What value does the Wikimedia Foundation bring to the movement? How does that value impact the lives of Wikimedia volunteers, editors, organizers and participants? How can that value grow? How can the Foundation help people in the movement solve problems? How can it support the movement in accomplishing objectives and overcoming obstacles? What does the movement most want from the Wikimedia Foundation -- and how might better communications help?
These are the questions this report seeks to answer. We asked communities to share their ideas with us, and we listened deeply for the recurring themes. Our hypothesis was that by doing some deep listening to movement participants -- grounded in what mattered to them first and foremost -- we would be in a better position to understand how improved movement communications might help. Our goal was to take an “inside-out” approach -- listening to the needs of communities first, and then working backwards with them to understand how we might use communications to meet those needs.
What we heard from movement members
Over the course of ten focus groups with 83 community participants and 30 staff, six recurring themes emerged. They offer a picture of what movement participants said they want most from Foundation communications, as well as potential solutions for the Foundation to consider.
- Build a better front door. When participants need something, they want a single well-lit front door to find it -- not a maze. Participants want a single point of entry for information, support and resources from the Foundation. It does not need to be perfect, but creating a single sane starting point and better UX for common information, resource and support requests would be universally welcomed by the community and staff we spoke with.
- Use humans. Take a human-centric (vs. channel-centric) approach. Participants were passionate about the huge role that trusted voices can play in improving communications. Instead of the perfect “platform” or tech, people want a human touch. They want local specialists they trust that can translate, localize, listen, represent, support and spotlight their stories across the movement. They want to connect, as people, with leadership and community-facing staff.
- Speak human. Participants hate jargon, unnecessarily long texts, and “org-speak.” They want language that is simple, concise, relatable and translatable. Nobody ever intends to write things that are needlessly long or complicated, but sometimes we do face the temptation to over-explain when a situation seems complex or to be vague when we lack detailed information. This can backfire and create more distance between the Foundation and the rest of the movement.
- Balance “broadcast” with “on-demand.” In many instances, participants do not want to “hear a story.” What they actually want is to find a thing -- often a resource or “how-to” that will help solve a problem or do something specific. Most of our “broadcast” communications (like mailing lists, blog posts, social media, etc) are not well structured for this. Participants want the Foundation to take a leading role in balancing broadcast communications with on-demand -- investing more in centralizing and storing movement resources to make it easier for people to access what they need, when they need it.
- Coordinate, then communicate. Participants believe that better communication with the movement starts with better internal communication and coordination within the Foundation. Participants want clear messaging, prioritization and calendaring from the Foundation. They want us to coordinate internally first around our projects and initiatives -- so that we can tell a consistent story across the larger movement, avoiding mixed messages and traffic jams.
- Clarify, connect and reflect. Participants see these as the three key ingredients of the Foundation’s ongoing story for the movement. They want storytelling that clarifies and defines the relationship between the Foundation and communities. They want stories that draw the connections between projects and initiatives and Movement Strategy, and that link local work to the global movement. And they want stories that reflect the community back to themselves, with a big emphasis on celebrating unsung heroes and the kinds of participants that are often left out of public-facing storytelling.
Taken together, the recommendations gathered from participants aim at strengthening a sense of connection and belonging in the Wikimedia movement. They are about how the Foundation can work to ensure communities feel seen, supported and celebrated. They are about helping real people solve problems through communications, and growing the Foundation’s value to the rest of the movement. And they are about telling a shared story about the movement we all belong to, together.
- On the use of “we”: this report is written from the perspective of the project team, as an observer. It contains recommendations from the movement for the Wikimedia Foundation . Thus, “we” is used to refer to the project team, and to the Wikimedia Foundation when discussing improvements.