2015 Annual Review
Welcome to the wiki version of Wikimedia UK's 2014-15 annual review. You can view a high resolution, printable PDF version here.
Message from Michael Maggs
Over the past 12 months we have seen some significant changes for the charity, and some challenging times as well as some exceptional successes. In August, Wikimania 2014 was held in London. This was a great success, for which volunteers, our then CEO Jon Davies and his team, and the Wikimedia Foundation can all take credit.
A major highlight of the year has been our work with GLAMs, including some of the largest and most respected organisations in the UK such as the Royal Society, the Bodleian Libraries, the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales, and Cancer Research UK. We have moved towards a more project-based approach when working in collaboration with external partners. These relationships not only open doors for us in terms of access to content, goodwill and expertise, but they will prove increasingly vital in gaining the confidence of grant-making organisations who will be an important source of funding for us.
I should also note that in November our second and final follow-up governance audit review was published. The independent reviewer noted that “WMUK has developed very quickly, and the charity has clearly put a lot of effort into ensuring that its governance now meets best practice expectations. It has a cohesive, skilled and experienced board in place. They have a clear understanding of the charity’s vision and mission”.
With the appointment of D'Arcy Myers as interim chief executive in November 2014, the board took the opportunity to undertake a review of the charity's structure and organisation. The review was completed in May, and resulted in a smaller and more project-focused staff team with significantly more emphasis on closer engagement between staff and volunteers. As part of that process a number of existing staff were made redundant. I would like to repeat our thanks to everyone involved for their professionalism and understanding, and to wish the staff members who have left us the very best for the future.
We want to transform the way we work so that we can bring volunteering right into the heart of the charity, and in June we launched the next major phase of our ongoing consultation with our members and community to ensure that we can make the very best use of our new working practices and organisational structure.
A recent key priority for the Board has been the process of appointing a new permanent CEO. We have been looking for an ambitious individual who will provide strategic leadership and supportive management to volunteers and staff alike. The CEO will work to increase our profile and impact with our partners, engage with the volunteer community and develop our programme activity. The board believes that the charity's model for fundraising has not been adequate and that greater diversity of income streams is essential, and to that end we have sought a CEO with significant personal expertise in fundraising from trusts, foundations and corporates, and who is capable of taking a strong personal lead within the restructured staff team.
Message from D'Arcy Myers
When I joined Wikimedia UK in November 2014 as Interim CEO, I arrived not surprisingly at a time of change and uncertainty. The board asked me not only to support the staff, trustees and volunteers whilst a new CEO was recruited, but also to take the opportunity to review the charity structure.
It became evident very quickly that WMUK not only has a strong ethos of supporting volunteers, it has the ability to create partnerships with major institutions that lead to substantial impact. The review also highlighted that many of the activities undertaken by the charity, while individually worthwhile, were taking place in isolation. Taking this and resource availability into account, I recommended to the board that we restructure to be better placed to fulfil our goal of being a volunteer led organisation.
Taking into account volunteers’ input at a volunteer strategy day in Birmingham, and separately, along with views and insights from the board and staff, we have developed a project-based approach which puts volunteers right at the centre of all our activities.
By looking at all our activities as self-contained projects we are better able to link volunteers and their ideas with partner organisations, tell richer stories, unlock external funding, and evaluate our work more effectively.
When an idea is proposed by a volunteer, the staff are able to advise on how it may be developed into a project in its own right, how it might enhance an existing project or whether it could be partnered with another project idea. Staff are able to support the volunteer in developing the idea and in encouraging other volunteers to work on the project. As the project develops, led by volunteers, the staff team with their newly-established project coordinator roles can guide and support them. Once the project is completed, evaluation helps enhance the success of future projects and ensures that we share our impact stories.
Because volunteers drive and lead the projects, there is greater opportunity for people to get involved. Where a project involves an external partner organisation, the partner has an enhanced experience and is able to reach a wider audience.
The WMUK staff team are not instigators; they are the facilitators in a range of roles, bringing project, communications, evaluation and funding expertise and commitment together to reduce barriers to open knowledge.
In 2014-15 Wikimedia UK took great steps to engage more actively in the area of policy development. During the year we took part in two important governmental consultations. The Speaker's Commission on Digital Democracy engaged with stakeholders to explore how digital technologies can lead to greater participation in the civic life of our country. We submitted evidence and attended consultations in Parliament.
The House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills gathered evidence related to the state of the UK's digital skills and how steps can be taken to improve the nation's aptitude with digital technologies by 2020, and we submitted written evidence to this committee. In the coming year we will be exploring in more depth how open knowledge projects can contribute to the development and teaching of those key skills.
In Europe, Wikimedia UK remains an active partner within the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU. This year the group made great strides towards its advocacy aims. We successfully engaged with a number of MEPs on the topics of copyright reform and a bill of digital rights.
In terms of copyright reform, the work of the group played a role in a Europe-wide scheme that for the first time allows the right of orphan works where rights holders cannot be identified. We also continue to press for liberal harmonisation of freedom of panorama across the EU and for the application of public domain licences for all forms of publicly funded works. On freedom of panorama especially, 2014-15 saw a large amount of co-ordinated effort placed into explaining to MEPs what this freedom is and why it is important. The Julia Reda MEP's report on copyright reform included a proposal to harmonise freedom of panorama across the EU.
Wikimania was our key international event this year with delegates attending from 59 countries. We also had a strong presence at the Wikimedia Conference in Berlin, an international event for employees and trustees of Wikimedia affiliated organisations. Our position as an international leader in the field was reflected in the fact that several people from our charity were invited to give key presentations on reporting, governance, leadership and advocacy.
This enhanced reputation extends beyond the Wikimedia movement. In 2015-16 many staff and volunteers will be presenting to key audiences of policy makers and opinion formers to make the case for open knowledge.
Wikimedians in Residence
2014-15 saw the Wikimedians in Residence continue to develop. A Wikimedian in Residence is a person who works inside a partner institution, often within the cultural or educational sectors, to develop a greater understanding of open knowledge and its benefits. These projects also often lead to significant releases of high quality content under open licenses, and numbers of highly skilled and motivated people trained to contribute to the Wikimedia projects.
Our work with Cancer Research UK has been one of our most successful partnerships. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, it helped solve the problem that Wikipedia cancer articles tended to be mostly illustrated with alarming shots of tumours, or purple-stained pathology slides which convey little to non-professional readers. CRUK have released new images and explain in simple terms basic aspects of the main cancers – where they arise, how they grow and spread. Within a month, these images had been seen by 1.1 million people. This is a prime example of how a small number of images can make a serious and meaningful contribution to Wikipedia and its readers.
The National Library of Scotland has conducted a pilot release of images into the public domain as a first step to developing a wider culture of openness. This relationship has also led to a further partnership with Museums Galleries Scotland, building on our commitment to increase our spread of activity across all of the UK.
Further enhancing this diversity is our determination to support the development of open content in the Welsh language. Our work with the Coleg Cymraeg, a global centre for the Welsh language, resulted in the upload of approximately 4,500 images by the National Library and 2,800 by the Welsh Book Council, with 1,200 new Welsh-language Wicipedia articles created as a result.
York Museums Trust have now, thanks to our work there, embraced an entirely Open Image policy, which has resulted in 40,000 images of Yorkshire and related topics becoming publicly available.
The Jisc Wikimedia Ambassador has produced a ten-thousand-word infoKit on Crowdsourcing which is now being offered to any organisation that contacts Jisc about digitisation. This is a ground breaking piece of work that will give any organisation wanting to become more open the skills and knowledge required.
