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A strategic direction is not a strategic plan. Plans are for a specified duration usually 3−5 years, executable, measurable, and matching the organizational capacity and resources.
The strategic direction is broader and guides strategic plans on a longer term. Considering the 2030 horizon allows us to focus on aspirations for us all, beyond our individual roles and interests in the short term.
This is where we are in the process:
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In January 2017, we, the constituents of the Wikimedia movement, started an ambitious discussion about our collective future. We decided to reflect on our past 16 years together, and imagine the impact we could have in the world in the next decades. Our aim was to identify a common strategic direction that would unite and inspire people across our movement on our way to 2030, and help us make decisions.
From on-wiki discussions, to large conferences, to small meetups, to expert interviews, to deep research, the process has been exhaustive, messy, and fascinating. It didn’t take long to confirm that the greatest strength of the Wikimedia movement is the talent, dedication, and integrity of its members. Any successful strategy must accommodate the diversity of the people in our communities, including our particular interests, motivations, and contributions. Some of us write encyclopedia articles. Some of us develop software. Some of us donate money, time, or expertise. Some curate data, sources, or media. Some organize events, advocate for copyright reform, or remix artwork. Some are community organizers, educators, or wikignomes. Some are just very curious people. Some of us do all of the above, and more.
What brings us together is not what we do; it’s why we do it.
We are all part of this movement because we share a belief that free knowledge makes the world a better place. Every human being deserves access to knowledge, and has innate capacity to participate in its creation, curation, and sharing. That is non-negotiable.
Therefore, it is natural that this shared vision is the basis of the direction that has emerged. The direction goes beyond, though, and invites us to focus on the infrastructures we need to move closer to that vision.
Direction: The future we imagineEdit
Reasoning: Why we will move in this strategic directionEdit
Aspirations: What we all wantEdit
Our collective adventure started as an experiment: a drafting space where anyone could contribute information for inclusion in a free encyclopedia reviewed by experts. Wikipedia soon became much more than its origin story, and today it is considered by many as a source for information whose role is to collect knowledge. Wikimedia communities now stand for ideals of freedom of information and social progress fueled by free knowledge for everyone. The vision of the Wikimedia movement describes this expanded scope well: “a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.” Beyond the encyclopedia, our common aspiration has three components: creating a body of knowledge that is comprehensive, reliable, and of high quality; doing so in a participatory way, open to everyone; and engaging everyone across the globe.
Strengths of Wikimedia: What we shouldn't changeEdit
The original premise of Wikimedia is that knowledge is built by people, who themselves are the basis of communities. Good-faith collaboration is the best way we know, to create knowledge of high reliability or quality, and it's at the core of the Wikimedia culture. The idea that anyone can edit is so radical, that we joke that it can only work in practice, not in theory. And yet, it does: What we have accomplished in our first 16 years of existence shows the success of this approach. Wikimedia communities have been able to go from nothing to millions of pages, media files, and data items, in hundreds of languages. Beyond the web, communities have self-organized in groups and are advancing the efforts of the movement around the world. All those approaches are strengths that we must preserve.
Limits of Wikimedia: What we should improveEdit
We are still far from having collected the sum of all knowledge. Most of the content we have created is in the form of long-text, unstructured encyclopedia articles and still images, which leaves out many other types of knowledge. Our current communities don't represent the diversity of the human population, which has created gaps of knowledge and systemic biases. Readers often question the reliability of the content we create, notably because it is not accurate, not comprehensive, not neutral, or because they don't understand how it is produced, and by whom.
In terms of collaboration, joining and participating in Wikimedia communities can be challenging. The low barrier of entry from our early years has now become insurmountable for many newcomers. Some communities, cultures, and minorities have suffered from this exclusion more than others. Our success has generated an overwhelming amount of maintenance and monitoring, and we have addressed them with tools and practices that have turned good-faith community members away. Other types of contribution beyond editing aren't recognized as equally valuable, and the structures of our movement are often opaque or centralized, with high barriers to entry.
Beyond Wikimedia: What will change around usEdit
In addition to internal challenges in the Wikimedia movement, there are also many external factors that we must take into account to plan for the future. Many readers now expect multimedia formats beyond text and images. People want content that is real-time and visual and that supports social sharing and conversation. There are also opportunities for Wikimedia to fill a gap in education, by offering learning materials, communities, cultivation of skills (editing, argumenting) and guidance and example on how to live with others (collaboration).
The populations we serve will also change: in the next 15 years, the languages that will be the most spoken are primarily those that currently lack good content and strong Wikimedia communities. Similarly, population will grow the most in regions where Wikimedia currently reaches the least users, such as Africa and Oceania. It will take 83 years for low-income countries to move their average school level from elementary to high school graduation. The same regions face the worst restrictions to freedom of access to information online.
