Wikimedia Foundation Community Affairs Committee/2022-04-21 Conversation with Trustees
This Conversation with the Trustees happened on 21 April at 10:00 UTC. The event was hosted by the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees’ Community Affairs Committee (CAC). The Board of Trustees is a volunteer body of movement leaders and external experts in charge of guiding the Wikimedia Foundation and ensuring its accountability. This was an opportunity to speak about this work.
How to participate
This conversation was hosted on Zoom with a live YouTube stream, where the recording is now available. The call was 90 minutes and consisted of both updates and open Q&A and conversation.
Submit your questions
Attendees brought questions to ask live during the open Q&A, and submitted them ahead of time to askcacwikimedia.org.
This had live interpretation into Japanese based on community requests.
- Updates from March Board meeting
- 2022 Board Elections: new elections process and changes to the plan to expand the Board
- Universal Code of Conduct Draft Enforcement Guidelines: next steps
- Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan: we will host a live discussion where you can help shape the Plan
- Q&A on agenda items throughout. Open Q&A at the end.
Trustees present: Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight, Shani Evenstein Sigalov, Lorenzo Losa, Victoria Doronina, Luis Bitencourt-Emilio, Nataliia Tymkiv, Jimmy Wales
General Board updates
- Board meeting March 22-23. Discussed the Annual Plan process, the upcoming community election, and the usual Board business items like approving previous meeting minutes.
- On March 24, the Board met to discuss governance issues and check progress against the 2019 governance review. Progress on some of the items called out in the governance review, but there are areas for improvement
- Resolutions are posted on Meta.
2022 election update
- In past there were two different election processes: affiliate seats and community seats. Now they are combined.
- Nomination process on Meta this week. Then affiliates will vote using Single Transferrable Vote to create a shortlist of 6 candidates. Then second vote where individual contributors vote to select 2 from the 6 candidates for appointment by the Board.
- Voting eligibility will change to include volunteers doing offline work like organizing editathons, volunteering in chapters, campaigns.
- Two seats will be open for election. For 2022, we will have 12 total seats: 6 community-and-affiliate seats, five Board seats, one Community Founder
- Nataliia Tymkiv is moving to a Board-selected seat to provide continuity in leadership to allow her to complete her term as Board Chair. Increases community presence on Board
Why have you replaced the ASBS process?
As the Board, the most important thing to us is to have trustees with diversity of background and skills. We don’t have the division anymore between affiliate seats and community seats. Some regions don’t have chapters or user groups, so were not as represented in the process. We tried to find a solution to equalize participation.
Under this system, affiliates will have to do the most work of reviewing all the candidates in order to select the six candidates that are best for the role. Community members will then select two from the six.
What happens if a selected trustee can’t serve on the Board?
You could say we will appoint the next person who was not selected. With Single Transferrable Vote, this is not easy to do because it does not create a ranking of candidates, it creates a set of people who have been selected.
We have written down a process that runs the tally again, removing the candidate that cannot serve on the Board. You are simulating an election where this person was not present.
Can affiliate members vote in the first round and also the community vote?
In the affiliate part of the vote, affiliates are voting as a unit. In the community part of the election, it means one person one vote and [affiliate members can participate as individuals based on the criteria determined by the Elections Committee].
Why will affiliate members be able to vote in the 2022 election when they don’t meet the edit count criteria?
The edit count is a blunt instrument. The Election Committee already decided to change the criteria for the technical communities to recognize people who write scripts and bots.
It’s becoming more and more important to promote Wikimedia projects and attract new editors. We need to hold conferences, do outreach, collaborate with institutions. This all takes time. We don’t have a metric to translate these hours into edits. The Elections Committee will be proposing criteria.
Why segment the vote?
Having both the affiliates and individuals voting is important because they are both important segments of our community that contribute to our movement. They express different facets of our movement.
Why in a two-step process? Two steps ensure that the community votes on a manageable number of candidates. Six candidates, or three times the number of seats, instead of 20 candidates as we had last year or 70 candidates as we had in the Movement Charter Drafting Committee. That was consistent feedback that we had in the Board Elections last year–community members felt that it was difficult to assess so many candidates.
Universal Code of Conduct update
- First phase of the UCoC which produced the policy was completed in December 2020
- In 2021 the Drafting Committee convened to create the Enforcement Guidelines. Committee had members from all over the world.
