Wikimedia 2030 movement strategy: How an inclusive open strategy process has placed people at the centre

[Versió catalana]

Marc Miquel Ribé

Tecnocampus-Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Kaarel Vaidla

Lead Movement Strategy Process Architect
Wikimedia Foundation

Francesc Fort

Strategy liaison
Amical Wikimedia

Anna Torres

Executive Director Wikimedia Argentina
Wikimedia Argentina



Objectives: In 2017, the Wikimedia Movement embarked on an open strategy process to decide the scope of action towards the horizon of 2030. Contrary to the development of a traditional strategy, an open strategy process allows numerous people to generate, discuss, and evaluate ideas. This study examines how this open strategy process and its output documents support inclusivity and address people's needs.

Methodology: Inclusivity practices employed in the different phases of the open strategy process are reviewed — encompassing aspects such as modes of participation, transparency, and decision-making. Through discourse analysis, the aim is to highlight the main characteristics of the strategy product created and how it has been interpreted by the Wikimedia Movement, online communities, and affiliates.

Results: The results of the study are two-fold. Firstly, a wide array of participation modes employed to include the Wikimedia Movement actors have been identified. Secondly, it has been found that the resulting strategy documents place people at the centre of the discourse, not only in the proposed new strategic direction but also in the strategic principles and recommendations that were produced. Thus, this paper extends the understanding of open strategy in large and collaborative environments, showing that inclusivity practices help elaborate proposals of changes that need to be implemented later by relevant stakeholders.


Objetivos: En el año 2017, el movimiento Wikimedia se embarcó en un proceso de estrategia abierta para decidir las principales líneas de acción hacia el horizonte de 2030. Contrariamente al desarrollo de la estrategia tradicional, un proceso de estrategia abierta permite a muchas personas generar, debatir y evaluar ideas. Este estudio examina cómo este proceso de estrategia abierta y los documentos generados apoyan la inclusión y atienden las necesidades de las personas.

Metodología: Se revisan las prácticas de inclusividad utilizadas en las diferentes fases del proceso de estrategia abierta, que incluye aspectos como los modos de participación, la transparencia y la toma de decisiones. Mediante el análisis del discurso se destacan las principales características del producto estratégico creado y cómo ha sido interpretado por el movimiento Wikimedia, tanto por las comunidades en línea como por los afiliados.

Resultados: Los resultados del estudio son dobles. En primer lugar, se han identificado una amplia gama de modos de participación usados para incluir a los actores del movimiento Wikimedia. En segundo lugar, se ha visto que los documentos estratégicos resultantes sitúan a las personas en el centro del discurso, no solo en la nueva dirección estratégica propuesta, sino también en los principios y las recomendaciones estratégicas que se generaron. Este estudio amplía lo que conocemos del uso de estrategias abiertas en entornos amplios y colaborativos y demuestra que las prácticas de inclusividad benefician la elaboración de propuestas que tienen en cuenta a los actores del movimiento, que tendrán que implementarlas.


Objectius: L'any 2017, el moviment Wikimedia va embarcar-se en un procés d'estratègia oberta per decidir les principals línies d'acció cap a l'horitzó del 2030. Contràriament al desenvolupament de l'estratègia tradicional, un procés d'estratègia oberta permet a moltes persones generar, debatre i avaluar idees. Aquest estudi examina com aquest procés d'estratègia oberta i els documents generats donen suport a la inclusió i atenen les necessitats de les persones.

Metodologia: Es Revisen les pràctiques d'inclusivitat emprades en les diferents fases del procés d'estratègia oberta, que inclou aspectes com els modes de participació, la transparència i la presa de decisions. Mitjançant l'anàlisi del discurs es ressalten les principals característiques del producte estratègic creat i com ha estat interpretat pel moviment Wikimedia, tant per les comunitats en línia com pels afiliats.

Resultats: Els resultats de l'estudi són dobles. En primer lloc, s'ha identificat una àmplia gamma de modes de participació usats per incloure els actors del moviment Wikimedia. En segon lloc, s'ha vist que els documents estratègics resultants situen les persones al centre del discurs, no només en la nova direcció estratègica proposada, sinó també en els principis i les recomanacions estratègiques que es van generar. Aquest estudi amplia el que es coneix de l'ús d'estratègies obertes en entorns amplis i col·laboratius i demostra que les pràctiques d'inclusivitat beneficien l'elaboració de propostes que tenen en compte els actors del moviment, que hauran d'implementar-les.



1 Introduction

The Wikipedia turned twenty years in January 2021, and it is probably the largest collaborative and multicultural free knowledge repository in human history. Even though the project is successful in terms of popularity, geographical distribution, and adoption, it has issues in renewing, growing, or diversifying the volunteer communities that contribute to it. For more than a decade, the community gender gap (Antin et al., 2011; Bear; Collier, 2016) and the decline in the number of editors are two essential issues that have been detected, and their analyses have been disseminated across the Wikimedia movement (Halfaker et al., 2013; Suh et al., 2009).

Academic literature has pointed at hacker culture, communication style, and the required technical skills to edit as some explanations for such issues (Edwards, 2015; Hargittai; Shaw, 2014; Minguillón et al., 2021). Inclusivity remains a pending issue for a project with enormous growth potential, especially in the so-called "online communities", who are the volunteers responsible for creating the content in each Wikipedia language edition. Online communities tend to group themselves into either autonomous local "communities" (e.g., "Swahili Wikipedia community") or calling themselves the community1 as a whole.

On the contrary, the formally organized part of the Wikimedia Movement — the Wikimedia Foundation and the geographical and thematic affiliates2 with membership, board, and staff structures — has grown considerably. Not only are there more affiliates than ten years ago, but they have also developed more capacities. The complexity of the Wikimedia movement's governance model — including different versions of democracy and bureaucracy, among others — has been reportedly flexible and suitable for the purpose of adapting to diverse contexts while, at the same time, it has seen its limits in the decision-making (Jemielniak, 2016).

