Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/MediaWiki and Wikitech

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Conversational Report
MediaWiki and Wikitech - 25 February & 4 March 2021

Attendees[edit]

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
  • A volunteer felt that the quota system is not the best way to ensure diversity, especially for gender. Some volunteers agreed and added that no certain seats should be reserved for certain groups, but it can be made sure that there is equal balance among the candidates i.e. from each defined region or group, there should be at least an N number of candidates participating in the elections. This will make sure that every region/group gets a fair shot in the election. The Foundation needs to proactively work with the communities to make sure that the threshold for the number of candidates is met, and also provide necessary support for candidates who might be a good fit for the Board, but are hesitant to participate in the election.
Call for types of skills and experiences
  • While some volunteers felt that the skills and experience criteria should be mandatory, some felt that it should be “recommended” only, but not mandatory. The reasoning for the latter was that, if it is made mandatory then it is a compromise on the diversity required. Since this whole process is largely focused on making the Board more diverse, it should be given a priority.
  • A volunteer suggested to look at diversity as a unique skillset or experience in itself. For example, being a person of colour should be considered as a great experience in itself rather than seeing it in a way that the Board is uplifting an underrepresented group, which seems to be the perspective now. The Board might be very happy to get someone who had two decades of experience in the Big Four, it should have a similar desire to get some who had a lived experience of being a person of colour. To conclude, diversity should be encouraged in anticipation of a prominent aspect that has been missing for the last fifteen years, but not out of sympathy.
Board-delegated / Community-elected selection committee
  • Some of the volunteers objected to any kind of selection committee, as the scope for personal biases to influence the group dynamics and thereby the decisions taken is huge. This depends on how large the group is and its working.
  • A volunteer suggested that the committee should be large and final decisions regarding candidates should be made through voting among the committee members. The committee members can have an evaluation and discussion about each candidate, but should be prohibited from indicating their final choices. Towards the end, each member can be voted based on a comprehensive evaluation, without revealing their votes to others. This will reduce the impact of personal biases or favouritism towards a candidate(s), on other committee members.
  • Some volunteers said that the processes of the selection committee should be transparent. If there is a selection committee, then the process they are going to follow should be put up for community review before adopting it. After the process is over, the process followed should again be laid out publicly, followed sometime for the community to review. It should also include the decisions made regarding all the candidates. There should be an ombudsman and a redressal mechanism, if the community is not okay with any of the committee’s decisions.
Regional seats
  • Some of the volunteers liked the idea. A volunteer proposed to have community-elected selection committees for regional seats. A selection committee has to be formed for each region, for which a seat has been allocated to, and for that particular seat, the regional selection committee will make its choice from eligible candidates. This will help in making a better selection because members from a region will have a deeper understanding of context and knowledge about community members. However, in a regional committee, biases can have strong influence on the decision. There should be countermeasures..
Specialisation seats
  • Some volunteers felt that it would be good to have a seat for the technical community. The work that technical contributors do to MediaWiki and other technical tools, is equally important as the work done by content editors and community organizers. But most technical folks don’t take part in committees such as AffCom and also the Board. This can be a good way to ensure that there is someone from a technical background on the Board.
Miscellaneous
  • I'm impressed how much work went into this proposal, and the design of the feedback process!