Welcome to this project's final report! This report shares the outcomes, impact and learnings from the grantee's project.
Part 1: The Project
In a few short sentences, give the main highlights of what happened with your project. Please include a few key outcomes or learnings from your project in bullet points, for readers who may not make it all the way through your report.
With the support of the Wikimedia Foundation with this grant we wanted to learn how we could contribute towards our shared goal of bringing together free and open, well-structured, and consistently modelled data on politicians and legislatures around the world.
Our intent was to marry mySociety’s deep understanding of the structures and interrelationships of parliaments and politicians in numerous countries through our work on EveryPolitician and ensure that that is reflected to a much greater extent on Wikidata, working as part of the Wikidata community.
We initially assumed that this would take around 6 months to gather consistent data in around 30 to 40 countries. In reality we extended the project a number of times to just over a year, partly because the scale of the challenge was such that it demanded more time, but more positively because we recognised that we need to adapt our assumed approach to best support the efforts of the wider Wikidata community.
The real prize has been to connect to the numerous small but committed groups and individuals already working to improve the quality of political data, and to learn and share how best to bring more community members into Wikidata from existing civil society and transparency efforts.
Over the period of the grant we created new tooling, including the verification-pages tool, which when complete will allow users to check data from an online source, reconcile it to Wikidata IDs, and add a reference URL before bringing data into Wikidata. We believe that this tool could have many wider benefits and uses within the community beyond political data. Whilst this grant is complete we shall be continuing to work on completing the verification tool over the next few months.
We made significant progress over the grant, with over 60 countries in progress and almost 40 of these now at the level where meaningful and useful queries can be made using the data.
We introduced the concept of progress indicators for each country; ☆ Basic data structures are in place; ★ all current legislators are known to have some items; ★★ can produce a complete and accurate list of all current legislators; ★★★ can produce gender/age statistics of all current legislators by political party/group or region; and the gold standard ★★★★: can compare such statistics for members of the cabinet vs members of the legislature.
Whilst we have more work to do in establishing our community partnerships, we did engage with key stakeholders in over 64 countries and were able to establish that one interested individual can update and maintain the political data for a given country or region, rather than the 3-4 individuals we anticipated in our original grant proposal.
Overall this grant has been instrumental in improving the quality of political data on Wikidata and has established norms, techniques and broad consensus on how the community may build on this work in the coming years.
Please copy and paste the project goals from your proposal page. Under each goal, write at least three sentences about how you met that goal over the course of the project. Alternatively, if your goals changed, you may describe the change, list your new goals and explain how you met them, instead.
1. Wikidata will end up with free, open, well-structured, and consistently modelled data on politicians and legislatures in 30–40 initial countries. This will cover all current (and where available, a significant number of historic) legislators and cabinet-level officials. A model will be put in place to raise this to at least 70 to 80 countries in the months following the project through community support. This data is an essential ingredient for underpinning parliamentary monitoring services, campaigning, anti-corruption and digital democracy initiatives – a key requirement of good governance, transparency and accountability efforts.
- We achieved our data goals and currently have 39 countries at at least the 2 star level or above. Extensive data modelling has been tested and adapted in a variety of different jurisdictions and has proven to be flexible enough to be adapted (every country is an edge case in some way) and consistent enough to begin to allow comparison within and between jurisdictions.
- The verification-pages tool has the potential to make it substantially easier for community members to add data themselves and to maintain existing data – it provides a practical balance between individual manual and bulk data entry.
- Whilst we’re above two stars in 39 countries, we’ve already seen the beginnings of the same approach adopted in a further 25 or so countries, giving us confidence that we’ll see this data model widely adopted generally where there is sufficient community interest.
2. We will improve authority control for political data on Wikidata, enabling many more individuals and organisations to make use of the data.
- Whilst the establishment of consistent political data on Wikidata is still in it’s early stages we are confident that through the work done under this grant, building on the extensive but often fragmented efforts of individuals in various countries, it has been much improved.
- The political data model that has been developed  would benefit from further enhancement, however it is a solid grounding for future work. At best it has established consistent forms of terms, names, subjects, and titles, that can be followed and maintained.
- At a minimum ensuring that all current members of a legislature have Wikidata IDs is an essential first step in linking to external databases and datasets with other IDs. People can now actually map external datasets to a complete dataset in a way that would not have happened if the data if the data had remained more piecemeal.