Traditionally, as the owner of the domains and trademarks and responsible for fundraising and supporting the technical and social structure, the Wikimedia Foundation has made decisions that impact the whole Movement. In this sense, the need to include the affiliates in the decision-making also appears as a need for making movement-wide decisions more legitimate and avoiding a situation where these are overturned at a later stage.

In terms of content creation, and especially in Wikimedia projects, most of the policies and tools are created when needed (Konieczny, 2010). However, considering the long-time reported difficulties of inclusivity both in the affiliate-led governance models and in the online communities, we find it unlikely that strategies addressed to them — possibly costly and to some extent radical — will just "emerge" without being consciously and collectively decided by the different actors in the Wikimedia Movement,3 i.e., online communities, affiliates, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

In this context, the Wikimedia Movement embarked, in 2017, on an open strategy process to decide the scope of action towards the horizon of 2030. While strategy development and profound changes in organizations have traditionally been secretive and exclusive to top management, an open strategy process emphasizes transparency and open dialogues, and participants are invited to join (Matzler et al., 2016). The collaborative and participatory nature, and the free access to its content, have made Wikimedia an ideal space for the experimentation of open strategizing processes.

1.1 Open strategy and inclusion

The notion of "open strategy" has appeared as a response to traditional strategy-making. It involves shifting towards more transparency and inclusion of different actors internally and externally to an organization (Whittington, 2011). Open strategy facilitates the relationship between individuals and creates new networks (Hautz, 2018). This new paradigm has resulted in various approaches, which benefit from involving numerous people in generating, discussing, and evaluating strategic ideas. In contrast to traditional strategists, open strategy designers need to be aware of all the different stakeholders and encourage communication, and exchange of information, to generate ideas and effectively select the most promising ones.

Transparency and inclusion are two key concepts to open strategy (Dobusch et al., 2017; Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018; Hautz, 2018; Heracleous, 2017; Heracleous, 2019). Though they can be operationalized differently depending on the organization, focusing on them is always essential. Meaningful transparency means that participants can access the information to understand the process of generating and selecting ideas, while they can also seek clarification and find new and different points of engagement to participate in the process.

In regard to inclusion, Whittington et al. (2011) state that an inclusive open strategy needs to go beyond the organization's boundaries to incorporate internal and external actors. These actors should be involved in a "strategic conversation" aimed at exchanging information, views and proposals. Hence, we say strategy-making is inclusive when it involves stakeholders in work groups or task forces with the purpose of joint decision-making among members.

For Mack and Szulanski (2017), inclusion demands a sense of community of involved stakeholders. They consider inclusion requires multiple large-scale strategy workshops and building a growing sense of community over time. For Mack and Szulanski (2017), digital technologies offer new opportunities for internal and external collaboration to organizations that have been valuable to open-strategizing and community building. Thus, rather than focusing on increasing stakeholders' input or participation, inclusion is about opening up the strategy process; it is related to how involved individuals can communicate and consolidate the ideas as a group.

There is an agreement in current literature (Whittington et al., 2011, Seidl et al., 2017; Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018; Malhotra et al., 2017) on the notion that inclusion is defined in relation to a set of practices. Mack and Szulanski (2017) define inclusion as a "practice composed of general activities that (i) encourage participants to engage in multiple ways of knowing through learning and sharing diverse perspectives, (ii) allow participants to co-produce the content and process of open strategy, and (iii) encourage participants to sustain their involvement in subsequent strategizing activities."

Dobusch and Kapeller (2018) consider that it is necessary to agree on the inclusion scope for a successful strategy process. The different stages of development (ideation towards implementation) require different inclusive practices with varying degrees of openness. These practices are distinguished from each other on who is included to participate in the preparation of the information, the agenda-setting, and the final decision-making.

1.2 Wikimedia and open strategy

The idea of an open strategy process in the Wikimedia Movement had one precursor in 2010. On that occasion, the initiative's main goal was to develop a plan only for the Wikimedia Foundation, rather than one for the entire Movement, guiding the actions until 2015.4 With over a thousand volunteers and in more than fifty languages, the process identified five priorities:5 increasing participation, stabilizing infrastructure, improving quality, increasing reach, and encouraging innovation. Along with other open strategy processes at Creative Commons, Red Hat, or Firefox, the Wikimedia Strategy process 2010 has become a valuable case study for the field (Dobusch et al., 2017; Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018; Hautz, 2018; Heracleous et al., 2017; Matzler et al., 2016).

The Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy has been a new open and participatory process that started in 2016, and it is currently undergoing its implementation.<6 While supported by Wikimedia Foundation staff, Strategy-making has resulted in a series of movement-wide consultations and high volunteer participation. In Phase 1, over 1,800 contributor statements from about one hundred communities were summarized and combined to create the Strategic Direction. In Phase 2, a hundred and one volunteers from various online communities and affiliates created the Strategy recommendations and principles,7 informed by extensive movement feedback.

1.3 Research questions

In the current stage of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process, it may not be possible to study its impact as its implementation is still in progress. Therefore, we take both the four-year process and its various outputs to explain the changes it envisions.

In this study, we want to understand how the Wikimedia Strategy process has been designed to be inclusive and how it supports the issue of inclusivity in the Wikimedia Movement. Based on this, we ask the two following research questions:

  • RQ1: what are the practices of inclusion in the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy Process?
  • RQ2: how do the strategy documents address inclusivity in the Wikimedia Movement?

Therefore, in this work, we aim to understand inclusivity in both the open strategy process and its product.

As far as the process is concerned, in line with the previous definitions, we consider and analyze inclusion as a set of practices that favour including a wide range of stakeholders with the aim of generating documents of strategic value. As far as the product is concerned, we want to understand how the narrative, the principles and the specific resulting initiatives frame the reported problems of inclusion in the Wikimedia Movement and address them.

We hypothesize whether the introduction of inclusive practices in a movement-wide open strategy process can help set up a space where the strategy-makers, in its turn, can discuss and elaborate proposals to make a more inclusive Wikimedia Movement.

