Message from a Trustee - Greyham Dawes
Greyham Dawes writes as newly co-opted Treasurer of Wikimedia UK about his past experience in the Charity sector and plans for the future...
In the wake of all the excitements of last year, Wikimedia UK will be taking huge strides in this its first year of full public accountability as a registered charity, so my recent co-option to succeed John Byrne as Hon. Treasurer looks opportune. All aspects of charity governance and regulatory compliance, as well as internal management and the vital relationship with volunteers, are high up on the Board’s agenda. My specialist knowledge of Charity Commission policy and practice in such matters is being put to the test as I help to refine the Board’s policies, strategies, systems and procedures so that these will be second to none as your charity expands further.
Our strategy meeting in mid-March (more below in 'Quick Updates') will review how best to further our public benefit purpose of facilitating the highest quality of freely accessible knowledge for all, as the UK Chapter of the worldwide Wiki Community, but especially in conjunction with the Foundation and with the dedicated volunteers among our company membership.
I myself was immediately put to work as a member of the Board’s newly established committees on ‘governance’ and on ‘audit & risk’, also in providing input to the Board’s proposed Scheme of Delegation of day-to-day management to our Chief Executive. This will be both for the efficient management of our expanding staff team, and also for effective budgetary control and resource-management more generally, for the timely and orderly delivery of the benefits of our new strategy.
In this connection, we are currently reviewing how the various agreed budget-line responsibilities held by volunteers can best be integrated with the new internal management reporting system we are designing. Although all Board Members are volunteers, clearly not every volunteer can be a Board Member (or would even wish to, given the onerous legal duties the Board must fulfil). Part of this is the charity law requirement for Wikimedia UK to pursue exclusively public benefit aims, whose beneficiaries are global, extending far beyond the Wiki Community itself. That in turn implies that our volunteers, too, need to see themselves as serving the common good rather than any personal self-interest, thus sharing the same high ideal of altruistic service that is expected of the Board under charity and company law. Optimising the charity-to-volunteer relationship is thus at the very heart of what our new strategy has to aim for. I look forward to helping with that and to hearing your own views.
Hello from the Office - Richard Symonds
Richard Symonds looks ahead to the role members will play in helping Wikimedia UK implement changes at an Extraordinary General Meeting...
Members will by now probably have had chance to reflect on the recommendations published earlier this month looking at ways we are changing as an organisation, and some options for the future. I helped organise the 2011 Extraordinary General Meeting and 2012 Annual General Meeting, where members considered and agreed key changes to our charity.
In 2011 our Articles of Association were explicitly changed to include our charitable objects, and in 2012 our Annual General Meeting saw us change our name, make possible our registration as a Charity in Scotland, and increase the term of serving members of the Board of Trustees from one to two years - aimed at promoting a more stable and experienced board. In short - these meetings are a key opportunity for the membership to have a lasting impact on the Charity in terms of its accessibility, legal status and leadership.
Therefore, I strongly encourage members to save the date of Saturday 13 April, and try to either attend the Extraordinary General Meeting Wikimedia U.K. will be convening, or read and query the preceding resolutions on-wiki, via our mailing list, and send a proxy vote. Members will therefore receive in a little over three weeks - by no later than 21 March - a notice setting out an proposed changes to our existing articles of association - published in the notice of the meeting itself these are special resolutions, and require 75% of members present (whether in person, or through having submitted a proxy vote) to support in order to pass.
This session will be particularly important as it is likely a resolution to change the way Trustees are elected that has been under discussion for some time will be discussed and voted on. This may impact on the way in which candidates for the Board are elected from the current 'first-past-the-post' system to another system, the Single Transferable Vote. In addition, further resolutions will be proposed, which are likely change the size and make-up of the Board of Trustees, by taking up recommendations to increase the maximum number of Trustees and the nature of how they are selected (allowing for some co-opted experts, as opposed to elected Trustees)
Further details will reach you directly when the notice of meeting is sent out, including how to vote by proxy if you're not able to attend. If you have any questions, do email us at email@example.com, and most of all, make sure your membership is current in order to be eligible to vote!
You can read more about our Articles of Association on our website, and ask questions on the 'discussion' page by using the tabs at the top
Wikipedia Academy Kosovo
Two Wikimedia UK volunteers travelled to Pristina, Kosovo as speakers at an event looking at the creation of high quality content.
On 22nd – 25th February, Andy Mabbett and myself attended Wiki Academy Kosovo which was held at the University of Pristina in Kosovo. Organised by the IPKO Foundation with the support of a number of local and foreign governmental organisations and NGOs, Wiki Academy Kosovo bought together over one hundred Kosovar students for an article writing contest on topics related to Kosovo.
The aim of the Academy is to improve the quality and quantity of content on Kosovo in the various projects of the Wikimedia Foundation, in particular that of Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and Wikivoyage. As part of this, seven European Wikimedians were invited to Kosovo to mentor and lecture the participants on a range of topics ranging from Wikipedia editing process to wider Wikimedia topics such as the Wikipedia campus ambassadors program and QRpedia.
As a result of the Academy, over 40 new or newly expanded articles have been written on Wikipedia and Wikivoyage, along with over 1,400 photographs depicting Kosovo in categories such as culture, heritage, social issues, geography, institutions, economy and tourism being made available on Wikimedia Commons. This wasn't just reading or recording history but the feeling of actually being part of understanding and reconciling it; for a place like Kosovo, every day is history in the making. It was also great to see something addressing the systemic bias in terms Wikipedia's content reflecting (or partly caused by) the huge gender and national imbalance in its contributor base. This event has helped a little in the fight to correct that, with a balance representation of men and women, contributing to topics which the English Wikipedia needs to expand and improve. I felt privileged to be part of the process!
