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Wikimedia Foundation elections/2024/Questions for candidates/Question 2

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There has been some trend towards devolving or sharing the governance of the Wikimedia movement, including having a separate board for the Wikimedia Endowment and the proposed Global Council in the Movement Charter. What do you see as the positives and negatives of these trends, and what is your overall assessment of the work so far?

Bobby Shabangu (Bobbyshabangu)

I think the positive side of creating a separate board for the Wikimedia Endowment allows for more focused and efficient oversight of funds, and I also think it will allow for better resource management. However, the down side can also lead to the Board of Trustees working in silo from the board for the Wikimedia Endowment and making it harder to keep strategies aligned across different governing bodies. Same applies to the proposed Global Council in the Movement Charter.

I am not opposed to sharing the governance of the Wikimedia movement. I believe it can be most effective if done by creating sub-committees under the Board of Trustees, with equal representation from Affiliates. This approach would help prevent the two challenges I've highlighted - working in silos and misaligned strategies.

Deon Steyn (Oesjaar)

Managing Wikimedia is quite a challenge as it literally covers the globe with different languages, cultures and statuary requirements. Then to complicate matters, not all Wikipedia's are the same size in terms of users and mother tongue speakers and English skew this whole picture further. There are responsibilities that will always be controlled at Organizational level e.g. strategy and finances. The Board cannot prescribing/advising/managing at Community level for various reasons such as the differences already indicated. But still the communities need to be involved so devolving or sharing within the Wikimedia Movement is the answer. Creating separate boards for the Wikimedia Endowment and proposed Global Council in the Movement Charter will improve efficiency, representation and accountability. It will also make the Communities feel that they belong, not being left alone and improve communications.

These changes may lead to complexity, coordination challenges, can be resource intensive and can possibly lead to conflicts.

I support devolving some duties and responsibilities Global Council.

Erik Hanberg (Erikemery)

I think it’s important to begin by noting that the wiki community are already the leaders of the movement, whether or not there’s a Global Council to represent it. And the WMF board is built to have majority representation from the community.

But I am, in general, wary of devolving or sharing legal governance.

I agree with many of the tenets and values of the proposed Movement Charter, and I admire the work that went into it. I think it captures a shared vision quite well. That said, I believe opening up a separate body like the Global Charter is likely to make reaching that vision harder, increase bureaucracy, and make internal disagreements within the community more acute.

Part of my thinking is structural. The WMF board has a legal and financial responsibility for Wikimedia and all its platforms. That’s part of the law governing all nonprofits like WMF. It’s not a responsibility a board member should take lightly. A separate governance organization that doesn’t have that same legal and financial obligation, such as the global council, would always put it on a different footing than the WMF board, and I think it would result in more friction, not less. I worry it would create a poor dynamic with confusing relationships that would not be productive.

Finally, I do call on the WMF board to think about ways to address the concerns of the movement that resulted in calls for this shared governance model.

Farah Jack Mustaklem (Fjmustak)

No response yet.

Christel Steigenberger (Kritzolina)

Generally I am a big fan of sharing responsibilities and sharing power. And in the end this is what shared governance means. Basically the idea of Wikipedia is based on this sharing of responsibilities. All editors do their part and rely on others to do their part as well. So I think it is only appropriate that the governance structures of the movement should mirror this.

There are of course also drawbacks to this sharing of responsiblities. Shared power means a higher need for communication and more risk of mistakes and confusion. Communication doesn’t always go well. With a global community of the size of our movement, this risk of confusion is especially high.

I think at the moment we are at the hight of confusion in regards to the Global Council and the Movement Charter. And yet I am confident we will find a way forward that will lead to more shared power through different governance bodies. This will benefit the movement as a whole.

Lane Rasberry (Bluerasberry)

In the past the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia community have disagreed on ethics, values, and the interpretation of the Wikimedia mission. I support the establishment of the Global Council because such an organization would empower the Wikimedia community to speak for itself and improve collaboration. Wikimedia is special because it is the only user-generated content platform where the users themselves govern the project. The Global Council is our best-developed plan to support community self-expression. The Wikimedia Foundation, Wikimedia Endowment, and Global Council can coexist with different goals while avoiding competition over the same power and resources.