We review the inclusivity practices employed in its different phases — encompassing aspects such as transparency, decision-making and modes of participation. We highlight the main characteristics of the product created and how it has been interpreted and already assumed by the community.

To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process. We found in the strategy process various approaches to include all the communities and stakeholders that go from offline events (called "Strategy Salons") to online discussion spaces, video calls, and specialized group discussions, among others. After analyzing the resulting strategic documentation, we found that addressing people's needs was at the very centre of the proposals. This was not only the case in the recommendations, but also in the principles and the strategic direction.

The creation of a "Global Council" to represent and include all the diversity of stakeholders of the Wikimedia movement in the decision-making, the improvement of the User Experience of websites, and the enforcement of a Universal Code of Conduct to fight harassment and improve community health are three key resulting initiatives among those that received the most attention and validation by the communities.

All in all, the findings from this study show that, in a large and decentralized organization or a movement like Wikimedia (comprising multiple organizations), it is necessary to plan and allocate space for open strategy discussions. The strategy discussions do not only function as a method for diagnosing the challenges, but also for creating a common framework between the different stakeholders that can address them.

In the rest of this paper, we first present, in Section 2, the methods and materials we employed to answer the research questions. In Section 3, we present the results that describe the inclusivity practices employed in the strategy process, and we also analyze the documentation generated. In Section 4, we discuss the main findings, the possible impact on the Wikimedia organizational culture and other implications, and we explain the limitations of the study and future steps as well. Finally, in Section 5, we review the main conclusions of the study.

2 Methods and materials

This study is the result of 5 years of work during the period of 2016 until 2021. It combines offline and online ethnographic experiences with discourse analysis of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process generated documents.

2.1 Methods

In order to understand the practices of inclusion of the process (RQ1), we took the stance of member-researchers as suggested by P. A. Adler and Adler (1987), following the approaches of other Wikipedia researchers, e.g., Lorenzen (2006), Reagle (2007), Konieczny (2010), and Jemielniak (2016). This approach is considered not only legitimate for anthropological projects but often superior to a non-participatory approach (Gatson; Zweerink, 2004; Sperschneide; Bagger, 2003).

Over the specified period and especially for two months after publishing the recommendations in May-June 2020, the researchers participated in the strategy conversations and also conducted semi-structured interviews with strategy participants to collect the perspectives of all stakeholders involved until that moment (Movement Strategy Core Team, working group members, strategy liaisons, community members, and Wikimedia Foundation staff). These conversations and interviews took place in the context of obtaining practical lessons from the Movement Strategy aspects of planning, collaboration, communication and participation, which also resulted in a report.8, 9

While we reckon that the stance of member-researchers has its benefits, in order not to overlook any aspect, we would like to acknowledge that the purpose of these semi-structured interviews was also to mitigate any possible bias. The interviews and group conversations were aimed at understanding different practices that enabled participation in each Phase and Sub-phase. We proposed three basic questions as conversation starters: what went well, what could be improved, and how to improve it. There were a total of 5 group conversations and 5 interviews that took place by means of video calls.

As far as the process practices description, we took as a reference point the approach by Dobusch et al. (2017). We first described the major decisions and goals for that phase and then reviewed specifically the transparency of the information and the inclusivity along with the different modes of participation. To explain the different degrees of openness and inclusion of the participation, we used the typology by Dobusch and Kapeller (2018). This typology divides open strategy participation into four practices: exclusive practices (centralized input summarizing and strategizing by representatives of the core organization), reporting practices (providing inputs for strategy-making), reviewing practices (interaction among participants on strategy-making and setting the agenda for discussion), and democratic practices (participation in strategy decision-making through rankings or voting).

In order to understand how the resulting strategy documents frame and address the issue of inclusivity in the Movement (RQ2), we analyzed its discourse (Krippendorff, 2004) in terms of the concepts proposed, language employed, sequence, and repetition. We also took into account the additional resources created to learn about the strategy product in other formats like audio, video, or summaries (Appendix 1).

In order to understand how the main concepts of the strategy recommendations (and particularly those related to inclusivity) are embraced by the different Movement stakeholders ranging from online communities and affiliates to the Wikimedia Foundation, we performed simple measurements of the number of times they have been linked or mentioned in other pages. We performed this on Meta-wiki, as it is a representative space of the range of movement conversations and documentation. As defined in its site, "Meta-wiki is the global community site for the Wikimedia Foundation's projects and related projects, from coordination and documentation to planning and analysis".10

2.2 Materials

Given Wikimedia's commitment to transparency in its software,11 organizations,12 and strategy13, 14 a wide variety of materials related to its strategy-making process have been filed on different spaces and websites. We used two main data sources for both describing the strategy-making practices and the discourse analysis on the product: interviews and sources such as websites (specifically wiki-pages in Meta-wiki) and public mailing-list archives.15 In the wiki spirit, we referenced every related Meta-wiki page in footnotes, and we invite the reader to visit them.

3 Results

Open strategy processes go from idea generation to implementation. Heracleous et al. (2017) identified four main stages in the Wikimedia strategy process held in 2010 they named level setting, deep dives, synthesis and call to action, as they relate to the efforts of idea generation, idea selection and final implementation. These three stages were also present in the two phases in which the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process has been divided. At the end of Phase 1, the strategic direction was presented (2018); at the end of Phase 2, the strategy principles and recommendations were published, and there were global consultations to prepare the first round of implementation (2020).

The following subsections are aimed at each of these two phases. They are further divided into process description and Product analysis and Impact in order to answer the two research questions.

