Excellent set of questions

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Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:14, 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)17:43, 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)17:16, 29 October 2007
Edited by author.
Last edit: 17:16, 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)17:16, 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)17:43, 30 October 2007

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

SteveFoerster (talk)11:26, 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)11:26, 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)11:26, 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)11:26, 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)17:43, 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)17:43, 30 October 2007