Excellent set of questions

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Steve thanks for kicking this off.

STEP 1: Read through the Governance page, in particular the questions section.

STEP 2: Post your thoughts, ideas and guidance on this talk page.

I'd encourage the community to respond to all the questions in this forum so that we have a permanent record for the future. Of course, being a wiki you're free to add additional questions to the list.

This is important work for our community - so we need to get this right.

Mackiwg (talk)10:31, 25 November 2007

At this moment, I am having a variety of thoughts ranging from the need of having a board to what is going to be the future of WikiEd. I can see the COL's objectives of having a WikiEd Board. But what is that the Board will do? How they will do that are being planned to do? Is WikiEd is going to be separated from COL in future? At present it is launched as an activity of COL. How is it going to work by having a different Board. Suppose in future the WikiBoard and COL do not agree on something, what will happen? I am having so many questions in my mind. Also, WikiEd is an Open Platform, and the "Commonwelath" notion does not work any more, at least here. So why to restrict governance (if any) to Commonwealth alone?

I think, we may consider to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the Board Members as well. Let me give my suggestions, point-wise:

1.Number of person on Board should be finalized after identifying major stakeholders. So, you have 4 regions in the commonwealth, to that add 'rest of the world'(2), and add representations from other stakeholders (COL, UNESCO, any other funding agencies, etc)+ Executive Director. The Chair of the Board should be elected amongst the Board Members. As for Gender Parity, the Board should have power to nominate 1-5 members if the elected representation is not 50-50 parity. Thus, I am proposing a Board that is definitely more than 9. But, it is flexible.

2. The term should be for 3 years for elected members and 2 years for nominated members. On this Steve's suggestion of 1st Board having members for one year, 2 years and 3 years also sounds interesting.

3. Elections should be open, and left to only registered members having a completed User page (in a specified format. Members may be allowed to self nominate, and everyone should be voting for all constituency, and not just their region. Roles and responsibilities of members be clearly defined, and WikiEd members should have the right to re-call the elected representatives, if they do not perform satisfactorily. Am I sounding too complex?

4. COL President should be patron of WikiEd Board, but, ideally he/she should be the Chair of the Board and the Executive Director as the Member Secretary.

5.Elections should be open for a specified period, and for all positions all votes should have one vote only. Is is possible to add a field to WikiEd registration process to identify whether a memeb is willing to be a "Full Voting Member" or "Associate Member"? If so, we can send email to all users and ask their option. This is to give preference to all users to participate in the election. Many may not want to particiapte in the lection, even if they are doing edits regularly.

So much for now...

Sanjaya Mishra

Missan (talk)19:40, 29 October 2007

Sanjaya wrote:

As for Gender Parity, the Board should have power to nominate 1-5 members if the elected representation is not 50-50 parity. Thus, I am proposing a Board that is definitely more than 9. But, it is flexible.

That's an interesting approach. So if after an election cycle there aren't enough of a certain gender, or there's no one from, say, the Pacific, then the new Board's first order of business would be to appoint people to join their ranks to meet those requirements? I could support that, in fact I think I like that better than not seating nominees who have received enough votes to hold a seat.

Roles and responsibilities of members be clearly defined, and WikiEd members should have the right to re-call the elected representatives, if they do not perform satisfactorily. Am I sounding too complex?

No, I think you're raising a good point. There should be some sort of extraordinary procedure to recall Board members and even to hold new elections should the Board somehow have been dissolved.

COL President should be patron of WikiEd Board, but, ideally he/she should be the Chair of the Board and the Executive Director as the Member Secretary.

My understanding is that Sir John is our patron in a personal capacity, and that he'll remain such even should he leave his post at CoL. I do not support the patron being on the Board itself, instead I see a role in which as an interested, respected, yet impartial figure he could, hopefully rarely if ever, be called on to make decisions under extraordinary circumstances, such as an electoral irregularity or something like that.

In other words, imagine the Board as parliament, the Executive Director as PM, and the patron as sovereign.

SteveFoerster (talk)11:34, 29 October 2007

WikiEducator's Patron

We are very privileged to have Sir John Daniel as WikiEducator's founding patron.

For the record, around the time of the Tectonic Shift Think Tank meeting in Vancouver, members from the community asked whether we could invite Sir John as the founding patron of the WikiEducator project. This request was circulated to the Interim Advisory Board. With unanimous support we extended an official invitation to Sir John which he graciously acceppted.

Therefore, Sir John would be able to remain as Patron of WikiEducator in the event that he leaves his position at COL -- assuming that he chooses to continue in this role (and we all hope he will). However, this is Sir John's choice.

In Sir John's official capacity as CEO and President of COL, he has been a pillar of support for the WikiEducator project. I am grateful for Sir John's foresight and leadership recognising the strategic importance of OERs in learning for development and the conviction to provide COL support for the WikiEducator project. WikiEducator, to the best of my knowledge, is the only wiki project of its kind that is officially supported by an International agency. This attests to Sir John's leadership.

Mackiwg (talk)11:34, 29 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 11:34, 29 October 2007

Hi Sanjaya

We appreciate your guidance and advice. Thanks for joining in on these important discussions. Let me clarify some of the questions you raise - which hopefully will be of benefit to future contributors to this thread.

I am having a variety of thoughts ranging from the need of having a board to what is going to be the future of WikiEd. I can see the COL's objectives of having a WikiEd Board. But what is that the Board will do?

WikiEducator is a community project, and in the early days of WikiEducator COL committed to establishing a community governance model. COL does not own WikiEducator - the project is owned by the community.

