So what you're saying is that the bylaws change is intended to allow SOME user groups to vote, but not necessarily all? Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 21:56, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
(just as a note, the existing wording has always been interpreted as "ALL Chapters and Thematic Organisations". Further, there is no mechanism for affiliates collectively to make a decision on which User Groups should take part, if it is indeed the Board's intention that only some user groups voting is part of the idea...) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 22:04, 10 December 2018 (UTC)
So how formal do the informal user groups have to be? I mean we do have quite a few user groups that definitely aren't user groups anymore (and chapters that aren't chapters anymore), but it's difficult to draw the line without leaving out important voices. So on the one hand the working groups should come up with a new model, at the same time we're trying to make this fundamentally broken model float for just a little longer, instead of just acknowledging that it is indeed broken. At this point it would be easier for every affiliate to state their case for why they should be able to vote. Braveheart (talk) 00:01, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

Interference with the Movement Strategy Process[edit]

I want to express my concerns regarding this proposal to amend the WMF bylaws at this moment. It is a clear attempt to change the structure of our movement, and it seems to be a logic step after the endorsement of the Movement Direction (“Structure follows strategy”). However this proposal interferes with our common commitment to the second step of the Movement Strategy Process.

After the endorsement of the Movement Direction 9 working groups have been installed. Their basic assignment is: “[...] map the present situation of their respective Thematic Areas, including the obstacles and opportunities, as well as changes needed for the movement to advance in our Strategic Direction. They will identify possible strategies for making these changes and develop concrete recommendations for the movement on how to ratify and implement (italics are mine) them.

This wording is in accordance with the email of Maria Sefidari of July 19, 2018 in which she expressed the commitment of the Board of Trustees to this process. I quote from her email: “Now our task as a movement is to apply the Strategic Direction to our own work. We need to answer questions that define our path forward: What kind of structures (again, the italics are mine) are ideal for achieving our strategic direction?”

Issuing a proposal to change the bylaws and thus change the organization clearly interferes with the work of all those involved in the Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy Process. I urge the Board of Trustees to postpone a decision about this matter and I suggest to hand over the recommendations of the Affcom to the appropriate working groups.

Of course I do not want the Board of Trustees to act passively during the Movement Strategy Process. But this proposal is only a part of the bigger problem that we have to solve: the organization of the affiliates (chapters, user groups, new forms of affiliation) and the whole decision making process that goes with this, and as such it concerns the very heart of the international community. It needs a more careful consideration than the one-time consultation on this page.

Grijz (talk) 17:08, 11 December 2018 (UTC) (Frans Grijzenhout WMNL)

Hi Franz. As one of the members of the Roles & Responsibilities group (and, of course, only speaking for myself) - I don't feel that this interferes exactly. Maria and Nataliia's comments suggest that this is meant to be, in a sense, an interim change to the bylaws and that everyone expects a more significant revision when the strategy process finishes. However I do personally feel this change is premature because of the specific issues about the current model of affiliation that I described above - particularly if the Board want someone else to decide which UGs should be involved and which should not (which I feel could easily be a lengthy conversation in its own right). Of course all of these issues part of the reason we have a deep and potentially far-reaching strategy process rather than something quicker, simpler and easier. I would feel happier if the Board stayed with the existing process or even extended the terms of the existing Board members for a year, rather than implementing this now. Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 17:28, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

Hello Frans! As we have mentioned elsewhere on this page, the goal is to address the upcoming ASBS in 2019. This selection process is going to take place, independent of where we are on the Movement Strategy process, and user groups are established affiliates who share our mission and values and do activities for our movement. Including them in the upcoming ASBS does not preclude that in the future, as a result of the Movement Strategy process, there are other far-reaching, radical changes. But including user groups for 2019 is consistent with the Strategic Direction of trying to include new voices in general. We trust affiliates to work together to come up with a good, fair process - and the Foundation will be ready to support them --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 16:36, 13 December 2018 (UTC)

Seconding Frans's thoughts – see also my comment above. --Gnom (talk) Let's make Wikipedia green! 18:22, 28 December 2018 (UTC)

Not enough details[edit]

The 1st statement says "Include User Groups in the trustee selection process", but how? If their votes have the same weight as chapters it wouldn't be fair, and in the current board composition it would involve that the Chapters would lose influence. Why not to add a UG trustee?

If the goal is to preserve institutional knowledge then instead of "Raise term limits for trustees from two to three consecutive terms", why not to have an advisory board from previous members who still want to contribute occasionally?

