This post was written by Simon Knight. It was originally published here.
As I’ll be leaving for University of Technology Sydney (UTS) in October, the time has come (formally, Friday) for me to step down from the board of Wikimedia UK. I’ve now been on the board for just under 2 years (having served half an elected term), and it has been my huge privilege to work with such a dedicated group of volunteers (including the board) and staff.
I first encountered Wikimedia UK while working at Cambridge University on an OER project. In that role, I attended the 1st EduWiki in 2012 – a conference about the relationship between Wikimedia and education – and enjoyed speaking to people from the Wikimedia side and those like me from a education institutions with interest in how Wikimedia might relate to our work. That work got me editing Wikipedia, and talking to folks around Wikimedia UK about the relationship between the movement and education.
So, when I was co-opted, I had hoped to bring some of my education and analytics expertise to the board. I’ve done this a bit, but actually for the most part, my work has only indirectly drawn on that experience, focussing more on general strategy (and day-to-day governance matters). And I’m very proud of the work we’ve done here, setting out our strategic plan, impact measures, and developing an organisational structure that best supports our mission, and the crucial role of volunteers in that. I’ve been reflecting a bit recently regarding what I’ve contributed to the charity, and what I’ve gained from the experience myself. I wrote some thoughts on what trustees do earlier, but they were more general than my own experience.
Only 2.1% (in 2013) of trustees were under 30 (also see gov report), although I’m on the upper end of that (and compared to, e.g. youth stakeholder trustees I’m (a) ancient and (b) weighed down with qualifications). So it’s been a great experience for me to get to understand and get involved in the legal and organisational context of charity governance, ensuring we have funding and spend our funds appropriately, dealing with governance issues and ensuring our relationships with the public and others are good, developing strategy and so on. My work has particularly focussed on strategy development, working to understand what we – as a charity – exist for and how those goals can be expressed, targeted, and progress on them measured.
I hope that, moving forwards, some of the particular interests and project ideas existing and prospective volunteers have can be developed (and I hope I can still offer some advice from my areas of expertise). Back in 2013 when I originally asked what being a board member might involve, I sent the enquiry not because I was desperate to serve on a board, but because I was trying to work out ways to get involved specifically with WMUK. I hope that, moving forwards, the many ways individuals with diverse arrays of expertise can join and extend our efforts are more obvious and more open. The volunteer strategy work we’ve been developing recently is certainly aimed at that!
I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on things from the other side (where I’d be happy to offer any advice!), and I’m sincerely grateful for the opportunity to have worked so closely with some of the global Wikimedia Community. In particular the board (and especially Michael, our chair) have been extraordinarily generous with their time in support of the charity; it has been a huge pleasure to support the board closely on a number of projects, and a fantastic learning experience in my role as vice chair. I look forward to seeing the charity continue to develop!