For example, if COL assists a government in developing an ICT policy - COL does not own that policy. It belongs to the citizens of the country concerned. Similarly, WikiEducator is a community initiative to facilitate the development of open education resources in contributing to the ideals of a free curriculum by 2015. COL has a responsibility to ensure that our Commonwealth values of democracy, human rights, good citizenship and good governance are enshrined as the foundations of the WikiEducator project. For this reason we must have a democratically elected governance team and corresponding policies that are developed in a transparent way. The purpose of these discussions is to develop a governance policy for WikiEducator and to determine how we elect officials to represent the community we serve.

The future of WikiEducator will be determined by the community. In my view the board is responsible for governance matters and helping to steer the strategic futures of WikiEducator in transparent consultation with the community. The Board should refrain from the temptation of getting involved with operational matters of the numerous projects hosted in WikiEducator.

Is WikiEd is going to be separated from COL in future?

COL's primary objective is to ensure the implementation of a sustainable and scalable international community working towards the achievement of free content resources in support of all national curricula by 2015.

If it is in the interests of the WikiEducator community to be separated from COL in the future - then from COL's perspective this would be a successful outcome for the project in terms of its sustainability. However, this will be a community decision to be taken by the community.

At present it is launched as an activity of COL. How is it going to work by having a different Board. Suppose in future the WikiBoard and COL do not agree on something, what will happen?

WikiEducator was launched as an initiative under COL's eLearning for education sector development. At the time, we set up an Interim Advisory Board to assist with representing the community. You will see that there is only one Commonwealth employee on the Interim Board. We subscribe to a community governance model. So I don't see any substantive difference with the new Board other than the fact that the new board will be elected democratically - which was not possible with a small community of 300 users.

In the event of a disagreement between COL and the future board of WikiEducator, then COL as a member of the community will need to raise and discuss it's concerns openly with the community and resolve these concerns using a consensus model. Similarly, should any community constituency of WikiEducator have a disagreement - these must also be resolved in a democratic way.

Also, WikiEd is an Open Platform, and the "Commonwealth" notion does not work any more, at least here. So why to restrict governance (if any) to Commonwealth alone?

This is a key question for the establishment of the WikiEducator Board. In response to COL's commitment for a community governance model we are discussing these questions in an open and transparent way with the WikiEducator community.

I'm confident that we will find a consensus solution that meets the needs of all involved.

Appreciate your candid and open questions. I'm sure that there are many WikiEducators who have been asking the same questions.

Chat to you soon.

Mackiwg (talk)19:40, 29 October 2007

How do you believe that other potential funders (e.g., Unesco) might feel about WikiEducator enshrining the sort of geographic requirements that we're considering? Not that I'm not grateful for CoL's support, but would that conceivably make it more difficult to diversify supporters?

SteveFoerster (talk)19:40, 29 October 2007

Steve - that's a very good question.

My experience is limited to our traditional Commonwealth regions. Having had the privilege of working in these different regions - I can attest that the differences are tangible. The Pacific way of doing things is very different from Asia. Having grown up in Africa, I can attest that African culture is different from the Caribbean. This cultural diversity is a unique asset of the WikiEducator community and differentiates us from other international projects.

Personally I would like to see the WikiEducator project preserve and promote the regional diversity we have by providing an equal voice to all our regional communities. The advantage of involving another International agency like UNESCO is that we could incorporate the regions we are unable to cover under the Commonwealth. For example the CIS states of the Russian Federation, the Middle East, South America etc.

I don't in any way presume to know how best to incorporate these ideals in a Board for WikiEducator - but I do know that we will be richer for the experience.

Hope this helps ...

Mackiwg (talk)19:40, 29 October 2007

Another way to tackle the issue of regional representation could be to have an regionally elected 'Executive Committee' which could have a much larger representation from the wikied community - say between 4-5 from each zone. The Advisory Board would be directly elected too. The executive with the regional representation should have the role of coordinating activities zone-wise and reporting and coordinating with the Advisory board. This would take care of region-specific issues. What do u think?

I am not comfortable with incorporating regional and gender limitations when seats come up for election each year. This will mean that the gender composition of the first board will decide the gender bias for all future positions!!! I would also agree with additional slots for gender and regional adjustments - of course we set an upper limit.

Also we need to lay out what kind of subcommittees we need - some that I can think of are the finance/funding committee, the technical committee, the social out-reach committee etc. We need collective decision in all our actions/activities.


Savi.odl (talk)19:40, 29 October 2007

My initial read through, yields the following ideas:

Any particular citizenship?

- I think that the Board of WikiEd should have in place, a minimum number - say 66% (2/3) of its membership to be allocated to folks who are citizens of the Commonwealth. I think this is an important message to send out, to both the Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth citizens and organizations... I think it's also important to note that we cannot be all things to all people, in every corner of the globe....

Minimum age?

- Maybe the way to get around this, is to have a category for Youth Member of the Board - and define it in that way: (up to 18 years of age).

Should the entire Board be elected at once, or should terms be staggered? If staggered, how will the initial elected Board be selected?

Staggered is better for me - although three years is a bit long I think, for the dynamic model that is WikiEd. Two years might be better, to help WE get going, to the next level

--wikirandy 12:58, 29 October 2007 (CET)

Wikirandy (talk)00:58, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 03:33, 30 October 2007

Dear All,
Would you like to concept of "Full Voting Members" and "Associate Members" as indicated earlier by me? Is it practically possible, given the kind of technology we have with Wiki?
Well, if at all we are going for election of any kind/position, then we should not follow the closed ballet system used often in democracies. To me this is a system that is manipulative and allows lot of hidden activities. In a truly open system, we should exhibit open election, where, members just post their chooices in a discussion environment like this during a defined period. Let's create a new World Order by changing the notion of democracies. Till now, it is the voice of those having already the power. In academia, it is the voice of the powerful. Collective open voice is limited in true deomcracies to a large extent. At least this is true to Asia. With WikiEd, we are going to see a new revolution, if access to e-technology increases in the developing world at a fast rate as expected. So, we should go for only open election.

