GovCom minutes 2020-11-26

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Wikimedia UK GovCom Meeting Minutes, Thursday 26th November 2020, 4-5.30pm



Nick Poole, Lorna Campbell, Rod Ward, Rosie Campbell. Staff: Lucy Crompton-Reid, Katie Crampton.



Declarations of interest relating to matters on the agenda

RC noted that she chairs the steering group for the Charity Governance Code, which is due to be discussed at this meeting.

Minutes of last GovCom meeting


Matters arising that are not covered elsewhere

NP asked if the September board and away day achieved what LCR and GovCom wanted it to. LCR said it achieved what she hoped it would, but ultimately it’s the board’s away day and she would be keen to hear from the trustees who attended whether they felt that it was of value. RW agreed that it was a success, but that it felt very different to last year’s away day (which was held in person at Eynsham Hall). LC couldn’t make the away day this year and LCR noted that we need to factor in school holidays in Scotland when planning the 2021 dates. NP thanked GovCom for feedback and agreed that he felt the meeting went well. The purpose of the away day - which came halfway through our current strategic plan - wasn’t for the board to reinvent the wheel, but to enhance and improve the strategy, and he felt it was successful in that objective.

Meeting schedule and format for 2021, including AGM and away day

LCR outlined the current board and subcommittee meeting schedule, which includes two evening meetings in June and December, one Saturday board meeting in March, and a September weekend which combines an evening board meeting and a day time away day. The AGM usually takes place in July. She invited comments on whether this schedule was working. LC said that the board schedule works well, and she’s never felt there’s not enough time to discuss items, it’s just tricky to get to from Scotland. LC’s experience of the board meetings has been much better with the digital format rather than hybrid, and the evening meetings work quite well. RW said that the evening meetings can feel a bit rushed, and also a bit repetitive, because we have all the reports to get through which often squeezes out time for the more discursive items at the end. LCR suggested that we could put the discussion items earlier in the agenda, but noted that reports from the executive and subcommittees were essential in order for the board to fulfil its monitoring role. LCR also suggested that the evening meetings could possibly be scheduled to start earlier as we don’t have to account for travel time.

GovCom agreed that the current schedule works, we just need to decide how much we want online vs offline. NP said online works very well, but we do need the social opportunities to come together once a year. LC agreed that the ethical considerations of our carbon footprint and being considerate of those with care responsibilities makes online favourable for the majority of meetings. RW added that it’s considerably cheaper for room rental and travel to host meetings online.

GovCom approved putting forward a schedule for 2021 with similar timings and dates to this year, with the default being online meetings, but planning for one in person gathering for the board meeting and away day in September (assuming that this is possible in terms of Covid-19). GovCom will review this again at the end of next year.

Trustee code of conduct

LCR recapped that at the September away day, one of the emerging actions was to review the trustee code of conduct, but that the board had felt strongly that this needed to wait until the Universal Code of Conduct had been finalised. The Universal Code of Conduct is currently on Meta but is in draft and hasn’t yet been approved by the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees. LCR is therefore planning to present a draft WMUK trustee code of conduct at the March govcom meeting. She added that this will require adherence to the Universal Code of Conduct in trustees’ onwiki interactions, with additional expectations in terms of behaviour and conduct (based on the current code).  

NP asked if we feel we are doing enough when there are very impassioned voices telling us they feel Wiki is hostile, particularly from women. LCR agreed that while any online community has ugly behaviour and the WMUK trustee code of conduct isn’t going to fix that, it would at least empower us to take action against unacceptable behaviour from trustees. The issue of implementing the Universal Code of Conduct for all contributors is far more challenging, and something that doesn’t lie within Wikimedia UK’s control.

