Today we launch our search for the next Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

About six weeks ago, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director Sue Gardner told us she will be stepping down from her role. Happily, she is staying on until we find her successor, and we are now launching that search.

It will be a challenge to find someone who is able to fill Sue’s shoes, but I am glad to say that the Board of Trustees, Sue and the senior staff of the Wikimedia Foundation are aligned in our quest for a successor who will build on Sue’s considerable accomplishments, and steer the Wikimedia Foundation toward even greater success in the future.

The Wikimedia Foundation is the internationally-active San Francisco-based non-profit organization that operates Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. It supports a global community of tens of thousands of volunteers in collecting, developing, and making the sum of all the world’s knowledge freely available. Over half a billion people use Wikipedia and its sister projects every month. We are the fifth most popular website in the world, and the only donor-supported site in the top 100. We’re widely recognized as the most influential and important organization in the free knowledge movement.

Our Executive Director reports to the Board of Trustees and acts in partnership with the global volunteer community, providing the leadership and setting the strategy for the Wikimedia Foundation, while managing its day-to-day operations and activities. The Executive Director is responsible for modernizing the user experience and nurturing, growing and diversifying the community of people who write our projects. He or she also ensures our grantmaking supports innovation across the Wikimedia movement and enables contributor growth in underrepresented demographics and geographies.

Our Executive Director needs to understand and advance the Wikimedia movement’s core values. They need to have proven management skills in technology and product development in order to effectively lead a high-traffic website, and have experience designing and implementing planning processes with a high built-in assumption of fast and iterative change. He or she will need to have exceptional communication skills, and possess both a drive to achieve transformative results and a deep respect for collaborative processes. The Executive Director’s ability to effect change in partnership with Wikimedia’s community will be decisive not just to their success, but to Wikimedia’s lasting impact.

It’s impossible to know where our next Executive Director will come from: there is no career path that makes running the Wikimedia Foundation somebody’s obvious next step. The right person might or might not currently work at a big web site. They might or might not be in the non-profit sector. They could have a background in education, or product development, or media, or community development, or something entirely different. They may live in the United States, or outside it. In this search, we want to cast a wide net for candidates, so that we can find the person with the rare mix of skills, experiences and values needed for this important role.

If you’re reading this post you know how much the work of the Wikimedia Foundation matters. I’m asking you for your help in spreading the news of this unique opportunity. Please share this post widely in your networks.

For more information, to suggest potential candidates or to put yourself forward, please write to info@moppenheim.com.

Some details on the recruitment:

  • We have retained the search firm m/Oppenheim Associates to assist in finding and screening candidates. We’ve worked successfully with m/Oppenheim in the past to fill senior roles at the Foundation. They know us well, and we trust they’ll do a great job with this hire.
  • The full position description is available on the Wikimedia Foundation site,  hosted at jobs.wikimedia.org.
  • The hiring process will unfold over the next three to six months; we hope to have a new Executive Director in place by October. That said, we’re going to take the time we need to find the best possible candidate. We are glad to restate that our current Executive Director, Sue Gardner, will stay with us throughout the recruitment process until we have a new Executive Director in place.
  • Following initial screening of the candidates a short-list of applicants will be interviewed by Board members and members of the senior staff, and we will encourage them to get involved with the Wikimedia community (if they aren’t already) to learn more about our movement. (We would also encourage anyone interested in the role to take a look at our guiding principles, or to pick up one of the books documenting and describing the Wikimedia movement.)
  • We’ve set up some pages on meta wiki, the central collaboration wiki, where Wikimedia community members can find more information and also get involved in a public discussion about the role and the recruitment process.

Thanks in advance for helping spread the word about this rare and important opportunity.

Kat Walsh
Chair, Board of Trustees, Wikimedia Foundation