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Designing Futures of Participation in the Wikimedia Movement – Video of the presentation by Platoniq

Wikimedia Deutschland, in collaboration with a small group of Wikimedians interested in Movement Strategy, has commissioned Platoniq to create a white paper that provides initial input for the design of future participatory processes for our Movement. It aims to inform and support the Movement Charter drafting and ratification process, but is also applicable to other processes.

We have invited anyone interested to read the white paper and to join a public presentation and Q&A with Platoniq on July 11, at 15:30-16:30 UTC. The recording of this presentation is now available on YouTube. -- Nicole Ebber (WMDE) (トーク) 18:26, 14 July 2022 (UTC)[reply]

Executive Summary

White paper (PDF file, 70 pages) - Designing futures of participation in the Wikimedia Movement

The goal of this white paper is to provide input for the potential design of participatory processes in the Wikimedia Movement, in connection to the Wikimedia Movement Charter Drafting Process. The research and recommendations outlined below can be useful to generate inclusive and accessible community engagement in the Drafting Process as well as in the ratification of the Charter. Fostering community engagement in participatory governance was a recommendation from the Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy, and constitutes one of the pillars for the strategic direction of the Movement in the long-term. This White Paper then aims, on the one hand, at providing a meaningful contribution to existing research on the historic background of participation in Wikimedia, and to support the community ideating, designing, and planning a participatory process for the Movement Charter Drafting Process and possibly for other participatory processes in the Movement. Informed by restorative and transformative design principles, we focus on the insights and needs of Wikimedia communities and organizations to make recommendations on how to design a participatory process with those communities and organizations and which spaces, roles, scales, forms and modes of participation and decision-making processes may be chosen to promote more inclusive and accessible community engagement.

This white paper provides:

  • A historical overview of current context and participation in the governance of Wikimedia
  • An ethical framework based on Design Justice and the International Indigenous Design Charter that prioritizes marginalized voices, respects cultural differences, and works towards sustainable and community-led solutions that values impact over design.
  • An exploratory analysis of key issues, challenges, needs and good practices, mapped out from interviews and a focus group with Wikimedians,
  • Case studies of transnational organizations and governance processes that have addressed similar issues, including interviews with experts from these organizations,
  • Recommendations for next steps, tools and models to design a participatory process and a canvas of first steps to promote community engagement.

Key findings

1. Take into account and address the costs, barriers and benefits to participation

Participatory processes may be designed in multiple forms, to give more or less power to stakeholders. In doing so, participation generates greater legitimacy, more cohesion, satisfaction and greater sense of value generated. To achieve wider and more inclusive participation and to maximize engagement, costs and barriers at the individual and group levels should be at the feasible minimum, most needs attended to, value and incentives for participating lined-up to foment interest, and a clear on-boarding journey to join. We have emphasized the importance of a phase of accountability in participatory processes for more impactful outcomes and established the relevance of defining governance structures that are participatory by design. From a brief assessment of a possible participatory cycle for the Drafting Process, we recommend investing in redistributing power among multiple centers in the Movement to foster collaboration in the writing phase, promoting networks and coalitions, recognizing local contributors as co-facilitators of this process and establishing an accessible journey for participants.

2. There is room for improvement to make participation more equitable and inclusive in the Wikimedia Movement

The institutionalized spaces for participatory decision-making in the Wikimedia Movement are mainly the elections held by the Wikimedia Foundation and sporadic community consultations, such as the one held in the Movement Strategy process. With many decisions being made informally and stakeholders having unequal power and resources to engage, participating in the Wikimedia Movement’s strategy and policy-making as a contributor is not easy, accessible, or intuitive. At the Movement’s governance level, there is a need for checks and balances and safer spaces, mediation and restoration protocols to tackle those issues and the conflicts at the global Movement and interpersonal levels. The participatory engagement in the Movement Charter Drafting Process, the governance structure possibly outlined in the Movement Charter and the future community engagement processes to take place are interdependent in their outcomes to promote inclusivity and equity, and may benefit from acknowledging this interdependence.

