By 2030, we envision a Wikimedia movement where stakeholders focus attention not just on projects’ content, but also on the diversity of people, their ability to participate and the health of the communities. Engaging people from diversified groups will ensure the essential changes in infrastructure and diversity in content as well by utilizing a broader base of skills, knowledge, and perspectives.
We propose a shift in the Wikimedia movement focus from one centered on content and processes to one centered on the people involved in the movement. (Please see this document for the working groups thoughts on the topic “Introducing people-centered principles within the Wikimedia movement”).
Changing the focus from content creation towards a focus on people will require a shift in the way we think about the Wikimedia movement and the interaction with the different layers of the platforms, whether they are technological, social or political. No single person with the will to contribute to the Wikimedia projects should be stopped by the structure.
To achieve the goal of supporting every human being’s learning experience in Wikimedia platforms we need to fulfill the following requirements:
- Define organizational roles and responsibilities with regard to the people they will support, rather than (or maybe not just?) the processes they will support;
- Provide people with a safe space to act (in alignment with recommendations of Community Health Working Group);
- Identify people with capacity, potential, and desire to become part of the movement;
- Empower people to be creative and collaborate on creating a diverse community by providing on-boarding training for new users and training for existing users who want to expand their skill sets;
- Facilitate creation of partnerships to achieve goals, help analyse data, create solutions, etc.;
- Mentor people toward leadership positions and train them to mentor others (in alignment with recommendations of Capacity Building Working Group);
- Identify and raise awareness on the barriers to participation for every type of contributor on a regular basis;
- Provide a space which allows people to contribute and react to local realities, but which is supported by a broader vision and infrastructure to provide tools they might not be able to develop given size, lack of resources;
- Provide technological enhancements, which have been tested with a broad representative sample of the movement participants, that are easy to use (i.e. usable) and do not require technical expertise to contribute.
- Provide statistical tools and data to weigh the current state of diversity (of both people and content) in Wikimedia platforms as a basis for perpetual analysis and action.
Previous related recommendations:
Diversity doesn’t just happen. Though it is all around us, people tend to cluster into organizational systems which reinforce their values, characteristics and goals. (See the working group’s thoughts on the topic “Introducing people-centered principles within the Wikimedia movement”). If as a movement, the goal is to become more representative of the global diversity of people and knowledge, we need to specifically plan to increase our diversity and limit barriers to inclusion. The current level of both content and community diversity does not reflect the breadth of human knowledge, but there is great potential for movement and knowledge growth, considering all the Internet users or people involved in education in general.
The existing organizational structure is unclear on the interrelated roles and responsibilities between stakeholders. (Wikimedia Foundation Staff, volunteers, chapters, user groups, and thematic organizations, Project Communities, external partners, etc.) Because of the failure to define these roles with the focus on the people who fill them, communications between various sectors often breaks down. The bureaucracy which has developed for decision making has created inequalities in the relationships and confusion as to who has responsibility to act. For example, consultation with volunteers often occurs as almost an afterthought, escalating distrust and discontent.
Relationships between stakeholders, whether that is for example, established editors vs. new users or foundation vs. affiliates, should be clarified by emphasizing the human interactions between the people involved, rather than simply the tasks they are to perform. By developing the structure in this way, cooperation and coordination of stakeholders is built into the structure, providing a sense of empowerment and belonging, as well as creating a group identity.
Having designed the structure and environment, the next step involves identifying gaps in our knowledge, and the people and skills they need, to advance the movement goals of knowledge equity. Understanding both the gaps in each area (content and community profiles) and the barriers to them (to both contributing and to diversity) is an essential and necessary step for the movement members to empower themselves to either overcome challenges or facilitate change. This vision is a multi-layered process which involves utilization of partnerships, technology, and stakeholder collaboration to on-board new users, mentor existing stakeholders to take on new roles, and develop a strategy to grow the movement and address knowledge gaps and the barriers that limit participation.
Barriers to participation may include existing informal power structures (veteran editors who control narratives) or formal processes (voting without anonymity); lack of technical skill or education; technology which is outdated or difficult for the average person to use; unequal distribution of assets; language and communication limitations; curtailment of internet access in the wider society; among others. Not only do the barriers need to be analyzed and awareness about them raised, but they require consultation with the people who are affected by them. Failure to consult with affected groups leads to incomplete or inaccurate data which then could result in unworkable solutions that do not address the core challenges.
By generating the descriptive and explicative research on the gaps and barriers to diversity and growth of the Wikimedia Movement (from user interface to behavioural conflicts), data can be centralized in one place to facilitate its access, consultation, analysis, update or expansion by any stakeholder. Evaluation needs to be done on a continual basis, requiring the establishment of effective communication channels for all stakeholders to obtain updated and historical information and possible actions to work on. It is recommended that a community planning platform with broad participation from stakeholders be established to take the lead on designing systems, environment, on-going research and development, and building the capacity needed to further the movement goals.
One example of a communication channel is a newsletter. We assume that the current newsletters in Education, Glam and The Wikipedia Library are a way to put people in touch and have several advantages that we can learn from in terms of implementation.
This recommendation advocates for several processes in order to create a positive perpetual cycle and grow Wikimedia to another level by 2030 in terms of securing content and a healthy and diverse community.
Rather than just stating that we desire diversity, planned community development requires that it be adequately funded; that an organizational structure will be in place to support the community; that teams of stakeholders and experts analyze and evaluate not only where we are but where we want to go; and that technology be adequate to aid in data-gathering and evaluation in a continual fashion. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in diversifying processes is needed to accomplish these goals as are policies to improve the working environment. For example, how are funds obtained to support the work?, How are partnerships which can assist in analyzing and bridging gaps identified? Who has the responsibility for planning diversification of the community?
