A Global Council for the Wikimedia movement: a proposal
The following is an outline about a Global Council for the Wikimedia movement.
The proposal tries to consider these principles:
- representation of different groups in the movement
- flexibility and openness
- safety mechanisms for minorities
The scope of this proposal is the working proper of the council, not the role and tasks the council is supposed to fulfill for the movement.
What are the tasks for the council? An initial source about these tasks may be the final document of the Foundation Strategy. But finally, it is up to the council to precisely define its tasks (scope). It is possible that the council will not accept all of the tasks described in that document; or that it will redefine those tasks or adapt, later, additional tasks. The council will have to communicate with other entities in the movement about this.
The Council consists of individual members:
- They are elected in different ways, but when elected they have the same rights. Everyone has one vote.
- All members are elected for the same period of time.
- A council member cannot be replaced. (Alternative: if someone leaves the council, other council members can co-opt a new member.)
- A council member can be removed from the council with a majority of 75 percent (alternative: 67 percent). It is up to the council to define reasons for removal.
- A council member should not hold other positions in the movement. (Alternatives: one can argue which positions these are. For example, most people will agree that a council member should not be a member of the Board of Trustees at the same time.)
The Council elects several positions:
- A chair and two vice chairs. They form the college of chairperson. The college is responsible to prepare the proceedings of the council etc.
- A committee for procedures (of procedures?). It makes proposals for electoral and voting procedures, e.g. defines the affiliates for category D and eligibility criteria for category E (see below).
- A representative for the editors (editing communities), a representative for marginalized groups and a liaison for Wikimedia staff. For their tasks, see below.
Alternatives: only council member can hold these positions; or, anyone can be elected to these positions.
The council members are elected by different electorates (electing bodies or groups). There are five categories labelled from A to E. The categories serve only for the elections. All members have equal rights independendly how they were elected.
The categories are:
- Category A: The editors from the editing communities elect 15 members. This relates only to the editors who do not belong to category B. (I assume that an editor has voting rights who has edited a Wikimedia wiki at least 50 times in the past six months.)
- Category B: These editors edit on mostly smaller wikis that should have the chance to have a separate vote. (For example, these wikis could be all wikis with a basis in the Global South, or all non-Wikipedias, or all non English wikis. Up to discussion.) They elect 10 members.
- Category C: The affiliates (with the exception of the affiliates of category D) elect 15 members. One affiliate has one vote. Alternative: As it is much more difficult to create and run a chapter or thematic organization than a User Group, a chapter or thematic organization should have 2 votes.
- Category D: These are the affiliates that are considered to represent marginalized groups. These affiliates elect 10 members. (Which are these affiliates? First, the Interim Council might decide on this, in future, the decision will be prepared by the committee for procedures and made by the Council.)
- Category E: The Council member elected in the categories A, B, C and D together elect these 11 members. Alternatives: only members of some categories elect these 11 members. Also, category E can be used to bring more people from underrepresented groups into the Council.
The categories A and B may elect their council members in the same way as now. Those 15 candidates from category A who have most votes will be elected. (In category B, 10 candidates.) A wiki editor can choose for which wiki he wants to vote, if he has made at least 50 edits within the past six months in that wiki. (If you pass that threshold in e.g. both English Wikipedia and Russian Wikivoyage, it's your choice whether you vote in category A or category B.) Candidates don't have to be active on a wiki, and they can candidate in both categories at the same time. (Alternatives would include to limit the eligibitily for candidates.)
The members from the categories C and D may be elected via lists. A group of e.g. at least three affiliates can present a list of candidates. The affiliates then can vote on the different lists. The list with most of the votes will be elected. This means that the creators of the list will have to make sure that it will attract many votes from people with different backgrounds.
In general, I do not mind if someone is a candidate in several categories. But we don't want someone to be elected more than one time. For practical reasons, I suggest:
- The first elections happen in categories A and B. Someone can be a candidate in both categories. If he is elected in both categories, we will see in which categories he has received more votes. That is the category for which one he will be elected. In the other category, we can consider the next candidate (who otherwise would not be among the elected candidates).
- After the elections for A and B, the elections for C and D will take place. I suggest that someone can be on several lists within one category, but not in both categories.
- Finally we know who are the elected in categories A, B, C and D. Then the elections for category E can take place.
College of chairpersons, representatives and liaisons
The council needs a chairperson, or, like in this proposal, a small group of chairpersons: one chair, and two vice chairs. A vice chair supports and replaces the chair when necessary; some important decisions may be left to the college of chairpersons as a whole.
If the representative think that a draft decision or proposal to the Council has very negative consequences for the editors, he can call for a special procedure to resolve the problem. The call must be supported by at least 20 council members.
The special procedure is a mix of a suspensive veto and an arbitration procedure. The special procedure is a means to change the draft decision or proposal in a way that makes it (more) acceptable to the group concerned. Part of the special procedure can be a special consultation, an expert report or a higher percentage of votes required. (Note: This is an instrument that exists in some national parliaments in order to protect ethnic minorities, e.g. in Belgium.)
It is not unusual that staff members in an international organization have some kind of representation, too. The 'liaison person for staff members' can be a position for this purpose. The liaison would have the same rights as a representative, but I hesitated to use the same term 'representative'.
Proceedings / committees
According to the Foundation Strategy, the council has a number of ambitious tasks. It would be difficult or even impossible for 61 members to work together all the time on all the topics. Like a modern parliament, the council can only function if the members are divided into specialized groups. These formal groups are usually called committees.
This means that the council will install several committees, for example one for the movement charter, one for the improvement of the Code of Conduct, et cetera. Every council member should be member in at least one committee (or fulfill a different duty, for example in the college of chairpersons).
Affiliate for the council
How can the council become a part of the movement and fit in the existing structures? There are mainly two ways: a) an already existing entity such as the WMF or a chapter can serve as a facilitator, or b) a new affiliate is established with the precise purpose to facilitate the council.
The new affiliate could have a name such as Council User Group (CUG), although I am sure that we can come up with a better name. The CUG will be a user group like others, with members and with a board.
The CUG would have the following tasks:
- Monitor the working of the council and report about it annually, with suggestions how to improve the working.
- Make sure that the council has sufficient support from staff, if necessary. The CUG installs the staff members.
- The CUG takes care of translations of important documents.
- The CUG reaches out for financing of the staff and other expenses.
There is an eternal dilemma: a simple system is easy to understand and to work with, but it may not represent the whole population or protect minorities.
The easiest way to make the Council work is a system
- in which there are no eligibility standards and where anybody can hold any position.
- in which there are only a few ways how to elect council members. It would be the easiest to drop category E, for example.
- in which there are no special positions and no special procedures. Anyone can make a proposal, which will be supported by a majority or not.
- in which a lost member cannot be replaced. This means that who do not have to come up with a procedure for a byelection, but if too many members leave the council, then the council will no longer be able to function, or it will stop being representative of the movement.
- in which minorities are protected by simply giving their members an absolute veto right. But this might frustrate the other members (and render the council unworkable).
The art of creating a system for a diverse movement consists in a clever combination of several principles.