…is an invitation to a productive discourse about partnerships within our movement and beyond – in the context of the Movement Strategic Direction. We would like to invite other Wikimedia affiliates and communities, the Wikimedia Foundation, and Wikimedia committees or governing bodies, such as the AffCom or the FDC, to join us in this conversation as we jointly work through Phase II of the Movement Strategy.
This invitation is made by the Partnerships Group. We are Wikimedians from 11 countries and affiliates who have been practicing collaboration for free knowledge for many years. We have built our partnership-related competencies jointly and individually over the years in various local and regional contexts. Over the last three years, we have gathered at movement conferences and at focused meetups in Berlin.
We believe that working together as partners within our movement and outside of it is key to achieving the Wikimedia vision. If we want to make all human knowledge free and accessible for everyone, we won’t be able to do this alone – which is the reason why working in partnerships will be a core priority for the future.
This statement is a direct outcome of our meeting held in November 20-22, 2017 and is published with an intention to inform the discussion around culture, structures, and resources of Wikimedia during Phase 2 of the Wikimedia Movement Strategy Process and beyond.
Written by John Andersson (Wikimedia Sverige), Astrid Carlsen (Wikimedia Norge), Daria Cybulska (Wikimedia UK), Jenny Ebermann (Wikimedia CH), Claudia Garád (Wikimedia Österreich), Felix Nartey (Open Foundation West Africa), Rodrigo Padula (Wiki Education Brazil), Biyanto Rebin (Wikimedia Indonesia), Dr. Keren Shatzman (Wikimedia Israel), Nikki Zeuner & Julia Kirchner (Wikimedia Deutschland), Kaarel Vaidla (Wikimedia Estonia)
Partnerships in our understanding describe any individuals or groups of people working together towards a shared goal, or a joint vision, sometimes based on an agreed upon strategy or a stated collective impact. Such partnerships are happening within the Wikimedia movement – among affiliates, communities and committees – as well as with external partners such as institutions, organizations, foundations and businesses. A partnership may involve funding, sharing content, engaging in advocacy, shared outreach, or a combination of these. This definition is intentionally broad and inclusive.
The Wikimedia Movement 2030 Strategic Direction provides us with a general understanding about who we are, who we want to become and where we want to go as a movement. Service and equity are the cornerstones of the direction. Collaboration and cooperation through partnerships are central means to move towards the direction – both in terms of working together among movement entities and communities and in terms of partnering with others in the knowledge ecosystem.
In Phase 2, stakeholders are about to review the strengths and weaknesses of current movement processes and structures, asking the question: what needs to change so the movement is able to move towards its 2030 vision? We hope that this statement informs Phase 2 of the strategy process, seen through the lens of enabling crucial partnerships.
To fill the strategic direction with life, we will need a combination of resources and structures, supported by a culture that embraces our aspiration for service and equity and allows us to act effectively with our partners. However, many of our own currently established practices and habits perpetuate an uneven distribution of power and privilege. They are not always conducive to building trust among movement partners or to embracing the diversity of our movement and the world. We believe that a more equal distribution of power and privilege will lead to more trust and more diversity among movement partners. This applies to many areas, including communication, governance, learning, decision-making, the division of labor between affiliates and WMF, and of course, the distribution of funds.
Breaking through these outdated habits and ultimately, over time, changing the movement culture to become coherent with our chosen direction can be achieved by changing structures, re-allocating resources, and by testing and modeling existing, new, and promising practices. In this quest, we should take the opportunity to learn from global, social movements with similar conditions, cultures, and challenges.
We are a group of people enthusiastic about building our movement through partnerships. We believe that collaboration among Wikimedia movement entities still can be much increased and improved. The same is true for partnerships with external partners – presently they often occur in an ad-hoc, project-based manner only, with little reflection on impact. If we want to achieve our Wikimedia 2030 vision, we need to think about partnerships strategically and with a focus on impact.
We should establish better platforms and opportunities for collaborative work. This work needs to be better coordinated, supported with shared responsibilities or roles, assured backbone functions and targeted resources. We would like to see incentives for setting aside more time and setting clear goals to encourage regional and thematic collaborations between Wikimedia affiliates, but also with external partners.
We need to learn how to build and maintain better internal cross-affiliate partnerships, to avoid parallel, duplicate actions, increase sharing and learning and multiply the effect of human and financial resources available in the movement.
Also we need to be strategic and systematic in establishing and maintaining external partnerships. We need to establish common ground with allies, as well as learn from each other and adapt, if needed, our own goals, structures, and dynamics. This will help us to reach out more and provide better service for wider audiences.
We discussed the collaborative shift along the lines of four key thematic areas and began with asking big questions for each:
- How do we create trust between our communities and new partners?
- How do we build trust within the movement?
- How can the movement grow into a culture of service and equity?
We feel strongly that trust is a main ingredient of building an equitable movement as much as it is a prerequisite of successful partnerships with entities in the knowledge ecosystem. Establishing a culture of service and equity relies heavily on there being trust among the various movement partners, the communities they try to empower, and with external partners. Trust will only be built through working towards shared goals, based on shared values.
