Membership/Newsletter/2013/March

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Wikimedia UK Members Newsletter


Message from a Trustee - Doug Taylor

Doug Taylor is currently Vice Chair of Wikimedia UK, and has been a trustee since May 2012. He edits Wikipedia under the username RexxS.

One important event that is almost upon us is the Extraordinary General Meeting on Saturday 13 April 2013...

This will take place at the Conference Centre of the British Library in London, between 15:30 and 16:30 (UTC+1). There are two separate strands to be decided upon: our long-standing commitment to the membership to revise our system of voting for Elected Trustees; and some changes to our Articles recommended to us in the Hudson Report on WMUK governance.

The proposed change to our voting system for Elected Trustees would be to move from an approval system, where members indicate candidates whom they would support, to a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, where members rank candidates in their preferred order. There are several different variants of STV, but we would be able to use software to implement the Electoral Reform Society 1997 version (ERS97) which would speed up the process of returning the results.

We are proposing changing the number of trustees to a maximum of eleven. This would involve maintaining our current seven Elected Trustee positions and creating three - or four in exceptional circumstances - Co-opted Trustees. (These should not be confused with trustees who are appointed to temporarily fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of an Elected Trusteee.) The Co-opted Trustees would be appointed by the other trustees to fill perceived gaps in the skills and experience of existing trustees and would probably be co-opted some time after an AGM following an assessment of what skills and experience are needed.

Members are entitled to vote on the three Special Resolutions, which require a 75% majority to pass, either in person or by casting a postal ballot. We will have some time to debate the resolutions at the EGM, so we would welcome as many members to attend the EGM as are able. For those who will not attend, can I ask that you still take the time to vote and express your choices, as it is important that we can reflect the views of as many of our members as possible.

You can read the EGM notice here, the full text of the Resolutions here, and the discussion around changing how Trustees should be elected here

Hello from the Office - Stevie Benton

Stevie Benton is the Communications Organiser for Wikimedia UK and this month celebrated his first year in post.

Stevie Benton looks after our communications. In this piece he reflects on his first year in post.

I can't believe I've been the communications organiser for Wikimedia UK for a year already. It's been quite a journey and I've never had a role quite like this. I remember the day I applied. I'd been considering whether to apply for a week or two. I finally requested the application form at about 1pm on the closing date, three hours later my application was submitted and a week later, somewhat in a daze, I found myself at an interview on a Friday afternoon, making it with barely minutes to spare (still in jeans and jumper from my other job). To my surprise and delight, a few days later I was offered the role and that was that.

At the time of my interview, Jon and Richard were the only employees, although Daria was to start a week or two before me. The week before I formally started I received a bunch of papers in the post (complete with self-portrait by Jon) and I was on my way. When I arrived at my desk on my first day, I was greeted with more papers, a shiny laptop and 'By the way, our annual report needs to be written, designed and printed less than two months. Oh, and there's this little project called Monmouthpedia you should get involved with which we need to promote...'

Eight weeks, one glossy document and nearly 400 news articles (in around 40 countries) later, I think it would be fair to say I was slowly getting the hang of things. It hasn't slowed down since.

Joining Wikimedia UK is the best professional decision I've ever made. I find working in communications satisfying, and always have, but for it to be truly worthwhile I need to have an affinity with the organisation I represent and a belief in its objectives. Sharing the sum total of all human knowledge with everyone, everywhere, for free, is certainly something I believe in. There also needs to be a certain amount of challenge, and this hasn't been lacking either. There's always something worthwhile to throw myself into. That's before we even get on to the need to have worthwhile stories to tell.

The best thing about this job is working with such an interesting group of volunteers, trustees and staff who all share the same objectives (albeit with differing opinions about how to achieve them). There's such a wide range of interests and expertise among our community that I'm always learning something new about them. Whether it's discovering that a key volunteer is occasionally a stand-up comedian, that another is a blues musician or that you have colleagues who are experts in castles or philosophy, there are little surprises at every turn.

My key objective for the coming year is to encourage more volunteer involvement in our communications work – whether this be through the blog, our monthly reports or, more pressingly, our annual review. I know that there are many people reading this who have made significant contributions over the last twelve months, and continue to do so. I hope we can work together to tell your stories to the UK and the world.