If you are interested in opportunities to travel and meet other volunteers, editors and members of Wikimedia Chapters then come to WikiConference 2013 to find out more about how to get involved
Focus on meetups - Liverpool
Yaris678 reports back on the latest Liverpool meetup...
The seventh Liverpool meetup happened on Saturday the 16th of February at The Richard John Blackler, a Weatherspoon’s pub conveniently located close to Lime Street Station. We gathered in a booth but quickly had to expand onto a larger table to accommodate the numbers who turned up.
Wikimeets attract a people across the spectrum in terms of experience in editing Wikipedia. Staceydolxx had just created her first article and it was interesting to hear about the topic (Life story work) and to hear of her experiences. We tried to help her be less annoyed when someone makes a minor change to "her" article. Another person present had never edited Wikipedia and had just been dragged along by his mate, so Bazonka got his laptop out and got him signed up with an account and editing.
For the most part there wasn’t much editing going on. It was more about having a few drinks and chatting about our experiences on Wikimedia projects (and occasionally our experiences more generally). At the other end of the experience spectrum we had Rich Farmbrough, creator of Helpful Pixie Bot but also responsible for an enormous number of edits from his own account. It was interesting to get his take on his recent discussions with some other users and to get some technical advice on using AutoWikiBrowser.
There was a lot of Wikimedia experience in the room and it was good to be able to get insight from each other in an informal context.
If you want to attend a meetup soon, have a look at our Events page, and keep people updated by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org to share the experience in a future newsletter!
Members micro-grant - Doom Bar
Worm That Turned writes about how the back of a beer mat led to a successful application for a micro-grant
One afternoon in February 2009, I was sitting in a pub with some friends and drinking Doom Bar, a beer I had started drinking ten years earlier because I found the name amusing. I’d been editing Wikipedia for a little while, but nothing big. Idly, I glanced at the back of the beer mat, which said "Where the River Camel meets the Atlantic on Cornwall's ocean scarred North Coast, a bank of sand, centuries old, known as the Doom Bar protects and calms this beautiful estuary. Legend links the birth of the Doom Bar to the final curse of a dying mermaid who had rejected a sailor's love only to be shot with an arrow from the spurned sailor's bow." It was just the inspiration I needed, and I was writing the article within a week.
One book I found as I was taking the article to good status was Brian French’s 'Wrecks & Rescues Around Padstow's Doom Bar', in the local library. There were also many smaller books on the topic. I gleaned some information from them, wrote it all up and forgot all about them. Fast forward 3 years and I got it into my head that I’d love to see Doom Bar as a featured article. As part of this, I wanted to go back over French’s book, but struggled getting hold of it as it was out of print and produced by a local publisher at the other end of the country.
I thought I’d give a microgrant a go, to see if it was something that WMUK could help out with. The process was simple, just a few questions which I could answer without hesitation and a link to the book I was after on Amazon. It was approved before the day was over and after a quick email to the office, I received the book.
It’s helped me immensely, reminding me how interesting the topic is and how much information there is out there on paper. I’ve always found it difficult to come back to an article once my passion has waned, so I really appreciate the boost that WMUK has given to me.
The next five years?
Next month, Wikimedia UK is hosting an open day and workshops on Saturday 23 March, designed for volunteers, trustees, potential trustees and staff to get together and discuss the future of our charity.
It has already been mentioned above that in light of the review of the Charity's governance structures, and forthcoming extraordinary and annual general meetings, now more than ever is an important time to engage in the debate about what we have achieved, how we can do more, and what success in five years time will look like. This session will complement on-wiki discussions, discussions at committee and board level, consultation specifically with staff and Trustees, and the opportunity for members to respond to a questionnaire. It kick-starts an involved process that is intended to culminate in the agreement of five-year plan for the Chapter at the AGM in Lincoln in June.
This is an excellent chance for members to come together as part a community of people who all want to help the chapter achieve great things in support of free and open knowledge. The event will take place at our offices in the Old Street area of London and will run from 10am-5pm. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and we will also consider meeting travel expenses for attendees - so save the date, and book travel soon!
We’re looking forward to seeing as many members there as possible, and making the most of this opportunity to learn from one another. If you’d like to come along please use this page to express your interest.
If you’re interested in becoming a Trustee of our charity and would like to find out more about what is involved, please call Jon Davies, Chief Executive on 020 7065 0990 or email email@example.com Jon will be happy to speak with you.
Who trains the trainers?
The Manchester Training the Trainers event began early on Saturday, with a 9:30 start, despite which, all the attendees seemed happy to be there. Having given up their free time to help the Charity, enthusiasm was evident throughout. What followed was two long days, absolutely crammed with valuable advice.
This was the third 'Training the Trainers' event run for Wikimedia UK volunteers, taking the number of people primed to deliver outreach events on behalf of the Charity to over 30 across the UK. Some participants had assisted at sessions where new editors had been introduced to Wikimedia, but focussing on helping people on a one-to-one level. Train the Trainers aims to broaden the scope of what our volunteers offer - learning to prepare teaching modules to provide a customised training experience to any new group. Even the most experienced attendees with a background in giving lectures and teaching were more used to a lower level of interaction with the people they had taught, so everyone was able to learn something from the weekend.
While the point of the weekend was to hone the skills of trainers, and develop teaching materials, there was also the chance to leave the classroom at the end of Saturday and chew the fat with fellow editors. It was an eclectic group, with university students and retirees, mathematicians and archaeologists, people who had years of experience of Wikipedia and others who were just starting out but eager to get new people involved.
Many volunteers who have been involved with training new edits have found helping people find their feet on Wikipedia a rewarding experience. You get to know people's particular interests and what enthuses them. That is often what they want to share on Wikipedia. At the end of the training weekend everyone was eager to go out and start training people - hopefully there will be enough outreach events to go round!