To ensure the efficacy of our limited resources, it is important that we adopt a structured and consistent decision-making process around data partnerships. In particular, as awareness surrounding Wikidata and Wikibase grows, we expect collaboration requests to increase. Having a structured guide for fairly and consistently assessing incoming requests ensures that we use our limited resources most effectively. These criteria are not static; we intend to continuously improve and update them whenever necessary. These criteria remain relevant throughout all stages of the partnership process and play a role in our considerations from the outset.
There are two overarching criteria that guide decision-making around data partnerships:
- Impact: degree of alignment with and potential for the free and open knowledge movement, impact and fit with Wikimedia Deutschland’s current and future open data work and that of the Wikimedia movement as a whole.
- Feasibility: sufficiency of our resources to meet the needs of a collaborative project.
The guiding questions for each criterion are described below. Answers to these questions play a decisive role in determining whether we engage in a data partnership and the degree to which we commit personnel and financial resources to such a project.
Because we are an organization that cares deeply about free knowledge, our ultimate goal is to bring change to the world. Meaningful, lasting change manifests in the form of measurable impact. We therefore consider the broader, longer-term impact of collaboration. There are a number of aspects we consider when assessing impact:
- Strategic alignment: All of our activities, projects and initiatives are guided by the movement’s strategic principles: knowledge equity and knowledge as a service. These principles, the movement strategy’s strategic goals, Wikimedia Deutschland’s own strategic goals and the project strategies for Wikidata and Wikibase inform the specific questions we ask when considering strategic alignment. Questions we may ask:
- How relevant is this data, both to whom and for how many?
- Does access to this knowledge increase knowledge equity in the world?
- Does this partnership provide opportunities to offer knowledge as a service?
- How much data will the project make available?
- Lighthouse effect: A “lighthouse effect” comes from working with a partner who can have a wide-ranging impact across a variety of use cases. For example, partnering with a national library would create a lighthouse effect (lighting the path in the library field for others to follow suit), whereas partnering with a smaller city library wouldn’t necessarily have such an effect. Questions we may ask:
- Can we extend our reach to new fields with the prospective partner?
- Can the partner introduce a new community to open-knowledge projects?
- Learning opportunity: We can learn from partners who introduce us to new fields and new communities, who present a new set of challenges, or who have strengths in areas where we lack expertise. Questions we may ask:
- Does this partnership create learning opportunities for us in software development?
- Can we establish or join a community of practice that will benefit us?
- Does the partner have other skills we can learn from?
- Funding: While our motivation lies in our mission of bringing more knowledge to more people, we also take funding opportunities into account. A project or partnership may provide additional financial resources towards the development of Wikidata and Wikibase. Questions we may ask:
- Does the partner have financial resources that could support personnel at Wikimedia Deutschland?
- Does the partner have access to funders and/or the ability to obtain grant funds?
- Are there opportunities to jointly apply for funding?
- Does the project and its funding support software and program development that benefit Wikidata and/or Wikibase as a whole rather than their specialized use case?
- Network and community: One desirable quality of some potential partners is that they bring with them a strong network and/or a healthy community. Questions we may ask:
- Does the partner help us reach out to a wider network of partners, allowing us to increase our impact?
- Does the partner have a community whose members can contribute to the data and its upkeep? Is their community connected to and committed to the partnership?
- Sustainability: A data donation or Wikibase installation has the potential to be sustainable without requiring our ongoing commitment. Questions we may ask:
- Does the partner and their community have the capacity to sustain and further develop the project?
- Are they likely and able to become part of the larger group of communities and associated communities of practice?
A potential data partnership, even if it scores all possible points when it comes to impact, must also be feasible. Ultimately, decisions as to whether, when and how deeply we engage in a partnership hinge on capacity, including:
- The partner’s capacity to collaborate (including personnel and financial resources);
- Our own capacity to allocate the resources needed for the project when needed
It is vital to have well-understood and well-communicated decisions and a jointly agreed-upon commitment to adhere to decisions and then to commit the needed resources for the subsequent phases of a partnership.