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The 2015 Call to Action identified the need to Support innovation & new knowledge

  • Integrate, consolidate, and pause or stop stalled initiatives.
  • Create spaces for future community-led innovations and new knowledge creation.
  • Facilitate and support new models and structures for knowledge curation.
  • Strengthen partnerships with organizations that use or contribute free content, or are aligned with the WMF in the free-knowledge movement.

Departments involved under the Wikimedia Foundation Annual Plan/2015-16 include:

Legal: The Legal Department will continue to steward the mission of the WMF by maintaining strong core support for a top ten website and global community while providing needed capacity to change and innovate.
Communications: The Communications department will further define the Wikimedia Foundation and its projects’ public image; steward the Wikipedia and Wikimedia brand positioning and management; advance public understanding of, and engagement with, free knowledge; and support and advance strategic initiatives and projects, with an emphasis on technology, innovation, and new knowledge.
Research: The Research team conducts qualitative and quantitative research to produce knowledge about Wikimedia’s users and projects. Their audience includes the internal audience teams (Reading, Search and Discovery, and Editing), members of the Wikimedia community, and external academic and research partners. Their goal is to provide strategic insights and technological solutions to the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia movement to inform the development of new products and foster innovation.

This page collects links to teams, activities and projects that support Innovation.

Support innovation and new knowledge[edit]


Integrate, consolidate, and pause or stop stalled initiatives

Tracked in Phabricator:
Task T98358

Community-led innovations and knowledge creation[edit]

Create spaces for future community-led innovations and new knowledge creation

Models and structures for knowledge curation[edit]

Facilitate and support new models and structures for knowledge curation

Innovation areas
  • Semantic web
  • Representation, storage and searching of non-linear and other challenging texts: e.g. audio, chemical structures, commutative diagrams, hieroglyphics, genomes, music, proteins, spectra, tensors, video, visualisation, 3D
  • Associative data
  • Knowledge management from knowledge mining (unsupervised semantic mining)
  • Automated extraction of psycho-social meaning from texts
  • Altmetrics
Interesting projects


Strengthen partnerships with organizations that use or contribute free content, or are aligned with the WMF in the free-knowledge movement

Possible partners[edit]

Tracked in Phabricator:
Task T926
in London
specifically in the London Knowledge Quarter
UK government agencies
in Oxford
in Cambridge

Survey of WMF innovation-related activities[edit]

A brief survey of the work WMF does to support innovation across the movement.

Non-technical community-driven projects[edit]

WMF has a variety of programs that support non-technical innovation by Wikimedians. Note that this is necessarily somewhat incomplete, since it was literally done on a Saturday afternoon - anyone is welcome to add other things, or to make suggestions under "future plans and possibilities" or on the talk page.

What is WMF doing?[edit]

  • Individual Engagement Grants & Project and Event Grants: These support a variety of innovative projects with both organizational and financial support. (Note that this includes some technical projects, but those are primarily excluded - more detail on that below.)
  • Learning and Evaluation: WMF helps innovative projects understand and scale their impact through analysis and knowledge-sharing.
  • Mature program support: WMF supports mature innovative programs in a variety of ways, including bringing them in-house and supporting them through the FDC process (Wikidata).

Example outcome[edit]

  • Wikipedia Library: Wikipedia Library came up through IEG and PEG, and Community Engagement is budgeted to bring one of the core team members onto the Foundation staff this year.


  • User-led innovation: Our experience, and the broader literature around user innovation, strongly suggest that innovation is most likely to succeed when it comes from outside the four walls of the Foundation. So WMF generally feels supporting user-led experimentation is likely the best way to find and support innovation that actually makes an impact.
  • Community review: Using community committees to identify innovations that have a likelihood of success appears to be effective, and is consistent with CE's general approach of using participatory grantmaking to make sure we're aligning our grantmaking with community values and needs.


