For the past few weeks, many people approached me asking for feedback
on what Wikimedia France went through in the past 18 to 24 months.
We realize we poorly communicated on the topic, time to fix that.
I'll try to be as exhaustive as I can be without writing too much
(even though you already know this is going to be a long email).
== Short WMFr history ==
Before going into the heart of the situation, here are some
informations about Wikimedia France. We were founded in 2004. At some
point, in 2007 iirc, we went from 30K€ in our bank account to 200K€
over night as, at the time, we were payment processing.
In 2010, we hired a first employee as a project manager. A year later,
he left the organization. If we look back at why, at the core, he did
leave, one of the reason is that we weren't ready to have an employee.
Though at the time we might have not realized that.
Afterwards we hired three new employees, one head of programs, one
project manager for education and research programs and one technical
We weren't able to manage them correctly because we underestimated the
amount of work it required, especially as back then we were still
So we decided to hire a new employee, an Executive Director, to manage
our employees for us and to hire a fundraiser.
It didn't work out, and the new ED left the organization after a few
months. That is where the story starts.
== Facing failures and making radical changes ==
When the new ED left we took the time to try to understand why
Wikimedia France had those issues.
We could have hired a new ED straight ahead, but we believed that,
even though it would have been a good thing on the short run we
weren't sure we wouldn't repeat past mistakes.
We then started to wonder if the organization of Wikimedia France was
the right one, perhaps at the core we were doing things wrong. So we
decided to get help to sort this out and hire a HR company to audit us
and advise us on what to do.
Mostly at the same time, something else happened: the FDC rejected our
first proposal and gave us a gap funding just to get through until the
next FDC round.
At the same time we were auditing the organization we had to rethink
everything we were doing and how we were working.
We had no ED, so the board and staff had to pick up on the tasks the
ED used to do. We first splitted the tasks amongst us and then asked
an interim company to help us hire an administrative assistant to help
us with day-to-day administrative burden.
Before her arrival, we introduced processes used at companies we
(board members) worked at (such as "buying request" that means that
every spending of the association is matched with a sheet that
summarize what the money was used for and that the use of the money
has been checked by two differents people).
Once she arrived we worked, as a board, to define our needs and our
role. We identified that one of our mistake was that, even though we
had employees, we failed to build up trust and confidence and that we
were looking too hard on small details and not enough on the big
We saved that thought for later: as we had no ED we had to look at
those details. But when we defined what we needed from our ED, we kept
that in mind. We needed an ED with whom we were able to build a trust
relationship and at the same time have the tools to oversee their job.
We also took the time to improve the board maturity. As we had no
idea, our board meetings were really frequent and long. So we laid
some board rules such as nothing said during a board meeting is
personal, or that everyone should speak its mind but once a decision
is made the board has to commit to support that decision.
As said before we also started to better define the roles of each board member.
After a few months, we started our search for our next ED. The HR
company we hired for auditing us was charged with selecting 3 persons
we would then interview. We believed that thanks to the audit, the HR
company would have a good understanding of who we were and what we
== New ED, "new" board, new organization ==
After a 5 months process, we hired our new ED. We then enforced what
we've set aside a few months before, the board would focus to the big
picture while the ED would provide the board with the tools to oversee
how the organization is doing.
First things first, we needed to redesign how we worked (more there
We created 5 working groups :
* Internal organization: closed group made of the chair, the
vice-chair and the ED. This group is in charge of sorting out day to
day things and to ensure the organization is running smoothly.
* Internal controls: closed group made of the treasurer, the deputy
treasurer and the ED. This group is in charge of designing and
implementing internal policies and processes. Their goal is to ensure
we do everything we can so the organization is runned in a healthy
* Quality group: open group to every WMFr member. This group goal is
to design and update the metrics we're using to measure our
* Strategy group: open group to every WMFr member. This group ensures
our strategic process is going forward and includes everyone's input.
