Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Board of Trustees elections/Affiliations Consultation
Four meetings were conducted with Board trustees and affiliates representatives to discuss thoughts about the affiliates’ role in the next board election. The purpose of this is that the composition of the board of trustees has changed - there are now 16 seats, and both the seats that were previously allocated for "Community-selection" and "Affiliate-selection", are now covered under "Community and Affiliate-seats". About 38 affiliates of different types, structures, locations, and sizes were represented in the meetings.
Diversity in the electoral method is difficult to handle, and it is not easy to decide how diverse the current board is, because the definition of “diversity” is not agreed upon, nor is there a breakdown. There is nuance to consider, and spectrums such as income gradient, experience with democracy vs. totalitarian regimes, race, gender, LGBTQ+, and other examples, this is something that should be worked on to better understand, and not take a simplified view of diversity.
The definition of diversity should be more malleable as it does change but also there are some who don't necessarily fall into the distinctions created by specific labeling, and labels and frameworks can change over time.
Affiliates would be good at proposing selection methods since they understand the context better having a regional perspective.
If you want diversity, it's usually more about thinking about regional- or diversity-based seats (so-called 'quota') to be sure of obtaining the stated desired result. Even using hubs to seek diversity might not obtain the result. Diversity should be considered in the second part, only after first setting the Method.
We need skilled people; meanwhile, that is also perhaps a discriminating or biasing factor, since having these skills to manage a multi-million dollar company is difficult to develop in the parts of the world that are seen to represent diversity.
Moreover, other classifications are unaccepted; e.g. first-world vs. third-world. This discrimination is not useful, the same thing can be said of global north vs global south - since it can still greatly differ within the e.g. individual regions of global north that area not necessarily as developed as other countries in the global north.
Global north/south is not a good way to define diversity, since it does not achieve what it is meant to, so the division should no longer be used. There are countries in both that are different on a global wellness scale.
More clarity on the new seats
The new seats will not be selected not appointed by the board, but will be elected by everyone (communities and affiliates). The election process hasn’t been defined yet. There would still be the possibility to adopt the previous method, or in a merged way, or another way entirely - it is open for proposal and debate. The question remains: should it be a process of preselection? nomination? assessment? Still need people to say if the election procedure should just stay the same, or if there can be improvements to the processes, the Board is not looking to impose anything but to consult and collect opinions as to what everyone would like to see from this election.
More clarification on how affiliates participated in the past
The current bylaw states that there are up to 10 seats. We may select 2,4 or 3 people; there are changes in Wikimedia Foundation and that further increase in the size of the Board may lead to stability issues and we are taking this into consideration.
In the past, we had separate participation of communities and affiliates. Each of the groups voted in a way similar to Board elections but through a different process. Each chapter, user group, and thematic organization cast one vote. Affiliates elected 2 seats. That's how it was until now. Now, as the 2 categories have merged, at the first level, it is a formal change. We don't have a decision yet, the bylaws don't automatically say that/what we have to change. We could have elections in 2 sets. The community selects lists of candidates and affiliates select (not saying I'm proposing this).
However, the process is not definitely going to change, still under discussion. the only thing that has changed has been that the categories of seats were merged into a single category, so the seats are no longer constrained by by-laws to be per se "community" or "affiliate"; the current bylaws still allow the previous ASBS process to be used; so keeping things as it were, or things could be done differently - so input could either be: "keep as is" or "change".
Victoria explained that the processes worked the last time, but, if the same procedure is repeated, there is a higher chance that there won't be geographical diversity on the Board. Trying different methods with the hope of a diverse outcome.
A pattern across the movement is that we have more contributions/affiliates/chapters in Europe and America. We have at least one person (Patricio from Argentina) who has been repeatedly elected to the Wikimedia Foundation Board. We want to change that in the future. Everyone wants to have more people who are not from Europe/America. If more ppl from those regions participate in elections, they'll be elected.
There are supporting opinions that affiliates should vote on their own capacity. But their members are mostly community members as well, so they will be subjected to requirements for the community voters. However, due to lack of data, it is technically difficult to get a complete picture of the affiliates’ membership. Hence, affiliates voting in their individual capacity could be unfair. In addition, there is a need to find a way that allows all individuals in affiliates to vote, especially those who don’t edit but perform other managerial work.