It also includes 1) creating the necessary high level information to understand the current situation of diversity in the movement areas (content, community and governance), 2) identifying the barriers that prevent people from being involved in the movement and 3) developing the communication channels and technology to advance knowledge equity so the community is aware of the situation at very different levels in order to facilitate change (either User Interface changes, policy changes, etc.).
Establishing a core committee or group for planned community development will also require necessary support systems. Diversification by its very nature can be a catalyst for conflict, as it moves people out of their familiar and comfortable customary patterns of interaction. To ensure that conflict is managed appropriately, clear resolution policies as well as codes of conduct need to exist to foster a healthy environment for development. Partnerships to assist in analyzing gaps in communities and content will need to be built, as well as those which can assist in overcoming barriers to inclusion and those which have expertise in recruitment.
Technology which is user-friendly and easy to use will need to be relied upon to gather data, disseminate information and facilitate conversation. The technology platform also needs to provide the broadest possible interface using multiple technologies to support broad and global access for people to join in the collaborative process. Present systems for cross-wiki communications have proven to escalate both frustration and distrust among stakeholders and need to be modified or redesigned to create better flow.
The current Wikimedia communities developed in an organic fashion with a focus on content. This recommendation would manage the development of community members and content to insure that unrepresented and underrepresented people and knowledge are included in the movement by changing the focus to look at the people involved. One example of how this could work is by looking at policies for notability and reliability using the lens of the people involved. So if it does not appear that there are enough sources to create content about a subject, we ask, “what community were the people involved part of?” and “what sources are most likely to represent this community?”. Evaluation based on the people involved may result in sufficient sources being found to create content. (Please read the Content Diversity recommendation)
It builds on the base of stakeholders and content that are already included in the movement by actively planning for the inclusion of others and eliminating barriers to participation. Types or groups of barriers to participation we have identified are:
- Lack of access to Internet
- Lack of economical conditions (which implies lack of personal computers, flat rate Internet connection, etc)
- Lack of welfare
- Authorities interference on community dynamics
- Legal barriers to publish online
- Lack of literacy
- Lack of digital literacy
- Lack of sources
- Lack of education to access sources
- Lack of knowledge about licenses
- Lack of language social status
- Lack of language grammar
- Lack of language localization
- Lack of local knowledge self-recognition
Technology and bureaucracy
- Lack of Wikimedia brand awareness
- Lack of usability in Wikimedia tools
- Lack of policies enabling content
- Restricting content policies
- Too many rules, often confused and contradictory
- Lack of mentors availability
- Lack of acknowledgement
- Lack of positive communication (harassment)
- Lack of community initiatives (e.g. GLAM, Wiki Loves Monuments, territorial meetups)
- Lack of readers
Different regions have different challenges or different intensities to similar challenges. Therefore, it is important to understand each obstacle in each region and identifying the Wikimedia editing and community diversity barriers for users. Identification is important because language and country-specific barriers can point to important differences between regions. This is related to what the Working Group Diversity asked in our scoping question: What are the geographical locations, socio-economic statuses, accesses to technology and formalized academic study which can be barriers to inclusion? What kind of technological support and systems can be designed to help bridge gaps and give voice to more diverse groups of society?
Taking this into account, we assume that identifying the barriers in each region is key to finding solutions (partnerships, technology donations and other resources). The more we know about the different barriers and the solutions applied to overcome each of them, the more we will be able to replicate what works.
The implementation stage of community development will increase collaboration between different groups, affiliates, projects (stakeholders) that otherwise may not be connected and will solve barriers and limits that currently exclude both people and content. It will foster mentorship and partnerships that can increase our outreach and deepen our knowledge equity. It is also anticipated that it will require development and modification of technology to improve communication and data analysis.
Ideally movement stakeholders would welcome a system focused on human needs and information on content gaps and barriers to editing. By having diverse content and communities, everyone benefits from the wider range of skills and knowledge, the cultural insights, and better representation of a global perspective.
There is no direct negative impact of implementing this recommendation. As above, people tend to embrace situations and coping mechanisms which are familiar and predictable. Introducing diversity takes people out of their comfort zones and can create conflict if not managed or communicated well. Reassuring stakeholders that existing content and communities will be foundational may mitigate some fears of change. Likewise introducing the information in a manner to invite people to address the challenges, rather than imposing participation would also be beneficial. Not everyone will be interested in broadening either contributors or content, and that is okay, as long as they do not become barriers to those who want to embrace change.
We need to ensure that presenting a plan to grow our community and content is not seen as threatening to the existing system. That it will be a net positive and that those who want to retain a narrow focus are able to do that.
If we do not proactively plan and set the requirements that guarantee our growth in providing knowledge equity and diversity, it is not likely to happen on its own. Without a clear understanding of what gaps and barriers exist in our content and communities, planning is meaningless. By defining what areas need to be addressed, analysis and problem solving tools can overcome those challenges. Ideally there should be a program dedicated to “gaps and barriers” in the same way as the Wikimedia movement has programs for GLAM and Education.
It relates to advocacy, community health, partnerships and capacity building. We believe these areas may benefit from a people-centered focus, as well as improved data and communication streams. But, it also requires structure and support from roles and responsibilities, revenue streams, resource allocation, and technology to build an effective plan.
This recommendation is connected to the Introducing people-centered principles within the Wikimedia movement document and all other recommendations of the Diversity Working Group.
The earlier the better. It should be deployed during two years.
The WMF Board of Trustees and the Executive Directors of Affiliates are the appropriate bodies to evaluate and implement a decision on this recommendation.
With consultation from a diverse representative range of stakeholders.