Since starting work in May 2014, the Coalition has enjoyed a great deal of support from various organisations and individuals in the open sector. The need for an organisation like the Coalition, which advocates on behalf of those working in and on the open web, as well as promoting open practices more widely, has been highlighted by this support. This has been due, in no small part, to the support from Wikimedia UK, whose trustees have shown commitment to the project through their ongoing funding and material support, while allowing the Coalition to remain independent.
Some aspects of the project have taken longer to implement than desired. As a one-person team, it would have been useful to have access to web designers and developers when setting up the initial look and feel of the Coalition, as well as helping to develop a fully-functional website as quickly as possible. However, this has not hampered the success of the project thus far, and ongoing development of these pieces of infrastructure is continuing.
A big part of the Coalition's success has been in raising its profile. This is due to the excellent work of Bekka Kahn, who leads the project. Bekka has presented her work at seven events, including Ada Camp Berlin, Wikimania and Mozfest, and has encouraged wide participation in the work of the coalition.
Some of the more tangible projects that Bekka has led the Coalition on include an initiative related to digital democracy and the development of a community-building handbook. Her influence is such that she has been elected to the Open Policy Network steering committee. This expertise lends itself well to the continued direction of the open sector towards more open elements of governance and policy making.
Of great importance over the coming year will be the ongoing work by the Coalition in effectively mapping the open sector. This exercise will be at the heart of meeting the objectives of the Coalition – increasing understanding of open, leading to greater effectiveness and knowledge sharing across the sector and better outcomes for open content and ways of working.
Spotlight on Wales
It's been a very busy year in Wales with some great initiatives delivering significant benefits for open knowledge, particularly in the Welsh language.
Living Paths! Llwybrau Byw! was a project which empowered local communities with simple Wikipedia editing skills in all coastal counties that border the Wales Coast Path. These new editors developed Wikipedia and WikiVoyage articles based on the path and surrounding area. It also supported existing Wikipedians and inspired them to write in other languages.
As well as on-site training of local groups, the project also produced step-by-step guides on Wikipedia editing and creating Wikipedian articles.
During the last two years we have had dialogue about Crown Copyright and open data sharing with Cadw, the Royal Commission, the National Library of Wales, the National Museum of Wales and Casgliad y Werin (The People's Collection of Wales). As a result of these talks thousands of images, documents and other files are now available to us for use on Wikimedia Projects. The project trained 180 people to edit Wikipediaand led to more than 16,000 new articles in Welsh, more than 2,500 in other languages and upwards of 12,000 new images to Wikimedia Commons.
The second key project in Wales is the growing relationship with the National Library of Wales. We were very fortunate to be able to appoint Jason Evans to this role and he has been doing an excellent job. Within six months of the project's launch images released by the NLW and uploaded to Commons have been viewed more than a million times. He has identified around 140,000 images that can be uploaded throughout the project.
Content contributions aren't the only successes of this residency. Jason continues to be a vocal and passionate advocate for open knowledge and open content, hosting weekly drop-in sessions at the library and working to deliver events with other institutional partners. Perhaps even more importantly he has embedded sharing with the Wikimedia projects into the library's digitisation workflow leading them to develop a model which is open by default.
Sustainability has been a priority throughout the project and Jason has been training staff from the library and elsewhere to host Wikimedia-related events and training for the period after the residency.
We were lucky enough to be the host chapter for Wikimania 2014 – the biggest in the history of the movement. Over the conference, the fringe and the pre-conference, more than 1,500 people attended the events at the Barbican in London from 59 countries, with several thousand more passing through the community village.
More than anything else, Wikimania was a great volunteering success story. Conceived, planned and delivered by volunteers with the support of Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedia Foundation, more than 180 people took an active volunteering role at the conference. During the lead-up to the conference the office was a hive of activity, with many a scramble for desk space and chairs ensuing.
The conference programme achieved the rare feat of providing something for everyone, with conventional talks and presentations combined with engaging practical workshops, hackathons and maker spaces as well as a variety of entertainment and meet-ups.