3.1 Phase 1: Strategic Direction (2017–2018)

3.1.1. Process description

General description. The idea of an open strategy process appeared in Wikimania 2016, during an audit of past strategy processes. Nonetheless, it was not until January 2017 that the Core Team was formed, including staff members of the Wikimedia Foundation and advisors of an external consultancy company, williamsworks.16 Phase 1 was characterized as multi-track conversations,17 divided into three different cycles that took place from March until the end of July 2017. In early August, a draft of the Strategic direction was written by the drafting group18 based on a synthesis of the discussions and research. By the end of October, Wikimedia Movement affiliates and individual contributors could endorse the strategic direction on a page in Meta-wiki<19 (see Figure 1).



Figure 1. Scheme of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy Process organized by phases, subphases, involved actors and the strategy practices in terms of the degree of openness


Figure 1. Scheme of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy Process organized by phases, subphases, involved actors and the strategy practices in terms of the degree of openness. Source: own creation


Transparency. For each of the different tracks and cycles, there were reports posted online. Each of these reports summarized the statements from all the participants and shared them on wiki pages. Even though conversations between groups and communities took the form of on-wiki discussions, video calls, in-person meetings and other forms, they were all summarized and categorized in the form of "sources".20 These would later be used as source material to summarize a cycle. The translation of the different reports into multiple languages depended on community efforts.<21 While this approach allows in principle to cover a wider group of languages, it introduces volunteer responsibility, which is very variable, and so is the completeness of the final translations. To support volunteers, a group with 17 language specialists from different communities was assembled.22 Community translation approach was chosen to ensure that the translations are contextual and fitting the regular vocabulary used by the communities. This supported both access and understanding of the content in the communities and encouraged wider participation.

Inclusion and participation. Each of the three tracks was directed towards a different type of contributor. Track A was focused on organized groups, including movement affiliates, committees, Wikimedia Foundation staff members, among others. Track B included individual contributors, such as editors, curators and developers across different languages and projects. Tracks C-D ("New Voices") were aimed at readers, experts and partners to detect relevant global trends, perceptions, and usage of Wikimedia in new regions.

Tracks C-D were coordinated by paid staff, as it seemed not possible to rely on the existing community members to do the research on these new voices. As far as the coordination of Track A, an advisory group23 composed of ten volunteers who represented different geographies roles, and areas of the Movement and were included based on their previous interest in the strategy process and the role they occupied in their local communities. Those volunteers were able to participate in the other conversations and share additional thoughts and feedback. Their presence was aimed at engaging and increasing participation through their networks of acquaintances in the Movement.

In Track A-B any contributor could sign up to become a group discussion coordinator.24 Groups were usually created with members from a local community or an affiliate. Coordinators were asked to verify if there was already a discussion in the local project Strategy space before creating one,25 or if there was already another discussion on the same topic in the usual community discussion spaces, such as the Teahouse in the English Wikipedia. This approach presented a shortcoming, namely that editors not participating in organized groups like the local affiliates or in the Teahouse equivalent, such as newcomers, would find it more difficult to participate. All the discussion groups were listed in an outreach page.26

Some group conversations started with questions proposed by the coordinator, and they branched off into some parallel conversations that were still relevant to the original topic. In total, in cycle 1, there were 106 source pages created and 1,392 participants (33% in Track A and 67% in Track B), while for cycle 2, a total of 1,800 statements were classified into five major themes and sub-themes to identify core concepts.27 The three-cycle structure created a rhizomatic process that would reinforce itself. All the cycles were summarized and sorted by the core team and the track leads as a form of exclusive practice. Conversations were generating new suggestions and ideas (reviewing practices) and providing inputs to the next cycle's design (reporting practices).

Decision-making. The participants in the conversations were not involved in decision-making, as the design was centralized in the core team. At the end of the third cycle, the drafting group, formed by Foundation staff, the Core Team, directors of affiliates and volunteers, synthesized the input from the three cycles and wrote the strategic direction. Once the strategic direction was published,28 all constituents of the Movement (affiliates, groups, staff and contributors) were invited to endorse29 it and to express their supporting or opposing views on a wiki-page in a consultative manner.

3.1.2 Product analysis

The resulting product from Phase 1 is a guiding declaration to work towards the future: "by 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge, and anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us". The new direction validates the commitment to giving access to free knowledge, but at the same time, it invites anyone to join the Movement. It is a clear call to stay inclusive.

Free knowledge development remains a crucial aspect in the two concepts presented in the strategic direction: "knowledge as a service" and "knowledge equity". The first claims that the platform, tools, and structures need to enable contributors to capture different forms of trusted knowledge. The second recognizes Wikimedia as a social movement that needs to "focus our efforts on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege". In this sense, it goes further than the first invitation. Then, it reaffirms its inclusive importance: "we will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities". It finishes with: "we will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge".

Even though the strategic direction starts with the validation of the Wikimedia Foundation mission of collecting free knowledge and making it accessible,30 at the same time, it presents a second aspect of it, which is the content of those who have been left out. It states that issuing an invitation on its own is not enough. There needs to be action with equity to tear down the barriers of the different kinds that prevent people from joining the Movement and contributing their knowledge — regardless of whether those barriers are related to the movement structures and websites or the society.

Even though we must consider that inclusion is a means to obtaining new knowledge, the concept "knowledge equity" presents a subtle shift of attention from content to people and their context. It is not without significance, given that in order to be inclusive and grow larger and diverse, it is necessary to pay attention to the societal differences and, at the same time, prepare the different Movement structures, groups and teams in order to address the needs of those who, at the moment, cannot volunteer for Wikimedia, either because of lack of skills, Internet access, or because of internal dynamics and conflict (Hargittai and Shaw, 2014).

3.1.3 Impact

Since the finalization of the strategic direction by the end of October 2017, it was possible to endorse it as individual contributors or to represent an affiliate. Even though the strategic direction did not present specific goals or work areas, the concepts presented have resonated strongly with the Movement. As of the writing of this manuscript in April 2021, a quick search on Meta-wiki for the terms "knowledge as a service" and "knowledge equity" yields 395 and 2,474 results, respectively. Knowledge equity became a valuable concept for strategic planning and project proposition all over the Movement.

