Lessons Learned from the Wikimedia Summit 2022

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On September 9-11, 2022, I attended the Wikimedia Summit 2022 in Berlin, Germany as a representative of the Wikimedia Community User Group in Uganda. As someone who belongs to several communities, I was interested in learning from the Wikimedia community lessons that could be replicated by the OpenStreetMap community.

The Wikimedia Summit is the annual conference that brings together Affiliates of the Wikimedia Foundation. |The program was designed around the implementation of Wikimedia Foundation’s 2030 Movement Strategy initiatives, and provided a space for connecting, celebrating, learning and planning for the future of the Wikimedia movement.

It was interesting to compare it to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap’s unSummit events this year, which is spreading the HOT Summit across the globe in collaboration with different events in different regions of the world. The Wikimedia Summit this year was a hybrid event, with both online and in-person participants. The organizers did a very good job of making sure the online participants can actively participate in the discussions at the conference. There was very good equipment in each of the 8 breakout rooms with cameras, speakers and microphones to make this happen in real time.

2030 Movement Strategy

Since 2017 the Wikimedia movement has been working towards its 2030 Movement Strategy.

People from across our Wikimedia movement came together in an open and participatory process to discuss a strategy to work toward 2030. The result was a set of recommendations and underlying principles that propose structural and systemic changes that will enable them to create the future of the Movement.

Photo by Jason Krüger CC BY-SA 4.0, from Wikimedia Commons

The strategy outlines how the movement can grow sustainably and inclusively. They suggest how the community can strive for knowledge equity and knowledge as a service, so that everyone – those already within the Movement and anyone who wishes to join it – can play a role in capturing, sharing, and enabling access to free knowledge.

The ten recommendations are:

The whole program of this year’s Wikimedia Summit was around sharing updates towards the implementation of the recommendations, mainly focusing on three main topics, Movement Charter, Regional and Thematic Hubs, and then Revenues and Resources. 

Below are my main three takeaways from the conference that I think would be good for the OpenStreetMap and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap communities to learn from.

Let’s Connect – Peer Learning Program

The Let’s Connect program was designed to develop capacity-building opportunities within the Wikimedia Movement through peer knowledge sharing in multiple flexible and interactive spaces that allows for personal connections, solidarity, and a sense of community for Wikimedians in all regions of the world, seeking to share their knowledge and learn from others.

The program is composed of two main learning spaces, 

  • Learning Clinics for monthly live connections between groups of around 20 participants, collectively defined around topics of interest, case studies and Wikimedia funding cycles.
  • One-on-one matches between community members to share during live virtual conversation (coffee/teas), opening the door for further resource sharing and mentoring. These happen on a continuous basis with connections being made directly by participants and proposed by the Let’s Connect working group. 

And there are three support elements so that these spaces can work. 

  • Skills Directory: a general database that identifies skills and sharing interests amongst community members that forms the basis for the “matching”. 
  • Resource centre: a very basic space on Meta for sharing any material associated with the learning spaces – video recording, guidelines, documents, references, decks. 
  • Connections: informing and connecting participants to existing spaces within the Movement. These spaces vary in each region and around different topics or programs, such as communities of practices, periodic meetings, training, events, etc. One important source of information and connection is the Movement’s community calendar.

I think as the Open Mapping Communities, we need something similar to facilitate knowledge sharing and peer learning across the movement. We need to match skills with needs, and do matchmaking and facilitate learning across communities. The solutions to the challenges the communities face already exist, and what we need to do is to connect the dots, by documenting where they are and who needs them and making that connection.

Movement Strategy – Connecting the Dots

One of the strategy recommendations is to Manage Internal Knowledge by making the internal knowledge of the Movement easy to capture, discover, consume, and adapt by all contributors to facilitate sustainability and resilience, individual and organizational skill development, and growth in an equitable way across all communities.

Because the movement strategy implementation is generating lots of projects and initiatives, it’s important to document all the activities and projects, who is working on the Movement Strategy, what parts of it, where, and with whom, so that all different stakeholders across the movement can learn about each other’s work and connect with each other to collaborate on current and future projects. 

To do this, the Wikimedia Foundation is using Baserow, an open source no-code database tool similar to Airtable to document the Movement Strategy Implementation projects 

During the Wikimedia Summit, participants were asked to fill in their initiatives and projects using a form and within a few minutes the database was populated with over 150 projects and it was easier to connect the dots on which projects are happening in which region around which recommendations.

The database allows you to search, sort and filter and provide very useful insights into the Movement Strategy Activities. 

In Open Mapping is a similar context. There are hundreds of projects that have been done within the OpenStreetMap community, and many are documented on the Wiki, but it’s hard to filter search, or sort. It takes a lot of effort to find what you are looking for if you are lucky enough to find it. That is why I think we need something like Baserow or Airtable to solve this problem.

Regional and Thematic Hubs

One of the initiatives of Wikimedia’s 2030 Movement Strategy Recommendations focuses on regional and thematic hubs. The idea of hubs responds to the desire to share power, moving more decision-making closer to the communities, which can lead to greater efficiency.

The roles and responsibilities of the hubs are being defined the in the Movement Charter which is being drafted at the moment, and there are also several hub projects undergoing research, discussion, and planning. The hubs which may be regional (for example, West African hub, European Hub, etc) are expected to emerge by identifying and advocating for the needs of the communities they serve. Possible roles may include legal support, resource allocation (grant-making), capacity building, inter-group coordination, technology development, mentorship, evaluation services, and more. 

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team recently launched regional hubs, with 3 of them already operational and one of them in the pipeline. It would be interesting to see the results of the ongoing research and how the hubs shape themselves compared to HOT’s Open Mapping Hubs, and what the Wikimedia Movement’s charter would look like in regards to the governance of the hubs, because that will be key to make sure there is a transfer of power to the communities.

In conclusion, the Wikimedia Movement has a different structure from that of OpenStreetMap and they have more access to central resources and funding, but the communities also have a lot in common in terms of the challenges they face and can learn from each other on the approaches used to meet those challenges.

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