You say that you want to "Reaffirm the Board’s commitment to diversity", but what kind of diversity? Do you want more women, more races, more neurodiversity, more professional backgrounds, more poor or uneducated people...? Would it be diverse involving a fireman or a baker? What is the benefit to the movement? Are you going to discrimiate against illiterate people? Or is it going to be a code word to conform to your idea of "diversity"?--Micru (talk) 18:10, 11 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Micru! The process of “how” will be determined by affiliates. Process is not included in the bylaws, neither for community nor for affiliate selections. With the Affiliate selection taking place in 2019, what we face now is whether we should make the effort to include user groups, as affiliates that have established themselves in our movement. We believe that this is consistent with the Strategic Direction. We have trust in the affiliates to determine “how” that process could later look like, and we are willing to support them.
There are a few goals for increasing term limits, not only the institutional knowledge. It also gives the Board another tool for addressing the cost of trustee turnover; for example, we can ask a Trustee to serve for an additional part of the term and not to have vacant seats for a long period of time. This change addresses the needs of the Board itself. And remember that the Board, community or affiliates would still need to select the same person again. So it is not as if a person selected once would be automatically serving for nine years. And I would argue that it is not the same having an advisory member than a working trustee. The expectations and workload are very different, and so they are not really comparable.
Your comments about diversity are a bit strange. Diversity is not a goal, it is a strategy to get better results. Diverse teams are more creative, innovative and produce better ideas. But unless there is a firm commitment to diversity, biases will unfortunately prevail and we will miss out on important, underrepresented voices, and underperform as a global organization. That is something we wish to explicitly address and be aware of at all levels of the Foundation --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 17:16, 13 December 2018 (UTC)
@NTymkiv (WMF): Hi Nataliia! Do you realize that if the chapters have to share their trustees with UG it is going to be extremely problematic to find a workable solution? Some UG are inactive, others are thousands of times smaller than some chapters, there is user multi-membership, some do not have formal or open decision-making processes, etc. While I agree that UG should be included somehow, I do not find efficient to create a complicated political problem out of it, when it would be more simple to add a UG trustee to be selected by user groups by conditions determined by UG.
If vacant seats are a problem, why not to start the search way before the term ends? Or even maintain a pool of candidates? I am not familiar with the workload that trustees face, so I cannot really understand the pressure that you guys might be subjected to.
What I was trying to highlight with my "strange comments" about diversity is that it is not a monolitic, well-defined concept, it is multifaceted and has many definitions that depend on each individual. And no matter which definition you choose you always are going to discriminate someone, basically because you do not only want diversity (regardless of which criteria you choose), you want competence as well. Are you ready to make trade-offs? For instance is the board ready to take someone less educated or with less experience because they bring diversity or because their voice is underrepresented? Or the opposite? Would a "non-diverse" candidate have a chance if they bring life into the board? In the end bias is inescapable, and instead of some lofty concept like diversity, I would prefer if the board made clear that they will try to appoint the best possible candidate according to their understanding, being aware that we as human beings are imperfect and prisoners of our limited knowledge and awareness, and that board members would work tirelessly to free themselves from those limitations as much as possible.--Micru (talk) 19:44, 13 December 2018 (UTC)

Update to FAQ[edit]

Thanks, everyone, for your input so far. We've made some additions and revisions to the FAQ to respond to common questions we are receiving about the proposed Bylaws changes. --Charles M. Roslof (WMF) (talk) 18:19, 12 December 2018 (UTC)

Why "The process should include all recognized affiliates in good standing" has still not been removed from there, when the BoT has repeatedly made it clear in this talk page that it is not the case? Either it should be "All affiliates", or "all affiliates allowed under certain rules to be defined". If you are already defining rules to who can and can't participate in the process, then we should start discussing if non incorporated affiliates should be part of it at all.- Darwin Ahoy! 16:28, 16 December 2018 (UTC)

Excellent move[edit]

Grouping chapters, thematic organization and user groups under a common term, affiliates, is a logical step forward. The movement is going to exist of a network of affiliates. I'm glad there is a large network of affiliates now, with members from over one hundred countries. There is a lot of diversity amongst affiliates, which is good. The strategic direction is towards more diversity, and at least in affiliates there is diversity. The Board asked AffCom for a recommendation and now everybody is consulted after AffCom has made their recommendation. Excellent. The next logical step is another expansion of the Board. Ad Huikeshoven (talk) 16:05, 16 December 2018 (UTC)

I would like to see some good explanation why the development of UGs into chapters has been stalled for years; and why now we are seeing this move to give UGs some of the responsibilities of the chapters, without demanding from them any structure to support it. The fact that many UGs were arranged in secret with AffCom, and till today we don't know their leadership and structure, only makes it worst.- Darwin Ahoy! 16:24, 16 December 2018 (UTC)
DarwIn, the reason is that there was a coup in November 2013, opposed by the community and supported by the appointed trustees + Jimbo (against his promise to vote with the community). See Talk:Wikimedia Foundation board agenda 2013-11/FAQ. These new changes are presumably the continuation of those plans to sidestep the community and reinforce the concentration of power in the hand of few. Nemo 19:43, 17 December 2018 (UTC)
That makes no sense whatsoever... Braveheart (talk) 14:20, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

Uneasy about several points here[edit]

