This report is being proposed to the WMEE board, and may be subject to corrections and revisions.
WMEE Peer review
WMEE is a relatively small chapter with 3 members on the board and 30 registered members. Equally the finances are modest, with a few thousand euros going a long way in running the organization for the year. The chapter is considering the option of paying for their first staff member, though the specific arrangements have yet to be proposed. Financial reporting is in place, and there is an external Bookkeeper helping to ensure the annual report is accurate and detailed.
The Estonian government has solicited the views of the chapter on open publishing and open knowledge, these opportunities need follow-through, requiring significant work for the handful of most active volunteers. Finding a balance of administrative and governance tasks versus supporting the timely delivery of programmes and funding proposals will remain a challenge for the board, when the directors tend to wear both hats.
Should WMEE start employing staff or paying contractors in the near future, there are a number of policy areas that will need review and refinement. The recommendations of this review will need to be worked through, with advice, into more detailed actions and a plan of improvement so that this transition can happen without introducing avoidable risk.
Scope of this peer review
This is a informally structured walk-through of where WMEE is today, what the known issues are and a discussion of what might be done better in the coming year and if there are recommendations to take back to the WMEE board.
The review is "cheap as chips", consisting of a discussion between Raul Veede (WMEE) and Ashley Van Haeften (WMUK) using Etherpad and Skype with an estimated volunteer effort of around a day to a day and a half each, including the time for the call, preparation by emails and writing up. One intended outcome is to use this experience to inform the Milan Wikimedia conference in April of the difficulties, benefits and possible improvements to process in conducting peer reviews using virtual presence tools.
The Skype/Google Hangout conference was on Sunday 14 April 2013 from 2pm (GMT) lasting 2 hours.
As a default aide-memoire, the guidelines at <http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Peer_review> and the checklist at <http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Chapters_Association/Governance/Checklist#Mission_and_Plan> were the starting point for discussions.
Documents presented in advance:
-  http://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikipeedia:Pressi%C3%BClevaade - summary of public impact, in particular the press, going back to 2004.
-  Example members newsletter sent by email ("MTÜ Teataja nr 69"). These have in the past been weekly, now more sporadic. It covers coming events and highlights media interest. They are sent to Wikimedia Eesti <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
-  Sample of 8 WMEE policy documents sent by email "WMEE documents, vol. 3". The WMEE public website <et.wikimedia.org> does not have an up to date set. There is a plan to update the site in June when there will be more volunteer time available.
-  Annual report, by email "WMEE report for 2012" ('WMEE 2012 Aruanne_80316310_1364723135.pdf'). Published 2012-12-03, appearing to have a standard structure of management letter, past year financial statement and several pages of detailed breakdown to a sub-100 euro level. It will be made available in English shortly.
-  http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Eesti/Wikimedia_Eesti_News
-  Grant report written for the WMF. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:Wikimedia_Eesti/2012/Report
As with any audit or review, there can only be a sample of evidence. The recommendations and any resulting plan of action should be treated in this light. The directors and volunteers will need to make their own more detailed and realistic assessment of the evidence and risks.
Summary of WMEE as an organization
- Years as a legal entity.
- Registered as a Non-Profit Organization (NPO) from 2010, making it 3 years.
- Current known issues.
- No outstanding complaints or major issues reported.
- Staff or other characteristics of the organization and its governance
- 3 members compose the board and there are no staff. There is no defined Chair or Secretary by design. All 3 directors are jointly responsible for the accounts with 5 years responsibility after leaving the board.
Mission and Plan
The mission is expressed as the aims in - http://et.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikipeedia:MT%C3%9C_Wikimedia_Eesti/Bylaws
The strategy has been under lengthy discussion with members, but this has yet to reach a conclusion. There are several draft versions.
Grant applications have been made and succeeded to the Grant Advisory Committee (GAC), three times. Having run and reported on theses grants, a lot of valuable experience has been gained, so that plans and supporting estimates are accurate.
For a small chapter this a large burden of administration. [R1 Increased paid administration support]
Board members are legally responsible for the assets of the NPO for upto 5 years after leaving as a director.
Cover for professional liability might be considered. There is no such cover at the moment and it may not be possible in Estonia. [R2 Advice required for liability insurance]
2 of the board members have had some training on NPOs and finances, and how to manage volunteers. There is support from the EE NPO Association. [R3 Records of training]
Declarations of Interest (DOI) have not been made to date. The distinction between making a DOI and an actual conflict of interest requiring management, or action, was explained and may be a helpful procedural point internally. [R4 Declarations]
Board meetings are held almost weekly, certainly every month. There are formal minutes, though there is a backlog of a few months for publishing the minutes, though members are kept updated by the newsletter.
There is no monthly update of the finances. There is an outsourced bookkeeper, though the only deliverable is the annual report. Monthly transactions are very small, so a monthly report would seem expensive or a burden. [R5 Reports]
There has not been any outreach to find non-community board members. Professionals with legal experience may be useful. [R6 Balancing board skills]
Members and users
There are 30 members, so a board of 3 seems not unreasonable. Most members are in two big towns. This tends to separate events. Exhibitions and on-wiki notices work well.
Press coverage is has been successful in increasing the public profile. As evidence of public impact for a small chapter, the results are impressive. The volunteers leading communications should be acknowledged for their work.
Leadership and improvement
KPIs are not in place yet, there was slight discussion about the need for this before committing to having staff. [R7 Performance reporting]
No staff at the moment. Thoughts are that part time staff could prove highly effective to support Programme Management and Communications. Having contractors is possible, but introduces cost of continuity and induction. [See R1]
Access and transparency
The press summaries are not published on meta as they are not in English, but are on WMEE. The newsletters are summarized on meta.