Specifically, the concept became especially popular during the Wikimania 2018 conference held in Cape Town, South Africa, which was dedicated to bridging the knowledge gaps, which was done by considering all the locally relevant and currently missing content about Africa. The concept was also widely endorsed and later embraced by the affiliates aimed at working on the gender gap, content gaps and underrepresented communities.31

At the same time, several departments of the Wikimedia Foundation started incorporating the concept in their programs. For example, the Research team published a set of white papers outlining plans for five years — as an example, one direction includes developing a knowledge equity index to track progress towards removing barriers from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.32 The Education team has also made "promoting knowledge equity" a priority, in line with UNESCO sustainable development goal (SDG) 4, of "ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all".33

3.2 Phase 2: Strategy Recommendations and Principles (2018–2020)

3.2.1 Process description

General description. The start of Phase 2 was consecutive to the creation of the strategic direction at the end of Phase 1. A new strategy coordinating team (Core Team)34 was formed for this phase, and they organized different events, iterations, along with the Foundation Executive team (Executive Director and Chief of Staff).

From the previous phase discussions, nine themes emerged35 as key for the Movement: Advocacy, Capacity Building, Community Health, Diversity, Partnerships, Product and Technology, Resource Allocation, Revenue Streams, Roles and Responsibilities. Nine respective Working Groups (WG)36 were created around these thematic areas to work on strategy recommendations as well as on principles. A total of 89 recommendations were written, published and discussed by September 2019.

By the end of 2019, a new working group of Writers synthesized the recommendations into one single and shorter set, which was revised in April and published on Meta-wiki.

Transparency. All recommendations created by the working groups (thematic and writers) were initially written in private documents, and were publicly shared once they were turned into a coherent draft form. The drafts were made accessible on Meta-wiki to anyone in several iterations, offering opportunities to discuss the submitted proposals on "talk pages" where everyone can comment.

The working language was English, but in key iterations, there were partial or total translations into other languages (Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, and German)37 chosen by their community size and for being among the most spoken second languages (L2).38 Other documentation published in Meta-wiki were the notes from the conversations held by the working groups, the log of changes made into the recommendations as a result of integrating feedback from the movement stakeholders,39 and extensive summaries for the different stages of Phase 2 of the process.40

Inclusion and participation. The WGs were a reviewing practice aimed at creating the recommendations by taking into account the diversity of the Movement's perspectives and contributors. With respect to their composition, there was an initial call for participants;41 the applicants were then filtered by a Steering Committee formed by volunteers of Phase 1,42 according to criteria of expertise, diversity of perspective, and roles within the Movement.43 The WGs had a maximum of 15 members, and each of them contained at least one member of the Wikimedia Foundation board, one member of the Wikimedia Foundation and affiliates staff and volunteers.44 WG members were selected regarding the criteria of region, language, gender, and roles, regardless of them being volunteers or Wikimedia Foundation/Affiliate staff.45 Some WGs had members of other organizations, including Creative Commons and UNESCO, which often collaborate with Wikimedia, and therefore were able to bring valuable input from a broader ecosystem of knowledge. In fact, to some authors (Whittington et al., 2011), involving external stakeholders is one of the defining traits of an inclusive open-strategy process.

According to what was stated in the call for participation, to become a member of a WG, it was needed to commit to investing an average of five hours per week and to "act in the interest of the movement, not in the interest of their organization or community". These requirements resulted in an increased rate of applicants from the organizational part of the Movement,46 which was better resourced and capable of distributing the workload between individuals. The possibility to allocate staff time to strategy work also enabled the staff members to take a coordinating role in the working groups, which helped to exempt volunteer members from administrative tasks, but at the same time had a negative effect of overall increasing the role of the staff members in the working group. This was balanced with community consultation cycles47 to bring in more input from online project volunteers.

In retrospective conversations with WG members, we identified several aspects that were key in relation to the inclusion of participants. Firstly, in some occasions, the amount of work necessary to generate recommendations was sometimes overwhelming. For WG members, being involved in community conversations while drafting recommendations was difficult to handle. To guarantee engagement in each WG, it would have been necessary to define realistic times with safety margins, with the "average participant" in mind. Secondly, setting a time for meetings that suited all the participants was very challenging, considering the different time-zones. Some WGs decided on a specific schedule while others varied it, so as not to penalize the contributors living on a set of time-zones — usually, the South Asian and American time zones.

Thirdly, contributors from African communities face the challenge of Internet connection, which means that their participation not only requires volunteering but sometimes adding resources to pay for their data. The possibility of granting compensation was explored. Fourthly, the different communication and even negotiation styles in the WGs posed the risk of excluding some voices. Investing in facilitation professionals for a better experience of the WG members and ensuring that everyone could be heard was regarded as positive. Fifthly and lastly, some WGs met in an in-person meeting to advance on the recommendations writing. To avoid this, it was necessary to understand the limitations that participants outside Europe and North America faced: e.g., applying for a visa, paying for meals and accommodation (sometimes in advance, and some of the volunteers could not afford to pay and wait for a refund). These five factors were also relevant and informative for the preparation of the global events at the beginning of the implementation, given that the same needs had to be addressed to ensure a good coordination and representation of the Movement.

In parallel to the WGs, another mode of participation in the strategy process during the writing of the recommendations was the Strategy Salons.48 These were in-person events held to discuss the current strategy publications, and to answer questions formulated by the different WGs that would provide them feedback on what the community at large thinks about certain topics. Following Dobusch and Kapeller (2018) typology, Salons were a reporting practice. Salons provided valuable material for WG members to write the recommendations. The WG members involved took into account research documents generated from Phase 1, summaries of the feedback given by the different communities' during in-person events, and community feedback provided in the talk pages. However, a salon report was a richer document than the online feedback, containing direct but also more general feedback on the state of the recommendations.

