Wikimedia Summit 2019

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The Wikimedia Summit was held in Berlin on 28-31 March 2019.

For affiliates of Wikimedia Australia’s size, place was available for one representative, and Pru Mitchell attended in the capacity of President.

Goals

The goals of the Summit as stated by the organisers and funders of Wikimedia Summit 2019 were as follows: The Wikimedia Summit will be a focused event for conversations on strategy, governance and organizational development across affiliates, the WMF and its committees. An event that carries the conversations from the Movement Strategy Process further into the future, and is constantly developed along with the structural changes that will also support the organized part of the movement to successfully implement the strategic direction in programmatic work.

In terms of personal goals in attending Wikimedia Summit 2019, there were three major goals motivating my participation at the Summit.

  1. To represent Wikimedia Australia as a positive and productive chapter
  2. To contribute to the Wikimedia movement strategy process
  3. To learn about policies, programs, people, and tools of potential relevance to WMAU work

The Summit participants, program, schedule, and logistics are detailed at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Summit_2019

Strategy process

The strategy process was core business for the Summit, and 80% of the program related directly to this work, even for those not involved in the Strategy Working Groups. The elephant in the room was addressed up front by Katherine, and by Kaarel and Nicole with an honest discussion of their hopes and fears of the process, and the feedback they were receiving on the strategy process. A core issue being expressed is how long and slow the process is, and that it is detracting from actually getting on with our mission. The focus of the Summit quickly became one of ‘let’s get this process done, so we can get on with implementation’.

The major task of the Summit was to review the work thus far, which was done effectively via the scoping documents. There was some agreement in several groups I was part of, that in scoping such large questions, the terminology is quite vague, and needs to be tightened, and defined.

I focussed particularly on the Partnerships and Diversity working groups. There was an excellent roving liaisons component to the work, where visitors from other working groups appeared from time to time and engaged in critique of areas that intersected with their work.

Key topics for the Partnerships working group included the synchronising of both standards and behaviour that is required to effectively partner between volunteer and professional communities, and a need to approach partnerships with the other group’s interests in mind, not just our own. As a movement, we talk on and on about the need to build capacity, and do we actually resource this?

The Diversity working group has an extremely challenging brief. Firstly, to define: what is diversity? Are we talking about diversity of content, contributors, content consumers, governance, and/or funding? We discussed whether there is an option to build diversity-centred projects alongside existing projects, rather than constantly hitting up against current projects with entrenched behaviours that work against diversity and equity. There was acknowledgement of the key question of literacy in its many forms, including digital literacy and access to technology, and that structures of knowledge are changing, with many people are not reading encyclopaedic text.

Translation was another concern around diversity. Rather than a solution for smaller communities, does translation simply translate systemic bias, and the coloniser’s history. We do need to invest in translation technologies and people. If the fear of relaxing the reliable source policy is one of problems of bad content, have we spent any time finding other ways to fix problems of bad content?

There was a desire for research into resistance to change within the community, and what drives the behaviour – behaviour that would not be accepted face to face under a safe space policy, that we allow to go on online. Research also into tools for identifying and naming the gaps, beyond gender. The key message from this work was around the benefits of diversity, and that the deficit is not that other people don’t have Wikipedia but that Wikipedia is lacking them.

Strategy process next steps

The scoping documents are available for ongoing discussion to the end of May 2019.

A challenge now is how to get feedback and endorsement from groups and individuals. The liaison role is crucial. Which forms of communication to use raises issues, with so many channels being used and none of these being universal. Several questions arose that WMAU should address:

  • Which voices are missing from our community?
  • How are we going to implement the strategic direction?
  • How will current structures need to be changed, or backward-engineered to support the strategic direction?
  • A key message from the Revenue streams working group was summed up as looking for ‘strategies to get more people to give more money more often.’ WMAU should be looking to develop revenue streams locally and working for independence.

