Volunteer strategy consultation 2015

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This page is kept as an archival reference.
If you want to raise a point about it, please start a discussion thread on the community forum.

This is the proposal we put forward to the volunteering community around the 2015 AGM to inform the future structure of the organisation and its way of working.

Background to this provided by the Wikimedia UK's Chair is here Volunteer strategy consultation 2015/Chair.

Volunteer strategy consultation 2015

Volunteering: a call to action

Wikimedia UK needs your help. We want to transform the way we work so that we can bring volunteering right into the heart of the charity.

We plan to:

  • Establish a new Volunteer engagement panel or steering group, focusing specifically on volunteering and volunteer engagement
  • Embed members into our day-to-day decision making via a new Evaluation panel
  • Encourage the setting up of volunteer special-interest Working groups to replace the existing non-board committees
  • Set up Cultural and GLAM advisory board and Educational outreach advisory board expert advisory boards to advise the WMUK main board on high-level strategy
  • Change our Articles of Association to allow non-board volunteers to be appointed full members of board committees
  • Provide more effective support for volunteers via the new project coordinator staff roles
  • Move toward project-based working practices to improve efficiency and to enable better self-evaluation of our work

These draft plans follow on from the excellent feedback we received from our last Volunteer Strategy Gathering. They deliberately don't attempt to answer all possible questions about implementation, as we think it best that both further questions and the answers to those questions should come out of collaborative discussions. The plans are not set in stone, and with the community's help they can be improved, strengthened and fleshed out.

We would like your feedback, either online or in person at our next Volunteer Strategy Gathering on Saturday 25th July 2015, in London. For more information, see the links on the right.

Feedback, comments and discussion are more than welcome on the discussion page, or you can email chairatwikimedia.org.uk if you have feedback you would prefer not to make public.

Wikimedia UK: A volunteer organisation, and a movement

Wikimedia UK exists to develop open knowledge for all. We support and promote the Wikimedia projects, such as Wikipedia, and the many volunteers that share our mission: to help people and organisations create and preserve open knowledge and to provide easy access for all. We do this collectively by working with individuals, and with organisations such as Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAMs), education institutions, and learned societies, helping to open up their knowledge, share their expertise, and develop a culture of 'open' for the public benefit.

Wikimedia UK volunteers come from a range of backgrounds. Many are active Wikimedians – editing Wikipedia, uploading media files to Commons, and engaging with the full range of Wikimedia projects. Some are not, and contribute their valuable skills in other ways. Some volunteers are interested in particular roles or activities, others will engage in different ways at different times, while others would like to be directed to tasks they might help with.

Volunteers at a British Library editathon

Volunteers are key to our mission and must be central to our activities. It is this that drives our commitment to transparency in governance and decision making. This document sets out how we plan to meet our aspirations to be more open, and to bring volunteers into the heart of what we do. We want to grow our volunteer base, but we understand this isn’t just about numbers, it’s about engaging with people – Wikimedians or otherwise – towards a shared vision, of open knowledge for all.

We want volunteering with WMUK to be a positive experience for everyone, we want to make it easier for people to get involved, and we want to have clear structures to support engagement. Whether you're a volunteer who engages regularly, on a more ad-hoc basis, or on a one off basis; whether you want to volunteer on or offline; whether you want to advocate for our mission at events and in organisations, or engage internally in helping us keeping things running; it should be clear how volunteers can get involved, how you can support us, and how we can support you to make that happen.

Learning lessons from our work with GLAMs

Strategic Goals

Volunteering is at the heart of WMUK and of the global Wikimedia movement, and it cuts across all of our activities. Our strategic goals specifically emphasise the importance of this:


  • G2a: As a volunteer-led organisation, [we must ensure] effective use of the resources available to us to develop, involve and engage WMUK volunteers.

In order to manage our resources, and ensure we support our volunteers effectively, we have a number of intended outcomes that relate specifically to the charity and to those who volunteer to work with us. The aim is to support our volunteers to allow them to contribute effectively and efficiently.


