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The Longest Now

[MR 0b] Individual and project roles
Tuesday June 07th 2011, 2:24 am
Filed under: chain-gang,international,metrics,popular demand,wikipedia

The movement roles of individuals, informal groups, and our many wiki projects need to be discussed by a different group of participants, reflecting the diversity of community and editorial efforts that make our projects work.  This discussion will receive more attention from the current MR working group once its recommendations are published this summer, but can be pursued independently from the current formal-entity discussions.

This set of issues is very broad, perhaps the broadest set of issues raised during strategic planning.  Topics on organizational structure, dynamics, and communication all have analogies in more traditional movements and organizations.  However the constellation of independent wikiprojects, ad-hoc groups, and active individuals is closer to the structure of a town than that of a non-profit; and we have had less in the way of concrete advice on how to organize and plan such work.

By the same token, these issues are central to the original success of the Projects, and to pressing questions such as how to increase participation, openness of projects to new types of contribution, and communication across projects. What groups have the role of helping wikiprojects communicate about their work, or organize and maintain their efforts?  Responding to floods of new users?  Responding to spam, vandalism, and abuse of project policies?  Maintaining  accuracy and quality?  Who are responsible for protecting contributors who are harassed or placed at legal or personal risk?  Who manages messaging on the main pages and banners of the projects?  And who prioritizes updates and improvements requested by each project?

Anyone interested in starting this next phase of movement roles analysis is encouraged to do so on Meta – and to join the current working group even if the ‘formal entity’ topics are not of interest.

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[MR 0a] Formal Wikimedia groups and roles
Monday June 06th 2011, 11:31 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,international,wikipedia

The Wikimedia movement consists primarily of hundreds of thousands of contributors, reusers, donors, and other readers who support the movement and the projects each in its own way.  However the most complex parts of the movement, with their own legal, financial, and bureaucratic issues, are the incorporated groups within the movement — the Wikimedia Foundation and chapters, each incorporated in its own jurisdiction — and the governance groups that oversee and inform the work of those groups.

At present, chapters are the only groups formally recognized by the WMF with standard trademark agreements and a license to pursue partnerships within their jurisdiction.  Another group type – a partner organization without geographic limits – is being proposed in one of the MR recommendations.    There are few global governance groups at present, only committees of the Foundation and its Board of trustees.  Two other bodies have often been discussed:  a community council with representatives from the editing communities of the projects, and a chapters network or organizational council with representatives from all chapters and similar formal organizations.

The initial work of the Movement Roles group has focused on the roles and responsibilities of these formal groups, which have some of the most explicit needs for coordination.  A related effort is needed to resolve these questions for informal groups – the roles of the more numerous individuals, small groups, and informal organizations that sustain the movement.

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Movement Roles: Understanding roles and responsibilities in a broad Movement
Monday June 06th 2011, 6:25 pm
Filed under: fly-by-wire,international,popular demand,wikipedia

As Wikimedia has grown as a movement from a website and cool idea to a family of sites and a network of national and international non-profits, we have developed many ways to engage partners and the media, raise funds, and make large-scale decisions.  National chapters have become significant non-profits in their own right, and collaboration between chapters and the global Foundation has become more intricate.  For instance, chapters today run and support international events, offer scholarships and grants to community members, raise significant funds directly through the annual sitenotices, and run branding initiatives — including the global campaign for “Wikipedia as World Heritage Site” organized recently by Wikimedia Deutschland.

In 2009, during Wikimedia’s strategic planning process for the coming five years, a task force focused on movement roles was set up.  Its task was to research how individual contributors, Chapters, and the Foundation currently interact, and how they should ideally work together, and how this happened in other global organizations.  This was the most abstract part of optimizing operations, which included discussions of how we  guarantee financial sustainability, build partnerships and infrastructure, and influence public  perception and policy.

This group tackled questions of how the different parts of the movement develop strategy, make decisions across the movement, and communicate with one another.  A few initial recommendations were made, but these issues required more detailed discussion.[1] So a Board working group was created to continue the work.

This group chose to focus for its first year on the roles of formal organizations in the movement — the WMF and its Committees, Chapters, and other structured groups that should have similar formal recognition.  We tabled the equally complex issue of the roles of individual contributors, wiki projects, and other informal groups to a separate discussion.

The result of this work will be a set of recommendations to the movement as a whole – expressed in a movement charter that all formal parts of the movement can endorse, to the WMF, and to chapters.  The project and its recommendations are being developed on the Meta-wiki.  All are welcome to participate in the working group and discussions (or simply browse our meeting notes).   By Wikimania this year, the group aims to have recommendations on new models for organizations that the WMF should recognize (Associations and Partner Organizations),  on movement standards for transparency and auditing, and more.

I will post a series of updates about the project over the coming weeks, leading up to in-person discussions at Wikimania.  If you have questions about the project or any of its targets, suggestions about important issues we aren’t yet considering, &c – please let me know on my talk page.


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