Excellent set of questions
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.
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)
- The Carribean
- 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.
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.
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.