Inspirations from Wikimania 2015

2015-07 k1 CDMX 2144Now I am back from Mexico City, and the most urgent part of my homework is done:

Thanks for all the ideas and support!

WCA in Hong Kong: invitation to the Wikimedia Organisations Seminar

On the two days of the Wikimania preconference, the WCA offers a Wikimedia Organisations Seminar (WCA WOS). We Bildwelcome everyone, whether he or she is already active in a Wikimedia organisation, or wants to become active.

The WCA is the Wikimedia Chapters Association. In spite of its name, the Association is open for all Wikimedia organisations: chapters, thematic organisations and user groups.

What we learn here:

  • who is active in organisations
  • how organisations manage themselves
  • what the WCA is and could be in future
  • how we can help each other

Among the panelists are Jon Davies, director of Wikimedia UK,  Anasuya Sengupta of the Wikimedia Foundation and James Heilman from the Wiki Med Project. The topics: the role of money, the structure of the movement, and: who is the boss in a Wikimedia chapter?

Wikimedia Chapters Association: redefining the ‘we’

In Berlin, now some months ago, representatives of the national Wikimedia chapters decided to establish a new organization: the Wikimedia Chapters Association. A team with Israeli chapter president Tomer Ashur is preparing the organization, and some chapters have already selected its Council Member. In mid June, the board of Wikimedia Nederland nominated me for the following two years.

In general, we all in the Wikimedia movement prefer to see the larger picture, to include rather than to exclude. We are doing great things, and we together try to improve what was to be improved. But in the last few years the different entities in the movement understand more and more that they have different roles with slightly different responsibilities.

When I say ‘we’, it usually responds to the whole movement, but sometimes it can also mean: ‘we, members of Wikimedia Nederland’. Sometimes it is ‘we, the national chapters’, in contrast to volonteers and personnel of the Wikimedia Foundation. This is natural and a good sign for a healthy development and differentiation. It does not necessarily mean that there have to be hostilities between the entities, we can agree to disagree, and if we/we/we don’t succeed with our opinion this time, we may the next time.

The WCA creates a new ‘we’. At least partially, because not all chapters will join it immediately. Or, it even creates several ‘we’s. We, the members of chapters (collected by the WCA); we, those with positions in the chapters; we, the members of the WCA Council…

In Washington, we will try to bring the movement and the WCA forward. Chapters need support, chapters need representation within the movement. This is our commitment.

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.

When Bismarck phoned Metternich

"We shall be a single People of brethren, Never to part in danger nor distress." Swiss national myth, the oath of Rütli (lyrics by Schiller).

Two days ago I was called by Sebastian Moleski, we talked extensively and intensively about the future Chapters Council. On the Meta Wiki page, there is a “Model B” mainly presented by Sebastian and a “Model KISS” written by me, both before the Financial Meeting in Paris when a number of chapters agreed in principle on creating a chapters council.

We were unanimous on a lot of points, disagreed on others, but mainly we could make clear that we are not presenting two different ways to the same goal, but to two different goals. I wouldn’t see a concurrence between both models but rather a choice the chapters have to make.

“Model KISS” / Model Metternich is a rather reluctant proposal playing on safe. It foresees a pure collaboration between the Wikimedia chapters. Think of the first version of the United States of America before 1787, or the German Confederation of 1815/1820 with the Austrian chancellor Metternich (no political allusions intended, by the way). The chapters council in Model Metternich is simply a platform were chapters meet and vote on common statements. The scope is very restricted to the tasks originally intended for a chapters council: nominate WMF board members, represent the chapters in discussions with the WMF, possibly send members to a future FDC etc.

“Model B” / Model Bismarck is much more ambitious. It will create a new entity, an association of the chapters council. Think of the second (modern) version of the US, or the North German Confederation or German Empire created by Bismarck (again, no political allusions intended). The chapters will still exist and have an important role, but the members of the chapters council will be very independent once elected (for a limited term, of course). This means that the chapters will have to pass a lot of power to the chapters council, or, to be more exact, they create a new power entrusted to the chapters council. With the association, the Model Bismarck will provide a strong basis for the projected tasks and to serve “as an umbrella organization for the chapters in all other aspects not mentioned before”.

The models can be altered, but I stress out again: they present two different futures. When I wrote Model Metternich, I was cautious, considering that many chapters are (still) rather weak and have few human and financial resources. Sebastian is projecting a future organisation (based on the chapters council) the current chapters could grow into. I principally do not disagree with him, but would like to keep Model Metternich to fall back on for the case that the chapters should not agree on the many points that will have to be dealt with for Model Bismarck. Or maybe Metternich can be the first step and Bismarck the second?

The discussion started, and let’s hope that we will have something to decide on in Berlin in March.