Finding solutions to enduring challenges together (2017 - 2018)
Our ambitious strategic direction was set in 2017 with broad support from across the Movement: that 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. With the strategic goals of knowledge equity and knowledge as a service, it was time to figure out how to actually navigate there. After conversations around movement roles, fund dissemination, and the Chapters Dialog earlier in the decade, nothing had fundamentally changed. So we embarked on a novel opportunity for the Movement to shape its future together.
Collective ownership and the working group model (2018 - 2019)
A strategy Core Team was established in spring 2018 to design and lead the process to create recommendations for the necessary changes in our systems and structures based on the strategic direction. Building upon prior strategy work and Movement conversations, nine thematic areas were identified, and key questions were developed to guide the work. A working group model was adopted, enabling people from across our Movement to focus their expertise, skills, and perspectives around a specific thematic area. This model challenged conventional boundaries created over the years between stakeholders in the Movement and created pathways for communication and collaboration. Close to one hundred people joined — affiliate and WMF staff, Board members, as well as volunteer contributors — as agents of change.
Dedicated outreach was made to include a broad cross-section of perspectives and backgrounds in each group to represent our diversity and enrich the conversations. The onboarding of such diverse teams, building productive workflows, managing personal dynamics, and generating content was a learning experience for all stakeholders involved and at times, proved very challenging. For many people, thinking beyond immediate needs and programmatic barriers to focus on long-term strategy and structural change was difficult. Despite these challenges, the wealth of knowledge generated and the reach of connections and engagement has proven vastly valuable and has motivated many to keep going.
Input from across the Movement (2018 - 2019)
In addition to the expertise and perspectives that members of the working groups contributed since the start of this process, the ideas put forth in this document are also grounded in research and vibrant discussions spanning digital and physical spaces. Different research projects were commissioned by the working groups to ensure the recommendations were well informed and incorporated rich perspectives from beyond our Movement. For offline events, regions where the biggest growth potential is necessitated for Wikimedia in collection and dissemination of free knowledge were a priority. These include:
- Strategy Space at Wikimania Cape Town (2018) and Wikimania Stockholm (2019);
- Movement strategy and thematic area conversations at Wikimedia Conference 2018 and Wikimedia Summit 2019;
- 48 strategy salons, including 13 salons especially targeted to young audiences;
- 2 regional Strategy Summits (ESEAP, East Africa);
- 7 contracted Strategy Liaisons to conduct conversations in online spaces for major languages (Arabic, French, German, Hindi, Mandarin, Portuguese, Spanish)
- 150 movement affiliate strategy liaisons to facilitate conversations.
All the conversations were summarized and brought to the attention of the working groups to inform their recommendations and enrich their discussions. These materials can be further used in the contextualization of the recommendations during implementation.
Creating the recommendations (June - September 2019)
The recommendations presented in this document are based on two previous drafts. A first rough draft was shared online in August 2019 with the additional goal of connecting with stakeholders in-person at Wikimania in Stockholm. These engagements and further virtual and physical discussions led to a second draft of recommendations for most working groups, taking their initial effort from a problem-solving level to a broader level of strategically proposing solutions for our systems and processes.
A first attempt to integrate the recommendations was at the Harmonization Sprint at the end of September 2019 in Tunis. The meeting convened with approximately 30 selected and elected representatives of the working groups. However, the work structure of the meeting was too complex and coordination insufficient. Systematic alignment of the recommendations proved to be more challenging than anticipated, and it was difficult to create coherence. As a result, the consolidation of the recommendations was not accomplished, but seeds for underlying principles to support our course for 2030 were planted. These principles have been further developed by the writers and are a part of this Wikimedia Movement strategy product now.
Getting us to the final sprint (October 2019 - January 2020)
Steps forward were co-designed with a team of 15 working group members who volunteered to continue as writers. They reorganized the thematic area recommendations with similar ideas together as presented in this document, based on the intentions of the working groups and the communities who had enriched their ideas. After an intensive work week together in early December, a small team of writers worked on final refinements to the document and the creation of a single, coherent version to go to all people across the Movement for feedback and input. In the final sprint, three writers held daily conference calls to coordinate on matters of style, presentation, format, language, and readability, along with ensuring the document was representative of the rich feedback and ideas shared over the previous 18 months.
If these recommendations are not approached with an open outlook, willingness to discuss, and enabling environments, our Movement risks losing momentum in many regions where we urgently need to grow and diversify. We must be accountable to ourselves, to each other, and to our mission and vision to remain a bright beacon in a world increasingly gripped with censorship, misinformation and the commercial dominance of digital spaces. This requires us to look at the recommendations wholly, earnestly, and with open minds and hearts as we transition towards implementation and the discussions it requires. This document will be reviewed by the Movement and then finalized to be approved yet again before June 2020. To successfully implement the recommendations, more consultation, Movement conversations and meaningful discussions need to take place.