A total of 41 Strategy Salons were organized in communities from all the world regions. Their conversations were translated from their native languages into English and summarized by seven Community Strategy Liaisons (exclusive practice). These summaries were provided to the WGs as input for them to generate the recommendations. As defined in the Meta-wiki page for Strategy, Community Strategy Liaisons built relationships with Wikimedia community members in their assigned language around the world. They undertook outreach and were responsible for highlighting and summarizing community feedback, as well as acting as translators for the languages mentioned.49 While this approach was positively received, some Wikimedians claimed that it was very dependent on the specific individuals acting as liaison. A few salons were organized by affiliates and online communities, which collected and translated the feedback themselves without the need for external support. Similarly, some salons were funded by Wikimedia affiliates, while others were funded through "micro-grants" approved by the Wikimedia Foundation to guarantee quick access to resources.50

Next to the salons, the use of online communities' discussions in Meta-wiki pages were a type of reporting practice helpful to WG members to gauge the level of acceptance of the different recommendations. While the salons were mostly organized by already constituted groups (or affiliates), the discussions in wiki pages were often held between individuals who may want to keep their anonymity behind a username. For every published strategy content update or report by the Core Team, in-wiki discussions acted as a bidirectional channel between the community members and both the Core Team and the WG members. Still, at the same time, publishing partial content updates created tensions, since the work was published in various iterations while it was sometimes interpreted as finished material.

Working group members were assisted by facilitators and the Core Team in periodical group video calls to discuss progress on the writing and to integrate the feedback received. Likewise, during the writing of the recommendations, some WGs met in person to deepen their discussions, e.g., in the annual Wikimedians conference Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm,51 and to start working on the integration in a dedicated sprint held in Tunis.52

The Writers working group, which integrated the 89 recommendations and principles into a final product, was composed of members of the previous thematic working groups. Many of the thematic working group members remained engaged in roles aimed at disseminating and reviewing the product. For the distribution of roles in this new constellation, a voluntary sign-up model was used, where people could choose the role in which they would prefer to continue their engagement. Their choices depended on their profile, interests, and also on the time available. At this stage, 60% of the working group members decided not to take up any further roles, because it was perceived that the consolidation of recommendations should be done with fewer people. Besides, the members were confronted with a notable exhaustion from the 1-year-long process of delivering the thematic area recommendations.

Once a coherent set of 13 recommendations and 20 principles was published in January 2020,53 the strategy core team collected feedback from the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, the affiliates' representatives (board members and executive directors), and the online communities. The feedback from these stakeholders was then summarized and presented back to the Writers. One final Working Group, named Integrators,54 comprised of some of the Writers and former Thematic Working Group members, refined the recommendations and integrated the feedback, to refine the product, which was finally reduced to 10 recommendations and 10 principles.

The product was posted in the Meta-wiki strategy portal distributed into different pages and in a wide variety of formats, so that the ideas and the content are accessible. The additional resources included: a printable document, a one-page summary that describes the recommendations, a more visual presentation format summary and even an interactive game to learn the relationships between the principles, recommendations and actions. The recommendations were made fully accessible in 14 languages, roughly aligning with the biggest languages used in the Movement55 (Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, Dutch, English, Farsi, French, German, Hindi, Indonesian Bahasa, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish). The recommendations were also made available as audio files, with versions in English, French, German, Spanish and Arabic. There were video versions of the recommendations in English and Arabic.56 Adding complementary infographics and summaries was done by request of many Wikimedians, who wanted an easy way to grasp the essential to then decide on whether they wanted to read the whole document.

Decision-making. The thematic working groups were involved in implicit forms of decision-making. Their members could write the recommendations individually and as part of the group. A full group consensus was not required for the recommendations to proceed, however a general consent of the group was facilitated. Maybe because of this, the harmonization of the 89 recommendations into a single, much shorter set of recommendations was not immediate. It required a structured process to identify the common ideas and generate an underlying narrative. For this case, the solution was to create clusters of recommendations. The clustering of meta-recommendations was developed and validated by the Writers working group, which also decided the structure of common sections to the recommendations.

The integration of feedback and refinement of the text required the Integrators to make decisions on the recommendations' language and aspirations, as very often the online communities, affiliates' representatives, and the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees had different perspectives. The integrators needed to find a point of compromise between them, considering the impact and the fact that the text would need to be endorsed by the Board of Trustees, which would later create the budget necessary for the next steps regarding the implementation. On May 12th, the final product was published on Meta-wiki.

3.2.2 Product analysis

The final product contains 10 recommendations and 10 principles.57 The principles "reflect shared values across the Movement upon which the recommendations are built and will be implemented".58 The recommendations propose an area of work in the "What" section, then some specific "Changes and Actions" and, finally, a "Rationale" to motivate the need for the change. The product contains an introduction explaining the purpose and key aspects of change, and a glossary with terms generally not used in the wiki-context.

We found that inclusivity is present in the purpose of change section of the introduction,59 with the statement: "Our goal by 2030 is to eliminate the gender gap and focus on the inclusion of underrepresented groups in our communities and projects". This is later reinforced in the key aspects of change by mentioning that "we will become more people-centred to address the needs of all people who power our Movement and those we serve". It adds, "anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us as we offer engaging, adaptable, and flexible experiences of the Wikimedia ecosystem".

The first line refers to the principle of people-centredness, which underpins many other principles (i.e., safety and security, inclusivity and participatory decision-making, equity and empowerment, subsidiarity and self-management, among others). People-centredness is part of an underlying narrative to all the document; some of the principles and recommendations apply more easily to an organizational governance level, while others are more aimed at a platform level (i.e. accessibility and usability are forms of inclusivity in the website), or to both (i.e. safety and security), but they all pay attention to people. Similarly, we see that the recommendations are named after an action addressed to a core need of the Wikimedia Movement stakeholders.

To understand the influence of inclusivity more generally, we analyzed the links and mentions to the "people-centredness" and "inclusivity" strategy principles<60 in each of the recommendations. We found that all of the recommendations but "Manage Internal Knowledge" mention at least once people-centredness or inclusivity, from a total of 14 mentions (6 mentions to people-centredness and 8 to inclusivity or inclusion).