Technology will change dramatically: Automation (especially machine learning and translation) is changing how people produce content. Technology can also help offer more relevant, personalized, reliable content, but it needs to be developed carefully. As technology spreads through every aspect of our lives, Wikimedia's infrastructure needs to be able to communicate easily with other connected systems.
Structures for the futureEdit
The analysis of Wikimedia's current strengths and limitations paints the picture of a movement shaped by its early years. For Wikimedia to stay relevant in the future, we must improve and adapt, while protecting what makes us who we are.
Who we are, at our core, is a network of communities using tools and structures to document and understand our world together. Those underlying structures can be social, technical, online, offline, and often a combination of all. In the Wikimedia movement, structures are what brings individuals together to form communities that advance free knowledge. They are the mesh that connects us and the scaffolding that makes our work possible.
Structures permeate every area of our movement. Social structures are the functions we perform, the roles we play, the policies we follow, and the groups into which we organize. They influence the cultures that develop in our miniature societies. They govern who we accept into our communities, how we treat each other, and how we make decisions about our movement.
Data structures are what we must expand to support new formats and types of knowledge. Trust structures, both social and technical, are what we must develop to increase the reliability of our content. Access structures determine who can reach our movement in the first place. Technical interfaces and partnerships are the structures that enable the collaboration and exchange of information with other systems and institutions.
In a world that is becoming more and more connected, investing in social and technical structures isn't just a survival mechanism; It is a strategic advantage. It is how we ensure our place in the larger network of knowledge, and become an essential part of it. It is how we multiply our impact with limited resources.
It is how we become the roads, bridges, and villages that support the world's journey towards free knowledge.
Implications: Our destination by 2030Edit
By 2030, Wikimedia will be a universal foundation for free, participatory knowledge.Edit
The infrastructure for open: We will empower individuals and institutions to participate and share, through open standards, platforms, and datasets. We will host, broker, share, and exchange free knowledge across institutions and communities. We will be a leading advocate and partner for increasing the creation, curation, and dissemination in free and open knowledge.
An encyclopedia, and so much more: We will adapt to our changing world to offer knowledge in the most effective ways, across digital formats, devices, and experiences. We will adapt our communities and technology to the needs of the people we serve. As we include other forms of free knowledge, we will aim for these projects to be as successful as Wikipedia.
Reliable, relevant information: We will continue our commitment to providing useful information that is reliable, accurate, and relevant to users. We will integrate technologies that support accuracy at scale and enable greater insight into how knowledge is produced and shared. We will embrace the effort of increasing the quality, depth, breadth, and diversity of free knowledge, in all forms.
By 2030, the Wikimedia communities will be supportive, inclusive, and offer diverse opportunities for participation.Edit
A supportive culture: We will create a participatory culture that is enjoyable, rewarding, and supportive of anyone who wants to contribute in good faith. We will practice and encourage respectful collaboration and healthy debate. We will develop services that support positive experiences and lower the burden of maintenance, so that people can focus on enjoyable and creative work.
Different forms of participation: People everywhere will feel as though they have a role to play in advancing free and open knowledge. The community will be more broadly defined to include many forms of contributors, from editors to donors to organizers.
An inclusive movement: We will reflect the diversity of our world. We will welcome and include people into our movement from a wide variety of backgrounds, across language, geography, income, education, gender identity, religion, age, and more. We will celebrate and embrace our differences and equitable opportunities for leadership and representation in the movement governance. People from every background will be able to find a home in our movement, with the opportunity to contribute as individuals or as part of a network of groups and organizations.
By 2030, our movement will be distributed around the world and adapted to local contexts.Edit
Serve people everywhere: We will work to ensure free knowledge is available wherever there are people. We will extend the Wikimedia presence globally by supporting both existing communities and communities in underserved regions of the world, such as Asia, Africa, and South America. We will break down the social and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to our shared knowledge. We will design programs and products to match local contexts in order to engage new communities and readers, while continuously (re)evaluating our approaches.
Locally relevant and sustainable: We will recognize the strength of distributed and diverse local communities as powerful tools for adaptation and innovation, and as counters to influence on our neutrality. We will embrace local partnerships and sustainable resourcing opportunities, and allocate global resources in transparent, equitable ways that support participation of all voices. We will share our local experiences and learn from each other to inform our global activities. We will balance self sufficiency and autonomy with intention and values we all share.
What comes nextEdit
Once the draft is final, we will declare our intent to work together towards this future. We will commit to participating in the next phase of this discussion in good faith and to come to an agreement, by Wikimania 2018, on roles, responsibilities, and organizational strategies that enable us to implement that future.
We will pledge to put the needs of our movement above our own, and to find the structures, processes, and resources for our movement that enable us to best move towards our common direction.
Notes and referencesEdit
- Appendix: Background and process
- w:History of Wikipedia and its references
- New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017): Hub for information
- "Wikipedia should play an active role in preserving knowledge." New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017): The role of Wikipedia in the future
- Why create free knowledge? Movement strategy findings report.
