Movement roles revisited

In Haifa, a group of three Wikimedians presented a model for new entities with regard to the Wikimedia movement. This was on request of the Wikimedia Fundation (WMF) board, and in February the board adopted these ideas in a letter by WMF chairman Ting Chen. It is about to give more people the chance to have an official relation to the movement, or to be organized officially. This all has been discussed under the title ‘movement roles’.

I am afraid that our movement isn’t very good at choosing names; everybody would understand much quicker what we are talking about if we would say ‘Wikimedia movement entities’, or ‘future organizations in the Wikimedia movement’ in place of ‘movement roles’. And also the names for the projected new kind of organizations can be improved. (It seems to me that often a word comes up and is kept while the discussion on the subject itself is moving on.)

This is now the official WMF presentation of the new organizations:

  • Chapters: independent non-profits dedicated to representing the Wikimedia movement and supporting related work within a country or region. Chapters are granted use of Wikimedia trademarks for their work, publicity, and fundraising; and use a name clearly linking them to Wikimedia.
  • Partner Organizations: independent non-profits dedicated to representing the Wikimedia movement and supporting related work within a major cultural, linguistic, or other topic. Partner organizations are granted use Wikimedia marks for their work, publicity, and fundraising; and use a name clearly linking them to Wikimedia.
  • Associations: open-membership groups with an established contact person and history of projects, designed to be easy to form. They are granted limited use of the Wikimedia marks in their work, for instance for promoting and organizing projects and events.
  • Affiliates: like-minded organizations that actively support the movement’s work. They are listed publicly and granted limited use of the marks on websites and posters indicating their support of and collaboration with Wikimedia.

In the Haifa discussions and later it has been stressed out that an expression like ‘association’ can mean different things in one and the same country, and even more in different countries. But surely most people think of a kind of formal organization – here, it denotes just the opposite, a less formal group of people.

The most striking wording is ‘partner organization’. You might think that this refers to a partner, to an entity outside the Wikimedia movement? Like a museum collaborating with us, as partner of the Wikimedia Foundation or Wikimedia Nederland? No, in this model, a ‘partner organization’ is an organization inside the movement, just like a chapter but with no geographical constrains.

Besides the names, the model looks rather well. So we would have in future (my own interpretation)

  • National Wikimedia organizations, for example Wikimedia Nederland or Wikimedia France. They represent the movement in one country each.
  • Specialist Wikimedia organizations, for example a future ‘Wikimedia and Cultural Heritage’ or ‘Wikimedia Organization for Medicine related Subjects’, or ‘Wikimedia Organization for Spanish Speaking People’. They represent the movement towards the world of museums and libraries, medical organizations or institutions that are dealing with the Spanish Language or the culture of Spanish-speaking people globally.
  • Wikimedia groups, loose clubs of people who do not wish to create a Wikimedia organization with all its paperwork, but to be allowed to use the name ‘Wikimedia’ in contact with other institutions. For example, maybe the Spanish speaking Wikpedians/Wikimedians find it enough to form a Wikimedia group when contacting the Real Academia Española for linguistic advice. For many specialist groups, certainly when limited to a small field, a Wikimedia group would be just fine.
  • Official Partners of the Wikimedia Movement are institutions clearly outside the movement but linked with it by a common interest. A national museum might perfectly well collaborate with a national Wikimedia organization, but maybe in that country there is no national Wikimedia organization. Or, a truly international institution such as the university of United Nations wishes to collaborate on a certain activity or permanently.

After names and descriptions, there will be much work left to figure out what precisely those new organizations and entities are entitled to do. For example, how can we exclude abuse of this framework? Imagine a Wikimedia group with ‘Marxism’ or ‘anti-Marxism’ as subject. Also, there is still no final consensus about the national Wikimedia organizations (the chapters), whether we should adopt the concept ‘one country, one chapter’. But in general: we are again a few steps further on the road to a future Wikimedia movement.