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Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees/Call for feedback: Community Board seats/Reports/Wikidata

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Conversational Report
Wikidata community - 24 February & 3 March 2021



Topics and Notes


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

  • While implementing quotas, the first problem that arises is how quotas are distributed among or allocated to certain groups. For example, if 50% of the seats are allocated to women, what will the basis be for allocating 50% but not 40% or 60%. While quotas can improve diversity, which groups will get those quotas should be based on objectively defined evaluation/scoring rubrics. It can include parameters such as historical representation on the Board.
Call for types of skills and experiences
  • Board members should definitely have certain skills to be an efficient governing body for the Foundation and the larger movement. It is important to think about how we can evaluate candidates for skills and/or experience - educational qualifications, years of professional experience, affiliations with organizations, involvement in other movement-aligned organizations/groups etc. can be considered.
  • When we speak about professional experience and affiliations with other organizations, the Board doesn’t seem to have a conflict of interest policy in this regard. For example, a senior executive at Google can bring in great expertise, but there is a conflict of interest when we consider the Foundation and Google.
  • An important skill for candidates for community seats is the person’s current knowledge of the movement across the globe. Though the person doesn’t need to be involved in all the communities, that isn’t practically possible - but he/she should have basic understanding of various regions, groups and sub-movements in the movement. Since these candidates are for community seats, they should definitely be evaluated for knowledge/understanding about the global community, before considering them for election/nomination/selection.
  • While involvement in the community should be checked for, only edit count, articles created, special rights etc. should not be the only way to assess community involvement. Aspects as outreach, community organizing, advocacy etc. should be considered. So an evaluation to understand a candidate’s level of involvement in the movement should be both qualitatively and quantitatively assessed, rather than just based on some numbers.
Board-delegated / Community-elected selection committee
  • Any kind of committee with a limited number of people can introduce a lot of bias into the process of selection compared to elections. It is a basic human tendency to favour people who are similar to us. Another risk is, if a person or two are very outward and influential, their opinions will heavily influence others’ and skew all the decisions in favour of their likes.
Regional seats
  • The idea is good, but a “region” has to be carefully defined. For example, one seat for Africa won't solve the problem of representation because Northern Africa is very different from Sub-Saharan Africa, similar in Asia, South Asia is very different from Central Asia.
Specialisation seats
  • Such specialisation constraints should be applied for appointed seats, but not for community-sourced seats.
  • It is tricky to evaluate a specialisation, and it is subjective to decide how someone can be considered an expert in a field. While there can be a range of evaluation and testing tools to use, it will become more of a job selection process rather than a board election for community seats.
  • The Board should first go ahead with the implementation of ideas that are non-controversial and can improve than what is currently being done, for example, ranked voting system. This helps to move fast with the elections. Ideas which attracted huge debates, such as quotas, should be reconsidered for another round of call for feedback.