Meeting August 2007/Program

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Wikimedia Foundation : Advisory Board retreat
Wikimania, Taipei 1-2 August 2007

Questions, aims and outcomes :Working document for the meeting

Preambule

Not written yet

Overall Purpose

The retreat is fundamentally a strategic planning retreat with dedicated time to address organization-wide goals and issues. Another objective is for the participants to get to know each other, to find out each others skills, to share insight on free knowledge and non-profits organization, and hopefully, start building teams.

Context Coming into the Retreat

  • Wikimedia Foundation houses international, on-line projects delivering free content, among which an encyclopedia that has the potential to be “the greatest effort in collaborative knowledge gathering the world has ever known,” in the words of Marshall Poe, Atlantic Monthly, Sept 2006.
  • Wikimedia Foundation is a geographically and culturally diverse organization that relies on the work of thousands of volunteers worldwide to support the key projects.
  • Wikimedia Foundation created an advisory board a few months ago, but opportunities for advisory board members, board members and top executives to meet and share face-to-face experience did not occur yet. Online, natural opportunities for trust and team building are few.
  • The organization is facing growth issues consistent with its age:
  • Pressure to more clearly define the organization
  • Staff growth and in particular arrival of top executive in WMF staff
  • Board turnover (elections in July 2007)
  • Board and staff roles (hands-on vs. policy, advocacy, etc.)
  • Relationships between board and advisory board
  • Chapter/member growth and influence
  • Increasing media attention and criticism
  • Funding challenges and opportunities
  • Choosing affiliations, partnerships, and vital roles for community members
  • Measurement and evaluation


Retreat Goals

  • Foster good relationships among board, advisory board and some staff members
  • Draft a value statement
  • Consider, through discussion and dialogue, strategic issues related to the future of Wikimedia projects and Wikimedia Foundation
  • Identify, through a creative effort, the changes that such strategies might necessitate
  • Outline strategic objectives, action plans and timeline
  • Engage in-depth conversation that yields shared goals for mission, governance and organizational sustainability
  • Focus should be put in 4 underlying themes : organization’s values, quality issues, governance, and how to have more presence in developing countries


Expected outcomes

The meeting is intended to produce the following outcomes

  • A collection of expert statements made by the participants in response to the aims of the meeting
  • A report made by the organizers evaluating the event and its outcomes
  • The establishment of a modality for future involvement, locally or globally, online or offline
  • A selection of podcasts from participants, shortly offering one idea, one statement, on the issue of free knowledge, free content etc…

Retreat schedule

To be written

We have two days, with two lunches and one dinner :-)

Background

The organization needs to establish a strategic framework for significant success. This framework consists of:

  • a vision for the future, (DONE !)
  • a mission that defines what we are doing, (DONE !)
  • values that shape our actions,
  • strategic goals and timeline, (partly done in October 2006)
  • and action plans to guide the daily, weekly and monthly actions.

Strategic planning

Strategic planning determines where an organization is going over the next year or more, how it's going to get there and how it'll know if it got there or not. The focus of a strategic plan is on the entire organization. The interest of establishing a strategic plan is to help to clarify the organization's plans and ensure that key leaders are all "on the same script".

There are a variety of perspectives, models and approaches used in strategic planning. The way that a strategic plan is developed depends on the nature of the organization's leadership, culture of the organization, complexity of the organization's environment, size of the organization, expertise of planners, etc. For example, there are a variety of strategic planning models, including goals-based, issues-based or scenario model. Goals-based planning is probably the most common and starts with focus on the organization's mission (and vision and/or values), goals to work toward the mission, strategies to achieve the goals, and action planning (who will do what and by when). Issues-based strategic planning often starts by examining issues facing the organization, strategies to address those issues, and action plans. Scenario model, which may be also considered as technique consists in identifying external forces and imagining related changes which might influence the organization, then for each change, discuss three different organizational scenarios (best case, worse case and reasonable case) which might arise as a result of each change, then identify potential strategies to respond to each change.

The Foundation already held a board retreat in Frankfurt, in October 2006, mostly attended by board, staff, key people, and chapter representative (what we could define as the core of the internal community (see metawiki for more)

While Wikipedia was created in 2001, the Wikimedia Foundation was funded only in 2003, by Jimbo and two collegues of his. Jimbo drafted a mission statement, which was naturally included in the bylaws, and over time, a vision statement developed organically. Mission and vision were redefined during Frankfurt board retreat in 2006. Since 2003, the Foundation has been growing little by little, mostly pressured to keep up with the growing Wikipedia. Daily issues usually had more priority that any attempt of strategy, due to time constraints and scarce human resources. In the past months, we have both been trying to use the goals-based model and the issue based model. During the Frankfurt retreat, we did an environmental scan, review the mission and vision (which were both later proposed to the community for comment and finally voted upon by the board in April 07).

