[Foundation-l] Elections: a new board for the future

Florence Devouard anthere at anthere.org
Sun Jun 17 12:21:22 UTC 2007

Dear all,

In the next few weeks, we will be holding the 4th elections to the board 
of Trustees of Wikimedia Foundation, to replace 3 board members.
Since the creation of the Foundation in 2003, and its first elections in 
june 2004, a lot of things have changed with regards to board membership.

Jimbo created the Foundation in 2003 with the help of two business 
partners. He could have set up an organization in which no community 
members would have been involved and where he would have kept for 
himself this role of benevolent dictator for the rest of his life. But 
this is not what he did. He voluntarily decided to involve the community 
in reserving two seats for members to be elected from within the community.
I remember criticisms at that time, some editors saying that the board 
was stacked, that the two business partners would only do what Jimbo 
would tell them to do, and that we should have a majority of people from 
the community.

Looking back in the past, I find these comments a bit amusing, and I am 
glad Jimbo made the decision he made. He acted prudently and I think he 
was right to do so. His two business partners, Tim and Michael, were 
deeply commited to our values and I have no memory of them suggesting 
anything that would have lead us on a dangerous path. Contrariwise to 
what the critics said, they were (are) pretty independantly minded and 
did not hesitate opposing Jimbo when they felt it was needed. Tim left 
us when he felt we were on the right path and it was time for someone 
else to replace him. Michael is pretty much thinking the same, and will 
be willing to be replaced as soon as he is sure we have someone with 
good accounting skills/financial background to replace him as treasurer.

Last year, we updated the bylaws, to have them better reflect what we 
really are, what we want to be. Jimbo, member for life till the creation 
of the Foundation, is now a regular (well, special person, but regular 
member), with limited term. Jimbo actually wanted to candidate for a 
elected seat this month, but we suggested it was a bad idea since the 
turnover is already pretty high. The big lesson though, is that we are 
now all equals.
Last fall, Tim, Michael, Jimbo, Erik and I, decided to change several 
parameters on the board membership, clarifying the length of terms, the 
appointed versus elected, the expansion of the board, giving more room 
for community representative, but also clarifying how we would appoint 

All these changes led to, I hope, a more functional board, and probably 
a happier board.

With more seats to elect, we also have more room for diversity of skills 
and for diversity of countries and languages.

Whilst we first elect people, please keep in mind skills as well. The 
ideal Board has a mix of different skills: it is composed of big picture 
thinkers and leaders, non-profit veterans with accounting or legal 
experience, fundraising experts, and public figures. It is culturally 
diverse, mirroring the diversity found in WMF's project communities. It 
takes the corporate governance of WMF seriously while inspiring staff to 
strive for ambitious, but realistic long term goals.


Thank you for our official election committee members
* Kizu Naoko (Aphaia)
* Benjamin Mako Hill
* Newyorkbrad
* Philippe Beaudette
* Jon Harald Søby
* Tim Starling

for the hard work they will provide.

As a reminder, to ensure independancy, we try to avoid as much as 
possible, communication on election issues between the board and the 
commitee. Their contact on the board is Jan-Bart (non elected member). 
Our only involvement as I can remember it was to give our opinion on the 
voting system (opinion) and on the length of the statement allowed to 
candidates. The committee will not tell us any results before the end of 
the elections. The board as a whole will not give recommandations (but 
individual members are free of course to support or oppose specific 


During the last board meeting, the board discussed the future elections.

Here is what was agreed:
AGREED: Public statement to be made about what the expectations are of 
Board members
AGREED: Election 07 still going to use approval voting
AGREED: Resolution on election committee powers & responsibilitites to 
be drafted by Jan-Bart de Vreede
AGREED: Workgroup to research election methods to be set up before the 
end of 2007

You may find the public statement about the role of board members here: 

A later discussion regarding the resolution about the election committee 
showed undecision, so no resolution was drafted.  But in case anyone 
tries to somehow imply that the election committee is not approved, that 
would be incorrect. Official committee is made of the 6 people listed 
above, and these guys have the power to make the elections happen :-)

Last, please note the suggestion of a workgroup creation to research 
election methods for next time. If you are interested in joining such a 
group, or even better to steer this group, please speak up !


A short reminder for I am sure not everyone remember this

* Michael, Jimbo are on board since 2003
* I am on the board since june 2004, as elected, till june 2007
* Erik, Kat and Oscar (elected) are on board since fall 2006, till june 2007
* Jan-Bart (appointed) is on board since december 2006
* The board is made of 7 people (with the expectation to go to 9 later)
* Jimbo, Michael and Jan-Bart terms end up in december 2007
* my term end up in june 2007 (as appointed)
* within the board, positions or chair, treasurer and secretary are for 
a term of one year. Next renewal in october 2007

The current elections are for a term of 2 years, for three people.
The next elections will be for a term of 2 years, for three people in 
june 2007


Let me finish in wishing good luck to anyone. There are currently 10 
(http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Board_elections/2007/Candidates/en) and 
I hope we'll see even more. Boldly, there are not enough women, and too 
many americans/europeans.

Please use the next two weeks as an opportunity to discuss what you 
think would be best for the future of the Foundation on all the talk pages.

I would love it if you selected a candidate not only on his/her good 
looks or good standing within the community, but also because you think 
s/he has the right mix of skills (most necessary right now, legal, 
accounting, fundraising, knowledge of non profit world). Also if you 
could choose people who conveys opinions which are fitting with yours. A 
right mix of energetic people (to make things move forward) and of more 
lymphatic people (to avoid they move forward too quickly and unwisely). 
And please choose someone who will be a pleasant fellow for other board 
members and staff to work with.

I would like to also ask those who are interested in the job, but do not 
dare candidating because they believe they will never be able to win 
against Erik or Kat, to candidate nevertheless. Elections are a useful 
moment in that we have the opportunity to discuss together the future of 
the Foundation, for the strength of the democracy, we need candidates 
and provocative thinking (thanks Kate :-))

The board can also identify people to possibly appoint, who we did not 
imagine would be interested in the job, and we can at least have an idea 
of the amount of support appointing them would have within the community.

I guess that's it :-)


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