Recommendation 2: Wikimedia as steward of the Free Knowledge Ecosystem
Q 1 What is your Recommendation?
Wikimedia Movement needs to develop a holistic approach to partnerships with other actors in the Free Knowledge Movement, and through them take stewardship of the whole Free Knowledge Ecosystem.
This approach should be based on a Partnerships Framework that is based on a vision of systemic change and participatory leadership of different actors in the Free Knowledge Movement. This Framework, co-designed with our partners, will support collective, coordinated and distributed work on building and sustaining the Free Knowledge Ecosystem.
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?
Overview of how this recommendation contributes towards the 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.” or its focus areas of “knowledge equity” and “knowledge as a service”.
The Strategic Direction is based on an expansive, and at the same time inclusive view of the Wikimedia movement and the ecosystem of free knowledge that it is part of. Anyone who shares this vision should be able to join Wikimedia. Or, in other words, Wikimedia should be open to joining other missions, organisations and movements in the Free Knowledge Ecosystem.
In order to achieve the Strategic Direction, a shift is needed from an orientation on one’s own organization or movement (focus on own goals, institutional structure and sustainability) to a broader, network mindset that sees collaboration as means of having greater impact. This shift requires a mindset that places trust in broad networks of relationships and partnerships, connected by a shared vision of systemic change.
In other words, Wikimedia movement understands that it cannot do all of the work on its own. A sustainable approach to the Free Knowledge Ecosystem assumes shared responsibilities, goals, roles and work with other entities - those that share our values, but not necessarily self-identify as part of the Wikimedia movement as such.
At the same time, by virtue of stewarding the largest online platform within this ecosystem, and one of the largest user communities, Wikimedia needs to understand its unique role and responsibility as a steward of this ecosystem. Leading work on the Partnership Framework and then committing to its functioning is part of this role.
Partnerships are the tool to support this collective work. And a Partnership Framework is needed to organise it, make it effective and equitable. This partnership framework should be co-designed in a process that is open and engages partners in the free knowledge ecosystem. This framework will define shared values, collectively defined goals, as well as roles and mutual obligations. The partnerships enabled by the framework should be driven by mission alignment and cultural fit.
The added value of the framework is that it will provide the basis for a systematic approach to partnerships for the movement. Instead of focusing on the value of each individual partnership, their sum will contribute to attaining the shared mission of the Free Knowledge Movement. (Defining more precisely this mission should be an immediate goal of Wikimedia, and a key element of working on the Partnership Framework).
We note that there is room for cooperation also with actors that are not strongly aligned with the Wikimedia movement, as long as a minimal standard of alignment is met (see recommendation on statement of principles). We also note that the partnership work is means for making more organizations open and part of the Free Knowledge ecosystem.
By establishing the Partnership Framework, Wikimedia Movement should aim to align as many of its partners as possible with its vision, values and principles. Over time, a focus on systemic change and a network mindset will transform how the Wikimedia Movement defines its identity and boundaries.
Partnerships are needed to further build the Wikimedia project. As the movement continues to grow in the coming decade, a growing amount of work should be done in partnership. Partnerships make possible the involvement of groups and organizations that align with the vision, but do not self-identify with Wikimedia.
Until now, Wikimedia movement entities have engaged in partnerships in an uncoordinated manner - and therefore partnerships work was not as effective as it could be.
For external partners (existing and potential ones) access and collaboration with Wikimedia is often hard - the range of challenges runs from lack of clearly defined rules and principles to barriers at the level of tools that are complicated and opaque.
The free knowledge ecosystem as a partnership
More importantly, the ecosystem of free knowledge is much broader than the Wikimedia movement itself. No single entity within this broad Open / Free Knowledge movement can steward this ecosystem alone - which is another reason why we need partnerships.
Today, the free knowledge ecosystem, and the broad movement that stewards it, lacks good mechanisms for cooperation and partnerships.
It is not even strongly defined as a movement, for example there is not any shared manifesto or vision document, set of principles or even a clearly defined goal, shared by the whole movement. Such documents exist only in specific sectors of the movement (for example, for Open Access or Open Education activities, or the work on the cultural Public Domain done by GLAM institutions).
The “Big Open” process, organised by Wikimedia, Creative Commons and Mozilla, was a good attempt at building such a partnership. Yet it was not inclusive enough (focused on just these three big organisations) and it is unclear whether it led to actual partnership: work being done together by the three organizations and its global networks.
