Wikimedia community members are encouraged to offer comments and suggestions for proposed new guidelines relating to conflicts of interest. These guidelines, which we hope to present to the Wikimedia Foundation Board for adoption, would establish the minimum standards to be upheld by everyone who requests Wikimedia movement resources, such as grants or permission to use WMF trademarks.

All community input is appreciated, and we anticipate incorporating many suggestions into the final guidelines. Our goal is that these guidelines will ensure that people proactively disclose potential conflicts related to their requests, so that decisions related to the allocation of movement resources can be made fairly and objectively.[1]

Generally, mismanaged personal interests resulting in potential conflicts of interest can hurt our movement, both in reputation and financially. The proposed guidelines seek to encourage full disclosure of personal and financial interests with respect to people’s requests for movement resources. The guidelines help ensure that those movement resources — like grants, staff time, scholarships, trademark licenses, travel reimbursements, fellowships, employment, and conference resources — are used in pursuit of our mission. The guidelines apply to requests for resources from movement entities, groups, associations, or persons, such as the Wikimedia Foundation, chapters, thematic organizations, movement partners, user groups, Wiki Loves Monuments, GLAM organizations and Wikipedians in Residence. The guidelines are not comprehensive or exhaustive. They are intended to support existing movement values and conflict of interest policies, which may require recusal or other ways of managing the conflict.[2]

Importantly, the guidelines are not intended to directly address more specific controversial topics, like paid editing. We understand that the community is engaged in that discussion in other venues. That said, these guidelines may serve as a foundation upon which to build more specific policies in the future. For now, however, we simply want to suggest some simple–hopefully uncontroversial–guidelines to help people know when they should be disclosing their personal or financial interests in their requests for and use of movement resources.

We would like to hear what you think. Feel free to leave your comments or propose edits on the meta discussion page. We are not seeking consensus or an RfC. This is to help us hear where we need to improve the document. To help ensure global understanding and easier translations, we are proposing that the guidelines be short and confined to one page. The WMF legal department greatly appreciates the opportunity to hear your thoughts and benefit from your wisdom there. We of course will read and respond to your comments and take them into consideration in drafting a final version for proposal to the Board.

We anticipate closing the comment period on January 15, 2013. This may allow for a proposal to the Board during its meeting on February 1-2, 2013. Otherwise, we may extend the comment period and ask the Board to approve the guidelines at another time. We encourage international participation, and, if more time is needed to allow for translations or comments, we want to take that into consideration.

Many thanks, as always, for your comments and active participation.

Geoff Brigham, General Counsel, Wikimedia Foundation

  1. For further discussion of the context in which these new guidelines are being proposed, refer to the December 24th edition of The Signpost, which can be read here.
  2. In the WMF Board’s resolution regarding organizational best practices, for example, “more developed organizations” are encouraged to “adopt core governance policies including a code of conduct for Board and staff that requires at least disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.” Movement organizations, of course, are free to adopt more strict and tailored conflict of interest rules that go beyond the minimum standards of these proposed guidelines.