I am writing to let you know that Val D’Costa, Chief Community Engagement
Officer, is leaving the Wikimedia Foundation. I also want to share some
changes we’re making around how the Foundation organizes staff in the
Community Engagement department.
Val joined us last January, bringing nearly three decades of experience
launching and growing international initiatives in emerging markets. With
the Wikimedia 2030 movement strategy as a guide, Val and her team drafted
an ambitious new vision for the work of Community Engagement—focused on
decentralization of power and resources, safe and welcoming spaces,
equitable collaboration, increased language and cultural fluency, dedicated
programs for groups such as women and young people, and expansive
partnerships in service of free knowledge.
With this vision in hand, Val and I both see this as the right juncture for
her to move on to her next professional challenge. While she will be
leaving the position of Chief of Community Engagement, she will remain on
as a consultant to me for a brief period.
I am deeply appreciative of Val’s time with us at the Foundation and want
to thank her for the contributions she has made to the Wikimedia movement.
She has been a passionate and persuasive advocate for our mission and
pushed us to expand our vision of what could be possible for our movement.
I wish her the absolute best in what she does next.
*== What comes next for Community Engagement ==*
I'll be direct -- we are making changes to the CE department structure.
We will not be starting a search for a new Chief of Community Engagement.
Instead, over the course of the next few weeks, the seven teams currently
within the Community Engagement (CE) department will be integrated into the
Foundation’s other departments. By January, all of the teams will have
joined their new departments, and “Community Engagement” will no longer be
a standalone department.
The teams currently in CE will be integrated with other Foundation
departments aligned with executive leadership goals and based on their
scope and focus, as well as how they might grow in the future. Some of
these alignments are intuitive, such as Trust & Safety returning to the
Legal department; others might not be immediately apparent.
*== What does this mean for your work? ==*
Although we have a good sense of which teams will integrate with which
departments, we are still meeting with the individual teams to work on the
specific details of the transition. Our focus is on continuity for existing
community programs and support for Foundation staff in making this change.
You may hear from staff seeking input on those arrangements, and I want to
thank you in advance for any feedback you may have.
We expect to wrap up these conversations in early December, to begin
transitions in mid-December, and for the transitions to be completed by the
beginning of January, at which point we’ll be able to share an overview of
the new arrangements in full.
The work of the Community Engagement teams will remain the same throughout
this period of transition. For example, if you need something from Trust &
Safety or Community Resources, they’ll continue to be here to work with
you. If you have a project or program underway with a CE team or staff
member, that work will also continue. If you have any questions, please
feel free to reach out to Greg Varnum at gvarnum(a)wikimedia.org or leave
your question in Wikimedia Space  and we’ll make sure we find an answer
to your question.
*== Why are we making this change? ==*
The Community Engagement department has grown and evolved since it was
created in 2015. We have brought in people with an increasingly diverse set
of skills and backgrounds and introduced new support for additional
languages, geographies, and areas of work, such as community health.
While this has helped the Foundation come a long way in addressing the
needs of the movement, it has also created complexity. The breadth of
activities and competencies now supported by the department is quite
large—today, we have people working on issues as diverse as GLAM collection
management, participatory grantmaking, and contributor safety—and
increasingly, across many geographies, cultures, and languages.
This has created challenges for how we effectively coordinate such a range
of specializations, how we assess their efficacy and impact against our
mission. At the same time, as the Foundation has grown, we have developed
capacities in other departments who will be good partners to those serving
our community mission.
In making these changes, we see an opportunity to align the functions of
the Foundation with the future of the mission and movement, and better
serve long-time contributors and emerging communities alike. Over time, we
anticipate these new arrangements will deepen the understanding of
community efforts among all Foundation staff and programs, integrate
community perspective across program design and support, and open up space
for bold and fresh thinking about how to move our movement forward.
*== What about the future? ==*
Some people may be wondering, what does this mean for the proposed work in
the Annual or Medium Term plans, or the planned restructure of the
Community Engagement department to a new regional approach?
We remain fully committed to the work and goals of the Medium Term Plan.
For example, although Val was not able to attend Indaba to celebrate with
the African community, our COO and Deputy General Counsel, Janeen Uzzell
and Tony Sebro, both attended.
The planned restructure and expansion of CE was intended to help us support
the community in achieving these goals. This includes the MTP’s focus on
building a thriving movement, increasing community health and diversity,
and growing among new languages, regions, and audiences. We set these goals
as part of our interpretation of the Movement Strategy, and they will
remain our focus for the medium term.
I still believe we need to make many of these changes, as well as be
prepared for further changes that may arise from the recommendations of the
Movement Strategy Working Groups. We see a future that could include
improved regional support, and expanded programmatic support for emerging
communities, whether those are new languages, geographies, or areas of
However, we are putting those plans on hold for the next few weeks, while
we focus is on supporting the existing teams through this transition. I
want us to make sure that goes well, before turning our attention to the
future. That said, I fully expect to resume work on how we expand our
support for these critical new areas in the first quarter of the new
== Final thoughts ==
I want to be absolutely clear that these changes are in no way an
indication that the Foundation is decreasing our commitment to support for
the movement. I hope you see how this offers an opportunity to do the exact
opposite—to set us up to support the movement in the best way we can.
For those with an interest in Wikimedia history, it’s worth noting that the
Foundation has taken many different shapes over the years. In 2014, teams
focused on community support were embedded in other departments. At the
time, we were much smaller, and our ability to truly engage with the full
breadth of the movement was more limited. In 2019, the community engagement
teams are better resourced, more global, and more representative of the
movement (although there’s always space for continued improvement).
We see this as the right moment to integrate the perspectives, experiences,
and skills of these teams across the Foundation, ensuring that support for
the movement is woven into all the Foundation’s work. As Wikimedians, we
know change is a constant—and it is through change that we often do our
best work, solve our hardest problems, and find our new path forward. Thank
you in advance as we take this next step to support the future of our
Katherine Maher (she/her)
Wikimedia Foundation <https://wikimediafoundation.org/>