Wikimedia Foundation Board noticeboard/10 March 2016 - Wikimedia Foundation executive transition update

Message from Patricio Lorente

This message, "Wikimedia Foundation executive transition update", was sent by Patricio Lorente on 10 March 2016.

Hello all,

I’m happy to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation leadership team has proposed an interim Executive Director, and the Board has given our full support. Starting on March 14th, current Chief Communications Officer Katherine Maher will step into the role of interim Executive Director. We thank the C-levels for their careful consideration in this process, and Katherine for stepping up during this period of transition.

In choosing an interim ED, the C-levels started by identifying immediate priorities for the coming months, including building trust, improving communications, and filling key leadership positions. They felt, and we agree, that Katherine is the right person to lead the organization while it addresses these and other important issues. Additionally, this will allow the rest of the executive team to focus on critical organizational functions, including community and engineering management, fundraising, and strengthening our human resources function. You can read more about our process and thinking here.

Katherine has been with the Foundation as Chief Communications Officer for about two years now. During that time, she has developed a versatile and effective team that serves the needs of the organization and movement, collaborating closely with other departments and the community. She has thoughtfully introduced new capacities and led her team through transitions, and played a critical role in shepherding the strategy process and the annual plan, in collaboration with other C-levels. She is known for listening to and empowering the people that she works with.

For those who don’t know Katherine, she’s been a longtime advocate for global open communities, culture, and technology. She previously led advocacy for the international digital rights organization Access Now, where she worked on freedom of expression, access to information, and privacy. She has supported the efforts of citizens and governments around the world to deepen transparency and participation in her roles at the World Bank, National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and UNICEF (where her team built wikis for youth participation in major global issues). She is a member of the advisory board of the Open Technology Fund.

With interim leadership in place, our next step as the Board is to move quickly to plan and implement the search for a permanent Executive Director. We will be working together over the coming weeks to clarify roles and responsibilities in this search, and identify the best way for community and staff to participate. We want this process to be inclusive and incorporate many voices. We look forward to sharing an update on our progress toward the end of next week.

As interim Executive Director, Katherine will report to the Board. Geoff Brigham will continue serving as Board Secretary, and Jaime Villagomez as Board Treasurer, reporting to the Board in those capacities. As of March 14, Katherine's reports include the C-team: Geoff Brigham, Jaime Villagomez, Maggie Dennis, Lisa Gruwell, Joady Lohr, and Wes Moran. The Communications team will continue to report to Katherine for the time being, with support from the leadership of Juliet Barbara and Heather Walls.

Thank you,

Message from Katherine Maher

This message, "Re: Wikimedia Foundation executive transition update", was sent by Katherine Maher on 10 March 2016.

Thank you, Patricio.

I want to thank the Board for this opportunity, and for their confidence in the Foundation. I also want to thank community members and staff for continuing to be such committed advocates for our future -- your passion and belief in our movement and purpose have been tremendous things to behold.

As a movement, we’ve had some challenges lately. We’ve started on a process of change, but as Lydia Pintscher recently reminded us, “Change happens at the speed of trust.” We will need to work together over these coming months to build that trust, and open critical lines of communication and accountability. I get the sense from many people that that’s exactly what they’d like to do: absorb the lessons we’ve learned, re-engage with each other, and get back to advancing our global movement.

At the Foundation, we have an opportunity to centre around our values, and practice open and collaborative communication. During the interim period, I want to get things working well and improve transparency and communication, both internally and with the communities. We will work to create a supportive, fair environment where people can get things done, engage with their colleagues and community members, and understand how their work has an impact on our mission. This includes delivering on important deadlines for the Annual Plan and strategy, filling key roles, and making progress on issues raised in our recent engagement survey.

We are committed to delivering the first version of the 2016-2017 Annual Plan no later than April 1st for community and FDC review, and are on track to meet this deadline. The WMF 2016-2018 strategy development is also underway, with a draft version open for comments until March 18. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be moving forward with our Chief Technology Officer (CTO) search, and working with the Talent and Culture team to reinvest in our culture. As new other emerge, we’ll work together to prioritize them.

To accomplish all of this, we are going to need your help. I want to hear from you about what you would like to achieve in this interim period. This includes how we can collaborate together to prepare the organization and movement to welcome our next Executive Director. The Foundation is prepared to actively support the Board in the search, and we will work closely with them to share important information and create opportunities to give feedback throughout the process.

Just a few weeks ago, we marked the 15th birthday of the movement. Millions of people around the world shared their love for Wikimedia. It was a celebration of why we do what we do, and how much joy the movement brings people everywhere. That’s something I try to keep in mind every day.

Yours sincerely,