Even though it is nice to imagine successful crowdsourced governance by anonymous online Internet people, there are many problems with power sharing. The processes that work for collaboratively organizing volunteers to build an encyclopedia are different from those for sharing the next billion dollars that we will spend. I am happy with the development of the Movement Strategy, I endorse ratification of the Movement Charter, and I wish to join the board to establish the Global Council with attractive powers for the community. Overall, I am satisfied with the Wikimedia community's demand to speak freely and independently, and of the Wikimedia Foundation's intention to support significant power transfer.

Lorenzo Losa (Laurentius)

Having multiple entities or bodies with different roles is nothing new: affiliates have been there for 20 years, and the first community-wide committees, like the Affiliations Committee or the Language Committee, were established shortly after that. As time passes, more and more structures are created to support the mission. This is generally a sign, and a result of, maturity in the movement; but at the same time, we need to think carefully when structures are useful and when they are ineffective and make us slower.

The two examples mentioned - the Endowment and the Global Council - are different in nature. While the proposed Global Council would be a governance body, the Wikimedia Endowment is a specialized organization, with a very specific purpose: to support Wikimedia projects in perpetuity. It has more an operational role than a governance role. It is a fully independent legal entity mainly for legal reasons: to make sure that claims made against the Wikimedia Foundation could not undermine the Endowment, and vice versa.

In terms of sharing the governance, I think we still have a long way to go. While a lot of work has already been done, it generally focuses on having wider participation in the governance of individual organizations: often on the Wikimedia Foundation, as the largest one, but also in affiliates. What we really lack are structures for taking decisions together. For instance, not to assign grants, or tell the Wikimedia Foundation, or tell Wikimedia affiliates, what to do - but to align in the decisions that each organization, and different parts of the community, make. We can design participatory processes to assign Wikimedia Foundation grants. We can design participatory processes to give input into the annual plans of the Wikimedia Foundation or affiliates. We already have some of that, and there are proposals on the table to improve them. But often times, this sounds like someone telling someone else what to do. What would really make a difference would be to have all these entities, and the community, work together on what each of them is doing.

Maciej Artur Nadzikiewicz (Nadzik)

Over the past few years we have seen several developments in the Movement governance structure. The Board of Trustees now has half of its members elected by the community (by changing the affiliate seats and the affiliates' role in the process). We have a separate board for the Wikimedia Endowment, although some, myself included, wish that the community had some say in this process.

When it comes to actually sharing governance with the Movement, the Foundation has yet to do so. We still have self-selective committees (e.g., the Affiliations Committee), ones with complicated structures that lead to the lack of quorum (e.g. U4C committee). Even when successfully selected, the committees are under-resourced and understaffed, and the volunteers are over-stretched (sometimes doing the job that the support staff should be doing), leading to bizarre situations in which those important bodies have no capacity to act, leading to frustration on all sides. We have regional grant committees that are tasked to share money in their respective regions, but it is still a few people at the Wikimedia Foundation that decide which regions get how much; there is no real Movement governance over the Movement's funds.

There are signals coming from the Board Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/Board liaisons reflections on final Movement charter draft that the BoT may vote against the proposed text of the Movement Charter (which would lead to it being veto-ed). While the Charter is not perfect and offers less than many may have wanted, it is our first real attempt at sharing the governance of the Wikimedia movement. I've organised a global meeting to talk about this development, let's see where we are with this in a few weeks.

Overall, as a Movement, we are developing a governance model. In some parts, we are achieving great success; our ongoing hub projects are the best examples of that. In other parts, we are still stuck in time because of the decisions made many years ago. Meanwhile, the world keeps turning, and no one will wait for us.

Mohammed Awal Alhassan (Alhassan Mohammed Awal)

The trend towards devolving or sharing governance within the Wikimedia movement has several positives and negatives. Below are my opinion about some of the positives and negatives:


Having separate boards like the Wikimedia Endowment and the proposed Global Council will ensure a more specialized governance systems. These boards can focus specifically on their mandates, which can facilitate a more informed and effective decision-making. Considering the proposed Global Council in the Movement Charter and its activities so far, it seems to represent the true diverse global community more effectively which is the ultimate goal of the Charter. This inclusivity can ensure that different regions and linguistic groups have a voice in the movement’s governance, and ensure a more democratic and equitable structure. Having a smaller, and or specialized boards or councils ensures a shared workload and guides them through their areas of focus and specific responsibilities. This can lead to faster implementation of initiatives and more targeted support for various community needs. Sharing governance responsibilities can alleviate the burden on the central Board of Trustees, allowing it to focus on broader strategic issues while other bodies handle more specific tasks. It also ensures checks and balances among the bodies. Checks and balances are more effective when there are multiple governance bodies. This ensures accountability and transparency across the movement.

