On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 06:54, Michael Snow<wikipe...@verizon.net> wrote:

> case.) The basic question is, what can or should we do to encourage
> grassroots groups that want to support our mission, but may not fit into
> the chapters framework?

As an answer to this question, I would say yes. My nuances come later.

> There are various possibilities here. One example is interest groups
> that aren't tied to geography, the way the chapters are. I always cite
> the idea of an Association of Blind Wikipedians, who might wish to
> organize to promote work on accessibility issues. As with the Brazilian
> situation, informal groups could also fit local conditions better
> sometimes, or serve as a proto-chapter stage of development. Maybe
> there's a benefit in having an association with some durability and
> continuation, but without going to the effort of incorporation and
> formal agreements on trademarks and such. It could also make sense to
> have an organization form for a specific project and then disband after
> it is completed, such as with Wikimania (somebody can correct me if I'm
> wrong, but I understand the Gdansk team is planning something like this
> as distinct from Wikimedia Polska).

I think it's important to keep in mind the implications of supporting
Wikimedia. These implications fall, in my opinion, in two categories:
- Use of the trademark
- Financial flow (access to specific grants, fundraising)

I see three scenarii:

1) informal national chapters or "chapters to be":
There are countries in the world where starting a chapter in the way
it is defined today is an endeavour that makes little sense, for
political, cultural, philosophical, financial or administrative

Here I'll make a difference between  informal local/national groups
(will never be a chapter) and chapters to be (aims at becoming a

For informal national groups, it is important that the Wikimedia
Foundation supports grassroot initiatives that aim at supporting the
Wikimedia projects. If the work stays informal, and there is no need
for any kind of formality (plan wikimeets, intervene in conferences,
that kind of grassroot public outreach), then the support from the
Foundation could be minimal, such as maybe a letter of introduction
for someone wanting to participate in a conference in a specific
If, on the other hand, the need shows up for a formal kind of
"representation", there are probably many ways to explore on how a
group of Wikimedians could integrate an existing structure (some other
NGO with similar goals) in order to enter a formal agreement with the
WMF re: trademarks and/or fundraising. I believe we could develop some
kind of "partnership agreeement with third party non-profits" which
would allow active Wikimedians who are not able or willing to form a
chapter to intensify outreach in some kind of structured way, under a
"Wikimedia banner".

For "chapters to be", I think the same could happen, with the idea
that the grassroot initiative wants to take some time to develop into
a working national chapter. Growing initiatives with the help of an
existing structure could be a good first step towards "chapteriality",
and it is important that the WMF follow those initiatives and help the
members who wish to develop the best way of founding a chapter by
developing ideas in another context.

What I don't see, in either of these cases, is an "informal group"
with the same objectives of fundraising and potentially trademark
usage that stays completely informal. Of course, national legislations
may vary, but in the end, in order to protect the trademark and
reputation of Wikimedia, it seems to be very hard to have constantly
renewed individuals being the "Wikimedia flagship" in one country or
the other.

2) Specific events/projects
I don't know about the Gdansk team and whether they have indeed
decided to set up an ephemeral organisation, but I suppose it would
make sense, in the case of a defined event, or project, to do
something of the kind. Again, I suppose legal jurisdictions have
different ways of going about this. This said, for such cases, the WMF
could also enter some kind of clear agreement which allows the
ephemeral group to use the trademarks and fundraise (or find sponsors
as for Wikimania) for a specific project.

3) Trans-national interest groups.
I remember us discussing wildly the "Association of blind Wikipedians"
;-). It's a good example, as is a potential "Wikimedia Catalunya" and
this kind of transnational grassroot initiative is probably the
hardest case.
Of course, as Thomas Dalton said later in this thread, we can't really
(and shouldn't have to) prevent a "Wiki for the blind" organisation to
see the light of day. The question comes when this organisation starts
to fundraise using the fact that they're going to help the Wikimedia
projects and thus comes, to some extent, in competition with existing
organisations (chapters and the Foundation). The question is really,
at which point is there "actual competition"?

I have researched a bit, while looking at the "catalan case" and my
conclusion is that such interest groups might be able to fundraise
where national chapters and the Foundation can't. It is impossible
(and in any case not desirable) for Wikimedia France or Wikimedia
Italia (and one day Wikimedia Spain) to change their bylaws to focus
on "catalan" in order to attract some grants that would be only be
given to such interest groups or to fundraise in the interested part
of the population.

It is, however, easy and desirable that chapters and Foundation
support those groups as much as they can, whether by lending them
moral and even logistical support or by becoming full partners in
their endeavours. This could be done on a case by case basis (The
Association of Blind Wikipedians decides to fundraise to make
Mediawiki fully usable and that initiative is launched with the
partnership of the WMFoundation) or on the longer term (The
Association of Catalan Wiki Users is recognized by WM France, WM
Italia and WM España as a long-term partner). We could for this take
as an example the UNESCO partnership/recognition scheme. [1]

The important thing here being that the more "antennas" we have out
there which can attract funds otherwise not available to existing
Wikimedia organisations is a Good Thing (tm). As long as these funds
are used to promote our mission and goals and support our projects, it
does not matter "who" gets them.

> Anyway, I would like to invite ideas and discussion on this. Is this
> something we should do? What kinds of models are people interested in?
> How should we appropriately recognize and work with volunteer-organized
> groups? And in all of this, how would we make it both distinct from and
> compatible with the current structure of chapter organizations?

So to summarize my ideas:
- Case by case recognition of grassroot groups for informal outreach
(letters of recommandation if needed)
- Partnership agreeement with third party non-profits for
local/national groups which integrate existing structures and perform
outreach for Wikimedia within those structures.
- Joint formal support from existing chapters/the Foundation for
transnational initiatives, partnership conventions on a case by case
basis and maybe even a partnership scheme such as that of the UNESCO.



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