Wikimedia Conference 2018

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The Wikimedia Conference was held in Berlin 20-22 April 2018

Pru Mitchell, President and Robert Myers, Treasurer represented Wikimedia Australia.

WMAU delegates Photo By Jason Krüger, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Pre-conference training days

What makes a Board successful?

Major learning from this workshop is that we need a policy on whether board members are allowed to take any position paid by the board. In some countries it is illegal, especially if registered as a charity. In other countries a particular wording can allow this in some circumstances. We need to check our constitution and processes BEFORE we start process of employing or contracting. Conflict of interest - it is not sufficient to avoid actual COI, must avoid appearance of COI - need code of conduct.

Who has what responsibilities?

This was a major discussion. In many cases the annual plan and budget must be approved by the members at AGM/General Assembly. In WM-AU the committee wear various hats (volunteers, members, and committee), and thus are in danger of conflicts of interest between AGM (members) - Board (Exec Director - Staff if we get to this stage).

What are our biggest risks?

  • Stability of the Board - 1 year turn over is too often - move to 2-3 year
  • maximum board period should be 6 years to avoid policy paralysis, political imbalance
  • reputational risk: Do NOT stuff up here - look at everything within reputation risk. Who is mitigating these risks?

Check these policies from Wikimedia UK

Wikimedia Conference 2018, Group photo (2), By Jason Krüger, via Wikimedia Commons

Conference Day 1

With the formal conference starting there were 79 countries represented, 7 people registered who were denied visas.

The organisers set up a lovely place for recognition of deceased Wikimedians Craig Franklin and Krzysztof Machocki.

Orientation for Newcomers

First timers to the Wikimedia Conference started the Wikimedia Conference with introductions to each other and an introduction to the history of the Wikimedia movement from Delphine Menard, WMF. A useful outline of different milestones which led to the current organisational status.

The Plenary: The Big Picture

After welcomes and speeches from Nicolle Ebber, Cornelius, WMDE, Katherine Maher (Executive Director) and Christophe Henner from Board of Trustees, the first plenary workshop was expertly facilitated.

  • How do we contextualize and apply the strategic direction?
  • How can we implement it in our own organisations, and communities, and align our strategies, goals and programs?
  • Discuss how the strategy could change our work in the next 3 years?
  • What could we be doing more of, less of, new?
  • What are the opportunities?

Affiliate Chairperson's meeting

Lunchtime was spent in a fairly intense Affiliate chairperson’s meeting where Nicolle Ebber, Process Lead Strategy Phase II shared the plans for this coming year. 2018-19 is being considered a transition year where questions will be asked (and hopefully answered) about the strategy and how it will affect roles, resources and responsibilities.

Development of the Wikimedia organizations was discussion. Tim & Hector, WMDE prepared a discussion note: Development_of_organisations_of_the_Wikiverse_–_what_do_we_need_to_evolve?

It was agreed that there was a role for a body for sharing governance knowledge for organisations. Simple APG takes on this role - it is not part of its role, but it does it because no one else does - and it is appreciated. Others raised the need for local affiliates crisis management - currently done in an adhoc way. The need for a better alarm system which is monitored included risk management strategies such as a whistle blower policy for Boards. A small arbitration committee that is trained to act when this is required was recommended.

Wikimedia finance system was another major topic. Michal Buczynski and Mykola Kozlenko prepared a discussion note: Development_of_organisations_of_the_Wikiverse_–_how_should_we_disseminate_the_funds?

Does the current grants system work? Some say no. It was developed in another time, and there was a wish to move to a partnership model. The current system requires more staffing to provide assistance, mentoring, understanding the process, and understanding why a budget is cut or grant not successful. This needs to be a year round process. Two options: we could have open slather on grants for 2 years, or we could have a freeze for 2 years.

Structured Data on Commons

The plan was to go to the session on Structured Data on Commons changes Wikimedia Commons. By the time the chairperson's lunch session finished there was not one square inch of room left on the floor in that room, so hopefully there will be plenty of notes available from people who were in the session. Not much on Twitter, and it seems it is a small pilot at present. Watch for more detail in late September. ACTION: Follow this up later in 2018.

Strategy Track

The very interactive Strategic workshop continued for the rest of the conference. There was a focus on Challenges - looking at concrete areas about where change is needed, and discussing what blocks us from moving forward. As a multi-tasker who usually flits between conference sessions, I was challenged by the idea of one stream that went across 3 days. The Strategic Direction track process was probably a good illustration of the strategic direction process itself.

  • What an exciting start - energetic and creative with a high level of good will - thanks to Rob, Bav, Luis & AnnaLena
  • Over the conference it got harder, more intense, some voices dropped out - perhaps they felt unheard or maybe other priorities got in the way and people couldn’t afford to be as involved.
  • But a core group stayed to do the work required and went along thinking they were in control.
  • Then we met all together in the large group and heard some new presentations and all of sudden a heap of new questions were raised. Energy dropped again.
  • Back to the drawing board, to try and reconcile the new views. Thanks to the team mates in the diversity and inclusion group - who were amazing.

What we learned: The only way to be part of the Strategic Direction is to either be part of the group doing the work - or to trust and listen to the people who are doing this work.

The full report is at: Movement Strategy Track report


The top 3 things about the Wikimedia Conference 2018

  • Engaging with the global movement improved understanding of the diversity and the reach of Wikimedia
  • Learning about so many new aspects of the movement - and the world
  • Connecting with amazing Wikimedians who are happy to help us back home

Partnerships to build on

  • 1Lib1Ref

What WMAU can do immediately

  • Write reports
  • Submit a Simple Annual Plan Budget
  • Audit our polices
  • Run #1lib1ref South in May
  • Support ESEAP as a priority
  • Recruit an amazing committee for 2019
  • Work on developing a welcoming culture, with transfer of knowledge
  • Work with NZ to grow Wikipedia Pacific