The idea of having a constituecy of youth is also good to consider.

Thanks to Wayne and Steve for their thoughts.

Regards, Sanjaya

Missan (talk)03:33, 30 October 2007

My suggested answers to these questions are as follows.

  • Nine people seems like a reasonable number for the Board.
  • In the first election, I believe that nine nominees should be elected. The three with the most votes should hold three year terms, those in fourth through sixth place should hold two year terms, and those in seventh through ninth place should hold one year terms.
  • In all subsequent years, three board members should each be elected to three year terms.
  • If a Board member resigns, dies, or otherwise leaves office, his/her term will be completed by the person who received the most votes in the most recent election who did not win a seat.
  • I'm not sure how to approach gender parity and regional distribution. Some clarification from CoL about their expectations would be helpful. We could go anywhere from simply advising voters to keep these objectives in mind all the way to enforcing quotas.
  • I support as low a threshold for nominations as possible, although I'm not opposed to a minimal procedure that discourages frivolous candidates and prevents an unwieldy number of nominees. I'd be interested in learning more about WMF's process.
  • I'm not sure I'm excited about having every single accountholder be able to vote. I wouldn't object to some minimum measure of activity if others agree. If the electorate is defined as anything other than user accounts, however, then it will raise the question of what "2500" means for this process -- user accounts or potential voters?
  • I support the Board appointing an Executive Director. There have been a number of times when Wayne acted unilaterally, because circumstances required it. He was right to do so, obviously, but appointing an Executive Director would be a means to cover those eventualities without there being any gray area.
SteveFoerster (talk)15:19, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 13:20, 28 October 2007

My thoughts and reflections on Steve's contributions:

  • Re request for COL to clarify our expectations on gender parity and regional distribution
First, let me qualify my response as a representative of COL. WikiEducator is part of my official portfolio, but I cannot claim to represent all of COL's interests in this area. This coming week I will invite COL colleagues to join in the deliberations to express their views. I will also ask our executive management for an advisory on the topic. The reality is that we are breaking new ground in a digitally connected world, i.e. where an international agency is sponsoring the infrastructure of an international and open community project. In many respects this is also a learning experience for us here at COL.
With this proviso - let me respond:
COL typically uses the following regional classifications:
  • Africa (including the Indian Ocean Islands)
  • Asia
  • The Carribean
  • Pacific
Given that we are a development agency with a strong focus on the developing world, traditionally we do not usually include Europe (Eg UK, Malta & Cyprus) and North America (Canada) in our classification framework. Belize, for example is seen as part of the Carribean.
In the digital world Malta & Cyprus are now part of VUSSC, My personal view is that we should have regional representation for Europe - and the fact that COL is located in Canada, that North America should be included in the mix.
This raises the tricky question of whether Commonwealth citizenship would be required as a prerequisite for nomination to the Board elections. Board members are not paid for their Board related work - so to be frank - I'm not sure how best to deal with this matter. All of our board members - apart from our CTO, to the best of my knowledge would qualify as Commonwealth Citizens. This is why I would be keen to have a co-funder of our technical infrastructure, e.g Unesco to help overcome this difficulty.

One way to overcome the practicalities of regional representation is to hold sub-elections for the different regions, and would seem to me the best way to move forward.

Regarding gender parity - we should strive for 50/50 representation, but I'm not sure how we can manage this in a practical way. I will ask for the advice and guidance from COL's Gender Committee. That is do we enforce quotas, advise voters or establish a gender portfolio on the board.

I'm not sure that I'm providing valuable guidance regarding COL's expectations - but at least we are identifying the issues and I will encourage COL staff and executive management to join in the deliberations.

Mackiwg (talk)15:19, 30 October 2007

I will try to respond to the original Composition and Elections questions. My portfolio at COL is governance and gender (the latter is shared with another colleague) . Regarding both, this is really new territory as wikieducator is a new community and also represents and has participation from people of all religions and cultures around the world.

Because of the importance of incorporating culture into governance frameworks, I think that we are already on the right track by attempting to fully discuss these issues before hastily introducing formal mechansims. We need to both incorporate the wiki culture and be sensitive to other cultures from everywhere that make up our wiki community. (Transparency, as usual, will be very important in whatever is decided upon and the wiki is already so useful in promoting that.)

Composition: I agree with Steve that nine people is a reasonable number for board members - and also support his recommendation of an Executive Director, who is responsible to the Board and the wiki community.

Regarding the terms of office, the staggering of elections is a good idea because it allows for continuity of movement even with some leaving and new members coming. Likely 3 years is a good idea, but because of wiki movement developing so rapidly, I had considered the idea of a 2-year term, but think there are too many negative issues attached to that. Instead, decisions, discussion on direction of wiki and other decision-making will need to be not only transparent, but as participatory as possible.

The issue of gender really should be opened up to consider diversity in general, now and for the next many years as the wiki community evolves. We should be concerned with not only gender but poor and extremely poor populations, minority religions, indigenous peoples, rural versus urban, handicapped, etc. It may be that the first elected Board does not totally capture all diversity representation, as there may be few or no extremely poor people able to access and use the wiki, however, as the wiki focuses on development needs and priorities, it will be important to try to focus on these populations when making decisions and moving forward.

As a little more than half of adults are female (in most countries), it is important to engage in further discussion with wiki women to further discuss the issue of enforcement where 50% of board members MUST be women, versus other avenues, such as appointing a gender officer on the board, weighting votes somehow (?) or some other mechanism.

Additionally, regional representation is important (including Europe & North America, as you mentioned, Wayne).

I think that a balance between board members with professional skills and community representatives will be important, but that all board members should also be active wiki users, not just account holders.


