Policy for Community Workgroups

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Name of Policy Community Workgroups
Purpose To establish a policy and corresponding guidelines for the establishment of Community Workgroups whose mission is to create policy, guidelines, processes for community-wide implementation.
Intended audience
Created and maintained by WikiEducator Workgroups Community Workgroup
Status Approved by WikiEducator Community Council, 13 September 2009
  • Proposed by WE community member to achieve greater involvement and sharing the workload of guidelines and policy development
  • Tabled at meeting of WikiEducator Community Council, 7 September 2009
  • Approved by WikiEducator Community Council, 13, September 2009
Supporting documents
  • None
Important communications
Effective date
  • Aim to achieve working draft for council by 1 September 2009
  • WikiEducator Council meeting scheduled for September 2009 to consider the proposal.
  • Policy approved by Council, 13 September 2009

Policy for the establishment of Community Workgroups


  • Workgroup refers to a group of WikiEducator members working together to achieve a common community goal: the development of guidelines, policies, and technology-related changes that will have a community-wide impact. Although the term workgroup, or working group, continues to be used freely within WikiEducator to refer to groups working on projects of many sorts, a project deemed of broad importance to the community will be established as a Community Workgroup, organized in the "Workgroup namespace".
  • Community Workgroup means a Workgroup initiated and operating within the ambit of these policy guidelines.
  • Council member refers to a member of the WikiEducator Community Council.
  • WikiEducator member refers to any registered user of the WikiEducator websites.


Commons-based peer-production is a concept coined by Yochai Benkler[1] to describe a new model of economic production referring to systems which encourage open and unrestricted participation by large numbers of individuals, typically enabled by Internet technologies. These open projects are unique in that they subscribe to collaboration, transparent process and self-organisation rather than hierarchy and control (Tapscott & Williams 2006)[2]. Consequently, WikiEducator's processes need to reflect these cultural and operational differences when compared to organisations structured and operating as traditional hierarchies. Our open systems should:

  • Encourage and support participation and innovation from all members of the Community recognising the freedom of any member of the WikiEducator community to establish a Workgroup;
  • Ensure open transparent process, requiring all Community Workgroups, including those established by the Council to work openly, licensing their contributions in accordance with the principles of the Free Cultural Works Definition.

Statement of purpose

Icon objectives.jpg
The purpose of the policy and supporting guidelines for Community Workgroups is to:
  • ensure and promote open, transparent and community-based collaboration for guiding the evolution of the WikiEducator initiative
  • distinguish between Community Workgroups and Project Workgroups which are constituted for supporting project and content collaborations in WikiEducator
  • help and support WikiEducator members to establish Community Workgroups
  • provide minimum criteria for the establishment of Community Workgroups whose outputs can be tabled for consideration and approval by the WikiEducator Community Council

Differentiating between Community and Project Workgroups

Workgroups are a popular methodology for groups of interested WikiEducator members to collaborate on achieving a common goal. Wikieducator differentiates between two types of workgroup:

  • Community Workgroups: which are established for developing community-wide guidelines or policies. Before these community-wide guidelines or policy proposals can be ratified, they must first be approved by the WikiEducator Community Council. Any WikiEducator member may propose the establishment of a workgroup. Once the criteria specified in this policy have been met, a Community Workgroup is established. The establishment of a Community Workgroup does not require the approval of the WikiEducator Community Council except in cases where the outputs of the Workgroup will have legal, financial or governance implications. There are additional requirements for Community Workgroups which are convened to address technology related guidelines or policies.
  • Project Workgroups: which are established to support individual projects, content developments or interest nodes in the wiki and will not necessarily have a community-wide impact. Project Workgroups are not required to adhere to the guidelines proposed in this policy as their outputs are not intended for community-wide adoption. However, Project Workgroups are free to use these guidelines and supporting resources to assist with the effective achievement of their goals.

