Introducing a new Friendly Space Policy

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Wikimedia Nederland recently introduced a new Friendly Space Policy (FSP). This FSP is an application of the Wikimedia Universal Code of Conduct at the level of a Wikimedia affiliate. As far as we know, it is one of the first in its kind.

The new FSP applies during all in-person and online events organised by WMNL, and on all the online platforms, sites and channels for which WMNL is responsible.

Its goal is to ensure a safe and pleasant working environment, and to restore such an environment after incidents.The FSP makes clear what behaviour we expect of attendees and participants, and what behaviour will not be tolerated. It explains how incidents can be reported, how they will be investigated, and which measures WMNL can take to safeguard a friendly space. It also provides a transparent appeals process.

Drafting this new policy, discussing it with the community and setting up the infrastructure for its implementation was a lot of work - more than we expected, to be honest. However, it was a great learning experience. We think we have made big steps forward in safeguarding a welcoming environment, and in transparent and fair governance. We are happy to share this with the wider Wikimedia movement.

The full text of the WMNL Friendly Space Policy and the accompanying Enforcement and Reporting Protocol can be found here.


WMNL has had a Friendly Space Policy (FSP) since 2015 to ensure that everyone could feel socially and physically safe when they participated in WMNL activities and events, or used WMNL channels and platforms.

By 2020, WMNL felt that the existing FSP needed updating. It did not work that well for online events and did not reflect thinking within the movement about inclusivity. It specified only one measure to address unacceptable behaviour (removal from the event). It did not outline the decision making process, or provide options for appeal. Also in 2020, the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) was adopted, which applied to WMNL as an affiliate of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF).

The WMNL Board started a discussion with the community about the contours of a revised FSP. What should be the purpose of the FSP, and which issues should it cover?

The process

In 2021 a working group was set up to draft a proposal. This working group consisted of three WMNL members, a board member and the executive director. Their assignment was to draft

  • a clear document, as short and concise as possible,
  • in line with the Universal Code of Conduct,
  • applicable for online and in-person meetings, and providing a framework for online conduct/communication on WMNL-managed platforms
  • containing guidelines for the process of reporting, handling of reports, and appeals.

The working group took the UCoC as their starting point. They analysed what was and was not applicable to a chapter like WMNL, and assessed whether anything was missing.

Then the drafting began, which involved a lot of attention to detail and even more in depth discussions. The working group regularly asked the community to comment on drafts, and always provided feedback on how community input was incorporated. The ‘almost final’ draft was shared with the WMF Trust and Safety team, who gave valuable comments.

Twice, drafts were discussed in the WMNL General Assembly.

The process was lengthy, and got delayed because of the pandemic and occasionally reduced availability of working group members. However, on 19 January 2023 the WMNL Board approved the new Friendly Space Policy, and the accompanying Protocol for Enforcement and Reporting. It came into force on April 1, 2023.

The WMNL Friendly Space Policy

Like the UCoC. the WMNL Friendly Space Policy comes in two parts: the Friendly Space Policy and the Enforcement and Reporting Protocol. The full text of both documents has been translated into English and is available on the WMNL Wiki.

WMNL's Friendly Space Policy in bullet points:

  • The goal of the FSP is to ensure a safe and pleasant working environment, and to restore such an environment after incidents;
  • The policy applies everywhere: during in person and online meetings, and on the platforms, sites and channels for which WMNL is responsible;
  • It applies to all attendees and participants: to members, non-members, volunteers, board members and employees of WMNL alike;
  • It specifies desirable behaviour, as well as which behaviour is considered unacceptable;
  • It makes clear to everyone how and to whom they can report a (suspected) violation of the FSP. That process is easily accessible;
  • It outlines the division of responsibilities and authority in implementing the FSP;
  • It specifies what measures WMNL can take to safeguard a friendly space: from an informal verbal reprimand to long-term exclusion from all WMNL activities and channels;
  • It includes an appeal process against decisions made by WMNL in the context of the FSP;
  • It specifically states that WMNL will work with all involved to re-create a situation where everyone can participate again, and no more measures are necessary.