The question of minimum age is a good one. I think there should be some sort of lower limit (for instance, I don't know that a 6-year old should be on the board), but I also highly value the spontenaity of youth and believe that we (adults) could often benefits from perspectives youth could bring to the table, whether as board members or some advisory group. If there were to be a youth advisory group, it would be important to have a maximum age for membership (not 35 years old, for instance). (My bias would be something more along the lines of maximum age of 19 or 20 years old.)

I am hesitant to say that voters must be active users to vote. I think that many wiki account holders are genuinely interested in becoming involved, but may be intimidated, may find it difficult to get on to use their account just now as they are so busy with other work, may have difficulty getting on line, and may just be watching from time to time. They could be big supporters of wiki, in fact. I think that elections to the board could be an opportunity to encourage these people to become more involved.


Govtan (talk)15:19, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 15:19, 30 October 2007

Hi Tanyss,

We really appreciate your thoughts and contributions. Speaking for myself - I can assure you that I'm a beginner insofar as governance for development is concerned. So we're doing this the best way we know how in the wiki world - and that is to discuss things openly. So I take consolation in your reflection that "we are already on the right track by attempting to fully discuss these issues before hastily introducing formal mechanisms".

That's good advice to consult wiki women and I will get in touch with groupings like WikiChix and Linuxchix. WikiEducator has the advantage of hindsight and I think that our planning and deliberations will benefit from their insights.

I share your sentiments and concerns relating to the issue of voters being active users. That said, I'm also concerned about the negative side of folk who do not understand the wiki way in determining our future paths. For example, its very easy for new comers to the collaborative models of the wiki approach to raise material concerns about quality when we know that the wiki model produces high quality outputs. There is also the question of "right-of-passage". We cannot deny experience for the sake of inclusiveness.

Wiki's, for the most part, are value driven communities. People who donate hours of their free time because the believe in what we are trying to do. Do we accord the same voting rights to someone who "is too busy" to care, when compared with someone who has take the time and effort to figure out how this all works?

These are tough questions - but wiki communities aggregate around the will to do something. Our wiki community values freedom - the freedom to join our community, but we also respect the freedoms of people who choose other avenues in widening access to education. Do folk who choose not to work in the wiki - have the same voting rights as those that do?

Chat to you soon.

Mackiwg (talk)15:19, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 18:14, 29 October 2007

First - I want to express my gratitude and thanks to the Interim International Advisory board for their dedication and commitment to the WikiEducator project - We have agreed to donate our time knowing full well that we may not survive the elections <smile>. True democracy in action.

My suggested answers to the questions:

How many people should comprise the board? The interim board has nine people. Is that a good number to keep?

  • I agree with Steve - nine seems reasonable. That said I'm a supporter of the organisational design adage that form should proceed structure - in our case that needs should inform composition of the board - and WikiEducator is putting these principles into practice. There are roles in the community governance structure that may be difficult to fill through a traditional electoral process. For example specialised technical knowledge as in the case of a CTO governance role, or a Gender portfolio in our governance structures.
Speaking from experience, WikiEducator has been very fortunate to have the volunteer services of Erik on our Interim board - I can assure you that WikiEd would not be where it is today without the technical advice I have received from Erik.
This raises the question of whether WikiEducator should distinguish between elected community representatives and predefined roles on the Board. I'll add this to the list of questions. Also, will the board have the power to co-opt expertise when it is required?

How long should a Board member's term of office be?

I like Steve's suggestion that the standard term of office for elected officials should be three years and designing for continuity. Namely that half the elected officials are "replaced" during the election time. We'll need to discuss the best way to do this the first time around. Steve has already suggested a way to do this.

How should we approach Commonwealth of Learning expectations that may modify the composition of the Board, e.g., gender parity, regional distribution?

I responded to this question in my reply to Steve.

What should the threshold be for nominations?

For elected officials I support the notion that there should be a minimum threshold to be nominated for election to the board. This must be based on some metric of existing contributions to the WikiEducator project (or potential contribution?) - I'm not sure how we will determine the threshold, but we need to think carefully about this.

Can anyone simply sign up during a nomination period? If not, why not?

Assuming that we determine a threshold for nominations, and that the threshold is met - I think that we should accept nominations from anyone. We could think about the requirement for an endorsement from an "established" and "recognised" WikiEducator. I don't think that this requirement is unreasonable since our project is based on a web-of-trust model. In other words, I feel that it is reasonable that WikiEducator would require an endorsement for nomination from a community member we trust.

What qualifications should nominees have?

I would be uncomfortable with specifying minimum qualifications. Nominees would always be able to present their qualifications during the election process. For me, demonstrated commitment through real contributions to WikiEducator carry more weight than qualifications.

Any particular citizenship?

Difficult question. I have alluded to these issues in my reply to Steve's contribution. On the one hand WikiEd infrastructure is funded by COL. On the other hand this is an international project - we welcome content contributions from non-commonwealth countries. So I think that we need to think carefully about the what the Commonwealth values of democracy, good governance, human rights etc mean in a digital world aiming to develop a free curriculum by 2015.

Minimum age?

We may be treading dangerous ground here <smile>. While still in its early stages of collecting data, the new account survey shows that the average age of a new account holder is 49 years. I'm pretty chuffed with this outcome - because it's not only the "geek" teenagers that are taking this technology seriously. More importantly - I'm below the average age!

Should the entire Board be elected at once, or should terms be staggered? If staggered, how will the initial elected Board be selected?

Personally, I'd prefer a model which is staggered - how we achieve this the first time around must still be determined.

Once a set of nominees are finalized, are they all selected at once? Will voters have one vote, or will they have more than one so as to support multiple nominees?

