Wikipedia:Wikipedia Signpost/2019-08-30/In focus

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Ryan Merkley joins WMF as Chief of Staff: Working with leadership and the community, taking on both operational and strategic responsibilities


Ryan Merkley will join the Wikimedia Foundation on September 16 as Chief of Staff to the office of the Executive Director. His extensive experience includes five years as the CEO of Creative Commons (CC), and three years at Mozilla, moving from Director of Programs and Strategy to Chief Operating Officer to Chief Strategy Officer.

A man and a woman talking
Merkley with ED Katherine Maher in April 2018

Merkley listed ten accomplishments in his five years at CC, including

  • developing and implementing a 5-year strategy,
  • developing CC Search, which indexes 300 million CC-licensed images
  • redesigning an affiliate program Creative Commons Global Network
  • helping to run four CC Summit conferences
  • raising money, and
  • hiring a diverse workforce "with a majority of both leadership and staff who are women."

You can watch his presentation at Wikimania (starting at 36:00) as he explains his work at CC, how copyright works, and how CC works with the UN’s sustainable development goals.

His new role at the WMF "is designed to be both operational and strategic," Merkely told The Signpost. "I’ll serve as an advisor and partner to the ED and support leadership and the Board," as well as working on "special projects like the Movement Strategy."

He’ll work from his home in Toronto, where he lives with his young daughter, wife, and a dog. "My wife Kelsey and I started a small wine club, where we focus on natural and biodynamic wines. I’m a musician — drums, percussion, guitar — and I sometimes get out to play with friends and their bands."

The editing community is central to Merkley’s view of Wikipedia, "everything at the Wikimedia Foundation connects to community in one way or another." His message to the community is

I love the idea of work we can only do together — of collective acts. I get energized from meeting people and having them tell me about their work and their interests. Too often people treat leadership in an organization like characters in a soap opera, not as real humans who struggle and sometimes fail. I hope people will reach out, and connect so we can get to know each other and accomplish great things.