* Communication group: open group to every WMFr member. This group is
in charge to make sure the voice of WMFr members and Wikimedians is
taken into accounts and is also in charge of international
We also restructured the staff organization, for the curious it’s all
detailed there :
By doing this clear split within the board, we ensured that the few
tactical tasks the board has to be in charge of are taken care of. We
all agreed to trust each group with the topic they're in charge of.
This limits the possibility of burnout, as no one has to care
everything is being done, and efficiency as every board member focuses
on a clear defined set of tasks.
Following that reorganisation, we redesigned the interactions between
board, members and staff. The goal was to improve the way we
communicate and work with each other. One thing we've done is to write
down the clear mandate of the ED. What the ED can and can't do and
what the board can and can't do.
Then we designed a clear vision and strategy for Wikimedia France:
Once that was done, we tackled THE issue: being able to measure how
efficient we are. Based on our strategic goals, we designed a matrix
of indicators. Every project we now do goes through that matrix.
It's far from being perfect, but at least we now have a common matrix
for everything we do, evaluate our effectiveness and make decisions.
== Where we are now and where we're going ==
Now where are we?
We are in the best situation we've ever been.
WMFr board is a working efficient body, with an internal organization
that prevents burnout and also ensures continuity.
The staff now has clear goals and knows where the organization wants
to go. They also have a clear mandate on what they can and can't do.
We have an evaluation process and people in charge of improving it over time.
I'm not sure this reflects what we went through. But to sum it up, at
some point, we decided to make radical and urgent changes. To be
better, even if that meant to spend months in a painful situation. We
believed back then, and I guess we were right, that it was better for
us to go through a hard time willingly, identify and face our mistakes
and fix them rather than find a quick solution.
Now, it could seem that we're at the end of the process. Well it's
quite the opposite. Everything we did was just the start of our
"getting better" process.
We share in an other email the next steps of the process.
We wanted to share our experience because we believe some of the other
Wikimedia organizations could learn from it.
We also wanted to share that because we believe that it is important
for organizations like us to face mistakes, to have a critical eye on
everything you do, even if you've done it for years, and some time
make radical changes in order to improve things on the long run.
If anyone has questions, please, feel free to ask them either on list
or off list.
We hope that sharing this will help some of you.
All the best,
Christophe HENNER | Vice-chair
› Mail : christophe.henner(a)wikimedia.fr
› Mobile : +33(0)6 29 35 65 94
› Tel : +33(0)5 62 89 12 01
› Twitter : @Wikimedia_Fr
Wikimédia France | Association pour le libre partage de la
connaissance | Visitez notre blog http://blog.wikimedia.fr
We are pleased to announce the Wikimedia Shop has undergone a redesign
as of this afternoon. One of the shop's primary priorities for 2014 was to
make it more visually appealing and user friendly. It is our hope that
these changes will enable us to increase sales so that we can support more
community events through merchandise giveaways.
Thus far in 2014, the shop has supported chapters and community groups in
Thailand, Ghana, and Indonesia, and will be supporting a Wikipedia Zero
event in Bangladesh later this year. Our team has also reinvigorated the
Merchandise Giveaways Program , sending shirts to nominated users on a
weekly basis. We want our merchandise to help bring even more people to
Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects, and make currently involved community
members feel good about their work.
The shop redesign also marks the release of a new product: the limited
edition Wiki Loves Monuments Calendar. While we are already a few months
into 2014, the quality of the images and work put in by Wikimedians was
reason enough to produce these calendars, but buy them while you can as
there is a very limited quantity! We look forward to displaying more
Wikimedia artifacts like this one in the future.
Please give us your comments on the new site design and help us continue to
improve the way we represent Wikimedia through discussion on the Wikimedia
Merchandise talk page, or feel free to contact me directly.
Fundraiser Program Associate
Thank you for these interesting emails. I'm cc'ing Anasuya on this
discussion with the hope that what you've learned can be disseminated
to other Wikimedia affiliates, especially new or aspiring chapters.