Recommendations mentioning these terms more times are "Improve User Experience"61 and "Provide for Safety and Inclusion".62 Both mention them already in their first line: "we will continually improve the design of our platforms to be inclusive and to enable everyone — irrespective of gender, culture, age, technological background or skills, or physical abilities", and "we will establish Movement-wide standards for an inclusive, welcoming, safe, and harassment-free environment. This will enable us to better attract and retain new and diverse volunteers and grow as a movement". In the rationale, this recommendation makes it more explicit by saying that "the lack of safe and inclusive environment [...] in the current culture of many Wikimedia projects limits the work and participation of existing communities and is a barrier for new people to join, including women, LGBTQ+, indigenous communities, and other underrepresented groups".

All in all, we see that inclusion is a primary goal for the strategic product, and it is articulated in several parts. Not only is it a central piece of the narrative, both in the principles and the introduction, but it is also articulated in specific recommendations and initiatives. Considering that inclusion is a set of practices also in the Movement, it is important to highlight that some of these recommendations address barriers that exist in the project website (e.g., User Experience), while others are focused on problems such as guaranteeing the safety of contributors in online and offline spaces. This way, the Strategic principles and recommendations from Phase 2 close the circle that was opened in Phase 1 with the Strategic direction, and especially with the concept "knowledge equity". Phase 2 provides a set of principles, goals and projects that aim to deliver on the goal of building a more inclusive and diverse Movement.

3.2.3 Discussion and impact

The publication of the strategy product (principles and recommendations), in May 2020, was followed by several presentations and events to introduce it to the Wikimedia Foundation staff. In June, the main initiative proposed under the umbrella of the recommendation "Provide for Safety and Inclusion", the Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC),63 was proposed for a parallel process for its elaboration. As per the recommendation, the UCoC is "a baseline of acceptable behaviour for the entire movement without tolerance for harassment, done through an inclusive process with respect to the context, existing local policies, as well as enforcement and conflict resolution structures". After a period of three months of consultations, a proposal was presented in September, and was finally ratified in February 2021 by the Wikimedia Board of Trustees.64 The UCoC is the first initiative derived from the Strategy documents to be implemented, which proves the Wikimedia Foundation's recognition of the need to provide safety for inclusion. There existed a code of conduct for Wikimedia technical spaces,65 friendly space policies for events,66 but no universal code that would serve as a reference for all contexts.

In November 2020, many affiliates submitted their Annual Plan Grants proposals.67 These documents present their different lines of action and activities for the following year. Many of them employed the recommendations as common lenses to structure their priorities and align them towards common goals. In December 2020, 420 Wikimedians from the online communities and affiliates participated in online discussions and prioritized the initiatives to implement in 2021.68, 69 The creation of a Global Council to represent and include all the diversity of stakeholders of the Movement in the decision-making, the improvement of the User Experience of the websites, or the enforcement of a Universal Code of Conduct to fight harassment and improve community health are three key resulting initiatives, among those that received great attention and validation by the communities. In order to prioritize the recommendations and their initiatives, i.e., to decide which to implement first, groups were asked to choose their top 3 priorities (democratic practice) on the local or regional level and submit their responses. On the global level, a prioritization event was organized with a similar task for individual participants. Based on the votes, the initiatives were distributed across the quartiles, and the top quartile was considered as priority initiatives to be implemented first.70

4 Discussion

4.1 Inclusive practices and the Strategy Product

After having reviewed and examined the Wikimedia 2030 strategy-making process, we are able to derive two main insights concerning the practices of inclusion (RQ1). As for the first insight to call as many Wikimedians as possible to participate and express their opinions, a wide array of modalities were used: online spaces in Wikimedia (Meta-wiki website, language editions' Teahouse, mailing lists), external modalities to the Wikimedia websites such as social network groups, video call groups, and also in-person meetings held within Wikimedia conferences71 especially aimed at the strategy process. The need to be flexible, open, and allow everyone to participate or organize an event is part of the "wiki-way"72 — i.e., it's preferable to do it and correct it, rather than not doing it.

As for the last insight, even though the aim was to include as many actors as possible, we saw that strategy-making seemingly requires balancing different degrees of openness in a set of practices that reinforce themselves. While Phase 1 involved more people and even new voices (partners and external researchers), who took part in open discussions and reviewing practices, in Phase 2 these were mainly located in the nine Working Groups. Their members became representatives of the Movement, and everyone else could participate by providing feedback. Instead, in Phase 2, the product was translated by staff, who are community liaisons, but we almost did not see any exclusive practices, since the final product was created with no direct intervention by the strategy core team. The design of Phase 2 leaned more on a movement representation-based approach, with the WG as a central mode of participation (a review practice).

The participants we interviewed considered that the combination of community liaisons and working groups was a successful approach to create a space for a group of representatives to generate valuable strategic documentation while still being able to incorporate feedback from the wider Movement. WG members worked together for a sustained period of 12 months. Yet, at the same time, WGs were sometimes viewed as "closed". Some Wikimedians wanted to join after their constitution and were not allowed. There were some guidelines to consider the cases where it would be justified to replace WG members (e.g., especially when members repeatedly did not fulfill their commitment).73

In practice, such a guideline was never applied, even though there were cases when members missed some calls and were absent. When asked, they expressed a sense of fatigue, arguing that every sub-phase of the process took excessive time. The balance between the needs of the different participants was not easy; allowing time to digest every new material and time to work on a new task seemed essential for some, while for others, it was perceived as losing momentum. In these circumstances, it seems essential to raise awareness of the different expectations — something which cannot be done without developing a certain sense of working community over time, one important trait of open strategy (Mack; Szulanski, 2017).

