Jimmy Wales wrote:
On 3/5/16 3:07 AM, MZMcBride wrote:
I don't see it as a sign of strength to
abdicate your responsibility in
There are at least two things I disagree with about this remark - one
that seeking the advice and participation and buy-in of those best
placed to give it is in some way "abdicating responsibility". And the
other is that the board's objective should be to give off a "sign of
strength". I think attempting to show strength is a pretty silly
objective for a board to have, and I hope we never have that as our
I'll try to better articulate my views.
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees oversees the foundation and
appoints its Executive Director. It seems very worrying that this body has
now admitted that it's so out-of-touch with the workings of the
organization that it ostensibly manages that it cannot fulfill one of its
most basic duties: appointing an interim Executive Director. What kind
of confidence does this instill in employees, editors, and donors? How can
you all call yourselves trustees of an organization that you're openly
admitting that you all don't understand? Is that not crazy to anyone else?
It's not simply about strength and framing it as such misses the point:
it's about leadership. It seems very worrying that when pressed to provide
real and meaningful leadership of the Wikimedia Foundation, the Board of
Trustees passes the buck and erects smoke and mirror arguments such as
"but we don't lead the Wikimedia movement!" Nobody is asking the Board of
Trustees to lead the Wikimedia movement, you're being asked to manage the
non-profit foundation to which you all pledged your support and care.
The Board of Trustees is clinically allergic to making decisions. It
chooses to be a "traditional" non-profit board when it suits it, holding
closed meetings accompanied by the barest possible meeting minutes, which
are only published months later. However, when called to act with
authority, as a traditional board might act, it demurs and points to
everyone else as the people who should be making the decisions.
The working theory currently is that the Board of Trustees has always been
weak, but that Sue covered or compensated for this weakness by taking on
some of the responsibilities that a board would typically have. Drafting a
Strategic Plan is probably the best example of this. This is very much a
shared responsibility and yet we now sit outside of a Strategic Plan. It
lapsed at the end of 2015 and no new plan has taken its place. What are
the Wikimedia Foundation targets for 2020? How is it acceptable that
neither the board nor the Executive Director have worked on this?
To be clear: I don't put much value in a colorful multi-megabyte PDF full
of platitudes, smiling faces, and unrealistic goals. However, in talking
with many people, the lack of strategy and vision (or in Lila's case, an
ever-shifting strategy and vision) for the Wikimedia Foundation is one of
the biggest and most often repeated concerns I hear. It's particularly
alarming given the enormous budget of the Wikimedia Foundation.