Principles for WiR and Volunteer Conflicts of Interest policy
There are a number of things which Wikimedia UK is doing, or expanding, where we need to clarify our expectations and draw up policies. I think what we're doing is important, but we need to make sure that we know where we stand in certain areas so that we're exercising appropriate governance, and if we are challenged on particular situations (as you can bet we will be) we can be confident in our responses. The particular things going on are;
- We're growing our Wikimedian in Residence programme and encouraging more institutions (GLAM and education) to host Wikimedians. Some of these we may fund or co-fund, others we will not. Even where we aren't directly supporting such posts through our charitable funds, we may well be involved in setting expectations, advertising and advising on recruitment.
- We are considering delegating some decision-making authority for specific areas of our programme work to volunteers who aren't trustees (see the Committees proposal). We are also formally appointing other volunteers in an advisory capacity.
- We are providing some of our volunteers with opportunities that have significant cost and value, e.g. international travel to conferences like Wikimania, or professionally-delivered training events like Train the Trainers or our media training.
- We know that some members of our community are in the business of offering their services as Wikimedia outreach consultants, independently of Wikimedia UK.
The first three of these are among the core ways we expect to deliver our charitable mission in the next few years. We want to continue to keep volunteers at the heart of what we do, hence considering what we can delegate effectively, and we know we need to build, engage and develop our volunteer base to help do that. We also know that paid Wikimedians in Residence can have a really big impact in (say) improving the understanding of our movement in partner institution. However, we need to avoid creating as we do this a situation where we are appointing volunteers to committees and putting them in the potentially vulnerable situation of having poorly-handled conflicts of interest.
We also need to take particular care that we handle the last point effectively. Almost by definition, if someone is working independently of Wikimedia UK, we can't exercise any control or scrutiny of their work, and it is difficult to be see how we can reassure ourselves that it is in line with our charitable mission. It might be brilliant work, but we need to be clear that when we provide resource-intensive opportunities in terms of training, networking and profile to people doing this kind of work, we do so only to promote our charitable purposes and not anyone's independent projects.
To this end I suggest a set of principles for discussion. (Initially I wrote a fully-fledged policy on this but I think it's best to discuss principles first, rather than discuss the detail of a policy). In writing this I've been informed by some of the discussion which Fae kicked off on the Water Cooler a month or so ago, but this covers other ground in addition.
These principles were discussed by the Board on 18 November 2012 and some revisions were made during that discussion. The Board has adopted these as principles, and invites community input on how to make them into practical policies. Please comment on the Talk page.
- Wikimedians in Residence
- We will apply the same standards to all Wikimedian in Residence posts where we are a recognised stakeholder, regardless of whether we are funding the post in whole, in part, or not at all.
- All such positions must be advertised under either the Wikimedia UK recruitment policy, or under an acceptable policy of a partner institution
- In the event a Trustee wishes to apply for a Wikimedian in Residence position in which Wikimedia UK is involved the same standards must be followed as if they were applying for a staff position with Wikimedia UK, in line with our trustee code of conduct
- Volunteers in positions of trust
- Where a volunteer who is not a Trustee is appointed to a position of trust or responsibility in our organisation (e.g. membership of a committee to which the Board has formally delegated responsibility) we expect them to abide by high standards of integrity and accountability, including declaring any relevant interests and abiding by the decisions of the Board in managing such interests.
- This only applies to the areas of the organisation where a given individual has some delegated responsibility e.g. if we had a volunteer who was a member of museum staff, that person would need to declare their interest if they served on a GLAM committee, but probably not if they were on a committee dealing with election rules or technology development.
- We should develop clear guidance and processes about what this means in practice so that volunteers know what to expect and feel supported in dealing with this kind of situation.
- Independent Wikimedia outreach / consultancy work and other volunteer conflicts of interest
- It's not Wikimedia UK's role to tell our volunteers what they can or can't do outside of Wikimedia UK, and keeping details of volunteers' outside interests should be exceptional (unless that volunteer is a Trustee or otherwise in a position of responsibility). However there are limited circumstances where it is appropriate for us to ask volunteers to declare their interests and for us to take this into account in decision-making.
- Where we are providing individuals with resources of significant value (e.g. on the scale of a scholarship to Wikimania), we need to ask whether that individual has any other commercial, employment or other financial interests that are relevant.
- Where these interests are declared they will be taken into account in making relevant decisions, e.g. where we are awarding grants, scholarships, or places on particularly resource-intensive training courses. The nature and extent of the relevant interest will be taken into account in making these decisions. This does not mean it will be impossible to take part in such activities where interests are declared, though there will be some circumstances where that is the case.
- Where these interests are declared they will have no bearing on any individual's ability to participate in other Wikimedia UK activities which do not represent significant uses of resources, or where the interests declared are of no relevance.
- Any such declarations will be treated with an appropriate level of confidentiality
- Accreditation from or participation in training supplied by Wikimedia UK, or other Wikimedia UK activities does not represent, and should not be presented as, a recommendation for, or statement of fitness of, any individual for any employment or commercial activity
- See the Charity Commission's CC11: "[the Charity Commission's authority to make an appointment] will be needed if: the person takes up the employment while still a trustee; or the job offer is made while the person is a trustee, even though he or she later resigns as a trustee; or the person resigned as a trustee before the formal job offer was made and took part in an open recruitment process, but played a major part in the trustees' decision to create or retain the post, or in devising the recruitment process." I.e. if the individual resigns as a trustee before receiving an offer from an open recruitment process AND has played no role in defining the relevant post, they can be appointed to the job without the CC's explicit permission. We should consider whether we need to go beyond this and say in such circumstances a trustee should resign before *applying* as part of an open process.