- Community vote was held in March on the Draft Enforcement Guidelines.
- Voters representing 137 communities, with the top 9 communities being: English, German, French, Russian, Polish, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian Wikipedias, and Meta.
- A total of 2,283 community members participated in the vote. Out of these, 1,338 (58.6%) participants voted for the guidelines and 945 (41.4%) voted against them.
- Urged all participants to provide feedback on the reason as to why they supported or opposed the guidelines. 658 participants left comments. Will release a comprehensive report about feedback in early May.
- The Community Affairs Committee has tasked the Foundation to reconvene the Drafting Committee to review feedback from the vote and work with communities to refine Guidelines.
- Beginning with a review of four areas based on feedback:
- To identify the type, purpose, and applicability of the UCoC training;
- To simplify the language for more accessible translation and comprehension by non-experts;
- To explore the concept of affirmation, including its pros and cons;
- To review the conflicting roles of privacy/victim protection and the right to be heard.
- After the revisions process, the Foundation will re-run the community vote to evaluate the redrafted Enforcement Outline.
- I am interested in steps to address the request from the thoughtful letter from Whose Knowledge? to remove the harmful language in the UCoC that states
- “The Wikimedia movement does not endorse "race" and "ethnicity" as meaningful distinctions among people." Can you speak to this?
- We have been hearing about issues with this phrase and that will be part of the immediate review that the Foundation undertakes.
- What about other issues people may have with the Policy? What’s the plan for reviewing those?
- In addition to the revisions process for the Enforcement Guidelines, there will be an annual review after the Enforcement Guidelines are in place. This annual review will cover both the UCoC policy and the Enforcement Guidelines. It will address challenges that will arise when the policy is in practice.
Of course, if community members raise any issues related to active harm, as with the race and ethnicity line, the review can happen much more quickly.
- Some have voiced concerns that the UCoC requires thinking about intent. How are communities expected to engage with that?
- The UCoC has been designed as a minimum standard for acceptable behavior. The Foundation has always trusted in the communities being able to exercise a reasonable person standard. Communities have always been able to look at intent. We do not believe that the drafting for Phase 1 assumed a different standard than what has come from communities in the past.
- Does the Board recognise that there are some community members who have an interest in there *not* being an enforceable UCoC, with some more socially-conservative communities being hostile to LGBTQ+ issues, for example? How is the Board going to balance the needs of minoritised community members with the desires of community subsets to exclude those minorities?
- We recognize that the struggle around the UCoC and especially the enforcement guidelines involves people who feel they should have a right to oppress anyone who is different. That’s why it’s a great result that most of the people who voted across communities accepted the UCoC and its enforcement.
- Coming from a community that has issues of discrimination. As you know, the Russian government opposes anything that allows LGBT community to speak. It was entrenched in my community in our rules from the beginning that everyone has a right to edit. The UCoC helps communities that don’t have local rules to protect and enforce standards.
- It’s great to hear that there are plans for the language around race and ethnicity is going to be reviewed. Is there a timeline around that? Also helpful to hear that this harmful language can possibly be addressed quicker; but what are the steps that the community should take for this process to happen? And what does that process look like? Is is the committee? Is it the board? Is it Trust and Safety? Who should the community be partnering/talking with?
- Timeline will be made available early next month. The note in the UCoC section 3.1 will be looked at alongside the other themes that the CAC identified in its letter to the community last week. This will move very quickly with heavy community engagement with the reconvened drafting committee.
- The scheduling for the Guidelines was pushed through in a hurried manner and not all the documents were translated in time. Non-english speakers felt left out of the process. How can we ensure that people won’t be left out?
- The work to improve translations within the Foundation will continue. We expect each round to be better in terms of inclusivity than the round before.
- UCoC has not identified passive-aggressive behaviour in group dynamics of officials. It assumes healthy community and leadership. How can this be addressed?
- There was an interesting idea in an earlier version of the guidelines that was extensively discussed. The idea was to ask the local communities in a safe, inclusive, accessible manner whether they feel safe and comfortable contributing to their local wikis. That will allow us to see whether the leaders are doing a good job at what they’ve been elected for.