Establishing Community Workgroups

A Community Workgroup may be established by any member of the WikiEducator community to improve the way we work; or for the specific purposes of the Council in accordance with the Open Community Governance Policy. There are two distinct phases for a Community Workgroup:

  1. Initiating a Workgroup including process requirements for Workgroups planning to develop a community-wide guideline or policy
  2. Formally constituting a Community Workgroup

Initiating a Workgroup for a community-wide guideline or policy

WE encourage community members to initiate a Community Workgroup to address aspects of WikiEducator's working environment in need of improvement. The following steps are provided as policy requirements for initiating a Workgroup which is intended to evolve into formerly constituted Community Workgroup:

  1. Announce the idea on the main WikiEducator list. Determine interest. Collect feedback. Is the stated issue/idea a community-wide problem/challenge?
  2. Set up a draft Workgroup page in the Workgroup "namespace" on WikiEducator (for example Workgroup:Name_of_workgroup) and list the proposed Workgroup on the community portal under the Active workgroups section.
  3. Invite volunteers to join; Create a section of the Workgroup page where participants can sign on to help. At least one person should be listed as convenor and take responsibility for successful completion of the Workgroup's activities and tasks.
  4. Create a draft Workgroup charter.
  5. Post to the main WikiEducator list providing a concise summary of the Workgroup and requesting community review and comment on the Workgroup charter, including a minimum of 30 calendar days for discussion with clearly stated deadline for comments. Collect the comments and suggestions in a section of the charter or corresponding talk page.
  6. Revise and amend the charter based on feedback and post a notification of the final proposed charter on the WikiEducator list calling for approvals of the charter by signed-up participants of the Workgroup.
  7. WikiEducator members are free to sign up as active participants of the Workgroup at any time.
  8. Prepare for formal constitution of a Community Workgroup.

The Workgroup charter

A charter is a statement of the scope, objectives and participants in a project or working group. It documents a preliminary delineation of roles and responsibilities, the group's objectives, a process for collaboration, a project plan, and a method for on-going evaluation. The charter serves as a reference of authority for the future of the working group[3]. Most groups or teams working collaboratively to achieve a particular goal will benefit from the creation and maintenance of a charter. WikiEducator community-wide Workgroups must create and maintain a charter.

Creating a charter for a proposed Community Workgroup

The first work for a prospective Community Workgroup is to draft a charter.

The charter should be the homepage of the workgroup (Workgroup:Name_of_workgroup) with all relevant components, for example the guidelines/policy proposal and workgroup report, created as subpages (i.e. Workgroup:Name_of_workgroup/policy or Workgroup:Name_of_workgroup/report).

Use the boilerplate at Help:Workgroup charter (general guidelines for creating a charter for group collaboration on a project) to create the Workgroup charter.

Include the following in the relevant sections of the charter:

  • Under Purpose: Explain how the Workgroup process and outcomes align with core WikiEducator values.
  • Under Ground Rules (The Process): Note that the chosen method for communicating among Workgroup members should be consistent with the values of WikiEducator. That is,:
    • Be transparent: any WikiEducator member must be able to read and access the communications.
    • Be open:
      1. any WikiEducator member must be able to contribute to the discussions, and
      2. communications must use open file formats: contributors should not be required to purchase non-free software in order to participate in the discussions.
    • Be licensed as free content: CC-BY, or CC-BY-SA or published under a public domain declaration.
    • Be easily accessible by all: conducted in one location, with clearly identified links on your Workgroup page to where the discussions are taking place.
  • Under Resources: Respond to the following, in determining the resources required:
    1. Does this Workgroup require financial resources?
    2. Are there any legal issues that might be of concern?
    3. Does this Workgroup impact on community governance issues?
    4. Are there any technological dependencies or technological related security risks which might be difficult to support?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, provide an explanation of the requirement or impact as well as any proposed solutions. In addition, the Workgroup's charter will need to be approved by the WikiEducator Community Council before you can formally constitute a Community Workgroup. However, in the case of technology related workgroups, if three members of the WikiEducator Technical Group, including at least one of our Server Administrators, are signed-up participants of the respective Community Workgroup, WikiEducator Community Council approval of the Workgroup charter is not required.

