Over the course of a month-long consultation (Jan 18 - Feb 15, 2016), we received community feedback on 18 pre-defined strategic approaches and received over 300 suggestions for additional approaches. We’ve evaluated this feedback alongside other relevant factors, such as current Foundation capacity and resources, to identify the three most promising strategic approaches.
The three proposed strategies focus on improving our ability to reach new audiences and retain our current readers and contributors. They incorporate testing different approaches, iterating on feedback and results, and scaling successful outcomes. As the Foundation, our responsibility is to ensure our limited resources are focused on high-priority and effective initiatives that best serve the movement’s vision.
The community comment and feedback period for this draft strategy was open until March 18th. Between March 18th and April 1st we reviewed and integrated this feedback as appropriate. If there were major changes, we called them out in the final draft.
The Wikimedia Foundation will use the month of March to finalize its draft 2016-2017 Annual Plan. The plan will be based on the proposed strategy, incorporating initiatives and work projects that we believe will have the greatest impact on these strategic approaches. The Wikimedia Foundation’s draft annual plan will be submitted by April 1st for comment.
This strategy is meant to be iterative and open to continuous refinement. The Foundation will evaluate the impact of these strategic approaches against our overall vision and our progress against specific goals on an ongoing basis. If we’re making progress in one direction, we may increase our focus and resources in that area. Similarly, if we feel we’re failing to show an impact, we will assess our work and programs to understand why, and adjust accordingly.
Wikimedia Foundation Draft Strategy
Our vision — and our challenge
The Wikimedia vision challenges us to “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.”
The Wikimedia community has made great strides toward this vision over the past fifteen years. However, the world around us keeps changing. On the internet, this means new devices, user behaviors, increased sharing and engagement. This has changed what people expect from our projects, while also presenting new opportunities to reach people who have been previously inaccessible. We also face a changing knowledge landscape, where the presentation and creation of knowledge is increasingly consolidated, syndicated, and automated.
To keep abreast of this change, the Wikimedia Foundation must get better at understanding, anticipating, and responding to the needs of our current and future communities of contributors and readers. We should understand the role the Foundation plays within the broader Wikimedia movement, and the unique resources, capacities, and limitations we have within the context of that movement. We should adapt our work appropriately, focus our resources so we have the greatest impact, and act as responsible stewards of donor funds.
With this in mind, the Foundation identified three specific challenges that we believe affect our ability to serve our mission. Following research and consultation, we have produced a set of three “strategic approaches” that we believe address these challenges.
- Reach - How can we reach more people around the world, so that they can share in knowledge (on both desktop and mobile devices)?
- Communities - How can we increase the retention and engagement of existing and new volunteer Wikimedia contributors?
- Knowledge - How can we increase the quality of knowledge on the Wikimedia projects, the diversity of formats, and the depth and breadth of coverage (especially underrepresented subjects)?
The Wikimedia Foundation supports the delivery of knowledge to the world, the health and growth of the Wikimedia communities, and the creation of diverse, high-quality free knowledge. In addition to these core functions, we believe the Foundation has the unique ability within our movement to support systems and programs that expand the reach of our vision, including engaging the majority of the world’s population we currently do not reach.
Our strategic approaches reflect this commitment to serve our movement, while also increasing its reach.
- We will better understand and respond to the needs of our global users so that more people can share in free knowledge.
- We will increase volunteer retention and engagement through improved programs, experiences, and resources.
- We will increase and diversify knowledge by developing high-priority curation and creation tools for user needs.
1. Understand our users to better serve their needs
We will better understand and respond to the needs of our global users so that more people can share in free knowledge.
Our users come from all over the world, with different needs, goals, and experiences. We want to better understand what their needs are when they’re using the Wikimedia projects. Are they seeking general information or doing deep research? Are they on a desktop or on a mobile phone? Are they finding what they are looking for, easily and consistently? How can we make it a better experience for them? If they are not choosing to use our projects, why not?
If we understand our users, we’ll be better positioned to propose and test improvements to their overall experience with the Wikimedia projects. We plan to gain this understanding by investing in quantitative and qualitative research, and continuously improving our analytics capacity. We will use our insights and findings to develop informed hypotheses and test solutions through a methodical, public, iterative process.
Testing would focus on three major topics:
- Evolving user experience to meet user needs
- Improving mobile (web and app) experiences
- Engaging new readers and contributors from countries and communities with low Wikimedia awareness and use
We anticipate our product and engineering, partnerships, community engagement, and communications teams will all benefit from a better understanding of their audiences and the ability to more effectively measure what works.
Understanding our users isn’t a standalone strategy, but it is prerequisite for us to become more strategic in the way we allocate resources, evolve products and user experiences, and identify opportunities. The proposal to “Improve our understanding of how and why our users come to and stay on our projects so we can better serve their needs” (Reach – Approach #2) received the most support from community members during the consultation. Participants indicated that building a better understanding of our users’ needs is critical before the Foundation, in consultation with community, makes important decisions on solving readership and contribution challenges.
The major topics for testing are derived from three of the other supported strategic approaches from the community consultation. The first two had higher community support.
- Evolving user experience to meet user needs.
- “Increase frequency of use and number of users by adapting user experience to their needs (this may result in additional content formats, making more of Wikimedia content easier to find, increasing language coverage, etc.).” (Reach – Approach #1)
- Improving mobile (web and app) experiences.
- “Improve Wikipedia mobile apps to increase use.” (Reach – Approach #6)
- Engaging new readers and contributors from countries and communities with low Wikimedia awareness and use.
