2009-2010 AGM/Ordinary member/Andrew Owens

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Hi, my name's Andrew and I'm based in Perth. I'm proud to have this opportunity to run for a Committee position in Wikimedia Australia, and am grateful to Sarah and Craig for nominating me and to other members who approached me encouraging me to run this year. I believe we have had a good year (especially with the tremendous success that was GLAM-WIKI in August) and have cemented our place in the Australian cultural scene, but now that we have done that, we need to look at how we can make it even better.

Who I am in the real world

My full name is Andrew Owens. I was born in Northern Ireland but moved to Perth as a young child with my parents, and I've lived here ever since. My qualifications are a Certificate IV in IT (1999), which helped me get my first paid job; a Bachelor of Science (Business Information Systems, minor in Chemistry) (2003); and Certificate IV in Training and Assessment (2009). In a few months I can add a Certificate IV in IT (Networking) and Certificate IV in Business to those.

I have worked in a range of industries - prior to my full-time career I home-tutored high school students in Maths and Chemistry, did volunteer IT work for a charity and designed websites on contract. Later, I worked at internet service providers for two years, notionally as a support or customer service officer but branching into training, database and web design/maintenance, home-visit computer support and dealing with the TIO and other regulatory bodies on behalf of my employer. I then worked at Channel Nine for three years for a contractor, writing teletext subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired for TV programs. Upon graduating my degree, I engaged in several IT and business support roles including a major Perth architect, a community newspaper and two transport companies. In 2005 I worked for six months in a risk management role at Curtin University - my first large organisational role where I became very conversant with policies and procedures in a large organisation.

Deciding IT was not my career future, I did some work in 2007 towards a Graduate Diploma of Education which introduced me to the wonderful world of schools and education, something I have always had a passion for. For various reasons I decided to go into the TAFE sector instead, but I made many valuable contacts and learned a heap of stuff that one can only learn from experience about the art of teaching. My interests include alternative music, politics, travel and walking.

Wikimedia background

I've been associated with Wikimedia projects (under the username Orderinchaos) for several years now, registering my first account on en.wikipedia on 22 March 2006 and becoming an admin on that project almost a year later on 11 March 2007. I now have over 50,000 edits including hundreds of new articles, a featured article and a few good articles, and have worked hard to improve more obscure areas of Australia's coverage (mainly local government and politics), much of which has required extensive library and archive research both in this state and in Victoria. I've been fortunate to work in en's WikiProject Australia which is a very strong group of co-editors with a wide range of backgrounds, opinions and expertise.

I have also uploaded photos and maps to Commons, mostly for geographic articles, and have coded some important historic documents from Western Australia to Wikisource, and I've also done some work to set up an interlingual WikiProject for ensuring information about Australia in other languages is of a reasonable standard.

Over the past 10 months, I have been privileged to be a non-voting participatory member / official observer of the Committee, per this resolution and a subsequent one. In August 2009, I attended GLAM-WIKI on a bursary and facilitated the Education stream - a task greatly assisted by my own training and experience in the education field.

What do I bring to Wikimedia?

I think my strengths have been carved out of experience. I'm a good team worker and team builder, I also work well on my own when needed. I have a lot of ideas and the energy to see them to completion if necessary, I'm a good "lateral thinker" and problem solver, and I have good people skills. I'm a good listener - a lot of views I have formed about Wikimedia and related actually come from conversations both with those in the membership and those outside it. In my own areas I am no ideologue - I often ask for ideas, as those who are used to the way I operate on en.wikipedia will confirm, and I'll take on any useful feedback, good or bad. I will commit if elected to attending all Committee meetings, which I feel is very important, participating in the email lists and discussions (as I have done for the past 10 months as a non-voting participant/observer) and helping where required with any tasks (whether mine, common tasks or others') within my ability.

What will I work towards?

Always a hard question to answer, as while each member has their own personal preferences, we have to work as a team and look at what is achievable. The things I stand for and will endeavour to progress in 2009-2010 if elected are:

  • Growth of membership. This is a critical issue for Wikimedia Australia in 2009-2010. A carefully thought-out strategic approach to growing our membership and particularly its breadth is vital, as well as finding ways of involving it in what we do.
  • Constructive communication - The members need to know what we're doing, where we're focussing, and where they can best help us. While we do openly publish minutes of all committee meetings, a readable, attractive monthly newsletter (maybe with some member contributed regular columns?) would go a long way to addressing this and would not actually take a great deal of effort to produce. In addition, an atmosphere of mutual respect and constructive engagement, as well as recognising and involving the skills, experience and abilities within our community are vital to us growing and moving forward.
  • Regional participation. Over 65% of the Australian population lives outside Sydney and Melbourne, as do many of our members and volunteers, but that has not been reflected in the 2008-2009 committee's focus (despite the much appreciated efforts of several committee members). We have groups of volunteers in Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra and individuals in numerous other centres, but many of these people aren't joining because they see it as a operation focused on those two cities. We should do whatever we can to enable and assist members and volunteers to make links within their communities and get "runs on the board" for Wikimedia Australia, without being overly formal or top-down about it - recognising that each city or region has its own culture and its own ways of doing things (i.e. not "one size fits all") and its own volunteers are best placed to adapt our overall approach. As a Perth person with contacts both here and throughout Australia, I am well placed to understand and represent the need on the 2009-2010 committee.
  • Standard pack for presentations. This has two dimensions - a press pack, and a volunteer pack. Our volunteers may know people in organisations but what do they say to them? How do they answer frequently asked questions in a credible, factual and professional manner? I believe the Committee should work with volunteers to generate a standard talk with key points and a few slides volunteers can take with them, tailor to their audience, and know the talk they're giving will have been cleared by the Committee, will meet our legal and other obligations and promise only what we can deliver. Clarity with flexibility within boundaries is the key, and knowledge is power when negotiating with outside bodies. Without this, people are on their own and there is a risk to the organisation.
  • A focus on education, in particular enabling the creation of teaching resources developed with teachers, not for them (starting with a perspective of, what do they need from us?), and fully rooted in state and future national curricula. This would integrate aspects of all of the major Wikimedia projects (Commons, Wikisource etc) rather than simply being "a wiki for schools", and must account for the low prevalence of computers in classrooms, and the wide diversity of education which takes place. Additionally, development of a PD pack/presentation aimed at teachers that can be run by Wikimedia volunteers in conjunction with state teacher accreditation colleges and institutes.
  • Corporate governance issues - Ensuring we meet the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism and compliance to relevant standards, and also ensuring in fundraising or relationship-building exercises that Wikimedia Australia avoids conflicts of interest with outside organisations or causes. I believe the Committee did well in this area in 2008-2009, but it is important that we never lose sight of these issues as we grow.

Conclusion

I would like to thank those that nominated me and all those who expressed an interest in my running. I believe that I bring many useful ideas and skills to the table, and that I've had a chance to demonstrate this during the first year of full operation. If I am successful, I hope that I will meet (hopefully exceed?) your expectations. And whether successful or not, I intend to give the elected Committee my full support. I look forward to working with you all.