Establishing partnerships in order to represent and protect worlds’ cultural diversity


Q1. What is your Recommendation?


By 2030 we envision the Wikimedia movement to partner with a wide variety of local, regional, and global stakeholders in order to represent and protect the worlds’ cultural diversity and its relevant knowledge.

In order to encourage such change, we propose to identify and establish partnerships specifically 1) to make Wikimedia visible in areas with low presence, 2) to promote the digitization and development of content for marginalized languages and 3) to support language development.

Previous related recommendations:

Q2. What assumptions are you making about the future that lead you to make this Recommendation?


The Wikimedia movement is part of a larger internet ecosystem, comprised of an immense amount of players in different sectors (public, private, governmental, for-profit and not-for-profit, among other criteria to distinguish them). Our movement has historically been more inward-facing. It occasionally looked outside of its own ecosystem to find support in order to achieve its vision. However, to make an effective change towards a fully diverse movement, our movement cannot get this done alone. It is evident and critical that our movement works closely with other mission-aligned stakeholders in the public and private space to achieve our goals.

The Wikimedia movement has already been working with other institutions, traditionally in education and GLAM sectors, but there is a big opportunity when it comes to partnerships that are specifically oriented to increase diversity or address some of the wider gaps that are affecting diversity. Current partnerships have been strongly focused on bridging the addition of content that has been already traditionally contributed to the projects. Partnerships need to be developed to create a more dynamic people-centered movement and bring truly new voices into the Wikimedia movement rather than just amplify the existing ones.

To improve our networking abilities with our partners, we need to constantly evaluate how the relationships with other organizations help us move toward our goals. Questions like these are valuable to move to the next level:

  • Are our partners helping us grow into areas in which we have previously not had a presence?
  • Are our partners helping us develop new resources (both people and materials) to better include those people who have previously had low or no representation?
  • Can we identify partners who have expertise in areas we have been unable to respond to?
  • Can we work with potential partners that are interested in providing us with solutions to some of the challenges we are facing that they have already resolved, but in a different context?

Q3a. What will change because of the Recommendation?


The Wikimedia movement will include more people who weren’t represented in it before. The content of its projects will include information that was not previously available about cultures that had low representation or no representation at all. This will be tied into changes in the world: establishment and development of educational and cultural institutions and growth of content in languages that currently have low media presence (within and without Wikimedia projects).

Q3b. How does Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?


The current structural reality around Wikimedia projects primarily makes available information more accessible: for example, it makes current works of literature and art more easily searchable and readable, and it gives easier and cheaper access to educational books and articles in languages in which they already exist in bookstores and libraries.

The proposed structural reality will give the world’s public access to information and works that are currently not accessible at all, or will facilitate the creation of substantially new materials, for example educational or literary materials in languages in which they currently aren’t available.

Q4a. Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?


The only negative impact that could come from partnerships depends on the kind of partners that we interact with in the movement. Third-party stakeholders may be mission-aligned or share some of our values, but things can also work differently. There are potential risks of engaging with partners that may not have the exact set of values, but that we still need to engage one way or another without compromising our view and perspective.

Work with government, commercial, and non-profit partners may give them unwanted influence on the content of the projects. While these organizations have relevant and much-needed expertise in language development, they may also have their own goals and agendas, which may result in scenarios where a potential conflict of interest or clash of values can arise.

We may be able to better represent more people and types of knowledge if some content is created by paid people, cognizant that this also represents a risk of a potential negative impact perceived by many in the movement. In addition, we may get this work first posted to other websites with copyright licensing that is compatible with Wikimedia, and subsequently imported into Wikimedia projects.

For example, let's imagine an NGO that publishes freely-licensed and expert-verified materials about pregnancy. It can recruit people who have the skills to understand the subject matter well and to translate it correctly to many languages. However, these people aren't likely to work for free. Freely-licensed information about pregnancy is clearly in scope for Wikimedia projects, such as Wikipedia, Wikibooks, or perhaps Wikisource. The current information about this topic in English, French, and German is probably OK, but it in many other languages it is partial or non-existent. The Foundation or one of its affiliates can partner with this NGO and give it a grant to write these translations and post them on their website so that it will be possible to base Wikipedia articles on them. However, this kind of scenario should be an exception rather than the general rule, and a very careful and in-depth analysis of when to allow this kind of content creation should be made.

Q4b. What could be done to mitigate this risk?


We need to integrate our existing principles, especially: free licensing, neutrality, and the wiki principles (“anyone can edit”), into a new focus on people and their learning experiences. This needs to be made clear to our partners. For this reason, it is important to set clear boundaries and principles that would govern the partnership or collaboration with said entities, and a framework that would draw a line to make a decision when to partner and when not to partner with any external stakeholder.

Clearly defined roles and responsibilities, process definitions (when and where certain situations are allowed), and interrelated relationships clarification is necessary to ensure that our shared vision is not compromised. In addition, improved communication flow to eliminate the break down of communication or escalation of issues unnecessarily is foundational.

Q5. Why this Recommendation? What assumptions are you making?


The rationale for this recommendation comes from the understanding that as a movement, there is still a lot of missing knowledge due to the lack of support for different languages that exist in the world, yet are not represented in our projects.

Q6. How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?


This recommendation is strictly related to the Partnerships Working Group. There needs to be a very close alignment between the recommendations they are doing and their expertise linked to this proposal.

Q7. Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations?


This recommendation is connected to the Community and Content recommendations as the topic overlaps, but it doesn't depend on them.

Q8a. What is the timeframe of this Recommendation in terms of when it should be implemented?


The sooner the better, considering we are long over due on finding a solution to address this gap. Additionally, as time passes, languages and cultures that are at risk of disappearing may not be there in the future when this is implemented.

Q8b. Who needs to make a decision on this Recommendation?


The decision should be made by the Wikimedia Foundation and its Board of Trustees, in consultation with the relevant community stakeholders.

Q9. How should the decision be made?


Partners of the following kinds should be chosen:

  • Organizations that focus on language development. These organizations can be governmental (ministries, authorities, etc.); NGOs; and commercial companies. “Language development” means:
    • Development and timely updating of standard orthography and terminology.
    • Writing dictionaries and grammar books.
    • Development and execution of literacy education programs for adults and children in their native languages.
    • Translating useful literature from other languages.
    • Digitizing existing printed texts.
    • Collecting oral culture in the form of texts or audio and video recordings.
    • Encouraging writers in this language: prose, poetry, songs, academic publishing, textbooks, websites, news, etc.
    • Establishing and maintaining educational institutions where the language is taught as a subject, and where this language is the medium of teaching various subjects. This applies to educational institutions on all levels: kindergartens, schools, colleges and universities, continuing education courses, etc.
    • Developing software support for these languages: localizing strings, developing fonts, morphological analysis tools, spelling dictionaries, search engines, natural language generation, etc.
  • International and local standards bodies, such as Unicode, ISO, W3C, JavaScript Foundation, state-level and region-level standardization authorities, etc.
  • Academic organizations, such as universities and research institutions, especially those that specialize on ethnography, history, literature, and education.

The choice of particular organizations can be made by both the parent organization (WMF) and the local affiliates, but the policy in this proposal should be encouraged.