3. We will strive to make information available in a consistent enough manner that tools built to work with data for one country can be easily adapted for others, and simple multi-country analysis becomes possible without spending a long time adjusting scripts to cope with different modelling decisions in different countries.
- Our original interest in this work stemmed from our understanding that one of the most common issues facing civil society users of political data was the time lost in gathering data, and the problems faced in reworking existing civic tools to work in their jurisdiction.
- Where we have made contributions we’ve aimed to structure data in such a way that queries from one jurisdiction can easily be reused in others with only minimal tweaks (In many cases, just a single Q-value) with https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:WikiProject_British_Politicians/Sample_Queries being our starting point.
- More generally we have built upon previous work around the broad consensus on the ‘progressive’ P39 model, and have taken steps to document this approach in a way that has generally been broadly accepted.
- Now that data within Wikidata is being much more consistently structured, this makes it more useful in its own right and for external services.
4. (Longer term) Tools and services built on Wikidata’s political data will better allow citizens to interact with their elected representatives. We expect to see many existing or new third-party democracy projects start to make use of the political data in Wikidata.
- We’re continuing to share the tools we’ve built with partners around the world and engaging with groups or individuals who can update political data in their region through the models we’ve helped to build during this grant period.
- As we do more organizing, networking, and communications around the data that has been entered, we do anticipate that it will be used to create new projects for citizens around the world to be more civically engaged and aware.
- Already, WriteInPublic in South Africa on the People’s Assembly parliamentary monitoring site  uses the data from Wikidata (via EveryPolitician which in this case draws its data from Wikidata) to show the definitive list of who is currently an MP.
- This is an approach we are actively working to adopt in more jurisdictions within our own work.
- In the first column of the table below, please copy and paste the measures you selected to help you evaluate your project's success (see the Project Impact section of your proposal). Please use one row for each measure. If you set a numeric target for the measure, please include the number.
- In the second column, describe your project's actual results. If you set a numeric target for the measure, please report numerically in this column. Otherwise, write a brief sentence summarizing your output or outcome for this measure.
- In the third column, you have the option to provide further explanation as needed. You may also add additional explanation below this table.
|Planned measure of success
(include numeric target, if applicable)
|Data (minimum of 30 to 40 countries, with the model in place to raise this to at least 70 to 80 countries in the next few months through community support)||A total of 65 countries are known to have been worked on in some capacity.
39 countries hit our target of at least ★★ star level or above. ★★ stars = Can produce a complete and accurate list of all current legislators. 17 at ★★★ or above and 9 at ★★★★.
We know from work we have carried out to reconcile our existing external data with that on Wikidata that there are at least 13 other countries at ★ star level, where all current legislators are known to have Wikidata items, though do not yet have suitable P39 data to reflect that yet.
At least 13 additional countries are at ☆ star level. ☆ star = Basic structures in place, but cannot yet produce a list of current legislators. There are certainly more countries at this level which have yet to be checked and added to the Wikiproject.
|Overall this is a strong base for other contributions to build upon.
The data model is now well proven, and shown to be sufficiently flexible.
With further work to reconcile with external sources and further community engagement more contributions can be made to extend the quality and depth of the data.
|Reports (We will create a series of reports to highlight errors, inconsistencies, or omissions in existing political data within Wikidata. We expect to add over 1,000 such reports during the project, all of which will continue to be useful indefinitely.)||This grant has allowed the creation of an entire framework that political data reports can use: where simply replacing a couple of IDs gives a whole set of built in queries to interrogate the current state of data in a country, which can then gradually be replaced with tailored reports, with all the extra benefits those bring.
The full set of hundreds of reports where this approach has been adopted can be found at https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Special:PrefixIndex/Wikidata:WikiProject_every_politician/.
This work was refined with missions such as our early work to find Heads of Government and other similar tasks. In addition we were able to do quite a lot with Listeria, but it's example of a tool that doesn't quite work well with political data, so many of the reports we created with it aren't quite good enough - we did not promote them as much as we had expected to.
We had more success when we created the Position History reports as a replacement that works very like Listeria, but is very specifically tailored to one particular area, and thus lets us add useful extras to it.