Considering <http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Reports> - WMEE does not currently produce a monthly activity report and does not publish on this meta page. It might be practical to link to emailed versions of the monthly member’s newsletter as a form of monthly activity report. Doing this in English would be optional. (per R5)
Complaints received have been more on the content of the EE Wikipedia than anything else, sometimes this is press interest. An EE queue on OTRS does exist. Separation of hats needs to be clearer before staff are in place. No specific whistle-blowing policy, complaints are normally raised via the email list and discussion. [R8 Whistle-blowing]
The GAC process means that the funding plan is a year ahead and it is publicly reported on.
There is one laptop and one scanner, these are under the control of one person.
There is a significant funding proposal imminent. (Per R1 - funding manager may need to have some time paid for).
(Note, at the time of writing, these have yet to be agreed with the WMEE board.)
These recommendations are intended to be presented to the WMEE board and then be responded to with managed actions (by the normal WMEE board meeting minutes rather than here). It would be useful if WMEE were able to link to evidence against these recommendations to track if they resulted in any outcomes, changes in policy, or were later rejected by the board for any short term action.
- R1 Increased paid administration support.
- There are opportunities for requesting grants from government agencies, however these require significant time that is hard to get consistently from volunteers with the right skills or experience. It may be wise to include a proposal for additional budget in the next GAC application to pay for some support to make this happen before the opportunities are missed.
- The board is very small, and there is some administrative support for accountancy services, this might usefully be expanded to included more records administration, such as the legally required records of meetings being promptly published, and to assist with consistent monthly reporting of finances and activities in order to ensure adequate transparency of operations.
- R2 Advice required for liability insurance.
- Liability persists for the directors for the finances and assets of the charity for several years after they leave the board. This appears currently unlimited. It may well be that under EE law, NPOs have this as the norm, however it would be sensible to have some legal advice on record, and to consider how the WMF might assist with a commitment to underpin any future grant with professional liability cover. This will be essential if there is a future proposal for staff as it will become rapidly confusing as to the meaningfulness of the delegation of powers from the board of directors to a paid member of staff, should anything go wrong in the future, such as a case for damages raised against WMEE.
- R3 Records of training.
- There has been training of directors. It would be useful to have a page on the EE public wiki, with a log of training and potentially this might extend to leading volunteers supporting the chapter. Consideration should be given to whether this is sufficient, and if a budget line for this should be in the next grant request as part of "professionalizing the board".
- R4 Declarations.
- Declarations of Interest could be made on the public wiki. This would help assure the community and the wider public, that the board reviews their own interests and actively manages any that arise. A defensive approach would be helpful to increase confidence, and it is reasonable for directors to be expected to declare potential interests, even if no actual or current conflict of loyalties or conflict on any financial interest currently exist. The WMF policy on COI, or the one used by WMUK, may help decide how an internal policy might work. <http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Guidelines_on_potential_conflicts_of_interest>
- R5 Reports.
- Though finances are small, it may be useful to move from having only an Annual report, to having a Quarterly financial summary as well as a quarterly activity summary. Linking to these on <http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Reports> will ensure that the global community recognizes that WMEE is consistently applying its own good practice and meeting our commitment to transparency and openness. This may be an increased burden of administration (per R1), however it is recognized that the quarterly reports would be easily rolled-up to help make the annual report.
- It would be possible to publish a monthly summary from the member newsletters as open emails. If these could be on one of the open Wikimedia email lists, then links to their archived versions could also support the meta page for chapter reports. English is not a requirement.
- R6 Balancing board skills.
- The current board is small, and as a consequence lacks some professional skills. As well as paying for advice when needed, the board should consider increasing its membership by recruiting professionals who may be interested in having a seat on the board (either as a director or a regular advisor). It is recognized that someone with a legal background would significantly enhance the overall board skills, however this may not be found within the current members or necessarily within the Wikimedian EE community. Consideration should be given to positively advertising in NPO related press in Estonia.
- R7 Performance reporting.
- Even though the strategy is draft, it would be worth extracting a handful of top performance indicators relating to the mission of the organization. Indicators such as number and size of events, public impact or member satisfaction survey results, might easily be added to the Annual Report as part of the annual meeting process. If reported as a trend (over months or years), this may be particularly helpful in judging if the aims of the organization are being delivered through the activities supported.
- R8 Whistle-blowing.
- Both as general good practice and in preparation for employing staff, it would be helpful to have a clear policy/process for whistle-blowing. This would enable any member of the public, member of WMEE, or member of staff, to have a clear, easy to use and independent process for raising a serious complaint about WMEE, and be assured that it is recorded, raised for the attention of the board and dealt with independently of anyone who may be the subject of a complaint. For an example, refer to <https://uk.wikimedia.org/wiki/Whistle-blowing_Policy>
To get the recommendations and any actions agreed by the WMEE board back to the community, it is suggested that a summary of the recommendations is reported via the regular WMEE newsletter and the report from this review is published on meta so that the wider international community may add it as a case study.
Learning points on process
Technology was a problem. Around 25% of the peer review time was spend dealing with a drop-out from Skype, moving over to using Google Hangout, changing from a Mac desktop (where Hangout would not work under OSX) to a laptop with Windows. The learning point is that though a virtual meeting saves travel time, there is an additional cost in time or running the meeting and it is a sensible precaution to have a back-up plan for any technology.
Using the lengthy peer review check-list was useful. Having the titles and check-list as an aide-memoire, but not a restriction, helped the discussion and ensured an appropriate spectrum of questions were covered in a relatively short time.
Having documents in Estonian was less of an issue than expected, though it did decrease the value of an advance "paper review". Having the examples to talk against during the review was helpful, but this does demonstrate that a useful peer review can be conducted even when the sources are not all read-able by the reviewer(s).