The talent we need.

We are growing the free knowledge movement.

We are looking for board members to join us. 

The future of free knowledge

The Wikimedia movement is based on a radical vision:
a world in which every single person can freely share in all knowledge.

We believe that world is within reach.

Over the past 15 years, Wikipedia has become one of the world’s most beloved resources, reaching hundreds of millions of people each month with reliable, free information, written by a community of critical thinkers.

There are opportunities and challenges all around us.

There is information everywhere you turn. Populations are changing around the world. Literacy levels are rising. Internet penetration continues to grow.

Meanwhile, the web is less open and more commercial. Privacy is increasingly illusory. The window of discourse is narrowing. The quality of our civilization’s infosphere may be at stake. 

We are serious about our vision.

We must face the future with our communities, as a movement.

Where we came from.

It began in 2001 as a radical idea: an open and free encyclopedia that anyone could edit.  Let go of traditional notions of experts and peer review and allow anyone to create, edit, and discuss articles. Build an open platform, add reasonable rules of engagement, and see what happens.

Lo and behold, contributors from all over the world arrived in waves.
In the Spring of 2006, Wikipedia celebrated its 1 millionth article in over 100 languages. And they were only getting started.

For the first few years, the work of the Foundation was done almost entirely by volunteers. In 2005, for example, we had two employees—a software manager and a coordinator. But as the projects grew, and the support those projects needed also grew, we brought in smart, purpose-driven people, got our organizational act together, and didn’t lose sight of our communities of contributors and volunteers—the very people that built the projects. 

Where we are today.

Wikipedia is now 16 years old. It is the largest collection of free, collaborative knowledge in human history. It houses more than 35 million volunteer-authored articles in more than 290 languages.

And the Wikimedia Foundation, originally powered by volunteers, now has a staff 280 strong with an annual operating budget of ±70M USD.

Current competencies:

We engineer.

We support the servers that power the sites. We run technical security. We build new products and features for readers and editors: apps, editing interfaces, messaging and collaboration tools, uploaders, and viewing experiences.

We fundraise.

We raise the money to support the infrastructure of our projects. Our fundraising model reflects our underlying philosophy: we can do more together than we can as individuals. Instead of relying on large donations or ads, 60% of our 70M USD annual operating budget comes from online donations that average 15 USD. Now we’ve launched an endowment to help support the growth of our projects in perpetuity.

We share resources with our affiliates and communities.

Through grants, we currently give ±7M USD to contributors and affiliates who do important work in furtherance of the free knowledge movement.

We defend free knowledge and the rights of our users around the world.

We fight censorship, we support open licenses and open access, and we defend our users’ free expression and privacy rights around the world on and offline.

We support. We inform. We collaborate.

We advocate, teach, run mass, multilingual consultations on our policies, initiatives, and products. We support trust and safety online and are investing heavily in anti-harassment work. We want to become a leader in civil discourse online. We pay attention to and support new, emerging, smaller wikis and their communities.

Our path to grow.

But hold on. Zoom out a bit. Our story is larger still. The Wikimedia Foundation is an organization within a larger ecosystem of organizations.

We have ±150 affiliates and partners around the world (e.g. chapters, user groups, cultural and educational institutions). We think it is time we all step back and think together about where the world is headed over the next 15 years, how to be of service to it, and better coalesce and grow our efforts.

We needed a “movement strategy”, so throughout 2017, we got together with content contributors, experts, affiliates, board members, and new readers to think about how to make free knowledge an established way of life everywhere.

The role of the board.

We are a usual, centralised organization (funds, servers, TMs etc) operating in an unusual, decentralised movement. We are a multi-stakeholder ecosystem on the move. Control is not an appropriate leadership philosophy within our context. When Wikipedia was released into the wild the Wikimedia communities said to the world, “We trust you.”

Board members play a vital role in shaping and approving our strategy, ensuring the we use our resources in pursuit of our mission, and championing our vision, mission, and values within our communities and in public.

The Board's role is to oversee the management of the Foundation, and advise, challenge, and support the Executive Director without crossing into management.  

The structure of the board.

