Today I am pleased to announce the Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellows program, a project of the Foundation’s Community Department. This program is partly something the Foundation has been considering for a long time and partly an outgrowth of the recent Community Department open hiring call. In reading through the nearly 2,000 submissions to the open call, we realized that there are far more qualified members of the Wikimedia community than we can ever hire at one time. We also realized that the most promising submissions came from people who were interested in working on specific problems or opportunities in the movement rather than looking for permanent staff positions.

Therefore, the Fellows program is intended to create an environment where individuals and teams can concentrate full-time on important problems and opportunities in Wikimedia projects and the movement as a whole. Fellows will lead intensive, time-limited projects focused on key areas of risk and opportunity — projects that require the support of the Foundation to succeed.

We are currently looking for Fellows among those who have already answered the open hiring call and we will also be posting a form for submitting new Fellowship applications soon. In addition to Wikimedia volunteers, we would like to engage outside academics and professionals who have expertise that could benefit our projects.

Each Fellowship will have its own objectives that require a unique skill set. The length of the Fellowships at the Wikimedia Foundation will vary from weeks to as long as a year, depending on the requirements of the project. A handful of Fellows may eventually join the Foundation staff permanently. However, the purpose of the program is to take charge of vital work that may not require a long-term position but which volunteers have not previously dealt with successfully.

Along with introducing what will be a continuing Wikimedia Foundation program, we’d like to welcome the first Fellow in the Community Department: Steven Walling. Steven represents exactly what we’d hoped to attract through this process: talented Wikimedians who have a knack for crafting clear theories about how Wikimedia communities operate and how they can be supported. Steven’s previous experience as a freelance writer, blogger, and community manager make him an excellent choice to pilot this program. Steven is beginning a year-long Fellowship, during which he will work on multiple projects. He will be blogging about his projects as he continues.

We are deeply excited about the possibilities for the Wikimedia Foundation Fellowship program. Bringing in talented individuals who have specific projects in mind will allow us all to ask questions and solve problems that were previously out of reach for either volunteers or staff. I hope you’ll join us in welcoming Steven and more new Wikimedia Foundation Fellows as they are announced.

Zack Exley,
Chief Community Officer