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Grants:Conference/WM DE/Wikimedia Summit 2019/Report

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Report accepted
This report for a Conference Grant approved in FY 2018-19 has been reviewed and accepted by the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • To read the approved grant submission describing the plan for this project, please visit Grants:Conference/WM DE/Wikimedia Summit 2019.
  • You may still comment on this report on its discussion page, or visit the discussion page to read the discussion about this report.
  • You are welcome to Email conferencegrants at wikimedia dot org at any time if you have questions or concerns about this report.

General overview[edit]

Wikimedia Summit 2019 (from above)

Scope & Format[edit]

From the programmatic point of view, the Wikimedia Summit was an entirely new event, something that did not happen before in the Wikimedia movement. Nevertheless, the event was clearly an evolution of the previous held Wikimedia Conferences: Based on Wikimedia Deutschland’s experiences in organizing the Wikimedia Conference from 2015 to 2018, as hosts, we came to the conclusion that the event needed a change. We concluded that despite the success of the Wikimedia Conference, the concept had its limits. It needed to move away from a “one-stop shop” conference and move towards a landscape of more focused, specialized conferences tailored to the needs of the Wikimedia movement. At the same time the Wikimedia movement, needed a conference that carries the conversations about movement strategy further into the future, and is iteratively developed along with the implementation of the strategic direction and the adaption of the structural reform. On the other hand, learning and skill-sharing opportunities for Wikimedians should be provided at a regional or even local level.

Over a couple of months we consulted with important stakeholders in the Wikimedia movement on this change: First of all at the Wikimedia Conference 2018, and later in different online conversations, as well as at Wikimania 2018. Basically, all consulted (and for the event relevant) Wikimedians agreed with the proposed change to focus this event on strategy and governance. The start of the ‘working group phase’ after Wikimania 2018, was the starting point for planning the program of the new Wikimedia Summit, too.


Together with the Movement Strategy Core Team, we designed in September/October 2018 a set of goals for this new event. Going back and forth, rethinking what needed to happen at this event, we arrived at these three purposes for the event:

  • Calibrate Working Groups / Feedback to Core Team - After creating and assembling the working groups at/after the Wikimania 2018 in Cape Town, they will have had the time to diversify themselves and to work on their scope. Some working groups might have had the chance to commission research on their topics. The Wikimedia Summit will be a chance for many working groups (depending on their members’ presence) to meet for the first time, as well as to synchronize among the nine working groups. Thus, the Summit will be a good opportunity to look back and to give feedback (to the Core Team) on what happened over the last months.
  • Plan next steps / Discuss draft thematic recommendations - At the same time, the Summit provides the opportunity to look ahead on the next steps within the Strategy Process until Wikimania 2019, being an important platform for in-person discussions regarding the development of recommendations of the 9 Working Groups. Ideally, by the Summit, all working groups will have reached the point in their work where they prepare to draft and discuss first recommendations within their thematic area.
  • Anchor strategy in leadership / Address organisational questions - The Summit will be an occasion where  the affiliates’ and WMF’s leadership will come together to check in on the broader direction of the Strategy Process, with the opportunity to reinforce their co-ownership in this process. Also, the the Summit will focus on organisational questions including movement level decision-making and governance.

Based on this, we set the following three goals for the event:

  • Affiliates and WMF exercise their ownership of the Movement Strategy Process.
  • Movement Strategy Working Groups work better
  • Affiliates have established a conference where they have engaged with movement structures and strategic thinking

Having these goals designed and the grant proposal for the WMF Conference Grant submitted, we were able to contract a program design & delivery team supporting us. It was clear from the beginning that this event needed strong facilitation, as it was supposed to be mainly a conference consisting of three days of facilitated work and conversation. We again hired the team of Bhavesh Patel, Rob Lancaster, and Luís Manuel Pinto. The three have been facilitating the ‘Movement Strategy tracks’ both at Wikimedia Conference 2017 and 2018. Them knowing the specifics of the Movement in general and Wikimedians specifically, as well having done a great design and facilitation job for the previous two conferences, was a good reasoning for us to hire the three. Bhavesh was (and is) as well a member (“Process Support Lead”) of the Movement Strategy Core Team. We discussed strongly, if such a double role would bring more advantages or disadvantages – and decided for the first because of the expected synergies (see also Lessons Learnt below).

