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Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2019/Programme/Submissions/How to make sure the WMF Board has competent people in?

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Title of the submission

How to make sure the WMF Board has competent people in?

Type of submission (workshop, lightning talk, roundtable, poster)


Author(s) of the submission

Dariusz Jemielniak




WMF Board, community


Strategy, governance

Abstract (up to 100 words)

The WMF Bard appointment system is highly ineffective and prone to errors, which may be disastrous (an 18-year old radical can be elected to the Board and not appointing him/her would cause a major community crisis). There is a tradition of representation among the community and the affiliates. In the same time, appointed experts may have zero understanding of the Wikimedia and open source movement, nuances, and specifics. Both problems should be fixed somehow.

Perhaps the WMF should ONLY have board members who:

  • are professional, top experts in their respective fields (the fields should be specified in a skills' matrix/desired profile), AND
  • are supported by the community, AND
  • are experienced in board work from other organizations (ideally, not just WM), AND
  • are highly knowledgeable about Wikimedia movement, or at least about some open-source/free knowledge/citizen science/human rights one.
How will this session be beneficial for the communities in the region of Central and Eastern Europe?

The session will allow CEE members to ponder upon governance issues that are not just global, but also applicable to our level.

Special requirements
Slides or further information



Interested attendees


If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with a hash and four tildes. (# ~~~~).


  • Elected community members and affiliate-appointees:
    • Understand the wiki world
    • Are embedded in the network of our crucial supporters (the "I know a guy" approach win in US, favoritism in Poland)
    • Often do not have external board experience (Prior board experience is needed)
    • Often are not top experts in their professional fields (not top world experts in their game, we need people with something relevant that they are really good at)
    • Often do not have the exact skills that the Board needs at the time
  • Co-opted external members:
    • Often do not understand the wiki world (disaster, transferring experience to wiki world is not possible, it will not work)
    • Often lack network with our crucial supporters and their support (takes time - 2,3 years - to get ready, but they quit at that time)
    • Have external board experience
    • Are top experts in their professional fields
    • Have the exact skills that the Board needs at the time
  • "The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees oversees the foundation and its work, as its ultimate corporate authority.”
  • https://wikimediafoundation.org/role/board/
  • The system got established a decade ago. from 10 M to ~100M
  • Does the current system of composing the Board warrant competence
  • The WMF is a very different organization now: highly professionalized, proceduralized, structured, hiring people with top experience.
  • "WMF has top skilled people who comes to work in Wikimedia, not because money!"
  • The board should catch up, we need ALL board members to be BOTH professionally competent & experienced AND knowledgeable people
  • What are the ways we can achieve that?
  • A community-elected electoral committee, which:
    • nominates people per the Board’s request for specific expertise, AND/OR
    • ranks candidates by given criteria from the poll of candidates proposed by the Board, AND/OR
    • proposes 2-3 candidates for each specific expertise seat for the Board to choose from, AND/OR
    • creates pipelines of candidates for given specific expertise seats, ready to take some role in the movement (additional advantage of having a pool of advisors at hand)
    • In the best interest of the movement
  • Kritzolina: how would we come from the current system, who would decide on the process of board elections, and who would do the training
    • A: The board can change bylaws, without tech support they will not do it. Whenever change happens, people are grumpy, and people will be grumpy. But when explained why the change is needed, they will accept. We need to find a way the communities are involved. WMF staff are very experienced in their fields, but maybe not in holding workshops, or making a strategy...
  • The need of an organized onboarding, necessary preparations, different skill sets, to be on the board, is representing the whole community, taking decisions for the whole legally binding, the board members need to act in the best interest of the org. We need to address the fact that we are not helping new team members. We need people who are competent and skillful. Electoral committee needs support from the WMF HR managers.
  • Other possibilities:
    • an affiliate-elected commission serving in a way similar to the community-elected committee, but possibly also vetting the candidates in the process AND/OR ranking the candidates by certain criteria,
    • a community-elected electoral committee and an affiliate-elected commission participating in designing the desired competency matrix with the Board,
    • a community-elected electoral committee and an affiliate-elected commission participate in creating a point system for evaluating candidates against a-d criteria with the Board.