[Wikimedia-l] Fwd: Resign due to COI and Application to the ED position

Ting Chen tchen at wikimedia.org
Mon Apr 22 13:53:11 UTC 2013

-------- Original-Nachricht --------
Betreff: 	Resign due to COI and Application to the ED position
Datum: 	Mon, 22 Apr 2013 15:45:31 +0200
Von: 	Ting Chen <tchen at wikimedia.org>
An: 	Board list <board-l at lists.wikimedia.org>

Dear board,

after intensive consideration and some sleepless nights I have decided 
to apply for the ED job of the Wikimedia Foundation. Due to obvious 
conflict of interest I will resign from the Board of Trustees of the 
Wikimedia Foundation, in effect at May 5th.

In the past five years I have worked with you on our first strategic 
planning, together and especially with the help of the current ED Sue we 
saw the organization leave its infancy. We saw it grow into the innocent 
childhood. And yet we are still facing a lot of challenges. And for me 
the following three are the biggest and most critical for the coming years:

We know that our active editor community is in overall decline. In many 
ways our community is biased, there is the famous gender gap, but there 
are also other gaps. Last year on Wikimania in Washington I wondered if 
I was the only one who noticed that there were almost no African 
Americans attending the conference, when according to the official 
census more than half of the citizen of the city is black. When 
attending community events in Germany I notice every time that I never 
met a single Turkish migrant there, while about 5% of the German have a 
Turkish background. We generally failed to attract minority groups to 
join and actively take part of our community. While the Foundation took 
a lot of effort to provide technical support for new users we also need, 
and need to strengthen our effort on the social aspect of this 
challenge. Technology alone cannot solve social problems. We will be 
able to resolve some of the problems by carefully and consistently 
adjusting our policies and rules, other problems need a mind change and 
a cultural change in the broad society outside of the digital world. To 
gather and share the total knowledge of the mankind we not only need 
academic knowledge but also the daily live wisdom. To keep our 
neutrality we only need to motivate the minority inside of the society 
to join our community. I believe the ability of our community to adjust 
itself, I believe the ability of our movement in changing the society, 
and I believe the Foundation need to play a key role in this process. 
And I want the Foundation to take this challenge.

While our communities often show a bias in their own geographical 
regions, we also see a large global bias of our movement and in our 
projects. For me the revamp of the catalyst program does not mean that 
the Foundation should give up its global south effort. For me it means 
that we need to take this challenge with a new approach. Instead of 
trying to plant seed in the region we should strengthen our effort by 
providing as much support as we can to the seedlings that are already 
there. Unlike mature communities like in western Europe or in northern 
America, small communities in places such as Kenya or Cambodia, but also 
in regions like China or Uzbekistan see active recruitment of editors as 
an essential necessity to make themselves sustainable. My believe is 
that the right approach is to provide support to these communities, 
instead of trying to build a parallel structure beside of them. In 
regions of the world, where hunger and poverty is still an acute and 
real threat to the people, the challenge to establish a culture of 
sharing is a very big challenge. But nevertheless, where ever I 
traveled, I also encounter people who are attached and admired by this 
approach of a society. Knowledge sharing and prosperity, freedom and 
peace can be a self strengthening positive feedback loop, but as every 
positive feedback loop, especially at the beginning it is important to 
have impulses to get the loop started and get stronger, until it can 
sustain itself. I think the Foundation should play an important role in 
this mechanism. Because without the part of the world with the largest 
majority of the human being we are far away from gathering and sharing 
the entirety of the human knowledge.

The third challenge that I see for the Foundation is to provide a 
consistent, long lasting relationship concept with the partner groups 
and organizations as defined in the movement roles document. In the past 
years the relation between the Foundation and the partner organizations 
are more defined by things that failed or that may fail. There were 
quite a few emergency measurements taken to react on crises or to 
mitigate emerging crises. I believe this cannot be a longtime approach. 
We need the local communities and the partner organizations to take the 
first two challenges I mentioned above. And we need to establish a long 
term, more trustful relation with them so that we can really rely on 
each other. We need to minimize frictions and turbulence. We need to 
establish a culture where I am not doing "my" thing, you are doing 
"your" thing and everyone is doing "his" or "her" thing, but that 
everyone realizes that we are doing together our thing, on different 
scales and from different perspectives and on different aspects. We need 
to build a common understanding where the goals and the strategic 
plannings be perceived as goals and plannings for the whole movement, 
not as goals and plannings of part of the movement.

The Board of Trustees decides and approves the strategy, but in many 
cases the ED play a central role in consulting the board on strategic 
issues, and in setting up the focus of the Foundation so that the 
strategy will get executed. As you I worked and thought a lot about the 
strategy of the Foundation. This is the reason why I want to apply for 
this job. For me it is the most awesome job of the world.

I did mentioned the sleepless nights before, right? It is not only the 
excitement that drove me sleepless. It is also the fear. I confess that 
I do am afraid of the responsibility that the job means. And I know that 
I lack more skills that are needed for this job than I possess. Among 
others, I have no management and executive experience at all. What I can 
count here that comes most near to this is only being the technical lead 
of a team of around 20 people distributed in two countries, which is 
certainly not comparable to leading an organization of 150 employees.

Because of this I am most grateful to Sue to have recruited and built up 
such a strong organizational structure. I know every single one of the 
C-level leaders and many of the team leads of the Foundation. I can say 
one by one why I respect their knowledge and their expertise, why I 
trust their loyalty and why I can rely on them. I know from every single 
one of them which would be my first request of advice (and for some of 
them, also the second, third and fourth) from them. And I know from 
every individual of them, what I would learn from them.

And this is maybe the only thing that is special for me. I have no 
problem to be critical to myself, to see myself in an honest way and 
reveal my imperfection and my fail to the whole world. And by doing so, 
I learn, in a very efficient way, and inspire others to learn.

In my whole live, in private life, in my professional job, in my years 
with the Wikimedia community, I have consistently tried to be an 
integrative person that brings different part of the world together than 
divide them. I believe at this moment of our history it is important 
than at any time that we have integrative figures all over the critical 
positions inside of our movement. This is the reason, why I think, 
despite all the failures I take with me, I should apply for this job.


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