In February, Bhavesh Patel and Rob Lancaster, as well as Kaarel Vaidla and Nicole Ebber of the Movement Strategy Core Team, joined us for a work session in Berlin to develop the framework for the event. Based on the ongoing Strategy process, the final timelines were set and preparations for all participants were defined: It was clear, due to the nature of the process, as well as the different participants (in terms of level of experience and engagement regarding the process), that a two strands conference program needed to be created: One for working group members attending the event, and one for the affiliate representatives, with many joined interaction moments between both groups.

By March, the nine working groups finalized the first drafts of their “scoping documents” entailing the thematic scope the groups are working on. The documents were shared online on Meta, and translations in several languages were provided as well (commissioned by the Core Team). We, from the organizers team, encouraged participants to read the documents in detail before the Summit, as they were the foundation for all conversations at the event itself.

The week before the Wikimedia Summit the whole design and delivery team gathered in Berlin, to work out the program in detail. From Friday to Sunday, the Wikimedia Summit went – programmatically – mostly as planned, with two strands of conversations (of working group members and affiliate representatives) splitting and merging several times throughout the event. The most important part of the event was without a doubt the reflection, review, and feedback session on Saturday: In a free-floating manner affiliate representatives were ‘wandering’ from working group to working group to have conversations how the movement should change in the specific thematic areas of the working groups.

As previously with the Wikimedia Conference, the Wikimedia Summit was also a platform for several fringe events: During the pre-conference, among others, the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation gathered for one of its in-person meetings, the grant committees enjoyed a training, and the Affiliate Executive Directors met. In the aftermath of the Summit, the Wikimedia Foundation hosted a new skill sharing format called “Train the Trainers”. The Affiliations Committee met as well for its annual in-person meeting.


Wikimedia Deutschland has a professional event team on site, which has gathered experience in planning and managing the logistics around the event for several years now. This background facilitates a smooth planning process as well as a successful implementation of the event.

The tasks of the logistics team (comprised of Daniela and Michelle) focused on the following areas: venue, hotel, catering, travel, cost, personnel management and communication management. The main objective of the team was to establish and set the adequate framework for a smooth implementation of the program as well as a carefree participant experience before and during the event.  

The team focused on reducing the “stress of the unknown” for the participants, and arranged everything so everyone could arrive and participate in the event with everything they needed and in a good frame of mind. A constant communication flow towards participants and with our vendors were the key to achieving this goal.

Since the Wikimedia Conference 2018, we have taken care of the travel booking arrangements for participants from group 2 and 4 (previously WMF took care of it). As we developed the travel booking process from scratch and didn’t have any previous experience in that regard, we could take out a lot of learnings from 2018 and implemented the improvements in order to design the travel booking process more efficiently for 2019. WMDE acted as an intermediary between the participants and the travel agency. While the travel agency was in direct contact with the participants in 2018 (proposing a travel plan, responding to wishes and adapting travel plan, asking for confirmation of WMDE in all phases and booking flight)  and had to feedback a lot of questions in regard to travel requests to WMDE, we planned to minimize the feedback loops in 2019. Consequently, WMDE synchronised all travel arrangements with the participants and only communicated relevant action items to the travel agency. This process minimized the communication effort enormously.  

While we experienced at least 1-2 visa denials in the past years, all participants obtained their visa this time. Having established a constant relationship with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over the last years, which informs the corresponding embassies about the event beforehand, has been helpful in that regard.

Based on the results of the participant survey, we can say that we have again delivered a very well organized event and that the participants were satisfied with the service offered.  

We would like to highlight that the organizing team did not manage the whole conference organization single-handedly, but could fortunately rely on the support of various Wikimedia Deutschland colleagues, who provided their time and expertise – not only before and after the conference, but in part also on-site at the venue. The presence of the finance team at the event was especially helpful for the on-site visa reimbursement process.


Did you meet your goals?

Please see also the evaluation of the participants' survey
Overall, we achieved …
quiet good results …
with excellent feedback on logistics.
General assessment: 43 % very good, 46 % rather good

Overall, we are happy and satisfied with the organization of the event. Both, for program as for logistics, we managed again to organize a highly professional events. Below you can find our metrics as proposed in the grant. Most metrics show that we organized a great event.

