Sitting in my hotel room, wide awake at 1:30 am I am thinking about the planned sessions for the day and evaluating my contributions and capacity given the challenges not pertaining to the work associated with the charter drafting, but other aspects to me being from an underrepresented region and gender.
I am Manavpreet Kaur (she/her), South Asia representative on the Movement Charter Drafting Committee. I assumed this responsibility not from the day we officially onboarded, but from the very moment I considered to be a part of this work. I joined the movement in 2013 as an academician, working on contributing content related to Forensic science with my students in a set-up which is now well known as “Wikipedia in Classroom”.
My first exposure to the larger conversations beyond Wikipedia project was at WikiConference India 2016. As a coordinator for the conference, I was nominated by my affiliate to attend the following Wikimedia Summit in 2017. The summit was a mind boggling experience for me, as everyone was discussing the state of projects, strategy and future, here I was struggling to prep for the discussions. After the meeting, I got hooked to all the updates and community sessions as I didn’t want to lose the value of engagement with this strategic process. Later when the call was announced for working groups, I relied on someone else to evaluate my capacity and ability to contribute, and ended up not applying!
Even though I wasn’t a part of the active groups, I was actively reading and even organized regional strategy salons with other community members. As someone who was interested in this work and as an outsider observer, I could clearly see how limited participation was impacting the representation of the regional challenges and needs in the summaries. When the strategic recommendations were released, I was a part of extensive discussions as a member of AffCom.
From 2020-21, in a professional capacity, I was liaising and supporting the strategic discussions and updates for AffCom with the Movement Strategy and Governance team. Given my interest in strategy, when the call for MCDC membership was out, I reached out to the MSG team to discuss my tricky position as staff and volunteer. After a thorough review of my position, and upon receiving a clearance, I submitted my nomination to join the committee.
Ever since I nominated, I have learned about the hesitations and uncertainty around my position. So, when I was selected to the committee, I came with the self inflicted burden of expectations to make substantial contribution with cautiously observing any existing or perceived Conflict of Interest.
The participation in the charter discussions have been limited from the region I represent, which was a concern as the Charter when ratified and implemented, is going to impact all communities, irrespective of their participation in the process. MSG team worked on the Ambassadors program to bridge this disconnect. With individual conversations with wikimedians from the region, extended network, regular community sessions and MSG support, there has been appreciable participation from the region.
Apart from the drafting work, community review and discussions, there have been some undocumented challenges that hugely impact one’s participation and engagement but often go unnoticed. As MCDC members, we are in constant pressure to contribute, add experience and perspectives, ultimately delivering the expected drafts. For me, participating in offline meetings has been fiendishly difficult. For all the meetings, I have attended, I have to do at least two 500kms+ journeys to the capital city for visa application on top of the usual 27+ hours of travel. The highlight is me receiving my passport hours before my scheduled flight every single time I am travelling.
For this New York meeting, where MCDC has been invited to join the Board of Trustees meeting, the committee decided to use the pre-meeting days for drafting work, the days otherwise reserved for individuals to acclamatize themselves to the weather and timezone. In order to prepare for the discussions and for the respective Chapter drafting, the committee was meeting various staff members and there were numerous subcommittee meetings, brainstorming sessions, notes and recordings to review along with the regular drafting work. We are also reviewing shared community feedback and making changes to the initial drafts as we are doing the preparatory work.
I joined this meeting with the fatigue from contracting covid and exhausting process of proving capacity, explaining relevance and importance of strategy to the fellow organizers of Wiki Conference India 2023. As the national conference is being organized after a gap of 7 years, this was an ideal space for community to gather and discuss the future of the movement in the region, strategy seemed to be an obvious thematic choice. Because of the limited engagement of others involved, we had to invest hours in gathering data, categorization of submitted programs and drafting a proposal for consideration. Proving the capacity to support the discussions was a challenge I could not overcome.
Busy days, sleepless nights, 5 cities and 7 seas later, I reached NY! The moment I met the fellow MCDC members, the passion and excitement of everyone for the work overtook the exhaustion and we were in work-mode. I can safely claim that the two drafting days here have been most productive especially for the Roles & Responsibilities subcommittee. It isn’t easy to touch all existing and possible workflows with conscious commitment to keeping the text high-level and easy to consume. We have managed to create a matrix to gather inputs from MCDC members for general overview of how we see the workflows continuing or evolving. While we do this, we are continuously being supported by the MSG and Legal staff members to ensure we are not falling off tracks in our observations.
MCDC members are really appreciative of the extended invitation to join the Board strategy retreat. This meeting gave us all an opportunity to learn more about fundraising, endowment project and participate in planning and prioritization discussions.
As we wind up the work here, we are going back with a lot of planned actions and an extensive to-do list of asynchronous expansion of initiated drafts, drafting group drafts’ review, review of interests expressed for advisors, and meetings with different stakeholders for experiential consultation.
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