WMF Global Development year in review and road ahead, 2011

Wikimedia Global Development team - Year in review and road aheadEdit

Barry Newstead

I just passed my first anniversary since I joined the Wikimedia Foundation and we created the Global Development team. It has been a year in which we have put the team in place and built our understanding of the opportunities and challenges we face in achieving our goals.

Why we existEdit

At the heart, the Global Development team’s role is to help the community to grow and thrive in places where we have not yet achieved our movement’s potential. Places where the approach that worked in the Global North has not yet taken hold in sufficient numbers. At a time when Wikimedia’s editor community (dominated by Global North editors) is slowly ebbing and readership on the personal computer is plateauing, we need to be proactive in working to create strong communities in the Global South, where more than half of Internet users live today and an overwhelming share of future Internet users will come from. It isn’t clear what specific programs will work, but it is imperative that we work hard everyday alongside the community to try new things and help scale up efforts that are promising.

The foundation has set clear goals in our strategic plan to reach 1 billion readers by 2015 and to increase the number of active editors to 200,000 with 37% from the Global South. The Global Development team will play an important role in catalyzing and supporting communities to reach these goals.

The Past Year for the Global Development teamEdit

(1) Building a diverse team

When I started, we were a small team of 4 with Jay, Moka, Kul and myself. We had very limited capacity and the team had a range of foundation-wide responsibilities. Over the year, we have built a diverse (and I’d say very talented) team to fulfill roles that I see as vital. We have a mix of experienced Wikipedians on the team and folks who bring valuable new capabilities to tackle the new challenges we face. I’m particularly happy that we have a team that has a lot of experience globally and brings diverse perspectives to the table. I’m also glad that most of the recruiting work for me is finished, as I’m ready to focus more time on getting results in our priority areas. Our team will grow a bit in 2011/12, but it will focus mostly on filling in the team in India and Brazil.

(2) Executing effectively

While we were building the plane, we were flying it too! We had important accomplishments and I’m happy that all of these involved close partnership with the community around the world and other teams within the foundation. Some of the highlights include:

  • Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary celebration was a great success with events in over 200 locations, many of which received special edition T-shirts and buttons that help to bond our world-wide community. We also garnered incredible media coverage that underscored the important role of Wikipedia in the public imagination. I see this initiative as a model for an initiative catalyzed by the foundation and made reality by the community in innovative and effective ways.
  • We launched our India catalyst initiative with efforts to help build the community via visits by Jimmy and myself along with support for community work on outreach. We met and introduced many people to Wikimedia at meetups in many cities. We had amazing media coverage of all of our (community and WMF) activities that added momentum to our work. I’m also happy that we launched our first program in June - the India Education Program.
  • Our grants program more than doubled with a wide range of chapters, like-minded groups and individuals, implementing initiatives large and small aimed at contributing to the Wikimedia vision. In addition, we continue to provide support for Wikimania and will be supporting a large contingent of Wikimedians from over 20 countries to attend Wikimania in August.
  • In close partnership with community developers, we invested to improve the tools available for offline projects with the integration of OpenZIM into the collections tools and a usability upgrade for the Kiwix reader.
  • For the first time, we have the internal capacity to start understanding how we, as a movement, are doing and we put that capacity to work with our first systematic survey of the global editor community. The survey was available in 22 languages (thanks to the volunteer translator community) and was completed by over 5,000 editors - an amazing sample! We also embarked on a research effort to understand the needs of mobile users in India and Brazil. Results of this work will be published soon and are already informing our mobile decision making.
  • We worked closely with chapters involved in fundraising to resolve some difficult issues regarding international funds transfers and we improved the fundraising agreement. There is more work to do on this, but we made a lot of progress and I’m happy that we are entering the new fiscal year with few problems relating to funds transfers.
  • We also managed to improve our joint compliance regarding chapter agreements. This puts the relationship between chapters and WMF on a stronger footing.


