Partnerships include any relationship with non-Wikimedia organizations and individuals that are used to further the Wikimedia mission. While partnerships with organizations are more common, partnerships with individuals can include those who donate their copyrighted content (e.g. authors, photographers) or otherwise contribute to the mission (e.g. providing space for Wikimedian activities; offering professional training to Wikimedia volunteers).
- Lack of awareness or negative perception of the Wikimedia projects: One of the biggest obstacles in establishing partnerships can be that the partner is either unfamiliar with the Wikimedia projects, or has a preconceived negative opinion, based on misinformation or a misunderstanding. As such, outreach to potential partners can be difficult or very time intensive, as initial conversations with partners are spent overcoming this obstacle.
- Identifying potential partners and generating partner interest: Some communities identify partners based on a specific goal (e.g. mass content donation), while others seek out partners to build key relationships (e.g. working with a government to gain credibility). Depending on the intention, there can be many potential partners, and identifying not only the best partner, but also the best project to fit that partner, can be time intensive. Multiple, in-person conversations may be needed to establish rapport, as well as understand the partner’s specific interests or related initiatives.
- Planning & executing work:
- Setting expectations appropriately can be difficult, both from a cultural perspective and from a logistical perspective. Partners need to ultimately be comfortable with the way Wikimedia projects work and are governed (e.g. someone from another country could delete the photo you donated due to insufficient copyright information). Moreover, partners might expect more conventional project management terminology (e.g. “budgets”, “Memoranda of Understanding”) and disciplines (e.g. set timelines, deadlines, and “deliverables”), as distinct from the more natural “eventualism” of the work on the wiki.
- Learning about our prospective partners is crucial for a successful partnership. Partners have their own vocabularies (in how they conceive of their own mission, goals, means, and challenges), and it is sometimes difficult to communicate in discussing a partnership if not enough effort was made to learn the partners' language and models. Just as partners often find our community norms foreign or difficult to understand, and benefit from gaining an understanding of them, it is tremendously helpful to learn our prospective partners' norms and approaches. Doing this takes time and patience, though, and is therefore often skipped.
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- Defining a set of guiding principles & constraints: This is a set of principles that identifies the attributes of a good partner (e.g. an organization with a similar or aligned mission) and a good partnership (e.g. a partnership that is meaningfully transparent, has community support, or where both organizations have equal voice). Moreover, these guidelines should identify when an organization (or individual) should not be a partner (e.g. an organization with a conflicting mission).
- Choosing the right partnership model: A partner’s engagement or contribution can depend on a number of factors, for example:
- The type of partner and their goals or mission. While this is particularly important for partnering with organizations, understanding the goals or motivations of potential individual partners is equally important.
- The partner’s internal capacity, e.g. the number of hours a partner’s employees or volunteers are willing to contribute. This capacity will determine the partner’s level of involvement in any projects planned, from low-touch involvement (e.g. donating space to host an event) to high-touch involvement (e.g. dedicating a person to the project).
- The partner’s interest and current initiatives. Creating projects that are aligned to these interests or initiatives can be a good starting point for the partnership.
- Have a clear process for engaging a partner and executing work: Every partnership will share common components, regardless of the specific project or topic. Some components might be:
- Selecting a partner and evaluating opportunities for partnership
- Identifying the level of involvement needed, across all parties (including community / volunteers)
- Engaging key stakeholders, gathering input and drafting a strategic or project plan
- Drafting and finalizing a partnership agreement (informally, or formally)
- Implementing the partnership, including coordinating volunteers, participants, etc.
- Gathering and documenting feedback, results and learning; evaluating success against goals
- Communicating to the community and stakeholders
- Iterating or terminating the partnership
Sketch of a possible capacity-building project
- Lack of experience or confidence in steps toward creating a partnership
- Pursue and implement a significant community-endorsed partnership with a local partner
- Key steps
- Identify community interest to determine type of partnership sought
- Identify potential partners
- Negotiate and plan partnership following good practice (see Resources below)
- Secure community support for proposed partnership
- Given community support, execute partnership
- Evaluate partnership
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- Means and resources
- WMF mentorship on partner, project, and evaluation planning; WMF communications assistance
- A partnership is executed with community approval for its process and outcomes. Further, the partnership meets the outcome targets set out in the plan as measured by project leader confidence and motivation, as well as community approval for partnership process and outcomes (via survey).
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Below is a sample of learning patterns on this topic. Search the Learning Pattern library for other learning patterns on the topic of partnerships.
- The Wikimedia Foundation is interested in assisting interested communities in developing partnership-building capacities, for instance through mentorship, project and evaluation design, or funding for local training.
- Sign up below if you are interested in implementing this in your local community: