Questions and Answers
Zack Exley and Barry Newstead join the Wikimedia Foundation executive management team
(read the announcement)
- What sections of the current Wikimedia Foundation will report to each new chief executive officer?
- Reporting to the Chief Community Officer: Fundraising, Reader relations, Public outreach, and volunteer coordination. Reporting to the Chief Global Development Officer: Communications and Business Development. New management roles will likely be created in each section over the next year.
- How is this hiring strategy different from the Chief Programs Officer hiring?
- When we first proposed the Chief Programs Officer we were primarily focussed on building the population of new editors and contributors to our projects. Throughout Wikimedia's strategic planning process we began to identify the aligning factors among our overall population of contributors, both the volunteers who edit and add to our projects and those people who support us financially through our annual giving campaign. We have over 250,000 donors, and over 100,000 currently-active volunteers for our projects from around the world. Together that group is approaching half a million people from around the world - a group that collectively supports our projects.
- By bringing that whole population together we hope to be able to speak with all Wikimedia constituencies with a single, authentic voice. The Chief Community Officer will look at ways of building and better understanding that whole population, and addressing the needs of these groups, which we believe are very much aligned:
- understanding what the Foundation is doing, and hearing about the impact of our projects around the world.
- finding out how to participate and contribute both on the web and off-line (how to find local Wikimedia contributors to meet with, for example)
- improving our annual, on-line giving campaign so we can reach out to more prospective donors around the world, and find ways for them to provide meaningful support to the Wikimedia projects in ways that may include volunteering time and expertise, as well as money.
- How will the Chief Community Officer work with the volunteers of the Wikimedia Foundation?
- The CCO will oversee and manage the work of the pre-existing sections of fundraising, public outreach, volunteer coordination, and reader relations. Those sections aren't changing, so the work of the Foundation directly with our volunteer contributors for the time being will remain unchanged. The CCO will be looking at ways of improving support to volunteers from the Foundation by examining broadly where new services or technologies may be created that support volunteers in more than one way. For example, we may look at ways of helping connect volunteers to one another - something that would help us attract new, subject-matter experts and pair them with experienced volunteers, or act as a way for our financial contributors to take their first steps in editing Wikipedia.
- The CCO will also be addressing ways of supporting the Foundation's growing number of international chapters in their fundraising activities, should they choose to undertake those activities. This might include, for example, coaching chapters in fundraising best practices with regards to donor privacy and thanking, as well as sharing the Wikimedia Foundation's experiences with regards to restricted grant proposals, major gifts solicitation, and so forth.
- Does this mean that you will not be hiring a Chief Development Officer?
- Yes, correct. We are hiring a CCO instead of a CDO. Basically, we're folding the Chief Development Officer role into the work of the Chief Community Officer, a position that will encompass both fundraising and other community relationships. This is extremely unusual for a traditional non-profit - generally in non-profits, fundraising is a single department. However, the Wikimedia Foundation receives mission-critical support from both volunteers (primarily, but not exclusively, editors), and from donors. Every year, millions of dollars worth of contributions come from both groups. Given that, we think it makes sense to treat all the projects' critical supporters as part of a single department. We also believe that our donors and volunteers have a lot in common: both groups believe in Wikimedia's educational mission, and share similar values including collaboration, transparency, freedom, and the importance of information in helping people make good decisions about their lives. And so we would like to treat them the same, in hopes that we can persuade some donors to also become active in the projects as editors, or in other ways.
- What exactly will the CGDO be in charge of? What will their first actions be?
- The CGDO is primarily focussed on expanding the Foundation's reach and influence in the global south. Specifically, in the first year, the plan is to expand our presence in India by hiring staff there to recruit new editors and support editor self-organization. The CGDO will also be working with Foundation staff on initiatives designed to increase global reach (readership) by creating new relationships with mobile phone services, and by creating new offline products for people who want to read Wikipedia, but have no internet access.
- Building our presence in the global south is one of the key outcomes of Wikimedia's five-year strategy plan. Based on our research we identified a handful of countries that have enormous potential audiences for the Wikimedia projects, either because they have a large number of internet-connected people, or because the number of people with internet access is rapidly growing. These countries include India, Brazil, the Arabic-speaking Middle East / North African countries. These are countries where the Wikimedia Foundation would like to take steps to increase readership, by making Wikipedia more accessible to people there, by recruiting new editors to strengthen the projects in the languages used in those countries, and by helping support self-organization of editors there, so that they can launch their own initiatives designed to grow number of articles, increase quality of existing articles, recruit more editors and build project awareness.
- The CGDO will begin by furthering our awareness of those countries, including identifying local experts and carrying out research. We will soon hire staff to manage and build offices in those nations and begin more organized outreach and awareness work, ultimately increasing the number of contributors and increasing the awareness of how Wikipedia can be used as a free knowledge resource.
- What will the staff on the ground in these new nations be doing?
- Each country is different, so we will take different approaches in different locations. We will start in India, where we have the provisional intent to focus on editor recruitment, possibly with a particular emphasis on recruiting editors who will help with the non-English Wikipedia language versions that are used by Indian people. The CGDO's job will be to examine the particular context that the projects operate in inside each priority region, and develop a strategy designed to grow readership inside those circumstances.
- Will you be hiring other chief executives? What will the total chief executive team look like?
- We're in the process of searching for a Chief Human Resources Officer. This would conclude our planned hiring for Chief Executives. With that role, we would then have a Chief Technology Officer, Chief Community Officer, Chief Global Development Officer, Chief Financial and Operations Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer. We also have an Executive Director, and a Deputy Director.