The opening of the conference brought together all Wikimedia Conference participants. It started with official welcome notes, and was followed by a brief explanation of the strategy development process and the expected outcomes of the conference. The purpose of the session was to offer all participants “the Big Picture” in terms of the work that has been done so far, and the challenges ahead. After this session, participants then headed to the track that they were most interested in contributing to, and learning from.
Cornelius Kibelka (Program and Engagement Coordinator) & Nicole Ebber (Adviser on International Relations), Wikimedia Deutschland.
On behalf of Wikimedia Deutschland, Cornelius and Nicole welcomed all participants to the Wikimedia Conference, joking that they were not sure whether it was the 11th or 12th edition. They emphasised that participants are the ones who will make this event special, gathered around the shared belief: That every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
Cornelius pointed out that not everyone made it to the conference due to visa denial, reflecting that the room only made up a small, and relatively privileged, part of the whole Wikimedia Movement. An important encouragement for those present to be aware and always consider the voices that might be missing in conversations about the future of the movement.
The three thematic tracks were explained. The Capacity Building and Partnerships tracks function like a “buffet”, where participants are welcome to pick and choose according to needs, while the Movement Strategy was designed more like a set menu, from appetizers to dessert. Cornelius and Nicole finished by highlighting that we are at a turning point. One that can lead to real change for the Wikimedia Movement.
Christophe Henner (Chair of Board of Trustees), Wikimedia Foundation
Christophe let everyone know how much he loves the Wikimedia Conference, and how the constant conversations he has had with the diverse group of people attending has made him realise how little he knew about the world.
Speaking about the Movement Strategy process, he made a distinction between Phase 1, which was about finding direction and alignment, and Phase 2, which is about HOW we achieve what we set out to achieve. “It becomes very practical” — he said - asking question such as: How do we change our movement so that every voice is heard? How do we make sure the knowledges that has been ignored is cared for too? How de we make sure, we all work as a global community in the same direction, and at the same time make sure every community is able to take that direction in its own way?
He encouraged everyone to participate in the Strategy track, saying “If you are wondering whether you should go to the Strategic Track, than you should go there. It means at some point you felt left out of that discussion, and this is exactly why you need to be part of it.” He emphasised the commitment to make sure everyone is feeling included.
Christophe also talked about making mistakes in the past, and the importance of learning from mistakes. He also highlighted the importance of making room for those who might not always voice their perspective, mentioning that the board of trustees had a particular role in engaging in the discussions and supporting everyone in participating.
He pointed out how the current state of the movement is not fit for its defined direction, saying: “We need to make changes, we need to be bold. Challenge everything and don’t take anything for granted. Everything is on the table. Don’t think that there is a question that is not worth bringing up, or that it might cause resistance, or not gain support from the board. The board is committed to make changes.”
He acknowledged the fact that the conference was in English, and stated his wish that one day Wikimedia conference might be truly multilingual. With this note he invited everyone to let go of concerns regarding their competence in English language.
Christophe also announced a change in the program concerning the usual “questions to the board” session. To allow more people to contribute than those who feel comfortable expressing themselves in front of a big group, questions ought to be written on meta, to then be answered by the board during the “thematic inputs and conversations session” on Day 2.
Christophe ended with the following message: “ We have a mountain to climb. To achieve knowledge equity and make knowledge a service accessible to everyone. This is a very very very tall mountain to climb and some might say an impossible one to climb. But, that is what they said when we wanted to create a multilingual repository of human knowledges. So I do know for a fact, that if we all work together, listen to each other, learn from each other, and build together... well to us, no mountain will be high enough.”
Katherine Maher (Executive Director), Wikimedia Foundation
Katherine expressed her happiness for being back among so many old and new friends. She encouraged everyone to say ‘hi’ to someone they did not know saying “in an entire hotel full of Wikimedians, chances are there is someone that loves free knowledge.” She continued explaining how the conference has always been important to the movement, but in recent years it has taken on a new dimension - not only learning from each other but planning for our future.
Katherine referred to when Wikimedia turned 15 in 2016, the board tasked the foundation with developing a plan for the future. “We looked at our beginnings - a world in which every single human can freely share the sum of all knowledge.” This was the beginning of a remarkable, impossible idea which brought together a powerful community. So powerful it grew around the globe, bringing us together from Chile to Australia to Korea. Mentioning how far the movement has come by having a vision statement, she reminded us that there is a lot to be done - and more people to join.
Katherine confessed that when the process started she had a “secret goal”: to cultivate shared identity. She continued: “What was more important was to come together, to re-imagine ourselves as a global movement, and if nothing else, we were successful in that. The most important was to have a shared sense of purpose and commitment, we reinvigorated ourselves in our commitment towards the future.”
