Some lessons from WMF - how about a layered model of governance?

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The Wikimedia Foundation has a Board of 4 elected and 3 appointed Board members. Elected members serve for 2 years; appointed for one. There are no term limits. The appointed slots exist so that the Board can complement "community skills" with other missing skill sets that may not be readily found through a community election (finances, legal, fundraising, etc.). We also have an Advisory Board of 20 or so members (Wayne is one of them).

Based on that experience, I would propose a modified governance model for WikiEducator:

  • We create a WikiEducator Council with 15 or so members by broad community election (Wikimedia style, through approval voting).
  • The council can appoint 10 additional non-community members by majority. (Any council member can nominate a non-community member.)
  • We could have some regional representation rules.

Council members serve for 2 year terms; appointed ones for 1 year. The council would elect from its members an Executive Committee of 5 members, each for a renewable two-year term. They should be elected to "skill-slots", e.g.

  • Fundraising skills
  • Technical skills
  • Community-building skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Legal skills

The following reasons argue for a layered model like this:

  • We can require a minimum participation within the council before a council-member is eligible to candidate for the Executive Committee. This means that a community election is not, by itself, a guarantee for an Executive Committee seat; one needs to demonstrate real and sustained interest to become an EC member.
  • A large body is better for representation and large-scale collaboration; a smaller body can make quicker decisions and can meet more easily.
  • "Skill-slots" will guarantee that the community can be served effectively in different areas.

For transitional purposes, we could hold the first Council Election very soon, and immediately elect the first EC, to only serve for a one year term (since it's the first one and the process is still new).

Eloquence (talk)20:05, 2 November 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 01:58, 31 October 2007

Hi Erik,

I like this proposal of a WikiEducator Council. You've been with Wikipedia virtually since its inception and your experience with management and governance of the Wikimedia Foundation is invaluable.

This model conflates the strengths of community representation with the ability to appoint professional skills needed to help steer the project. This also combines the advantages of the Advisory Board model used by WMF but will result in better coherence between the executive committee, community members and advisory professionals.

Very smart.

This model will also provide the flexibility for COL to overcome the Commonwealth Citizenship dilemma of an international project in a digital world. We will also be able to promote regional representation.

Lets see what folk on the list think about the Council proposal. I suspect that it will receive strong support and then we can move pretty quickly in getting the first election for a council underway.

I also support your proposal that the first council should only serve for a one year term so we can smooth out and refine processes and get this right using a learn by doing model. (See my post later on - I've been rethinking this)

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007

I like the idea of having a layered model as well. Given that the WikiEd strategy is, for the next 2 years anyways, based on yearly milestones I'd also suggest considering limiting the membership initially to 1 year then perhaps reviewing this in 2009.

BrentSimpson (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007

Brent -

Good idea to link the terms of office (initially) to the WikiEd strategy.

COL has started some work in building a monitoring and evaluation plan to help us gauge progress as we proceed with the strategy.

Still needs some work - but logic model is pretty much done. (Off to add a link to the M & E plan from the strategy page.)

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007

On 2nd thoughts - at some point WikiEducator will need to "bite the bullet" in a manner of speaking to kick start the continuation model. It's not wise to elect a full council with each election. I'm wondering whether we shouldn't agree that the top 8 candidates in the first election serve for 2 years and the remaining 7 serve for one year.

Thereafter the normal term is 2 years for all elected members. This way we plan for continuity of the Council.

Mackiwg (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007

It's hard to overestimate the importance of having new blood on a board...often, it only takes a single person to change the dynamics....to introduce new ideas, and revitalize the other members... We're certainly not at that stage yet, but it's important to think of the future: 2015 is still a ways off...


So...I'm in favour of staggered terms, and I think that should start immediately...it's hard to change once the thing is in motion.

As well, I'd like to raise another issue that hasn't been brought up yet ~ at least what I can tell. As far as governance goes, what happens when WikiEd reaches its goal by, or before 2015? What are the responsibilities of Board Members to help us get there, and when we do, exit stage left...?

--wikirandy 03:46, 31 October 2007 (CET)

Wikirandy (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:35, 31 October 2007

Thanks WikiRandy,

When we reach our 2015 goals - we tackle the resolution of global hunger. 2015 is a way off and I'm sure that we will find new targets.

Cheers Wayne

Mackiwg (talk)17:35, 31 October 2007

Wayne,

I didn't say this to be facetious - I said it to be in line with our messaging...

An organization (or community effort) that reaches its goal, has to plan for some closure activity - and this in turn is reflected in the strategy and the governance model it chooses - because different skill sets, resources, etc. are involved.

I recall a recent talk I heard about the folks involved in the 2010 Olympics here in Vancouver, and they noted that they had a particular challenge to recruit folks who knew that the actual organization would be winding down shortly after the Main Event. Moreover, the kinds of activities after the 'wind-down' are a bit different than the 'wind-up', and you still want some key people in place.