- We ran a survey earlier this year with a pop-up asking: “In the last 30 days, have you felt uncomfortable or unsafe contributing to your wiki.” Results show that most communities surveyed actually do a much better job at governing themselves and having their own members feel not unsafe and not uncomfortable than these communities expect. There seems to be more of a perception of lack of safety or comfort than is what actually experienced and reflected in the survey.
- Making data like this more easily accessible to communities will be a powerful way of addressing that problem down the road.
Foundation’s Annual Plan update
One priority for the incoming CEO was to change our approach to annual planning. We started by asking what the world needs from us now. We then spent time thinking about how to align our annual planning with the strategic direction of the movement strategy. We are shifting the process from one-way information sharing to two-way planning. Asking what others are doing on similar issues, engaging in strategic priorities of affiliates, to see if that kind of planning can help us all collaborate.
Last Thursday we released a draft on meta in multiple languages. We will be having calls to discuss and align.
- Are you going to request more language and interpretation budget for the next fiscal year?
- We are trying to ensure more multilingual communication and engagement including in the annual plan itself. The first question is whether our current resources are being used as effectively as possible. In the past months we’ve been looking at what resources we already allocate to that. Each team now does this slightly differently, so we may be able to get more impact from our current resources if we look at how they’re being used.
- While we commend great effort on large scale discussions on movement strategy & universal code of conduct, the Foundation had not been actively pursuing discussion improvements towards ease of access, greater accessibility to new and novice volunteers. These such as IP blocking policy, technical debt etc.
- Underlying strategic issue is: our ability to maintain the house is below the amount needed for people to be able to do the work. Wikimedia Foundation is mostly responsible for the maintenance work. How to close that gap is one of our big questions under our strategic direction. It impacts editors, readers, and the Foundation and affiliates’ ability to do their work. We all depend on that space.
- I see the Foundation is currently working on distributing the resources by having a regional approach. Do you have any concrete plan to share about the ideal/dream structure in the future? How to make sure there are no overlaps with the works/program between WMF, chapter or user groups?
- Many Foundation functions have already been regionalized. The goal in the plan this year is to ensure connection amongst all the regional efforts and ensuring that existing resources are having maximum impact and being used in the best way as well as thinking about additional resources.
- We have to ensure that activities in regions are coordinated through two-way planning with communities. The regional annual plan calls will help give us more information. I’m interested in how the hubs piece fits into regional structures and decentralization.
- How will the Foundation improve its responsiveness to community technical requests?
- We need more visibility on what the roadmaps and priorities are for some of our technical work, for what can get addressed in what way. Some ways for raising technical concerns are unsatisfying for volunteers because they’re not getting to decisionmakers.
We are experimenting with Wikimedia Commons by trying to engage the community to see if we can establish a way to make technical requests that come in more clear.
- How will communities that don’t speak English be supported in the next phase of UCoC?
- I believe this is in reference to the election of UCoC committee that supports specifically communities that specifically don’t have their own local arbitration committees. Staff will be working very hard to carry out Maryana’s priority of engaging in various languages. More than 90% of our active contributing volunteers cluster on the 22-25 biggest wikis. That’s a good place to start, but if you think about UCoC phase II, staff had been given the goal to not target these communities but to bring in an additional 25 emerging communities. There is a clear effort to make sure that equitable access to decisionmaking processes is there.
- There should be investment in legal clinics for those who seek assistance in interpreting the IP laws.
- This is a question that the movement has looked at in depth. Wikimedia Foundation attorneys are not allowed to provide legal advice to anyone but the Foundation as an organization. They can’t support people in legal clinics. So we have tried to find solutions within editing communities. Affiliates have stepped in for this sometimes. Because they are not the platform provider, they can bring in lawyers with the expertise to discuss issues with volunteers who do the work.
- If you think about something that’s more globally accessible, that’s training materials. The Foundation is constrained in how it can produce training materials in certain subjects. We can support certain community groups in creating trainings for other groups. Learn.wiki you can access through CentralAuth that would be a good destination for people to create or cocreate learning materials on more delicate issues.
- In general, cocreation is the best approach for most of these materials.
- What will be the Foundation’s approach to returning to in person meetings?
- Community Resources provided guidance about a month ago on allowing all movement entities to use funds on international travel as appropriate. We’re all trying to figure out what feels safe. Movement entities can proceed how they see best.