Values/History

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2006 discussion: Mission and Vision statements[edit]

The WMF's Board of Trustees drafted the Mission statement, and a revised Vision statement, in October 2006. Erik Möller, then a member of the Board, started a follow-up discussion with the communities on foundation-l the following month, as well as another discussion in January 2007. The Mission and Vision statements were approved by the Board later that year, in April 2007.

2007 discussion: Values[edit]

Main article: Values/2007 discussion

In 2007, Florence Devouard (then chair of the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees) started a discussion about the Foundation's values on the foundation-l list. A list of 16 values was first drafted by the Board and the Advisory Board as an "exercise", and discussed on Meta-Wiki (alongside other input, such as the text of the English Wikipedia's Five Pillars) with the larger communities.

Florence restarted the discussion on January 29, 2008 on foundation-l, presenting a new draft ("I have been thinking over it in the past few weeks, and here is the result of my list") consisting of a longer text listing six core values together with explanations, and proposing "to the board to finalize the values of Wikimedia Foundation."

After some feedback from list members, she posted a modified version on the Meta page on February 1, which is largely identical to today's (2016) text.

2009 Strategy proposal[edit]

During the 2009 Strategic planning process, Ad Huikeshoven wrote a proposal related to values, entitled Values - what is important to us, as an organization?. The stated motivation was this:

Clarifying the values and what behaviors people expect of each other may also bring to the surface underlying differences between the board and staff. People may discover that some of the ongoing conflicts about programs and the direction of the agency have been due to contradictory values or diverse interpretations of what the Core Values mean.

The benefits for exploring Core Values and risking to work through the conflicts, though, are greater levels of trust among the staff and between the staff and board, more creativity, more cohesion among the staff, and more flexible management.

The proposal is also notable in that it referred to the values as applying to the Wikimedia movement, not just the Wikimedia Foundation.

2013 Guiding principles[edit]

In 2013, then-Executive Director Sue Gardner drafted a list of Guiding principles for the WMF, which were discussed widely with the community on Meta during March and April of that year, and then presented to, and officially approved by the Board in May.

That resolution indicates that the guiding principles "may come to replace the previous list of values", but no confirmation could be found for that replacement. A conflicting statement from Sue Gardner indicates that "This document isn't intended to supersede the Values document. It's actually intended to flesh out the values a little bit further, so it's more explicit how we live them on a day-to-day basis at the staff level."

2016 discussion[edit]

Main article: Values/Review/2016

In early 2016, there was a renewed interest in the topic of Wikimedia values. In January, Guillaume Paumier inquired on wikimedia-l about the origin and official status of the WMF's values and guiding principles. Former Board member SJ Klein indicated that the guiding principles had not replaced the values, and that there had been "brainstorming sessions at the Board+ED retreat in Nov 2014". The outcome was that the values and principles were not immutable, and there was a plan to hold a similar discussion in the 2015 public strategy discussion. (This didn't happen.)

Florence also responded to the thread, confirming that the values were "the result of a soft consensus". She likened them to Wikipedia's Five pillars, explaining that the goal was to have "soft consensus on a version till the time we rework the text to make it clearer. Or till the time we feel like an additional pillar must be added."

Shortly after, there was also a separate workshop about values at the WMF's annual employee meeting.

It has been suggested that the WMF and the Wikimedia movement might benefit from setting up a regular discussion (e.g. annually) to review the alignment between the WMF and its values. That process has not been set up yet; it is (as of February 2016) being discussed at Values/Review/2016.