Formal constitution of a Community Workgroup

The intent of this policy is to provide mechanisms and authority for WikiEducator members to convene and constitute Workgroups for the development of community-wide guidelines and policies without unnecessary bureaucracy or hierarchical delays. The WikiEducator Community Council is responsible for the stewardship of the Communitys' "formal and informal structures, rules and procedures that guide the activities of the WikiEducator initiative including the fiduciary responsibilities associated with good governance incorporating both economic and societal responsibilities for the custodianship of our community ethos, values and purposes"[4].

As an open wiki project, the WikiEducator Community Council as a governance body, is not required, nor has the authority, to make value judgements on the substance of operational policy or guideline proposals. All Council members are free to sign up as participants of any Community Workgroup in their capacity as members of the WikiEducator community. For this reason, this policy enables any member of the community to establish a Workgroup under the minimum criteria which are designed to ensure transparency and due democratic process. Policy or guideline proposals which do not meet these minimum criteria will be deferred back to the Workgroup concerned.

A Workgroup initiated for the development of community-wide guidelines or policy is formally constituted when the following criteria have been met:

  1. The Community Workgroup was formed according to the procedures for initiating a workgroup listed above.
  2. A minimum of three WikiEducator members are signed, active participants of the Workgroup with at least one of the workgroup participants having recorded more than 500 edits on WikiEducator.
  3. A minimum period of 30 calendar days was provided from the date of the community announcement on the WikiEducator list before approvals of the charter by signed participants of the Workgroup.
  4. A majority of signed members of the Workgroup approved the charter, provided that voting participants signed up before casting their votes for approval. (This means that WikiEducator members are free to sign up as active Workgroup participants within the 30 day period specified above.)
  5. All Workgroup participants provide and list an active email account.
  6. All discussions and decisions are recorded openly and transparently in the wiki.
  7. In the case of a Workgroup that will result in technological dependencies or technology security issues, three members of the WikiEducator Technical Group including at least one of our Server Administrators MUST be signed up as participants of the workgroup. Technology workgroup members have the right to table a minority position for consideration by Council in the event where consensus cannot be achieved. In the case of technology related Workgroups, prior to the submission of the proposal for ratification by Council, the WikiEducator Technical Group should confirm their consensus among members of the Technical Workgroup including those members who did not participate as members of the workgroup concerned.
  8. The work group will NOT result in legal, financial or changes to existing governance polices. If so, the WikiEducator Community Council is required to approve the charter prior to formal constitution of the Community Workgroup.

A formally constituted Community Workgroup has the authority to develop community-wide policy and guideline proposals for approval and ratification by the WikiEducator Community Council.

Making decisions

Community Workgroups must use the consensus decision-making process.

In the event that a Workgroup is unable to achieve consensus, the difference of opinion and relative support for the contesting views needs to be included in the report submitted to the WikiEducator Community Council for consideration. Council may decide to 1) refer the document back to the Workgroup with suggestions on how consensus may be achieved, or 2) set up a community-wide referendum, e.g., in the case of an essential decision with significant impact on all WikiEducator members.

Community Workgroups at work

Some Community Workgroups may be short-lived, e.g., a Workgroup charged with the creation and implementation of a specific narrowly-focused policy, completing their work easily in the scheduled timeframe. Others may be charged with crafting a complex policy or the stewardship of an ever-evolving aspect of WikiEducator, requiring more substantial support and maintenance efforts over the lifetime of the group.

Making a submission to Council

WE expect that the first output for most Community Workgroups will be one or more policies or sets of guidelines to define their area of work. All proposed policies and guidelines must be submitted to the WikiEducator Community Council for approval and ratification. Council's sole purpose in approving policy and guideline proposals is to ensure transparency and due democratic process.

To make a submission to Council:

  • Add a section for the Workgroup's outputs (e.g., "Workgroup proposal for policy & guidelines for..." under "New Business" in the agenda for the upcoming Council meeting.
  • Include links to 1) the Workgroup charter, 2) the Workgroup report, and 3) the proposed policies and/or guidelines.

See this example of a Council agenda: Second WCC meeting.