For our first democratic elections - we will need to think carefully about the continuity challenges. I'm all for the one-person, one-vote model - this will encourage the community to think where they cast their vote. The question is whether we will require a minimum number of edits in WikiEducator, before an individual is eligible to vote?

I do think that its valuable to restrict voting to active members of the community. We have many ghosts in WikiEd who created an account out of curiosity - but have contributed nothing since. We could pose two requirements:

  • A completed User-page <smile> and
  • a minimum number of edits.
Mackiwg (talk)18:43, 30 October 2007


You suggest regional sub-elections as a way of satisfying COL's preference for at least one Board member from each of Africa, Asia, The West Indies, and the Pacific. Alternatively, we could simply specify that there must be at least one Board member from each of those regions, and that should election results not facilitate that, then the winner whose vote total is the least is skipped over in favor of the qualifying nominee with the most votes. For example, if the only seat held by an African is becoming vacant, and the top three vote getters are not African but the fourth place nominee is, then the first, second, and fourth place nominees could be seated.

A similar system could be used for gender parity. If we say that either gender must have at least a certain number of seats, then should the results of the election not meet those requirements, those who won by the least margin could be skipped over in favour of the nominee of underrepresented gender whose vote total is highest.

One issue would be if those two ideals were in conflict, i.e., if only three seats were being filled it's possible that the possible successors wouldn't be able to meet both the Board's requirement for geographic distribution and for gender parity.

The reason I suggest this as opposed to sub-elections is that the latter suggests that only voters from those regions would be eligible, and that strikes me as something difficult to verify.

You also mention possible representation for Europe (i.e., UK, Malta, and Cyprus) as well as Canada. With nine positions, if four are for CoL areas, and two more are for Canada and the European Commonwealth countries, only three remain. Also, in this case are Australia and New Zealand part of the Pacific group? Are Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei considered Asian or Pacific in this context?

Unless CoL can't be dissuaded, I am not in favour of a blanket requirement for Commonealth citizenship. We now have versions in French, Spanish, and (IIRC) Polish, and it seems disingenuous to encourage participation from people who are then not eligible to take on an oversight role. Besides, any requirement that shuts Erik out makes no sense to me. For similar reasons I'd even support keeping regional guaranteed seats to a minimum, especially on a Board with only nine seats.

SteveFoerster (talk)18:16, 29 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 18:16, 29 October 2007

Hi Steve

As a WikiEducator - I don't have any particular preference for the actual mechanisms we use to ensure the spread of regional representation. We certainly would not be able to insist that votes are restricted to any regional base. We don't have a reliable mechanism to enforce this and I don't think it makes much sense to restrict voters to a regional base.

For example, as a potential voter, I hold dual citizenship in two Commonwealth Countries and I am working in a third Commonwealth country without residency status. If we were to require that voters cast their votes based according to their regional location or citizenship - we have a problem <smile>. In my case, due I cast my votes for Africa, the Pacific or North America?

Personally I think that we should encourage voters to think about which nominees would be best positioned to represent the different regions. During the election campaign - nominees can articulate how they will represent the interests of a specific region.

From COL's perspective - WikiEducator was set up to serve the needs of the developing world. This differentiates us from projects like Wikiversity. This is not to say that the industrialised countries are restricted from participation - but is to communicate that we prioritise the needs of developing countries in our work.

To clarify your question on regions. NZ and Australia are seen as Pacific, While Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei are deemed Asian in our operations.

COL needs to think carefully about what it means to be hosting an international free content project in a digitally connected world, while at the same time thinking about our responsibilities to those who fund us.

The WikiEducator server is based in Germany - personally I don't think it makes any difference where the technology is hosted. I invited Erik (a non-commonwealth citizen) to serve on our Interim board because in my view, he was the best technical and free culture person on the planet to help COL achieve its objectives in the Commonwealth for a new wiki project in the free knowledge community. My hunch has paid huge dividends taking into account our collective success thus far. Thanks Erik <smile>.

Steve - thanks for your candid reflections. The CW is built on the values of democracy, human rights, good governance and good citizenship. We are putting these values into practice.


Mackiwg (talk)18:16, 29 October 2007

Yes, this discussion is useful.

Three year term is fine, and three members changing each year seems good - but another thought - maybe we should consider whether we want voting every year <smile>.

Regarding voting, I think each person (we'll have to decide who can vote) should have 3 votes, since that is number we'll be electing each year if we agree with Wayne's suggestion. With one vote I feel we'll all vote for Wayne <smile> - can't see votes for anyone else with only one vote each. Also each voter could distribute his votes or give them to the same person i.e. she can give all three to the same person, or give two to one, and one to the other, or give one each to three people. Though then we'll have to decide - in year one do we all have nine votes each?

We could decide on a minimum of representation for each gender - say one third - then the three who have got the maximum votes from the particular gender would qualify (can u see that I am making a gender neutral statement <smile>). Cannot see how the regional representation can be achieved under fair and democratic voting without making 'reservations' for each zone.

Yes, the board could have powers to co-opt members (say max 2) specially for their technical expertise. This may be important when we extend the scope of the wikied!!

Yes, we do need an Executive Director. Wayne has been functioning as one and can anyone see any of this happening without him!!

Savi.odl (talk)18:43, 30 October 2007

I agree with having as many votes as there are open seats, rather than just one.

SteveFoerster (talk)12:26, 29 October 2007

Steve, Savithri

I'm sold - I now see the benefits of providing as many votes as there are vacant seats.

We also need to think about the reality of a low turnout during the election. Our community is still very young and a low poll is definitely an issue. Worst case scenario - we should prepare for a situation where we don't get a clear voting outcome for all the vacant seats.

So in the event of a valid nomination, and we don't fill all the seats during the election - we should provide for the duly elected members to collaboratively take a decision on filling any vacant seats from valid nominees.

