Wikimedia UK Strategy 2019–22

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1. Introduction

Wikimedia UK is currently working to a draft new strategic framework for 2019 - 2022 which was developed in late 2018/early 2019 through consultation with staff, board and some community stakeholders. Our delivery and reporting over the past six months has been based on the new framework, however this hasn’t yet been finalised or formally signed off by the board. This has allowed us more scope for flexibility and experimentation during the first half of the year, whilst still giving an overall sense of purpose to our work. It has also given us time to gather more information about the emerging recommendations from the global movement strategy working groups, and to consider the strategic implications of these for Wikimedia UK.

Following a board away day in late September 2019 the draft strategy has been further refined, and we welcome feedback from the community on the aims and objectives we have identified. Whilst the strategy builds on our achievements and learning from 2016 to 2019 and represents a new iteration rather than a complete change of direction, there is a greater emphasis on Wikimedia UK’s role as a facilitator and enabler of open knowledge, rather than as an organisation focused on project delivery. Within this strategy, our underpinning delivery model of partnerships, community and technology becomes even more important, and we welcome feedback on how to strengthen our effectiveness in these three areas, in addition to any other comments on our proposed approach.

Please add your comments and questions to the talk page by Sunday 10th November 2019.

2. Summary of 2016 - 19 - achievements and implications for the next strategy

Earlier this year we commissioned a report (link to report) on Wikimedia UK’s delivery during the period 2016 to 2019. The report aimed to summarise progress against our quantitative indicators, pull together the qualitative highlights of our programmes and provide an overall analysis of how our programme activities delivered on our 2016 - 2019 strategic framework and the short to intermediate outcomes identified in our logic models.

The report shows that we were overwhelmingly successful both in meeting our annual quantitative targets and in achieving both our short and intermediate outcomes. It draws on our very wide range of programme activities to illustrate the different approaches that we have taken, the many ways in which volunteers are involved in the delivery of our programme, and the different types of partnerships that have been developed.

The report explores some of the key achievements and innovations facilitated by the chapter during the past three years, such as the appointment of the first ever Wikidata Visiting Scholar, the launch of the first minority languages community conference, the achievement of gender parity in biographies on the Welsh Wikipedia and the creation of a digital literacy framework for Wikimedia. It also highlights the fact that a number of our Wikimedians in Residence - initially, by their nature, fixed term projects - have been so highly valued by their host institutions that the post has been made permanent.

Some of the numbers included in the report which don’t currently form part of our formal quantitative indicators include the 17 project grants awarded to volunteers, 82 community events and meetups, 195 Wikipedia editing events and 31 Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons training sessions, with activities organised in 98 different places across the UK. This extensive offline work with the Wikimedia UK community translated into significant online impact, with 2 million Wikimedia articles added or improved as a direct result of our programme over the three years under review.

3. Summary of External Environment

The activities, reach and impact of Wikimedia UK are inevitably influenced and informed by our external environment, both here in the UK and globally. These factors within the external environment include political and economic issues, legislative changes, social issues as well as advances in science and technology. Environmental issues are also likely to become increasingly prominent, as the movement gains ground at a political and consumer level, and climate activism becomes more mainstream. Within the Wikimedia movement itself, the past three years has seen the development of a new strategic direction to 2030 which will also impact significantly upon the UK programme and organisation over the next three years and beyond.

The global open knowledge movement stands for fundamental principles of equality, intellectual freedom and freedom of expression. We stand against discrimination, hate speech, censorship and the enclosure of knowledge. Worldwide, we must be prepared to defend these principles against the rising tide of the politics of inequality, separation, exclusion and polarisation. Our strategy sets out how Wikimedia UK will play our role in this global defence of our shared values.

The three years covered by our previous strategy were marked by high levels of political turmoil. At the time of writing our 2016 - 2019 plan we could not have anticipated the outcome of the EU Referendum in June 2016. Three years later, Brexit has proved to be a highly divisive and intractable issue that is dominating the political and cultural conversation. Whatever form the UK’s exit from the EU takes, it will have far reaching implications for the UK’s economy, international influence, society and legislative agenda for decades. This includes the possibility of another referendum for an independent Scotland and the potential dissolution of the United Kingdom, which would obviously impact significantly on Wikimedia UK. The next few years are therefore likely to be increasingly volatile, with economic uncertainty, rising political tensions, and possibly even civil unrest.