Communities Vs. Affiliates
To what extent are they (community members) involved in affiliates. Can we distinguish between community members and affiliates? Maybe the affiliates are already represented in some way because the people are involved in groups/chapters. Affiliates are not really a pool of voters. I believe that the current affiliate model is more favorable to under-represented regions; i.e. in favor of smaller communities/geographies (better than 1 user - 1 vote system). Affiliates are more evenly distributed than individual votes around the globe. PS only affiliated recognized by affcom are considered in the election process.
To still have two separate elections, using the same voting method. The concern with merging would be that the affiliate vote would not carry the same weight as in the past.
Wide open vote, with chapters nominating the candidates, or evaluating/recommending people, however, this is all directed at a particular two-fold goal: to use affiliate as an important resource to allow us to obtain candidates with more expertise/qualifications as candidates, and also to filter the candidates to help the community make the best choices as to who is elected. While it's probably not good to use the exact same method to fill all the remaining seats, for this upcoming election we need to ensure the role of the affiliate is used effectively to improve the system.
Would it be possible to take regional levels into account without contradicting the newly-approved bylaw? Is it possible to organize the elections the same as before? Is there an option to include different regional criteria (i.e. to include seats/votes for under-represented regions)? Would you be willing to experiment with this? Why not use a scheme that has been adopted and used in previous elections. Why create a new scheme?
Lorenzo explained that it is not against the bylaws. It is actually something we're considering. There are proposals for creating quotas based on geographic criteria; dividing constituencies. There are few problems though: managing such an election system is one of them. It definitely is something that would be possible and something we want to hear your opinions/ideas about. Victoria added that maybe we'll come up with a better scheme. Basically, it's up for discussion. If you decide that this is the best solution, let's go with it.
Maybe we can first choose the best or most active candidates from every part of the world, for example, 3 from each continent, and then vote from this group of candidates? And only one representative from each region can be chosen.
The hope is that now you can say if the election procedure should just stay the same, or if you think there can be improvements to the processes, the Board is not looking to impose anything but to consult and collect opinions as to what everyone would like to see from this election.
Can affiliates give formal endorsements to candidates? Was that done before?
Victoria answered that it wasn't done because the seats were separated. It could be that affiliates select from a list of candidates from community vote or vice versa (community selects). You cannot come out of anywhere and be endorsed, you have to be active and become endorsed by your community.
A former candidate mentioned that in the last elections, there was some kind of endorsement. It was not an explicit endorsement, but support for affiliates, user groups, etc. Nothing formal but it was there.
In some way, whatever the method that is chosen for these two seats, there should be a more restricted field of candidates - and that is where groups (both recognized and unrecognized) can be involved. So maybe a start will be with endorsements; e.g. a candidate should already have some support behind them.
So community voting is preferential voting? Could we get rid of the affiliate role entirely? Just have community voting? What is the advantage of affiliate voting?
If all community-selected seats are done the same way with community voting, then the result will tend towards the same types of people and there is a suggestion to have different ways to select people to the board - as different methods could produce different results.
If only community voting is used, some movement participants will not be represented.
By Victoria: Currently, there are a range of options for affiliates to be involved; e.g. the same way as before (ASBS) or; the affiliates could select among the candidates, and the community votes on those candidates, or swap it around, to have the community vote on a shortlist for the affiliates to vote on.
The Movement Strategy is the key answer here. More decentralization, more capacity building for affiliates, creation of hubs and the governance experience opportunity they provide, more money for grantmaking going to community organizations -- these things provide opportunities for affiliates to grow, and have more governance experience that makes them better candidates for the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. A key challenge we have is there are not enough onramps for capacity building to give volunteers around the world the necessary experience to oversee a $100M organization.
Affiliates can help in developing candidates. The work of a Board member is quite similar to the work of the Board member in the affiliate; affiliates can help in developing candidates in the future.
Stronger affiliates will enable strong candidates coming from the affiliates, and that will help ensure affiliates' voices are heard on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
there's a slight difference between affiliates; that there's a difference between how users and Wikimedia Foundation see affiliates. They need to be represented in a way. Not sure if splitting was the right way to go. We have to realize that we're not one and the same. Affiliates can represent very different user bases and mindsets and it's important to represent those differences.
