Meeting: 2014 AGM/Candidates/Kerry Raymond

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My views on WMAU and where it needs to go

Kerry Raymond (actually my hair is now somewhat more grey!)

When I look at some of the other chapters, I often feel, as others do, that WMAU should be achieving more. While every chapter has its specific national context and direct comparison is perhaps not appropriate, nonetheless at WMAU we seem to just roll along from year to year rather than building momentum. On the positive side, the things we do are good things, and we seem to have avoided some of the really bad things (like conflict of interest and financial mismanagement). One of the benefits of being a committee observer this year is precisely that it has allowed to me to observe (rather than participate) which gives me two viewpoints on the situation faced by the committee.

Overall, the WMAU committee is time-poor. Committee members are well-intentioned but they have jobs, families, holidays, illnesses, and all the usual everyday life issues. Plus our committee members are generally active on-wiki contributors as well. The time available for committee activity can be very easily soaked up by the everyday administration of the organisation itself: new members, banking, insurance, updating the website, etc. Sometimes we have externally-imposed time-consumers like legislative change that means time spent on updating our rules etc. Even organising committee meetings is a challenge with so many individual schedules to negotiate. All of which leaves less time for important mission-critical activities like strategy, fund raising, planning, delivering, evaluating, etc.

So specifically in 2014, I would like to get greater focus on doing the mission-critical activities by streamlining our internal administration by:

  • simplifying some of our less-effective policies and processes, for example:
    • members seem to find our Proposals process unworkable (none so far in 2014!), and new ideas seem to start life as email, so maybe that's a hint about a better way to manage proposals
    • we get very few requests in relation to the Volunteer Support Programme and the Proposal:Camera equipment program so maybe we need to make these a little easier to access (or even know about)
    • our organisational post office box is an ongoing problem (as committee membership changes, the location needs to change); maybe we need to look at the digital alternatives
    • look for a lighter-weight approach to Proposal:Contracting as it's yet to be used!
  • delegating the more routine parts of Annual Plan and associated budget to individuals and/or sub-groups to speed up decision-making (not require whole-of-committee decision-making for routine business) and implementation (not have the committee micro-manage implementation)
  • engage part-time/casual administrative support so committee can focus on mission not administrative tasks. There's a lot of tasks that are mundane but time-critical and may need to be done during the working day; these are not areas of strength for committee members generally and would be better managed by someone with more time and aptitude for them. As direct employment comes with a raft of Human Resource obligations, I propose we outsource this work by contract with a business (might be a sole trader) rather than directly employ an individual. Having had the support of many good personal assistants over the years, I know there are lots of efficient and well-organised people out there who could keep the organisation ticking along adminstratively. I am not proposing building an empire, just some part-time admin support.
  • be more willing to give things a go. We are very good at shooting down ideas or arguing its implementation to death. We are usually reluctant to proceed without unanimous agreement. This makes it very hard to initiate anything new. I think we need to accept that you can't please all of the people all of the time but it's not a reason to not try something new. We need to be more willing to put things to a vote and that's it's OK for everyone to vote according to their honest opinion so long as we all accept the majority decision without ill-feeling.
  • be willing to spend money to achieve goals. Too often we try to do everything at litte/no cost. That leads to a lot of time-wasting chasing down elusive "free opportunities" and being highly dependent on volunteers' time and skill (see above). While I am very much in favour of being careful with expenditure, we should not have "expenditure" as the key performance indicator. It should be "bang for buck", getting the best/most achievements per dollar. We can access more funds from the Wikimedia Foundation through the grants schemes if we have a track record of success. At the moment, we are slowly depleting our funds with relatively low success; I am not sure that strategy will commend us to WMF when it comes to future funding.

In summary, our current mode of operation is not serving us well in terms of achievement. If we continue to operate the same way, we will get the same outcomes. I don't think there is a "silver bullet" (some new super-hero committee member, etc). If we want to get a different (and hopefully better) outcome, we need to make some changes in how we operate. Yes, I want to "rock the boat" and yes there's a risk that the outcome will be worse. It's your vote and your choice.

About me

I was Vice President of the WMAU committee in 2013. I was invited (and accepted) to be an observer on the 2014 committee.

I am a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and have completed their five-day company directors course which covers duties and responsibilities, strategy, decision-making, finance, risk management etc, and passed the assessment (exam and assignment). I have served as a Council member at The Women's College at the University of Queensland since 2002. Although I am now retired, through my career as a professor and research leader and research manager, I have had extensive experience in managing large teams, organising local and international events, and getting the best outcomes from the funds available.

I am involved in WMAU edit training and most recently in Wikibomb in conjunction with the Australian Academy of Science.

With Craig Franklin, I am a WMAU liaison to the State Library of Queensland who have been a good partner for WMAU, thanks to the earlier great work done by Craig and John Vandenberg with SLQ.

I have also been talking with various Queensland Government agencies about putting more of their data out under CC-BY licensing. It's a slow process but after a year of effort I have already had one success with the Queensland Heritage Register (watch for many new Wikipedia articles derived from that register very soon -- sitting in draft on my computer at the moment). As former chair of a university e-research working party, I am very familiar with open data issues and some of the reasons people don't want to release data and some of the ways to persuade them.

I actively participate on the Wikimedia research mailing list and follow some others, e.g. gender-gap and Chapters etc. I also watch the streamings of the monthly Metrics and Activities meetings (to hear what's currently happening at WMF and in particular what the Executive Director is thinking) and the quarterly Research and Data Showcase (to get a sense of possible future directions). I have recently proposed a few new research ideas in relation to new female editors, editor interactions, and new editor engagement, all of which reflect my concerns about continuing editor attrition (which I think is already impacting Australian content as we lose some of our long-time contributors).

On Wikipedia, I am User:Kerry Raymond and I mostly contribute in the area of Queensland geography, history and biography, predominantly working to add new content. I also contribute to Commons both in term of uploading and categorising (currently working on commons:Category:QSA_media_uploaded_by_User:99of9_(uncategorized)). Full edit statistics are available here.

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