[Wikimedia-l] Board vote on narrowing focus

Bence Damokos bdamokos at gmail.com
Fri Nov 2 16:26:31 UTC 2012

Hi SJ,

On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 4:01 PM, Samuel Klein <meta.sj at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello Lodewijk,
> These are good questions.  I expect effort will be required in the short
> term to delegate effectively and help move to a narrower focus.   A few
> clarifying questions for you in return:
> On Fri, Nov 2, 2012 at 7:47 AM, Lodewijk <lodewijk at effeietsanders.org
> >wrote:
> >
> > * PR support by WMF PR staff when writing press releases for an
> > international audience
> >
> Do you have an example in mind of a recent press release that took
> advantage of this support?
> How useful to you find ComCom, as a list and network, compared to direct
> personal facilitation by WMF staff?
While not recent or international; I have taken advantage of both personal
WMF staff support and ComCom in the past, in slightly different
circumstances. For planning a communications strategy, the direct input,
coaching and concentrated involvement of a Comms manager of WMF was
instrumental; while ComCom in my experience has been useful in providing
advice on how to react to a situation, which required  less time of any
given participant. In the former case the help might have been an
"unmandated task", and the person providing the help did not need to be WMF
staffer (after all, Wikimedia Deutschland also had similar levels of
communications expertise at the time, though still no mandate to be
available to the global community).
One important result of this interaction (and also other similar
interactions in other fields of expertise, as well as that of the
WMF-funded organizational development pilot) was the transfer of skills,
ways of thinking that has been useful beyond the one project in question,
and has perhaps resulted in not requiring to contact WMF again.

Sue's recommendations include "crisis support" as something to maintain,
but I hope this will not be seen as exclusively crisis support, i.e.
interactions between the WMF and the community will not be intentionally
narrowed to the times of crisis.
Grants are a good tool for problems that can be solved by money, but it is
an imprecise and slow tool, e.g. to solve the above problem that one could
rely on the help of WMF, would require writing a grant to engage a
communications consultant (the grant would need a month to be reviewed and
a week or so more for the bank transfer; the consultant would need to be
found, the consultant needs to be educated about our values, an evaluation
report needs to be written etc.). In the long run, when a certain region or
entity is big enough it will make sense to hire a local comm person through
grants, but until then the grants-only approach, without attendant focus on
capacity development has the potential, I fear, to lead to lost
opportunities and waste.
Over time, other entities in the movement will adapt to serve the needs of
the international community, but if WMF is not careful, it stands to lose a
big chunk of interactions with the wider community, the resulting good
relationships and more sadly the transfer of skills and experience in
non-technical areas between the WMF and the volunteers might cease, leading
to a less empowered and skillful volunteer base.
I sincerely hope that this is not the intention or the result.

> > * Networking support by Asaf (who to approach), specifically for "global
> > south" countries and chapters to be.
> >
> Do you think the WMF should be the arbiter of who to approach to connect
> with chapters-to-be?  It seems to me that this level of support and
> connection could be provided well and in a variety of languages by a
> support network (or a community body such as AffCom or the WCA), even
> today.
Perhaps what was meant here is that Asaf told people which WMF staffer to
approach with certain requests or simply questions (e.g. for trademarks,
comms help, merchandise, the WMF blog, accounting etc.).
WCA and AffCom, etc. will certainly be able to provide similar assistance,
but the big question is whether people at the WMF will be allowed to
receive such contact (or which functions will not be), and then figuring
out who can act as a substitute. (As a number of functions are available at
multiple places in the movement, it is not a movement-wide tragedy if
certain functions become unavailable at the WMF, but the WMF is seen as the
cornerstone of the movement, if it closes off, it will lead to a
readjustment of that picture. It is not necessarily all bad, it might lead
to non-WMF orgs seen as more equal and responsible parts of the movement,
but it might lead to certain volunteers being unserved without a default
fallback to the WMF.)

I really hope the way the WMF understands grantmaking will include a strong
emphasis on proactively building the capacities of the potential grantees
and not only in a pull matter, but also in a push matter where
opportunities (even if technically called grants) are actively offered to
the other entities.

Best regards,

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