Participants overall were happy with the conference with 91% of survey respondents describing it as either excellent or good and 87% saying that their expectations were at least met. Significantly, 85% of respondents said they would pursue at least one new project with someone they had met at Wikimania.
The conference was well received by the media, too. 72 media organisations attended and generated 136 positive news items around the world. Twitter was ablaze with activity too, with Wikimania trending frequently and more than 20,000 tweets shared throughout the conference.
All credit and thanks must go to the dedicated, hard-working volunteers who made this extraordinary event happen.
Spotlight on Scotland
As with Wales, Scotland forms a cornerstone of our programme. Our partnerships in Scotland have been fruitful and productive while continuing to develop.
Ally Crockford, the National Library of Scotland Wikipedian in Residence, has acted as a catalyst to a burgeoning culture of open content and access to their collections through Wikimedia projects and worked with Library staff to help incorporate Wikimedia's mission of a free and open knowledge base into future initiatives.
The Library holds an estimated 17 million items in its collections, including books, manuscripts, photographs and other images, letters, serials, pamphlets and broadsides, maps, and film and sound recordings. Throughout the Residency the NLS Wikimedian will work with librarians and curators to identify items which can be contributed to Wikimedia projects, and to develop links between the Library and a growing community of Wikimedians in Scotland.
A series of internal training sessions and edit-a-thons throughout the residency have given staff at the National Library of Scotland the tools and confidence to contribute to Wikipedia articles, and to upload content to both Wikimedia Commons and, ideally, Wikisource.
In addition, a series of outreach events has been delivered with GLAM organisations throughout Scotland which will broaden the scope of Wikimedia contributions and build stronger links with other institutions. These events also encourage public engagement with Wikimedia projects - public edit-a-thons taught new users the basic tools to contribute to Wikimedia sites and provide access to materials which can be used to enhance Wikimedia's knowledge base.
The work of the National Library of Scotland has been so impactful that the Library was Wikimedia UK's GLAM of the Year award winner.
Elsewhere in Scotland, Sara Thomas was appointed as Wikimedian in Residence at Museums Galleries Scotland and she continues to develop the wider culture of open that is becoming more and more the norm. Her work began at the beginning of 2015 and is planned to continue until January 2016.
2014-15 saw our third annual EduWiki conference take place in Edinburgh. The event had a truly international flavour with delegates attending from 11 countries. This was a one-day event that raised awareness of the educational possibilities of Wikipedia and sister projects, developing Wikimedia UK's academic engagement. It brought together many of those in the education sector who have benefited directly from our support over the years. Aside from presentations about case studies from across the UK, this event also offered an opportunity for others across the education sector to attend workshops for educators and/or campus ambassadors, providing support for those using Wikipedia as a teaching platform.
While a valuable part of our programme, it is likely that the conference has now served its purpose and will be discontinued in 2015-16.
The future of education event at the Wikimania Fringe was a big success. The two-day event was attended by around 30 people from a variety of backgrounds, including teachers, academics and Wikimedians. The group explored several topics, including the Wikipedia Education Programme and visions of where the group would like the relationship between Wikipedia and education to be in one year, five years and ten years. Education is likely to play a key role in reducing the Wikipedia gender gap since this area has a much higher level of female participation than general editing.
Other work in education this year included supporting Wikipedia campus ambassadors. These volunteers advocate for the use of the Wikimedia projects at universities and sometimes offer training sessions. We currently work with six campus ambassadors across five institutions and will be looking to extend this.
Work on our virtual learning environment – an open and interactive online tool which will support our trainers and those wishing to learn more about Wikipedia – has been slow and hindered by some technical problems. However, a breakthrough has been made and the site should be live and public very soon.
In the coming year we are likely to see a shift towards exploring how the Wikimedia projects can be used effectively as teaching tools for specific skills, rather than content knowledge. These include digital literacy, digital fluency and critical thinking. These were identified as key areas by the House of Lords Select Committee on Digital Skills and are areas where open knowledge projects can offer significant impact.