Is the decision matrix that you use for your programs available in English? I
would like to have a copy of it on Meta along with these emails.
I am interested in this subject partly because of the discussion about WMF's
Annual Plan and partly because there are occasional discussions about
forming a new thematic organization or chapter in my region.
As we have been discussing communication and sharing of experiences at
various sessions here at the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, I wanted
to remind people of the chaptersplanet.org website i set up a few
years ago that aggregates blog posts, reports and newsletters from the
various affiliates and the WMF.
You can follow the site at chaptersplanet.org, or @chaptersplanet
(http://twitter.com/chaptersplanet ) on Twitter.
The name is only a historical artifact -- if your group or
organisations blog, newsletter, etc. is not represented yet (or has
moved to a new location since I added it), please drop me a line.
I thought it might be worthwhile to put some attention on what a well
planned and effective Wikipedian in Residence program looks like.
Especially for anybody on this list whose introduction to the topic was the
Belfer Center program, this might be a worthwhile read:
Five things a Wikipedian in Residence can do:
This is of course only "5 things" -- not "the" 5 things. Perhaps others
will post ideas about what a great WiR does.
I just wanted to drop everyone a note about the two sessions in Berlin on
Sunday morning about the Affiliate Selected Board Seats.
I regret it proved impossible to stream or properly record the Q&A session
- we did not have appropriate equipment to capture audio. Nevertheless we
heard speeches from Alice, Frieda and Patricio, the latter taking part
remotely from Argentina. Unfortunately some nearby church bells started
ringing during Patricio's speech, but after they fell silent Patricio was
able to continue. Anders was not able to join in by videocall, but was able
to answer questions posed to him by email.
I would also like to say a little about the closed discussion session.
About 40 people attended, including at least one person from most of the
chapters present and Amical. We also invited User Group representatives to
participate in the discussion and a number did so. Generally, it was a
thoughtful discussion about the needs of the WMF Board and the movement.
Everyone is welcome to continue to pose questions on Meta, here:
A final list of candidates will be announced on or shortly after 15 April
(tomorrow) and organisations have until 31 May to cast votes.
It is with great regret that we need to confirm that Cynthia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Cindamuse ) passed away on Friday,
April 11. Our thoughts are with Cindy’s family, friends and the
Wikimedia community. Her next of kin have been informed prior to
releasing this announcement.
Cindy was elected vice-chair of the Wikimedia Affiliations Committee
on April 10, 2014. She had traveled to Berlin in order to attend the
Affiliations Committee’s annual meeting during the international
Wikimedia Conference. Both a long-time Wikipedia editor and an expert
in organizational development with a professional background of 25
years, she devoted her time, passion and vast expertise to contribute
in numerous ways to the free knowledge movement. Cindy was deeply
committed to supporting the Wikimedia Foundation’s Global Education
Program and to tackling the gender gap issue on Wikipedia.
In the short time since January that Cindy has been with us in the
Affiliations Committee, we have come to value her thoughts, passion
and refreshing ideas. She was working very enthusiastically with us,
and we are all saddened that we won’t have the chance to learn from
all of her ideas, insights and experiences. The months we shared
proved her to be a very valuable and engaged member of the committee,
which led to her election as AffCom vice-chair.
We are sad beyond words and so is everyone who came to Berlin to
participate in the Wikimedia Conference. Her passing is a great loss
for everyone in the Wikimedia movement. This morning all the
conference attendees gathered together to grieve and talk about the
loss of Cindy. We decided that all of us at the Wikimedia Conference
could choose to continue the conversations about the future of the
movement Cindy cared so much about, as well as spending our time here
to remember and celebrate her. She will be greatly missed.
You can share your condolences and memories of Cynthia on her user
talk page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:Cindamuse ).
On behalf of the whole Affiliations Committee, and the other community
members gathered here in Berlin:
Chair, Wikimedia Affiliations Committee
Outgoing chair, Wikimedia Affiliations Committee
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