Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/2021-02-09 Wikimedia Bangladesh

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Conversational Report
Wikimedia Bangladesh - 9 February 2021

Attendees[edit]

Objective[edit]

The objective of the meeting was to establish contact with Wikimedia Bangladesh 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 Wikimedia Bangladesh board members.

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]

Quotas
  • It would be good to have a skill set defined even for quotas. It can be a minimum set of skills/experience that is expected out of a candidate, for a defined quota. It would be good to have a functional board, rather than a board that is only large in size, but doesn’t have the required skills to fulfil its roles and responsibilities.
  • In this region, there are negative connotations attached to the word “quota” in general, but in this particular case, the quota system doesn’t appear to be bad, as it represents underrepresented communities more. The Board and the movement are already overspread with North American and European communities, and many times they don’t fully understand the priorities and the needs of communities apart from theirs. Even though they advocate and try for it, practically it is not working out very well. A good system of quotas can help the underrepresented voices to be heard. People who are opposing quotas might be majorly from Western countries - as they would feel that they don’t need quotas to be able to get selected.
  • In the last fifteen years, only one person from South Asia served on the board. If there are no quotas, there should be another way to ensure that this won’t be repeated in the future. Quota should also be applicable for appointed seats - if elections don’t result in favour of candidates from South Asia, then appointed seats for specific expertise can be used to fulfill the diversity, at least to some extent.
Call for types of skills and experience
  • This appears to be a grey area for the community. The Board says that there is a need for specific types of skills/expertise, but the community has no idea on what expertise do they need and what the rationale is for choosing that specific expertise. Minimum level of expertise should be clearly defined for appointed seats, rather than for community-sourced seats, as that is the reason people from outside the movement are brought in, whereas community-sourced members are to voice for the community. Skill and leadership development programs can be done for community-sourced candidates, for them to meet a certain level of expertise and skill to serve on the Board.
Regional seats
  • It is important to define what is a “region” before discussing the idea of regional seats. If it is a big region emerging Wikimedia communities, it won’t solve the problem of representation and even Asia is too big to be considered as a region in this case. For “underrepresented”, how is it defined as “underrepresented”? There needs to a clear criteria and metrics to mark some region/community as “underrepresented”
Misc
  • There is distrust from the community on appointed seats of the Board. It would be good to involve community members in the process of appointed seats as well, that will improve the trust from community members in the Board and the Wikimedia Foundation. This doesn’t necessarily need to be like an election, but the Board can make use of advisors and qualitative discussions, and make the process of appointed board seats more transparent.
  • When the call for feedback started, not many community members responded to the call until there was a specific follow-up. This is not due majorly due to language barriers, but it is because there is a huge gap between the Board and the community. The Board only interacts with the community during the elections, and that impacts voting later on. The community should be more involved in the Board proceedings. An idea is forming a community-based council, with representatives from across the movement, which works closely with the Board and also keeps the community updated about the updates.

Questions[edit]

Quotas
  • Assuming that there are quotas, if a person qualifies for multiple quotas then according what criteria will the quotas be applied/assigned? For example, a person from a gender minority and underrepresented region.
  • Will quotas be considered as a whole i.e. for all the sixteen seats, or will they be applicable to only either of community-sourced or appointed seats?
Board-delegated / Community-elected Selection Committee
  • Is the ranked voting system and/or the quota system applicable for the Selection Committee as well?

Follow-up[edit]

The Cff will be discussed during the monthly community meeting of Bangladesh, which is likely to happen in the last week of February or first week of March.