[Wikimedia-l] [Wikimedia Announcements] Good governance lessons from UK review

Matthew Roth mroth at wikimedia.org
Tue Mar 19 17:26:36 UTC 2013

Wikimedia Foundation General Counsel Geoff Brigham has written a new
blog post on the Wikimedia Blog that examines several points from the
recent Wikimedia UK governance review, which he argues are useful for
all Wikimedia movement groups and individuals.


The recent UK report and movement governance
Posted by Geoff Brigham on March 19th, 2013

As part of the Wikimedia movement, there are entities such as
chapters, the Wikimedia Foundation, thematic organizations, and user
groups, established to support our shared global mission of freely
sharing educational content. With the growth of these organizations
comes a need for “good governance” — a recognition that movement
entities are stewards for our contributors, donors and developers, who
generously donate their time, expertise and money to promote the
Wikimedia movement. Our organizations are called upon to use resources
efficiently and carry out official positions for the benefit of the
community. When they do not, they hurt the trust of the movement.

Last month, the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK announced the
release of the final report and recommendations regarding the
governance of Wikimedia UK. The review was conducted by Compass
Partnership, a noted management consultant company with particular
expertise in evaluating nonprofit organizations. Although the report
includes highly specific recommendations to be implemented by
Wikimedia UK, as a whole, it suggests several foundational themes that
may be broadly applicable to all movement organizations. Each of us
(including myself) who holds positions entrusted by our community may
benefit from the learnings of the report. The following ones are worth
consideration by all of us in Wikimedia organizations.

▪ Maintain Respect and Professionalism. According to the UK report,
strong and effective relationships are an essential ingredient of any
movement involving multiple organizations in dispersed territories and
cultures. To foster effective relations among Wikimedia groups, the
report recommends that communications within the movement be
respectful and professional. It also suggests that this tone should be
set and modeled by those in entrusted positions in the movement – such
as trustees, executives and employees. We need not avoid controversy
and disagreement, but respectful and professional behavior benefits
the community as a whole. It ensures we are talking about and solving
issues that benefit the community in a constructive, objective and
productive way.[1]

▪ Keep Roles Within the Movement Separate from Your Personal
Interests. The report suggests that, to best serve the movement,
community members should keep their Wikimedia organizational roles
separate from their own personal interests. For example, a trustee
should never use that position within the movement to advance their
own financial interest. Similarly, when individuals within the
movement are acting in their personal capacity, for their own benefit,
they should not rely on their Wikimedia title or office in any way,
and they should be clear about it.[2]

▪ Be Transparent With Regard to Conflicts of Interest and Cooperate in
Resolving Them. As many of you may know, the WMF Board is currently
considering the proposed “Guidelines on the Disclosure of Potential
and Actual Conflicts of Interest in Requesting Movement Resources,”
which were developed through a six-week consultation period with the
community. The guidelines encourage community members to disclose
actively their potential conflicts of interest when requesting
Wikimedia resources, and also provide guidance regarding (1) what
circumstances may constitute a conflict of interest, and (2) when to
disclose such circumstances to the appropriate decision-maker within
the movement. The community’s efforts to improve the handling of
conflicts of interest are recognized in the UK report. The report
specifically discusses these guidelines and highlights their value in
providing a framework for the disclosure of potential conflicts of
interest so that they may be fully evaluated and managed.

The UK report explains that, in a charitable organization, the highest
standards should be followed in managing conflicts. If an employee,
officer or trustee of a movement entity believes there is any
possibility that they present a potential or actual conflict of
interest, this should be raised immediately with the appropriate
decision-maker. Furthermore, the employee, officer, or trustee should
be forthcoming and transparent with regard to all relevant facts, so
the appropriate decision-maker may fully assess the potential

▪ Go Beyond the Minimum Requirements of Law. Finally, the report
recognizes that the demands and values of the worldwide Wikimedia
movement call for us all to hold ourselves to the highest standard,
going beyond the basic legal requirements.The WMF Board encouraged as
much in its Resolution on Organizational Best Practices, suggesting
that “every organization in our movement must go beyond local
regulatory requirements and adopt our movement’s unique principles and
best practices around governance, transparency, and accountability.”
In the words of the Board, movement resources should be used “to
achieve the highest possible impact in the pursuit of our vision.”[4]

By considering these principles as they may apply to us individually,
or the particular Wikimedia entities that we serve, we all have the
opportunity to embrace our values while supporting a Wikimedia
movement that mandates the highest of standards. As I believe we all
agree, our community deserves nothing less.

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

1. For Compass Partnership’s specific recommendations on respectful
and professional communication, see Recommendation 4.4, paragraph 43;
Recommendation 4.5, introductory paragraph; and Recommendation 4.5,
paragraph 46 of the final report.

2. For Compass Partnership’s specific recommendations on separating
one’s Wikimedia position from one’s personal interests, see
Recommendation 4.4, paragraphs 27, 30, and 41 of the final report.

3. For Compass Partnership’s specific recommendations on transparency
and the management of conflicts of interest, see Recommendation 4.4,,
paragraphs 26, 27, and 29; and Recommendation 4.5, paragraph 48 of the
final report.

4. For Compass Partnership’s specific recommendations on going beyond
the minimum requirements of law, see the Introduction of the final

Please note: all replies sent to this mailing list will be immediately directed to Wikimedia-l, the public mailing list of the Wikimedia community. For more information about Wikimedia-l:
WikimediaAnnounce-l mailing list
WikimediaAnnounce-l at lists.wikimedia.org

More information about the Wikimedia-l mailing list