However, some metrics show that we did not perform as expected on certain programmatic aspects. There is one main reason for this: The goals and metrics for the Wikimedia Summit were developed in September/October 2018 – more than six months before the event. At that time we – the organizers as the core team – expected the Movement Strategy Process to be in a later stage than it actually was in April 2019. In fact, the process was more or less two months behind the schedule that was made in October. Therefore we created metrics that were way too ambitious and optimistic.

Many participants came to the Wikimedia Summit without knowing much about the process, which made it difficult for them to make plans without having consulted their own organization/group/community. For example, in our survey out 64 responding participants 35 have said they’re planning to engage with the process. Also, many affiliates were not engaged as expected and thus expecting 70 % of them to have a strategy liaison appointed after the Summit was too ambitious. By mid-April 2019, 57 organizations and group had appointed a liaison ( = more or less 40 %).


(as proposed in the grant)

Results Compliance
70 % of the participants belonging to the WMF/Affiliates group state that they have a better understanding of the Movement Strategy Process. 37 % Strongly agree + 39 % agree (= 76 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants belonging to the WMF/Affiliates group state they know their role within the process. 26 % Strongly agree + 42 % agree (= 68 % in total) No
70 % of the participants belonging to the WMF/Affiliates group state that they know how to contribute to the process. 29 % Strongly agree + 40 % agree (= 69 % in total) No
70 % of the affiliates attending have programmatic plans how to engage with the Movement Strategy Process (programmatic changes). N/A, unclear metrics, explanation see above. n/a
70 % of the affiliates plan to appoint/have appointed Strategy liaisons for their organizations/groups. Officially, by mid-April, 57 affiliated had appointed a strategy liaison. Explanation see above. No
All Working Groups are present and have a working session. Yes Yes
Within two weeks after the event, each Working Group publishes their identified problems and their next steps. Yes Yes
Working groups know about their overlapping thematic areas Yes Yes
Working groups with overlapping thematic areas have a plan how to coordinate among each other. Yes Yes
70 % of the participants state that they agree with the new focus of the event, focusing on movement structures and strategic thinking only. 40 % Strongly agree + 38 % agree (= 78 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants are satisfied with the program of the event. 26 % Strongly agree + 48 % agree (= 74 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants are satisfied with composition of the audience. 43 % Strongly agree + 36 % agree (= 79 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants feel they had the chance to contribute.
(in the Survey, the question was for this metric was more precise:  “provided me with the opportunity to contribute my perspective to the Movement Strategy discussions at the conference.”)
39 % Strongly agree + 43 % agree (= 82 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants are satisfied with the organizers communication and support leading up to the event. Regarding program: 30 % Strongly agree + 40 % agree (= 70 % in total)

Regarding logistics: 77 % Strongly agree + 17 % agree (= 94 % in total)

70 % of the participants are satisfied with atmosphere at the event. 62 % Strongly agree + 32 % agree (= 94 % in total) Yes
70 % of the participants are satisfied with the event venue. 56 % Strongly agree + 26 % agree (= 82 % in total) Yes
In 2020, there will be again an event focusing on movement structures and strategic thinking (besides Wikimania). Qualified per decision, budget and event plan end of the fiscal year of the Wikimedia Foundation. Yes Yes
Main stakeholders at the Wikimedia Foundation – Katherine Maher, Katy Love, Delphine Ménard – give positive feedback on the event purpose & program. Not Katy Love (for logistical reasons), but with Delphine & Katherine yes. Yes

Next steps[edit]

Please share a brief update about the status projects, important discussions and/or capacity building that took place at the event.

Due to the changed nature and format of the event, the organizers are not in charge of the follow-up of the discussions and conversations held at the event. The event has become the platform for the ongoing Movement Strategy process, thus the Core Team of the process is following up, both with the working groups (on integrating the feedback gathered at the event to draft the recommends), as well as the affiliate representatives (on ‘community conversations’ for further feedback and enrichment of the process).

The session on the Affiliate-Seletected Board Seats (ASBS) is followed-up by the election facilitators in charge for the process.


