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Meeting with Wiki Education
Date: 2022-02-15

Jami Mathewson, Director of Partnerships, Wiki Education
LiAnna Davis, Chief Programs Officer; Deputy Director, Wiki Education
Tore Danielsson, WMSE

1. Experiences and best practices from earlier work with content partnership?
2. What are the main needs in future and expanding work with partners?
3. What would a good and efficient support practically look like?

  • Partnerships that Wiki Education has to bring content to Wikimedia partnerships. Work has been crucial to the success of our organization.
  • Currently, partners are more like customers. Work with institutions, could be university departments or libraries, often larger academic organizations or associations, for example American Physical Society, professional society for physicists, work with those organizations to train their members, staff, employees how to contribute content to Wikipedia and Wikidata. Run courses, online courses to train them, go through curriculum, bring them into those communities. Often pay for our services, fund work that we’re doing and staff that run courses. “Content partnership” as a term, less clear outside our movement, institutions are more interested in the professional development side. Come together eager to impact public knowledge about a certain topic. APS example, wants physics info on English Wikipedia to be high quality. Often working on biographies, some of work addressing equity piece, comes in with gender gap, adding people from historically marginalized communities. Our experiences with them.
  • Really important thing from us, developing case studies. When we started these courses, we hadn't done them before, had to really have some of the partners that we previously had relationships with, invited them to participate for free, to develop the proof of concept that could add high quality information to Wikipedia. Making sure you have examples of this being effective, successful, probably something the community can provide for different organizations, doesn’t have to be our own organization. Something important for us: selling our services, having to have professionalism, contracts with them, also having those templates is really useful. Didn’t have at one point, now we have a standard template for getting an institution who wants to do this work, improve WP or WD, go through that process, so we are covering, making sure they’re going to pay and do the work, but often that’s how they get funding on their end, make sure we’re working within their systems. Had to adapt as we started charging for our services. Some of them have a grant, write one or multiple courses in, more of them directly pay out of the annual plan, some budget, occasionally extra money at the end of year, want to use for something, see this as common good. Important.
  • Funding is what we need. We’ve figured out effective ways of bringing high quality scholarship and expertise. Worked with Smithsonian, not just accessing their archives, actually activating their employees in different museum affiliates to add to Wikipedia. Really high quality work to bring historic, regional women. One of the really important things is we have a system for doing this, proven we could do this really well, but does take staff. Does take funding. I have a list of 30+ institutions who would love to do this work, but don't have funding. Some are seeking funding, if we had funding to do that we have the network, could work, could facilitate more work. Finances are always a need, what makes people happen.
  • While thinking about those kinds of partnerships, needs: being in the US can be a tricky landscape for external organizations. Work extremely well with WM-DC, WM-NY, have great relationships, able to connect people we meet with them if they’re not the right fit. Sometimes it’s people who work with us and a chapter. Sometimes the WMF’s role gets convoluted and complicated, are this big organization that has a lot of people are familiar with them, figure out who they are, WMF is the centralized space with all these staff, much bigger than us, that can be a challenging conversation to have with partners around, no, we’re actually the ones doing this work, we are expected, encouraged to do this work, movement supports us doing this work, other side, knowing WMF gets great contacts, not just for US, interested in doing some sort of work, unclear who’s to do that, in terms of needs, love to see more clarity (WMF doing a lot of change right now), one of ways we want to work with community, hundreds of groups doing incredible work, being that connector. WMF can say yes, people are coming to us, a great way to do this is with WM-SE, WM-MX, Wiki Education, WM-NY.
  • What we’re doing is a unique, new revenue stream, bringing SMEs in a structured way, effective in bringing great content to Wikipedia, Wikidata.
  • Prior focus for partnerships was new participants in the Student Program, where we work with university professors who assign students to write Wikipedia articles. To be a part of our program, have access to our dashboard, staff time, and have to work within our program. One thing we’ve tasked with, an increased number of students editing, professors doing this. Doesn’t just happen organically – sometimes it does, find out about colleagues doing it, decide they want to teach with Wikipedia, become a part of our community. We learned having a more structured way of getting the word out, having a credible group of people who have the ability to reach US professors and say this is important work, we should do this. Many years ago, focused on partnering with types of institutions who have that credibility, editing WP is an important learning experience for students, sharing knowledge publicly. Mentioned APS, at least a dozen institutions like that, American Chemical Society, American Sociological Association, use their reach to tell their members, great project, important to getting involved. Integral to us getting to 300-400 classes each term. These hundred-year-old institutions embedded in academia tell instructors, here’s this important program, here’s the support. Important part of that partnership work, still maintaining relationships, having members edit WP, seen helping get the ball rolling in these disciplines at these universities, helps more of that organic growth happen. Suddenly 3 of my colleagues have this great impact they’re having, tweeting about it, having panels at conferences. Helped facilitate a lot of that in subject disciplines, presentations at their conferences, people would come learn what this looks like. Do less of our work in that space now, but able to do less because it was so effective. Snowball effect. If I were thinking how these programs grow, put work, resources into early relationships, whatever they need to be successful. Local groups have the credibility they say they have. Impact real students, looking to make sure is this a legitimate group, set up for success? Tools and resources, really do, also have the ability to then scale. We needed the tools, the technology, the staff to be able to respond once partnerships were successful. Go to conferences, have 80 people interested in learning more, collect info, fun things like a business in that way, respond was really important. Actually work with them once they start editing Wikipedia.
  • Also do work with cultural institutions, would like to do more, working with the Smithsonian, but still a ton of these organizations have great resources that should be public on WP, Commons, WD, and bring that information to the world. What we need from that, comes back to having resources for staff to do that, having the funding. Cultural institutions don’t really have funding, especially after covid, being able to support them, can carve out time to train you. Trickle effect, once you train them, they can run events, they can participate in 1lib1ref, upload images to Commons, etc.
  • Worked with Wikimedians in Residence? Don’t do it directly but work a lot with WIR at institutions.
  • Other institutions: Love to see us get some money from giant organizations, corporations. Have their own knowledge, have people power, employees, want to provide something around something good they can do, social good, something they could do. Would like to see us partnering more, don’t know yet what we need to make that successful. Suspect from a few of conversations had in the past, where the confusion with WMF really comes in, they are going well sure we could give you $50K, but why would we give you when we could just give it to the WMF, that could support it broadly, that’s what goes through their mind. A little more clarity around if these are legitimate user groups, organizations with real staff, part of the community and projects.
  • What works well for us: Having really specific asks for institutions, ways to partner with you. Tempting for us to defer to the knowledge institutions, they have their own idea, but we’re the experts of what works well with Wikipedia and novice Wikipedians, something I’ve really honed over the years, guide someone’s interest into a more productive and fruitful path. Why our programs exist. We now can run virtual classes, etc., when I think of that in the context of a hub, making sure we have the tools and resources for different projects. Extra collaborative piece, I have a contact, but not interested in our program, but they want to donate their images, not something we do, but being able to connect them to a group in, for example, Prague doing that, that would be something I’d love to see. What are the specific things we can get them to do to be impactful tomorrow, be so good, help partners see real tangible impacts and successes really quickly, so far, then move our organizations, come along for a ride. Trust us at this point. We know this is a good initiative, worth their time and resources.