Mackiwg (talk)12:26, 29 October 2007

I assume that each nominee will at least get one vote (i.e., his or her own) so I take it you mean what to do in the event of a tie? Or do you mean in the event that there are insufficient nominations to fill all the available seats?

SteveFoerster (talk)12:26, 29 October 2007

I'm not too concerned about finding valid nominations for the available seats. Given the values of many WikiEducators - I strongly suspect that many nominees would not vote for themselves. I for one, would not vote for myself.

Lets hope that we don't have to deal with such a situation, but in the event that it arises our policy should cater for such situations.

The challenge with an international community is that many voters may not know the nominees and therefore feel that they can't cast a vote for someone they don't know that well. Perhaps I'm being overly "careful" in providing for eventualities that may not arise.

The nominee will be a member of the community - so they should not be restricted from voting.

You raise a good point about what we need to do in the event of a tie.

Also - do we use an open or closed ballot, that is do we publish the vote tallies as they are cast in the traditions of an open community, or do we keep the vote counts secret until the result is published?

Mackiwg (talk)12:26, 29 October 2007

I'm voting for more than one vote per person ... actually I'm voting twice for more than one vote per person :-) I'm not sure that we'll have enough voters to just go one vote and get enough people on the Board.

BrentSimpson (talk)18:43, 30 October 2007

Hi Brent,

Looks like we have a strong consensus emerging that we should allocate as many votes as there are available seats.

So your two votes for more than one vote has already gained a healthy support base ..;-)

Chat to you soon.


Mackiwg (talk)18:43, 30 October 2007

I had sent some comments to Wayne by email (since I am not really a part of this community) and he asked me to post it here anyway. For what it's worth, I'd like to share some thoughts based on a similar process I have been involved in at the Open Courseware Consortium. Similarities were that OCSC was also incubated through an institution (in our case MIT) and trying to find ways to move towards community governance. A big difference was that here it is mostly individuals who are involved (and care) whereas the OCWC is a community of institutions (with lawyers), which made everything infinitely more complicated.

I am posting a detailed break-down of what we did below, but that's probably too much detail for this discussion and more relevant for people who feel really passionately about studying the processes of emerging community governance models.

My quick feedback (these are my personal opinions, not the position of the OCWC) is this:

For community run projects, I believe in setting up the least amount of governance structure necessary to keep the community happy and able to do what its members want to do. I am not a fan of committees and complicated voting processes.

I believe that people vote through action, and the structure should enable and reflect that. A spirit of sharing and collaboration is necessary to make the community work, and the governance structure should be as open and transparent as possible to embody this spirit.

One challenge I see for WikiEducators is the question of registration as a non-profit. If that is the goal, then there are legal requirements that have to be fulfilled and they influence the structure. If that is not the case, then the relationship between COL and WikiEducator and its community will need to be carefully managed.

(PS: I find the structure of this discussion forum very difficult to follow, but no one else seems to have that problem.)

OCWC Experience

The OCWC process was very complex, with different stages, different communication channels (telephone calls, discussion forum, wiki, meeting, etc.) There was also a dedicated resource to manage and facilitate the process. Hope some of this is useful:

  • As a first step volunteers came forward to draft example governance models. A list of models is here
  • The model that Joseph Hardin (Sakai) and I drafted is this one. It's based on our experience with open source communities (and was largely not accepted :-): participation model
  • After drafting the models and discussing them in conference calls, we then ran a quick survey to bring out impressions from the community, and the results are here
  • Based on these results, and taking into account some of the work done for the models, we then created a unified draft document, which is here
  • This proposal was then discussed at the recent OCWC meeting, and audio

recordings of the discussions are available here

  • A lot more information about the process and other documents (vision and mission statements) are all linked form this main discussion forum.
Philipp (talk)06:55, 2 November 2007

Hi Philipp,

Thanks for that and I appreciate the time you've taken to upload your thoughts. There are certainly valuable lessons for our WikiEd community from the OCWC experience.

An aside - Threaded discussion is not the ideal vehicle for complex discussions where most posts include many dimensions.

However, we're a passionate and committed bunch and prepared to wade through these tomes in the interests of our community. Transparency and a full record of our interactions is more important than usability at this point <smile>. Liquid Threads (the discussion engine in this Wiki) has a feature where after 14 days the community is invited to write a summary. This will help with navigating the discussion.


Mackiwg (talk)06:55, 2 November 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 05:26, 30 October 2007

Apologies if what I will say will sound rough, but I think we are overcomplicating things while talking in a highly speculative manner. I think that we should try VERY hard to clear our heads of traditional notions of governance, and trying to fit them into the wiki, as at best, we'll end up with a bad fit, at worst with an unworkable system.

Sure we can have elections! why not use the transferable vote system (it works in Malta -- sort of) [1] but do we have an electorate? the 2500 user mark set by Wayne, was an arbitrary ball park marker. what if we only get a 100 voters? what if the voters are gender biased? .. that's already too many what ifs for me!

Would you consider having the new board chosen by public acclaim? Its not a formal system, but it can work if the electorate is very small? Here's how it would work: step 1: find out how many users are interested in positively choosing a board. step 2 find out how many people are willing to sit on the board, and how many can get a seconder. If the total is less than a dozen, then you have your committee, and just ask the community to approve.

NOW, I'm not saying that this is either a good or a realistic system. I'm just trying to put in a bit of fantasy into the conversation, so we don't get lost on drab electoral technicalities which might not be relevant in the long term.

I think we should try to hold close to the rough consensus model as much as possible; but that is just my opinion)

Also the very first thing we need to determine is the raison d'etre of the board. And its role. In my view, an open wiki like this exists independently of its infrastructure. It is primarily a community (which can do finely without a board). It is also a bunch digital data under a free licence; which implies that if the database dumps are made available that too is independent of the infrastructure, at least in theory. On the practical side, a wiki needs an infrastructure without which it cannot express itself, and would die. Currently the infrastructure is provided for by COL.