Amongst the logical way to look at strategic planning, one can find three logical steps

First, strategic analysis
This activity can include conducting some sort of scan, or review, of the organization's environment (for example, of the political, social, economic and technical environment). Participants can carefully consider various driving forces in the environment regarding the organization. Most typical, a SWOT.

Second, setting strategic direction
Essentially, setting conclusions about what the organization must do as a result of the major issues and opportunities facing the organization. These conclusions include what overall accomplishments (or strategic goals) the organization should achieve, and the overall methods (or strategies) to achieve the accomplishments. Goals should be designed and worded as much as possible to be specific, measurable, acceptable to those working to achieve the goals, realistic, timely, extending the capabilities of those working to achieve the goals, and rewarding to them, as well (a point particularly important in an organization largely based on volunteers). Within this phase, the strategic philosophy can be identified and updated. This includes identifying or updating the organization's mission, vision and/or values statements.

Third is action planning
Action planning is carefully laying out how the strategic goals will be accomplished. Action planning often includes specifying objectives, or specific results, with each strategic goal. Therefore, reaching a strategic goal typically involves accomplishing a set of objectives along the way. Action planning also includes specifying responsibilities and timelines with each objective, or who needs to do what and by when. It should also include methods to monitor and evaluate the plan, which includes knowing how the organization will know who has done what and by when.

It's common to develop an annual plan (sometimes called the operational plan or management plan), which includes the strategic goals, strategies, objectives, responsibilities and timelines that should be done in the coming year. Aside from the interest for the board and staff to have such a document at hand, the wikimedia community is frequently complaining of lack of transparency in the activity of the Foundation. Such a document might help relieve some fears.

today
Looking in the past and particularly looking back at Frankfurt retreat, the outcome of the meeting was in large part action planning, which was probably fine given the unique situation at that time and the nature of the people attending the retreat (largely involved in operations).

The situation today is different. The organization has grown up, we have more staff and more management. Attendees will be far less involved in operations. This meeting should really be focused on determining the organization's strategic direction (values, overall achievement, overall methods), for 3-5 years. Given the diversity of the attendance, it would make sense as well to use this opportunity to work on threats and scenarios to do a little bit of contingency planning. The outcome of the meeting will be drafted in a document, which will be submitted for comments to the community. Another meeting will follow, with an attendance mostly focused on some board members, staff and key people, to review the direction and start working on action planning.

The retreat could also include some action planning, but this is not a priority.

Mission, Vision and Values

Effective organizations identify and develop a clear, concise and shared meaning of values/beliefs, priorities, and direction so that everyone understands and can contribute. Once defined, values must impact every aspect of the organization.

One of the goals of Frankfurt retreat was in particular (but not limited) to review and agree upon vision, mission, strategic objectives, action plans and timeline. Following this retreat, vision and mission where redefined

Vision

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.

Mission

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop neutral educational content under a free content license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.
In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep the educational content from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.

Values are traits or qualities that are considered worthwhile; they represent an organization’s highest priorities and deeply held driving forces. Value statements are grounded in values and define how people want to behave with each other in the organization. The value statement is about how the organization will value readers, editors, staff, internal community, board members, chapter members, advisory board members, partners and donors. Value statement should describe actions that are the living enactment of the fundamental values held by most individuals within the organization.

Question areas to be tackled

I have not yet worked in depth on these ones, and presumably this will be impacted by the first day of meeting, but generally, here are some areas worth discussing. First hack though

(1) The role of technology in developement of the Wikimedia projects
keywords: connectivity, usability, functionalities, tools, speed, recording, multimedia

(2) Quality and assessment
keywords: validity, viability, marking, expert, collaboration

(3) Educational content or e-education ? Should we get involved in online teaching activity ?
keywords: teacher, online community, wikiversity, wikibooks

(4) Impact of the Wikimedia projects on the evolution of knowledge societies
keywords: free licenses, open source, user-generated content, democracy, web 2.0, empowerment, political activism, copyright, fair use, privacy, censorship, terms of use, liberation of content

(5) Presence in developing countries: how to raise awareness of our projects ? Should we develop partnerships for the distribution of content ? Private sector ? Public sector ?
keywords: connectivity, languages, translation, cell phones, partnership

(6) Development of a sustainable business model for the Wikimedia Foundation
keywords: sustainability, trademarks, services, print on demand, feeds, advertisement, for profit subsidiary