Finally Completeness Reports (such as that seen at https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:WikiProject_every_politician/Croatia/Sabor/completeness) are an example of something quite novel we did with Listeria: quite a few people commented on those after our WikidataCon presentation as something they didn't even imagine was possible.
|Many of the basic concepts for this work came from Sum of All Paintings, and it has been fascinating for us to show how a similar model can be applied anywhere that sets of data are at least as important as the individual items themselves (as we've learned repeatedly when people only see items one at a time, it's much much harder to spot inconsistencies either in modelling, or even in naming, than if you can see them in the aggregate).|
|Documentation (We will document common use cases such as “What do I need to update when a head of government changes?”, "How do I add historic cabinet positions?", or "How should I enter an election that is both for the president and the legislature?". We will iterate and add to the documentation, learning from common mistakes made by editors when adding the data. We expect to create approximately one significant new piece of use-case-driven documentation per week. This documentation will live on Wikidata where it can be actively maintained beyond the life of this project.)||Documentation is still a work in progress at the point of submitting this report, however there are further detailed technical documents that we can turn into useful user documentation in the next few months.
We had originally intended to document work as it was carried out, however the numerous extensions and changes of direction meant that this was not dealt with promptly.
Now that work on the verification-pages tool is approaching completion we can now catch up with where we had intended to get to.
|The documentation we complete in the next few months will be specifically structured so that the individual community members can more easily replicate this project and/or add or upkeep data for their country.|
|Content (Aim: populate a complete dataset of current politicians and related data in each of our 30 to 40 target countries.)||We directly contributed data in the UK and a handful of additional countries where we have direct involvement in running an external service with a partner.
We supported partners through events or other resources to contribute data in over a dozen countries.
Individual contributors adopted the data model and contributed data that we know of in at least 60 countries.
|The primary purpose of this grant was to create the structures and model for others to follow to add content that they have access to. We hope to see more of this approach going forward.|
|Participation (Aim: identify and support the key community volunteers in each of our 30 to 40 target countries. We estimate that approximately 3 core volunteers will be required in any country where there is insufficient current participation within Wikidata.)||With hindsight we would liked to have been more active in providing direct community support early on, even at a low level, and maintained it at a steady pace. A variety of reasons including personnel changes and the changes in direction meant this aspect of the grant often stalled. However over the past three months it has substantially improved, benefitting from a partner community manager Georgie Burr, and a Wikimedian in residence, Kelly Doyle, joining mySociety.
We hosted events in 2017 around Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW ) in Slovenia, Sweden, Croatia, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece, Spain, Nepal, and the UK, to establish initial community relationships and for community members to upkeep political data in their region. In addition, after the grant term ends, we'll be holding three final events in Lebanon, Spain, and Nigeria. Furthermore, we hope our documentation will empower current and future community members to participate and run their own events.
|It is clear that the most productive form of participation is when there are independent contributors who will actively contribute and maintain data in their country because they make use of that data in their own work.
With the GLOW events, we have learned that there is limited value of having in-person events versus clearly defined missions that people can contribute to in their own time. Getting together to 'improve' things, is less directly productive than supporting groups and individuals to improve specific data that is useful to them. Whilst there are benefits in building base community connections and getting people together that's not always practical.
It's also difficult to maintain momentum after an event, as few groups went on to produce event reports as promised.
Looking back over your whole project, what did you achieve? Tell us the story of your achievements, your results, your outcomes. Focus on inspiring moments, tough challenges, interesting anecdotes or anything that highlights the outcomes of your project. Imagine that you are sharing with a friend about the achievements that matter most to you in your project.
- This should not be a list of what you did. You will be asked to provide that later in the Methods and Activities section.
- Consider your original goals as you write your project's story, but don't let them limit you. Your project may have important outcomes you weren't expecting. Please focus on the impact that you believe matters most.
Overall this project has allowed us to contribute to an active but fragmented effort to gather useful and consistent political data within wikidata.
We were able to build on the efforts of many other contributors to help build a consensus about the modelling and structuring of data on politicians and political systems, we have made substantial contributions of data through our own efforts in our own and related jurisdictions, and have directly and indirectly supported other individuals and groups to contribute their data to Wikidata.
The most important thing we achieved was to encourage more of our peers within the ‘Civic Tech’ and political transparency communities to actively become members of the Wikidata community – initially with small steps, but increasingly with more opportunity to expand this activity in the future.
