Reports/Affiliate Chairpersons meeting 2018
A (mainly) European Chair training was organised in Prague on 24-25 November 2018 about leadership and Chapter dynamics.
The board is probably the most important part (in the working) of a Chapter.
The evolution of a chapter was discussed. It was noticed that Belgium was the last chapter that was accepted by the Affiliation committee. Since 2014 only user groups were approved, due to a change in the WMF strategy and budget handling. It is not clear whether this is a good evolution. A chapter has more of a legal status and has more potential to grow than a user group. A user group is more informal and has less potential to grow to a formal organisation. A chapter starts small with a few board members and no staff and with limited budgets. Then the number of members, the number of activities, the impact, and the responsibilities are growing. Then staff can be hired, which brings other (contractual, legal) responsibilities.
A chapter is a complex interaction of individuals, teams, partners, members, government, other organisations, and the general public, each of them with possible conflicting interests. A chapter is a public organisation with global visibility.
Proper communication internal and external of the chapter is critical to the good functioning of the chapter. Also listening to each other, and having an efficient decision taking process. When projects would fail, it is important to see early indications, and proper handling. It at moments of crisis that good management takes the lead.
The board is responsible for legal and organisational matters. The chair has as prime responsibility to organise the board and its activities, and to perform public representation.
Board members can have specific responsibilities like Budgets, Ledger, Communication, Projects, Funding, or more general as board member without a specific role.
About the functioning of the board there can be a problem with ineffective board members or conflict handling. Each person has a different personality and background. Working together is not simple. Board members should be able to give each other feedback about their functioning, feelings, (non)activities and way(s) of behaving.
Ideally a board should set the strategy and not interfere with operations. In small chapters the board needs to organise everything, including activities and administrative work. For larger chapters the executive director is responsible for engaging and managing staff. The board can be asked for advise. For intermediate chapters the board is responsible for managing the staff.
Staff is responsible for organizing activities and (member) administration. Sometimes staff members can be member of the board as well (care should be taken to avoid conflict of interest).
The General Assembly approves the yearly financial statements, the bylaws (changes), and the appointment of new board members. Statutes and bylaws are important to avoid abuse. Strictly legal adherence is mandatory.
In the end members, activities, and the Community are the real reason why a chapter exists.
And then we have also the broader Wiki movement; the majority of people writing on Wikipedia are not member of the association, and are not necessarily interested in the activities and (legal) administration of the chapter.
Partners and other organisations like GLAMS and institutions are important to build an increased impact.
In a country like Belgium board members do not necessarily talk the same native language. It is quite common that multiple nationalities are present. This can lead to communication problems, confusion, misunderstanding, frustrations and conflicts.
Potentially with an impact on the good working of the chapter.
Board members are also individually and in group (legally) responsible.
Finance is (very) important for a Chapter in order to be able to execute its activities. The (new) strategy process seems to have a large impact on the approval of the grants.
It is currently impossible to perform IBAN payments from/to the Foundation. This is both a problem for the chapters and the general public. It is felt that the general public is more willing to fund the Foundation if it could be done with IBAN payments and national tax exemption. There is a general feeling that only Wikipedia gets public funding, but in reality it is the Foundation and its multiple projects backed by server and data center infrastructure.
Chapter funding could also be attempted via partners.