Look at this in the context of MS and look for decentralization through hubs and more opportunities to on-ramp affiliates and volunteers to take on larger leadership and governance roles. This would start to enable and prepare volunteers to be able to then go into the Board of Trustees Role. We need to just avoid filling a quota, and instead build capacity so that the elected Board members are effective - this is a difficult and complicated role, and we need to set people up for success here.
The electoral system should not be designed around diversity; diversity should be added as a second level. What matters is who makes the right policy independent of where they come from or who they are. The electoral system should be defined differently, and then introduce the aspect of diversity later, as a secondary aspect. Since what we perceive as diversity now, may not be the way we do in the future. It's better to do this after, instead of trying to design an electoral system around diversity as a general ideological concept.
First priority should be to define the capabilities like soft skills and skills related to knowledge of the movement and practical things to help the board. After the election, there should be a Central Notice to announce the result - the village pump is not enough to reach everyone - it should be known who won and how they are going to keep their election commitments.
Rather than trying to use open-ended questions and community discussion to come to the decision. It may be better to look at existing models.
Some communities/affiliates don’t understand why the election is important to their community; so they don't have any opinion on the distinction, since they need more knowledge of the board's activities.
More literature on why contributors need to vote, how the board impacts communities/affiliates.
If most seats are elected by the community, would that reduce diversity? communities with more mobilization ability/participants can easily select the candidates they want; but smaller communities and affiliates will lose such a chance.
It seems like the hard work of chapters are being reduced and in a way removed from the Foundation - funding was taken away, and the hubs work is ongoing without much understanding where the hubs play - whether they mean to duplicate the work that the affiliate organizations are doing.
Dariusz and Victoria assured that the idea of hubs is to have local chapters and local affiliates to get funding with more ease, and many people were involved in the conversation.
Victoria expressed that this is not to diminish the role of the affiliates, but due to the Foundation being based in the US, sometimes there can be less understanding of other regions, so the hubs are designed to help to remedy this.
Lorenzo assured that the trustees are here to listen to the ideas and concerns - there are no decisions that have already been predetermined.
More concerns about hubs: Brazil had a bad experience with hubs. There is a need to consider the differences in capabilities in the different regions and communities. It is an important part of democracy and community building for everyone to be involved in this collaborative process.
How can unrecognized affiliates be part of the process? if we were to include user groups not recognized by affcom, then we first would still have to set the criteria for that new category.
The single-transferable vote method that was used would not have resulted in the desired method - the response to that concern was on the order of disinterest to an objection to the premise. Considering the behavior of voters it was an unintended side effect of the psychology of the voter, since each individual, voting in good faith and with DEI in mind, would fragment the support from candidates, and the knock-on effect was that diversity was not achieved with the STV method.
In a separate discussion, Victoria clarified that the single-transferable vote does mean that each vote carries weight since one’s vote will be transferred around; the candidate pool needs participants in these regions to stand and then become supported/voted for by those user groups
Material of election and processes is a lot to read and is not easily accessed. It can be something like a nutshell, an easy-to-readable that shows the differences between one process and the other. Should be accessible. Visual aids, support for non-English speakers, enhanced translation.
Is there a need for new ways of deciding what is eligibility?
This is one part of the problem though it might not address the diversity aspect - it's a different perspective. For example, offline participants couldn’t vote previously.
Usually, with too many candidates and statements in the election, too much information to review, there is no way to distinguish the candidates, so users will just vote randomly - they don't really care who will win or lose.
Suggestion: For better understanding, each individual candidate should have a page, so that they can better understand their contributions and viewpoints.
There are no metrics on geographic location of voters in the previous election?
We have many language contributors so we need to have communication, meetings, and outreach in the native languages. However, in the last few years, there has been increasing work on getting translations and having more inclusive processes for those who have less English capability, though there is still work to do.
Concerns about Candidates
There are no fixed qualities that candidates must have, and their qualifications are not finalized. There are a lot of considerations in terms of equity, diversity, and other various factors. Candidates should be knowledgeable about community matters & affiliate diversity. Knowledge about gender and under-represented communities is a plus point.
Concern about the conversation:
There was not a lot of contexts provided, we could have a much more robust conversation. There may be not enough time to answer these three key questions in time for the end of the Call for Feedback.
At least 4 affiliates replied to the invitation that they are either not interested in the governance of the Wikimedia Foundation or don’t see a need for the conversation.