The Workgroup Report

All Community Workgroups are required to prepare a summary report of activities to accompany the submission to Council of proposed policy and guidelines. The report should be linked as a subpage of the relevant Workgroup and presented with the submission to the WikiEducator Community Council. The purpose of the report is to summarise progress and achievements for WikiEducator members who were not active participants of the WorkGroup. The report should:

  • Contain an executive summary.
  • State the purposes of the Workgroup.
  • Confirm official approval of the Charter in accordance with this policy including a summary of the group members' relevant experience.
  • List the outputs achieved by the Workgroup, including any specified outputs which were not achieved.
  • Report on the completion of project tasks as specified in the project plan, detailing any slippage on planned project dates.
  • Contain links to relevant wiki pages as well as the community notifications posted on the main WikiEducator list.
  • Document any minority opinions or issues where consensus was difficult to achieve, providing the reasons and how the differences were resolved.
  • Include a brief reflection on lessons learned to assist future Community Workgroups.
  • Include a formal request to the WikiEducator Community Council to approve and ratify the policy.

Response from Council

Implementing new policy and guidelines

With the approval by Council as recorded by voting on the respective motion by Council, new policy and guidelines are ready for implementation. Up until this point, the proposed policy or guidelines document exists as a subpage under the Community Workgroup's main page. To activate a new policy or set of guidelines (performed by the Community Workgroup):

  • Move the approved new policy or guidelines page to the WikiEducator namespace.
  • Document the effective date of the policy as per resolution by Council and notification by Chair of the respective Council meeting (The effective date is deemed to be the date which the Chair of Council confirms the outcome of the motion to approve by public resolution on the relevant wiki page).
  • Add the page to Category:WikiEducator policies and guidelines.
  • Post to the main WikiEducator list announcing and providing a summary of the new policy.

Being responsive to changing conditions

Wiki's are dynamic and participative communities. Community Workgroups are responsible and accountable to respond to changing conditions. In the event that circumstances change necessitating substantive revisions to a Workgroup's plans, processes or activities these revisions should be implemented and communicated openly and transparently to the WikiEducator community.

When substantive changes to a Workgroup's charter are necessary, the revised charter must be approved in accordance with the procedures for charter approval adhering to proper notice and minimum time periods for approvals.

Making substantive revisions to a Workgroup's charter

Circumstances may change during the life-cycle of a Workgroup, requiring substantive revisions to the charter, for example: where the Workgroup has underestimated the scope of the task necessitating material changes to the project plan; where it becomes clear that participation in the Workgroup activities has been less than optimal taking into account the significance or impact of the Workgroup's tasks; or where it appears unlikely that the Workgroup will achieve consensus on a substantive concern, a revision to the charter may avert a deadlock or impasse situation.

In cases requiring substantive revisions to a previously approved charter, the following steps are required:

  1. Any Workgroup member can propose a substantive revision and should consult with Workgroup members regarding their proposal.
  2. The Workgroup collaborates in revising the Workgroup charter to address the proposal, copying the original to a subpage for historical record and including a link to the subpage on the active charter page.
  3. Assuming general consensus about the proposed revisions, the Workgroup convenor (or a designate) must:
    • Prepare a statement summarising the main changes to the Charter and explaining the reasons for the substantive revision.
    • Post a notification to the main WikiEducator list specifying the summary and reasons for the changes and the date for approval of the revised charter which should not be less than 15 days from this announcement.
    • Contact all group members requesting approval of the revised charter by the specified date, under a new subheading in the approval section, entitled "Approval of substantive revision of charter dated ..." (Earlier approvals should not be deleted and the statement of reasons and changes must be included under this heading.)
  4. Workgroup activities continue in accordance with the revised charter.
  5. The Workgroup incorporates the processes for substantive revisions in the Workgroup report.


The appendix section of a policy or guidelines document does not form part of an approved policy. It is used as a place holder for proposed sections, revisions or improvements to a policy to distinguish drafts from the current policy.

Proposed subsections

Identifying Workgroups that need assistance (for inclusion under the "Community Workgroups at work" subsection)

Providing assistance to Workgroups (for inclusion under the "Community Workgroups at work" subsection)


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons-based_peer_production
  2. D. Tapscott & A. D. Williams (2006). Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. Online: http://www.wikinomics.com/book/)
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_charter, accessed 8 July 2009
  4. Definition of governance from WikiEducator's Open Community Governance Policy
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