January 17, 2022

Sue Gardner Announces She’s Leaving Her Position as Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation

Here’s the Full Text of Gardner’s Announcement:

Hello Wikimedia community members,

This is not an easy e-mail to write, and it’s been a very hard decision to make. But I’m writing to tell you that I’m planning to leave my position as the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation.

My departure isn’t imminent — the Board and I anticipate it’ll take at least six months to recruit my successor, and I’ll be fully engaged as Executive Director all through the recruitment process and until we have a new person in place. We’re expecting that’ll take about six months or so, and so this note is not goodbye — not yet.

Making the decision to leave hasn’t been easy, but it comes down to two things.

First, the movement and the Wikimedia Foundation are in a strong place now. When I joined, the Foundation was tiny and not yet able to reliably support the projects. Today it’s healthy, thriving, and a competent partner to the global network of Wikimedia volunteers. If that wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t feel okay to leave. In that sense, my leaving is a vote of confidence in our Board and executive team and staff — I know they will ably steer the Foundation through the years ahead, and I’m confident the Board will appoint a strong successor to me.

And I feel that although we’re in good shape, with a promising future, the same isn’t true for the internet itself. (This is thing number two.) Increasingly, I’m finding myself uncomfortable about how the internet’s developing, who’s influencing its development, and who is not. Last year we at Wikimedia raised an alarm about SOPA/PIPA, and now CISPA is back. Wikipedia has experienced censorship at the hands of industry groups and governments, and we’re –increasingly, I think– seeing important decisions made by unaccountable non-transparent corporate players, a shift from the open web to mobile walled gardens, and a shift from the production-based internet to one that’s consumption-based. There are many organizations and individuals advocating for the public interest online — what’s good for ordinary people — but other interests are more numerous and powerful than they are. I want that to change. And that’s what I want to do next.

I’ve always aimed to make the biggest contribution I can to the general public good. Today, this is pulling me towards a new and different role, one very much aligned with Wikimedia values and informed by my experiences here, and with the purpose of amplifying the voices of people advocating for the free and open internet. I don’t know exactly what this will look like — I might write a book, or start a non-profit, or work in partnership with something that already exists. Either way, I feel strongly that this is what I need to do.

I feel an increasing sense of urgency around this. That said, I also feel a strong sense of responsibility (and love!) for the Wikimedia movement, and so I’ve agreed with the Board that I’ll stay on as Executive Director until we have my successor in place. That’ll take some time — likely, at least six months.

Until then, nothing changes. The Wikimedia Foundation has lots of work to do, and you can expect me to focus fully on it until we have a new Executive Director in place.

I have many people to thank, but I’m not going to do it now — there’ll be time for that later. For now, I’ll just say I love working with you all, I’m proud of everything the Wikimedia movement is accomplishing, and I’m looking forward to our next six months together.

Jan-Bart’s going to write a note in a couple of minutes with information about the transition process. We’ll be hosting office hours this weekend as well, so anybody with questions can ask them here or turn up to talk with us on IRC.


Sue Gardner
Executive Director
Wikimedia Foundation

See Also: Audio: Wikimedia’s Executive Director, Sue Gardner, Speaks at New Librarians Event in Australia (February 18, 2013)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.