Wikipedia:Community Facilitation

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Welcome to WikiProject Community Facilitation. The Wikipedians who have formed this group are dedicated to improving the decision making process of the Wikipedia community. This project organizes information and facilitates discussions on important community-wide issues. This page outlines how the group functions, and how it organizes itself. It is hoped that this project will help to focus the efforts of all Wikipedians who are interested in helping organize the community. This project is open to everyone. If you would like to help, please join the project, inquire on the talk page and see the to-do list below.

Goals[edit]

Wikipedia has grown exponentially since its founding. Decisions that were made after discussions by small groups of dedicated editors have since become much more cumbersome as the number of people involved grows larger and larger. As the discussions grow bigger, the amount of text the discussion generates becomes huge. The more text, the harder it becomes for community member to read through the discussion and understand the issues being discussed. This is not a problem unique to wikis.

Formal consensus decision-making practices using facilitators, can improve the process. Community discussions can be facilitated by either an individual editor or a group of editors. Facilitation improves discussion by:

  • Outlining the process to be used to make decisions before the process begins
  • Summarizing the work that has already been done
  • Keeping the process on track
  • Stimulating creative input
  • Keeping discussions fair
  • Encouraging solutions that accommodate the concerns of minority opinions
  • Documenting the process
  • Evaluating results

All of the work of this WikiProject focuses on Issue pages, which are discussed below.

Scope[edit]

While any issue can benefit from being facilitated, this project intends to focus on those issues that will most benefit from the process. The following criteria indicate which issues best fit the scope of the project:

  • The issue has been discussed in many different venues.
  • Discussions about the issue have become very large and involve many individuals.
  • Discussions about the issue have become contentious.
  • Previous attempts to resolve the issue have been unsuccessful.

Issue pages[edit]

Issue pages are the focus of the work of the project. Each issue page documents and summarizes the work being done by the community to understand the issue, define it, create possible solutions, reach consensus and resolve the problem. Ideally an entire issue page should be short enough so that a community member can quickly understand what the issue is, why it is being discussed, and the progress that has been made.

Issue pages also function as collective memory of the community. Once an issue has been resolved, a community member can read the completed issue page to understand how the community reached the conclusion that it did. Related issues and discussions in the future can use older issue pages as a resource.

Issue pages are NOT the place to have discussions, but rather the place to summarize discussions so everyone understands the progress being made and the different core ideas and positions being presented.

Links[edit]

To make issue pages effective they must be visible. Links to the issue page should be created wherever an issue is being discussed. Project members can leave a link to the issue page and cite the discussion on the issue page. Links to the issue pages should encourage the participants of the discussion to add a summary of the resulting consensus to the issue page. Over time, the community will see the issue page as the primary destination to find out what is happening with an issue and find where it is being discussed.

Issue page guidelines[edit]

Issue pages are like articles[edit]

The process of writing an issue page is analogous to that of writing an article in the main namespace. The process of creating the issue page puts the emphasis on collecting and distilling useful information for the benefit of the entire community, rather than expressing the view of the individual editor. Project members, for all intents and purposes, are writing an article about the issue. Many of the same guidelines that govern the writing or articles will apply to the writing of issue pages. The writing should be NPOV and well cited and verifiable. For example if there is a debate about a specific point on another page, the facilitator would write an NPOV summary of the discussion. It would be linked to the actual discussion, which is, in effect, a citation. The normal edit, revert, discuss cycle can be used to write the page, with discussions on the talk page. Some article writing guidelines can be ignored. For example, original research should be encouraged instead of forbidden. Third party citations are not needed. Direct citations are about all that can be expected since we are writing about our own community.

Issue pages are not a forum for debate[edit]

The issue page is a NPOV summary and resource for the entire community. It is not a forum for debate. The talk page should only be used to discuss the writing and editing of the issue page. Discussions debating the issue itself should happen elsewhere. It is the responsibility of Wikiproject members to move debates off the talk page. If a debate starts involving two individuals, it can be moved to the talk page of one of the individuals, and then removed from the issue's talk page. If the debate involves several editors, they can be asked to find a different forum for their discussion, or the entire discussion can be moved to a subpage of the issue page. When moving debates, the participants should be politely requested to return to the issue page after their debate has concluded and add a summary of the resulting consensus if the debaters think it can be of value to the larger community.

Facilitators don't take sides[edit]

If facilitators are perceived as being partial to a particular stance in any debate, their effectiveness in helping shape the issue page will be greatly lessened. Summaries of debates should either be written by an uninvolved party, or better yet, the collaborative effort of the debating parties. Facilitators are not empowered to make decisions, nor is it the goal of this project to define decision-making power. Rather, the goal is to help the consensus process along, to provide a long-term home for a discussion topic through many cycles of debate and revision, and to serve the entire community.

It is not for facilitators to state whether a discussion has been concluded, an issue resolved or a proposal accepted or rejected. Even issues that have long ago reached consensus remain part of an ongoing discussion, as a successful lesson that can be applied elsewhere, or as an acknowledged mistake that can be revisited.