- Randy

Wikirandy (talk)14:37, 31 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 04:44, 31 October 2007

I didn't read your comment as being facetious.

In the information society I think that its dangerous to to assume a static target. Technological advances may be such that we achieve a free curriculum by 2010.

I cannot predict what the educational challenges will be in 2015 nor can I assume what technologies will be out there to support education. I do know that the landscape will change and the knowledge is VERY dynamic:

  • What about the maintenance and updating of the free knowledge curriculum?
  • What about the implications of a free curriculum for assessment methodologies assuming the de-institutionalisatoin of education?

There was a time in history of society before the existence of institutionalised education (schools, universities etc.) Therefore it plausible to assume that we will see new organisational and institutional arrangements in education.

Sure, I take your point that winding-down is different from winding-up - but it's dangerous to speculate about what may or may not be in 2015.

Its about managing a difficult balance:

  • If the future was 100% predictable - there would be no need for strategic planning
  • If the future was fundamentally un-kown - no planning possible.

We operate somewhere in between these poles. Technology compresses the time frames and the position on the continuum.

Personally I'm reluctant to speculate about post 2015.

Cheers Wayne

Mackiwg (talk)14:37, 31 October 2007

Wayne,

I am in agreement with you - interestingly, in my Master's OD program, the topic I'm working on is about Creativity through Controversy.

This thread is an excellent example about how we can be creative and controversial at the same time! I really like the examples you give, to prove your point, and at the same time, it provides further information to ponder.

Yes, one of the great challenges in the Wiki environment is that it is SO dynamic as compared to other technologies. But as you rightly point out, the rest of the world is moving too - maybe not at the same pace - but moving in how it focuses on particular challenges.

I've sent a shot across the bow about 2015....and you've responded in a way that is neither defensive nor offensive ~ it is merely thought-provoking, and focused on your current goal.

Thanks,

Randy

Wikirandy (talk)14:37, 31 October 2007

Thanks Randy -

It's a wiki - so open candid reflection and participation is what we're about. That said sometime, in that passion of an edit war, folk can become defensive and evey quite offensive. That said - as long as the community is committed to talking - we can go a long way!

Cheers Wayne

Mackiwg (talk)14:37, 31 October 2007
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Erik: re: skills slots...

I'm thinking that folks should also be able to perform certain roles - that the community needs, and/or be able to find / recruit others who have those skills...

Wikirandy (talk)17:43, 31 October 2007

Brent - I wasn't clear what you meant by your suggestion of limiting membership to one year. Were you referring to council terms or membership?

I like the idea of the dual layers for all the reasons stated above. Staggering the council terms with 8 serving for 2 years (should it be 7?) and 7 (8) serving for one year is a good idea - and getting this underway sooner rather than later also makes sense.

How will 'candidates' present themselves? In addition to a bio, should candidates state what specific skills/vision/ideas they can bring to move wikieducator forward?

Regarding reaching our goal by 2015 - that would be swell (as they used to say) - but I think that goals will be further developed each year, and wiki will likely still be a useful tool in education for some time to come.

Govtan (talk)17:43, 31 October 2007
Edited by another user.
Last edit: 04:27, 31 October 2007

Hi Govtan,

In addition to bio a statement of skills/vision/ideas will help the electorate.

Regarding the nominees for the elected members - I do think that we should specify some minimum metric of demonstrated contribution to WikiEducator. We would need the nominations to be confirmed by a "trusted" wikieducator however we define this and can invite nominations to present themselves in the Wiki.

I feel that we should keep the requirements for valid voters simple. User account with some entry on their user page. In other words community, elected officials are elected by the community.

Given the scope to expand the Council with appointed members this will cater for bringing skills on board who may not be active members of the WikiEducator community.

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)17:43, 31 October 2007

Another Question[edit | edit source]

On what basis will these elected and appointed members be evaluated? When, by whom and what means?

Wikirandy (talk)17:43, 31 October 2007

Hi Randy,

Good questions. This is where I think we need to head Philips advice, namely that WikiEducator is a Wiki. We must be very careful not to over bureaucratise a project driven by volunteers.

We should encourage self organisation and autonomy and carry these principles of self organisation through into our governance models. Personally I don't support the notions of formal evaluations for appointed members. I feel that we should leave the basis on which appointed members are "elected" in the hands of the elected Council members that are charged with finding out the best way to lead our project.

It would be useful for us to think about guiding values in helping the Council in takeing these decision:

For example the principle of regional representation and transparent governance. Keeping things simple will enable us to move and respond quickly to changing needs.

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)17:43, 31 October 2007
 
 
 
 

Erik,

The idea of fifteen elected and ten appointed Council members sounds like a great solution for not only ensuring geographic and gender representation but also that all relevant skill sets are available. As an aside, this reminds me of Dominica's House of Assembly (parliament), which while unicameral has twenty-one elected Members and also nine appointed Senators.

