Proposal:Improve WMF-chapter relationships

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  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


This proposal suggests a process to improve the Foundation-Chapter relationships. It can be considered as a sub-proposal of Proposal:Make Wikimedia scale.


The problems that WMF and chapters are facing can be devided roughly in two.

  • The first category is the actual "problems": things that are happening, but one of the parties is not happy with it, things that are not happening but should be
  • The second category is the "communicational problems", based on bad communication. These problems are partially imagined or intensified by misrepresentation of facts (intentional or not) and partially just a miscommunication, mistranslation or cultural misunderstanding.
"actual problems"
These problems are tough to handle, and wide in variety. However, the first step should be to identify them. The Chapters and/or WMF seem to have the habit to keep their problems with each other inside for a long time before spitting it out. In this time, they intensify, and get a component of the second category, making things more complicated and harder to solve. There should be a process of identification of the actual problems by both parties, and a regular conversation to do this and to resolve them as much as possible. The board and staff should clearly state that they are willing to face these disagreements and are willing to resolve them with the chapters in a way that satisfies both. At the same time, the chapters should overcome their shyness and share their worries instead of complaining within their own group.
"communicational problems"
Many problems are caused by partial or no information. The chapters do not know where the Foundation is going, the Foundation is not aware of what the chapters are doing, and can't anticipate to this. The foundation and chapters should identify current communications, and what could be improved on that. Best practices can be exchanged (such as the chapters reports) and it should be clarified what kind of information would be preferred. Both should try to learn more from each others' workings. A chapters liaison on the WMF staff could be helpful in this context to some extent, but also a short course "how do chapters work" might be helpful, although this requires the cooperation by the chapters.
Considering that the chapters are working with volunteers, who have to remain motivated, and the WMF is staffed by experts in their field, it would make sense to let the WMF make some initial gestures to motivate the chapter volunteers to do their part as well.

Some examples of potential problems that could be identified and resolved:

  • The chapters feel that their structure is not sufficiently understood by the staff
  • The chapters feel that the foundation is only interested in their own interest, and not of the movement as a whole
  • The chapters feel that the foundation is not recognizing that a chapter is doing "good stuff"
  • There is no clear definition/recognition of responsibility
  • ...

Some examples of potential suggestions/solutions to solve problems:

  • The acknowledgement that WMF is not the only/main representative of the Wikimedia movement.
  • The acknowledgement that WMF owns the trademarks as a service to the Wikimedia movement (they must have only one legal holder).
  • The acknowledgement that WMF and local chapters are separate and independent organizations, each with different valuable functions and experiences.
  • The acknowledgement that WMF and local chapters must cooperate, share experiences etc. as peers.
  • The acknowledgement that WMF is the global hub to keep server running, develop software, take on legal duties for the websites, etc.
  • The acknowledgement that the chapter is the main local representative of the Wikimedia movement (what about USA?).
  • The ability for the chapters to do what they are: to act as part of the Wikimedia movement, for the good of the Wikimedia movement, in cooperation with the Wikimedia movement (including WMF).
    • The ability to do public outreach and to support Wikimedia projects in their country, also using trademarks (e.g. on websites, leaflets).
    • The ability to promote membership printing t-shirts and whatever with every Wikimedia trademark.
    • The ability to fundraise as a Wikimedia chapter.


At least by some Chapter volunteers, the Foundation-chapter relationships are considered to be deteriorating. To build on a sustainable international network of chapters, these relations will have to be improved.

Key Questions

  • How does the WMF staff currently view the chapters
  • How do the chapters view the WMF
  • What are the problems
  • Which are communicational, which are real problems
  • How can communication be improved
  • What is a good system to decrease or identify earlier the future problems
  • How can the WMF help to keep the chapter volunteers motivated

Potential Costs

  • WMF Staff time
  • Chapter volunteers/board/staff time
  • Travel costs for meetings on specific topics to show seriousness and involvement


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Improve WMF-chapter relationships.

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