communities find common position to promote and defend -> understanding and collaboration are achieved easier -> greater global impact of advocacy with greater local relevance
R6: The advocacy priorities of the Wikimedia movement are clearly articulated through a shared, highly visible and living document.
The Wikimedia Movement is many things to many different people from many different cultures, but we are all loosely drawn to one or several aspects of what the Movement stands for - globally and locally. However, these intrinsic elements that draw us into the movement are currently implied rather than overt. That leads to situations where communities have long and exhausting discussions about advocacy activities, arguing if this is something in the scope of their community or not. Also, the question if our movement should take part in advocacy at all, arises repeatedly.
A living document that specifies what the movement thinks are its core systemic change points and what it stands for (and what doesn’t stand for). It can clearly define and set boundaries about what we do, why we do it and what we want to achieve by doing this. Such a document can also shift western centric definitions by a collective intent. It allows people, organisations and entities that are not currently part of, or aware of, the open movement, the opportunity to see if their goals align with ours, or not.
On the other hand it allows us to clearly and easily decide to stand up for causes that we believe in and take action. It gives people within the movement collective purpose, and allows and legitimate them to articulate what that purpose is.
The barrier to creating a generic text manifesto or platform is that as a global movement we need to take into account that the words and conceptual imagery we use is a) not understood all over the world and b) not neutral around the world. The word “advocacy” itself has no equivalent in several languages. Also, one aspect of advocacy, which is openly engaging with authorities to present citizens’ viewpoints, is not possible to safely practice everywhere where our communities are.
Therefore, in our approach we need to create a narrative that will clearly respond to our vision, but at the same time that is versatile enough to apply to various contexts. It needs to convey our key messaging on values and concerns we want to address, without imposing the Western way of thinking about how our movement’s work towards structural change should be framed and named.
We need to bear in mind that our projects will operate under already observable circumstances that will likely be reinforced over time: in instability of access to internet and its services (shutdowns and blocks) or under laws prohibiting foreign participation in or funding of advocacy work. Many of our communities will work under laws prohibiting ill-defined harmful or defamatory content, tracked and surveilled in their online and offline activities. It is likely that the civil society space will shrink and the information accessible online will be filtered either by overapplication of censorship-oriented laws or overzealousness of internet platforms focused on behavioral data through automatic measures. All that, under growing pressure coming from challenges related to the climate emergency, which impact on our work we only start to estimate.
Because of all that we need to be able to keep our integrity while adapting our messages to serve the variety of contexts and human experiences. It doesn’t mean our positioning cannot be ambitious, as it should be unwavering in the demand of justice in access to knowledge. In other words, it needs to be guided by empathy to contexts where subscribing to values we recognise and openly speaking about access to information and truth puts advocates in danger.
One suggestion would be to gather the joint values and objectives in a coherent set that has a structure similar to Sustainable Development Goals - but of course developed and designed by our communities. The “set” would need to fit a common umbrella of our mission and specifically of access to knowledge. Such framing would help uncover relevance of specific objectives for some contexts or communities, without creating a competition (or ranking) of goals and narratives.
The examples of such objectives could be: unprejudiced access to the network and services (issues of internet shutdowns, Wikipedia blocks, etc.), equity in participation in culture (issues of copyright and exceptions, open access, prevention of state and corporate censorship, etc.), respect for knowledge protocols (issues of traditional knowledge, inclusion of needs of non-/underrepresented groups in our movement, etc.), respect for individual and collective rights in quantified society (issues of algorithm-based policies wherever they affect our movement and projects, etc.)
This list is not exhaustive nor perfect; as a group we clearly see our limitations both in recognizing all relevant contexts and in our bias to prioritize issues based on who we are and where we live. We see this bias in the language and concepts that limit our adequate outreach to the unrepresented. We strongly recommend a process that would focus on unearthing these objectives based on input from communities, and that is founded in a more comprehensive research than the one we had an opportunity to commission, and that checks into the motivations and needs that reflect the complexity of our communities.
The common positioning should be a living record that is responsive to future challenges we don’t know about yet. It should be complemented with stories and examples that provide inspiration and representation for both mainstream/global and non-mainstream/local issues. If we treat our mission seriously, we need to include non scripture-based narratives as a default and not as an extra to ground and explain our work.