Practically speaking we created new tooling including the verification-pages tool that should simplify safely creating new information in Wikidata, even when the source may not be completely trusted. Once complete this will be an achievement in the context of the grant goals but also suggests a more general path for Wikidata users to streamline the process of adding data and bringing in new users who may be intimidated by using or learning how to edit Wikidata. With further development, the tool could be repurposed for other subject areas, as a way of enabling high quality consistent and referenced data contributions from novice editors.
The tool will guide users through checking whether a statement is actually true, and if it is, makes it very simple to then insert that data, properly referenced, into Wikidata, without creating duplicate items. Whilst we are currently working on improving the tools ability to handle more complex cases without manual intervention, we are confident we can shortly get the tool to a point where we feel comfortable releasing it to the wider community, which we think will be very beneficial. New users can use it without having any experience of the sometimes difficult to learn Wikidata item editing form. Even for quite experienced Wikidata editors, creating a page greatly speeds up the data entry and updates for a legislature.
Our next step is to continue to spread the tool within the civic tech and Wikidata communities so it’s more widely used and understood and more data is added. You can see an example of the tool in action in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KlRc1L6WMs&feature=youtu.be.
If you used surveys to evaluate the success of your project, please provide a link(s) in this section, then briefly summarize your survey results in your own words. Include three interesting outputs or outcomes that the survey revealed.
Is there another way you would prefer to communicate the actual results of your project, as you understand them? You can do that here!
Methods and activities
Please provide a list of the main methods and activities through which you completed your project.
- Created verification-pages tool and continue to troubleshoot bugs to make it as sophisticated and user friendly as possible
- Scraped for missing data and did research to find missing data and enter data onto Wikidata for over 60 countries, with 39 countries being complete or fairly complete.
- Hosted community events in at least 10 different countries to bring in partners to enter and use the data.
- Generated reports on Wikidata about various countries
- Sharing a screen share video about using the verification-pages tool
Please provide links to all public, online documents and other artifacts that you created during the course of this project. Even if you have linked to them elsewhere in this report, this section serves as a centralized archive for everything you created during your project. Examples include: meeting notes, participant lists, photos or graphics uploaded to Wikimedia Commons, template messages sent to participants, wiki pages, social media (Facebook groups, Twitter accounts), datasets, surveys, questionnaires, code repositories... If possible, include a brief summary with each link.
The best thing about trying something new is that you learn from it. We want to follow in your footsteps and learn along with you, and we want to know that you took enough risks in your project to have learned something really interesting! Think about what recommendations you have for others who may follow in your footsteps, and use the below sections to describe what worked and what didn’t.
What worked well
What did you try that was successful and you'd recommend others do? To help spread successful strategies so that they can be of use to others in the movement, rather than writing lots of text here, we'd like you to share your finding in the form of a link to a learning pattern.
What didn’t work
What did you try that you learned didn't work? What would you think about doing differently in the future? Please list these as short bullet points.
As at the formal end of the grant period haven’t been able to complete as much documentation as we had originally intended. Establishing the principles, learning from existing contributors and creating the new tooling took up the bulk of our focus.
However, towards the end of the grant period we have hired two community managers into our team and we will continue to engage with the Wikidata community around political data. We’ll continue to contribute and add more documentation and material to the Wikiproject up to the end of the year to more fully complete our commitments in the grant.
We developed our tooling quite a long way before getting it in front of external users for feedback. In hindsight, although this meant that we kept fairly tight control on how and where the tools were used and could find and fix any data issues caused by bugs, it also meant that we missed out on valuable early feedback from a wider set of users. It also means that our tooling could now benefit from some more text improvements and explanations in order to make it more widely useful.
Additionally, we could have done more to update people outside our organisation on the progress of the data more frequently, as another way of building up momentum around the project and data model.
If you have additional recommendations or reflections that don’t fit into the above sections, please list them here.
We have some technical priority recommendations for WMF based on our data and tooling work. The first comes about as a result of some problems we encountered in the stability and consistency of Wikidata query results (as seen in the bug report at https://phabricator.wikimedia.org/T199916). These instances of data inconsistency were worrying to us as a project that is focused on getting a lot of political data into Wikidata and then retrieving it with queries, and presumably would be equally worrying to other projects.
The second set of recommendations comes about as a result of our tool development work. We think that any effort that could be put towards making it easier to deploy tools to toolforge would probably be worthwhile - as we moved to deploying more structured tools there, we found that the initial process of deploying our tools there had some complexity (e.g. postgres is not a supported backend, we had to add an extra library to our docker images). We also missed zero-downtime deploys as we continued to develop and deploy our tools there. Finally, although we found test.wikidata.org useful, it would have been even more useful with a query service, and with key item IDs being the same between that and wikidata.org.
