Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Regional seats
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- This idea has been suggested by Anass Sedrati during the Call for feedback about Community Board seats. If you want to suggest other ideas, please share them in the Call for feedback main Talk page.
To address the lack of diversity identified by the board, we need to identify gaps and address them separately.
This idea about regional seats proposes to allocate one or two community and affiliate seats for underrepresented regions (out of 8). A clear definition of these regions should be agreed. This suggestion derives from the idea about Quotas, but considers geography as one specific and valid factor to address a given gap. This suggestion doesn't endorse the idea of quotas with a broad and unclear scope.
These seats could be exclusively reserved for a broad region such as emerging Wikimedia communities or Africa/Asia, where more than half of humans live. This would ensure that at least one member would bring the perspectives of these regions. One point to discuss is whether these seats are voted by peers from the region, or by everyone. Another point to discuss is whether the seats shall be about Africa/Asia in particular, or emerging communities in general (including South America).
So far, it is mostly Asian and African community members that haven't been represented at the Board. The gender balance is rather respected and seems to do better in comparison. It can be a good solution to allocate at least one seat for Africa/Asia to guarantee their presence, inclusion, and empowerment.
The rest of the community and affiliate seats would remain open for all candidates, including those from emerging Wikimedia communities. Having regional seats would not mean that the other seats are only for community members outside of emerging Wikimedia communities.
Summary of ongoing feedback
The facilitation team keeps this section in sync with the main report.
There is agreement that the Board should improve its regional diversity, but there is no agreement about how to achieve this goal. Opinions about regional quotas are mixed, and support is stronger in underrepresented regions. Many participants have mentioned that the regional diversity should be considered for the entire Board, not only the community seats. Some participants have suggested treating regional diversity as skill required in the Board, rather than a simple geographic quota.
The questions about implementation include how many seats would be allocated for regional diversity, how regions would be defined, who would be eligible (natives, diaspora, members of local communities...) A general concern is how to avoid that trustees elected through regional quotas have as much credibility as the rest.
- There is broad agreement that the Board has a problem of regional diversity but no agreement on how to address it.
- Some participants in discussions in Africa and the Middle East believe quotas are the only way someone from their region would get on the Board.
- One person said that there have been many candidates from Africa and none of them made it.
- Many people argue that the definition of regions is complex, especially considering the limited amount of seats. Some contributors say that quotas for continents or emerging Wikimedia communities won’t solve the problem of understanding local needs, because these regions are huge and diverse, and no single person can represent them.
- One person at a German LGBT+ conversation said that these seats might be taken by privileged persons from the region, and that candidates from privileged countries of the region will have more chances to win the seats.
- A couple of volunteers from Asia and Latin America stressed the risk that trustees of regional seats have a bias towards their own country/group within their region, marginalizing different countries/groups and smaller communities.
- A few people have said that the Global Council will be more capable of regional representation because it is expected to become a larger body, at least compared with the potential number of regional seats the Board could offer.
- On average, people in different regions responded differently. One possible explanation is that opinions differ based on how much hope people have about candidates from their region being elected without quotas:
- The proportion of participants convinced about the need for geographical quotas is very high in Africa and the Middle East.
- In South Asia and the ESEAP region, there is more disparity of opinions.
- Feedback from CEE and Latin America is less supportive in general, due to uncertainty about how representation can be established in large, diverse regions.
- Feedback from Western Europe and North America is mixed, with some people opposing strongly and some in favor of quotas for emerging Wikimedia communities. Discussions in favor also deal with uncertainty of how representation can be established with a small number of seats and a large number of unique communities.
- During the regional diversity panel, participants suggested:
- To treat regional diversity as any other skill or expertise, as they bring knowledge of a particular context of community, similar to any other subject.
- To have preference towards people with experience in countries that are not in the top twenty democracies, as their knowledge about systems of oppression would be helpful to do better in regions where using Wikimedia is forbidden.
- Not to force candidates to run for a particular regional seat, even if they are eligible. It should be left to the choice of the candidate whether to run in an open election or for the regional seat.
- Questions raised regarding deciding the next steps are:
- How many seats, and how will that decision be made?
- The definition of regions - emerging communities, continents, regional groups etc.
- Who is responsible for all this - the elections committee, the facilitation team or the Board?
- How can it be done in a way that the process gives these seats the best possible credibility within the movement? So that they are not seen as “lesser” seats or leading to hierarchies between seats.
- Implementation of regional seats:
- An attendee on the WALRUS call suggested having 3 seats directly elected and the 3 new seats split amongst regions not represented.
- One representative of Wikimedia Russia said that the process needs to take into account the number of the population and size of wikiprojects by region. A volunteer from the Gujarati community suggested distributing the seats based on ratios of user bases and/or number of languages in a region, and review and update these ratios every 3-5 years.
- Some groups proposed a regional election for each regional seat e.g. South Asia votes for the South Asian representative to the Board. Other people opposed the idea of regional votes, with the reasoning that we are a global movement and “volunteers without boundaries”.
- Several participants with experience in governance (including former trustees, Elections Committee members, and CIS-A2K staff) said the candidates should represent the movement globally, even if they are elected through a particular regional seat
- There are several discussions about who would be eligible as a regional candidate:
- Whether only people living in the region or people from that region in the diaspora?
- What about people who just live in that region but are from somewhere else and don't represent it?
- One person suggested keeping the system as simple as possible: hold a single election for all Board seats. If the quota is not met, replace the lowest-ranking winning candidates with the highest-ranking unsuccessful candidates from underrepresented regions.
- A participant of the Regional diversity panel suggested something similar, to host separate elections for underrepresented seats, if diversity requirements are not met with the results of the initial election.
- One person suggested as an addition to this, the Board use 2 of the appointed seats to appoint runners-up from the community elections who are from underrepresented communities.
- One volunteer of the Brazilian community said that the existing regional groups should not be used to define regional quotas, because originally they were not designed for regional representation.
- One person said that every regional seat should take turns every year. For example, 2021 ESEAP, 2022 Wiki Indaba, 2023 SAARC, and so on.
- An election committee member suggested having regional specialization seats with rotation between regions. For example, region A will have an open seat on technical skills, the following year the region B would have the same seat open.
- A Wikitech volunteer suggested having regional community-elected selection committees to finalize candidates for regional seats.
- Volunteers from West Bengal suggested considering affiliates in a region for the same, however, some volunteers felt that communities without an affiliate would get disempowered and voiceless. They also said that there is a risk of favoritism.
- A Spanish volunteer suggested using variables such as GDP, HDI, and the level of Internet coverage or access, should be taken into account, rather than existing groups such as Iberocoop and CEE, as country to country conditions change radically.