Wikimedia Foundation Community Fellowship program

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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

Archive notice: This is an archived post from, which operated under different editorial and content guidelines than Diff.

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This is excellent and very exciting news. Congratulations Steven 🙂
One question though: the Wikimedia community is global, and working in the US is pretty difficult for foreigners. How do you intend to address this challenge? Will people be able to be “remote fellows”?
More generally, how does the Foundation intend to facilitate the involvement of worldwide volunteers & staff in order to harness the potential of the global Wikimedia community? This may be more of an HR question; perhaps a topic for another blog post 🙂

Heh, I suspected that Steven was involved with something like this, but I wasn’t sure precisely what the clues I saw meant. This makes sense. 🙂
The Fellowship model sounds promising. Hopefully it will work out well.

You couldn’t have made a better choice for a wiki pioneer! I just hope you let him come back to us in Portland someday!

Very cool.
+1 to Guillaume’s question though.
Also – what actually is Steven’s project?

Kudos to all involved – Steven is an excellent WikiAmbassador!

Guillaume: That’s a great question and I realize I should have addressed it in the blog post now that you mention it. Attracting and accommodating people from many countries and language communities will be one of the big goals of the Fellows program. Yes, many will probably work from their home countries. But we want to do everything we can to help fellows, in general, work here in San Francisco with the rest of the staff and Fellows.

I cant understand why remote work is still such a problem for an entity, whose reach is truly global… How long will it take the Foundation to realize that applying geographical bias by pulling all people to San Francisco is a bad idea? This applies to both Fellows ans staff… What all Wikimedia projects need is better opportunities for people working remotely, hopefully Fellows will be a first spark of hope for these people. I undestand you can be opposed to remote work because of greater risks involved, but these risks might still be lower than you applying your San… Read more »

Kozuch – When I said ‘help fellows’ work in SF, I didn’t mean force them to. My sense is that a lot of people would like to work (physically) alongside collaborators if given a chance. For people working on full-time intensive projects, it can be nice to be in the same space. What I was trying to say is that if someone from Kenya wants to work in the SF office during their fellowship, we’ll try to make that just as easy for them as for someone who already lives in SF. But if they want to stay in their… Read more »

Excellent proposal. I think that can be studied both proposals. 1) Being able to work remotely (saving costs and facilitating the participation) 3) Bringing people to work at the same place (San Francisco). This could have a big cost and I do not speak only of the economic factor. It is a good time to consider decentralizing the project headquarters outside the U.S.. However, I believe it is necessary to incorporate in developing countries. Here in Venezuela, for example, access to the Internet (aside from dial-up networking) is only available to 12% of the population. This would be a great… Read more »