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 Foundation itself?

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 do.

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.

Adam Wight

On Wed, Jun 23, 2021 at 10:45 PM Maggie Dennis <> wrote:

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, 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.

Warm regards,


Maggie Dennis
Vice President, Community Resilience & Sustainability
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
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