If you have any ideas on how to improve Wikimedia UK's communications, please email stevie.benton@wikimedia.org.uk and get involved in helping put together the monthly reports and annual review on the UK wiki.

Talking the talk so we can walk the walk - a five year strategy

Trustees held some initial strategy discussions to agree the 2013 Activity plan in 2012 - but members are playing a part in forming an overall strategy for 2013 - 2018

Members may remember the invitation in the February Newsletter to attend the strategy open day - which went well and produced some great ideas...

In our last newsletter, we included a call to members to attend the strategy consultation day held in the London offices on the 23rd March. While this was another stage in the ongoing consultation process, that is aiming to be completed at the membership AGM in June, with multiple opportunities for Wikimedia UK members and the wider community to get involved.

The day itself was broken up into sessions focusing on the key areas of the Chapter's activity programme and its delivery, looking at how to develop a volunteer base, the GLAM and Education outreach streams, and issues like membership, being a part of the global Wikimedia movement and look at what the Trustee role for the Charity involves. You can view the introductory session to the day here.

The discussion during the day between the over 30 attendees, plus staff and Trustees, were fruitful and insightful, raising important questions for the Chapter to consider in agreeing a strategy for the next few years. Do people volunteer because of altruism, to add to their CV, or to meet new people? Should we focus on engaging people in the Wikimedia mission and its goals, or look beyond this to increasing awareness of other projects, such as mediawiki development? Should we create an 'Investor in Open Knowledge' scheme for cultural institutions? Who do we need to win over most - the Secretary of State for Education or the president of the NUS? You can read the notes from the sessions here

Following the workshop session, a Situational review report was published. Following interviews with staff and trustees, it draws together some of the challenges and opportunities the Chapter is presented with, and raises important questions about delivery. Does Wikimedia UK have huge capacity for growth? What will that look like, and how will that be delivered between volunteers, staff and the Trustee board? What is the vision that is driving the Chapter and the decisions that will realise this? Members are strongly encouraged to take a look, and comment, give feedback or ask questions on the talk page for the five year plan process.

The next steps will be for members to continue to discuss this issue - there are eight opportunities for in-person discussion between now and the AGM when the EGM, committee and board meetings and community meetups are taken into account. In early May a first draft of a five year plan will be published on the UK Wiki, which will be revised prior to discussion at the AGM, and then presented to the board for agreement in July. The next two months are therefore a vital opportunity for members to make bold and brilliant suggestions for what we want to achieve, how we will do so, and the ways we will want to evaluate it.

If you have any questions or would like to know more, just email membershipatwikimedia.org.uk

Focus on meetups - a growing number...

The Oxford Meetup is held in the Four Candles pub, in central Oxford.

Alongside regular meetups, three new meetups in the UK have emerged this month...

In the last two newsletters we featured reports from meetups held in London and Liverpool, and our regular meetups have continued throughout March with events in Cambridge, Oxford and London. However, excitingly there has already been one first time meetup held in Nottingham in conjunction with the Communicate OER's Open Educational Resources conference 2013 held at the University of Nottingham. This just goes to show that holding a meetup needn't be complicated, and can often be tagged on to existing events as a 'before' or 'after' session at the venue or nearby.

In April, there will be regular meetup events happening in Manchester, Coventry and London (do try and drop by!) but there are also two other first time meetups planned in Brighton on April 28, and Glasgow on May 12, that have arisen because a volunteer saw an opportunity to expand a larger network of these events nationally.

Wikimedia's new volunteer support organiser and long-time member, Katie Chan noted, "One of the things I'm really keen to support is members and the community in general setting up more meetups around the UK. It's great that we've got a meetup happening in Scotland, but it would be fantastic if we could sort out a pub meet or two in the North East, South West, Yorkshire or even Wales and Northern Ireland - we know we have members and editors based in those areas, and I'm always happy to help set up pages on wiki and contact other members and interested parties in the region with an invite to help numbers."

If you like a meetup you attended to be featured in the next members' newsletter just email membershipatwikimedia.org.uk and we'll help you make it happen

Members micro-grant - Elections in Europe

Where else could I have found such detailed information about 19th century elections in Bulgaria, Denmark, Greece and Luxembourg all in one place?"

User:Number 57 writes about the progress he made following a Wikimedia UK microgrant made 18 months ago...

