Turning nine sets of recommendations into one
Working group members spent August and September 2019 reviewing the feedback received online and in-person about the first draft of the recommendations. They used this input along with inter-working group discussions and, in some cases, input from external experts and commissioned research to revise and refine their ideas.
The Product and Technology working group held an in-person meeting in Lausanne in September to spend dedicated time working together. This was the last of the in-person working group meetings, most of whom had at least one chance to meet in person. A second draft of the recommendations was developed in early September; the nine working groups produced a total of 89 recommendations. In mid-September, community conversations, salons, and summits that had started in March all over the world also came to a close.
The 89 recommendations were at varying stages of completion and difficult to grasp for most people. However, they contained many similar and overlapping ideas. Hence the focus started to shift to bringing the recommendations together and consolidating the ideas to create one coherent set. To do this work, a three-day “Harmonization Sprint” was held in Tunis at the end of September. Two to three representatives from each working group participated, as did members of the core team, senior staff of the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland, and the chair of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
The plan was to identify recommendations that shared common ideas under overarching themes and then merge and consolidate them. A first, rough grouping of recommendations was developed based on preliminary qualitative analysis using the software Quirkos to start the thinking process. Participants were asked to dissect their working groups’ recommendations and look at what kind of structures would be needed to advance the overlapping ideas.
What became clear was that before it would be possible to create a coherent and actionable set of recommendations, alignment needed to be reached among the thematic areas. Some working groups had already developed principles underlying their recommendations, but this was not shared across all nine thematic areas. Thus, fundamental principles that underpin the path toward 2030 needed to be formalized. Moreover, discussions about such principles needed to happen before the recommendations could be merged.
More time needed to discuss principles, refine recommendations
In the end, the sprint did not produce a harmonized draft set of recommendations, mainly due to a lack of a program design, clear instructions, facilitation, and guidance from the core team. In addition to that, the task was too large and the three-day timeframe was not long enough to allow participants, many of whom were working together for the first time, to establish a suitable working rhythm. However, honest, important conversations were had at the sprint, and, as ever, the working group members devoted an enormous amount of energy, goodwill, and care in the lead up to and during the event. The principles discussion that emerged organically became a key output of this meeting, which would be developed further over the subsequent months. Furthermore, the initial grouping of the 89 recommendations provided a solid basis to continue working on creating one coherent set.
Following Tunis, the core team reflected on how to best incorporate the lessons learned and move forward. It was decided that the timeline would shift and the plans for how to bring the recommendations together into one coherent set would be adjusted. This would need to be planned, designed, and handled carefully. The delivery of the 89 recommendations and the harmonization sprint had been seen by some as the milestone to mark the end of their working group engagement, and this also had to be factored in.
What we learned
- The discussions around principles should have happened much earlier in the process to facilitate alignment among the working groups and make the harmonization process easier.
- Team building is key and takes time, as does strategy work, especially when expected of volunteers with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. This is difficult to do over a short period of time, i.e. a 3-day in-person sprint.
- Clear instructions, consistent guidance and support, various forms of engagement and roles for different people, and alignment in definitions is crucial for a successful working meeting.