Regarding the product created, it framed the issue of inclusivity in the Wikimedia Movement at several levels, both in terms of principles and narrative, as well as specific proposals (RQ2). The strategic direction invites everyone to join, and, at the same time, it introduces the term "knowledge equity", which is a call to eliminate barriers and become more inclusive. We saw that inclusivity is part of most of the recommendations, namely "Provide for Safety and Inclusion" and "Improve User Experience". Better accessibility and usability on the website, especially for newcomers, and the enforcement of a Code of Conduct to fight harassment and improve community health are key resulting initiatives to become more inclusive. They have already received attention and validation from communities and affiliates.74

Even though this implies there is a greater awareness of these issues, it is still early to consider there is a transition towards becoming more people-centred, as the implementation is only beginning. We wonder if the implementation of these recommendations may change the set of moral obligations and expectations from Wikipedians as a community, in other words, if it will change the organizational culture. In Wikipedia, there are no admission procedures, but there is an expectation on the acceptance of moral obligations and rules of conduct (Pentzold, 2010). Being a Wikipedian not only implies having to learn to use tools, but also integrating beliefs, common practices, and values (Bryant et al., 2005).

We wonder if greater awareness of the need for diversity and inclusion can become part of the future set of beliefs of the community members. If it happened, since community membership is based on compliance with rules and the acceptance of beliefs, actions such as taking care of the community by mentoring other members, or getting involved in applying or militating for the necessary changes to stay inclusive could become new common practices. While this is uncertain at the moment, we need to acknowledge that even though the recommendations have been endorsed by affiliates and numerous volunteers from all over the Movement, some specific initiatives (e.g. the Universal Code of Conduct) will require further discussions and consultations to find the best implementation process, in alignment with the volunteers in the online communities, especially when these will have a direct impact on the social dynamics or the website interface and functionalities.

4.2 Limitations and future steps

Generally, the use of a qualitative approach proposed by this study has been useful to identify the main four types of inclusive practices in the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process, according to the typology proposed by Dobusch and Kapeller (2018). Once the data was collected, we could obtain a general view of the process design and deepen into the inherent barriers in the implementation of each inclusive practice. The scope of this paper is limited to a review of the different inclusive practices and to understand the main priorities in the product and their current impact, rather than doing an in-depth study of the diverse types of participants of the strategy process. To this latter purpose, the use of quantitative methodologies such as questionnaires could have been useful to evaluate and generalize on whether specific groups have felt left out.

Even though this process counted on actors who could freely decide their desired space of participation, we must acknowledge its difficulties in including contributors of the online communities, who were not members of affiliates. The distinction between crowds and structured communities tends to present some risks and challenges to inclusivity (Dobusch et al., 2017; Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018; Hautz, 2018; Heracleous et al., 2017). We must also acknowledge that structureless crowds are an inherent characteristic of the Wikimedia Movement online communities. Taking their feedback into account and involving them in the decision-making is a challenge to be taken not only in future open strategy design, but also in the implementation of the present one.

In this sense, we see as a limitation of the current study not having interviewed enough online community volunteers — especially those belonging to underrepresented groups — in order to identify the wide range of opinions around the 2030 Wikimedia Strategy process as well as their overall satisfaction with the resulting product. We detected that some criticism of the process was not necessarily due to its inclusive practices or objectives, but was directed towards the Wikimedia Foundation due to past grievances. Likewise, it would be useful to study which communication style and messages were more helpful to raise awareness and explain what open-strategy making is. Especially because, according to Whittington et al. (2011), greater inclusiveness tends to relate to an increase in need for competences in communication and process management.

Another future development could be an analysis of the diversity of the online community members who reported feedback in the Meta-wiki pages of the strategy process. This analysis would require a computational approach to examine all the messages left in the talk pages and classify them according to the editors' local Wikipedia and the year of their first edit. These results would be valuable to contextualize feedback and at the same time to evaluate whether Meta-wiki is an appropriate space to guarantee inclusiveness in the conversations. To date, it is not known whether editors who discuss in Meta-wiki talk pages are or are not representative of their local communities, which might imply to reconsider using another space or platform where it might be easier to obtain ample and diverse participation. As seen, the design and application of inclusive practices with different degrees of openness are very subject to the participants' capacities as well as to the technology available.

5 Conclusions

In this paper, we have studied both the process and the product of Wikimedia 2030 from an inclusivity point of view. Analyzing open-strategy processes is as complex as the diversity of participants, their motivations and interests, as well as their backgrounds and capacities. We described the practices of inclusion in the strategy process following (Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018) to examine the different degrees of openness, and analyzed the resulting product created at each phase. Our findings are in line with past research, as we saw that to reach closure, it was necessary to reduce the degree of openness (Dobusch; Kapeller, 2018). However, while the product of Phase 1 was generated with some exclusive practices, in Phase 2, closure was reached with a group of representative members of the Wikimedia Movement to increase the legitimacy of the final strategy documents.

In relation to the different specific inclusive practices, we found that their implementation presented specific barriers related to the context of the participants. Setting up video calls with participants with very different time-zones usually ended up requiring a greater effort for participants from certain geographical areas to join the calls. Similarly, some members required economic support given the cost of Internet access in their country, as well as the payment upfront for the costs of traveling to strategy events, instead of the usual refund. In general, while the study of open-strategy often overlooks these more operational aspects, they proved to be essential to guarantee inclusion, and therefore we see it was necessary reviewing them. We believe that it is worthwhile to explore and document them, in order to set the standard for both the study and design of future open-strategy processes.

In relation to the strategy product of the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy process, it embraces inclusivity as a goal that needs to be tackled at different levels, from website user interfaces to community dynamics and individual behaviour, to governance structures and funding distribution for underrepresented communities. In this sense, we can state that an inclusive open-strategy process has become useful to raise awareness on the issue of inclusivity in the Wikimedia Movement and has created a common framework and specific solutions to address it. An inclusive process acted as a catalyst to place inclusivity as the main goal for the future. However, we cannot establish causality as this had not happened in the past Wikimedia 2010 process, when the lack of diversity and lack of growth was just detected, or in other open-strategy case studies (Hautz, 2018; Heracleous, 2019).


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