The Recommendations for the Future of the Wikimedia Movement are here!

Today, the recommendations for the implementation of the 2018 strategic direction of the Wikimedia Movement were published. They are the result of almost two years of intensive work by nine working groups with diverse membership, including several feedback rounds and iterations. This concludes the second phase of the international Wikimedia strategy process “Wikimedia 2030”. The recommendations present how the movement should implement the strategic direction in concrete terms.

  • Abraham Taherivand
  • Lukas Mezger
  • 12. May 2020

Today, the recommendations for the implementation of the 2018 strategic direction of the Wikimedia Movement were published. They are the result of almost two years of intensive work by nine working groups with diverse membership, including several feedback rounds and iterations. This concludes the second phase of the international Wikimedia strategy process “Wikimedia 2030”. The recommendations present how the movement should implement the strategic direction in concrete terms. 

The strategy document published today presents the results of all this joint work: ten recommendations and ten basic principles that outline a pathway for change. Some ideas build on existing successes and on the incredible expertise and experience that exists within our Movement and beyond. Some call for change in the way we work, interact and engage with our mission and values. And some require us to envision new ways of working, collaborating and making decisions for the continued success of our Movement. The recommendations in detail: 

  1. Increase the Sustainability of Our Movement calls upon us to be people-centered and invest in people’s needs. The sustainability of our Movement depends on recognizing and supporting the diversity of our contributors – established volunteers and newcomers – and our activities. 
  2. Improve User Experience addresses the usability and accessibility of our products and continuous ways to improve them. It recommends involving contributors and developer communities in research, design, and testing for diverse profiles and devices. 
  3. The creation of a Code of Conduct, anonymous incident reporting, and addressing harassment in our projects are discussed in Provide for Safety and Inclusion. This recommendation proposes a baseline for acceptable behavior in the Movement, a safety assessment and execution plan.
  4. Ensure Equity in Decision-Making is integral for establishing shared responsibility and accountability in the Movement. Equitable representation in decision-making with clear and open pathways, empowerment of local communities, and participatory resource allocation are significant topics in this recommendation. 
  5. Building on clearly defined roles and responsibilities, Coordinate Across Stakeholders recommends creating spaces for improved communication and collaboration within the Movement and with partners, technical contributors, and developer communities for technology coordination. It also recommends establishing a Technology Council for new functionalities.
  6. Invest in Skills and Leadership Development looks at equitably developing technical and people skills in individuals and organizations in our Movement. This requires a systematic global approach with locally relevant initiatives for a wide range of skills. This recommendation proposes a coordinated leadership development plan for individuals and the required infrastructure (online and offline) to facilitate knowledge transfer.
  7. Manage Internal Knowledge recommends ensuring the Movement’s internal knowledge is user-friendly, participatory, and of high quality. Based on the recommendation, we need a culture of documentation, a knowledge base with access to learning assets, and support from staff dedicated to this role.
  8. Respecting the autonomy of volunteers, Identify Topics for Impact asks us to understand how our content impacts people and offers ways to address content gaps, understand the significant harm of misinformation on our projects, advocate for and prioritize resources relating to content creation, and work with specialized partners.
  9. Innovate in Free Knowledge asks us to explore and expand our range of projects and content formats to stay relevant and provide access to the sum of human knowledge. This recommendation proposes identifying in consultation with communities policies and practices that pose as barriers to knowledge equity.
  10. In order to effectively and efficiently implement strategy that is by and for the Movement, we need to develop individual and organizational self-awareness and Evaluate, Iterate, and Adapt our work. This requires resources, expertise and capacity, shared responsibility, and mutual accountability to evaluate, communicate progress, facilitate learning, and adapt our work.

First of all, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all those who have worked so intensely on this document and its creation. One hundred working group members worldwide have developed the recommendations and thousands of people from communities and organizations have participated in the process of developing the final version. Through events, mailing lists, wiki pages, chat platforms and other channels, they have helped to ensure that the many and varied perspectives of our international movement are incorporated into the process. We have also been able to bring in and support experience and expertise from the German-speaking world, whether through membership in working groups, participation in community discussions and at events, or through the leadership of the international project team by Nicole Ebber. 

Riesenspatz / Svenja Kirsch, Anna Lena Schiller, riesenspatz.de, Timeline for Phase I, II, and III of the Movement Strategy, CC BY-SA 4.0

It was not always easy to reconcile the different voices and interests. And it has not always been successful. Some of the courageous ideas from the working groups were toned down or dropped on the way to the final version. Much remains to be decided and developed further. Nevertheless, this document is groundbreaking for the further development of our movement, and for its relevance in a digital and real world: Wikimedia as a global infrastructure for Free Knowledge may prove to be indispensable in an increasingly unequal and unjust world.

Many elements from the recommendations will shape the discussions in the Wikimedia Movement in the coming years. The 10 principles underlying the recommendations are almost as important and should be read first. Together with the Strategic Direction, they will serve as a guide for the upcoming decisions in the near future. It should also be noted that the recommendations are not policy at this point. They are not a ‘law’ passed by the Wikimedia Foundation or any other actor in the Movement. Instead, the first step is to discuss with various actors in the Movement which initiatives should have priority and how resources for implementation are made available. 