  • First of all, diversity: I think there's fairly widespread agreement that, for the board to be as effective as possible, it helps if the board has greater diversity in languages, nationalities, demographics, home projects, expertise, and other areas, in order to have familiarity with as many aspects of Wikimedia as possible. "The Board must be composed of Trustees with a diverse set of talents, experience, backgrounds, and competencies that will best fulfill the mission and needs of the Foundation." is phrased well. However, the addition of the sentence "The Board is committed to promoting diversity and inclusion both in terms of trustee composition and in other aspects of its work." has some issues. I don't like that it doesn't make explicit that the purpose of promoting diversity and inclusion is effectiveness. Saying it outright would make it clear what the scope of this promotion is (ie that the board isn't about to start taking global action to improve diversity in institutions outside of Wikimedia, or make it at all a priority), and how it should be applied, and what kinds of diversity should be prioritized. Without this, I worry that this will be taken by some as permission for the board to take problematic actions against Wikimedia's goals. To quote NTymkiv above, "Diversity is not a goal, it is a strategy to get better results". The changes should reflect this.
  • Inclusion of user groups in the selection of affiliate-selected seats. I honestly don't understand user groups (documentation is extremely lacking), and I don't know why the board finds it useful to promote the influence of their members beyond their standing as members of the community. Some explanation would help.
  • Extended term limits: I'm concerned that this will lead to longer terms for those members that don't have to stand for elections, and that as a result more influence would be held by those members, who will often have been on the board for longer than the elected members. I think it would be preferable if the term-limit extension only applied to elected members. More importantly, I really think that the extension should not apply to any current members, given that they're the ones making the decision. Having board members deciding when their own terms will be up harms their ability to objectively decide what's best for the board, and sets a bad precedent for issues relating to the balance of power. --Yair rand (talk) 07:38, 17 December 2018 (UTC)
Hi Yair rand,
  • The proposed changes to the Bylaws would not alter the Wikimedia Foundation’s mission, or the Board’s alignment with it. I am highly skeptical of criticisms of the diversity language generally, and particularly so when people express fear about diversity efforts going too far or being insufficiently constrained. It does not follow that making a commitment to diversity would lead to "problematic actions against Wikimedia goals". The opposite, in fact, rings true.
  • As has been commented before, user groups have become an integral, active, vibrant, growing, and diverse part of the Wikimedia movement. If you would like to know more about what user groups do, they are all required to publish annual reports which you can consult.
  • That’s not really what has been happening at the Board level, we think of term limits in a very different way. Being a trustee is a responsibility that can be exacting and time-consuming, done voluntarily during spare time. Appointed seats in particular have recently found it difficult to stay beyond one term. There is a concern about loss of institutional knowledge. Also, elected or appointed, there is no automatic renewal of terms - there’s a reelection process, be it through the community elections, the ASBS or a reappointment process.
Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 17:15, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
Why there have been no new chapters approved for years? Why UGs do not evolve into chapters, so they can take part on the process, as they were expected to, instead of twisting the process and the very essence of UGs, in order to include them? - Darwin Ahoy! 17:27, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
Don't hijack other people's threads, please. Raystorm (talk) 17:39, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
I never knew threads had an owner. Why don't you answer the question, which is about your reply? You keep talking about UGs as if they were static entities, and as if a large part of them were not in fact some kind of chapter incubators, by BoT's own imposition in 2013. You just wrote above that we either include them now, for the 2019 elections, or they would have to wait to 2022 in order to be part of the process, as if the option of UGs evolving into chapters and thematic organizations didn't existed at all. The BoT now is so worried with UGs not being part of the process, but for years there has not been any new chapter approval. Why? - Darwin Ahoy! 18:09, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
Thread hijacking. Now that you know, please don't do it. User groups are recognised affiliates who do activities in support of the mission. You are not making a compelling argument about why they should not be included at all in the Affiliate-Selected Board Seats elections. Affiliates having the possibility of changing their type of affiliation does not make them any less affiliates, or invalidate their work. Nor will all affiliates want - or be able to, in certain regions - to change their type of affiliation (it seems rather unhelpful to think of any such changes as "evolutions" or demotions, given that such a rigid framing ignores how diverse the world is), and it is on us to think on how to include new voices, consistent with the Strategic Direction. I will also address that under the current requirements, potential chapters need to show at least two years of activities, and not even as a user group, in order to submit an application. You can check - resolutions are public - that the Board has not been rejecting chapter applications. So... Thanks, Raystorm (talk) 18:59, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
Thread hijacking is about offtopic stuff, which is not the case at all, so I really find your comment above inappropriate. Anyway: Since AffCom communications are made in secrecy, it is impossible for me to check if chapter applications have been consistently rejected (or stalled) over those last 4 years or not. I've been told by a number of people I trust that yes, they have, that's why I've asked. But if you say that for more than 4 years, since Wikimedia Belgium was approved back in 2014, there was not any affiliate completing what is needed to become a chapter, I trust you are telling the truth. About "evolution": It was the BoT that designed the process so that every affiliate aiming to become a chapter would have to pass by a 2 year stage as a UG, so in the sense I've used it is indeed an evolution, a promotion. That's the way the BoT has designed it, so no point in complaining about that word.
Anyway, we are not in disagreement that at least some UGs eventually should be able to participate in the selection process. But the current proposal seems to be allowing all UGs who passed a first filter defined by the BoT to participate in the process by default, and then let the community sort out who should and who shouldn't be participating - That's what you have written here repeatedly. However, it seems to be absolutely unrealistic to expect that discussion to take place and attain a consensus before the date the 2019 elections are expected to start, which seems to be February 2019. Even if this proposal was approved today by the BoT, against all opinions and considerations that have been consistently and systematically placed here, we - the community - would be left with little more than one month to fix that mess it would create. So, please, leave the bylaws as they are now, you can return to this after the 2019 elections. La prisa nunca es buena consejera.- Darwin Ahoy! 20:50, 18 December 2018 (UTC)
...Mid August is when ASBS trustees are expected to join the Board, so your timeline is, to put it mildly, startling. Seems like we have more faith in affiliate/community leadership than you do - indeed, below in this page people have already started to organise. Darwin, this has clearly become a conversation of diminishing returns - you keep toggling between sweeping statements every time any of your concerns is addressed. It's your prerogative, but you are the only one doing this. I will take at face value your comment that you indeed don't disagree with user groups being included in the ASBS, but have concerns about affiliates being able to come up with a process in time - we have stated our faith and willingness to support them. Camino comenzado es medio andado. Cheers Raystorm (talk) 16:15, 19 December 2018 (UTC)