I think it would be useful to frame the role of the board (if not of wikieducator itself) in these terms. Lets think abstract first, and grow outwardly from there. Wherever we end up, My personal preference will always be for set-up that is a informal as possible while remaining workable, constantly re-shaping itself ad hoc. My hope is that whatever is decided by us now, will have been comletly reshaped by 2015, because by then the internet, wiki technology and education will have changed dramatically.

In designing the wikieducator board our first requirement ought to be that this structure will not hinder our successors, in any way, shape or form from taking wikied forward in a changed scenario. Too many a board has painted itself into a beurocratic corner. Thank god that free content always leaves a way out (also known as a fork).

Also, I disagree with the role of Executive Director. Its good that Wayne acted unilaterally on occasion, and we should leave that window open. The formal posting of an Executive Director, implies that NO other person can act unilaterally, even if it is required to e.g. keep the server online in an emergency. We do not need a formal role, people will naturally emerge as Executive leaders, and unless otherwise required, the board ought to allow them to fulfil this role.

I also don't like the idea of "Full Voting member" vs. "associeate member". We should only distinguish between "confirmed users" and "unconfirmed users" for some definition of confirmed, which might include "potential contribution" but would definitely exclude Sock Puppets and bots

Phsi (talk)06:39, 5 November 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:24, 30 October 2007

Thank You Philip, for airing some of my views too.. I thought that I would look really dumb if I asked how the actual voting would be held..but I still don't know how we're going to go about it. I also think we should determine the actual role of the Board. I looked up the Community Governance model, which does fit quite well into the WE picture and I see terms such as trust, empowerment,knowledge, collaboration transparency, all very noble qualities...and that are already set up, through Wikis, and of course the whole contributing towards community and also by the community who would be benefiting from the availbility of all the resources. In short, Wikis and Boards seem to be a contradiction to me.

But if its really needed, I still think that as Philip had put it, informally check the response rates from the whole 2000+/- users, have COL to assess and nominate Board members and empower them for acting in the best interests of the community, whether its creating these wonderful liquidthreads or putting up content, age no bar, gender no bar Let it be LIBRE!--Sandhya 19:30, 29 October 2007 (CET)

Sandhya (talk)17:32, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:32, 30 October 2007

Hi Sandy,

Appreciate your feedback. Nope - you're not dumb in asking how the actual voting would be held -- we haven't decided yet!

Under a community governance model - COL cannot assess and nominate Board members on its own, we need the guidance and support of the community to do that. The Commonwealth is committed to the values of democracy and good governance - therefore we have an obligation to discuss these issues with the community and ensure the autonomy of the community to govern the project.

Viva libre, viva.

Mackiwg (talk)17:32, 30 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 18:07, 30 October 2007

Hey Philip

Not to worry about the "rough" reflections. WikiEducators don't bleed easily. Its refreshing to see that the wiki way is still live and well! - but more importantly that we are discussing these challenges openly in the community.

Governance is a process that makes decisions to help define expectations, and in terms of its Latin origins helps to steer a future (that hasn't happened yet). As a community we have the freedom to determine the leadership style we adopt to help steer our project to success. We shouldn't confuse governance with the leadership approach/style we choose to adopt. My personal view is that we should minimise bureaucracy and promote open and transparent discourse.

When the WikiEducator prototype started on a desktop server in Auckland - it has one registered account holder. As of today 1,847 accounts have been created and the site generates about 42 000 hits per day from about 3223 visitors per day, from 183 countries for the month of October. By comparison to the big wiki sites this is trivial. However, this is far too big for Wayne Mackintosh sitting in Vancouver to take the tough decisions on his own alone.

Early in the history of WikiEducator I asked the assistance of an Interim Advisory Board to help me with the task of setting up appropriate governance structures the wiki way. You're right the 2500 arbitrary mark was an arbitrary figure I unilaterally selected for a democratic election process. However, I aim to keep my promise to the community.

Hey - if we only get 100 votes - that's fine by me. If we end up with a gender bias, I hope that the WikiEducator community will help us in getting it sorted. But a promise I make is a promise I keep!

Philip wrote:

Also the very first thing we need to determine is the raison d'etre of the board. And its role. In my view, an open wiki like this exists independently of its infrastructure. It is primarily a community (which can do finely without a board). It is also a bunch digital data under a free licence; which implies that if the database dumps are made available that too is independent of the infrastructure, at least in theory. On the practical side, a wiki needs an infrastructure without which it cannot express itself, and would die. Currently the infrastructure is provided for by COL.

I agree - WikiEducator does not have a raison d'etre for the board. I have intentionally not attempted to speculate about the raison d'etre - I'm hoping that this discussion is the first step in attempting to develop the first draft. You're right - WikiEducator is more about community than the digital data available under a free content license and that is why its imperative for us to collectively decide how we move forward.

I'm really glad that someone on this list disagrees with the role of Executive Director. I dream of the day when the community takes responsibility for the difficult decisions. Hopefully, one day I'll have a life again <smile>. Seriously, WikiEducator has been the most rewarding project of my career - but it would be great to have a thriving community that jumps in and takes the difficult decisions.

So I guess that an important requirement for a board member is the willingness to step in and take difficult decisions with the responsibility and accountability that comes with the decision.

We must avoid bureaucratic corners - so my request to you is to help us develop a policy that does just this.

The reality is that WikiEducator is at the point in its evolution where donors are investing real dollars in our work. Part of that investment is the result of our commitment to a community governance structure that has instilled confidence in what we are doing. WikiEducator, through its Learning4Content initiative will be launching, to the best of my knowledge, the largest wiki capacity building initiative for free content in the history of human kind. We need your help in ensuring our success.