Wiki Loves Monuments
Wiki Loves Monuments is the Wikimedia movement's global photography contest and the objective is to collect high quality photographs of some of the world’s most important historic sites. In the UK, this means listed buildings and scheduled monuments so there are possible subjects all over the country.
More than 500 people took part in the UK competition in 2014, contributing over 7,000 photos to Wikimedia Commons, one of the world’s largest repositories of freely licensed media files. From there the images can be used across various Wikimedia sites, and volunteers have started the process of using these images to illustrate and improve Wikipedia.
Organised by Wikimedia UK volunteers and supported by English Heritage and the Royal Photographic Society who were represented on the judging panel, this year marked the second time the UK took part in the competition.
As well as the top ten we have two special prizes for the best images of a building on an ‘At Risk’ register. These are structures considered in need of repair and maintenance, and the photographs are one step in preserving these structures for future generations. The two special awards are UK-specific, and the top ten go forward to the international judges.
One of the often unnoticed elements of Wiki Loves Monuments is not just the volume of images, but their quality. The 318 photos rated as quality images on Wikimedia Commons show that a much higher proportion of WLM entries are promoted than general images.
We hope you enjoy this year's winning pictures, which you can see here, and big congratulations to all the winners and everyone who took part.
At the end of the year we released the final governance report from Rosie Chapman. This document marks the conclusion of a process that began at the end of 2012. In summary, it found that:
“The charity has very largely addressed the 50 recommendations found within the original review. Wikimedia UK has developed very quickly, and the charity has clearly put a lot of effort into ensuring that its governance now meets best practice expectations. It has a cohesive, skilled and experienced board in place. They have a clear understanding of the charity’s vision and mission. For the stage that Wikimedia is in its life cycle it compares well with similar UK charities. Its transparency about its procedures is a beacon of best practice, and its conflicts of interest procedures are robust and well-tested”.
As the report notes, “Inevitably, a lot of the Board’s efforts have to-date been internally focussed; putting in place robust governance arrangements and agreeing the new strategy that was published in March this year. [...] There is a chance for WMUK’s Board to become more outward focussed in its time and efforts.”
This point was discussed at the board meeting in December 2014, to mark our continuous improvement as a charity. We hope the review serves as a useful learning resource for other organisations, and that chapters continue to benefit from our resources Throughout 2014-15, we have shared our learning on governance, through, for example, hosting and delivering governance workshops.
Also, towards the end of 2014-15, we took part in the Wikimedia Foundation's "Organizational effectiveness survey". Four people linked closely with the charity responded, and as much as that is a small sample, it gives us a basis of internal reflection on our performance. One strong theme that respondents agreed on was that Wikimedia UK’s strength lies in delivering projects with partner organisations, and helping these organisations achieve impact. At the same time, there was agreement that we need to make more effective use of our resources to deliver maximum impact. The board is now in a position to shift its strategic focus away from governance, to outward focussed impact, and looks forward to doing this in the 2015-16 period.
Wikipedia Gender Gap
Wikimedia UK has always taken diversity very seriously and in 2014-15 we showed our commitment to this.
We were active throughout the year, running many editing and training events aimed at improving the coverage of women on Wikipedia. We also focused more on capturing the gender information for our volunteers and event attendees. This enabled us to see, for example, that we are attracting a good number of female volunteers to the chapter's activities - possibly because of a higher proportion of women working in the GLAM sector – and so our gender-based statistics are better than the female editor representation on Wikipedia. Also, we attracted many lead female volunteers over Wikimania.
For the focused Gender Gap project in the second half of the year, the project lead created a case study report summarising the activity. The genesis of this project was that in 2013 our editathons expanded and received extremely positive responses from the attendees and in general. They were organised with strong support from the Medical Research Council, which enabled us to deliver events in partnerships with other organisations who hosted them and invited people from their networks to attend. Since then we have been contacted by various organisations interested in collaborating with us further.
