Wikimedia Portugal participation on Strategy process in 2019
By Gonçalo Themudo and Lucas Teles
Last September, Wikimedia Portugal had the opportunity to host a Strategy Salon with its members and guests. This blog post will tell us how their experience went and bring some of the chapter’s history.
Chapter history and interest on Strategy process
Wikimedia Portugal was founded in 2009 and has currently around 50 members. After a long period of inactivity, a revival took effect during 2018 and 2019 and several programs are being implemented and developed. Several partnerships with higher education institutions and teachers unions have been initiated and they organized the Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Earth in Portugal.
As a result of this reboot of the chapter and to avoid some of the pitfalls that haunted them in the past, they are constantly discussing how to grow sustainably. The Strategy Process is being taken by them as a unique opportunity to have their members discuss how the Movement can develop worldwide, and to affect the outcome of the discussions. It is also the perfect format to try to understand how the wider discussions happening around the world, and the opportunities and challenges that the strategic direction will bring can be translated to opportunities and challenges to this affiliate.
While no Portuguese speakers participated in Working Groups, many have followed the development of recommendations closely and provided feedback at all stages. Community members have been actively participating in discussions related to the strategic process through the most active communication channels: Meta, Telegram and several mailing lists.
The event took place on the 15th September of 2019 at Hotel Cristal Porto, in the city of Porto, Portugal. All affiliate members were invited through their mailing list, including newcomers to the movement. Several potential stakeholders that lived in the area were also contacted directly to ensure they felt motivated to participate. The event was able to gather seven participants, four of whom were experienced Wikimedians. Most newcomers were already participants in Wikimedia projects and were interested to get to know the movement in more detail.
The Salon started with a brief welcome from Gonçalo Themudo, President of Wikimedia Portugal and also the Strategy Liaison of the chapter. The strategy process was explained, covering all the steps that had been taken up to that point, and what was expected from the Salon that day. As some of the participants were relatively new to the movement, some time was dedicated to explain the current structure of the movement: what the Wikimedia Foundation is, the general structure of affiliates (chapters, user groups and thematic organizations), and the interdependence of the projects. Participants were then asked to introduce themselves and explain their involvement or interest in the Wikimedia movement.
When planning the salon, it was a general recommendation that, of all nine themes, two of them were discussed with more focus. The ones selected were: Roles and Responsibilities and Capacity Building. However, the salon was held in September, which was after Wikimania and the publication of draft recommendations by the Working Groups. Due to that timing, they discussed some of the recommendations that had caught the participants’ eye instead of discussing the scoping documents. Discussion was lively on many points, and continued until 19:00 with a coffee-break in between. At 19:00 the salon was closed, and participants were invited for dinner in a restaurant at a walking distance from the hotel.
Regarding the Diversity Working group Recommendation #9: The majority of participants felt strongly that the acceptance of a non-commercial license in Commons would cause more harm than good. The main points raised against were that it complicates reuse of our content further down the line and that the usability of non-commercial licenses for educational purposes is dubious. Some participants went as far as saying that the Wikimedia Movement should recommend to Creative Commons that the CC-NC type license be no longer supported or should be abolished. As an upside, a few participants mentioned that Wikimedia would be able to probably host ten times more content than it does now. The consensus view was, however, that the difficulties were greater than the advantages.
There was some discussion about decentralization of the formal structure of the movement, including the allocation of funds and grants. Some of the participants felt that funds generated in very high degree by volunteer work were not easily accessible outside of the WMF and large chapters. While this year, Wikimedia Portugal has been successful in attracting funds from the WMF, there were some worries about instability of rules regarding for example Rapid Grants, and that there is no more possibility to ask funds for projects with a value smaller than 500 USD.
This led to some discussion on the instability of nomenclature of some of the sites and services, such as the Tool Labs/Tool Forge, and the proposed re-branding of the Wikimedia Foundation. In particular there was some disagreement of whether the rebranding to Wikipedia Foundation was opportune, particularly with the emergence of Wikidata as a vibrant and exponentially growing project in recent years. An alternative view expressed by participants was that it is natural for rebranding to occur for the most widely known product of the movement. A consensus view was that this rebranding was not a crucial aspect at the moment for the Wikimedia Movement.
Furthermore on recommendations regarding decentralization, despite the participants feeling that some degree of decentralization was positive, a concern raised regarded unequal pay across the globe for the same job. Technical jobs in the US, and particularly the San Francisco area, are well paid, while the same job in other parts of the globe, including Portugal may be not so well paid. So, some care should go to ensure that, if decentralization goes forward, some assurances regarding work conditions, fair pay and work/life balance should be made for an ethical minimum standard and a gold standard for all Wikimedia jobs.
Participants feelings and what they learnt
All participants appreciated the fact that communities are being consulted and given a voice in the strategy process. Newcomers felt some difficulty in discussing some points because their knowledge of the complexities of the movement had not yet consolidated, but they were able to provide insights from organizations that they did know from their own experiences, which was appreciated by the experienced wikimedians.
In the end, it was satisfying to feel that they are part of a global movement and that their voice can be heard and matters in such a complex process. The community is really interested in how the recommendation will consolidate and then be implemented and hope that the changes proposed will empower the communities around the world and bring affiliates closer together, and enable us to better achieve our goals and the movement’s overall mission of sharing the sum of human knowledge freely.