Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/2021-02-08 Punjabi Wikimedians

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Conversational Report
Punjabi Wikimedians - 8 February 2021

Attendees[edit]

Objective[edit]

The objective of the meeting was to establish contact with Punjabi Wikimedians and introduce them to the call for feedback regarding the proposed ideas for Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees’ Community seats. The attendees of the meeting are active community members and organizers who along with the facilitator will organize a meeting with the larger community where all the ideas will be discussed in Punjabi.

Topics and Notes[edit]

The community members were first introduced to the structure of Board of Trustees, their roles and responsibilities, along with the previous round of changes to the by-laws, in which the number of board seats were increased from 10 to 16, and the trustee evaluation form was approved. This was followed by the problem statement for the call for feedback, and why it is important for them and the larger community to be involved.

Feedback on specific ideas[edit]

Ranked voting system
Even if there are potential candidates who are known among the local community, and are not very “popular” across the movement. How will RVS/STV ensure that this person will get a fair chance? Because it all comes down to who are voting, we don't know who will be participating in voting and how many from which region will be voting. If people from the region where the person’s work is evident do not take part in voting, then the person will be least favoured in the final tally, and eventually eliminated during redistribution of votes. Since voter turn out is essential for any system, the Board needs to put more resources and efforts increasing voter turnout from across all the regions.
Quotas
Strong objection was voiced to the idea of quotas. One of the participants recalled their experiences from a conference where the person was told by someone that they were able to attend the conference only because it had quotas, and that feels quite bad. When people come in because of a certain quota, the larger population tends to deny all their skills and experience, and mark them that they were able to make it only because of a quota.
Call for types of skills and experiences
Depending on the need from time to time, skills may be given a priority rather than diversity. It will affect the quality of the Board’s work, if people are present only for the sake of diversity, but are not able to add value to the conversations.
Community-elected selection committee
The Selection Committee selecting/finalising the candidates sounds better because they might have better understanding of the Board requirements (diversity, skills etc.) and working with a smaller committee is better to ensure the requirements are met as much as possible. But removal of voting might not go well with the community members. It can rather be said as - a move from direct election to an indirect election - where the election is moved one step ahead in the process, instead of it being the final decision.
There is a case which might lead to reduction of candidates in both (the Selection Committee and the Board) - what if a candidate who has the potential to be on the Board applies to be a part of the Selection Committee, and vice versa, a candidate who is a good candidate for the Selection Committee, applies for the Board. If they are exclusive, then we might lose good candidates on either side. If they need not be exclusive, we need to navigate through COI carefully.
Regional seats
The idea sounds good, but also sounds like another form of quotas. It would be good to say, we never had (or very less) representation from this region till now, there will be a regional representative on the Board - something like “South Asian Representative on the Board.” The voting for these regional representatives should be done within that region only. For example, for the South Asian Representative, only people from South Asia should participate in voting. It wouldn’t make sense for someone from Australia to vote on this, as they generally won’t be aware of the work of the person or the community in the region.
Misc
What if we “anonymize” the candidates into certain profiles, which won’t have identifiable information about the candidates but will have all that is required for a voter to decide their vote? This can remove bias in a lot of ways, and people won’t be just voting based on their personal knowledge or impression about candidates.

Questions[edit]

Quotas
There might be people who wouldn’t be comfortable with revealing details such as gender, place of residence etc. Assuming that there are quotas for an underrepresented group, and for example, if someone from that group would like to participate in the process, how it will be ensured that the person will not be forced to identify to the respective group, at least publicly, but still make use of the quotas.

Follow-up[edit]

  • The follow-up meeting will be conducted on 13 February, where the attendees of this meeting will communicate the ideas in Punjabi to the larger community.