Who’s who in the WMNL FSP?

  • WMNL Board: final responsibility for enforcement of the FSP. The Board reports at least once a year to the General Assembly.
  • Board member FSP. the Board appoints one of its members to handle the FSP portfolio.
  • Executive director: responsible for the day to day implementation of FSP.
  • FSP contactperson - an FSP contact is appointed for each activity and event, and for each platform and channel. A contactperson is mandated to take all measures necessary to ensure enforcement of the FSP. This can be a volunteer, a staff member or a board member.
  • Ombudsperson : point of contact for anyone who wishes to discuss in confidence a matter related to the FSP; also acts as advisor to the WMNL Board and management
  • General Assembly: appoints a committee for FSP affairs. This committee will act as a final appeal body for decisions taken by the Board within the framework of the FSP

Writing a Friendly Space Policy: it’s complicated

Drafting a Friendly Space Policy is quite a task. It was more challenging, and took much more time, than we had expected.

We learned that the most important thing is to keep in mind that the FSP is not there to punish people. Its purpose is to safeguard a friendly and safe environment, and ensure that as many people as possible can participate. We were not drafting a legal document, but a code of conduct. It was tempting to try and cover every situation that could hypothetically occur. But that would produce an unworkable document. We tried to keep it general, and have faith in the judgment of the people implementing the FSP in real life.

Still, we were a bit shocked at the amount of text we needed to explain exactly what we meant. The size of the final document lead to concerns in the community about increased bureaucracy. However, many of the processes described in the FSP already existed in some form (reporting + investigating incidents, deciding on measures to be taken, appeals to the board). Writing them down did not increase bureaucracy, but did increase transparency.

We knew that conflicts on the Wikimedia projects can 'spill over' to Wikimedia Nederland activities. After much discussion, we decided that individuals who are blocked on Wikimediaprojects will be excluded from WMNL activities. The Board can give exemptions, if appropriate. A point of concern remains that people could try to ‘weaponise’ the FSP in ongoing on-wiki conflicts. The FSP allows WMNL to proactively approach editors involved in on-wiki conflicts when they register for WMNL events, and make clear what behaviour is acceptable. Making ‘malicious’ false reports of FSP violations is seen as an FSP violation in itself.

Another big point of debate was whether or not to allow anonymous reporting of (possible) FSP violations. The Board decided not to allow this to minimise the chance of malicious reporting. Reporting a FSP violation using a Wikimedia username is possible.

What rules should apply during WMNL events organised with partners, or at partners’ premises? How can we assure a pleasant working environment if we are not in charge? We discuss the Code of Conduct with our partner/host, and assess whether or not we are confident a safe and pleasant environment can be provided for the participants. If certain parts of the FSP can not be enforced, we inform the participants beforehand. (This relates especially to excluding Wikimedians who are blocked on a Wikimediaproject. Many of our partners are public institutions and cannot easily refuse entrance to people.)

Should the Ombudsperson be a Wikimedian or not? The FSP calls for the appointment of an ombudsperson, someone who can be approached confidentially by anyone from the WMNL community if they have concerns. We decided we would fill this position externally, bringing in a professional with relevant skills.

Introducing the new FSP

Writing the FSP was a big task, so was preparing for the roll-out:

  • We created an FSP landing page on the wiki, providing full text, explanations, and practical information on how to report a violation or how to appeal decisions..
  • We adapted our registration forms for events, and provided information about the new FSP on all our sites, channels and platforms
  • We sent out announcements to all WMNL members, the wider community, and active volunteers (especially those involved in organising events or moderating platforms) via personal emails, mailing lists, the WMNL wiki, and the newsletter.
  • We organised a training session for community members who are likely to be directly involved in implementing the FSP. We also set up a Telegram group for them, so that they can always reach out to ask for advice or help during events.

And now?

The new Friendly Space Policy came into force on April 1, 2023. One of our priorities now is to develop good training materials, especially for people who are willing to act as FSP-contactpersons during events. We are working with WMFon this.

After a year, we will review the FSP and see if any changes are necessary.