- "Wikipedia should take an active role in spreading true knowledge for public good." New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017): The role of Wikipedia in the future
- "Vision - Meta". meta.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2017-07-27.
- "Wikimedians believe that the movement is built around a devoted community of readers, editors, and organizations who have brought us to where we are today." Cycle 2 synthesis report (draft)
- Reagle, Joseph (2010). Good faith collaboration : the culture of Wikipedia. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262014472.
- Ryokas, Miikka: "As the popular joke goes, 'The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.'" Cohen, Noam (2007-04-23). "The Latest on Virginia Tech, From Wikipedia". The New York Times (in en-US). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-07-26.
- "Wikistats: Wikimedia Statistics". stats.wikimedia.org. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
- "Lack of local relevant content is a major challenge in Africa." New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017): Challenges for Wikimedia
- Knowledge gaps and bias were voted the top priority for the movement at the 2017 Wikimedia conference, attended by 350 people from 70 countries, representatives of around 90 affiliates, organizations, committees and other groups. Wikimedia Conference 2017/Documentation/Movement Strategy track/Day 3
- “In many regions (especially where Wikimedia awareness is lower), people greatly desire and value content that speak to their local context and realities, but struggle to find it both online and offline. To support the development of this content, and to mitigate Western bias, the movement need to refine or expand its definitions of knowledge.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 4
- "Wikipedia’s open platform causes people to question its truthfulness and verifiability." New Voices Synthesis report (July 2017): Challenges for Wikimedia
- “Mistrust of Wikipedia is a learned perception. It stems from a lack of clarity about what the product(s) are and how their content is developed.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 11
- “Many new to the movement feel that the current barriers to entry are too high. The perceived culture of exclusivity and lack of support for newcomers is demotivating.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 7
- Halfaker, Aaron; Geiger, R. Stuart; Morgan, Jonathan T.; Riedl, John (2013-05-01). "The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration System: How Wikipedia’s Reaction to Popularity Is Causing Its Decline" (PDF). American Behavioral Scientist 57 (5): 664–688. ISSN 0002-7642. doi:10.1177/0002764212469365.
- “Current norms around contribution are geared towards a narrow set of functions (e.g. editing dominates). People with varied backgrounds and skills wish to add value in diverse ways, and the movement would benefit by supporting them in doing so.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 8
- "Visual, real-time, and social aren’t just buzzwords; research found that they are the characteristics of content platforms that young people increasingly prefer." Reboot Summary of Key Opportunities & Findings: Indonesia & Brazil
- “Behaviors, preferences, and expectations for content are changing. People increasingly want content that is real-time and visual and that supports social sharing and conversation.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 5
- “Underperforming education systems worldwide have led people to seek alternative ways to learn As a result, many innovative information and learning platforms have emerged, but they all still need a base of quality content.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 14
- "Advancing education" was a major theme that emerged from the first cycle of community discussions, especially at the Wikimedia Conference 2017, where it was voted the third most important priority for the movement. Wikimedia Conference 2017/Documentation/Movement Strategy track/Day 3
- “Wikimedia has the opportunity to build a community passionate about not just producing knowledge, but about helping people learn. by working with diverse partners and niche content experts, curators, and ambassadors.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 10
- “The dominant languages of the future are, for the most part, not those where Wikimedia leads in content volume or size of community.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 3
- “In the next 15 years, the greatest population growth is expected in regions (e.g. Africa, Oceania) where Wikimedia currently has the lowest reach. To serve every human, the movement must pay greater attention to how it serves these regions.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 1
- Winthrop, Rebecca; McGivney, Eileen (2015-06-10). "Why wait 100 years? Bridging the gap in global education". Brookings (in en-US). Retrieved 2017-08-06.
- "Freedom House". freedomhouse.org. Retrieved 2017-08-04.
- “Technology may be able to assist in many of the functions editors currently do. Automation (especially related to machine learning and translation) is rapidly changing how content is being produced. This opens up opportunities for current community members to find other ways to contribute.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 9
- “Technological innovations (e.g. AI, machine translation, structured data) can help curate and deliver relevant, personalized, reliable content.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 18
- “Developing and harnessing technology in socially equitable and constructive ways—and preventing unintended negative consequences—requires thoughtful leadership and technical vigilance.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 19
- "The movement should cautiously use AI and machine learning to help increase quality and accessibility. The overall view from Wikimedians is that we should maintain our community-first focus, and use AI and other technologies to reduce busy-work, not replace volunteers, and improve quality." Cycle 2 Synthesis Report
- “Emerging technologies are revolutionizing how platforms are defined and used. The most impactful technologies will be those that make the shift from technical infrastructure to ecosystem-enabling platform.” Appendix: Where the world is going: Pattern 15