I was unfortunately out of the state and unable to attend Freeman’s talk when he came to campus. In place, I watched a TED talk entitled The Birth of Wikipedia by Jimmy Wales. Initially I did not see much of a connection between Wikipedia and Stakeholder theory, since it is not a traditional business. However, it spiked my interest because at the time of this video, Wikipedia had as many readers as the New York Times. But in contrast to the Times, Wikipedia has only one employee. They are able to do this because Wikipedia’s key stakeholders, namely the people who contribute to it, offer up hours upon hours of free work. They do this because they are passionate about adding to Wikipedia and ensuring the quality and neutrality of articles.
How does this impact stakeholder theory? The Wikipedia example shows that innovative new models can be created around stakeholder interests. Wikipedia is not a business and at the same its characteristics are significantly different than most non-profit organizations. It does not pay the contributors and it fund raises very little since all the article writing and moderation is completely done by volunteers. There is significant potential with this model, especially to tackle major social problems. Take breast cancer research for instance. Instead of donating funds to a large and less than efficient organization, what if software and online based models existed that enabled donors to directly fund doctors with potential breakthroughs. This may be a limited example, but if applied innovatively the Wikipedia stakeholder model could bring about progress on social goals in a faster and less expensive way.
Check out the video and other relevant talks here: http://www.ted.com/playlists/13/open_source_open_world