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Wikimedia Federation

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Federation plan for Wikimedia


The problems of the Wikimedia organisation become obvious with the same questions coming up again and again:

  • Is it necessary to have a Council? What will be its role, its rights?
  • Who should elect the Council?
  • Who should elect the Board of Trustees?
  • Will there be members in WMF, and what will be their rights? How to become a member?
  • What role should have the „community“ in WMF? What is the community?
  • What kind are the relations between WMF and the national Wikimedia organisations?

Many international organisations had quarrels about the question what should be the role of the national chapters, e.g. the International Red Cross Movement or Greenpeace. It would be good if this could be avoided in the Wikimedia commuity, building a long during structure at a point when the national chapters are still small (and small in numbers). They will grow and have bigger demands.

The following Federation model might be suitable for the Wikimedia community.

Wikimedia Federation (WMF)


All the people who support the Wikipedia and the sister projects (whether they write articles or donate money) are called the community. Within this community there is WMF, an international, independent non-profit organisation, registered in Saint Petersburg. The WMF members are the more active part of the community. WMF is necessary to fulfill tasks that are important to the whole community:

  • administer and fund the Wikimedia projects and the servers
  • represent the community to the world
  • support the community in poor countries
  • improve the interchange of information.

WMF has two kinds of members as explained below, the national members from the NWOs and the individual members registered directly by WMF. In this way it is possible to have a relatively high number of members in total.

The highest organ of WMF is the Council, representing all of the members and making the main decisions.

National Wikimedia Organisations (NWOs)


Many people from the community join the national Wikimedia organisation that exists in their country and pay a contribution. The NWO is close to the people locally and speaks their language. It can act within national borders toward national institutions. But those members are linked also to WMF, via the NWO: If the NWO has joined the WMF, they are called national members of WMF.

A NWO who wants to join WMF must:

  • Respect the political neutrality of WMF and the projects, support with the WMF mission
  • Be independent (be no part of a bigger organisation, or a gouvernmental organisation)
  • Be widely open to the citizens of that country (it must not exclude ethnic or religious minorities, etc.; in a dictatorship, an organisation can not be neutral, but this is a way to postulate essentially the same thing)
  • Be a non profit organisation
  • Declare that its members are national members of WMF, and pay an annual contribution for them. For example, 1 or 2 euros per member. This should be the same for every country, and thus can not be too high. This kind of membership is more or less a symbolic one.

In return, WMF is giving to a joined NWO:

  • The temporary right to use Wikimedia trademark and logos; this will be taken away should the NWO violate the contract with WMF (e.g., should the NWO cease being a non-profit organisation).
  • Services closer to be described
  • The NWO nominates members to the WMF-Council, depending on the number of national members from the NWO.

To join, a NWO must have 25 members at least. To nominate one WMF-Council member, it must have 250 members. With 1001 members, it can nominate two, with 2001, three, with 3001, four, with 4001, five, and with 5000 and more members, six Council members. This should be the maximum. Such a limit discourages manipulations, and the differences between small and big countries (NWOs) are not too big. (These numbers are just examples.)

Besides that, WMF will not deal with the inner organisation and policies of the NWO, and the NWO is legally no part of WMF. The relationship between WMF and NWO is a contractual one. The contract says that it is valid unter U.S. law. Law of other nations will not slip into WMF. The national members relate directly only to their NWO, not to WMF.

It should be the policy of WMF to accept only one NWO from one country, in order to facilitate the relations and to discourage split-ups.

Individual members


While the „national membership“ is more or less a symbolic one, there are also individual members of WMF. There can be two different models of individual membership, „pay a fee!“ or „be an active contributor!“.

A. Real life persons paying a contribution
They pay individually a contribution to WMF, something like 25 euros. People will become individual members because:

  • Some people (for any reason ) don't want to be a member of a NWO, but of WMF. Some live in countries without a NWO. But many individual members are simply members of their NWO, too.
  • Being an individual member, you especially support WMF. You have certain rights, e.g. only an individual member has the right to be a WMF-Council member (even if nominated by a NWO).
  • You pay less to participate Wikimania.
  • Within WMF there are special interest groups or work groups, e.g. about a certain subject like history, biology, arts and music, or about the Wikipedia in a supranational or non national language.

If WMF wants to make it possible for competent people from poor countries to become an individual member, it can create a fonds that pays their contributions.