Great chatting again Philip - we'll count on you to keep us honest!

Mackiwg (talk)05:26, 31 October 2007

Hi all,
great talk going on here about the first WikiEd board elections. Me personally, I don’t have much experiences with voting systems, the only things I can say are of general nature:

    1. I find it useful to our aims, to have a board of elected persons, who take care. That can take decisions in the name of the whole community and act quickly in case of need.
    2. For me, WikiEd is truly a COL project and should remain a COL project. COL represents for me a guarantee of good quality distance education in the developing world. Therefore I would prefer a majority of board members to be COL members.
    3. I see WikiEd still in its initial phase, and development will be quick and dynamic. But his doesn’t mean board members have to change quickly. A term of 3 years seems fine to me.
    4. I also see the issue of defining a voter. I guess, many have opened an account because they were curious, or just for fun. So, how many “WikiEducators” do we have right now? If we say, only one out of ten who has opened an account is serious, it will be about 200. This figure would fit with the number of participants inscribed in the Google discussion group (155).
    5. What criterion should we use for a voter? Learning4Content demands 2 serious wiki pages in turn for the introductory course, doesn’t it? So, how about the condition that only people who have contributed at least 2 serious pages to WikiEd get the right to vote? I don’t think someone who does not meet this criterion will feel discouraged for further participation.

Thanks for all your efforts to find a good way of governance for WikiEd!

Günther --White Eagle 15:26, 30 October 2007 (CET)

White Eagle (talk)05:26, 31 October 2007

Hi White Eagle,

Appreciate your feedback- thanks. I think that your estimate of active content developers in WikiEducator is about right. Its growing every day and once the Learning4Content project gets started - I expect that we will see exponential growth in the active members in our community.

WikiEducator is a flagship project of eLearning for education sector development at COL. COL is very serious about achieving a free curriculum by 2015 and we will support the our community in the realisation of these aims.


Mackiwg (talk)05:26, 31 October 2007

As neat as a Board by public acclamation would be, I expect that there will be more people interesting in serving than there will be seats, and while at first expanding the Board to accommodate them all might be practical, ultimately the community will have to choose who should represent their interests.

And I do think we need a Board. Prospective donors need to know who's going to be responsible for overseeing the disposition of their largess. Similarly, I don't think that the appointment of an Executive Director would stop others from acting unilaterally under extraordinary circumstances, it would simply make it clear who the point of contact would normally be. (Besides, how else will such things as the Licensing Policy be decided?)

Having said all that, one thing I'd definitely support is a list of things that the Board and its appointees do not oversee -- i.e., that are up to community members to decide spontaneously. It may be best if this is a strongly delineated list, a sort of "WikiEducator Charter of Rights and Freedoms", that details things that the Board, Executive Director, CoL, etc., are prohibited from deciding on behalf of the community.

There is another important aspect to all this that we haven't discussed, and that's how this Governance Policy gets amended once it's been implemented. One way could be that the Board suggests an amendment to be sent as a referendum to the community. I also believe, however, that amendments to the Governance Policy should be able to be originated by community members, such that with some threshold of support a referendum must take place.

SteveFoerster (talk)06:39, 5 November 2007

Hi Steve,

My gut feel is that WikiEducator will generate more willing people interested in serving than we have have seats to serve. It is of course and entirely different matter whether we will generate sufficient interest among the potential voting community to cast their ballots!

In the absence of a legitimate board - from experience I know that fund raising would be an order of magnitude more difficult. Clearly these discussions should lead to some declaration of what we as a community mean by governance and a clear statement of authorities and responsibilities of the Board. Similarly, I believe we should generate an environment that is open and flexible. For example, we should not constrain the ability for countries or communities to initiate their own nodes and clusters in furthering the objectives of WikiEducator. Local clusters should have the freedom to initiative their own projects including the ability to raise donor funding independently. My personal view is that the Board should be the custodian of the values that underpin our community and what we are trying to achieve. Without these - we will find it difficult to achieve and maintain a sustainable project.

Good point - we need to be clear on what the amendment protocols are regarding our Governance Policy.

Mackiwg (talk)18:04, 30 October 2007

Just a few quick points.

I mentioned public acclaim as an extreme case scenario. I DO Agree that we need a board that is legitimized by the users. I just think that FIRST we need to decide what that board we be like, then choose the best way to have it appointed (read: electoral system).

The problem of Executive Director is more in appearance than in essence. But in a community where many people have never met (and probably never will) face to face, appearances matter.

Lastly I think that this should not be a GOVERNING board, but an advisory/supervisory board. It should be distinct from the Governance Policy which should remain the domain of the community as a whole. Of course the issues are tightly related as the Board will act upon that policy, but this board should neither be a board of directors nor a parliament, more of an spokes-person-group.

Phsi (talk)06:39, 5 November 2007

Hi Philip -

Looks like this group has heeded your advice. There has been reasonable discussion on think first what the board would be like. The current consensus emerging is to establish a WikiEducator Council - see Erik's proposal

We still need to work on an appropriate electoral system - but we do have a few guidelines and suggestions being submitted in this forum.

I agree - the concept "Governing" board is misleading in terms of role and function - but this stems from the notion of "community governance". Your suggestion to keep Governance Policy distinct from the advisory board is a good one and I was hoping that this would be the case fro WikiEducator.

The next step will be to draft a page outlining and describing the WikiEducator Council - its purpose, roles, accountability. electoral system etc. based on all the contributions we've received so far. (I'm happy to do this - but it will need to wait a week or so as I'll be away on a short international mission.)

We will then need to take a careful look at the draft to see if it is in fact what we have been saying and how best to refine it.


Mackiwg (talk)06:39, 5 November 2007