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Wikimedia Product/Perspectives/Trust

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Trust is a fundamental building block of community and culture, and is therefore critical to consider as we define next stage strategy toward 2030 goals. In commercial contexts, mutual interest and mutual concern mandate some level of trust between individuals or entities engaged in trade.[1] In civic contexts, trust is often a by-product or outcome of the process by which collective good is determined—and a baseline criteria in selecting who can represent or advocate for that good. In interpersonal contexts, trust is the social lubricant that allows us to progress, step by step, from strangers to acquaintances to intimates.

In each of these contexts (all of which have parallels in the open knowledge ecosystem[2]) the rituals of trustworthy engagement share the same basic characteristics. Parties in trustworthy relationships...

  • take an interest in or are curious about one another
  • act in good faith and assume good faith
  • share relevant information voluntarily
  • take information that is shared at face value[3]
  • behave respectfully toward one another
  • strive for equitable value exchange
  • are reliable and honor their agreements
  • sometimes share mutually beneficial objectives[4]

These characteristics, and the relative weight placed on each, are manifest at cultural, social and transactional levels in ways that have the potential to significantly impact our Movement and its goals. And, as a global organization, it’s important to understand how our predominantly northern/western model of trust-building may be reflected at each level.

In the papers that follow we explore three vectors of trust: reliability of content, accountability at all levels of engagement and transparency of the content, the Foundation and the Movement.

Investment in Trust means the Movement, the Foundation and every community must cultivate awareness and facility with the cultural, social and transactional aspects of trust-building interaction. That is, in order to empower and activate all communities to take part in the creation of knowledge we must develop an actionable model for building trust and strengthening alliances - one that is effective across projects and between cultures. This will require awareness of our own trust-building paradigms, and a fluency with reading and sending trust-signals in our governance practices, our community norms and policies, and via our content. We will need to consciously define and embody trustworthy practices at every touchpoint of the Movement.




  • Copyvio Tools
  • Archive Bots
  • Interaction Timeline

Areas of Impact

  • Community Development
  • Content
  • Anti-harassment Tools
  • Citations

White Paper





  1. Even in illicit markets, trust is a factor in determining who will do business with whom.
  2. Reaching our 2030 objectives will require effective and dynamic partnership with sister-organizations and for-profit partners (trade). The “civic” dimension of the movement must include support for a multiplicity of interest-groups within the Movement, and the balancing of leaders’ voices. It will require these civic leaders to exhibit trustworthy practices and exemplary judgement (organizers, content curators and moderators fall into this “civic” dimension). Their objectives must be understood and communicated transparently, and leaders of interest groups within the Movement must have the ears of other leaders. On the interpersonal level, individual users must be able to move from anonymous consumer to engaged contributor through a set of mutually agreeable and understandable gates; and once there, experience only respectful interactions with others.
  3. At a minimum, they “trust but verify”
  4. But isn’t it necessary for parties in a trusted relationship to have some “mutually beneficial objective”? No, it may not be necessary. It’s possible for one party to take an interest in another, and to demonstrate every other characteristic of a trusting relationship, but in the end see no mutually beneficial objective to work toward together, at a particular time. This distinction marks the difference between allies and partners. When Trust is present, both allies and partners are able to work constructively to support one another, whether or not they have an immediate mutual objective (and while cultivating allies is a reward in itself, allies can become partners later).