Proposal:Values - what is important to us, as an organization?
Create and resolve on a collection of common words or ideas which reflects what is important to us, as an organization. It comes on top of
- the vision tagline, which is our bold goal;
- the mission statements, which describe what the organization is doing to reach its goal.
The values represent the principles we share together.
Have all people involved in the ongoing strategic planning process read and discuss the following proposed values, with the idea of the final set to be resolved by the Board of Trustees.
An essential part of the Wikimedia Foundation's mission is encouraging the development of free-content educational resources that may be created, used, and reused by the entire human community. We believe that this mission requires thriving open formats and open standards on the web to allow the creation of content not subject to restrictions on creation, use, and reuse.
At the creation level, we want to provide the editing community with freely-licensed tools for participation and collaboration. Our community should also have the freedom to fork thanks to freely available dumps.
The community will in turn create a body of knowledge which can be distributed freely throughout the world, viewable or playable by free software tools.
- Accessibility and quality
All the legal freedom to modify or distribute educational content is useless if users cannot get access to it.
We try our best to give online access to high quality Wikimedia project content 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, as well as provide access to regularly updated, user-friendly, and free dumps of Wikimedia project content.
We try, through partnerships if necessary, to ensure the widest distribution, through DVD's, books, PDF's, or other non-internet based means.
To ensure world-wide, unrestricted, dissemination of knowledge, we do not enter into exclusive partnerships, with regards to access to our content or use of our trademarks.
As a non-profit, we mostly depend on gifts to operate (donations, grants, sponsorship, etc.). It is very important to us to ensure our organization stays free of influence in the way it operates. For this reason, we strictly follow a donation policy, reserve the right to refuse donations which could generate constraints, and try to multiply the diversity of revenue sources.
- Commitment to openness and diversity
Though US-based, the organization is international in its nature. Our board of trustees, staff members, and volunteers are involved without discrimination based on their religion, political beliefs, sexual preferences, nationalities, etc... Not only do we accept diversity, but we actually look forward to it.
We must communicate Wikimedia Foundation information in a transparent, thorough and timely manner, to our communities and more generally, to the public.
- Our community is our biggest asset
We are a community-based organization. We must operate with a mix of staff members, and of volunteers, working together to achieve our mission.
We support community-led collaborative projects, and must respect the work and the ideas of our community. We must listen and take into account our communities in any decisions taken to achieve our mission.
Comparison with 5 pillars
What is the difference with the Wikipedia pillars? The values about are the
*organization* (WMF Wikimedia movement values, not the projects values. Obviously, many values will be shared, but not necessarily all of them. For example, Wikipedia has NPOV as a pillar, the Wikimedia movement Foundation does not have NPOV as a pillar.
Clarifying the values and what behaviors people expect of each other may also bring to the surface underlying differences between the board and staff. People may discover that some of the ongoing conflicts about programs and the direction of the agency have been due to contradictory values or diverse interpretations of what the Core Values mean. The benefits for exploring Core Values and risking to work through the conflicts, though, are greater levels of trust among the staff and between the staff and board, more creativity, more cohesion among the staff, and more flexible management. No longer is the focus on controlling people, but on reaching agreements and sharing visions about how to achieve the agency's outcomes.
There are two main reasons we should have these values written down, one is related to "branding" (public perception of our uniqueness), the other to "management" (training of our staff members).
It is important that "outsiders" (donors, partners, governments, civil society...) understand what is important to us, what is welcome and what is non negotiable. Donors will give us money more easily if they know what is important to us, and actually agree with our values. Potential partners will not lose our valuable time and their valuable time proposing proprietary software deals if they know it is a deal-breaker for us. Wikipedia in particular, currently enjoys very much support because it is clearly identified as a brand. Other Wikimedia projects are not as well clearly identified yet (there are still people wondering what Wikiversity exactly is about for example). During the year 2007, the WMF motto has been "we are a non profit", and still many people think it is a business company. People do not approach a non-profit and a for-profit in the same way. In any case, most people have no idea of the existence of WMF, and when they do think about organization, they believe we have 10.000 employees somewhere in the Silicon Valley, and open big round shocked eyes when they learn the truth. There are also beliefs that, as a web 2.0 company, every one can do whatever they want on the websites, and no one is responsible. We should kill such an idea in the egg, and make sure that the common view becomes that thriving to quality is one of our major motto.
Values are not only what make us stick together, but also general guidelines for what we want to become, what we are really trying hard to do, and what we want to be known as specific about us.
Which is also why it is important to management. The bottom line concept is that the staff is ultimately trying to achieve the VISION, thanks to operational activity (the MISSION), and deep respect of the VALUES.
The put it bluntly: no decision should be made that could hurt the values. Any time a decision is on the plate, the staff and volunteers should keep in mind "does it go along with our values, or against values?"
Example: It seems that past and recent discussions show how important it was for the community that our entire projects be build upon free software, using free format and free standards. It goes beyond the simple notion of creating freely-licenced content, as described in the mission statement. Whilst supporting, defending, developing, the free movement is NOT our goal, nor even within our mission, it seems to be an important value to most of us. Hence, the very notion of listing our support to freedom is a VALUE, which has been clarified in a recent resolution.
As a value, anytime the staff is thinking of making a deal with a partner, it should ask herself, "is that all right with the freedom value"? If it is not, no deal. Period.
- Why does the agency exist?
- Why is that important?
- Who are the agency's clients?
- If this agency were not here what would be missing for our clients?
- What makes this agency different from its competitors?
- What is this agency's Core Purpose? [one sentence or phrase]
- Value based organization development focusses on benefits, on creating value(s). The cost of this proposal are:
- Have the set of values translated in all major Wikimedia languages
- Have the set discussed by convenors and one or more task forces if not all
- Have the Boards of all Chapters reflect on this, and advise the WMF Board on this
- Have the advisory council in the loop as weel
- Have the Board of Trustees seriously consider the set and pass a resolution on it
- Communicate the set of values to all project wikis
- John D. Vogelsang, Values Based Organization Development, Journal for Nonprofit Management, Vol. 2, 1998
- Florence Devouard, Our values, foundation-l, 29 January 2008
- Some questions on the user page of Philippe
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