2020 December Foundation commitment of support for LGBT+ volunteers

My name is Maggie Dennis. I’m the Vice President of Community Resilience and Sustainability at the Wikimedia Foundation. I oversee the Foundation’s Trust and Safety teams (operations and policy), the Community Development team, and the upcoming Foundation Human Rights lead.

On December 2nd, I met with representatives of the Wikimedia LGBT+ User Group along with several Trust and Safety personnel, including Global Head Jan Eissfeldt, to understand some of the challenges faced by the members of the group as volunteers in our international movement. It is apparent that many volunteers openly identifying as LGBTQIA+ are targeted and attacked for their identities, with transgender, non-binary, queer, and queer feminist editors in particular at higher risk for such abuse. The members of the group who met with us voiced concerns about the safety and wellbeing of other marginalized communities and groups as well.

In my role, and speaking for the Foundation, I am writing today to restate, reinforce, and firmly assert our commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA+ volunteers in our movement, as well as others who face exclusion and hostility on the basis of identity factors.[1]

The Wikimedia movement is based on the value of inclusivity, that anyone may play a part in not only receiving but curating and sharing knowledge. What volunteers have been able to accomplish in Wikimedia projects is extraordinary, but the movement will never reach its full potential if we do not close the diversity gap which our communities defined so ably in the Movement Strategy process. There continue to be barriers in our movement for LGBTQIA+, women, indigenous communities, and other underrepresented groups. We as a movement have been called upon by a broad and diverse group of our own movement members to promote inclusivity and reduce harms to our participants.

In light of this, one of my teams has been directed by the Board of Trustees to (among other requests) facilitate the drafting of the Universal Code of Conduct called for in the Movement Strategy recommendations. This collaboratively drafted document underwent significant community review in September and October and is currently under review by the Board. We will next be launching a second phase of that work in January, meant to result in enforcement pathways that will make our projects safe spaces for all volunteers.

Following the LGBT+ User Group meeting, we are also building into our plans facilitated support for the LGBT+ User Group and other Wikimedia affiliate organizations focused on marginalized communities to come together to discuss better mechanisms for supporting volunteers who are targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, ethnicity or other identity factors. We expect to solidify plans and launch conversations in January and will be putting out information on how to participate.

In addition, we see the urgency and the opportunity to do more to address the needs of the LGBT+ User Group and others. The Foundation’s Community Resilience & Sustainability function will be connecting more closely with the LGBT+ User Group going forward to ensure that the Foundation’s staff better understand the needs of this community, especially but not solely in our professional Trust & Safety work.

We are committed to supporting volunteers in participating safely in our movement and want to be sure that we do not, through lack of understanding, ourselves do harm. This includes:

  • adopting and disseminating to staff best-practice terminology when conducting community surveys,
  • ensuring that volunteers have easier access to existing reporting structures now, even as we build other enforcement pathways in the UCoC,
  • being vigilant that incidents where individuals are targeted for identity factors are properly recognized and addressed in our Trust & Safety systems, and
  • exploring peer support options.

I thank the members of the user group for inviting us to join them. I’m excited and energized by that conversation and looking forward to finding ways to improve. I hope others in the community will join in the publicly hosted UCoC discussions starting early in the new year to improve the safety of all community members. It will help to ensure that volunteers across the movement, and in all movement spaces online and off, have an opportunity to contribute safely. People should feel welcomed to contribute to our collective and important mission of delivering the sum of all knowledge to everyone.

Warm regards,
Maggie Dennis

[1] I’m borrowing the language of the UN, here.