B. Active contributors (writers, developers)
There has been largely discussed about how the „communities“ could elect Council members. In general, a contributor should have made X edits in a period Y, in any project or language, if he wants to be become an individual member and have voting rights. This brings up some questions:

  • One edit is not the same as another edit. People without flatrate tend to write a large article offline, and put the whole thing into the Wikipedia with one single edit. (Nothing to do about.)
  • Maybe a person wants to invest his free time in Council work, but not (cannot) be a very active contributor (spending his time already for Council work). (Nothing to do about.)
  • One real life person may have several accounts. Say, Person A has one account (and made 4000 edits). Person B has two accounts (and made 2000 edits with each). Should Person B have two individual memberships and have twice the votes of Person A? (No.)
  • One real life person makes some edits in en:WP, some in lu:WP, some in Wikimedia Commons. Can those edits be added? (Yes, but there shoud be a limit, to make it easier for those people who check it..)
  • How can developers be considered?

Someone who made many edits in the period, say, 2001-2003, but after that hardly any, should not have the same voting right as someone was editing recently. If the editing is the fee for the voting right (=individual membership), it should relate to the period prior to the election. If the term of the Council is two years, then this is the period Y we consider. How big is the number X of edits that have to be made in that period Y? If a very active contributor is someone who made 100 edits a month, it makes 2400 edits in two years (3,3 edits a day, this looks realistic). In other words: You can register as an individual member, if you made at least 2400 edits within the two years prior to the election of Council members. Given the numbers of September 2006 for the entire Wikipedia, we speak about 10.000 „very active Wikipedians“. Because some of them may not have 2400 edits in two years, this number is lower; taken into consideration also other projects and the fact that some persons are active in different languages and projects, this number is higher.

How to become an individual member? Send an E-mail to Wikimedia Foundation saying:
„I want to be an individual member of WMF. I agree with the WMF mission. I will not willfully harm the organisation or the reputation of WMF and its projects. To become an indivual member I can prove that a made more than 2400 edits between [date] and today. Please check my account [name of account]. Should the edits be not enough, please check also my accounts at other projects: [other account one], [other account two].
I know that one person is allowed to have only one individual membership. I agree that WMF has the right to [punishment in an appropiate way, like blocking accounts], should WMF find out that I registered as more than one individual member.“
The person can remain anonimous, but it is important that he declares that he wants to become a member. We cannot make someone a member automatically (simply counting edits). The membership is valid until before the next elections.
The work to accept members can be decentralized. WMF volunteers even can work by country, lowering the language barrier.

C. General considerations
Maybe we establish both kinds of individual membership, welcoming people who are very active contributors, or who pay a substantial fee.

Among themselves, the individual members elect WMF-Council members, depending on the total number of individual members. Because there may be a lot of NWOs who have only one Council member, the individual members have one Council member for every five hundert individual members. If there are 5000 individual members, they can elect 10 Council members.



Thus, some Council members are nominated by the NWOs, and some elected are by the individual members. Together, they by-elect additional Council members, up to one fourth of their own number. (If there are 30 Council members from the NWOs, and 10 from the individual members (=40), they elect 10 additional members, (=50 in total).) Those additional Council members are people competent and useful for WMF, but - for any reason - were not nominated by the NWOs or elected by the individual members.

Note that these are only the three ways how someone gets into the Council - after that, all Council members have absolutely the same rights, and don't have to take orders from anyone.

The WMF-Council is the highest decision making organ of WMF and can nullify decisions from other organs (but not of the communities inside the projects and languages). It accepts new NWOs. It elects from among is members the Board of trustees, the acting organ, 5-9 persons. The Board is the organ the staff reports to.

The Council can establish committees for certain subjects, also for arbitration tasks.

How will the Council work? One could make mandatory one meeting per year, during Wikimania, for the main decisions. An alternative using the internet would have to consider time zones and give the Council members enough time to react. Anyway, the Council should be a „working parliament“, not a „discussing parliament“. Discussions happen in the communities, on meta and in Council committees.

The Council votes with the majority of its members who took part in voting. For special decisions like changing the bylaws, the hurdle must lie higher, e.g. a majorty of two thirds of its members.

Other boards or fora


Besides the Council, there can be a Board of Recommendation with prominent people.
It would be difficult to give the communities a role in the Council elections: so many communities (by language, by project, developers etc.), so many questions (a person who is a contributor in five languages, will have four votes more than a monolingual person?). And it may not be wise to carry the quarrels from the communities into the Council. But there could be an advisory board working also as a forum for the communities. But it should be fixed from above how someone will be elected by his community, otherwise there will be a lot of unnecessary disputes.

Organisations other than NWOs


WMF can have contractual relations to other organisations. Maybe in future there will be an „Association of Mathematicians Writing for Wikipedia“. The contract means that the organisation can use Wikimania trademark and logos and pays a little sum, but has no right to nominate a Council member.

But it might be preferable to encourage establishing work groups inside WMF.



Wikimania is the annual convention of WMF. NWOs send invitations to WMF. An invitation is accepted by the WMF Board.Wikimania is organized by WMF in collaboration of the concerning NWO.

See also