┌─────────────────────────────────┘
What is startling, Raystorm, is seeing you talking about "the date ASBS trustees are expected to join the Board", when this proposal, by the very BoT you are chairing now, is about a process that is expected to start next February, just one week after the date set for voting this proposal, 23 January. You are right, this is clearly leading nowhere. I restate my strong disagreement with a proposal that I see as reckless, pushing the burden of fixing up the mess you're creating in quite a limited timeframe to the community (and who exactly will be discussing that, BTW?). Thanks, but no thanks.- Darwin Ahoy! 16:44, 19 December 2018 (UTC)

Not sure why you would frame immediate community self-organising as some kind of weakness, instead of strong leadership, but suit yourself. Raystorm (talk) 17:11, 20 December 2018 (UTC)
One week between BoT vote in 23 January, and the start of the electoral process in February... Well, I guess the whole discussion could take place until the vote period begins in April. Or the 2019 ASBS could be postponed until this is fixed, in case it isn't by that date? Anyway, I'm just a newbie looking at all this and raising my doubts, the actual experts certainly know better. And it's never going to be the end of the world, anyway (that will be in June, apparently).- Darwin Ahoy! 17:33, 20 December 2018 (UTC)

What are the actual problems to be resolved with the changes?[edit]

Firstly I would like to respond to Frans that I think it is a good sign for board dynamics that the Board is taking a stand during the strategy building process. Since the 9 working groups cover rather all relevant and essential issues of our movement, the board could make their work easy and use the ongoing strategy process as an excuse to not touch any difficult questions at all. Still, I’m not convinced about necessity of the particular bylaw changes.

To explain where I’m coming from: In my understanding bylaws are the skeleton of any incorporated organization, its constitution and identity. And as you don’t operate on your bones without any urgency or other good and comprehensible reasons, bylaws aree something which you change cautiously, rather rarely than often. This is one of many understandings. (On the other end of the scale you can take bylaws mores as tools, to be changed without any hesitation for the sake of flexibility and resilience.) But since I’m on the conservative path here, I want to understand why a change to the bylaws is made and what problem the change will resolve.

User groups have been approved since 2013 and since then the question if and how the should participate in the affiliates’ selection of board members haven’t been discussed finally. So, in general, it is fine to make a decision here. But why do you want to decide that now? Yes, the discussion has been postponed several times -  yes, there is an undefined feeling of unequal treatment - yes, it sounds like a good idea to make that decision and leave it to the affiliates to create a proper process. But aren’t it the affiliates whose input, expertise and energy we need right now in the strategy working groups and in the discussions to come? Do the affiliates feel ok to figure out process and eligibility criteria right now?

Isn’t this move at this moment just like polishing the surface (like “we should have done that already”) when we acknowledge that there are ongoing discussions in the roles and responsibility working group about affiliates and governance. Wouldn’t it be smarter to wait until the experts propose their recommendations?

If the postponed decision is the only reason for the change, I still don’t understand why is it so important to include the user groups in the next selection process. If there are any real issues which are resolved, or any processes which are improved, or any ambiguity which is clarified with including the user groups in the selection process, I didn’t get it.

Term limits (shorter because I think it is even more important): If the underlying problem is that it needs too much time and energy to find the right people for the appointed board seats and to fill vacant seats, you should work on rethinking the promotion and selection process rather than raising the term number. When you make that change you even have a better reason not to touch existing thinking models and processes relevant to appointed board members, because the pressure declines. Alice Wiegand (talk) 11:16, 17 December 2018 (UTC)

Agreed. Nemo 19:39, 17 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Alice. I think there is an intermediate path between being conservative and being super flexible. Changing bylaws is not something that should happen every five months, but neither should they be perceived as written in stone. Periodical reviews are healthy for any organisation, and thinking of the bylaws as a living, breathing document that may be updated from time to time helps ensure that they are still relevant to our organisation and our Movement. As for your question on timing - if we do not include user groups in the trustee selection process that will happen in 2019, then it may not be until 2022 — a full decade after the creation of user groups as an affiliate model — until they have a voice. Importantly, since you mention it, the trustees selected in 2019 will be on the Board when it decides how to respond to the recommendations that come out of the Movement Strategy process. Those recommendations may have a significant effect on the affiliate ecosystem. Without these changes to the Bylaws now, user groups, which now make up a majority of that ecosystem, would not have had a voice in selecting the trustees who will be making strategic decisions. Is it better to make these changes now, knowing they may be imperfect and temporary, or is it better to keep the status quo of how trustees are selected, potentially excluding user groups from the process for another three years? We do have a Strategic Direction, and we believe including user groups in time for this selection process is consistent with it. You make an interesting point about perhaps asking quite a bit from affiliates at this time, but we trust in the affiliates’ ability to work together to come up with a good process. We believe in affiliate/community leadership - and I will emphasise again that the Foundation will be there to support them.
Regarding term limits, obviously going for three would reduce the amount of time spent on recruitment, but this is also related to loss of institutional knowledge, particularly when we lose several trustees in a relatively short amount of time - which is a problem we have recently faced and that, with the extension from 2 year terms to 3 years, is still in the horizon. Going beyond as you suggest seems fairly more major. As we’ve said before, it is possible that the Movement Strategy process may provide a recommendation to consider certain different models for Board 2030, maybe regarding composition, size, selection models... That’s fine, we can consider that if and when it happens, and in the meanwhile, we can tackle a known problem until we have a new system. Kind regards, Raystorm (talk) 17:34, 18 December 2018 (UTC)