  • Roadmap: The Foundation doesn't currently provide a very clear roadmap to contributors who want to take an innovation from new idea to scalable global program, which makes planning hard for both us and for contributors who want to innovate.
  • Effectiveness of learning and evaluation in a complex global movement: One size doesn't always fit all, so learning from across the movement is challenging, both in terms of collecting data and in terms of sharing that data out in a way that is helpful across the entire movement.

Future plans and possibilities[edit]

  • Roadmap: As WMF evolves the Community Engagement department, we plan to look at how we can provide a more structured path from new idea to scaled, global program. This will take some time, because it touches many parts of our organization as well as many contributors (existing and potential). This is the main currently-planned response from Community Engagement to the Call to Action's call to "[c]reate spaces for future community-led innovations".
  • Increased thematic work: We view the Inspire Campaign as a success so far, and plan to re-use that model where appropriate to support strategic priorities.

Tech projects driven by community members[edit]

WMF has a variety of approaches to support technical innovation by community members.

What is WMF doing?[edit]

  • Labs: WMF supports Labs and Tool Labs as platforms for contributors/developers, including access to data.
  • Hackathons: WMF has begun using hackathons to more aggressively identify and promote new technical projects. Examples from the most recent hackathon.

Example outcome[edit]

  • Revision scoring as a service: Example of many different sources of WMF innovation, including grant support, third-party collaboration, use of Labs, presentations at hackathons, and employee support.


  • User-led innovation: As above.


  • Labs reliability: Labs reliability has been an issue, which the Labs team continues to work to address.
  • APIs and documentation: Our APIs have not always been well-documented, which limits the ability of technical third-parties (community or otherwise) to innovate around our data.
  • Grants: In the past, our grantmaking process has excluded many types of technical projects.

Future plans and possibilities[edit]

  • Continue to improve developer support: The Engineering Community team is focusing new efforts on reaching out to developers, which will help both Wikimedians and non-Wikimedians who want to work with the projects.
  • Improve ability of grants programs to support technical innovation: We are considering how best to improve the ability of the resources and engineering organizations to assess and support software development.
  • Continue to improve APIs: We turned on OAuth over a year ago, and will continue to invest in other APIs that will make it easier for third parties to innovate with us.
  • Community tech: We still plan to create a team to put resources towards community-sourced ideas/problems; it is unfortunate that this has not moved as quickly as we would like.

Innovation by non-Wikimedians[edit]

Many of the resources and policies noted above are available to non-community members as well (such as Labs). However, additional outreach and support is also usually necessary on top of providing those resources.

What is WMF doing?[edit]

  • Partnerships: The Foundation has historically been pretty ad-hoc about partnerships; the recent addition of partnership development into Advancement department are intended to change this, and bring third-party partners in.
  • Academia: WMF works in a variety of ways with academia, including recently with Harvard's Berkman Center, Stanford, and others.



  • Casting an even broader net: Obviously, bringing in partners from outside the movement can help bring skills and resources we don't have into the movement.
  • Data and visibility: Doors tend to be open when we ask, and indeed many people seek us out, because we have so much interesting data and visibility.


  • Expectations management: Many potential partners expect WMF to be able to make executive decisions to accept partnerships, but this is not the case—we can't promise partners that their ideas will be accepted by relevant communities even if we think they're a good idea. (See, for example, the rejection of pictures from Commons, or ongoing debates about standards for getting data into Wikidata, and from Wikidata into the encyclopedias.) This makes it much more difficult to build relationships than it would be in a traditional organization, especially when those partners want to innovate on the timeline that is standard in the software industry.
  • High standards: We typically do not sign NDAs, and when we do, we negotiate them very aggressively. This makes it much harder to do some sorts of innovative partnerships. Similarly, our open access policy will make some academic partnerships more difficult. Privacy is another area where our standards tend to make it hard to work with third parties.

Future plans and possibilities[edit]

  • Continue building partnership skills and resources: WMF plans to continue building partnership skills across the organization, including in Advancement, Product Liaisons, and elsewhere, so that we can effectively respond to proposals and (where appropriate) seek them out.

See also[edit]