It's nice to read that chapters have been encouraged to tighten up their
governance, avoiding conflicts of interest and so on. But before we pile
onto this one issue, can we please step back and look at the Wikimedia
Technically, none of its Board members are elected. This is already a red
flag, only made more disturbing by the symbolic elections which are
respected according to the good will of the sitting Board, and which can
and have been reversed on a whim. Real elections would be governed by
well-understood non-profit law and would be rooted in direct ownership of
the corporation by its members (you, the contributors). Instead, we have
the Board continuously improvising the rules for "selecting" its new
members, and maintaining a majority of appointed members.
Next, if we're truly concerned with conflicts of interest *outside* of the
narrow yet vague definition in the Bylaws... Should we talk about a
for-profit wiki farm running at a scale comparable to Wikimedia, funded by
venture capital and plastered with advertisements? Interestingly, this
wiki farm was started at about the same time that Bomis was forced to
commit to not showing ads on Wikipedia, and many of the same Board members
sat on both the newly formed Wikimedia and the for-profit Board—and still
I can imagine many potential conflicts of interest in this two-wiki
arrangement, most concerning is the possibility that the scope of Wikimedia
could be restricted in order to drive users towards the for-profit. Then
there's the possibility of building software using donation money, testing
it on volunteers, and then the for-profit getting it for free. Yet no
conflict of interest statement has been filed in 16 years of sharing Board
members between these sites. Without a formal declaration of conflict of
interest, our Bylaws give us no tools to prevent corruption.
We don't have to assume any malice here, the point of conflict of interest
is that humans are not rational, they are subject to cognitive dissonance,
and we cannot trust even the best of us to make the right decisions when
our allegiances are split.
Before we try to deny an outgoing Board chair the opportunity to *help* our
movement, perhaps we can look at the many structural issues with WMF
governance? I understand that most of us are starting their missive with a
positive note of appreciation for María, but this still feels like a
personal attack on a person who just spent c. 8 years of their time
volunteering for us in a high-stress capacity. We want María advising the
Board. This is not a highly-paid executive position. We also want to close
the revolving door and institute other normal, democratic controls.
On Wed, Jun 23, 2021 at 10:45 PM Maggie Dennis <mdennis(a)wikimedia.org>
Hello, all. :)
I hope and trust that everyone is keeping well during these times!
I’m Maggie Dennis, Vice President of the Community Resilience &
Sustainability group of Wikimedia Foundation, within the Legal department.
I wanted to announce with pleasure that Maria Sefidari has agreed to
consult with the Foundation on Movement Strategy and the ongoing Board
evolution for the upcoming year. Many of us know María from her role as the
chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, from which she
provided invaluable leadership in governance, oversight, and fundraising.
Others may know her from her volunteer work as User:Raystorm
<https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Raystorm>, in which she has a broad
range of experience.
María, based in Spain, commenced her assignment with the Foundation this
week. We intend to tap into her expertise and knowledge of the Foundation
to support a successful implementation of the Movement’s Strategy and to
tap into new opportunities. (With her Board work, she will be supporting
Quim Gil’s team with the Board election and helping Margo Lee in improving
onboarding, documentation practices, and training.) María will report to me
as part of our Community Resilience & Sustainability group. I’m excited
that she accepted our offer for a more hands-on assignment, particularly
given how important all of the work she’ll be supporting is. :) With more
than 15 years of Wikimedia experience, her contributions in the next phase
will be a tremendous benefit to me and my team as we continue settling into
our own work on Movement Strategy.
Those of you who are involved with Movement Strategy are used to seeing
her at related meetings and still will. :) I anticipate María will be
joining one or more of the Movement Strategy global conversations
this weekend. Advertisement alert: maybe you can, too? Here’s more detail
I myself will be attending at least one of those sessions and look forward
to seeing some of you there.
Vice President, Community Resilience & Sustainability
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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