I found out about the microgrants programme from a banner on the English Wikipedia. All I had to do was to complete a short and simple application on the British Wikimedia site, in which I had to give a bit of background on my work, what I wanted to buy and how I thought it could be used.

I applied to buy a book on elections in Europe. I'd used similar books by the same author to write a few hundred articles on elections on other continents after getting them via the inter-library loan system or buying damaged versions cheaply. However, the Europe book was more recent, and wasn't available for lending yet. At a cost of £130 (it's an academic publication), I couldn't really afford to indulge myself, and the microgrant was an ideal solution.

My application was approved within 24 hours, and Wikimedia UK even ordered the book to be delivered to my home address. After receiving it, I set to work, and to date have created 550 articles and improved over 650 by adding more details or referencing articles – a total of over 1,200 articles. And I'm nowhere near finished – after the last 46 Swiss referendum articles, I can get to work on political parties, which could yield a couple of hundred more articles plus improvements to many more.

The book has also been helpful in a long-running project with a German editor on compiling a complete list of elections and referendums in all countries.

I'd really encourage editors to use the opportunity that's there. It was very simple to apply, and I had the resource within a fortnight.

Microgrants can support reference materials (books and publications), expenses to attend events or access archives and collections. Apply here or email us with your ideas

Quick updates

Help organise WikiConference 2013!

Wiki Conference 2013 and the Charity's AGM will be held in the city of Lincoln, home of Lincoln Cathedral, reputedly the tallest building in the world for 238 years.

On June 8th, Wikimedia UK will be hosting its annual conference in the historic city of Lincoln, and we are looking for as many people to get involved as possible. In addition to playing host to our Annual General Meeting, the conference brings together members to voice their opinions about both the charity and UK movement in general.

The Conference Committee is formally responsible for planning an exciting and engaging agenda, with interesting speakers, along with attractive social and cultural events on the Saturday night and Sunday. Supported by office, volunteers are responsible for logistical preparation running up to the conference, such as arranging accommodation for staff and trustees and planning the delivery of the sessions, and support across the weekend. In 2013 volunteers on Conference Committee have been shaping the schedule for speakers, and the activities for the more informal session and city tour on the second day. In 2012 volunteers helped greet attendees, organise and deliver sessions, and document sessions through online discussions and photographs. There is something for everyone - whether they are more interested in the planning or the practical side of delivering a conference.

If you feel you are able to help with any of these, whether by taking the lead on any particular task or simply giving one or two suggestions, then email us at volunteeringatwikimedia.org.uk or call the office on 020 7065 0990.

Becoming a Trustee

Trustees play a vital role in the Charity, protecting the best interests of the charity and its membership, and reflecting the voice of the Wikimedia community in decision making.

Wikimedia UK has seven positions for directors that run the public limited company that forms the basis of the charity, and therefore act as Trustees too. At the date of publication, Wikimedia has six trustee positions filled through a mixture of direct election, and co-option when positions have become vacant. Three of these positions and the vacant position will be open for contesting at our 2013 AGM.

Wikimedia UK has therefore been actively promoting this opportunity, calling for interested parties to get in touch, and we would strongly encourage members to consider standing.

In October 2012 we asked members to share their thoughts and experience about their motivations and the perceived barriers to standing for election to the Board of Trustees. Respondents who hadn't stood in the past mentioned mostly that they felt they were too busy or lacked experience in the Wikimedia movement. However, following the review of the Chapter's governance changes such as forward planning of agendas, scheme of delegation for decision making, and support from a governance and audit and risk committees are aimed at reducing and rebalancing Trustee workload over time. Furthermore, the Chapter actively welcomes the involvement of those who may not be the most experienced wikimedians but who offer particular experience that might fill skills gaps in the current board, or who have experience working and volunteering in other parts of the open source and free knowledge movements.

The members' survey also underscored the positive reasons why people have stepped up in the past, the overwhelming reason being 'to hold a leadership role on behalf of a cause I believe in'. Wikimedia UK's Trustees make decisions that month-by-month are advancing the progress of the Wikimedia movement, and the open source and free culture communities, and it is an exciting and challenging role to play as a part of this.

The deadline for applications for a Trustee position is the 8th of May, and anyone who thinks they can offer their time and experience is encouraged to get in touch with us. In the first instance, please contact the Chief Executive at jon.daviesatwikimedia.org.uk.