Today, there is room to improve the capacity of Wikimedia movement entities to build partnerships and collaborate with external partners. Many current partnerships are ad-hoc, project-based and built with insufficient reflection on impact. Partnerships need to be more strategic, and focused on impact.
The Wikimedia movement today lacks a strategic framework that would help to align partners and build a “Big Open” Movement. Current approach sees partnerships mostly as means towards specific ends - we believe that partnerships should be goals in themselves, or at least be a pathway for achieving strategic movement goals.
Communicating our mission, work and impact. Wikipedia has become a household name in much of the connected world, but the Wikimedia movement doesn’t do a good enough job articulating its vision, its work and its impact. Good stories are necessary for potential partners and allies to see a space for themselves to join. We also need to explain the purposes of partnerships to movement members.
Currently the technical environment supporting partnerships is hacky at best, in many cases non-existent. Crucial tools do not receive consistent or centralized support. Partner institutions encounter a frustrating, un-professional level of service when trying to contribute content and data, and find it difficult to maintain and evaluate the impact of those contributions once there. Wikimedian organizers are distracted from their core work and forced to develop own solutions for infrastructure gaps. These challenges are especially stark for emerging communities.
Community capacity for partnerships
Many people doing amazing work on partnerships find it very difficult to make their work sustainable, including finding funding for their efforts. People burn out. There is limited investment in the skills people need to run partnerships. Partnerships over-emphasize big, global north institutions. We are not connected to enough smaller institutions and institutions from non-Western countries.
There isn’t a shared, inclusive movement-wide culture of sharing knowledge, skills, and practices in support of partnership work. Pockets of motivation occur but tend to exhaust themselves. At the same time, success of many partnerships depends on individual energy, motivation and competences of Wikimedia Movement members.