Regional networking

ESEAP

It was valuable to meet people from the ESEAP region, starting with Butch Bustria at the airport, and catching up on his work as part of the Roles and Responsibilities Working Group. He called the ESEAP/Oceania regional meetup Friday evening. On the agenda was a regional submission to the strategy process being prepared. This requires input and ratification from WMAU.

Photo: Asia Meetup.

Wikimania

A significant amount of my time at the Summit was spent in discussions related to Wikimania 2020 which is due to be held in the ESEAP region. Several meetings and conversations occurred with ESEAP representatives (including Indonesia, Taiwan, Philippines, Korea, Thailand). Through the Wikimania Committee liaison, we requested meetings with the new WMF events team, who were not at the Summit. At the end of the Summit, there was still no official word on the venue for Wikimania 2020.

The changes to the program design for Wikimania Sweden 2019 were outlined by Liam Wyatt. Obviously, this will have ramifications for Wikimania 2020. If the program change is a success, there will be expectations this will inform the 2020 program. Program coordinators and committee for 2020 will need documentation, and also the opportunity to have experienced this at Sweden.

The scholarship applications for Wikimania 2019 are pending. I failed to find out anyone involved in managing this process, to check if Australians had applied. Traditionally WMAU has funded a scholarship or committee person to attend Wikimania. This was not initially well received in our Simple APG budget. This is nevertheless a priority for us - and the region - to ensure representation and bring back knowledge of new programs, ideas and networks. WMAU cannot continue to initiate and support training, events, advocacy and partnerships without learning from others in the movement. This year's Summit provided only ad hoc opportunities to learn about the programs of other groups.

Governance

Election of Affiliate Board Seats 2019 was a hot topic as there has been a change to the Board Bylaws which redefines affiliates, and two positions fall vacant this year.

Some people were happy with the changes, others not so pleased, many were confused and we all recognised the complexity of finding a process in a hurry, particularly for 108 user groups many of whom have no bylaws to govern who would be the voting member. WMAU will also need to discuss our preferred candidates when nominations close late April, and voting starts in May. The two positions will start their term at Wikimania 2019.

The Affiliate Chairperson’s meeting was enlarged for the first time to include affiliates with Simple APG funding: Details of the meeting. There will be a meeting at Wikimania 2019 and a proposal for funding of an annual Wikimedia Affiliate Chair Retreat that WMAU is invited to discuss whether to support this proposal and for the President to add signature.

While the first day of Boards Training in 2019 was focussed on Boards who employ staff, there is a wealth of relevant and useful information for all affiliates available in the training materials. It is clear that Wikimedia Australia should have a more systematic approach to induction (or ‘onboarding’) of new committee members. This needs to be a priority for WMAU.

Reflections and actions

As usual Wikimedia Deutschland organised an excellent event. The documentation and logistics worked well, it was a safe, enjoyable and productive experiences, and good things were achieved. The top 3 things about the Wikimedia Summit 2019

  1. Connecting with a new set of Wikimedians, in particular those from the ESEAP regional group
  2. Experiencing the willingness and determination of participants to work on moving the strategy process to finalisation. “No-one wants to do this again at next year’s Summit” was a catchcry.
  3. Recognising the richness and diversity that User Groups represent in our movement.

What WMAU can do next

  • Determine the next priorities in our role in the ESEAP region and build on relationships
  • Submit our Simple Annual Plan Budget for 2019-20
  • Facilitate review of our 2018-9 Simple APG grant obligations
  • Engage our community with the movement strategy
  • Renew our strategic plan in the light of the movement strategy
  • Collect and report on metrics that identify local gaps
  • Work on developing a welcoming and professional culture, in particular Committee induction

Social media and photos

Although it was rather difficult to post to social media during sessions as they were all interactive and participatory, there was plenty of activity on #wmsummit, and there is an excellent photographic record of the Summit.

Photos https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Wikimedia_Summit_2019

Group photo https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikimedia_Summit_2019_-_Group_photo_4.jpg