The Board is structured to hold a range of experiences and differing expertise:

  • three community-nominated volunteer seats,
  • two affiliate-nominated volunteer seats,
  • four appointed expert volunteer seats,
  • Wales, the founder, retains an honorary seat.

Community and affiliate-nominated members bring deep knowledge of our movement, but may not have previously participated in board governance. Members appointed by the Board bring subject-matter expertise, yet may know little about the culture and complexities of our movement.

It’s not a job for the faint of heart. For those willing to invest, however, it could be the ride of a lifetime. We currently reach nearly a billion users a month and we’re making plans to reach more.

At the moment, we are looking to fill two appointed expert seats.

Specific talent needs

At the beginning of 2017, the Wikimedia Foundation began a global discussion to imagine our movement’s collective future, under the name Wikimedia 2030. We’ve been collaborating—building a broad strategic direction, with the goal of uniting and inspiring people across the world around our vision of free knowledge for all.

To achieve our strategic objectives in an exponentially complex and rapidly evolving technological and social space, the Wikimedia Foundation must continue to mature its operations and effectiveness. Our culture is growing to include an emphasis on performance and outcomes, in order to be more accountable to our mission and those we serve. 17 years into our existence, we have achieved widespread global presence and legitimacy, and accordingly are expanding our leadership role among peers in the private, public, and non-profit sectors.

We are developing robust management structures, the ability to tackle complex operations, more autonomy in executive leadership roles, and collaborative execution across the organization. We are bolstering our capacity to take on long term challenges and respond to a rapidly changing environment. We are increasing a focus on performance outcomes for international growth. We are increasing focus on professional development while also attracting professional, high-caliber talent across technology, management, and other fields. 

As the Wikimedia Foundation continues to mature, we need a Board which consists of leaders with similarly mature talents and capabilities, in order to ensure the body remains a significant partner and stakeholder to the organization they oversee.

You will likely possess some or all of the following experience or expertise:

  • You are a values-motivated leader with a deep commitment to affecting global social change for a more just and open world.
  • You have experience leading an organization where you were challenged to grow. You found ways to hire faster, train faster, and change processes faster by engendering a culture focused on performance and collaboration.
  • You understand how to scrutinize an organization and hold high standards. You know how to ask the right questions, pushing the organization to new levels of professionalism and achievement, while also protecting against undesirable financial and organizational disruption.
  • You have run a large technology platform, preferably one leading on open source, open data, or a multi-sided community platform.
  • You are networked into a dynamic community of technology and social leaders committed to sharing power and knowledge in order to make a contribution to the whole.
  • You have cross-sector and multifaceted communication skills that you leverage in order to support innovative partnerships and ventures.
  • You have a deep respect for individual privacy and understand the right, transparent way to manage data for larger achieving organizational/community goals.
  • You have the time to commit to learning, attending and participating in events, discussions and documents regarding the technological and organizational growth of the the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia movement.

The commitment

Board members serve for three-year, renewable terms. Each year, the Board convenes four times in person at different locations around the world and three to six times online as necessary. Meetings require coordination with members across the world and across time zones.

Overall, the time commitment for standard service is roughly 75 hours per year (not including travel). Board members may additionally choose to dedicate time to one or more Board committees, supporting and providing counsel to the Executive Director and her team, or promoting the Wikimedia movement through speaking engagements and connecting with the Wikimedia communities. All Board positions are unpaid and provided in service of the movement. 

Help us make free knowledge an established way of life everywhere.

References

  1. For more information, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation#History.
  2. For our basic rules of engagement, see The Five Pillars of Wikipedia.
  3. Read more about our millionth article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Millionth_article_FAQ#What_is_this_FAQ_about.3F.
  4. For more information about the history of Wikipedia, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia.
  5. Wikimedia Foundation Audit Report https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/foundation/4/43/Wikimedia_Foundation_Audit_Report_-_FY15-16.pdf
  6. Michelle Paulson, Interim General Counsel, in a meeting of the Wikimedia Executive team, September, 2016.
  7. Wikimedia Foundation 2016-2017 Annual Report https://annual.wikimedia.org/2017/
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