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Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/2019 Community Conversations/Partnerships/da

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Scoping format

What is your area of inquiry?

By Partnerships, we mean here collaboration happening between organizations or individuals in the WIkimedia movement and an external entity. Such partnerships can be based on a shared vision or strategy, common goal or collective impact. Partnerships happen at different levels of the movement including local, national and global partnerships. They can also take the shape of coalitions - partnerships between multiple partners.

We are confining our work to Partnerships with external entities, as opposed to intra-movement partnerships (e.g. between Wikimedia affiliates). We acknowledge that successful external partnerships often require internal collaboration and within the movement.

We believe it is critical for Wikimedia to partner in order to advance in our Strategic Direction (By 2030, Wikimedia will become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge, and anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us). This may require wider structural changes, which will be included in our enquiry. Through partnerships, we will “welcome people from every background”  to help us both “build strong and diverse communities” and “break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to knowledge.” We simply believe we can’t achieve this goal without successful partnerships.

The scope of our inquiry will cover the following elements:

  • Designing a partnership framework that will fulfill the vision of Wikimedia as a partner in the “Big Open” movement
  • Identifying key partnerships necessary to build Wikimedia’s culture of service and equity.
  • Addressing infrastructural challenges that need to be solved to successfully provide knowledge as a service.
  • Identify, through more community input, the current structural impediments to creating and executing a successful partnerships framework within the Wikimedia Movement.
  • Building communication that engages partners and explains partnerships to movement members through different platforms and channels.
  • Providing community members with means to establish and steward partnerships, and a movement-wide culture of support and knowledge sharing.

What is the current situation?

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.

Convening partnerships

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.

Teknisk kapacitet

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.


Why this scope?

The 2030 strategic direction envisions Wikimedia becoming “the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge”, and that “anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us.” This places partnership, and collaboration with actors external to our movement, at the heart of our future, acknowledging that we cannot build the knowledge commons on our own.

This acknowledgement requires us to do a thorough evaluation of the current Wikimedia partnerships landscape, and to formulate a bold vision for scaling and diversifying the way we partner. It requires us to examine what sorts of partnerships have happened to date, in which conditions, and between what actors. It also requires us to ask who has been excluded from partnership: which sorts of partners, but also which communities, geographies, and individuals. It also requires us to examine the structural and cultural barriers in the Wikimedia environment that have prevented partnerships from happening, both on a one-to-one level (e.g. between an affiliate and an institution) and at the level of networks and coalitions.

There has long been discussion of the possibilities for a broader “Big Open” movement uniting Wikimedia with aligned players like Creative Commons, Mozilla, and other Open Movement / Access to Knowledge organizations, in pursuit of a shared agenda of internet health and access to knowledge. We believe that Wikimedia’s 2030 strategy must include a vision for turning this general notion of the “Big Open” into a practical reality. Our working group believes this “Big Open” vision to be not only an opportunity for Wikimedia, but — as a central piece of internet infrastructure, and one that aspires to remain central in the next ten years and beyond — a responsibility.


Scoping questions

What are the key questions within the scope of the Working Group?

  1. How might we build Wikimedia into an effective convenor of impactful partnerships, coalitions, and collective action based on a shared vision of open knowledge and the “Big Open” Movement?
  2. How do we develop technical infrastructure, capacities and support do we need in order to be an effective partner to share ‘the sum of all knowledge” and fulfill the vision of knowledge as a service for our partners?
  3. How can we empower people and organizations working on partnerships get the support they need to fulfill our potential to carry out diverse, sustainable, effective and impactful partnerships?
  4. How do we create an inclusive, movement-wide culture of sharing knowledge, skills, and practices on collaborations and partnerships - so that everyone in the movement can participate in and benefit from them?