Just to sum things up - the mood at the Mumbai/Pune community was 
extremely gloomy when we received the first Chapter email with the 
framework. After all this was a Community initiative which we requested 
the chapter to back. We never expected so much bureaucracy. However, the
 clarification from the Chapter did clear up a lot of bad air yesterday 
and after this positive step from the Chapter we look forward to ironing
 out all the differences and having a good working relationship with the

We appeal not only the Chapter but also to Communities across India to publicly 
support us in this initiative.
Kind Regards,

On behalf of the Mumbai and Pune Community

Date: Thu, 9 Jun 2011 11:03:14 +0530
From: ashwin.bain...@gmail.com
To: wikimediaindia-l@lists.wikimedia.org
CC: wikimedia-in-...@lists.wikimedia.org; wikimedia-in-...@lists.wikimedia.org
Subject: [Wikimediaindia-l] Community-Chapter Relations

The national chapter recently informed the community about its Membership and 
Community engagement plan -June 2011. 

In that document, the regulatory framework for conduct of Wikiconferences was 

Shortly thereafter, a clarification was issued.

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 

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 

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 

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 -

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 
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

Wikimediaindia-l mailing list
Wikimediaindia-l mailing list

Reply via email to