RW said that the mismatch between the Wikimedia Foundation and the editing community is unclear, as is the relationship between the community and Wikimedia UK. He noted that on the admins incident board there are about 20-30 incidents reported a day. LC said that the whole organism will never not be complicated, and that neither the board nor the staff of WMUK can be held accountable for hostile admins and editors. However, there’s a targeted group of people, and while we can’t police that there are possibly steps that we can take to help those that are being targeted. There was a discussion of several prominent women within the Wikimedia community that have been the subject of targeted harassment and/or vandalism, and some of the actions that staff have taken to support these women; mainly in a volunteer capacity. We can’t rely on staff using their own free time to try to address individual situations, and the charity itself should be able to signpost people to more help. LCR noted however that we have received criticism in the past for sharing advice and guidance on how to deal with harassment, as the systems themselves were felt to be inadequate. NP said it would be useful to know the boundaries of our influence and relationship. LC shared a link to the University of Edinburgh’s Digital Safety and Citizenship resources.
 They’re all open licensed and mainly point to existing online resources. LCR suggested that the community page on our new website could have a safety section on it including resources and signposting.

Charity Governance Code

RC is the Chair of the steering group for the Charity Governance Code and gave a short presentation on the work that’s been undertaken recently to refresh the integrity and diversity principles. Changes to the integrity principle see a shift of focus from protecting the reputation of charity, to a charity upholding its values and principles. RC noted - particularly within the context of the previous discussion - that this includes charities respecting people’s right to feel safe, and promoting a culture for everyone to feel respected. She suggested that in the WMUK website update we should link to the guidelines within the code about the right to feel safe and respected.

On the second theme of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, RC noted that having a clear aim and approach to achieving these underpins good governance. Charities should review what the starting point is and what the current understanding is to identify gaps in the current baseline. Charities should then set targets around their specific needs and monitor performance in meeting these targets. The fourth step is about meeting to recommend and discuss the charity’s ability to meet targets. RC said that trying to get the right balance in the way this is expressed has been quite challenging, but that they benefited from working with an external EDI consultant. RW thanked RC, and commented that the new code is very timely as it ties in with WMUK’s relationship to the community. NP agreed it’s a great tool, and one CILIP has used. LCR will be referencing the new code in developing the new trustee code of conduct, and agreed that it could also be used more widely; particularly when thinking about our EDI work.

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in Wikimedia UK governance

LCR noted that she is facilitating a whole staff discussion on EDI next week, following the board discussions that have happened. NP asked what the end product is, and if we’re looking to shape a policy for the board. LCR replied that we’re not creating a policy - as we already have one of those - but we need to develop and deliver an action plan which goes well beyond our existing diversity policy.

NP said that this is about systemic change, and about culture as much as it is about anything else. It’s easy for the energy to flow outwards, but more fundamentally it’s how you engender this conversation with a board. RC said that the two women who helped with the code could be recommended for training. There was a discussion about whether or not unconscious bias training for staff and board would be helpful. Overall, the committee had a mixed view on the value of diversity training but felt that working with a mentor or consultant might be helpful. NP noted that from a governance standpoint, more diverse boards make more diverse decisions. There is no diversity without data, so baseline is important. RW felt that we’ve already established the baseline, certainly for staff and board; and that the next step would be to set targets. However he added that culture and tone are much more difficult to measure. LCR agreed, but said that there may be proxy measures that we can use. NP felt that the discussions so far represent a good starting point as everyone on the board was fired up and there was no resistance. LCR asked if the particular governance aspects of EDI should be covered in GovCom to own and lead on, or if it should be wider. NP replied that a set of metrics and ambitions will emerge from collective discussion, and ownership on any that relate to the board itself will sit with GovCom. It was agreed that we should set aside some of our projected surplus for 2020/21 on external support for this work.


LC had a question about the format of GovCom meetings, are they always at this time? LCR said yes they are historically on a Thursday, but no reason not to move, 4pm is a helpful slot. LC agreed that it’s a good time.

NP asked GovCom to reflect on the meeting, and they agreed they were broadly happy. LCR agreed.

Thanks to the two new members.

Date of the next meeting

Will be confirmed when 2021 dates are approved.