Conferences and events do not always go according to plan. Sharing what you learned can help you and others plan similar projects in the future. Help the movement learn from your experience by answering the following questions:

What worked well at the event?[edit]

Lessons learned related to program related aspects[edit]

The first real working conference format within the Wikimedia movement, without any talks & presentations

After years of work: Finally, we were able to organize a conference without a single presentation session.

Something that can not be emphasized and highlighted enough: For years, Wikimedia Deutschland has worked on developing the ‘Wikimedia Conference’ towards a real working conference using the full potential of three days of in-person time. We are proud of having organized the first larger Wikimedia conference that did not include any one-to-many presentation, as it was (and is) common for most Wikimedia conferences around the globe. The entire program consisted of conversations, from larger groups (~200) to smaller groups (~4). While organizing such a program many aspects need to be kept in mind:

Such a program needs an excellent, strong and skilled facilitation team throughout the whole event – which we were happy to have. This allows as well to adapt the program flow according to the mood, energy, and needs of the participants. We strongly encourage each event organizer to plan for enough budget/funding to ensure comprehensive design and professional facilitation of the program to create a sustainable event experience.

All formats consisted of conversations: Either in small groups or large groups. However, this approach comes with challenges.

On the other hand, while we are pioneers with such an approach, we and our fellow Wikimedians still need to learn and adapt to this. Three days of conversations in another language than your mother tongue is quite exhausting, especially as it something not yet practiced in the Wikimedia movement. We need to be careful introducing such approaches and use several different facilitated formats to adapt as well to the different characters in the movement. Also, Wikimedians (participants) need to be better prepared for such an approach to better know what to expect. So far, most Wikimedia conferences consists of one-to-many presentations and “consuming” approach, than a “contributing approach”.

Changing the conference adapting to the needs of a process, not the other way around

Related to the first ‘Lesson Learnt’, but still different, we would like to point out something else: Since 2015, we were surveying the needs of the registered participants to create a program based on their needs, wishes, and experiences. Additionally, we tried to continue and follow-up strands of conversations of previous events, like Wikimania and regional/thematic conference. While this approach was new to the Wikimedia movement and definitely worth the effort, it was something not always coherent, consistent, and had always the possibility of bias by the Program and Engagement Coordinator of the Wikimedia Conference.

With the change from Wikimedia Conference to Wikimedia Summit this was basically reversed: The conference is now the platform for the already ongoing Movement Strategy, and adapts its program to the needs of the process – and not the other way around, as before. This feels much more natural than the process we have been doing before.

Newbie breakfast & intro call work, but necessary to think about new / other formats

Coming to more hands-on lessons learnt: At Wikimedia Conference 2017 and 2018 we introduced the ‘buddy project’, a way to connect newcomers and experienced participants. While the feedback was generally positive (see results), we had the feeling it helped more on a social than actually on a content (or programmatic) level of the conference. Beyond that, at both events we had offered only one opportunity to meet each other (on Thursday evening), and let paired buddies manage their relationship throughout the event by themselves. This was not really satisfying.

Thus, we changed the approach, and introduced two different formats for the Wikimedia Summit 2019: Knowing that Movement Strategy was (and is) something complex to interact with, we hosted six so-called 60 min virtual “Introductory calls” at different days and times in the week leading up to the event. In the call, a member of the Strategy Core Team and the Program Coordinator gave a general, ~30 min introduction on Movement Strategy as well as on the program of the Wikimedia Summit. The remaining 30 minutes were open for questions from the participants’ side. Over all, around 20-25 people participated in these calls – all of them appreciated the direct approach and the preparation for the event.

We invited not only strategy working group members, but also three ‘special invitees’ to be ‘key listeners’ for the conference. On the final day, we asked them to integrate all what they had heard and speak as a voice from the middle of the room, combining all they heard with their own experience. Absolutely enriching!

Another format introduced at this event was the “Newbie breakfast”. Having event location and accommodation under one roof has the great advantage that all participants have breakfast together anyway. Therefore, for every morning, we reserved a table, found an experienced host, and invited all newbies to join this breakfast table. This allowed participants to get questions answered in an easy way. 10 to 15 participants joined this breakfast table every day, and we would call it a success to be repeated at the next Wikimedia Summit.

