Wikimedia Foundation

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Crowd-sourcing knowledge worldwide
United States
Photo by Lane Hartwell

In 11 short years, Wikimedia Foundation’s flagship initiative – ubiquitous online encyclopaedia Wikipedia – has revolutionized the way knowledge is collected and shared. By now, most are familiar with the Wikipedia model, which is based around open access for all Internet users, a commitment to multilingualism, and constant edits and updates carried out by an army of approximately 100,000 eager volunteers. Most striking, however, in an age of multi-billion dollar Facebook IPOs, is the organization’s bedrock belief in the notion that information should never represent a profit-driven commodity.

In practical terms, Wikimedia Foundation – which topped our inaugural ranking – exists as perhaps the most influential non-government actor in the field of education today. Operating with a shoestring staff of 142, the organization is responsible for managing the platform facilitating the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history – currently 23 million articles and counting. To date, Wikipedia is available in 285 languages, and is visited by more than 470 million people per month. Central to Wikimedia Foundation’s future strategy is the continued expansion of Wikipedia in the languages of the developing world, where access to information is seen to represent not only a personal asset, but also an essential dimension in building an engaged citizenry at the societal level. Ultimately, the Wikimedia Foundation represents a path-breaking example of what an NGO can achieve in the Internet era. Working with relatively meagre resources and committed to a funding model based on mass private donations as opposed to large institutional grants, the organization continues, through an innovative application of new technologies, to have a deep and abiding impact on the lives of millions around the world.

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