Recommendation 9: Invest in sharing knowledge about partnerships across the movement
Q1 What is your Recommendation?
We recommend a process for collecting and sharing data on partnerships, for future use in a knowledge resource.
An end product of this process could be a searchable database, combined or parallel to the searchable database proposed by Capacity Building. This could be centrally hosted and edited by all (like in Wikidata), or movement partners could each hold individual instances in line with their own policies that could be searched collectively.
Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this recommendation?
Wikimedia will still be a distributed movement with multiple organizations and individuals running partnerships and documenting them. We believe that we will carry on our mission of developing content as we have done in the past but we want to go further. We will grow as a global organization and generate more associations involving more people. We should be building on previous experience rather than “reinventing the wheel” and the only way to do that is if we systematically curate information about partnerships.
Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?
We do not know what happens to partnerships over time, how knowledge is fostered and the relationships that are transferred when people enter and leave them or our movement. When some people leave the movement, their experience and contacts are lost. Relationships with our partners should not be based solely on individual contacts, nor on personal connections of gaining enough knowledge to know who to ask. It should be transparent and available to everyone.
It is also important to note that building such a database, we will have to deal with the fact that different parts of our movement lack sophisticated metrics gathering processes or do not have the capacity to document as well as others. We also need to acknowledge that we are working across many languages and contexts and curating the information in said database will have to reflect that..
Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation?
Data shared could be consulted to assist existing or developing partnerships. This will allow volunteers or staff to learn from our accumulated experience in the movement, take advantage of ideas from one association to another and negotiate associations more efficiently.
To record our efforts will not only help us to share our experiences and learn from each other, but also to report on our global impact and measure our progress more accurately. The advantage to the movement would be a greater awareness of where partnerships exist, information about those partnerships, and the ability to showcase information about the effect of partnerships.
In time, metrics will be taken from these resources to better understand the impact of our work globally. This would support our movement in terms of advocacy, building new relationships with partners and funders. It will also allow us to visualize our work (like showing all partners in a specific area on a map), which will allow us to see gaps in our work and prioritize where we still need to invest in order to 1) be inclusive and equitable 2) give better service to all around the world.
Partners will also use this database to learn from existing efforts, as well as find opportunities to partner with Wikimedia and make relevant contacts to begin work.
Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?
Individual contributors running partnerships
Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?
Yes, stewardship of data is an important issue. Who holds data about partnerships and why? Some of the data about partnerships is like donor data or any contact data, it has value and was generated by labour, it sometimes has elements of confidentiality around it, and legal aspects connected to it. A balance would need to be made between accessibility of information and respect for the creation of that information.
Access is an important issue as well. Building partnerships is a years long process, usually between individuals and, given the nature of our movement, one that relies on individual relationships. There have been some issues before with partners with Wikimedia being contacted by other Wikimedians without respecting an existing relationship or understanding of the partners intentions or needs. We will need to foster a culture of respect including specific guidelines as to how to proceed with approaching a partner that someone else dealt with.
The other issue is that any crowdsourced data from the movement, about the movement’s work, is highly partial. Maintaining accuracy or consistency in reporting would be difficult, we have seen this in the difference in reporting from affiliates on what is considered diversity, or how accurately it is measured.
That in relying on a system like this for comparative metrics, the value of a partnership is measured by a quantitative evaluation framework at the expense of other ways of valuing the partnership.
There are several unanswered questions including:
- Who hosts/owns this knowledge base?
- Who has access to it?
- Who controls access to it?
- If there is a conversation with a potential partner, but it doesn't result in any partnership activity, does that partner/conversation get added to the knowledge base?
- Who maintains/monitors this access point?
- Who is the first point of contact for potential partners?
- How does this interact with local and regional laws e.g GDPR
Despite these open questions, which we believe are answerable and should be answered after further research and in consultation with the broader community, we believe that the advantages of having such a database outweighs the disadvantages or simply not having it. We believe it would be a significant stepping stone in how we run and operate partnerships, especially the ability of having a global overview. This will serve not only future partners, but also our internal community by harnessing our institutional knowledge towards future partnerships.
Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?
This could be resolved to an extent by allowing existing movement actors to develop their own methods of sharing their data instead of contributing to a single resource.
These issues require research on existing successful similar models and theories of how to implement this kind of recommendation. It would also require a wider discussion with the community, including both individuals and affiliates who run partnerships in how to “model” items of partnerships.
Finally, having the database is only a first step; having a database would mean we can query it, in an easy and simple way that is accessible to everyone, especially those without knowledge of programming. We believe an application (app) will have to be developed as the “front end” of this product, to allow easy access and service to all.
Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?
Currently, we do not have clear and accurate historical documentation to capture our institutional memory on partnerships so that it can be used by all at all levels of participation, including the exchange of stories, successes and failures.
Information is spread over several Wikimedia sites, such as Outreach, Meta, language Wikis and even Facebook groups, some of them fulfilling the same purpose. Most of the documentation is in English even though many Wikimedians do not speak English or speak it not as their first language. When experienced people leave the movement we lose their experience, contacts and knowledge. There have been several attempts to direct our efforts in Education, Medicine and GLAM, but we do not have a joint central system for internal use to help us consult and search for what is happening in outreach. Partial information exists in separate places (in specific language Wikis, in Meta, in Outreach, in newsletters, in Facebook groups, etc.), but we need a “one stop shop”, a gateway of sorts, where we can go to look for initial information, ask questions, get answers and show the impact of what we do globally.
This knowledge base must be user friendly and can be ordered per country/area. Affiliates can be encouraged to seek partnerships with chosen partners at specific events.
Project evaluation would be a crucial aspect of such a knowledge base. This database has to be shared by all in all languages. Reports can be made with quantitative information, telling the institutions which material was best positioned, which one was most used, how many visualizations it had and which articles were improved, to show them the impact of their contribution, but should also include qualitative data and references for further information. In this sense, this database will curate basic information and hold references and links for further readings and reports, in the same way a Wikipedia article is the initial gateway to learn about a topic, but which has external links and further reading.
Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?
Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?
Capacity Building, because this shared knowledge-base should be available for everybody and will help to the capacity building of the community.
Roles and Responsibilities because the web platform where this knowledge-base is hosted depends on their recommendations.
Q 8 Do you have anything to add that was not covered with previous questions, yet essential for understanding the recommendation?
At the moment group members are not in agreement about the recommendation, in its current state. We have varied assessment of the balance of advantages and disadvantages of the currently proposed solution.