[Foundation-l] wikicouncil

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Sun Dec 30 03:15:52 UTC 2007

On 12/30/07, daniwo59 at aol.com <daniwo59 at aol.com> wrote:
> In other words, you won the election, fair and square, campaigning on  a
> platform advocating a community-majority board. This is in contrast  with me, for
> instance, who campaigned on a platform advocating a professional  board. Are
> you saying that since the election, less that six months ago, you  have
> rejected your platform and adopted my position?

Not exactly yours, though in retrospect I have to acknowledge some of
your criticisms of the governance model as valid. I do believe, based
on my experience of the last year, that

- the ability to provide corporate oversight, and the ability to help
with fundraising, are essential to a well-functioning Board of

- some degree of organizational reform is necessary to achieve this.

I do not believe anymore that the current model of governance is
sufficient, and I do not exempt myself from this criticism. I do not
want to undervalue the community experience that many of us bring to
the table, our understanding of the history of the projects, our
shared belief in a positive future. These are important skills and
values that I believe need to at least be present on a governing
Board. I used to believe that the "appointed minority" could
complement the Board with the skills it lacks. But there are two key
problems with that approach:

* You don't know what you don't know.  The Board lacks the ability to
judge _itself_, and its own deficiencies, accurately and fully, and
the same applies to potential future Board members.

* In our traditional view of our governance, community participation
takes _precedence_ over any other skill. (And yes, I myself have
supported the Bylaws which codify this principle.) The problem with
this approach is that it's incomplete and distorted. People in key
responsibilities continually acting outside their areas of expertise
are likely to cause constant disruption on the staff level, and
despair among future Board members with e.g. a serious managerial

That doesn't mean that I do not believe there isn't a role for
community Board members and community leadership. I've mentioned many
times before that I consider the Advisory Board an incubator for
potential future appointed Board members. I do believe that if we
retain the mechanism of community election at all, a similar trial of
participation is needed for future Board members from the community.

Moreover, I believe we will want to increase the number of _potential_
Board members from the community, and make sure that platform
statements on a wiki page aren't the only thing that determines who
runs this organization.

I believe that the Advisory Board could be complemented by a Community
Council (Wikicouncil), with representation from projects, chapters,
and languages.
I've been skeptical of such a Council before, but in this context, I
think it makes sense. As a standing body, the Council would deal with
community issues such as a civility taskforce, ArbCom procedures,
political disputes among projects, etc.

How would Board members then be chosen? I believe that the answer is a
mechanism many non-profits use: a Nominating Committee. This committee
should be made up of people who are neither Board nor Staff members,
who represent both managerial competence and community values. They
should have a high degree of freedom in nominating people from either
the Advisory Board or the Community Council, but ideally, future Board
members would have served for a period of time (say, 6-12 months) on
either organizational body.

My recommendation would be the following:

* The Board should form a task-force to create both a Community
Council and a Nominating Committee.
* Due to the "know what we don't know" problem, external advisors
(including the ED) should be given significant influence over the
design and membership of the Nominating Committee.
* One possible model: a set of criteria for Board members, with an
expert Nominating Committee member charged with responsibility for
evaluating candidates based on any one criterion. Criteria might
include community values, wiki experience, managerial experience,
financial skills, understanding of our legal context, collaborative
nature, etc.
* The NC should recommend a completely new interim Board ASAP (it
could and probably should include existing Board members - but this
would be up to the NC to decide, based on a serious skills
* The interim Board would serve for a period of a year; at the end of
that period, the NC would recommend to renew terms or replace Board
members. New Board members would have to come from the Advisory Board
or the Community Council.

Such a mixed model could provide us with a healthy combination of
skills, experience, and a track record of involvement. I think the
time for the current model is over, and whatever problems it may have
would be compounded by a rapid expansion of the Board and the quick
creation of a Wikicouncil-like entity without careful deliberation
about how those entities will interact, and what they bring to the



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