Wikimedia Foundation Draft Annual Plan & Request for Input

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In my most recent email in late February, I shared themes from an initiative called Talking: 2024 in which Foundation leadership, staff, and Trustees spoke with many of you in conversations intended to shape our planning process. Earlier today, the Wikimedia Foundation published the draft Annual Plan for the upcoming 2024-2025 fiscal year.

This year’s Annual Plan comes at a time of growing uncertainty, volatility and complexity for the world and for the Wikimedia movement. Globally, the role of trusted information online is increasingly important and more under threat than ever before. Organizations and online platforms must navigate a changing internet that is more polarized and fragmented. New ways of searching for information, including chat-based search, are gaining traction. The ease of creating AI machine-generated content creates both opportunity and risk for Wikimedia’s role as a human-led, tech-enabled knowledge system, as well as for Wikimedia’s financial model.

A few observations about this year’s draft Annual Plan:

  • 2030 Strategy:  As we face into these headwinds, the Foundation’s annual and multi-year planning continues to be guided by the movement’s 2030 Strategic Direction. Changes in the world around us make this direction more relevant than ever.  A call to become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge is more than just an inspirational statement – it is a mandate to continually assess the sustainability of our projects and organizations in response to the shifting landscape around us.
  • Multi-year to multigenerational planning:  And we must plan even further ahead. Looking beyond 2030 is vital to our mission, which requires the Foundation to help “make and keep useful information … available on the internet free of charge, in perpetuity.”  The shift from a link-based search architecture – which has served our projects and financial model well up to this point – to a chat-based search architecture is in its early days but is likely here to stay. We believe this is part of a generational shift in how people create and consume information online. What emerges is a strategic paradox: Wikimedia projects are becoming more vital to the knowledge infrastructure of the internet while simultaneously becoming less visible to internet users.  To ensure the success of the Wikimedia projects into the future, we must consider a multigenerational approach across key areas of future planning.
  • Trends: As we did last year, the Foundation started planning by asking, “What does the world need from us and the Wikimedia projects now?” We conducted research into external trends that are impacting our work, including a larger focus on immediate, bite-sized information; increasing presence of incentives, financial and otherwise, to attract contributors to some platforms; legal and regulatory threats, including platform regulations that can be weaponized against us and our contributors, as well as opportunities to positively advance the public interest; and issues of content veracity and the effect of AI on the information ecosystem.
  • Technology support:  This year’s plan also remains focused on the central importance of technology, given the Foundation’s role as platform provider for volunteers and readers around the world. The Foundation’s Product & Technology department shared their objectives last month before the full plan was ready, to signal how their priorities for the coming year are developing and invite feedback and questions. At a high level, our work for the coming year is focused on improving user experience on Wikimedia projects, providing the ongoing maintenance needed to support a top 10 global website and making future-focused investments to meet a changing internet.
  • Consistent goals, iterative work:  The four overarching goals of this year’s plan also remain consistent with last year’s (Infrastructure, Equity, Safety & Integrity, and Effectiveness), while the work and deliverables within each goal iterate on the progress made in the current year.  Together, the four goals are a blueprint to improve the technology that makes Wikimedia projects possible, support and enable our global communities, protect our values, and do so effectively and efficiently over the coming year.
  • Finances and budget: The plan also includes details about the Foundation’s financial model and our budget. The Foundation’s budget reflects ongoing trade-offs, as we see a slowing rate of new revenue growth. To meet this new reality, the Foundation has slowed its growth significantly over the past two years and made reductions in staffing and expenses last year. Since 2022, funding to other movement entities has outpaced the Foundation’s growth rate, which remains the case for this year’s plan.

Finally, this draft plan arrives during community conversations about a proposed Movement Charter, which will undergo a community vote in June 2024. In alignment with the principles of subsidiarity and efficiency, the Wikimedia Foundation remains committed to sharing and transferring responsibilities that other Wikimedia organizations are better equipped to own.

The Foundation has benefited from regular and direct engagement with the Movement Charter Drafting Committee (MCDC), and conversations with many stakeholders worldwide to inform and shape its perspectives on future responsibilities. The Board of Trustees and leadership also discussed different scenarios, including with the MCDC, to assess the readiness of the Foundation to make changes to the status quo from now – and independently of the ratification results. We are already preparing these functions to be overseen jointly with volunteers as sustained change takes time, and to do it well, structural changes will need to begin with careful deliberation from now:

  • Participatory resource allocation:  In 2020, we created the Regional Funds Committees to advise the Foundation on regional resource allocation and make funding decisions about community grants. This year, we will ask the committees to partner with the Foundation to advise on regional allocations, bringing us closer to participatory resource allocation and ensuring greater equity in grants decision making.
  • A pilot Product and Technology Advisory Council: This concept builds on the existing Wikimedia Foundation Product and Technology Committee and follows the Technology Council’s movement strategy initiative. This year, we will try out a pilot to review and advise the Wikimedia Foundation’s Product and technology work.
  • Improved Affiliate Strategy: In the previous year, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustee liaisons worked with the Affiliations Committee, affiliates, and Foundation staff to improve the Wikimedia Foundation Affiliate Strategy. This year, we will take forward the learnings and answer some key questions from the process.

The narrative long-form draft Annual Plan is a lengthy 23,000 words to ensure that it can serve as a comprehensive overview and also source material for other presentations and shorter summaries. We invite your input and questions over the coming weeks in whatever form you prefer: on-wiki on Meta, project village pumps, and by joining virtual community calls hosted by communities worldwide.

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