‘Key listener’ worked well → develop it into a “Community Keynote”

Beyond the usual participation composition – Wikimedia Foundation staff and Board of Trustees, affiliate boards and Executive Directors  – we invited not only strategy working group members, but also three ‘special invitees’ (or ‘experts’) to be ‘key listeners’ for the conference: Ema Mizouni, long-standing Wikimedian from Tunisia, Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, and Sunil Abraham, Executive Director of the Indian Centre for Internet and Society. A ‘key listener’ is someone who knows the movement, has some expertise/experience in global structural change processes (at least to a certain extent), has the ability to genuinely listen and brings in the voices of others, as well as someone who should not have a big ego and use the stage for their purposes. On the final day, we asked these three to integrate all what they had heard and speak as a voice from the middle of the room, combining all they heard with their own experience.

The (short) speeches of all three were really valuable, and brought a broader perspective to a Wikimedia event, where participants mainly focused on the Movement and themselves. If suited, we would like to have something similar at the next Wikimedia Summit.

At the Creative Commons Summit 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal, we were introduced to the format of ‘Community Keynotes’, where a couple of community members were encouraged, coached, and supported to hold a keynote on a CC related topic in front of the whole audience. If possible and suited, we could imagine to copy this approach or use at least certain aspects of it at the Summit, too.

Lessons learned related to logistical aspects[edit]

Flexibility & problem solving ability

Logistically, basically everything went that smoothly, that we had time to hug some plushies.

Despite a smooth and detailed planning process ahead of the conference, there are always issues that come up during the event that cannot be anticipated beforehand, but require to be solved quickly, calmly, and efficiently. Flexibility and problem solving abilities are key elements in such situations.

Thanks to the year long experience in organizing the conference, by using learnings from past events and working together in the same team constellation, the general event proceedings went really smooth, which made it also easier to respond efficiently to unexpected incidents, such as the public transport worker strike this year. On the first day of the conference (Friday), we learned that a strike will be take place on the main departure day of the participants, Monday after the conference. Busses, trams and underground lines operated by the city-owned company didn’t run. The urban rail system (“S-Bahn”), operated by the national railways company, was not affected by the strike.

As a consequence we had to react quickly: We organized a shuttle bus that frequented between the hotel and the closest “S-Bahn” station to make sure participants got to the airport in time and didn’t miss their flights. None of the attendees for which we took care of the flight bookings (group 2 and group 4) missed their flights in the end. Thus, the swift decision and action taken proved to be effective.

Dinner Snack & regional meetups at Wikimedia Deutschland office

We hosted our participants again (after 2016) in our office: A wonderful experience!

At the Wikimedia Summit a diverse crowd from all corners of the world gathers in an offline context, making social networking one of the core elements of the conference. Creating an environment to support networking and offering opportunities to easily get to know new people or strengthen existing bonds is really crucial.

Consequently, unlike the last two years, we have decided to host the dinner as well as the thematic, regional and language specific meetups again on Friday at the office of Wikimedia Deutschland (from 2014 to 2016 dinner was hosted at the office, due to the increase in participant number this wasn’t possible anymore in 2017 and 2018). As participants spent most of their time at the conference venue and hotel (Mercure Hotel Tempelhof), the change of scene was really well received. While in the last two years a major part of the participants didn’t stay long at Mercure for dinner and spread over the venue (or even left the venue to have dinner outside), most of the attendees came to our office and used the opportunity to sit together and socialize in a different environment. Thus, by hosting the dinner at our office bonding moments were increased.

Making break-out-rooms for thematic, regional or language-specific meetups available parallel to the common dinner space, was another measure to create a supportive environment for networking. Around 12 meetups took place (due to the high request, meetings had to be planned in two shifts) and were well attended until late in the evening.

