[Foundation-l] Report on board meeting in Florida

Erik Moeller erik at wikimedia.org
Sat Mar 31 05:50:01 UTC 2007

Just a quick couple additional comments.
> * Brand Strategy  (board)
> * Business Development Strategy (board)
> * Technical Management  (ED)

> What professional  expertise does the Board bring to the first two?

Michael is the COO of a multi-million dollar corporation with a strong
branding strategy. Jan-Bart is product manager for a large
international educational organization. In general, I believe it is
best to have a diverse Board from many cultural and intellectual
backgrounds, and to seek expert advice wherever possible, especially
on such narrow issues.

It would be foolish to specifically appoint a branding expert to the
Board, for example, if they do not also share our values, a basic
understanding of our activities, and a strong commitment to turn
expertise into action. The focus for future appointments ought to be
on skills that are critical to running a 501(c)(3) organization. The
primary missing skills within that spectrum that I can identify are
accounting, fundraising, and possibly legal (though the diversity of
law that affects us is such that we may be best served by focusing on
building a good network of advisors).

The Advisory Board, chaired by Angela and comprising 20 members with a
diversity of backgrounds and professional experience, has already
proven to be extremely helpful, and we have discussed the possibility
of inviting an interested subset to a Retreat to lay out the elements
of a multi-year plan for the Foundation.

> Considering the size of the  website and the amount of money poured into
> tech development, a basic roadmap  should be the least one should come to
> expect.

The "amount of money poured into tech development" is actually
ridiculously small for a top 10 website; we have two full-time
developers for the software, who also help out with general
administration issues, as well as one network manager and one computer
technician. Nevertheless, there is a roadmap at least for short term
software development:

> It would also be nice  to hear some more elaboration from you about the
> "difference of opinion" between  the Board and the Search Firm regarding the
> role  of an ED. How does the Board  see the role? How does the Search Firm see
> the role? What efforts are being made  to bridge this difference?

As far as I know (I am not on the SearchCom), there are no serious
differences of opinion. I believe that the main question is whether an
ED who comes completely from the outside can build trust reasonably
quickly, and act in accordance with the core values of the
organization; if this is not the case, it might narrow down the field
of candidates, as some of the more impressive EDs with a large amount
of prior non-profit experience might feel that being an ED in a
community-driven organization like the WMF places too many restraints
on their actions.

There are countless business development opportunities that many EDs
with prior non-profit experience would jump on, for example. We, on
the other hand, have some unusual practices and beliefs, including a
strong commitment to free content and free software. These practices
and beliefs are not shared within the "professional non-profit world".
Most non-profits have a commitment to _neither_ of them (they _may_
evaluate open source software primarily for cost reasons). The
aversion to advertising is shared more widely, but we have
accommodated it to an unusual extent.

A gung-ho ED with plenty of prior experience might still act in
complete contradiction with core values of the organization and the
community. Orientation can serve to avoid this, but again, a long
orientation & trust building period makes the position less

Setting an example is not easy and has implications for our search process.
I think our ED search should therefore focus on individuals who at
least have some background in or connection to the field of Free
Culture (not necessarily Wikimedians). We must also avoid seeing the
ED position as a sort of "miracle worker" who can see lightyears ahead
of everyone else; most importantly, they need to be able to delegate
and network.

> All in all, it  sounds like a fascinating meeting. I look forward to reading
> the minutes.

I am the keeper of the minutes. Minutes & resolutions were written in
the course of the meeting, edited, and published to the BoardWiki a
few days later. They contain a full account of all Board decisions
that were taken, and internal agreements which were reached. As such,
they remain confidential (unlike the specific resolutions which were
published); however, the extent to which this needs to be so is open
to debate. You will certainly receive access to them if you are
elected to the Board, if that is what you meant to imply.
Peace & Love,

DISCLAIMER: This message does not represent an official position of
the Wikimedia Foundation or its Board of Trustees.

"An old, rigid civilization is reluctantly dying. Something new, open,
free and exciting is waking up." -- Ming the Mechanic

More information about the foundation-l mailing list