Not a bad year for our little team, though there have definitely been bumps in the road. Two areas I would say we didn’t get the job done are:

  • We did not make as much progress on our mobile work. Mobile is a huge priority for WMF and for Global Development in particular. We struggled to determine our strategy and then get resources aligned behind the strategy. I take responsibility for this and have been acting aggressively to get us off to a fast start in 2011/12, both through additions to the team, greater focus and attention from Kul and me, efforts to accelerate discussions with partners, and close work with our Mobile Engineering team to quickly strengthen our mobile portfolio.
  • We didn’t get our new online store launched. We made amazing progress on improving our merchandise and putting the building blocks in place, but we didn’t get it launched. We expect to launch in July and I’m excited to see what the community thinks.


The year aheadEdit

Our team starts the new fiscal year with a lot of momentum across the board...and a lot to do. We have signed up to tackle two critical foundation-wide goals for 2011/12: Reverse the editor decline and dramatically increase mobile. We aim to contribute significantly to the goal of returning our active editors per month to 95,000 by June 2012 and to increasing mobile page views to 2 billion. These goals are both part of the five-year strategy...and we need to get moving on them.

Global Development’s efforts to reverse the editor decline revolve around our work with the community in the Global South and the scaling of the Public Policy Initiative into the Global Education program. In the next few months, we will expand the India Education Program, launch additional programs in India, get started on work in Brazil, support the launch of education programs in new geographies and make grants to chapters and like-minded groups with a focus on editor community health and growth. Our communications team will support this effort with media and communications work that highlights “contribution” starting in India with an [Edit] India campaign. Our research team will capture insights from the editor survey and will begin to generate insights from our own data to help identify opportunities and challenges.

On the mobile end, we are beginning now to approach mobile operators and handset makers to improve the prominence of Wikipedia in their offerings. We would like to secure deals where mobile operators offer Wikipedia access for free (no data charges) to their customers. We think this will help advance our vision significantly and introduce millions of new people to Wikipedia. In partnership with the Mobile Engineering team, we plan to invest in creating applications for the major operating systems and in developing features that enrich the experience and, critically, create ways to contribute.

In addition, you will see other important work happening on the Global Development team:

  • We have doubled our grants budget again to $600,000 and Asaf Bartov will be working with chapters and other groups/individuals (with an emphasis on the Global South) to develop grant programs that achieve the goals laid out in our strategic plan. Specifically, we plan to start tracking the change in active editors in the geographies where we make grants over the next year.
  • We will continue to build on our initial work on offline projects through continued efforts to improve the tools available and through partnerships to increase the distribution reach. By the end of 2011/12, we aim to double the number of deployments of offline Wikipedia around the world.
  • We will be supporting Wikimania in Haifa with a $100,000 grant to support the conference as well as funding ($130,000 from our own budget plus a contribution of $30,000 from Wikimedia Germany) to support scholarships for over 70 attendees. We will also provide support for Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC.


The Year Ahead for meEdit

My first year was a great learning experience and I feel I’ve got a clearer sense of the opportunities challenge ahead. My greatest challenge this past year was the sheer breadth of the Global Development portfolio. I constantly had to juggle a range of activities and for much of the year, people were relying on me to handle issues since we didn’t have our team in place. This gave me a good perspective into the needs and expectations of our team, but also left me feeling a bit unfocused. My goal for 2011/12 is to focus more of my time on the top priority areas of growing the editor base in India and Brazil, and implementing our mobile strategy.

For me, success in 2011/12 will mean:

  • Mobile partnerships that reduce the cost of accessing Wikipedia to zero (or close to zero) and market Wikipedia on the mobile in key countries in the Global South covering over 500 million mobile users
  • Wikimedia’s mobile services to include quality apps on Android, Windows, iPhone and Blackberry; first set of contribution tools integrated into the mobile offering; our mobile site works well on a wide range of phones
  • Strong growth in the India editor community with clear results in terms of editor growth from WMF’s India program activities
  • Shift in Brazilian editor community toward healthy indicators, return to growth in the editor community and a successful launch of WMF’s Brazil team in the second half of the year
  • The Global Development team functions cohesively as a group and partners well with the community, other WMF teams, chapters and our partners.
  • Staff on the Global Development team grow professionally and see the impact of their work.


The year ahead promises to again be a busy one for the Global Development team and we’ll be partnering with many groups in the Wikimedia movement. We will be moving forward with a clear purpose of meeting our goals, learning along the way and collaborating with a wide range of groups and individual in the movement. Onwards!