  • G2a.1: We have a thriving community of WMUK volunteers.
  • G2a.2: WMUK volunteers are highly diverse.
  • G2a.3: WMUK volunteers are skilled and capable.

We have over the past 18 months moved to a more focused mode of work when delivering projects that we run in collaboration with external partners. Building relationships with major organisations has shown that this can bring success in terms of impact, value for money, and perceived reputation in the movement and in the public mindset. These relationships not only open doors for us in terms of access to content, goodwill and expertise, but will also increasingly prove vital in formulating the basis for fundraising appeals and gaining the confidence of grant making organisations. They are worthy of more time, consistent focus and development, which is why we want to particularly focus on these this year and beyond, as well as bringing our broader volunteer work into this project-based approach.

We work most effectively as an organisation and a volunteer-movement when our efforts are connected, when our expertise is brought together rather than put into silos. In our work, we should:

  • Communicate our impact externally and internally; clearly sharing what we are doing, why, and our lessons for improving (e.g. through sharing planning materials and evaluations)
  • Involve volunteers, working to engage them in WMUK work, and to develop their own work
  • Maximise our impact, ensuring we evaluate, consider opportunities to develop funding and strategic partnerships, and advocate for our vision.

These principles should be considered whenever a project is proposed. They can be thought of as operating principles, defining not only what we’re trying to achieve but also framing the kind of organisation we want to be. It’s by helping to frame and connect ideas that we maximise our impact and encourage others to work with us.


Project-based working

What is project-based working?

Project-based working means grouping our work into a series of specific packages or projects, each of which defines a particular set of activities. Each project has its own resource requirements (inputs such as volunteers, staff support, funding etc) and its own set of goals, targets and expected outputs & outcomes. Projects may be large and long-term (eg Wikimedian in Residence programmes) or small and one-off (eg a grant to a member or a one-off editathon).

Why project-based working?

Project-based working has several key advantages over running a series of less-structured activities. Projects allow us more easily to link volunteers and their ideas with partner organisations, to tell richer stories, to unlock external funding, and to evaluate our work more effectively. Self-contained work packages provide focal points to engage and enthuse volunteers, provide direction when developing ideas, and allow us to offer volunteers clearer information about where help is needed. By committing charitable support only to projects that have adequately-defined resources, we enhance our reputation for delivery and align our growth to the level of resources and volunteer effort we know we can rely on.

How do we define a project?

A 'project' for our purposes is a more or less self-contained package of work that is appropriately resourced and has sufficiently well-defined outputs and outcomes that are aligned with our strategic goals. For more details, see What is a project?

Project-based working.jpg

Volunteer structure

Wikimedia UK's operational structure is designed to engage and encourage volunteers over a wide range of skills and experiences.

The charity is led by a board of volunteer trustees, to be supported by expert advisory boards including a Cultural and GLAM advisory board and possibly an Educational outreach advisory board.

A Volunteer engagement panel provides opportunities to contribute to strategy and procedures/operations, while an Evaluation panel assesses proposed and existing projects.

Volunteers who prefer to leave matters of governance and process to others and to concentrate on actually doing the open knowledge work - which is after all why we are all here - can work with us either independently or via with one of our special-interest working groups. Working volunteers are supported by our dedicated project coordinator staff.

Volunteer structure.jpg

Panels and working groups

Expert advisory boards

The purpose of these advisory boards is to provide expert advice to the WMUK main board. They will provide help on strategic matters and would not expect to get involved with specific programmes. The board definitely believes that a cultural and GLAM advisory board would be useful, and is currently sounding out possible candidates. It is open to the establishment of other expert boards as needed, such as for example an educational outreach advisory board.

Cultural and GLAM advisory board

Members: Senior representatives of cultural organisations, GLAMs, CEO, board liaison

Reporting to: board


  • To advise on all aspects relating to the charity's relationships with cultural organisations and GLAMs;
  • To establish procedures and best practices for the wide dissemination of holdings in digital form under open licences;
  • To explore ways of working together to forward our common public educational aims.

