Wikimedia Fellowships/Project Ideas/A study of strategic alignment within the Wikimedia community

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Contributing to Wikimedia projects is a discretionary activity. Two fundamental activities which are under increasing pressure include editing and fundraising. Discussion of editor retention and fundraising policies is indicative of differing interpretations of Wikimedia's overarching strategy. The proposed study will investigate collaboration and discussion patterns over time coupled with Wikimedia's evolving strategic direction to indicate the influence of strategic alignment on member behavior.


Bill Foster is a PhD Candidate in Strategic Management at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Together with his PhD advisor, Professor Bill McEvily, Mr. Foster is seeking an opportunity to collaborate with Wikimedia for a research study aimed at understanding the relationship between strategic alignment and social networks within an organization/collective .

Generally speaking an organization’s strategy can, and often is, seen in several different and potentially competing ways (e.g., enterprise or consumer product firm, etc.). The aim of the proposed study is to reveal the different ways in which an organization’s strategy is interpreted, how different types of members (e.g., long-tenured members versus new recruits) interpret the strategy, and how differing interpretations influence knowledge sharing among the members. The network basis of the study will provide an analysis of the evolution of connections among members, and has the potential to reveal how differing degrees of strategic alignment create isolated sources of knowledge and organizational exit. The proposed study also offers an opportunity to better understand how the various interpretations of an organization’s strategy affect such things as its ability to effectively execute strategic initiatives/changes, coordinate activities across organizational sub-units, and recruit and retain the members.

More specifically, the study is ideally designed for a knowledge-intensive organization such as Wikimedia in which ongoing collaboration is the foundation of success. The call for Wikimedia Fellowship applications asks for project ideas that address the theme of “boosting participation and editor retention”. Understanding strategic alignment within the Wikimedia community is a crucial first step in retaining existing editors. This idea also applies to the ongoing debate between the Wikimedia Foundation and its chapters regarding fundraising and funds dissemination. How does each chapter interpret the Wikimedia’s strategy, and to what level of consistency? How has chapter alignment changed over time? How has individual interpretation/alignment influenced engagement (e.g., chapter service, role performance/commitment, etc.)?

The findings will be reported in several ways: (1) main findings will be shared with the Wikimedia Foundation through presentations and documents posted to the Wikimedia knowledge base; (2) the chapters will also receive detailed reports related to their strategic alignment (within their memberships and with the Foundation; and (3) since the study is being completed as part of Mr. Foster’s Ph.D. thesis, the results will also appear in his doctoral dissertation and academic publications, although only at the aggregate level. Wikimedia will benefit directly from the statistical analyses of the data and the reports and presentations of the results.

The study will demonstrate the importance of strategic alignment, and will suggest ways in which to evaluate it over time. The research approach will transfer easily between languages, across levels of analysis within the Wikimedia community, and will provide a foundation for a larger program of research.

Mr. Foster’s study of social networks and strategy interpretation are at the forefront of current thinking on these topics. Professor McEvily has extensive experience with this type of research, has conducted similar studies in other companies, and has published papers in leading management journals. The research team is prepared to discuss the proposed study and to address any questions you may have.

For further information, please contact Bill Foster at

Submitted by[edit]

Kw.foster 20:26, 10 February 2012 (UTC), KW Foster, PhD Candidate - Strategic Management, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto


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