Trust and Safety Team on site to ensure compliance with the Friendly Space Policy (FSP)

At the Wikimedia Summit the Friendly Space Policy of the Wikimedia Foundation was again applied, making sure that a harassment-free event experience was provided for all participants. Unlike last year, the enforcement team of the Friendly Space Policy did not consist of members of the Summit organizing team, but of a team of three (2 members from the Wikimedia Foundation’s Trust & Safety team side and 1 member from Wikimedia Summit’s side) solely focused on enforcing the Friendly Space Policy and not involved with any other organizational or programmatic ongoings of the conference. Having the FSP team put together as described above had the advantage that the designated contact persons in case of incidents had more of a free headspace and sufficient time to talk to the person reporting a complaint or a similar issue. Still, the Summit main organizing team and the FSP team did work alongside and guidelines on how communication and coordination had to take place between the FSP and organizing team were established beforehand. From the organizers perspective, this proved to be an optimal set-up as the FSP team took a load of our backs, thus we could focus on running the event while being updated by the FSP team with information that may be relevant for our workflows during the conference.

What did not work so well? What would you do differently next time?[edit]

Lessons learned related to program related aspects[edit]

A tentative chart showing the complexities of the program design & delivery process around the Wikimedia Summit. (Of course, this is only one (subjective) perspective on it.)

Huge complexity of the program / facilitation / client relation; not all roles were clear among facilitators

Despite the fact that the Wikimedia Summit 2019 was much smaller than the Wikimedia Conference 2018 (~300 participants) or even the Wikimedia Conference 2017 (~350 participants), the processes and people involved in creating the program for the event were much more complex. Wikimedia Deutschland – in person Cornelius Kibelka as the Program Coordinator – acted basically as a contractor for the Movement Strategy Core Team, while the facilitation team led by Bhavesh Patel and Rob Lancaster were contracted by Cornelius Kibelka.

Nevertheless, as already mentioned above, Bhavesh Patel as a member of the Core Team and of the facilitation team at the same time, had a double role. While there were synergies having him in this double, it created also a couple of confusions. Additionally, some further roles were not clarified precisely before the event – like the role of Anna Lena Schiller, “Thought and Process Facilitator” of the Core Team, but as well facilitator and graphic recorder – because the actual program was worked out in details only shortly before the event, so some clarifications were missed.

Also, Cornelius Kibelka being the client for the facilitation team was a natural choice, but of course the Core Team managing the whole Movement Strategy Process was naturally much more knowledge in giving advice and pointing directions for the program. Nevertheless, looping in Cornelius was necessary (and compulsory), as he was the man pulling all the strings for the whole program.

Overall, these complexities are not surprising for a conference dealing with such a complex process. Nevertheless: To save energy of everyone involved, thoughts should be made on how to reduce these complexities, and making internal communications at the same time more efficient.

Participants’ division – adapting a program to everyone’s needs

The Wikimedia Summit pursued two main goals: WMF and Affiliates should exercise their ownership on the Movement Strategy Process, and strategy working groups should work better. Based on these two goals a program was developed that tried as best as possible to create a foundation to achieve these goals. For this purpose, the three day program was created with two strands – the ‘working group participants’ and the ‘non-working group participants’ – which separated and came together at several points in time throughout the program. For the program team such a design appeared as the most logical to achieve the above mentioned goals. For the participants, apparently not so much, or at least not in the same way. Working group members feedbacked that they would have loved to have even more time on their own – while some non-working group members felt they were ‘stationed’ apart and attended sessions that were not as useful.

While we understood that working group members wanted to have more time – especially as most of the working groups had not met before – we were surprised by the feedback of some the non-working group participants. We thought that most of the sessions were created closely following the needs of them.

Planned as a conference for strategy & governance, but there was no real ‘governance part’

The Summit was thought to be a conference on strategy and governance, but there was basically no 'governance' part, except the ASBS session.

Our intention was (and is) to transform the Wikimedia Conference from a ‘one-stop-shop’ to a conference dedicated to the movement’s strategy and governance. The Wikimedia Summit was good on the first part – strategy – but was not on the second part – governance.

The only session that was dedicated to ‘governance’ (as it is understood until now), was the Affiliate-Selected Board Seats (ASBS) session, where affiliate representative discussed the upcoming selection process for the seats of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees that are selected by the Wikimedia organizations and groups. The session was organized more on short-notice and was thus not well planned. Even more, because Wikimedia Deutschland already hosted the conference, we as hosts, did not want to interfere even more in the content of such a sensitive – because highly political – topic. Therefore, we offered facilitation advice, but the conference facilitators did not facilitate the session. Instead, two volunteer Election Facilitators run the session, and we received a lot of feedback that ideally this should have been handled (and thus facilitated) differently.