Seconding Alice's thoughts – see also my comment above. --Gnom (talk) Let's make Wikipedia green! 18:23, 28 December 2018 (UTC)

Affiliate-selected Board seats 2019[edit]

Please join in planning and running the 2019 Affiliate-selected Board seats election!

I am posting here because this proposal changes who would vote in that election. Thanks. Blue Rasberry (talk) 15:48, 17 December 2018 (UTC)

Two cents and three terms[edit]

Hey all. Raystorm and NTymkiv (WMF), thank you for taking the time to engage in the lively discussions on this page. Most of my concerns were addressed by others, and your serious answers in the discussions have helped me understand the proposals. Now:

  • I strongly agree with the explicit commitment to diversity. This notion goes in the direction of many programs, policies and discussions that are already underway in our movement, and it is a reminder that systems of social relationships --like a movement-- are necessarily framed and embedded in power dynamics that must be taken into consideration when we want to empower communities and voices. What I particularly hope from the Board reaffirming a commitment to diversity is not only that it will be a reminder for how we should select board members but also that it will have a spill-over effect and trigger other bodies within our movement to explicitly (re)affirm this commitment.
  • I (less strongly) support the idea of including UGs in the trustee selection process. Theoretically, this change will increase the diversity of points being raised in the selection process, which is great. This will be especially true if this proposal leads to increasing bottom-up participation, in a process in which individual editors have reducing costs for having a say in how the BoT is organized. From this perspective, including UGs in the selection process deepens our democratic structure and empowers community members. From another perspective, there are two critical points that I feel strong about. A point that was raised against this proposal --that I'd like to echo-- is that right now UGs were not formed to have this role, and they might lack organizational readiness for taking up this role. This point is well taken, but I believe we can come up with a program for building this capacity. Another point that was raised, which I am more concerned about, is that individuals within our movement have roles and positions in many, many UGs, and this proposal could end up --unintentionally-- creating some sort of oligarchy (which according to the literature we have been quite good in preventing [1]). I have not read a convincing strategy to avoiding this risk yet, but I feel it should be addressed.
  • I am mostly indifferent about the proposal to raise term limits for trustees from two to three consecutive terms, but I don't feel it actually compellingly addresses the pertaining issues that were raised to support it. On the one hand, there is an implicit assumption that to have a limit for consecutive terms is necessary (2, 3, 4 or more...). What is the risk we are trying to avoid with these limits? Or are we just trying to follow common practices in organizations? In our particular case, we have quite a system of procedures to select (and remove) board members, which already provides a frame and a process of accountability to board members, so I am not sure why we are so concerned with this. On the other hand, I am not sure the proposal is actually addressing the pertaining issues that were raised to support it: transition costs, vacancy and so on. I fear this might just be a decision to postpone a solution to these issues. Or am I missing something?

Sorry for the long message. Thanks. --Joalpe (talk) 19:46, 19 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Joalpe, thank you for your message. We are trying to engage and address all concerns presented to the best of our ability.
  • I will say it is a pleasure to read a man making a strong stand for diversity. We believe it is important to make this explicit commitment - as you say, it is aligned with the direction our Movement is trying to follow, but it should be a guiding principle for us and for those who will come after us. We share the same hope.
  • I think it is perfectly understandable to have questions about the process, about how will user groups be included. One consideration of course is that there is a variability among user groups that is less present in chapters. User groups can be incorporated or not, have a Board or not, have members or just five loose people. Figuring out the criteria for participation in the ASBS may well involve discussing which elements should be prioritised in order for an affiliate to be able to vote. For example, affiliates may choose to prioritise the existence of a legal structure. Or maybe they will decide that the focus should be on reaching a certain threshold of activity. Or assessing if certain regions will not have a voice otherwise. The point you make about people being involved in several groups is not insurmountable in my view - people are members of different chapters today. If there is a concern about lack of clear leadership, user groups could be given a certain period of time to establish something akin to Boards, and a requirement could be that there can be no duplication of people in leadership positions across the user groups in order to participate in the ASBS. There are multiple ways to address their participation - Affcom has provided a possible roadmap, there are other options to address concerns, risks and the like. We may not even get it right in the first try - but we believe that trying is consistent with the Strategic Direction. User groups are established, thriving affiliates, and they should have a voice in the affiliate-selected Board seats.
  • You are not missing anything! I think you framed your concerns very well. This is a case of the Board being a living, changing group, and adapting the bylaws to reflect its needs. When term limits were originally implemented, the Board was very different, with very little turnover for years. There was a concern at the time about new people joining in, and also an acknowledgement that term limits are a best practice for governance - so two year term limits were introduced. Today we face the completely opposite situation - to give you an example, only three of us hired the ED. Loss of institutional knowledge is a concern that was not in the radar just a few years ago. And because of how our current system works, terms end at the same time for multiple trustees, so this is not a negligible loss. Three terms potentially gives the Board certain flexibility at this juncture, as well as simultaneously reducing recruitment efforts. It may well be that after the Movement Strategy process concludes we will have a potential new system and implement it, and this will no longer be a concern. But right now, we believe it is something to be addressed.
I hope that helped. Thank you for your thoughtful observations, Raystorm (talk) 18:12, 20 December 2018 (UTC)

