Delphine Ménard

Wikipedia/Wikimedia, a role model for governance?

Do Wikipedia and its parent organisation Wikimedia have something to teach us about governance?

From direct democracy, consensus based decisions in the Wikimedia projects to a human sized but global outreaching and real-life based international organisation, what has one learned from the other? And more important, what can they still learn from other models, other experiences?

Will you, Reboot people, help Wikipedia and Wikimedia imagine the best governance model?

"Wikimedia? Oh, you must mean Wikipedia? Yeah, I love Wikipedia."

From "a" wiki to "the" wiki

In 5 years, Wikipedia has grown from a small wiki experience to the 10th most visited website in the world, with a community of more than 100,000 people editing in 100 different languages. The Wikimedia Foundation was born in 2003 from a need to collect money and keep the servers up and give independance to the projects. It is now a million-dollar organisation. In 4 years, 9 national Wikimedia chapters have arisen, and 6 more are ready to launch themselves in the big adventure of supporting Wikipedia and its sister projects.

Volunteers, professionals, professional volunteers...

Up there with the biggest websites, Wikipedia is run only by volunteers, who work together to bring the sum of human knowledge in one place.

In the background, the Wikimedia organisations strive to make sure that the website stays up and that the challenging mission of spreading free knowledge is not only a phenomenon, but a reality.

Wikipedias across languages all have their rules, their policies, their hierarchy (or lack thereof) forming a unique network of communities and governance models brought together under a single goal, gather and spread human knowledge. From the wiki model sprang organisations across the globe, each with their specificities.

Real world organisations and online communities: where do cultures meet?

The Wikimedia Foundation, based in Florida, USA, hosts the website. It is run by a board of volunteers from 4 different countries, of which 4 are elected by the community of editors on the Wikimedia Projects and 5 appointed members. In an American organisational frame, cultural differences, wiki history, real-life and professional experiences work together to try and find a synergy looking at giving the organisation the right strategy to pursue its mission, while achieving sustainability. A network of chapters in 9 countries, soon to be 15, bring to the table their different governance models. And along with the organisations, the community of editors chips in to criticize, support, discuss and change strategy.

Reinventing governance

With 10 paid staff and maybe 5000 very active volunteers around the world, wedged between a culture of direct democracy and consensus, and the strict legal frame of the non-profit and corporate world, Wikimedia strives to find the right model to reach sustainability, and reinvents governance every day.

So, what next?

In bulk a few questions around which to lead this discussion, your insight is needed!

*What does Wikipedia the project, teach to Wikimedia, the organisation, and vice-versa.
*Paid staff and volunteers: does it work? how does it work? how can it work best? Will it still work?
*A small non profit playing in the league of multi-billion dollars corporations, how does it keep a healthy place?
*Exploring checks and balances: the Wikimedia community, the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimedia local chapters: which representation model?
*The role of the organisation in the life of the online projects: where do responsibilities start and end?