Now, let's consider Negatives;

In as much as it is necessary to ensure that all bodies are aligned with the overall mission and vision of the Wikimedia movement, devolving governance may sometimes lead to a lack of cohesion and unified direction amongst the different bodies. This can lead to complex or bureaucratic decision-making processes. Unless there is a clear communication and coordination mechanism put in place to mitigate this risk, there will be less results achieved within a longer period. Establishing and maintaining multiple governance structures requires resources. Another possible negative impact of the multiple governance structures is the additional resources required in their establishment and maintenance process. There is a risk that this could divert resources away from core activities if not managed efficiently. In terms of human resource, with the establishment of multiple governance bodies and to ensure that all of them have the necessary expertise and experience, it is necessary to have a robust selection and training processes to ensure effective governance across all levels.

My Overall Assessment of the case is that;

The establishment of separate boards and the proposed Global Council are steps in the right direction towards a more inclusive and effective governance. However, there has to be a carefully designed plan and a continuous evaluation process to ensure these bodies function efficiently. In the planning processes, the mandate of each body should be clearly defined and there should be regular communication and evaluation of their activities to ensure they align with the objectives and goals of the Wikimedia Movement. To gain the trust and buy-in from the Community, there should be continued engagements and transparent processes to clearly convey the benefits of these governance structures to them. During these engagements, there should be willingness to adapt based on feedback from the Community and changing circumstances to ensure success of these governance structures. Flexibility and responsiveness to the community’s needs should remain a priority.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight (Rosiestep)

I have taught Organizational Behavior at a university in California, so my opinion is not solely based on the Wikimedia movement. The key to successful governance is being flexible. An organization (such as the Wiki movement) should have appropriate structures for the work that must be done at a given time. For example, in the last few days, on Wikimedia-l, there’s been discussion regarding the WMF’s “old days”: “...WMF was originally incorporated as a membership organization…” We know that the model has evolved since then.

The Wikimedia Endowment is appropriate for supporting a U.S.-based non-profit organization focusing on “knowledge”/education. Its positive side is that it will ensure that Wikipedia lasts perpetually. The negative side is that endowments are not universal; people from some parts of the world are baffled by them. Maybe we need to better explain what it is, what it does, and why it does it. (Ditto for Wikimedia Enterprise.)

The proposed Global Council is a noble idea; developing it from scratch is tough. That's because questions such as what should it be, what should it do, and why should it do it are central to its development as well as the changes that will cascade after its establishment. The positive side (premise) is that it will assume roles best suited for such a structure. The negative side is “the unknown”, e.g., we don’t know how successful it will or won’t be.

My overall assessment of our governance work so far is that we have functioned better in some years than others.

Tesleemah Abdulkareem (Tesleemah)

Establishing a supreme board for Wikimedia Endowment and Global Council is not totally a bad idea, I understand the reason for this is to ensure there is equal representation which is on the positive side.

However, I feel this will lead to clash of power as the establishment of the council is to control the affairs of the board, how will the three bodies work together when there can only be a body making decision on behalf of others? this may hinder proper representation we actually envisage for the wikimedia community.

I believe a better way is to have a sub-committee within the board such that, all affiliate are properly represented. This way, there will be equal representation on the board without the need for clashes in power.

Victoria Doronina (Victoria)

Wikimedia Endowment and the proposed Global Council are entirely different entities. Wikimedia Endowment is separate from the WMF organisation and has a different goal—raising and investing money to ensure the existence of the Wikimedia projects in perpetuity—which is a very cool goal. However, while it started making grants, it doesn’t deal with the movement's operational questions and doesn't provide support for them.

There’s also Wikimedia Enterprise, which diversifies operational income sources as the banner revenue declines. So, only the proposed Global Council fits the description of “sharing the governance of the Wikimedia Movement.” I would also like to mention Hubs as places for fostering intra-regional and thematic collaborations, filling the gap between individual affiliates and the US-centric and serving the devolution of the responsibilities from WMF. The WMF has also delegated responsibility for the WMF grants to the regional grants committees.

I think that devolution of responsibilities is a good thing and should be encouraged. However, we must be careful to avoid creating more levels of movement bureaucracy, which will eat into the resources dedicated to our mission—growing and disseminating free knowledge—without providing any benefits. Creating such levels is a possible negative outcome.