The fractured nature of society in the UK is, unfortunately, echoed in other parts of the world. We are seeing rising populism and the election of far right leaders who threaten to undermine democratic processes; with increasingly polarised views within wider society being reinforced by, and in some cases driven by disinformation. The democratisation of content production - whilst intrinsically a good thing - has arguably led to a rapid increase in misinformation, with social media networks proving to be the perfect blue touch paper for ‘fake news’.

Wikimedia can play an important role in combating these issues, and in developing the information and media literacy skills that are becoming increasingly fundamental to democratic engagement and a well functioning civil society. However, we also have to ensure that our own platform has safeguards in place relating to misinformation and disinformation, and we need to address the issue of harassment which threatens to undermine our work to improve diversity and equality on Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects.

The Government’s White Paper on Online Harms, published in April 2019 as a joint initiative between DCMS and the Home Office in response to the threat to democracy that online misinformation and abuse represents, proposes a regulatory framework that includes Wikipedia in its scope. Whilst this could impact on the way in which Wikimedia is able to operate in the UK, the White Paper also outlines plans for the development of a new Government-led media and information literacy strategy, which our own work promoting digital literacy skills could potentially support and inform.

There are more immediate threats in terms of public policy which may have a bearing on the conditions for open knowledge. These include the implementation of the EU copyright directive, including the controversial Articles 11 and 13 (Articles 15 and 17 in the final directive) and the potential dismantling of certain elements of the e-Commerce Directive during the process of converting EU to domestic law. More broadly, rather than seeing a linear progression towards more open knowledge, we are instead seeing increased censorship and the re-enclosure of information from both government and market forces in the UK and world-wide.

Digital exclusion remains an issue both at a global level and more locally within the UK, where despite the use of digital technologies becoming mainstream, millions of people still don’t have internet access; with the elderly and disabled more likely to be excluded. For those who are online, there are still barriers to accessing free and open knowledge and information, with UNESCO’s sustainable development goal on education underlining the continued need for Open Educational Resources, particularly in less developed parts of the world. Our work therefore closely overlaps with the open access agenda, which in turn is a crucial factor in developing social equality.

Given all of the above, the Wikimedia movement’s role in opening up knowledge is arguably more important than ever before. However, it’s essential that issues of diversity, equality and representation feature highly when prioritising the creation of new content on Wikimedia. The drive towards knowledge equity in the global strategic direction resonates with an increasing awareness amongst UK content holders of the need to represent diverse stories and histories. In our work with world-leading cultural and educational institutions - who are often the gatekeepers of this knowledge - we have a crucial role to play in opening up and sharing content, and in supporting the decolonisation of collections and curricula. Minority and indigenous languages are a significant part of this agenda, with Wikimedia UK seen as one of the experts in this area through our critical role in the Celtic Knot conferences.

From a financial perspective, the likelihood of a global economic downturn - with contributing factors including the fallout from Brexit and the trade war between the US and China - is increasing. Even without this, funding pressures within our own organisation and the wider voluntary sector are likely to become more acute over the lifetime of this plan. This makes the ability to articulate what Wikimedia UK is for, and the need that we are meeting, even more imperative.

4. Draft Strategic Framework for 2019–2022

VISION, MISSION AND VALUES

Wikimedia UK believes that open access to knowledge is a fundamental right, and a driver for social, educational and economic development. We work with the Wikimedia Projects such as Wikipedia to enable people and organisations to contribute to a shared understanding of the world through the democratic creation, distribution and consumption of knowledge. We are committed to the ideal of a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge, and believe that here in the UK, we can play a unique and important role in realising that vision.

Wikimedia UK’s strategy is informed by and supports the strategic direction of the global Wikimedia movement. Our work will focus on the knowledge and communities that have been left out by structures of power and privilege; breaking down the barriers that prevent people and organisations from accessing and contributing to free knowledge, and supporting the development of technical solutions to help eradicate inequality and bias on the Wikimedia projects.