Wikimedia needs to collaborate with other key movement organizations, and take the responsibility - as one of the bigger, if not the biggest, actor in the free knowledge ecosystem - for building a partnership model that will sustain this ecosystem in an inclusive, equitable and sustainable way.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
What are partnerships?
We understand partnerships as any collaboration between Wikimedia and a third party outside our movement, for the purpose of advancing our mission.
A partner can be distinguished from an ally by the fact that there is an agreed upon, mutually beneficial objective that is defined, and collective work done to achieve it.
A partnership may involve multiple kinds of activities, including funding, sharing content, engaging in advocacy, shared outreach, or a combination of these. Partnership also entails coming together to make strategic plans and to develop solutions to challenges.
This definition is intentionally broad and inclusive.
Partnerships are happening both within the Wikimedia movement – among affiliates, communities and committees – as well as with external partners such as institutions, organizations, foundations and businesses.
A single, unified framework should be a basis for every partnership of the Movement. Our focus in drafting these recommendations is on partnerships that go outside the Wikimedia movement in order to achieve the movement’s mission. At the same time, we acknowledge that partnerships often have an internal dimension and bring together various entities in the movement.
We are against making a strong distinction between “external” and “internal” partnerships. At the same time, we acknowledge that partnerships are also happening with the Wikimedia movement - among affiliates, communities, committees and the WMF. In the case of internal partnerships, these can be distinguished from other relations between movement entities by the fact that there is specific work being done together, based on an agreed upon plan or project. Furthermore, a single partnership can bring together both different movement entities and external partners.
Partnerships as a means of strengthening the Free Knowledge Movement.
Alignment with the Movement’s mission, principles and culture is an important factor, and partners will vary with regard to such alignment. Based on this factor, we want to distinguish between two general types of partnerships:
- partnerships involving organizations, groups or individuals that share the vision and values of Free Knowledge Movement that the Wikimedia movement is part of
- and other partnerships, with organizations groups or individuals that are less strongly aligned and do not share the movement identity and values.
While both types of partnerships are useful, the Wikimedia Partnership Framework should focus on strengthening partnerships within the Free knowledge movement.
Building partnerships within this movement is necessary to strengthen the movement. Today, there is insufficient collaboration between different actors within the Free Knowledge movement. In order to achieve the vision of both WIkimedia movement and other aligned groups and organisation, we cannot just align on shared goals - we need to actively pursue them by working together.
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
Adoption of this recommendation should lead to the development of the Wikimedia Partnership Framework for the free knowledge ecosystem.
The work on this Framework needs itself to be collaborative and equitable - an open invitation should be sent to other entities in the Free Knowledge Movement that are interested in developing such a framework.
The Framework should be based on a Collective Impact approach - it should not only define rules for individual partnerships, but allow the movement to think of each partnership as part of a bigger, collective effort. This shared effort should be structured through:
- shared vision, principles and values
- shared agenda and goals
- structure for collaboration and governance mechanisms
Work on the Framework should begin by structuring existing partnerships of the Wikimedia movement, while at the same time developing a plan for their expansion.
We want to note that in order to achieve the Strategic Directions, partnerships should not be seen as just fulfilling Wikimedia’s mission - in our proposed approach, the Wikimedia movement is just one actor among many within a broad movement.
Wikimedia needs to understand its leadership role as a powerful entity in the free knowledge ecosystem as that of empowering others, through partnerships, to attain their goals.
A more detailed recommendation for this Framework will be developed at a later stage of the strategy process.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
This recommendation applies to all entities within the movement, as they all have the potential to be engaged in partnerships.
Furthermore, the target group for this recommendation also includes external entities: those who already partner with Wikimedia movement and those who potential could do so. Most important among them are those that self-identify with the movement that builds and sustains the free knowledge ecosystem.
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
This approach can receive pushback from the current community, which might feel threatened by the expansion of Wikimedia.
This approach will be time-consuming and require resources to successfully develop and establish a Partnership Framework for the Free Knowledge Movement.
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
These risks can be mitigated by proper leadership that will lead the community through transition and explain the need for such a systemic approach.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
Today, there is no Partnership Framework in place that organizes the work on partnerships. We believe that adding such a mechanism is necessary in order to effectively develop and sustain partnerships that are necessary for achieving the Movement Direction.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
This recommendation connects strongly with recommendation XXXX, which addresses the issue of an even broader perspective on the role of Wikimedia in attaining global, systemic change.