The national chapter recently informed the community about its Membership and Community engagement plan -June 2011.
http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2011-June/003346.html In that document, the regulatory framework for conduct of Wikiconferences was released. http://wiki.wikimedia.in/India_Wiki_Conference_Framework Shortly thereafter, a clarification was issued. http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2011-June/003378.html Members of the community must be puzzled at the need for clarification from the Chapter on the issues of its regulatory framework when there was no discussion online. This is because the recent announcement of the framework, in conjunction with other issues, led to the community believing that the chapter had forsaken it. A little history - the idea for a Wikiconference was mooted way back in March by the Mumbai community and they asked the Pune community to co-host it to which the Pune community agreed. As India now has a national chapter, we naturally asked for their support more than two months ago. For more than two months they were silent. Yesterday, they responded saying that the community was invited to submit their proposal, duly modified as per the said framework, and resubmit it for consideration with other bids. The cavaliar treatment of the serious efforts put in to date by the communities and the contents of the Framework of Regulations were disturbing to the community. At the face off it, one may just consider the Regulatory Framework as just another logical and reasonable document, but its language, text and subtext upset the community, in light of Chapter's attitude. The first and over-riding issue was the type of language used and its indication of the relation between chapter and communities. We all know that the Wikimedia Foundation encourages national chapters so that the community and creation of knowledge by them is facilitated. However, the language herein clearly gives a message - that the Indian chapter is boss and all Indian wikimedian communities are subservient to it. While that is a great inequity in itself, the community was also aggrieved that the framework has been foisted on them without discussion, without any attempt to get them to participate and buy in into the plan, without community consensus and without any consideration of the community's interests. This feudalistic attitude is considered to be an anachronism in volunteer driven communities of the 21st Centuries especially in India. So, no matter whether the framework is good or bad, sensible or not, the approach to the community taken by the chapter is to be firmly objected to and resisted. The Mumbai & Pune community supports the chapter, and have defended the chapter on number of occasions in email discussions. Members of the two communities have enthusiastically joined the chapter once membership opened. A member of the Mumbai and a member of the Pune community are the first two members to join by NEFT and physical cheque. To the best of my knowledge 24 members from Pune joined the chapter in response to Arjuna Rao Chavala's appeal for member ships when he came last month to our Pune meetup. We earnestly believe that India needs an active, sympathetic, facilitative and supportive chapter. We look forward to heartily cooperating with such a chapter - alas, the chapter's latest tune was nothing of that kind. It seemed to be indicative of wanting power and to dominate. The third issue, were the "black" provisions of the framework. Each of the sentences seemed to imply negative connotations for the community. To give you some examples of the "black" provisions - Example one - Finance The responsibilities of the Host city team included "Fund raising", whereas the corresponding responsibility of the Chapter Team was "Responsible for facilitating financial operations and accountability for finances for the event". The message conveyed was that the community was responsible for raiising funds but only the chapter was allowed to decide how it was spent. No commitment of raising monetary support was made by the chapter for the event. Example two - Logistics The responsibility for the "Host city team" is mentioned as being "responsible for City logistics in terms of Venue, local transportation, stay assistance". However, the city community was to be given no say in the decision-making i.e. organisation of the programme, guest list, expenditure etc. The OC head was to be some person of chapter Executive Committee. That meant, the community had to do the hard work but the chapter would take credit. If the conference succeeded, it was the chapter's moment of glory. Whereas if the conference failed, the communities would be blamed. Example three - Venue After three months of spade work by Mumbai-Pune, when no other city had shown any inclination to take up the project, the chapter thanked the city community for the "proposal", came up with this framework, asks the city to make changes as per the framework and resubmit it for consideration within two weeks or so. Then, all proposals/bids would be considered by the chapter and the decision communicated. For two months, the community waited with bated breath for the chapter's response and was floored when it eventually came. There were no emails of encouragement, no saying "we support you", no saying "great job guys, lets give it to Mumbai-Pune this time, next time, cities can bid". The community, not surprisingly, were forced to construe such a response as lack of support by the chapter. So what was to be done? The community was furious at being treated this way. They could not acquiese to this kind of 'fatwa' type of decision-making by the chapter. It was felt that if the community accepted this state of affairs this time around, it would act as a precedent and set the tone for all future interactions between community and chapter. So, we indicated to the chapter informally through various people that this sort of thing just will not do. We were prepared for a confrontation on matter of principle. However, thanks to various third party back-of-the-scenes attempts, the chapter is now beginning to realise this. A member of the chapter Executive Committee has given a clarification. You can read it here - http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimediaindia-l/2011-June/003378.html The community's demands are few and equitable. Firstly, treat us like equals and stakeholders. Amongst us, chapter will then be first among equals. The community will not accept any other form of relationship. The second request is always ask our opinion before issuing policy especially for a thing like Wikiconference which has not been conducted before. The chapter must be consultative and facilitative of the community. The community will not accept orders by fiat. Lastly, this present framework will not do. We need a framework which gives autonomy to the Organising Committee to successfully pull off an event of this scale and nature. While organising this Wikiconference, the community is willing to develop a sensible, practical framework which can be debated and finalised after the event is over. In this manner best practices and lessons learnt will be incorporated. We felt that you as a community member should know what was going on and what happened and how we responded to it. Our next step is to list the issues concerning how the Wikiconference should be conducted and discuss them on the list. At present, an active discussion on this is going on between Pune and Mumbai communities off-list. In the meantime, we invite the chapter to Mumbai where these issues can be discussed amicably face to face and resolved. We thank all those who spoke out in favour of the community. Please write back with your views and support as this concerns every one of us. Ashwin Baindur
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