So an Executive Committee instead of an Executive Director? That might be better. I read the Wikimedia Foundation bylaws, though, and don't see that aspect of the system. Do you mean that the Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer sometimes act together as a unit?

One thing, if the only experienced Council members can be appointed to the Executive Committee, how will the Executive Committee be initially constituted?

Since fifteen is divisible by three and not two:

  1. Should we have three year terms for elected members and have an initial election where all fifteen are elected, with the sixth through tenth place winners earning two year terms and the eleventh through fifteenth place winners earning one year terms; or
  2. Should we have fourteen Council members, seven of which are elected to two year terms and seven of which are elected to one year terms?

In retrospect, we should have started a WikiEducator:Bylaws page rather than a WikiEducator:Governance_Policy page!

SteveFoerster (talk)19:47, 2 November 2007

WMF does not have an Executive Committee. When I say "lessons from WMF", I mean both things that do and don't work in Wikimedia governance.

One thing I've noticed as Board member is just that it has become very difficult to make basic decisions with a Board of 7 members. You have to do a lot of follow-through to get people to comment & participate. And the lack of clear specialization / delegation in the current WMF Board often means that everyone needs to comment on everything. When we do specialize and delegate, it usually works reasonably well.

Eloquence (talk)19:47, 2 November 2007
 

Hi,
The idea of a coouncil is a good one. Having different persons with diferent skillsets are important to the functioning of any organization/community. However, the way we are going, it seems we are definitely heading towards registering a Non-Profit Organization(NPO) in some corner of the World. Well, if that is what we are looking for governance of WikiEd, then we may prepare a draft bylaws that can be edited and finalized.
For the first year, we may have 10 members elected (with 2 year term)in the council and say another 10 nomiated members (with one year term). In the second year, we can than elect 5 members (with 2 year term), and only 5 nominated members (with one year term);and in the third year onwards, every year we can than elect 10 members (with 2 year term), and 5 nominated members (with one year term). Thus, all the time the Council will have 20 members.
The Council will decide Chiar/Director, and other functionaries.

regards, Sanjaya

Missan (talk)20:05, 2 November 2007

Hi Sanjaya,

For the purposes of clarity, there has been no decision or discussions about registering a Non-Profit Organisation. WikiEducator's infrastructure (server, hosting fees, maintenance etc.) is funded entirely by the Commonwealth of Learning. We don't receive any funding support from third party organisations on the infrastructure side.

In terms of our Commonwealth values - we are bounded to promote democratic approaches in our work, and consequently the WikiEducator project as a community initiative must be governed by the community. At the same time we must be realistic and plan carefully for the long term sustainability of the project.

For example, if WikiEducator were to reach the levels of 3 million users developing a free content curriculum - COL would not have the funding to support a server farm of 300 servers. Conceivably there are two approaches that we could think about:

1) Find ways within existing models to increase funding for the infrastructure - for example requesting member countries to increase their voluntary contributions to COL. or 2) Find new revenue streams to promote and support the project - for example, institutional financial contributions, donor funding etc.

The best thing we can do at this time is to plan our governance models in ways that can support alternative models. WikiEducator has no legal status, and cannot raise funds in its own name. This is not necessarily a bad thing because individual projects can raise their own funding to support free content development on WikiEducator. Similarly, COL can pursue grant funding to support our collective work, as in the case of the Hewlett Grant for the Learning4Content project.

At any rate - we are a long way off from 3 million users and COL is able to support considerable growth over the next few years. Naturally - more financial support to help with technology refinements is always welcome.

Hope this clarifies things.

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)20:05, 2 November 2007

Dear Wayne,
I considered the NPO option, on the basis of modelling our discussion on WMF (as I suppose they are NPO). If we are not thinking of NPO, and also considering a separate entity, and supported by the COL for the infrastructure, then we are thinking of an informal approach of consensus builiding. Well that is OK, and we have to always depend on COL. If at all other agencies come forward for supporting EikiEd, they will have to support COL.

Well, no problem with that as far as I am concerned.

Sanjaya

Missan (talk)20:05, 2 November 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 20:05, 2 November 2007

Hi Sanjaya -

Just to be clear. COL is neither for, nor against a NPO model.

The point is that we should collectively design the best community governance model that we can, in a way that will provide us the flexibility to assume multiple forms in the future.

It's our collective responsibility to act in the best interests of the WikiEd community!

Cheers

Mackiwg (talk)20:05, 2 November 2007
 

Picking up what Erik wrotex "The council can appoint 10 additional non-community members by majority"

Do we really mean 'non-community' - that is they should NOT be members of the wikieducator community or do we mean 'from among other members of the community' ? Was just wondering.

I agree with Steve on the method to provide continuity over the years. Three year term for one third, two year for the next one third etc. till we get to electing ten people every year with five providing the continuity.

I hope we have agreed on each person having as many votes as the number of candidates to be elected.

Savithri

Savi.odl (talk)07:10, 26 January 2008