Our vision is of a more tolerant, informed and democratic society.

Our mission is to be the platform which enables the long-term sustainable development and use of open knowledge in the UK.

Our activities are based upon the following principles, which reflect a key set of values:

  • We are transparent in our operations
  • We promote the provision of high quality open knowledge to all
  • We promote the use of free licences, formats and sources that support open knowledge
  • We encourage, involve and recognise the contribution of our volunteer community
  • We support, encourage and promote diversity within our community
  • We are an independent UK charity that engages actively with the global movement
  • We learn from and openly share our learning with the international Wikimedia movement

AIMS, OBJECTIVES AND OUTCOMES

Wikimedia UK is working towards the following long-term outcomes:

  • Our work has significantly increased free, online access to knowledge and information
  • Wikimedia reflects our diverse society and is free from systemic bias
  • Learners in the UK are able to understand and effectively engage with open knowledge
  • High levels of information literacy have strengthened civil society and democratic processes
  • Wikimedia UK is recognised as a leading organisation for open knowledge

Our strategic aims for 2019 - 2022 are to:

1. Increase engagement with and representation of marginalised people and subjects

2. Work with partners to develop digital, data and information literacy through Wikimedia

3. Create changes in policy and practice that enable open knowledge to flourish

4. Develop our capacity and profile as a leading organisation for open knowledge

Our delivery model is based on the cross-cutting strategic priorities of partnerships, community and technology, which are an essential element of all our activities.

Our three year objectives for each of our strategic aims are as follows:

Aim 1. Increase the engagement and representation of marginalised people and subjects

Objectives:

  • Develop partnerships that increase access to underrepresented cultural heritage
  • Support the development of minority and indigenous language Wikipedias
  • Encourage new and existing partners to help tackle the gender gap on Wikimedia
  • Identify other areas of inequality and bias and create partnerships to help address these
  • Engage with volunteers and partners across the UK, widening the charity’s geographic reach
  • Diversify content producers by recruiting new editors from under-represented communities
  • Support the development of a more inclusive culture across the Wikimedia projects
  • Ensure that Wikimedia UK’s own policies and practices support diversity and inclusion
Aim 2: Work with partners to develop digital, data and information literacy through Wikimedia

Objectives:

  • Support the education sector’s engagement with Wikimedia as a digital literacy tool
  • Facilitate Wikimedia-based digital, data and information literacy projects with other partners
  • Create content and resources for learners and educators
  • Advocate for the inclusion of Wikimedia in curriculum, syllabus and course development
  • Collaborate with the civil society sector and other partners to combat misinformation
Aim 3: Create changes in policy and practice that enable open knowledge to flourish

Objectives:

  • Support and enable individual organisations to adopt more open policies and practice
  • Promote and facilitate sector-level change towards open knowledge
  • Work with national and international partners to build the case for free knowledge
  • Advocate for open knowledge within the UK’s public policy and legislative arena
  • Contribute to international advocacy activities and programmes as appropriate
Aim 4. Develop our capacity and profile as a leading organisation for open knowledge

Objectives:

  • Increase public awareness and understanding of open knowledge
  • Develop Wikimedia UK’s community of contributors, volunteers and members
  • Support technical innovation that helps to deliver on our strategic aims
  • Develop our role as a key player and ally within the UK’s openness movement
  • Make a significant contribution to the global work of the Wikimedia movement
  • Establish a sustainable business model underpinned by diverse and stable funding

Previous Strategies

2016-2019 Strategy

Monitoring, Evaluation and Reporting

Monitoring and evaluating our charitable activities is essential in order for us to understand and communicate the reach and impact of our work; reflecting on and learning from our experiences, identifying and sharing learning patterns, modifying future delivery and ensuring accountability to our funders and stakeholders. We report on our work in a number of ways including Quarterly Performance Reports which are shared and discussed at quarterly board meetings, and reports to the Wikimedia Foundation which are currently required halfway through the year (Progress Report) and following the end of our financial year (Impact Report). These are available to view here for the previous and current financial year: