Finding a partner in Brazil - History, process and methodology
In Brazil, whose project had started one year later, the process of dialoguing with potential local partners started in October 2012. Part of the efforts to activities planned for 2012 and 2013 were postponed and/or suspended in order to have our efforts addressed to building this partnership. The first possibility raised was to establish a partnership with Associação Pietro Roveri pela Colaboração e Conhecimento Livres (APR-CCL), which was about to be created by the Brazilian community. A long explanation on the changes and conversation took place in our talk page of the ongoing planning and it has been well received by volunteers and the Brazilian team. However, a few facts made us step back from that possibility: the association, still to be incorporated, would offer no institutional structure at that point (which was already known and taken as a con, though other reasons came up during the process), Affcom hadn’t yet approved the chapter-to-be as a formal chapter, the association ended up not being incorporated (after the foundation assembly, registration faced bureaucratic issues and along with the non approval by Affcom, this process got stuck and has been debated by Brazilian volunteers and the referred committee).
Meanwhile, the Brazil team raised a list of more than 15 local organizations (mainly not for profit organizations, with experience with communities, free culture, free content, open educational resources, free software and social affairs). Thirteen possibilities have been examined. After an initial raising of basic information (location, institutional structure, openness to include new activities into their agendas, previous relationship with the volunteers etc.) through dialogues and research, in depth dialogue was established more regularly with 2 of those organizations: Ação Educativa and Coletivo Digital. Among the aspects that made us choose them to keep it ongoing are: convergence of values and methodology of work (collaborative, open and transparent), level of autonomy allowed for a process of incubation of a new project, level of interest demonstrated by the organizations, geographic location, experience in the fields we work on, institutional structure, space available in the office for our consultants.
For the sake of transparency, it should be highlighted that as head of the Brazilian Catalyst Program and considering the initial idea to continue leading the project, Oona Castro played a central role on the choice of organizations which inspired her trust and openness, as well as identification with their objectives, vision and principles - always taking into account the nature and characteristics of the Wikimedia Movement.
In February 2012, the Brazilian Catalyst team, the Director of the Grantmaking team in the Wikimedia Foundation, Anasuya Sengupta, as well as two Brazilian community members, visited and had meetings with representatives from Ação Educativa and Coletivo Digital. Minutes of those meetings may be found at:
More about those organizations can be found here:
After those meetings, WMF and community members discussed the potential partners' pros and cons. Although both were pretty aligned with our mission and work, Ação Educativa demonstrated not only to be an excellent institutional home with very sustainable plans, but also to have deeply discussed and carefully thought about what a partnership with WMF could look like: its potential successes, risks and challenges. Ação Educativa was very concerned about their value-add to the project and worked thoroughly with their coordination committee about projects that might very much align with our mission. Coletivo Digital is still a potential partner for specific activities and also demonstrated large sinergy capacity with our mission. However, at this moment, Ação Educativa seemed to be more prepared to receive a project and a team of our size.
With Ação Educativa, we believe the add-value for both parts will be great. While Ação Educativa has a great experience with the education community, knowledge production, as well as on building networks with a great diversity of stakeholders, Wikimedia will bring its expertise on online communities as well as sharing practices into Ação Educativa’s mission. They have a well funded and structured organization as we need and know how to build participatory processes: a perfect combination for us. The incubation of the Brazil Catalyst Project in Ação Educativa is not supposed to become an isolated action. Though somehow autonomous and independent, the project is an opportunity to merge our objectives of promoting collaborative knowledge production by taking professors as key actors in the education process (and not only as people that will reproduce some standard content created to be transmitted by anyone).
A few concerns from one community member were raised at in person conversations: he questioned that we were willing to start a partnership of this dimension with a (any) local organization before experimenting working with them in very specific projects. Though this may be a reasonable concern, there are a few aspects that should be considered: for the reasons exposed at the narrowing focus document, the Brazil Catalyst Program should become a grantee in 2013. We were, therefore, looking exactly for an institutional partnership at this point, and not for experimental works. The second thing that should be considered is that throughout this last 10 months, Ação Educativa have demonstrated to be very much aligned with our mission and very careful and respectful of our methodologies and culture. They are not used to Wikis yet, but they are transparent and open, have a lot of experience on dealing with communities and conflicts. In the past, they have also incubated the World Social Forum organization, a multi organization led process that happens concomitantly to the World Economic Forum, bringing together social organizations from all over the world to discuss a social and common agenda. They are also very experienced in supporting communities and groups build various forms of protagonism, avoiding lapping up other organizations.
Since March 2013, Ação Educativa and the Brazilian team has been working on building a project proposal to be submitted to both local and global communities, as well as to the Wikimedia Foundation, that includes both our previously existing program activities but also activities which Ação Educativa could engage significantly, based on their know-how and network (please find below the project proposal). The project also keeps an open window for future proposals from the community, as well as from the teams involved, to be discussed on wiki as well as in meetings to be held as of the beginning of the project implementation.
Please check the summary of the timeline from the moment we decided to move into grants:
- October 2012: discussing changes with the community
- November 2012 -January 2013: researching and discussing with potential partners
- November 2012 - February 2013: reporting process
- February 2013: Meetings with 2 selected potential partners with community members, Brazilian team and WMF
- March 2013 - August 2013: discussing and detailing governance framework of the project, designing the project, planning and discussing the budget.
As of the very beginning of the catalyst project in Brazil, our team has valued participation and initiative and decided to bring in not only the community and local volunteers but also potential partners to plan, in conjunction, projects that would be of their interest, merging objectives and building together what a desirable project would look like.
Finding local partners to co-manage the catalyst project implies, in our view, making it really part of a local organization’s agenda, converging to common objectives and scope. Also, we believe it implies sharing values and principles. Transparency, dealing openly with conflicts, building ground for real change, honesty, equal conditions for access to education and social rights and open access to educational resources and knowledge are some of the shared values between our movement and Ação Educativa.