Beyond the ASBS session, it is questionable what else should have been on ‘governance’. As the Wikimedia movement has only one decision-making body – the Board of Trustees – the conference by itself can not make decisions, but only discuss and prepare them. To be able to do so, we think that the conference needs to be empowered to discuss future decisions.

Live captioning (live subtitling) did not work as expected, and comes with a lot planning

From the more format-oriented and political lessons learnt back to a hands-on lesson learnt: For the first time, we had hired ‘live captioners’ (‘live subtitling’) to capture the spoken word during the plenary sessions. The idea behind it was to reduce the barrier especially for non-native English speakers.

While the idea was good and appreciated, and costs were within the budget range, we were disappointed by the quality of the live-captions, as well as the time lag until the spoken word actually appeared on the screen: One live-captioner was listening to the speeches over a headset, re-spoke it to a mic, a software recognized it and transferred it to the screens, while a second live-captioner corrected misspellings. This process created a time lag of around 10 seconds, which might sound little, but in reality is a lot.

Additionally, as we relied on live-captioners sitting in our room, booking of them needed to happen many weeks in advance, while the program was not ready yet. This created a situation where e.g. spontaneously a plenary session was transformed into a small group discussion, and the booked live-captioners had paid free time. Live-captions and an agile, adaptive program do not go hand in hand really well.

We would like to pursue the idea of having live captions at the event, but we might change service providers, and test other possibilities to decrease the barrier for non-native English speaker

Lessons learned related to logistical aspects[edit]

Registrations coming in at the last minute

In our 2018 Grant Report we already pointed out that participants tend to register shortly before the set registration deadline. This trend proved true again this year. The registration period was from November 2 to December 17, 2018, with 70% out of all registrations coming in within the last week of the registration window or even after December 17. Noticing the slow and unbalanced completion of registrations, we sent out follow up reminders via general communication channels (wikimedia-l, Facebook, Twitter), which however did not have the desired effect. Only after reaching out to the eligible affiliates directly, registrations rolled in on a regular basis. Mapping out the reasons for the last minute registrations, two things have come up that could be improved.

Lesson Learnt: If you have event location and hotel under one room, everyone is so zen, that you don't need a dedicated quiet room.
  1. With the new design of the conference, new regulations in regards to participant numbers were introduced (one delegate per affiliate being allowed instead of previously 2 or 3). This made it more difficult for affiliates to choose their representative and their decision process took more time. Therefore, communicating the need of selecting a representative and advising to start the process before registration opens should be done before announcing the opening of registration. Moreover, the eligibility criteria could already be communicated at this point.
  2. In addition to the general communication channels (Wikimedia-l), ways of reaching the affiliates more directly should be used when communicating before and during the Summit registration period.

Quiet room not necessary when your conference has location and hotel under one roof

Conferences can be high-stimulus. Providing breaks and space from the daily program schedule and social gatherings was crucial to us in order to create a pleasant stay for the attendees. Consequently, we decided to provide a quiet room at the venue where people can withdraw from the bustle and noise. We selected a meeting room in an area that isn’t in a noisey part of the venue and equipped the room with bean bags and armchairs. To raise awareness of the availability of this space, we pointed it out during the opening speech on Friday morning.  

However, the quiet room was not really well used during the three conference days. As the accommodation and venue were located under one roof, participants went to their hotel room whenever they needed some quiet time away from people.

Thus, we learned that there is no big demand for a quiet room as long as the accommodation and event space are located under one roof. However, attendees need a space where they can seclude themselves from the bustle. If the accommodation and venue are not located close to each other in the next year, we therefore would provide a quiet space again.

