Strategic Plan/What do we believe?-Principles of the Wikimedia movement

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Our commitment

Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment. Over the past ten years, hundreds of thousands of volunteers have worked to make this vision a reality. We have strived to reach this goal through open collaboration, using wiki software on the internet; we have made our contributions available to be downloaded for free by anyone with internet access. Our unique processes and community are what has made the Wikimedia projects uniquely successful.

The Wikimedia movement

We are the Wikimedia movement. Our movement includes:

  • Millions of individuals contributing worldwide (editors, developers, donors, and other volunteers).
  • Like-minded organizations (such as Creative Commons, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others that are focused on promoting and increasing access to free information for education and culture).
  • The Wikimedia chapters that exist in 29 countries today, and those in the process of forming.
  • The Wikimedia Foundation.
  • The vast number of people throughout the world who visit, read, make use of, build upon, enrich, and in turn share the knowledge in our projects.

The Wikimedia experiment has been far more successful than anyone anticipated it would be when it was launched less than a decade ago. It is the result of the many contributions, large and small, that millions have made. Our future successes hinge on the continued health, openness and expansion of this movement.

Our common core beliefs

Sketch of the Wikimedia movements beliefs and principles

We are a diverse movement, but we share a common set of beliefs that guide our work and mission.

Knowledge should be free

Participants in Wikimedia projects almost overwhelmingly share a particular core belief: knowledge should be free. We believe that access to information empowers people to make rational decisions about their lives, and we believe it is wrong to limit access to information in order to benefit any faction, party, group or individual.

We are working together to collect and share the sum of human knowledge for use (and reuse) by every person in the world, free of charge. This requires the creation of free content without restriction on creation, use, and reuse, thriving open formats and open standards under which unhindered sharing can take place, as well as freely-licensed tools for participation and collaboration for the work of the editing community and other communities wishing to emulate the Wikimedia way of collaborative knowledge growth in their own areas.

Note that knowledge is not necessarily the same as data - making available "the sum of all knowledge" has traditionally co-existed with recognizing the need for a degree of selectivity in the knowledge covered.[1]

Sharing with every human being

The Wikimedia movement strives to reach every single human being and prioritizes investment to enable this sharing by expanding our projects into areas where access may be limited due to language, poverty, or technological barriers.

Information shall be accurate and unbiased

In the content of our projects, we strive to provide the most reliable, unbiased, and complete information available. Our readers cover almost every conceivable group - education, research, academia, media, writers of peer reviewed papers, legislators, through to the myriad of uses in everyday life by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. A diverse readership requires unbiased reference material; for every group that would prefer some material covered in a way that favors their views, there are many more who trust us precisely because they feel they can rely on our information as setting the highest value on being neutral, verifiable, comprehensive and unbiased.

We acknowledge that no one is free from bias, be it Wiki editors or authors of traditional information sources, but we believe that mass collaboration among a diverse set of contributors combined with incremental consensus-building around controversial topics are our most powerful tools for achieving this goal together. Over time these tools prove themselves particularly adept and valuable at creating nuanced understanding and fair descriptions of complex topics, including those where a single conclusion would be difficult, over-simplified, or impossible.

In our various language Wikipedias, we aim for a neutral point of view. We seek to present the facts, with references to support these. Where the facts are disputed we try to present the evidence for both sides. We also report the popular interpretation of those facts, with attribution to the party presenting that interpretation. Where there are conflicting interpretations of the facts we aim to give each appropriate weight according to the most reputable and credible authorities available. For other projects, such as WikiSource and WikiCommons we reproduce material related to various points of view and aim to ensure all points of view will be fairly treated and accurately represented. In every case we try to present our readers with the information they need to arrive at their own interpretation.

While we differ in view from those who would desire censored information (of whatever kind), nevertheless we strive to ensure that in the knowledge and the information we provide, the opinions and arguments of those who do not share our aims and ideals are faithfully explained and described with appropriate weight.

Openness and diversity are valued

The Wikimedia movement is global. It is of the world and not merely of one or a few countries – and seeks to become even more so. Wikimedia supports projects in over 270 languages covering virtually every country. National volunteer chapters currently have a home in 28 countries. While the Wikimedia Foundation is based in the United States, it works to provide an infrastructure supporting this global community and maintains an international board of trustees, staff, and volunteers. All are involved without discrimination based on their religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationalities, or other characteristics. Their differences are deeply valued and enhance the community in turn.

The Wikimedia community is its most important asset

Wikimedia's success story is the result of the tireless work of its voluntary contributors worldwide. The number of hours contributed to the movement by paid staff of the Wikimedia Foundation is and will remain tiny relative to that provided by volunteers. The Wikimedia Foundation as a part of the community focuses its efforts in service of the community, making choices and investments that will increase the impact and effectiveness of the community in building and developing the projects and achieving our shared mission.

The Wikimedia movement is flexible and practical

In order to achieve our vision, the Wikimedia movement continually innovates and tries new solutions. The culture and technology that made Wikimedia effective so far may not necessarily be effective in the future. This is because the Internet has rapidly changed in the past decade, accompanied by changes in beliefs and behavior. The entire movement must respond to changes in attitudes and technology for Wikimedia to stay relevant and popularly utilized.

Wikimedia's success comes from the wide support its pioneering and cutting edge approach to free knowledge awakened in everyday people who wanted to contribute something of value to humankind; its future will require continued innovation.

Knowledge is a public good, and must remain independent and free from commercialism

The knowledge presented on the Wikimedia projects has been created and discovered over millennia by people all over the world. It is a legacy we have all inherited and which we hold in trust to cherish and preserve and pass on to future generations. As it has been passed to us freely, so we ensure it is made freely available for others to share and use in any way they choose provided they are willing to share in turn.

Wikimedia is committed to maintaining an experience on Wikimedia's projects that is free of commercialism. The infrastructure for the Wikimedia movement is provided by the Wikimedia Foundation, a non-profit organization that depends primarily on donations to operate. In order for the Wikimedia Foundation to stay free of influence in the way it operates, it adheres to a strict donation policy, and it reserves the right to refuse donations which would restrict its operations or steer the movement from its priorities and mission. The Foundation seeks financial contributions from a large and diverse group of individuals around the world, in order to prevent dependence on any single source of funding that might explicitly or implicitly exert undue influence on the projects.

Next Page: Movement Priorities

Notes

  1. Three main areas of selectivity:
    • Relevance of material to the wider world (value, usefulness, encyclopedic value, educational value, sufficiency of choice for those media where many variants on a theme may be useful, and the like);
    • Reliability, quality, sufficiency and credibility of sources;
    • Non-public or non-salient information of individuals.