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April 12, 2009 / compassioninpolitics

Wikis for Nonprofit Communication and Project Management

Wikis are ultimately about productive communication. One great way to use wikis is to use them to leverage the “wisdom of the crowds” inside and outside your organization with relevant stakeholders. For instance this nitrogen pollution wiki is a great example of a foundation utilizing a wiki to share information all on one centrally located digital platform. For instance the Packard Foundation’s concluded the wiki experiment,

A wiki, in theory, would allow people from different perspectives to collectively generate new and better ideas than they would have been able to generate on their own. Instead of relying solely on experts it already knew, the Packard Foundation hoped to expand its network by using the power of the Internet to include a broader range of stakeholders, academic institutions, the private sector and interested individuals.

The wiki experiment, they posited, had the potential to help improve the goals and elements of a grantmaking strategy while also helping the foundation to identify individuals, institutions and projects that could play a role in carrying it out. After creating the wiki, the Packard team promoted it on some 40 different blogs, Web sites and e-mail lists to generate interest from communities interested in nitrogen research. More than 120 registrants signed up in all, with several dozen actively engaging in the site on a regular basis. Discussion was lively, though sometimes intermittent during the planned project lifespan of about six weeks in early 2008.

With some simple goals and ground rules, you should be able to ramp up your project fairly easily. The Brotherton New Media research highlights several recommendations for getting started with wiki adoption:

Assess your organization’s appetite for innovation.

Recognize and garner the resources it will take.

Build internal allies.

Be strategic.

Leverage the great work of others.

Go slowly and build on successes.

Oracle suggests that organizations who want to adopt wikis do try the following:

• have clear rules and responsibilities
• do not start with empty wikis
• employ, incentivize, entice so called “champions” to smooth the way for others
• change your mind on information processing – be open to a new paradigm for your working knowledge environment (hint: today much of it is email and conference calls)
• be careful with vendor-specific plugins
• do not outsource to professional information brokers – capture your information, it’s your competitive advantage
• everybody should be able to edit (nearly) every page (social creation of information is the purpose of the wiki – let the social groups correct errors – if you are still worried, implement an editorial workflow or other review process for sensitive items but don’t let it become a bottleneck)
• get your pages connected internally and externally – relevant information is found both inside and outside your firewall but know your audience.
• always create useful information which others can reuse
• get a clear definition about the fields you want to use the wiki for
• identify your organization’s advantage in having a wiki – find a way to measure success and failure
• see which tools and services bring some personnel benefit for the employees – in making their jobs easier, more convenient, better, or simply more enjoyable.

For more practical advice about enterprise 2.0 technology like wikis in nonprofit organizations and businesses check out Stewart Mader’s Blog, his article “Five Uses of Wikis” his book “Wiki Patterns“. Stewart also has 21 videos in a series that is entitled 21 Days of Wiki Adoption, which is incredibly helpful. Its also worth checking out how teachers and schools are using wikis in the education context to transform learning and the classroom.

Additional New Media Research, Reports, and Resources
Communications Network and Brotherton Strategies created an extensive white paper called Web 2.0 for Nonprofits , which is where I found the Nitrogen wiki example. For more specifics about adoption recommendations see page 30 of the Web 2.0 guide for Nonprofit Organizations and Foundations


Leave a Comment
  1. slmader / Apr 14 2009 4:58 pm

    Hi Nathan,
    Thanks for mentioning my site and articles here!

    Regarding the list of tips from Oracle – do you have a source for that? I’d like to do an article on that for my site, and would like to be able to credit the original source.


  2. compassioninpolitics / Apr 14 2009 9:34 pm


    I apologize for not linking to it on the original. I fixed that and here is a shortened link to the original article:


    Take care,

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