Now that Wikimedia's Executive Director is leaving, a central point of
contention has been resolved. But as many have said, the "real work" of
getting back on track comes next. I have been thinking about what the next
specific steps should be, and I have some suggestions here. I present these
points very directly, in order to be concise and in the hopes of hearing
the perspectives of others. In other words -- I think this is a good list,
but I'm open to persuasion -- as I think we all are in this community. I
look forward to hearing from others who take a broad view of where this
movement and organization are, and where we need to go. And of course, much
of what I say below is inspired by previous messages from people like
Brion, Delphine, Asaf, Milos, etc. Anyhow, on to some specifics suggestions:

1. The Board of Trustees should clearly establish that the interim
Executive Director position is NOT a fast-track to the long-term position.
While it may be tempting to ease the search for a long-term ED, I think the
greatest need from an interim is that they will bring some stability and
order back to the organization. An interim shouldn't be introducing big new
ideas, and shouldn't be distracted that they might need to introduce big
new ideas once the position becomes permanent; they will have enough work
to do just getting things back on track. This point should be made clear to
interim candidates, and also to the staff and volunteer communities at

2. The Board should rethink the job listing of the long-term ED. As I
argued in an op-ed in 2014,[2] the single most important quality in an ED
for our movement is an ability to deal with broad and diverse groups of
stakeholders. This is a skill that exists in the world, it is not unique to
Wikimedia; many people who have been successful in roles like running a
university, a hospital system, working for change in a broad social
movement, etc. will have developed this kind of skill. Technical
proficiency would be valuable if a good candidate happens to have it; same
with an existing familiarity with Wikimedia. But neither technical
proficiency nor Wikimedia experience should be regarded as requirements.
The former can be delegated, and the latter can be learned (by a person
with the right kind of background).

3. The Board should set up the next long-term ED for success. Any good
candidate for the ED position will research what happened the last time
around, and will have pointed questions about how they are being set up for
success. It might be tempting for some to place the entire blame for where
we are with the departing ED; but that would be neither fair nor accurate,
and any smart candidate will be able to see that from the news coverage and
other public records and any private discussions they may have. So,

3a. Changes to Board composition: Are there remaining members of the Board
whose approach to the last job search, and/or whose engagement with the
departing ED, pointed things in the wrong direction? If so, it might be
best for them to step aside and make room for other Trustees to try a
different direction. I make this suggestion mainly because of the tiny
number of individuals who populate the Board -- not as a personal criticism
of individuals. Stepping aside need not be equated with "guilt" or other
negative judgments; but since there are very few Board seats, it might be
more important for it to forge ahead with different membership, than to
attempt to adjust its internal relationships and deliberative dynamics AND
to adjust the external perceptions (whether accurate or not) of who is
driving the train.

3b. The Board should consider changes to its hiring process. How are
candidates moved through the process? How are they evaluated? Are these
processes respectful of their time and efforts? Good candidates can be
lost, or the evaluation of them can be flawed, if (for instance) the
process is not respectful of their time and effort; if there are changes
during the process in the expectations, or in who will be making decisions
to narrow the field or making the final choice.

3c. The Board should thoroughly and publicly debrief the problems of the
last year or so. I believe this will only be possible if the Board -- which
clearly made some errors in judgment -- is not driving the process. Many
questions remain, not least of which is why Dr. James Heilman was ousted
shortly after being elected with strong community support. I believe an
external entity should be engaged, in a way that makes it clear that their
purpose is to support healing and learning generally, not to appease the
current Board. We have some experience in the movement around this; the
Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia UK, for instance, commissioned a report
by an external entity a few years ago.[3c] Some were happier than others
with that outcome, but if nothing else it establishes a precedent to
consider, and perhaps improve upon. Also, the FDC's strong critiques of the
WMF in November 15 provide a good example of what a somewhat external
entity can do; I think it is a good thing that its critiques have been
heard by WMF, and it seems there is progress on addressing the issues. So
this, too, might provide some good food for thought about how to debrief
the present collection of issues.

3d. The Board should consider changes to its structure. This has been under
much discussion elsewhere; I think these discussions are important, so I
include it here, but I don't think it's *as* important as what I've
mentioned above. Trustees, regardless of how they get to the Board, are
obligated to work in the best interests of the organization (and therefore,
as many of us believe, in the interests of the volunteer community, without
whom the organization could not survive in anything like its current form).
The problems that have gotten us to where we are result from poor
decisions, not from the wrong structure. So, while this may be a good
opportunity to make some structural changes, we should not allow that
project to distract from careful evaluation of the specific decisions. The
one change that I most hope for is that we can eliminate the Founder's Seat
in favor of another community-(s)elected seat. I think the idea of a
permanent seat, with reappointment that looks (at least from the outside)
like a mere formality, is not consistent with our movement's values. This
point is not about who occupies the seat -- if Jimmy Wales were to run for
a Community seat I think it is very likely he would win. But it would be
worthwhile for everybody involved to have a reminder that his ongoing
service to the movement is the basis of his position, rather than something
he did in the past.

4. The Wikimedia Foundation should continue its efforts to build a
strategic plan and annual plans, and should pay particular attention to the
dynamics that caused so much strife in recent months -- and whether there
are adjustments to these documents that can help avoid similar problems in
the future.

5. Those of use who care about the future direction of the Wikimedia
movement should build a long-term strategic vision *for the movement*, now
that the one produced in 2010 has expired. This process should be
independent of the organizational strategy, though strong overlap will be a
good indicator that we are moving in the right direction. As a movement, we
gained some skills in thinking about long-term strategy back in 2010, and
we should continue to exercise those muscles, and deliberate what are the
most important issues we face, and how we want to think about them. SJ
recently created a page on Meta Wiki to support these efforts.[5]

As stressful as the last few months have been, it seems clear that there is
a silver lining: we are in a good position to make positive changes. I have
been impressed -- and I have heard the same from others -- with the ability
of our community (staff members, volunteers, etc.) to keep their focus on
moving forward, in spite of the obvious stress of recent events. Most of
the communication on this list and elsewhere has been thoughtful,
diplomatic, and (even when critical) focused not on insults and derision,
but on what should happen to improve things in the future. I am very
hopeful that this ethos can survive, so that we can make some changes that
will support the continued health of the projects that bring us together. I
look forward to hearing more about the next steps from others.


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