On Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 3:22 AM, Erik Moeller <eloquence(a)gmail.com> wrote:
the notion that WMF might be a more effective
organization if it limited its own size in favor of focused spin-off
organizations and affiliates.
I can see three potential benefits from a more
1) Resilience. If any one organization experiences a crisis, other
independent organizations suffer to a lesser degree than departments
within that organization.
2) Focus. Wikimedia’s mission is very broad, and an organization with
a clearly defined mandate is less likely to be pulled in many
different directions -- at every level.
3) Accountability. Within a less centralized federation, it is easier
to ensure that funding flows to those who do work the movement wants
them to do.
My experience is that growth tends to be self-reinforcing in budgetary
processes if there are now clear ceilings established. I think that’s
true in almost any organization. There’s always lots of work to do,
and new teams will discover new gaps and areas into which they would
like to expand. Hence, I would argue for the following:
a) To establish 150 as the provisional ceiling for Wikimedia movement
organizations. This is Dunbar’s number, and it has been used
(sometimes intentionally, sometimes organically) as a limiting number
for religious groups, military companies, corporate divisions, tax
offices, and other human endeavors.  This is very specifically
because it makes organizational units more manageable and
understandable for those who work there.
b) To slowly, gradually identify parts of the WMF which would benefit
from being spun off into independent organizations, and to launch such
spin-offs, narrowing WMF's focus in the process.
c) To aim to more clearly separate funding and evaluation
responsibilities from programmatic work within the movement -- whether
that work is keeping websites running, building software, or doing
== Where to go from here? ==
There are lots of open questions in all of this. Should all site-wide
fundraising remain inside WMF, for example, with funds being
transferred to a movement entity? What’s the dividing line between
"development for third parties" (MWF) and "development for
(WMF)? How would staff transition to new organizations? Where should
those organizations be based? Should they be distributed, have
An important thing to remember here (a lesson I’ve had to learn
painfully) is that big changes are best made in small steps, with room
for trial and error.
Implementing this strategy is, I think, a matter of first committing
to it as an idea, and then creating coherent proposals for each step,
publicly with broad input. First, if there is support for the general
idea, I would recommend kicking it around: Are these the right kinds
of spin-offs? What are the risks and how should existing affiliates be
involved in the process? And so on.
that all sounds quite reasonable. also what erik writes about
organisations is to be expected. at the end it all boils down to
money. spending all money available and wanting more money never has
been a problem. if there is dissent it was always about who has the
say what the money is spent on, and where it is spent. i am convinced
if we get the responsibilities right, the dissent will stop, and the
output will be better.
sizing organizations and distributing responsibilities on a global
scale seems to be a very difficult task, close to the soviet empire's
task to plan its next 5 years. one could argue to resolve it via
setting a financial targets, just as multinational companies do. two
simple long term key performance indicators might already do the trick
for the wikimedia movement: first "maximum 50% of the money is spent
on persons whose life depend financially on the movement", which is
employees, or long term contracting persons, organizations,
foundations, enterprises. and second, "50% of the money stays in the
country where it is donated." the rest will auto-organize, and
auto-change. finding intelligent spending for the rest of the 50%
should not be a too difficult task, there is sufficient universities
and students around the world who would be happy to compete for this
money. the success, means and outcome will change over time, in areas
and ways nobody can predict today. the 50% are a made up number, a
little bit influenced by public spending of 40% - 50% in many
industrialized countries nowadays. it seems people accept such a
whatever the target is, getting acceptance is not simple. currently
the WMF at the same time controls the domain and with it money inflow.
at the same time WMF spends 90% of the total money, preferably to its
own employees. "growth" is such a natural target, no matter in what
area that WMF tries to even increase this percentage. from a WMF
perspective it is not bad at all. unfortunately it causes eternal
struggle, and damages the movements progress. without it wants to do
so, the WMF violates its custodian obligations. to me the most natural
split therefor seems to separate "domain ownership" (ownership, some
legal protection, set key performance indicators, maybe
operations/infrastructure, maybe fundraising), and the rest. leave all
processes, budgets, affiliates untouched for a couple of years.
to come back to eriks first step, decide if a split makes sense: yes,
i am for it. the challenge i personally hope is addressed: get
continuously new persons, new ideas, new content, new software
implementations into the movement, from all over the world. WMF will
never win the competition for talent and ideas in silicon valley only
against the likes of facebook or baby facebooks. so we need to go
where others are not, and have a hard time to go. people will follow
money, and ideals.