Board of Trustees

I am running again for a term on the WMF Board of Trustees, in a heavily contested election with some great candidates, one of the best slates I’ve seen in years.

My statement is here. Space constraints, or maybe my own lack of creativity, meant that I didn’t really elaborate on what’s important to me as Board priorities, but the many community questions have gotten me thinking about this.

What do I want the Board to do, and where can I help?

  • Support and guide the Executive Director: this is a major part of our role that we don’t talk about as much. I was on the hiring committee for this ED, and thus have insight into how complex the role is and ways in which the Board and ED interplay. And this is a role where I think I can continue to help: both by sharing my Wikipedia & academic experience, and asking the right questions at the right time.
  • Set up our long-term financial future: this means an endowment (which we’ve started planning for) and long-term investment strategies. I’ve been a steady and strong voice for an endowment over several years, and the organization will need trustees committed to this goal to help make it happen.
  • Assessing our strategies and helping figure out what our work should look like in major areas: engineering, communications, public policy advocacy. This is our crucial, ongoing role.
  • Overall, helping the organization not be defensive, but rather open in the face of criticisms and problems; to see the volunteers of our editing communities and affiliates as partners in a shared mission. Most of the recent criticisms of the WMF boil down to not doing this.
  • To help us be creative and strategic about what’s next. What’s the future of Wikipedia and Wikimedia? We need people able to really deeply think about this question, or who have already done so.

Here’s a few more things: I believe continuity is important, including for the elected trustees. I saw a comment somewhere that surely it didn’t matter if 3 seats out of the 10 had continuity. That assumes of course that all the rest of the seats are stable, which is not a good assumption: appointed trustees might step down, affiliated-selected seats may also turn over. But having trustees that have served for a while in addition to new trustees is important, because it takes a year or two just to get up to speed, and longer-serving trustees are in a better position to help lead the Board, including as chair and vice-chair.

We need women on this Board. That doesn’t mean you need to elect me, per se, but like Maria I am disappointed that we are the only two women running.

We need articulate readers, writers and thinkers on the Board — this is by far the most important quality trustees need. Fortunately, I think all of the candidates qualify. But it’s worth remembering that our job is digesting complex documents and presentations, in context, giving feedback, and then moving on. We don’t usually have endless discussions, Wikipedia-style. We also don’t ever have enough time to discuss everything we want to, so prioritization and clarity is important.

Candidates should know that they can only really affect change in what the WMF does if they get all the other trustees and ED to see things their way, which means an ability to be persuasive and come to consensus is important.

Candidates should also know that, as I wrote in one of my answers, they will be held responsible by our (committed, critical, wonderful) community for decisions they did not make or that they disagree with. This is the nature of the job.

I wish there were a way to give all candidates a chance to sit in on a Board meeting — it might be a different experience from what they are imagining. (Or not!) That would be an idea for the future, actually: to have a couple of open online board meetings, where we would conduct some business and have candidates sit in.

At any rate, if you’re eligible, please do vote, and I’m glad that there are such good candidates this time.

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