Here Wikimedia Deutschland, as a solid, strong organisation within the Movement, will take the initiative, together with active volunteers and staff and our partners in the Movement. The following thoughts should therefore also have an idea-giving function and help to initiate the discussions about implementation.

What do the recommendations mean for the German-speaking community of contributors?

Basically, the recommendations are shaped by the idea that we must “invest” in the communities and in the people in the communities in order to make the Movement sustainable. In line with the strategic direction, the focus should be on groups that have been excluded up to now, and on making the Movement’s limited resources available to more people with more diverse backgrounds. How this is to be implemented becomes clear from the recommendation “1. Improve the Sustainability of our Movement”. More Movement funds should go to newly emerging or marginalized communities. In concrete terms, this can mean, for example, that a portion of the funds used to support the community will be focused on fairer and broader distribution, new editor recruitment and diversity. 

In “6. Invest in Skills and Leadership Development” and “7. Manage Internal Knowledge”, the aim is to provide resources and structures for building the strengths of and links between volunteers and staff alike. Here we may see many new opportunities for volunteers: more accessible shared online learning resources, training, networking, easier contact and exchange with and support of volunteers from other communities and other countries – all specifically promoted and supported with movement resources.

Recommendation “8. Identify topics for impact”, which was controversially discussed in the review phase, is now more clearly articulated, recommending to jointly identify knowledge gaps in the projects and to provide special support for closing them.

The recommendations  “2. Improve the user experience” and “5. Coordinate among stakeholders” reflect some of the proposals of the technology working group. On the one hand, the aim here is to improve the user experience and make the projects more easily accessible to more people. Structures and processes are to be created which better coordinate the development of technology with the users, to make the group of voluntary software developers more broadly based and to decentralise development where appropriate. Here Wikimedia Deutschland is already active through the development of Wikidata and its community as well as through the Technical Wishes project.

Also much discussed was the recommendation “3. Safety and Inclusion”, which deals with the inclusion and protection of users and volunteers, both from harassment and assaults online and from political dangers in their home countries. A universal code of conduct, which can be supplemented nationally/locally, is intended to provide basic security here, coupled with mechanisms for reporting and addressing incidents. In our view, communities must actively participate and shape this, because successful implementation can only work together.

Finally, the recommendation “4. Ensure equity in decision-making” deals with movement structures and the fairer distribution of resources and decision-making powers of the various actors. New structures should be created here: On the one hand, a “Global Council”, which represents the Wikimedia communities and organisations distributed around the world and to which the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation should delegate corresponding decision-making powers. There is still much to be discussed (and legally reviewed), but ultimately, the current state of affairs, in which the Board of a US non-profit organization tries to represent, finance and lead a global movement, should be replaced by a fairer, more democratic and more representative structure. We need to work with the German-speaking community to work out what participation and presence in such a structure can and should look like.

In addition, it calls for regional and thematic ‘hubs’, which could for example be a “Wikimedia West Africa”, or a Wikimedia Advocacy Association, or a unit that takes care of the implementation of the tasks of training, knowledge management and coordination. A lot can develop here in the next few years, naturally based on where needs, interests and initiatives arise. The ultimate aim is to create a network of decentralized places and structures that strengthen the people and organizations of our Movement, beyond the horizons of individual projects or countries, and – very importantly – that shift decisions to where they have an impact, as provided for in the principle of subsidiarity that precedes the recommendations. There are certainly many opportunities here for people from the German-speaking communities to become more involved and network internationally.

Riesenspatz / Svenja Kirsch, Anna Lena Schiller, riesenspatz.de, Wikimedia 2018-20 Recommendations all in one final, CC BY-SA 4.0

What do the recommendations mean for Wikimedia Deutschland?

Wikimedia Deutschland is the oldest, largest and most wealthy Wikimedia Chapter. Along with the Wikimedia Foundation, we have considerable responsibility in the Movement. We have the resources and expertise to launch many initiatives or take on tasks. We’ve already done this in recent years – the development of Wikidata and the annual Wikimedia Summit are just two examples. 

The strategic direction and the recommendations derived from it are based on strong, clear values: Justice, equity, participation, subsidiarity, empowerment, inclusiveness – the focus is always on people. These are all values that we should consider when we plan the next steps and find our new role in the changing movement. It would not be appropriate to take the helm of various initiatives alone now, because we think we already know how to do it, or because we think something is particularly important. 

We must therefore create spaces to bring people together so that they can strengthen our projects and ideas. We have to integrate voices that have not been heard very often, involve long-standing contributors and their experiences, and establish and expand partnerships.

A change in culture and strategy is not only expressed in new activities and additional structures, but also in the fact that things are done differently, or not at all. Here we are open to input, thoughts and active cooperation from communities, employees, members and partners.

It is currently being worked out how to prioritize and implement the recommendations. Originally this was supposed to start at the Wikimedia Summit in Berlin in April, but then everything changed. Instead of coming together for three days in Berlin, there will now be a whole range of virtual events and opportunities for the Movement to get involved. We don’t know the details yet, but if you want to give us ideas, wishes or advice now, please feel free to do so in the comments. 

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