Trust-building can be facilitated through the structures, resources, and processes that accommodate the collaborative work within the movement, such as peer-capacity building and joint, equitable decision-making. Further we also should develop a more genuine, open, direct but respectful communication culture within our movement as well as with our partners. In-person meetings at conferences or different meeting formats help facilitate challenging conversations and can establish trust among movement partners and with external partners.
As a multicultural movement, we need to invest more in developing cultural competence (as in making sure we understand each other) and local context adaptation – not every lesson learned or learning material can be applied in every culture. We should learn from other international organizations and engage them as active partners, as we are not the first to struggle with this.
Structure and Resources
- How do we improve the current structures to create the environment for an inclusive and participatory movement?
- What are the roles of the various constituents in the movement?
- How does the movement approach to obtaining funding have to change with the new strategic direction?
- What is the kind of change required for distribution of resources in order to achieve diversity and equity?
The partnerships group recommends strongly that in Phase 2 we examine how the current movement infrastructure in terms of governance, communication and resource distribution can be better suited to further the inclusive, equitable, diverse and partnership-ready movement that we aspire to be.
Equity applies not only to free knowledge, but has to become an essential characteristic of our own movement structures. A thorough evaluation and redefinition of roles and responsibilities of the various constituents in our movement towards equity, shared power, and innovation is therefore necessary to improve collaboration among different movement partners.
We further believe that moving towards diversity and equity requires a change in terms of the way resources are developed and distributed in the movement. In a global movement of players with inequitable resources and competencies, more privileged affiliates should support developing affiliates. In turn, there is much to learn from small, new or otherwise different affiliates working in unique contexts or providing valuable innovative perspectives. This solidarity can be institutionalized through transparent models of resource distribution and shared learning.
In addition, we need structures and dedicated resources that support, promote, fund, and incentivize partnerships, and that allow for multidimensional resource sharing (financial and know-how), as well as pooling of resources between affiliates.
- How do we as a movement grow in our diversity while retaining alignment on Wikimedia values and vision?
- To what extent do we need to be aligned with our partners and allies and how do we get there?
- How do we make sure we are ready to partner in terms of resources and competencies?
Our track record so far shows that over the years we have been slow to embrace our diversity, adapt our structures and processes, and make diversity one of our essential strengths. If we want to be relevant in the future and follow our envisioned 2030 direction, this needs to change.
We feel strongly that we need to embrace the diversity of our movement in order to build coherence and alignment pertaining to our values and our mission. For this, we need to be ready to further develop movement diversity, through creating structures and spaces allowing all voices to be heard and all players to participate. We need to improve our cultural competence, some need to let go of power, and we need to always ask who is missing at the table.
We are going to keep the doors open for newcomers, including individuals from all over the world, as well as local, regional or global organizational, and institutional partners. Ideally, this translates into a constantly evolving diversification – of people involved, activities performed, and content created and shared. As stated elsewhere in this statement, this takes resources, capacities and competencies. In summary, we need to build our collaborative capacity so we can take the time and make the effort to grow relationships and trust in aligned diversity.
Sharing and Learning
- How do we ensure organizational learning?
- How do we encourage partners to share experience and lessons learned?
- How can we localize lessons learned?
- How can we learn from failures of others?
Movement entities and communities who are working in partnerships all over the world generate a wealth of experiences, lessons, and knowledge every day. While sharing and learning is already a central theme in our movement, we need to learn to do this in way that scales impact. This can be done through ‘localizing’ learnings from movement as well as external partners. Also we need to not only learn from mistakes and successes of our own, but be able to integrate great learnings and failures of others.
Creating strategic partnerships for collective impact is a complex and difficult endeavor we are all still learning. For each affiliate, this includes building the structures and identifying the competencies needed, finding common ground and building trust with partners, down to measuring and scaling impact. All these tasks needs to be further investigated and experimented within the context of our movement and our direction.
An open sharing and learning culture in collaboration with external partners will allow us to use their experiences. Inside the movement we need many opportunities for open dialogue and peer teaching, coaching and mentoring and organizational development. We suggest to move beyond the the current practice of ‘sharing learning’ to a movement approach of mutual capacity building. This will ensure that knowledge around collective impact is not just shared, but applied, recycled, adapted and used for further learning. In this manner, we can evolve as a movement that adapts to the needs and demands of a changing world, increasing our movement’s resiliency and relevance.
Call to Action!
Following are items regarding partnerships and collaboration on which we should take immediate action:
- Let’s make Phase 2 open-minded, participatory, and transparent, just like Phase 1. This is an opportunity to build trust in our movement, as well as to develop a collaborative mindset and working culture.
- Let’s thoroughly evaluate the current strengths and weaknesses of existing movement roles, processes and structures and co-create essential mechanisms that will enable the movement to move towards the 2030 Strategic Direction. And let’s continuously evaluate and further adapt these in the same transparent manner.
- Let’s make financial and organisational resources available that encourage collaboration among movement stakeholders and with partners.
- Let’s incentivize and resource peer-to-peer support and capacity building.
- Let’s co-create a shared knowledge, learning and evaluation framework around what makes partnerships work and what creates impacts for free knowledge.