Next steps and opportunities
Are there opportunities for future growth of this project, or new areas you have uncovered in the course of this grant that could be fruitful for more exploration (either by yourself, or others)? What ideas or suggestions do you have for future projects based on the work you’ve completed? Please list these as short bullet points.
- Expand the scope of ‘how to contribute’ content on the Wikiproject Every Politician page
- With some more work, the verification-pages tool could be generalized for any type of data project / entry on Wikidata.
- Better documentation around using the tool - both within the tool itself in the form of improved copy and UI and as guidance
- Continue to improve the overall usability of the verification-pages tool and its ability to reconcile existing and new information in complex cases.
- Increased community organizing and engagement around political data on Wikidata
Part 2: The Grant
Please copy and paste the completed table from your project finances page. Check that you’ve listed the actual expenditures compared with what was originally planned. If there are differences between the planned and actual use of funds, please use the column provided to explain them.
Totals as at 2018-08-20.
|Expense||Approved amount||Actual funds spent||Difference|
|Delivery Manager (Match Funder)||£30,000||£30,000||£0|
|Senior Developer (mySociety contribution)||£28,350||£28,351||-£1|
|Developer (mySociety contribution)||£11,875||£11,884||-£9|
|Junior Developer (mySociety contribution)||£3,300||£3,300||£0|
|Partnerships Manager (mySociety contribution)||£4,450||£4,450||£0|
|Delivery Manager (mySociety contribution)||£3,525||£3,530||-£5|
|Senior Developer (Wikimedia contribution)||£11,450||£11,450||£0|
|Developer (Wikimedia contribution)||£7,800||£7,800||£0|
|Community Manager (Wikimedia contribution)||£13,435||£13,370||£65|
|UK Community Events (Wikimedia contribution)||£1,013||£1,013||£0|
|International Community Events (Wikimedia contribution)||£6,352||£6,368||-£16|
Do you have any unspent funds from the grant?
Please answer yes or no. If yes, list the amount you did not use and explain why.
- No - the £35.00 remainder reflects an error in the approved budget versus the grant budget. We were sent £40,000.00 by the WMF and have no unspent funds.
If you have unspent funds, they must be returned to WMF. Please see the instructions for returning unspent funds and indicate here if this is still in progress, or if this is already completed:
Please answer yes or no. If no, include an explanation.
Confirmation of project status
Did you comply with the requirements specified by WMF in the grant agreement? Please answer yes or no.
Is your project completed? Please answer yes or no.
We’d love to hear any thoughts you have on what this project has meant to you, or how the experience of being a grantee has gone overall. Is there something that surprised you, or that you particularly enjoyed, or that you’ll do differently going forward as a result of the Project Grant experience? Please share it here!
From the start of the process of applying for this grant this project has been an important and transformational effort for mySociety.
We have been a very active contributor to the civic tech and political transparency fields for nearly 20 years, and over that period we have often found ourselves working with large datasets, and spent many hours recategorising, cleaning, sorting and filling in gaps on data. Time that could have more meaningfully been spent on actually delivering real world impact for the people we work with and provide civic services for.
We’ve seen this pattern repeated all around the world in the over 40 countries we have worked in over the past few years. More recently we tried to solve this issues ourselves for political data with our Poplus and later EveryPoltician.org projects. We came to realise that despite making big strides we couldn’t do this on our own, and more importantly keeping this data up to data, especially at a more local level, was beyond us.
So the decision in early 2017 to more fully embrace Wikidata has been a revelation for us. And the subsequent support of the Wikimedia Foundation to help us better contribute to and become part of the wider Wiki community has been invaluable.
Over the past 12 months we have not only been able to directly contribute to this work, but it’s changed many of our internal processes and ways of working, and accelerated much of our thinking about partnering and working on collective projects at scale.
Despite this grant coming to an end that’s not the end of the story for our contributions. As much as we’re able to where we can fund our work we’ll continue to make more additions to the Wikiproject and continue to learn from the community and find more ways to build up Wikidata and also deliver more services that make use of Wikidata as well.
Over the next year especially we shall expand our wider Democratic Commons work and we hope to encourage more individual contributors and peer organisations to join in as well.