3. Define principles to guide your participatory process design

Principles can serve as guidelines that support the work environment and aims of a project or process. Governance and participatory processes can be uncertain, however having even a small or simple set of principles can serve as a compass to navigate finding an answer or solution. They form a cornerstone for governing and at best provide clarity and space for accountability for how individuals and organizations operate. As a compass for this paper we recuperated with two sets of principles: Design Justice and the International Indigenous Design Charter.

4. Address issues of Access and Barriers to Participation, Design with Communities and Promote Community Health and Maintenance

During the research process with Wikimedia communities and organizations, contributors identified the need for inclusive practices and dialog to tackle issues along the aspects of access, participation, common ownership and health of communities (in greater detail in section five). More specifically, the diagnosed issues or aspects to work on are: Uneven Experiences between the Global South and the Global North, Communication infrastructure and access to information, Diversity of Languages, Privilege as a Barrier to Participation, Harassment and Cyber Violence, Misogyny and Entitlement, Lack of Diverse Representation, Limited Modes of Participation, Valuing Volunteers and their Time, Time Management, Shared Values, Clear Roles and Expectations in Decision-Making, Conflict Resolution and Maintenance.

Designing with those affected, prioritizing their pains and needs and aiming at shared benefits is crucial to build a more participatory governance and sustainable internal infrastructures to maintain. Among suggestions by Wikimedians and recommendations proposed to deal with those issues are: raising awareness and greater solidarity towards marginalized communities, using multiple means of communication, translation for meetings and documents, facilitation and protocols for healthy communities, addressing and preventing situations of harassment and violence, actions and material support to face misogyny and entitlement, promoting diversity and accessibility in participatory spaces and governance bodies, sense-making moments and a more processes-oriented approach to decision-making, incentives like training and certificates to foster participation, planning for volunteer time, outlining values guiding participation and clear messaging and points of access to participate. Finally, Wikimedians voiced thus far actions towards resolving conflict and discrimination had largely been reactive with few formalized protocols and support to address those issues.

5. Operationalize Existing Knowledge and Tools and Incorporate Existing Good Practices

Wikimedia already has a number of resources and documentation around issues around participation and working with the Wikimedia Movement. In addition to carrying out studies, it is key at this moment to develop actions, guidelines, and protocols with these existing materials, and to co-implement good practices with Wikimedia communities, organizations and groups. For instance, some of the recommendations that could be made by Platoniq were found as quotes or insights from the Wikimedia Movement Strategy Recommendations and related documentation. Finally, good practices already implemented in the Movement may be useful to to establish a participant’s journey, to make participation accessible and to promote capacity-building and networks of solidarity.

6. Invest in designing the participatory process: Sensing and Scoping, Agreements and Goals, Phases of the Process, Participation and Forms of Decision-Making

Upfront planning is a recommendation derived from this research and the Wikimedia Movement Strategy Playbook. Upfront planning supports setting expectations, identifying stakeholders, and benchmarking progress. Without upfront planning, iterating, making changes to initial ideas and fulfilling agreements and expectations becomes blurry, unaccountable and demoralizing. Upfront planning offers the opportunity to develop practices around transparency and clear communication about the participatory process or governance on which a project is initiating.

7. Proactively Co-create Pathways to Participation

While many contributors engaged in Wikimedia may not be involved in or show interest in participating in the Movement’s governance, there are few clear pathways for those that do. Getting involved with communities often appears demanding especially for Global South participants. Facilitating networks and spaces to raise awareness of Movement governance processes or community engagement for regions, language groups etc. might support stronger and more diverse engagement.

8. Consider transversal aspects and take inspiration from other organizations and cases

While designing the participatory process, it is important to pay attention to transversal aspects: operationalizing existing knowledge, organizing a participatory process by regional geographic scales and investing on a communication strategy are also key elements to consider in all the design phases. This paper contributes to giving shape to such effort, and the implementation of recommendations should adapt to context.

The full research is available on Commons.