Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/2021-02-16 Odia Wikimedians

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Conversational Report
Odia Wikimedians User Group - 16 February 2021

Attendees[edit]

Objective[edit]

The objective of the meeting was to establish contact with the Odia Wikimedians and introduce them to the call for feedback regarding the proposed ideas for Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees’ Community seats. The attendees are active Odia Wikimedians.

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
  • Volunteers felt that it is good to have quotas as it is the only evident way to ensure diversity, in case of an election. While people tend to deny experience and expertise of candidates who are using quotas and/or mock them, that should not be a reason for us to not implement quotas. That risk should be mitigated using other ways, probably like Universal Code of Conduct or something like that. However, it should be carefully implemented so that candidates don’t abuse the system (like it happens in government quotas in India), and even for quotas, some minimum skills requirements should be set.
Call for types of skills and experiences
  • A volunteer felt that the call for types of skills and experiences should be seen as “good to haves or recommended” rather than “mandatory.” Since appointed-seats are used to bring external expertise, the goal of community seats should be to achieve representation from the community, rather than professional skills.
  • Another volunteer felt that it should be mandatory because the Board has a responsibility to only oversee the Wikimedia Foundation and also be liable for the movement to sustain and thrive. If someone is expected to fulfill their responsibilities successfully, it is important to have certain skills, irrespective of if they are from the community or external. Since the Board is the highest decision-making authority in the movement, skills should not be compromised for, beyond a certain degree.
Community-elected selection committee
  • Volunteers felt that since we have tried different forms of elections till date, and results haven’t been great, if not bad, for diversity, and given the advantages of this approach, it can be given a try. One of the volunteers mentioned that in the previous elections, they weren’t really sure of the candidates and had voted based on superficial understanding from whatever is on the candidate nomination pages. If the community gets to elect the committee completely, then the committee selecting the final candidates sounds better.
Regional seats
  • Volunteers liked the idea, but did not agree to the proposal that the voting should be restricted to the region itself, as it was suggested some other communities in the region. They mentioned that there are some Wikimedians, who might be based in the United States and their home community is not of any Indic languages, but they have still been very involved with the Indic community. If they stand for elections and we do not get to vote, it will be a waste of valid votes.
  • For regional seats it is important to consider a parameter to understand the familiarity of a candidate about the communities in the region and vice versa. There might be a person who did a lot of activities in one community and has a huge portfolio to showcase, but isn’t known much apart from one or two communities, where another person might not have done many activities or very deeply involved, but many communities are familiar with the person, then the latter should be given preference. Since regional seats are intended to solve the issue of representation, the familiarity aspect is very important.
Specialized seats
  • Volunteers were doubtful that this kind of arrangement would be particularly helpful for the Board, given all the complications involved with ensuring diversity in the first place. If there is a larger group of advisors that closely works with the Board, like a group of specialists (for example, GLAM-Wiki consultant to the Board) it might be helpful.
Miscellaneous
  • A checklist for voters should be designed. Most of the time volunteers are not sure about the requirements for the Board and what makes a best candidate. A small checklist can help voters to go through the points mentioned in the list for each candidate, at the least, before casting an informed vote, rather than doing it instinctively.

Questions[edit]

Miscellaneous
  • Do we have any data on voter demographics from the previous elections? Since it is being said that direct elections have been favouring candidates from North America and Western Europe, one of the reasons could be less voter turnout from emerging Wikimedia communities. Demographical data will help us understand where it is going wrong with the elections, at least to some extent, if not completely.

Follow-up[edit]

Volunteers who attended this meeting expressed their interest to have a conversation with the community on this topic, without the facilitator being present. The facilitator will support the logistics of organizing a conversation with the community, and later on follow up to collect the received feedback.