Proposing new issue pages[edit]

Anyone can propose a new issue by creating a new subpage page at Wikipedia:Community Issues/PAGENAME . Project members and others will help to merge, prioritize, separate, and organize issues so that related issues can be seen side by side and the community can find the issues that are most pressing.

Publicizing new issues[edit]

Once a new issue page is created, it should be linked to Wikipedia:Issues with a very brief summary of the issue and its current status. Once an issue page is created it should also be announced to the community by adding links from many other locations like Wikipedia signpost, community pump, etc...

The decision making process[edit]

It is the hope of the Wikiproject to move the community towards the utilization of a creative problem-solving approach to resolving issues. The outline below is just one possible template for a process that can be used to help solve a community issue. The process can be adapted to the needs of the issue. Over time, the process outlined in this guideline will evolve as the community discovers processes that work and discard processes that don't.

This process is derived from a decades old creative problems solving technique[1] combined with well understood, time-tested techniques used in consensus decision making.

Background information and analysis[edit]

This would be the first section on the issue page. It should have links to the previous discussions about the topic and a brief discussion of the history of the issue. This should be a few paragraphs at most. If it needs to be longer, or there is a long list of previous discussions, the facilitator should create a subpage to go into detail. It is important that the background information and analysis be presented in a way that does not presuppose any specific solution, or even a specific way of framing the problem. The concern should be presenting the symptoms of the problems that have arisen in the past and the efforts that have been made to address the symptoms.

Defining the issue[edit]

This discussion will often have several stages. To start, it would be useful to collect the ways the problem has been framed in the past. The community might then create a list of concerns. It often helps to create a list of criteria that can be used to evaluate any potential solutions. The end result of these discussions should be a brief statement that defines the problem in a broad, open-ended way that does not presuppose a specific solution. The statement should be at most 2 or 3 sentences. Along with the statement, the list of criteria can be evaluated, refined and weighed to help assess the concerns of the community.

Community brainstorming[edit]

In many Wikipedia discussions, people often discuss whether to implement solutions before having generated alternative solutions. When appropriate, it can be helpful to request a multitude of possible solutions. Collaborative brainstorming should be encouraged. If there are several alternatives, it may be helpful to create a taxonomy of solutions. This can help people understand the choices that are possible and how one solution is similar or different from another. Creating a taxonomy often helps generate alternative solutions that have not been considered.

As alternatives are being created, the community should be encouraged to build on the proposed ideas to improve them further. Each possible solution will have the opportunity to evolve and improve. Other community members will be inspired to create alternatives that had not previously been considered.

While this is not a selection process, it will become clear that there are some alternatives that are superior to others. It will also become clear that some alternatives have no chance of garnering community support.

The selection process[edit]

There are many ways that selections can be made. the community should be encouraged to evaluate the positive and negative attributes of each proposed solution using the community generated criteria. The evaluation process should encourage changes that improve each proposals. Often the process will naturally coalesce on a small handful of solutions that best meet the criteria. It is up to the facilitator to decide the next step, whether it be more discussions, straw polls, iterative changes, focusing on addressing concerns, or calling for consensus.

Eventually there will be a call for consensus. At this point it is important to emphasize that the choices are agreement, standing aside or blocking consensus. It will be up to the facilitator to make the final call if consensus has been reached. In some cases, the facilitator might want to convene a panel of closers to make the call. There also might be cases when the decision will need to be reviewed by Jimmy Wales, the Wikimedia foundation board, legal staff, etc...

Implementation[edit]

Once there is a decision, there should be discussion about how it will be implemented, the next steps that need to be taken, and who will undertake the implementation.

Evaluation and archiving[edit]

When the process is complete the issue page should be edited for clarity and conciseness and announced to the community. It should be linked wherever appropriate: a central archive of decisions, relevant policy and guideline pages, Wikipedia signpost, etc...

There should also be an evaluation of the process and the facilitation: What worked, what didn't and what issues remain unresolved? How can the process be improved? What did the facilitator(s) do well? What could the facilitator(s) have done better?

The completed issue page will become an important document -- the collective history of the issue. Anyone wanting to understand how a community decision was made will be able to reference it. It will be very useful if and when the issue is revisited.


Open tasks[edit]

edit·history·watch·refresh Stock post message.svg To-do list for Wikipedia:Community Facilitation:


Participants[edit]

Please feel free to add yourself here, and to indicate any areas of particular interest.

  1. Sam (talk · contribs) (I started this wikiproject and am interested in organizing it) 22:35, 28 July 2009 (UTC)
  2. Sj (talk · contribs) 02:35, 29 July 2009 (UTC)
  3. Xavexgoem (talk · contribs) 01:28, 12 August 2009 (UTC)
  4. phoebe (talk · contribs) 22:42, 14 August 2009 (UTC)

Issues[edit]

All issue pages can be found at:

Issue pages should also be cross linked with any Wikipedia page, article page or talk page where there is a relevant, productive discussion about the issue.

Templates[edit]

Resources[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Koberg, Don; Bagnall, Jim (1973). The Universal Traveler (1976 ed.). William Kaufmann, Inc. ISBN 0-913232-05-X. 

Related WikiProjects[edit]