Should Wikimedia grow? Yes, because of its value for education

The Wikimedia Foundation just announced successful fundraiser. In two months over 230 000 people donated money for the Foundation, resulting $US 8 million. This is a great result. With a simple math, the average giving was something like 30-40 dollars.

I find it amazing, that almost a quarter million people are committed to the mission of the Foundation, in a level that they were willing to give money for it. Interesting thing with the Foundation is also that there isn’t memberships, like in most NGOs, but an annual fundraiser. Because of this the Foundation has to deserve its existence every year in the eyes of the public.

This puts a lot of pressure on everyone working with the Foundation: from the paid staff to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers (I am a volunteer). We should all be aware about our mission and to think hard how we can achieve it.

“The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

In collaboration with a network of chapters, the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity.” (Mission statement from the Wikimedia Foundation)

For me the key words in the mission are “empower and engage people”, “around the world”, “educational content”, “globally”, “multilingual”, “free of charge” and “in perpetuity”. Huh!

The people involved in the Wikimedia movement must be self-critical. The fact that Wikipedia is today relatively good source of education content in 20 European languages, Japanese, Chinese and Korean does not mean that it would be already “around the world” or “global” (if you want to know more about the Wikimedia’s global reach you may check the statistics yourself from the brilliant stat.wikimedia.org –site at: http://stats.wikimedia.org).

It is reasonable to say that we are not even close to achieve the mission. The mater is, however, well recognized by the Foundation and actually it is right now developing a five-year (2010-2015) strategic plan for the Wikimedia movement. You may participate to the process in here: http://strategy.wikimedia.org/

I think that the Wikimedia movement, and the Foundation supporting it, should aim to have exponential growth. Only with a strong growth it may reach its mission: be truly global movement.

Why Wikimedia then should be a global movement?

I think that the world greatest challenges of the next hundred years — from poverty to climate change and humanitarian disasters — can be solved only with education. We know that the current educational system(s), the formal school education, is not the solution. It simply do not scale. In a global scale, systems based on schools will not produce “educated people”. We need systems that are better in scaling.

Is Wikimedia able to scale? I think it holds the potential to scale.

Still, it would mean that next coming years the number of people donating for the Foundation, should be in millions and the Governments’ should include Wikimedia in their multilateral development cooperation “payroll”. I think it would payoff.

In the Wikimania 2009 Erik Möller, the Deputy Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, gave a talk promoting the objective “to make Wikimedia a 300 Million People Movement By 2020“. In the presentation there are many great and practical ideas for scaling. Check out the great presentation (video) and the slides.

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  • services sprite Should Wikimedia grow? Yes, because of its value for education
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  • services sprite Should Wikimedia grow? Yes, because of its value for education

3 Responses to “Should Wikimedia grow? Yes, because of its value for education”

  1. Jan Bollaert says:

    Wikipedia is worth a fortune in advertising revenue, and out of “principle” they are refusing to use this, but they have no problem accepting donations from benefactors who otherwise most likely would use that money for causes and people who really don’t have any alternative.
    And you think this is “doing the right thing” ? This is the most stupid and immoral form of political correctness I have ever heard of.

    They could start with a minimum of advertising just to cover costs, this way no waste of time to get donations. And the people who gave the money would spend it in places where it is really needed.
    And if they want to persue a larger worthy cause they could go a step further and optimise the advertising potential. And use that vast amount of money to fund education programs in developing countries just to name one that should be close to your heart and cause.

    What they are doing now is acting like they are poor, but they are one of the richest foundations on the net if they would stop being so pigheaded and be realistic and practical for a change.

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’m a huge Wikepedia fan, I think it’s brilliant.
    But what you are doing on the financial front is so wrong, now they are giving free information and education to all the people with a computer, very noble.
    But if you really want to make a change, how about optimising resouces and using that money to do some good to people who can’t afford a computer or even basic education.

    PS: I’m not affiliated to anybody in the advertising industry, I’m just a poor artist who thinks only more education and information can save the world.

  2. Juha says:

    I cannot really say, why I flinch small when big words such as “achieving the mission”, “exponential growth”, “scaling” are used. Perhaps I am more one step at a time kind of a guy. For that’s how it is in life in general. You’re in one place at a time, writing this reply, a cup of coffee cooling on the table, fingers in the keyboard. Opening my eyes is a lifelong process. And yet, they are not wide shut anymore. Perhaps it is a question of how I look at the issue, nothing else. Both of us, and our kinds, love the Wikiworld. Long live Wikim/pedia!

  3. Teemu says:

    Jan: I think you made a good point – a kind of. Wikipedia/-media could definitely collect a lot of money with online advertising revenue which then could be “invested” to reach its mission. Calling the decision not doing this, but rather asking any Internet user to donate money to the project “immoral form of political correctness” is a bit odd. I personally think that having advertising in the sites would simply give a totally wrong picture about the movement, the projects and the Foundation: a voluntary-based movement, supported by a non-profit organization. Also the voluntary community (the core of the Movement) is strongly against to have advertising in “their site”. Having advertising in the site would change some principle of the movement. I am afraid that “optimizing resources” by having advertising – as you call it – would be the end of the movement. What it comes to starting-up educational programs in developing countries, I think Wikimedia could do a better job. That would simply require more resources. Also prioritizing people without access to computers and basic education are important. However, there are already initiative looking solutions to this, such as printed Wikipedia/-media and mobile Wikipedia/-media.

    Juha: I agree. “achieving the mission” and “exponential growth” are (just) big words. I think, however, that they are needed to guide us to do the steps to the right direction: calm down, have a cup of coffee, write a blog post, comment a blog post, call you member of Parliament or have a chat with the Ministry of Education about the “big idea”. These are the steps needed – one step at a time.

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