[Foundation-l] Board resolutions (chapters)

Andrew Whitworth wknight8111 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 20 14:26:29 UTC 2009

On Tue, Jan 20, 2009 at 8:49 AM, Ziko van Dijk <zvandijk at googlemail.com> wrote:
> Emotional: Having a NYC chapter next to the French, German etc. makes
> France, Germany etc. look the equals to New York. It makes the Wikimedia
> Foundation look an American organization that has regional chapters in the
> 50 states, and also has some afiliates in the "colonies" (France, Germany
> etc.). As Gerard has said, some countries are more equal than others.

New York City is a city, and France or Germany are nations. In the
geopolitical sense, the two are very different. However, in terms of
chapters the geopolitical boundaries are meaningless. Chapters are
defined and measured by their levels of participation. We don't say
that a nation must always be "better" then a city, we say that one
wikimedian is equal to one wikimedian. A Wikimedian in WMNYC who pays
dues and participates is equal to a Wikimedian in Wikimedia France who
pays dues and participates. To say that one group of our volunteers
should be discounted because they represent a smaller area is not a
good thing.

Subnational chapters allow wikimedians to organize in ways that are
suitable for them, and allow them to participate equally. Chapters are
chapters, Wikimedians are Wikimedians, and we should not be drawing
lines between them, or ranking their relative "importance".

> Practical: When I once talked with Arne Klempert about the possibility of an
> Esperanto or Latin or Alemannic chapter, he explained to me that Wikimedia
> accepts only chapters within international boundaries, one chapter per
> country. There is a German, Austrian, and a Swiss chapter, not a German
> language or a French language chapter. If this would not be so, if we would
> have chapters based on something else, we would get into a lot of trouble.
> And he easily convinced me, because I know similar problems from other
> organizations.

This is a slightly different issue. Subnational chapters are entirely
contained in a single country and therefore have a unified legal
system to operate under. Transnational chapters do not, and can run
into problems from the simple operation of transporting donated money
from a member to headquarters, or bringing members to meetings.  I
don't want to say that a trans-national chapter should not be a
possibility if it was the correct course to take, but it certainly is
a very different situation from a subnational chapter.

> Allowing sub national chapters (or super national chapters) is giving wrong
> ideas to a lot of people. If we did not deny a chapter to the New Yorkers,
> how can we deny it to other regions, minorities etc.? (Or prevent that
> personal conflicts are realized on the level of regions?)

We shouldn't deny a chapter to any group who is willing to do the
organizational work and who are interested in participating in
Wikimedia. At the moment the only rules we have are:

1) Chapters cannot overlap
2) Chapters should not cross national boundaries
3) Chapters must have a well-defined geographical area

Any group who satisfies these basic requirements, is active, and is
willing to do the organizational work that's required should be
allowed to form a chapter. The goal of having chapters in the first
place is to help Wikimedians be empowered and get involved. We do not
use chapters as a tool to elevate some Wikimedians and hold back

> Some more questions:
> * NYC chapter does not clearly define its borders, talks about a region
> where it wants to be active. What if other Wikimedians wants to create a
> chapter in a city that is now in the New York chapter region? When a North
> Eastern US Chapter knocks on the door of WMF, will the NYC chapter be happy
> about and volontarily dissolve?

NYC does clearly define it's borders: New York State, New Jersey,
Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. These are written in it's bylaws.

We do not allow overlapping chapters, so if a group of Wikimedians in
Philadelphia wanted to create a separate chapter right now they would
not be allowed to. By that same token, Wikimedians in Sicily would not
be allowed to create a separate chapter from Wikimedia Italia.

I'm also not sure I understand the last part of the question, what do
you mean by "knocks on the door of the WMF..."?

> * Ethnically divided countries: Belgium, for example: What if one group of
> Belgian Wikimedians wants to create a Belgian chapter, but others want three
> regional chapters (Brussels, Flanders, Wallonia)?

This is a very common issue, and it's up to the Wikimedians in Belgium
to decide the best way for them to organize. We should not be
dictating to them who they must work with, who they must interact
with, or where they must participate. Belgians can decide for
themselves how to proceed. If there is not enough support to create a
national chapter, then one will not be created in Belgium.

> * Minorities without region: What if there is an Estonian chapter, but
> Russian speaking people there demand a chapter of their own?

There is no demanding, chapters cannot currently overlap. This doesn't
mean that the Russian speakers in Estonia have no recourse: The
Estonia chapter may decide to create a "Section" or a "Regional
Committee" to support their fellow Wikimedians.  The Estonian chapter
could modify it's geographical area to allow a non-overlapping chapter
to be created. Or maybe the various Estonians could try harder to
ignore their linguistic differences and work together.

> * When the chapters are going to work together more than now, and are going
> to elect WMF board members: Will one chapter have one vote? Will there be 50
> US chapters with 50 votes, and one French chapter with one vote?

Any system we use is going to be inherently unfair and will
marginalize at least one group of Wikimedians. If the France chapter
has 100 active members who 1000 dollars, and the NYC chapter has 5000
members and raises 500000 dollars, should the two chapters have the
same number of votes? Should France have more votes because it is a
nation, even though it has fewer active members?

If France has 100 members, and the US has 10 Chapters each with 10
members, should the two groups have the same total number of votes? If
France has 100 members and the US has 10 Chapters each with 100
members, should the US have 10 times more votes then France?

We don't just give more votes to nations then we give to sub-nations,
because then subnational chapters that are large and successful will
be marginalized. Also, small and dysfunctional national chapters will
have more importance then large and powerful subnational ones. If we
apportion votes based on chapter membership, we marginalize smaller
ethnic groups and run the risk that the WMF will be dominated by
English-speaking people.

> * Isn't it much easier for WMF to relate to a limited number of national
> chapters than with a potentially unlimited number of national, sub national,
> or super national chapters?

Sheer numbers are not the problem, we could be so lucky as to have
"too many" chapters, each raising money and making donations to the
WMF, getting more people involved, raising awareness, and improving
our projects. "Too many" really doesn't seem like a problem at all.

> It might have been better to consider the NYC chapter indeed as a "sub
> chapter", a stand-in until there will be an US chapter.

And if there never is a US chapter, Americans can be safely held down
as second-class Wikimedians forever? People in other countries who are
having trouble organizing at the national level like India and Canada,
they also get to be second-class Wikimedians forever? Sure sounds like
a lousy solution to me.

--Andrew Whitworth

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