70 countries, 20 languages, 1000s of participants, 100s of organizations and institutions, WMCON, Wikimania, Regional events — All in dialogue about things that shape our future like: Demographics — Who is in the world in 2030; How will people around the world be using communications technologies to find, create, and share information?; Misinformation — What is the truth?; Literacy — What do we need to know?; Open Knowledge...
“From this dialogue came a vision, but it does not mean we have to do it alone. It’s ups to us to figure out what that means for ourselves, and our organisations. And it’s up to you - by stepping into this room you have decided to join us in this journey.”
“Go out there, enjoy. Meet someone new. Follow the friendly space policy. Be a wikimedian!”
02 . Connecting — to each other and the strategic direction
Following the welcome words, Rob and Bhavesh led a session which mixed discussion and movement in space to help participants connect with themselves, and have more clarity about where they wanted to put their energy during the conference, but also connect to others and to the strategic direction.
The room was emptied of chairs, and a big structure with a flag saying “strategic direction” was placed in the center. Rob invited everyone to look around in silent, recognising all the faces that are completely new, or someone with whom they might have had interesting conversations.
After reading the strategic direction in different languages, everyone was invited to place themselves in relation to the big structure, representing how connected they feel with the current strategy, to then exchange with someone in a different place why they were there.
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.
We, the Wikimedia contributors, communities, and organizations, will advance our world by collecting knowledge that fully represents human diversity, and by building the services and structures that enable others to do the same. We will carry on our mission of developing content as we have done in the past, and we will go further.
Knowledge as a service: To serve our users, we will become a platform that serves open knowledge to the world across interfaces and communities. We will build tools for allies and partners to organize and exchange free knowledge beyond Wikimedia. Our infrastructure will enable us and others to collect and use different forms of free, trusted knowledge.
Knowledge equity: As a social movement, we will focus our efforts on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege. We will welcome people from every background to build strong and diverse communities. We will break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge.
03 . Contextualising the Strategic Direction
In small groups of 3, participants shared their perspective on what “knowledge as a service” and “knowledge equity” means for their respective organisations, groups or communities and how this will impact their future activities. In other words, how they believe the Wikimedia Movement might look in 2030 in their own context.
These are some of the comments shared by participants:
Criticism that the strategy was too vague - especially the first phase - but its very practical because it gives you purpose (equity) and means (service)
The very concepts of knowledge equity and service are untranslatable to some languages
Strategy has a big picture but maybe too big picture - in the context of our community it is a risk.
We hope in 2030 to have half of our editors being women (WikiWomen).
That the Wikimedia Movement becomes worldwide, using all our languages and not be so English based
“Knowledge as service” — if it’s consumed and able to reach the communities that have not had access to Wikimedia
To achieve the strategic direction, we should reach more diversity in content and participation
If knowledge is a service, we wonder who is serving, and who is receiving the service.
We should be all over the government!
Knowledge as a service: I don’t know exactly where it will take us.
In the future, with global trends I expect bigger representation of those who are not yet in the movement.
Closing the session, Rob invited all participants to the challenge of producing an “upgraded version” of the mannequin challenge done in 2017. This time mission was to represent the Wikimedia movement towards the Strategic Direction. This is the result:
Anna Lena lead the graphic facilitation. Bhavesh called her “the fly with the eye”, because she is the only one that can eavesdrop, as a way to capture visually both the high level statements, but also the more implicit messages.
Sabeth and Hişar lead the haptic facilitation, by creating and assembling structures that offer the necessary support for the various types of collaboration, and to make sure that the intellectual outputs are always accessible and visible.
Luís, together with Anne and Olha, lead the “harvesting”, collecting and treating all the knowledge that is produced by the track in a report that will be made available on Meta-wiki.
Rob and Bhavesh lead the design and facilitation of the movement strategy track. In Bhavesh’s words: “We’re here to make everyone work”.
After introducing the Big Picture, participants headed to their respective conference tracks. Approximately 60 people remained in the Strategy track and started exploring what possibilities there are for the Wikimedia Movement in 3 to 5 years within the context of the current Strategic Direction. Before getting to work, Nicole gave a brief overview of the status of development of the Movement Strategy, followed by Bhavesh that gave the overview of the Movement Strategy track.