Thanks to the popularity of these activities we decided to give more capacity for organising these diversity events and perhaps even growing the group of people who are interested and keen to be involved in this programme. We were building up on past successful initiatives, and adding more resources to the activities.
This led to us hiring the excellent Roberta Wedge to work with us for four months with a remit to focus specifically on the gender gap, exploring ways of deeper engagement in gender gap related activities. The project initiated community building that could support future activities, encouraging female volunteers to get involved.
The project report gives some interesting insights into how the project worker managed the project and how she worked to build a community of gender gap volunteers. We will continue to seek opportunities to increase the diversity of contributors and volunteers within the Wikimedia movement.
Aside from the large scale projects and events already reported on, there were a number of other notable opportunities and successes throughout the year.
In the first half of 2014 the Royal Society hosted a number of events relating to Wikipedia and open knowledge, including some focused on improving content about notable female scientists. This theme was repeated in October with a celebratory Ada Lovelace Day editathon at the University of Oxford.
In April we joined the Fundraising Standards Board, a sign of our growing maturity as a charity. It was also around this time that Marc Haynes began his stint as Wikimedian in Residence at Coleg Cymraeg. June arrived, and with it perhaps the most ambitious editathon ever as Doug Taylor and friends taught several hundred people, in points from Singapore to New York City, how to edit Wikipedia – all on the same day! In July, Wikipedia was honoured with a round of questions on iconic television show University Challenge.
After the small matter of Wikimania in August, September brought with it a new Wikimedian in Residence project with Andy Mabbett taking the reins at the Royal Society of Chemistry. In October, the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU published a paper on copyright reform which received some attention. There was also the interesting case of Fraser Hobday, an amateur footballer in Scotland whose Wikipedia entry was longer than that of Brazil star Neymar. It has since been deleted on notability grounds but the case led to some interesting online discussions about Wikipedia's notability guidelines.
There was a big highlight in November as Wikimedia UK played a significant role in a Science Museum Late. The evening exhibition was celebrating the Information Age and several thousand people came along to see not only the opening of a new gallery, but several Wikimedia-themed events and sessions. Perhaps the best part of the event was showcasing the work of WikiProject Medicine, with Dr Jacob de Wolff on hand to deliver an excellent presentation explaining why medical practitioners from around the world work to improve Wikipedia.
In December we wished a fond farewell to former CEO Jon Davies, who had served the charity so well for three years, while January 2015 was a big month, with Jason Evans appointed at the National Library of Wales and the Bodleian Library announcing their plans to recruit a Wikimedian in Residence.
The year ahead
The year ahead will be a very interesting one for Wikimedia UK and will be a time of change. Having completed our restructure, we eagerly await the start of our new permanent CEO, Lucy Crompton-Reid, who begins her tenure in October.
Our new project-based approach should leave us much more responsive to new ideas and much more volunteer-driven than in the past. It should also leave us leaner and more agile, available to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Growing this base of active volunteers and members is fundamental to being able to deliver as much charitable impact as possible and we look forward to tackling this with gusto.
Compared to previous years, the approach of the charity will be much tighter, doing fewer things, but doing them more effectively and for maximum impact. We no longer have the resources to deliver lots of initiatives in isolation. Instead, there is a determination to ensure that our work is much more integrated with closer co-ordination between different areas of the charity's activity.
Diversifying our income will be a crucial area of activity, especially for our new CEO. Increasing our non-WMF income will give us greater stability and independence while allowing us to fund more project ideas developed from within the community.
If the charity is to reach its full potential, it will require volunteers, staff and the board to work together, closely and productively, to identify the most effective, and resource efficient, ways of working towards our mission: to help people and organisations create and preserve open knowledge and to provide easy access for all.
Open knowledge for all, our vision, is a quest that is quite profound and powerful. Together, we can take giant steps towards that in 2015-16.