- “Increase awareness and use of Wikimedia projects in two Global South countries.” (Reach – Approach #4)
Although the proposal to “Increase awareness and use of Wikimedia projects in two Global South countries,” (Reach – Approach #4) didn’t fare as well in the community consultation, the Foundation believes that experimenting with new ways to reach people with low awareness and usage of our projects is important to the long-term health of the movement. It is also deeply aligned with our vision of every single human being freely sharing in knowledge. Achieving success with pilot initiatives around awareness, use, and contribution is the first step to reaching the many people in the world not currently served by Wikimedia projects. If initial pilots are successful, we will plan to scale them up with appropriate resources.
2. Increase volunteer retention and engagement
We will increase volunteer retention and engagement through improved programs, experiences, and resources.
As a movement organization with unique programmatic and technical resources, the Foundation will experiment with statistically significant ways of increasing volunteer retention and engagement. This may include resources to help mentor and train new contributors, programs to support existing contributors and re-engage former volunteers, or perhaps on-wiki features that allow community members to recognize and support each other’s achievements.
We will try different approaches, see what works, and refine them based on community feedback. We will consult with communities to identify how to employ them effectively and appropriately on different projects, in ways that improve overall community health and adhere to relevant community policies and scale appropriately. We will undertake this work in a consultative, transparent fashion that is responsive to community feedback and needs.
Efforts would focus on the following:
- Improving retention rates of existing volunteers and new contributors
- Empowering volunteers in key functions with tools and training
- Improving outreach to new potential volunteers across diverse contribution areas
- Recognizing volunteers for contributions
- Improving community culture and resiliency
We envision our support and safety, programs, capacity and learning, community tech, research, and analytics teams will play critical roles in this work.
A growing and engaged Wikimedia community is essential to our shared vision. During the community consultation, the most supported approach under the Communities focus area was “Create and support programs to increase volunteer participation such as recognition, facilitated mentorship, and personalized re-engagement.” (Communities – Approach #2). Participants felt that better support systems for new volunteers to learn how to edit would greatly improve community dynamics, and that contributor recognition would help sustain engagement.
Onboarding tools, mentorship programs, and recognition of efforts and impact are all means of creating a healthier, more supportive environment for community and encouraging people to want to contribute and to remain as contributors.
Mentorship and documenting best practices for retention and engagement may positively address certain issues raised in the proposal to “Reduce harassment issues and the gender gap to facilitate a safe, welcoming, and supportive environment for contributors and editors” (Communities – Approach #1). This includes improving our culture, increasing support for contributors from diverse geographies and demographics, and reducing issues of unwelcome behavior or even harassment.
3. Increase and diversify contribution of knowledge
We will increase and diversify knowledge by developing high-priority curation and creation tools for user needs.
To increase and diversify the creation and distribution of high-quality free knowledge, we will address high-priority technical and experiential barriers to contributing to our projects. We want long-time contributors, new volunteers, and institutional partners to have access to the tools and experiences that make engaging with Wikimedia easy and intuitive, and in turn increase the volume and diversity of knowledge on our projects.
For example, right now high-volume contribution is difficult, particularly for GLAM institutional partners. Our most dedicated contributors often experience efficiency barriers due to complex interfaces and clunky workarounds. Currently, people on mobile phones (a very large global audience) can’t easily contribute content, engage with discussions, or perform administrative tasks.
We will consult with community to better understand how to prioritize support for the greatest impact. The selection process will include team review of user feedback, task boards, research, community wish lists, development summit proposals, and architecture requests. This work will complement our ongoing support for core MediaWiki features.
Efforts would focus on the following high-impact tools:
- Improving mobile engagement and contribution
- Developing and supporting administrative and other volunteer tools
- Facilitating institutional knowledge partners (such as GLAM)
- Improving tools for multimedia and Wikidata integration and use
We anticipate our product and engineering, community tech, and community engagement teams will play critical roles in this work.
To paraphrase William Gibson, free knowledge is everywhere, it’s just not very evenly distributed (across the Wikimedia projects). We believe that reducing technical and experiential barriers to editing is an essential step to making editing more accessible and engaging for different users, and in turn increasing the types, amount, quality, and diversity of free knowledge on the Wikimedia projects.
Improving editing features and tools was strongly supported by contributors to the community consultation. The proposals to “Increase content quality and timeliness by technologically enhancing our editors’ ability to create, monitor, and process content” (Knowledge – Approach #3) and “Provide easy-to-use tools and incentives to contribute multimedia content and short-form text to benefit mobile and quick lookup users” (Knowledge – Approach #1) collectively received the most support.
We also received many write-in suggestions during the consultation. These included features to share text and images via social media, robust translation tools, and improving MediaWiki’s visual editor. The proposal to “Expand content faster through enabling community-led content partnership programs such as GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums)” (Knowledge – Approach #2) also received significant support, with a focus on tools that would enable institutional partners to easily contribute diverse content.
Since we cannot do everything, our focus will be on critical barriers that prevent users from engaging and contributing effectively.
This strategic plan is intended to direct our activities for the next 18-24 months. Measurable goals toward the strategic plan will be set through the Foundation’s Annual Planning process. These goals will be tied to specific resources, budget, and teams.
The Foundation is committed to delivering its Annual Plan in draft form for community review by the FDC deadline of April 1, 2016. After the Plan has been finalized and approved by the Board of Trustees, we will add the relevant measurable goals to the strategy, and track them accordingly.