What is the point of this discussion?[edit]

There was a comment on this line as well, but since it has been retracted, I consider important to rehash it, at least in my own terms. The board is about to make a decision that has been "approved for community discussion". But what for? This is neither a democratic process nor a consultation, whatever we say here it is unlikely to affect the outcome, and in the end everyone will carry on until "[they] feel they can make a difference". I really hope that the strategy discussions come up with insights about how to enable people to contribute and feel part of the movement without stressing or bypassing them. I have a lot of understanding for the board members, and I acknowledge that it is not easy to please everyone (and sometimes it is outright impossible). It is my wish that the spirit of dialogue, consensus-making, and building mutual understanding keeps spreading, so I will welcome any initiative in that direction. --Micru (talk) 18:09, 21 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi Micru, the point of any discussion is… to discuss! Compelling arguments will always affect any outcome — that is why we defend there is value discussing bylaws changes with the community. As you can see, we have been very engaged trying to explain why we think these changes are important, and we have done our best to assess and address concerns in a timely fashion. Trustees will determine how compelling the arguments presented here were before voting. It is possible that we may believe that something should happen despite opposition (take for instance the comments on diversity), but that is also part and parcel of making decisions as best as one can humanly do. Thinking ahead, it is true that we all do need to figure out how to better involve newer, larger parts of our community in this and other kinds of discussion. Thanks! --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 19:41, 3 January 2019 (UTC)

Correctly identified problem, but concerns about proposed solution[edit]

I think that the problem is identified correctly:

  • For the first time since affiliate process exists, the number of potential voters will decrease next year.
  • Recruiting good candidates and getting a representation of the community diversity on the board is difficult.

However, I have concerns about how the proposed solution will work.

Affiliates

(disclaimer: I am a chapter member and a chapter board member)

  • There are so many user groups simply because there is no way to become a chapter or thorg. We have a number of user groups that are quite at the level of chapters/thorgs both from organisational and activity points of view. The route to chapter/thorg status is blocked by WMF as a temporary measure that is really becoming a permanent one (5 years is 1/3 of the entire 15-year period of affiliates existence). AffCom proposal also mentions chapters/thorgs and user groups as two different electoral colleges, while this split is mainly based on lack of possibility to become chapters/thorgs.
    I think that WMF board should clarify their position on whether they are willing to create new chapters or thorgs any soon.
  • There is no affiliate decision-making process. Chapters and Amical have an established process based on 1 organisation = 1 vote, as all have similar organisational frameworks and all have decision-making processes specified in their bylaws (it is a requirement). On the other hand, user groups do not necessarily have such processes, and having bylaws or any decision-making process had never been a requirement. Given the board constraint that the affiliates will work together to design a system that the majority of them approve, this means:
    a) at least a significant part of user groups should have a formal decision-making process to be able to make a decision in their name. This may need some work within user groups — or accepting extremely informal decisions.
    b) a discussion between a significant number of affiliates. We have 144 affiliates as of today, a majority stands at 73. The only venue where we can realistically have 73 affiliates working together is Berlin, which is a significant constraint both on the timing and on the process.
    c) any majority is mathematically impossible without user groups, user groups will thus have a final say.
    All of this means there should be a well-framed discussion process between affiliates... although such process never happened so far.
  • There is no strategy in creating user groups. They were always considered a lightweight system without any constraints. We have multiple cases of two or more user groups working in the same scope but not together (Brasil is the best-known example). We have cases of people being decision-makers (board, contacts, key members) in multiple affiliates (tracking affiliate representatives at international events can show some cases). I have heard people discussing creation of a group only to be able to go to Berlin. Such cases hardly ever happened with chapters/thorgs as clear distinction between scopes was always a requirement.
    There should be at least some safeguard to prevent the same person or group of people 'controlling' more than one vote.
  • There is no clear definition of good standing. Who will be in charge of evaluation of good standing? We currently have only one such evaluation (for Berlin) which is currently done by WMF staff, which creates an issue of the independence of the process. We also have affiliates contesting this process, thus there should be a way to make an objective evaluation.
    There should be thus a clear process for defining eligibility that can be done independently and objectively.

I perfectly understand that the board is facing a problem that nobody worked on for years, which is not easy. A possible solution might be split between incorporated and non-incorporated affiliates with giving votes to incorporated user groups with exactly the same rights as chapters or thorgs. This will already mean all eligible voters have organisational and decision-making frameworks, and will give a reasonably feasible temporary solution for the next election.

Term limits
  • The document itself states that the most common combination is two three-year terms (Of those boards that have term limits, the most common configuration is two, three-year terms). This is exactly what is written in bylaws now. It does also mention that some organisation have a limit of three terms but there is no evidence this means three three-year terms.
  • Apart of Jimbo Wales, no trustee ever reached nine-year term limit (see Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees), the longest being Jan-Bart at exactly nine years. This is thus a restriction that does not restrict anything.
  • The practical impact of this change is not clear. On one side, Q&A mentions significant turnover, posing significant challenges in recruiting and retention of institutional memory. On the other side, this proposal affects only one person. No board member will serve continuous six years or two consecutive three-year terms by the reappointment date any soon: Christophe and/or Nataliia will be the first to reach the limit in 2022 if they are reelected next year. The only person currently ineligible because of the term limit is Alice. I thus suppose some interest in seeing Alice joining the board again to retain institutional memory.
    While I have no reason not to trust Alice, I would thus like to know if any other options to retain institutional memory (e.g. Advisory Board) were considered.
Diversity

Promoting diversity and inclusion in terms of board's work is definitely a great idea. I wonder what will be the real impact of this constraint on trustee composition. The board has two somewhat contradicting constraints:

  • being a trustee of a 501(c) organisation requires specific skills and some familiarity with the US context.
  • being a trustee of an organisation representing a global movement needs some familiarity with context in different parts of the world.

Thus practically we have two parts:

  • On one hand, seats selected by community and affiliate vote. Will there be any impact on these seats? For example, can the board not approve a candidate if they do not add any diversity to the board? Or alternatively, will there be any specific change in the voting process to ensure votes produce a diverse set of candidates?
  • On the other hand, board-selected seats. Recent experience shows that finding qualified candidates is very difficult (there was a board vacancy for more than two out of the latest three years). If we add a diversity requirement on the top of skills requirement, will we realistically be able to find appropriate candidates?

Sorry for the long text (some points were probably mentioned above but unfortunately I did not have time to read the entire discussion) — NickK (talk) 17:25, 22 December 2018 (UTC)

Hi NickK, thanks for your comments.
  • This has been corrected elsewhere in this page before. It is inaccurate to say there is no way to become a chapter (or thorg) today—there is. These are the requirements in order to become a chapter. What is happening is that user groups are currently the preferred type of affiliation. And that’s okay. When applications to transition to chapter/thorg come to the Board level, we will address and vote on them, as always.
  • The affiliate process is a bit more complex than that! If I recall correctly, last time, STV was used, where votes were redistributed between candidates to come up with a final result, and it took eight or nine rounds to come up with the final selected candidates. It was not exactly straightforward. I believe affiliates can come up with a fair, equitable process. Affcom has already offered one for consideration, and Wikimedia Foundation will be ready to support affiliates.
  • To be fair, the strategy behind creating user groups was to allow people to self-organise in a way that was impossible with the chapter model, and go beyond the “single point of failure per country” option. It appears to have largely succeeded. There will certainly need to be a process that takes into account different concerns - but hopefully more directed towards allowing people to have a voice, and not keeping them out - consistent with our Strategic Direction.
  • As mentioned elsewhere on this page, an affiliate is not in good standing if they are behind on their reporting, not in compliance with their affiliate agreement, or suspended or in a de-recognition period. The selection procedure that the affiliates establish may include additional eligibility requirements for affiliates to participate, like those used in other contexts (such as Iberoconf).
  • Regarding term limits, this is related to loss of institutional knowledge and reducing recruitment efforts. It has been best explained in another section, but it would have practical effects for the Board. Because of how our Board works today, when term limits kick in we face losing several trustees at the same time - sometimes multiple trustees in a very short period if time. The example we have been offering is that only three of the current trustees hired the ED. This is a big problem for us. Extending the term limits offers us a potential flexibility which we currently lack. And the day-to-day duties of a trustee are not really comparable to those that could be imposed to an advisory member, it really is very different.
  • On diversity, we do not view those two items as contradictory. That is what onboarding is all about. You cannot be a truly global organisation if you do not make an effort to get out of your bubble and reach out. The change we propose affects Wikimedia Foundation and how Wikimedia Foundation conducts itself. It would be great if other groups take it as an example for their own processes. There is no scenario in which the Board does not accept selected candidates on this basis - I think the shift in mentality will come when we understand that in an international movement like ours, if we are only getting the same kind of candidates, then there is work to be done because we are failing somewhere. As for the Board appointed seats, we have been getting excellent trustees recently, and diversity being a consideration has helped find them. We need to move away from this framing that considers diversity a barrier to finding appropriate candidates - what diversity does is help remove biases in the selection of candidates *and* raise the bar on the quality of decision-making in groups. That is exactly what we should all aim for.
Thanks for your comments! --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 19:49, 3 January 2019 (UTC)
On the specific point of STV - STV is actually straightforward in the meaning of your vote: you rank higher the candidates you like the most. How many rounds the ballot takes is a technical thing, it's not interesting for the voter. Note also that in STV you indeed have "1 organisation = 1 vote" (that's why it's called "single transferable vote"). - Laurentius (talk) 11:32, 7 January 2019 (UTC)
@NTymkiv (WMF): Thank you for your comments and sorry for late answer, was on holiday and missed it as it was not a ping.
  • As you said on board candidates, if we are only getting the same kind of candidates, then there is work to be done because we are failing somewhere. If the board is not getting any chapter/thorg applications for five years in a row, then there is work to be done because our movement is really failing somewhere. Maybe the process is too complex, maybe the chapter status is not appealing anymore, maybe there is not enough promotion for this possibility, but the (wrong) perception is that becoming a chapter/thorg is not possible. I would really like WMF Board to discuss what is wrong.
  • I completely agree that we need more voices and that user groups bring them. While STV may seem complex (it was complex only because we had 10 candidates), the voting rules "all chapters vote, each chapter has one STV and should decide it according to the process in their bylaws" were really simple. If we extend the process to all user groups, we will face several practical issues:
    1. It is not clear who defines good standing, and it is a key point. So far electoral college consisted of all chapters and thorgs, which is easy. Will WMF board itself define the list of affiliates in good standing (presumably based on WMF staff and/or AffCom recommendations) or should affiliates themselves define who is in good standing? The point is important as there might be appeals and affiliates willing to become compliant.
    2. Organising a real discussion between all affiliates to come up and approve the process (voting rules, eligibility requirements etc.). This needs to be a process made by affiliates, thus someone needs to organise and facilitate a discussion between something like 150 groups. Still, there is no platform for discussion between affiliates, nobody created it. Realistically it can be Berlin (although 33 affiliates cannot attend it), or it can be a vote on Meta (probably to approve AffCom project). I would be really glad if we would have some better venue for discussion between affiliates but timing is really short.
    3. Making sure voting is made by an inclusive process and not by one-person decision. Easy for chapters as all have decision-making processes in bylaws. Not easy for unincorporated groups as WMF or AffCom never requested them to have decision-making processes. And what we really need to avoid is having same person or same small group control more than one vote (which is not a requirement for user groups but is a democratic requirement).
    It is very hard to do it properly for this year. Probably not too late to do it at all, but this will need a significant amount of resources at this point.
  • On term limits, I find explanations rather weak. If we switch from six-year to nine-year term limits, they will still kick in for several trustees at the same time. I can agree on the ED cycle, it might happen less frequently than once every 6 years. What I am afraid of is having a restriction that does not restrict anything as nobody served over nine years.
  • I really appreciate your description of the way you address diversity, it is good to put it into bylaws if it will be used to encourage diversity and will not be used to reject selected candidates.
Thanks again for your feedback — NickK (talk) 00:41, 17 January 2019 (UTC)

diversity[edit]

A lot of this discussion appears to be reflected in the use of one word that is Diversity but what constitutes the aim of diversity. I know this was a point during strategy stage 1 process in Berlin a couple of years ago. We again need to clarify who, how and what is being sort with diversity.

  • Sex, - obviously male/female/lbgti+
  • Language, - we have approximately 300 different projects already
  • Physical location - Nth Am, EU, Asia, Africa, Oceania, Sth Am, Central Am
  • Big 3, Politics, Religion, Race
  • Skill sets
  • Community base - chapters, UG region, UG conference, UG WMF project, UG GLAMs

With diversity being such an ambiguous term understanding exactly what is meant by diversity is the key to a solution, defining what the affiliates role in our board selection are to contribute to its diversity. Gnangarra (talk) 11:46, 9 January 2019 (UTC)

Any news about this?[edit]

It is written there that there would be (was?) a meeting at 23 January, was anything decided about this? --- Darwin Ahoy! 01:35, 14 February 2019 (UTC)

mailarchive:wikimedia-l/2019-February/091835.html and Affiliate-selected Board seats/2019/Wikimedia Foundation Bylaws changed plus next steps, wmf:Amended Bylaws Article IV, Section 3 (2019). Disgusting. Given the utter disregard for the Wikimedia movement, at a minimum I will ask to vote against all current members of the board at any future occasion. Nemo 21:29, 24 February 2019 (UTC)
@Nemo bis: It is useful that you are speaking up. I understand the controversy and wish for someone to articulate it in writing somewhere. I am not sure what that looks like, but I plan to write something in the upcoming English Wikipedia issue of The Signpost. If you are able to write a few sentences and publish somewhere then that would be helpful. Even more helpful would be if you can identify someone else who can discuss the issue.
I would like to recruit more chapter engagement in this election. The Wikimedia affiliates are very well positioned to use this election to empower Wikimedia community organizations in advancing the Wikimedia movement. There are many aspects of politics which I find distasteful but regardless politics happen and only organizations which participate will be part of planning the future.
My view of this is that the WMF board is stretched, chapters are stretched, and the Wikimedia community is stretched. I want everyone heard. Thank you a lot for speaking out and please encourage anyone you meet to express themselves, especially at this stage when almost no one is talking. Blue Rasberry (talk) 14:09, 26 February 2019 (UTC)
Especially since for all community-elected members this will be the third term.--Ymblanter (talk) 23:04, 1 March 2019 (UTC)