Financial documentation[edit]

This section describes the grant's use of funds

Item Description Comments Budgeted Costs Actual Costs Difference Explanation to Variances from Budget
1. Conference Costs Conference venue, catering, WIFI, technical equipment rental, personnel and facilitation costs 110,000.00 € 110,649.55 € -€649.55
2. Dinner Snack and Social Event Costs 3 nights dinner at Mercure & 1 night at WMDE office, party venue costs, DJ 35,000.00 € 32,111.25 € €2,888.75 We budgeted for all 4 nights with total number of participants. On Sunday not all participants stayed for dinner at Mercure, consequently catering costs were reduced.
3. Communication and Visa Costs Production costs for communication material, photographer, visa application fees, 9,000.00 € 10,133.58 € -€1,133.58 More participants in need of a visa than expected. Calculation based on ratio (35% of total participant number), taken from last years' experiences. However, nr. of participants in need of a visa were equal to 2018 although total number of participants decreased by 100 participants.
4. Staff Costs Logistic and Event Coordinator, Project and Program Coordinator, Assistant Logistics Support, Visiting Wikimedian 85,000.00 € 85,000.00 € €0.00
5. Accommodation Costs Accommodation costs for participants in need of funding (group 2 and group 4) as well as Facilitators 41,000.00 € 29,359.39 € €11,640.61 Less participants in need of funding attended the conference, than budgeted. Moreover, participants (from group 4) for which we budgeted a single room decided to share a room and consequently expenses could be kept low.
6. Travel Costs Travel costs for participants in need of funding 108,000.00 € 84,610.28 € €23,389.72 Travel costs are hard to forecast and one needs to plan in a substantial buffer for unforseen costs (bancurpcy of airline, strike, high travel costs as visas were granted in the last minute etc.)
Subtotal 388,000.00 € 351,864.05 € €36,135.95
Overhead Costs (10%) 38,800.00 € 35,186.40 € €3,613.60
TOTAL WMSummit Costs 426,800.00 € 387,050.45 € €39,749.55

Total amount requested from WMF (from your approved grant submission):

426,800.00 €

Total amount spent on this project (this total should be the total calculated from the table above):

387,050.45 €

Total amount of WMF grant funds spent on this project:

387,050.45 €

Are there additional sources of revenue that funded any part of this project? List them here.


Remaining funds


Please list the total amount (specify currency) remaining here. (This is the amount you did not use, or the amount you still have after completing your grant.)


Anything else[edit]

Is there anything else you want to share about the conference or event?

The Wikimedia Summit 2019 was a highly successful event, organized and hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland, and funded and well supported by the Wikimedia Foundation.
Independently of the future of this event, in-person conversations and dialogue on the common future are crucial and essential for the Wikimedia movement.

The Wikimedia Summit 2019 was a highly successful event, organized and hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland, and funded and well supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. It was the first event of such type, following our suggestions from the 2018 report and the WMCON 2015–2017 report. It was an important milestone within the Movement Strategy process, being the first in-person check-in point for WMF and Affiliates after the creation of the working groups at Wikimania 2018.

For 2020, we envision an event along the lines of the 2019 event. It will be again a conference with around 220 participants, focusing on the next steps within the Movement Strategy process: Implementing the recommendations developed by the working groups and approved by the WMF Board of Trustees or other mechanisms. The audience will be again composed of representatives of the Wikimedia affiliates, WMF staff and Board of Trustees, and, depending on the strategy process, additional selected invitees. From what we can say today, the program – focusing on dialogue and conversations among participants – will be again similar to 2019.

One of the central dilemmata of the Wikimedia movement is its centralized decision-making body. We urge the Roles & Responsibilities group, as already laid out in their Scoping Document presented at the Wikimedia Summit, to rethink current structure of global decision-making of the Wikimedia movement.The conference’s intention is to be a platform for strategy and governance for the organizations and groups of the Wikimedia movement. Nevertheless, we doubt that the ‘governance’ part will be full in place at Wikimedia Summit 2020. As already written above in the lesson learnt: As the Wikimedia movement currently only has one global decision-making body – the Board of Trustees – the conference by itself can not make decisions, but only discuss and prepare them. To be able to do so, we envision the conference to become a platform for future decisions. This change could be part of a solution to decentralize the decision-making and involve more parties to come to joint decisions that are relevant to the movement as a whole. This is of course not up to the hosts of the conference, but to the empowered bodies.

In either way, being part of a strategy recommendation or not, we do think that such a conference, where organizations and groups come together to discuss the current state and future of the Wikimedia movement, is absolutely necessary and worth to have. In-person conversations and dialogue on the common future are crucial and essential for the Wikimedia movement.