Wikimedia Foundation Chief Executive Officer/Updates/Nine month update
Hi everyone, I’ve started my ninth official month as CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation. Based on feedback from this list and elsewhere, I am trying to proactively communicate every few months on my priorities and what I continue to learn.
I regularly return to the five ‘puzzles’ I identified in my original letter to you. For me, these continue to pose big questions about our role in the world and our ways of working with each other. I’ve mentioned that one highlight of the year so far has been bringing colleagues together – volunteers, editors, affiliates, Foundation staff, board members – to reconnect at a human level. Many of you have shared with me the need for more spaces that can help us build (and rebuild) relationships and trust.
As more communities return to in-person events, I have benefitted from spending time with volunteers at WikiCon Brasil and at the Wikimania meetup hosted in Cape Town. I look forward to participating in-person and virtually at many more regional gatherings in the months ahead.
I am writing today to provide you with an update on the three priorities I identified in January.
Priority 1: Strategy and Planning
My first priority remains focused on strategy and planning. In June, we shared the successful adoption of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Annual Plan. It is now anchored in the strategic direction of our movement – knowledge equity and knowledge as a service – and it identifies the Foundation’s strengthened focus on regions and on projects. This plan benefited from the contributions and feedback of hundreds of volunteers who provided input on-wiki and through other multilingual channels of communication. We’ll share updates on progress before the end of the calendar year on the Annual Plan meta page and in other forums. Our intention is to continue asking for guidance and input from volunteers, affiliates, and communities.
I mentioned in my April message that the Wikimedia Foundation has grown very rapidly over the past 3 years as part of its medium term plan – increasing its budget by more than 30% in the past year with the addition of more than 200 new people since 2020. This growth will not continue as we stabilize and make sure that new resources are delivering maximum impact for our mission. The Foundation’s approved budget represents a 17% increase, most of this is inflationary and other year-on-year costs. Funding to other movement entities (individual and affiliate) grew by 24% percent.
While the annual plan is an important start, it does not address all of the significant strategic issues facing Wikimedia – none of which can be solved in a single year. Within the framework of our movement strategy and emerging charter, I plan to continue partnering with Foundation stakeholders and communities in co-planning approaches to tackle strategic issues that an annual plan cannot fully address. The Board of Trustees will help kick this off with strategic planning engagements at the board’s upcoming meeting in Berlin. This will be followed by important conversations about strategy implementation at the Wikimedia Summit (returning for the first time since 2019).
Priority 2: Leadership
I highlighted in January that CEO transitions are disruptive for most organisations and change often continues after a new leader has arrived. I have been trying to build a broader leadership team at the Wikimedia Foundation as I focus on successfully onboarding new hires, investing more in internal talent management, undertaking succession planning for key roles, and providing stronger communications support for the Foundation’s senior team.
My top priority when I joined was to actively step in and support the Foundation’s product and technology teams while we recruited executive leadership of these mission critical functions with a new Chief Product and Technology Officer. This goal has been achieved as Selena Deckelmann is now officially on board at the Wikimedia Foundation after a successful nine-year career at Mozilla, most recently as the head of Firefox. She is reaching out to learn from our technical contributors and volunteers, and can be contacted directly at sdeckelmann(a)wikimedia.org.
Having assessed the Wikimedia Foundation’s leadership structure, I have decided not to create or resurrect any additional C-level roles at this time. Instead, we will add more organization-wide responsibilities to existing leadership roles in order to increase accountability, improve coordination, and reduce silos. I am pleased to share that Lisa Gruwell (lgruwell(a)wikimedia.org) will assume additional responsibilities as a Deputy to the CEO while also remaining the Chief Advancement Officer. I believe this will provide the Foundation with further leadership stability as well as provide important institutional memory given Lisa’s 12+ years of Wikimedia experience.
In that time, Lisa has delivered an unparalleled track record of results throughout every chapter of the Foundation’s history since its inception. She has supported communities around the globe and engaged allies in embracing the vision of Wikimedia. Lisa is always looking to the future and asking how we can deepen the impact of our work. She often channels the voices of our contributors, readers and donors – I have seen firsthand how deeply Lisa cares about this mission and the people who make it possible from those at the Foundation, in our movement, and around the world.
Working closely with General Counsel Amanda Keton, we recently appointed Stephen LaPorte (slaporte(a)wikimedia.org) as Deputy General Counsel. This is a key role that the Foundation’s legal team has had for several years. In addition to leading the Legal Affairs and Public Policy teams for the last decade, Stephen has built a track record of effective partnership with communities to support our technical aspirations, while seeing around the corners of the policy landscape to protect and expand free knowledge. We will all benefit from Stephen’s experience and wisdom in this role.
The Foundation’s communications department is led by Vice President Anusha Alikhan (aalikhan(a)wikimedia.org) to support strategic efforts for external, movement, and Foundation audiences. Anusha joined Wikimedia in 2019 from the Knight Foundation and has prior experience as a freelance journalist, editor and lawyer. Her leadership of the communications team recognizes Anusha’s capabilities as a consummate communications professional, her embodiment of Wikimedia’s values, and her unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion.
Finance & Administration
Jaime Villagomez (jvillagomez(a)wikimedia.org) remains our Chief Financial Officer, very capably overseeing the Foundation’s finance and administration teams to steward our finances, strengthen the operational infrastructure of our movement, and enable the Foundation to better meet its strategic objectives.
Talent & Culture
Alongside an experienced team of leaders, I am temporarily heading up our Talent & Culture department in order to learn more about what is needed at this time – I plan to make further leadership decisions by the end of the year.
Chief of Staff
Finally, I have redefined the Chief of Staff role to support the broader organization and movement, not only the CEO. Communicating regularly and effectively, not just to relay information but to create shared understanding across diverse stakeholders, is one of the most important capabilities we need at the Foundation, and this role is intended to help us all. Nadee Gunasena (ngunasena(a)wikimedia.org) recently became Chief of Staff after four years of executive communications support at the Wikimedia Foundation. Many of you may already know Nadee as someone who stands ready to help affiliates and community members with communications and other needs.
Priority 3: Values and Culture
Strategy, planning and leadership are necessary ingredients for success. My experience has taught me that values and culture often matter more. I have been on a journey seeking to understand how the Wikimedia Foundation’s organizational values are lived in practice. And how values can clarify what others should expect of us. This feels like an important question now, especially given how much has changed at the Foundation since these were first penned in 2016. We are beginning those conversations between now and December following input from employee groups, our Board of Trustees, as well as data from a recent all-staff survey. I am always interested to hear from others who also think about values and how they shape organizational culture and performance.
I haven’t stopped asking for time to keep learning from all of you – thank you to those who have reached out for more conversations and to share perspectives. I can always be reached directly at miskander(a)wikimedia.org.
Wikimedia Foundation CEO