The advisory board would meet as needed, perhaps twice a year.

Educational outreach advisory board

Members: Senior representatives of educational organisations and scientific & learned societies, academics, educationalists, CEO, board liaison

Reporting to: board


  • To advise on all aspects relating to the charity's relationships with educational organisations;
  • To explore ways of improving access to and reach of educational activities based on open knowledge principles;
  • To enhance the quality of open educational resources by encouraging collaborations with academics and subject-matter experts

The advisory board would meet as needed, perhaps twice a year.

Volunteer relationship and health

This will be a new and crucial steering group focusing specifically on volunteering and volunteer engagement.

Volunteer engagement panel

Members: Charity members, CEO, board liaison

Reporting to: board


  • To advise on all aspects relating to volunteers and members, including strategy, engagement and volunteer training
  • To advise on all aspects relating to processes and procedures involving volunteers and members
  • To act as the charity's main steering group on volunteer matters
Wikimedia UK Training the Trainers Weekend

Evaluation and working groups

These groups will provide opportunities for our more committed members and volunteers to get involved in the operational running of the charity.

  • Working groups will be formed as needed where there is a common interest in volunteers working together in some specific field. Working groups replace the old Tech, GLAM and Education committees which have struggled to carve out an effective role over the years.
  • The role of the evaluation panel is to evaluate both large and small projects against our strategic goals and to recommend support or otherwise. It replaces and extends the existing grants committee that currently considers grant applications from members.

Working groups

Members (can be flexible): Volunteers, project coordinators (staff)

Reporting to: CEO, Evaluation panel


  • To act as a focal point for working groups for specific programmes;
  • To act as a conduit for a broad base of interested parties, including non-Wikimedians with relevant expertise;
  • To provide advice in connection with the groups' areas of interest, including specialist and technical advice;
  • To provide assistance with project incubation;
  • To engage and support our community, and to encourage and develop volunteer participation;
  • To develop and grow our network of contacts and volunteers.

Working groups should be open, welcoming, and entirely flexible as to membership. They can be formed whenever a group of volunteers thinks that working in a focused way would be useful or interesting. Members needn't be subject specialists, but should have a common interest in some area of work, and a desire to work with the charity and other volunteers towards a common aim. The group itself would define that aim, and could change it whenever they wanted. Groups would normally be permanent, unless some volunteers wanted to set up a temporary group for some time-limited task.

One obvious working group would be tech/software, but there may be any number of others if there is sufficient volunteer enthusiasm - eg GLAM, education, expert outreach, training, advocacy, press and communications, photography, website/wiki development.

Evaluation panel

Members: Charity members, CEO

Reporting to: CEO


  • To evaluate the impact of proposed and existing projects against our strategic goals, in the light of the resources available to us;
  • To advise the CEO on which projects should be adopted or supported by the charity.

The evaluation panel might consist of members with a variety of different skills and expertise from which groups would be made up as needed to evaluate individual projects. Small projects and simple grant applications would be dealt with quickly via a 'fast track' process by two or three members by email or online, with larger projects such as proposed Wikimedians in Residence being considered more formally by a larger group meeting in person.

Future directions

Open questions on proposals

  1. Do the ideas look feasible? Can they be improved? What details need to be filled in?
  2. What should the spaces for incubation and evaluation of projects look like? Some form of WMUK IdeasLab? Something like our project grant pages? This WMDE approach? Some other software? We want to ensure transparency of the proposal/review/planning/evaluation process.
  3. What mechanism should be used by the evaluation panel to ‘approve’ projects? What happens if the panel wants to approve a project that the CEO believes cannot be funded or resourced within current budgets or is not aligned with the charity's strategic goals?
  4. What skills profiles do we need in the different structures?
  5. How can we best encourage diversity, not only in skills and experience but also in geographical location? We want to encourage volunteers throughout the country, not just in the London area.

Future developments

In addition, we hope the volunteer community will work with us to develop materials to support volunteer and partnership engagement, for example, adapted versions of: