[Foundation-l] Update of Foundation organization

Oldak Quill oldakquill at gmail.com
Wed Mar 7 00:34:59 UTC 2007

On 05/03/07, Anthony <wikilegal at inbox.org> wrote:
> On 3/5/07, Delirium <delirium at hackish.org> wrote:
> > If it's a job that *has* to be done every single week
> > reliably, then an unpaid volunteer is not necessarily the best choice.
> Not necessarily, but possibly.  I used to be an unpaid volunteer
> firefighter, and there were lots of things we did that *had* to be
> done every single week reliably.
> One difference with Wikimedia projects is that the job is not as
> important - lives don't literally hang in the balance.  But another
> difference which could more easily be made a similarity is that
> Wikimedia volunteers aren't as effectively organized.  Volunteer
> firefighters were unpaid, but we still had a boss, we still had rules,
> we still had to submit applications, and go to meetings, etc.  When it
> came time to send out fundraising letters, we were expected to put in
> our time and do it, even though few of us would have volunteered to do
> *that* job.  Our boss (the fire chief), was paid, but not as a
> full-time salary, and he had a full time job too.
> For most Wikimedia volunteers, none of this formality is necessary, of
> course.  But for some other things it might work.  If a competent
> person is hired as volunteer coordinator I'm sure this will become
> much more clear.

The life-and-death aspect of volunteer firefighting is not the only
aspect of the job that makes you feel obligated to fulfilling it as if
it were a paid position. Contracts are signed, uniforms are worn,
there is a work place: cues and mechanisms associated with a paid job.
Not all of these cues are necessary to highly obligated and committed
volunteers: contracted workers who do not wear uniforms, save lives or
attend a workplace feel obligation to fulfil their duties. Similarly,
Wikimedia Foundation does not need to put all of these cues in place
to develop a more robust volunteer base.

There are many steps which the Foundation could take to make
volunteers feel the obligation and commitment of a contracted worker.
For example, volunteer co-coordinators (who may themselves be
volunteers) would be a big step to drawing a reliable group of
volunteers out who could fulfil complex and time-consuming tasks.
These co-coordinators give volunteers a point-of-contact; they also
help to keep volunteers focused on tasks, &c. There are many similar
mechanisms the Foundation could put in place to develop a workable
volunteer-based infrastructure.

As Erik says, though we may be relatively unique, we can still learn
from other organisations who rely on volunteers in a way we should do.

Oldak Quill (oldakquill at gmail.com)

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