01 . The Strategy Development process: Past, Present, Future
Nicole Ebber explained where the Movement is in the process of developing and implementing the strategy. Phase 1 (2017-2018) was about defining the strategic direction: Understanding where we have been, where the world is going, and where we can go as a movement. Now that we have established where we want to be in 2030, we need time in Phase 2 (2018-2019) to understand what needs change, and what we want to change, so that we can then can start implementing the changes in Phase 3 (2019-2020).
These 3 days of the Wikimedia Conference 2018, and more specifically the Movement Strategy Track, mark the beginning of Phase 2 of the Movement Strategy process. Nicole explained why we should in fact abandon the term “strategy process” but rather call it a change process that operates at several levels. These levels are described below:
Conceptual: Constant and stable change process for the next two years, guiding the Wikimedia Movement towards becoming the essential infrastructure for free knowledge; a journey towards cultural change, ensuring inclusivity, openness and clarity
Structural (meta): Discourse around roles, resources and responsibilities - the three big Rs. These raise questions about what we need to move forward, for instance, how to obtain and distribute resources within our ecosystem? The result will be recommendations as well as agreement and a process for implementation
Programmatic: Contextualizing of the direction and the creation of goals and plans on organizational levels, incl. support, coordination and innovation across the Movement. This is exciting because it might be lived differently by different actors, which generates creativity but also potential conflict. This will require courage to overcome fear of failure, because there is learning in failure.
Tactical: Project and community oriented processes, and development guided by the key organizations’ departments. These often have a technical nature, and are based on research from phase 1, for which development is already on their way (see product and program recommendations from phase 1).
The focus of the Movement Strategy track is therefore mainly on the Structural level. What needs to change in terms of roles, resources and responsibilities? This will necessarily lead to conversations about power and money within the movement, which are crucial to address as we move forward.
Placing the four levels of change on a time-line, Nicole illustrated the role of the Strategy Core Team in leading the conceptual and structural levels of change, while informing or monitoring the programmatic and tactic levels. The same image also points out how the annual Wikimedia Conference represents important milestones for the Movement in terms of calibrating the different levels and the different phases of change in the process.
02 . Exploring Possibilities within the next 3 to 5 years
In pairs, one person would symbolise the relationship between their current work and the strategy right now; the other person would repeat the same gesture and from there move in a way that represents how that situation might evolve 3 to 5 years into the future. The exercise is about exploring possibilities, in a creative way, with the support of others.
A few comments from comments from participants:
“Interesting to witness how someone naturally takes over something you have been paying so much attention to. A wonderful way of communicating in physical reality,”
“I was doing one thing, and the person I was paired with didn’t just provide one solution, but three solutions, and it was kind of expanding the vision, so the person was an excellent partner.”
The process involved an iterative part where small groups would produce a series of possibilities that then got clustered in overarching themes. The participants were invited to imagine how the strategy could change their work in the next 3 years in terms of opportunities that might be grasped. You can access the photos of the handwritten clusters by clicking on each photo thumbnail below. The individual inputs from each participant can be found in Annex B
A. Economical resources are accessible within the movement
No funding problems ever!
Resources meeting our ambitions
Economical resources are accessible to everyone
10-20% of project funding to Africa (in proportion to the population)
Effective support in Wikimedia Movement
B. More diverse and global content
Closing the content gap
More content in marginalised languages
More volume of knowledge
Readers find and can access information that they care about
Eliminate geographical gaps
Bridge the knowledge gaps
Possibility to find content in your own language
New forms of understanding information
Knowledge equity includes ORAL knowledge
Integrated oral and local knowledge (on current major projects)
Notability and reliability account for locally relevant content
Reliable + reusable content
Every consumer will find quality information
C. Accessibility and case of use (technology)
Better infrastructure to access Wikimedia
Experiments with new formats of existing knowledge (complexity, visual VS audio/textual)
Use of up-to-date technology
A technology platform to support more forms of knowledge, in more formats
Wikimedia is providing better technological solutions for access to knowledge
To identify the challenges that might block the Movement from moving forward, about 60 people were divided into 3 facilitated groups, who brainstormed and discussed in which concrete areas change is needed, and what needs to be resolved around roles, resources and responsibilities, in order to move forward. The purpose of discussing challenges, after surfacing possibilities, is to make the make the implementation of the strategy more realistic, and to prepare the ground for defining practical actions.
The results were first clustered and titled within each of the three groups, and then brought all together on a big wall, to be clustered again according to commonality. To complete the process, each participant was given 3 dots to give weight to the challenges they believe deserves particular attention or represent higher leverage for the movement.
The final “challenge clusters” are tagged below with a few keywords. The count of the dot voting is also indicated at the end of each “challenge cluster”. You can see the original photos by clicking on each thumbnail photo below.