|Community review of the progress of the Wikimedia Foundation Affiliates Strategy is open from 7 February to 20 March 2024. You are invited to read the information and guiding questions and share your thoughts on the talk page. You are also welcome to request a conversation and share your thoughts during Talking:2024 conversations. We look forward to talking with you. – Nat, Lorenzo, and Mike.
For a little more than a year, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustee liaisons have been working with the Affiliations Committee, affiliates, and Foundation staff to improve the Wikimedia Foundation Affiliate Strategy. This process has surfaced some key learnings and questions. Thank you to everyone who has participated so far.
The Wikimedia Foundation Affiliates Strategy report identified a need to streamline the role of the Affiliations Committee (AffCom) on Wikimedia Affiliates recognition, while identifying issues. After conversations with AffCom, Board liaisons identified two big areas for improvement in the current work with affiliates related to recognition:
- requirements for affiliates
- improving the workflows around the creation and recognition of user groups
Proposed requirements for affiliates
After conversations with AffCom, the Board liaisons identified areas for improvement in the current work with affiliates related to recognition, including requirements for affiliates.
These requirements are proposed for all existing Wikimedia affiliates (recognised chapters, thematic organizations, and user groups), not only the legal entities. Some specific requirements might not be relevant to some affiliates. For example, a user group might not have a legal status or manage any funds currently, so those particular requirements would not apply.
Draft of proposed requirements
The requirements listed below are to be self-reported by the affiliates as a part of the annual report. Documentation of the criteria might be providing links or notes about the sharing of non-public information.
For examples of how existing affiliates can demonstrate how they fulfill these requirements, see Wikimedia Ghana User Group (as an active user group) and Wikimedia Ukraine (as a small-to-middle chapter).
In alignment with Movement Strategy 2030 Initiative #35 (Facilitate a culture of documentation), the effective requirements should be documented and measurable. A potential rubric for evaluation is below. Please comment on the talk page if you have other suggestions on how to check – or describe what else is missing.
|Description of criteria
|How the criteria can be met
|Active and welcoming new users and leadership, including to its board (if applicable), or other relevant decision-making body (like a committee or some other executive body). Encouraging contributors to develop organizationally as leaders/organizers.
|Encouraging actions which are conscious of gender balance, including in leadership positions.
|Good governance with public-facing governance practices about board membership, affiliate membership, democratic elections, decision-making process, reporting, etc.
|Diverse, skilled, and accountable leadership
|Diverse, skilled, and accountable leadership, in particular, skilled at managing funds (if it has any), communicating decisions, and being accountable to the membership.
|Transparent and open to, and connected with the community it serves/supports.
|Creating a space for offline (online or hybrid) collaboration and engagement.
|Actively delivering on mission goals, e.g. content creation.
|Financially well managed
|Financially well managed (if there are funds) and legally compliant (if applicable).
|Universal Code of Conduct compliance
|Respecting and enforcing the Universal Code of Conduct in all its activities.
|Partnerships and collaboration
|Developing effective partnerships inside and outside the Movement. Collaborating with other affiliates. Not engaging in conflict unnecessarily (as a note: conflicts are a part of life, and sometimes there might be a good reason for one!).
Questions about requirements for affiliates
- What should be done to support the affiliate for getting into compliance?
- What is the consequence of non-compliance -- what are the next steps for mediation, fixing, guidance, or support?
- Are there other requirements missing? Or other suggestions for how the criteria can be met?
- Should an affiliate be obligated to make efforts to disseminate communication from the Movement / Foundation?
- Should there be levels of funding caps for affiliates, depending on their development, and on the governance / operational issues they have? (Some issues might not be a blocker to getting funding, for example)
- Beyond being a member, should there be a cap on how many groups of which a person can be a founder, point of contact, or leader?
- How can the requirements be universal (some say that growing membership can be an indicator, but growing membership can be an issue if there are legal requirements to have an in-person annual gathering, etc.)?
Proposed trial period
After conversations with AffCom, the Board liaisons identified areas for improvement in the current work with affiliates related to recognition, including improving the workflows around the creation and recognition of user groups.
User groups (UG) were envisioned as a more straightforward first step to creating chapters or thematic organizations. One person involved in the past decision-making summarized the process: “To start a user group was supposed to be as easy as starting an article on Wikipedia”. Over the years, user groups developed as a separate type of Wikimedia organization – there are legally incorporated UGs, there are UGs with boards, annual funding, etc. There is still a need for that easier first step, with less bureaucracy, while demonstrating that a group and its collaboration are viable in the long run.
Proposed trial period for new user group applications
The proposed change to the current workflow connected to the recognition of user groups is creating a public step before an application to AffCom. An application triggers a lot of work for AffCom, staff, etc., and volunteers who want to start working together. With the introduction of this public step before the application, the volunteers do not need to work on the application as their first collaboration.
The new recommendations include that, a new affiliate should…
…have a scope that furthers the work towards the Movement Vision (guided through Strategic Direction – content, community support, partnerships)
…have demonstrated competence to execute its stated plans (e.g. a group planning to train editors must demonstrate it has expert editors with training experience willing to train other people)
…have the potential to sustain its activities for more than 1 year, and be a healthy affiliate, which means to have the potential to fulfill the requirements
Suggested process for the trial period
The current process starts with (1) an application from a prospective UG; then (2) staff reviews (including logo and name) and seeks feedback from existing affiliates for any geographic or thematic user groups; next (3) AffCom reviews, staff prepares the agreement, and AffCom votes; and finally (4) staff prepares communication about the new UG and publishes relevant documents (like resolutions).
The initial steps in the revised process would be:
- Submit a letter of interest to AffCom.
- Participate in a live interview with AffCom.
- Publish a public letter of intent on all affected projects / to all affected affiliates and a note to Community Resources.
- Publish a realistic outline for the first-year activity report.
- Demonstrate a track record of one year of activities in "trial period".
After the initial 5 steps in the process listed above, the following would need to be completed:
- Legal compliance with naming, logo
- AffCom voting
- Signing the agreement
Questions about the trial period and supporting the process to become recognized
- What parts of the organizing process need more clarification?
- What documentation should be developed for groups undertaking this process?
- How to make sure that people do not work on an application for a year when a user group just does not make sense from the start? For example, if there is a conflict with the existing affiliate or a founder is sanctioned by the Foundation, how many things can be checked before the application even?
- How can *pushing* groups into the affiliate ecosystem as a “seat at the table” be avoided where a seat has not been traditionally reserved?
- Do affiliates in non-democracies make sense? Can we provide safety for them? Is it even our job to provide safety? Some documents (even UCoC or policies built on it) might need not be public then, if they are not public – can they be enforced?
- Do we need to prioritize geography rather than languages? So that an affiliate does not support just one language (e,g. Nigeria alone has 200+ languages). Would a language hub be a better fit?
Next steps and other open questions
The next steps in this process will involve the Board of Trustee liaisons and Affiliations Committee reading and discussing the input provided. If there are no major concerns needed, the Affiliations Committee will publish a resolution implementing changes in 2024 April.
There are still several open questions to be considered:
- How can AffCom better share the information (about its work, affiliates, best practices, opportunities, etc) – maybe regular office conversations? A collaboration with Let’s Connect? Better follow-up with affiliates, not only at the final (conflict) stage? Host regional office conversations?
- Can AffCom collaborate with more developed affiliates to support more Affiliates? (or provide better support) – hubs in the future?
- Can AffCom start helping by providing manuals of DOs and DONTs (or best practices) – like making sure affiliates know that taking grants from politicians or parties is not okay?