Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2007-08-06/US chapter

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Committee makes statement on U.S. chapter

By Michael Snow, 6 August, 2007

Addressing an issue that has come up with increasing frequency in recent months, the Chapters committee of the Wikimedia Foundation has put out a statement dealing with the prospect of local chapters for the United States. With efforts ongoing to organize a chapter in the state of Pennsylvania, this is expected to be the first of multiple chapters organized in the country, with the relationships between these and a potential national chapter still to be defined.

The statement was presented on Wednesday, August 1, by Chapters committee vice chair Austin Hair. It indicated that Wikimedia policy on U.S. chapters was not fully determined, but would involve "a different approach from that we've established over the last few years working to build chapters in Europe and elsewhere." The committee signaled its intent to let policies be determined as particular needs arise based on practical issues.

Creation of local chapters, which began in Europe and has more recently seen developments in Israel and East Asia, has so far focused on national organizations. With the Florida-based foundation behind the global Wikimedia structure, countries have been the basis for chapters because they provide a legal jurisdictional footing, and due to the similarities to other international nonprofits such as the Red Cross. Where this has deviated from the national model, as with the Wikimedia Hong Kong chapter currently in process of organizing, it has been due to unique political situations.

Organization of a chapter in the United States has yet to take place for a variety of reasons. One incentive, the potential for tax-deductibility of donations, hasn't been necessary since the global organization is already based in the U.S. Meanwhile, the U.S.'s geographical breadth has been cited as an obstacle to organizing on a national level.

To allow for chapters to organize people in reasonable proximity, two possibilities have come up. One is to create chapters based on states, the next-largest political unit to provide a natural jurisdictional basis. An alternative would be to orient chapters toward metropolitan areas, which sometimes cross state boundaries, so as to involve more people and keep them geographically close enough for a chapter to function. Illustrating this challenge, the proposed Wikimedia Pennsylvania would be based in Philadelphia, whose metropolitan area extends to New Jersey, Delaware, and even Maryland.

The potential ramifications would also depend on questions such as how individual membership in a chapter is determined, and whether multiple chapters can exist in a state. Such issues, along with whether to eventually organize state or regional chapters under the umbrella of a national U.S. chapter, remain to be determined. For now, Hair merely acknowledged the "unique geopolitical circumstance" presented by the United States situation.


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