Supporting the lifecycle of Wikimedia Sibling Projects: we want your feedback

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The Community Affairs Committee of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Board of Trustees invites feedback on the draft Procedure for Sibling Project Lifecycle until 23 June.

Wikimedia Sibling Projects, the content projects that make up the Wikimedia ecosystem, allow us to disseminate free knowledge in diverse formats to the world. Historically, the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees has approved the creation of new Sibling Projects. Once a Sibling Project has been started, the approval of new language editions or closure of inactive ones is overseen by the community-led Language Committee, with an incubation period where projects get off the ground in the Wikimedia Incubator. In contrast,  there is no standardized procedure for approving Sibling Projects. This has, at times, resulted in the approval of Sibling Projects without strategic or clear goals.

In recent years, the Wikimedia Foundation has become cautious about considering new Sibling Projects for a variety of reasons: the lack of clear strategy around approval, maintenance and closure, the lack of understanding of the impact of new Sibling Projects, and questions around their sustainability in light of the Foundation’s flattening budget. In 2021, this led the Board’s Community Affairs Committee (CAC) to add to its mandate the responsibility to “address new (…) site applications, including creating a formalized procedure, from application to approval/disapproval”.

To that end, the CAC appointed a Task Force consisting of trustees, who were later joined by advisory community members, who jointly created a draft Procedure for Sibling Project Lifecycle. The draft procedure clarifies the steps and requirements for opening and closing Wikimedia Sibling Projects. It also proposes a framework for how and when to invest in opening new Sibling Projects “to ensure that any newly approved project is set up for success and has the resources it needs to function well”.1 We invite you to leave your feedback about the draft procedure on the project talk page until 23 June.

Shani Evenstein Sigalov, Chair of the CAC, shares:

As our Movement matures, strategic decisions become crucial to align with our limited resources and expansive goals. It’s evident that discussions about new projects require a structured process, acknowledging the need for proper evaluation of new ideas and understanding the trade-offs involved. We also need to have tough conversations about retiring projects that no longer serve the Movement’s goals, which includes defining what constitutes a justified investment and what impact looks like. These discussions are necessary for our sustainability. I look forward to your engagement in shaping our future.

Details of the proposed procedure

Establishing a clear process for the sibling projects’ lifecycle is important to make space for new innovative ideas while maintaining and continuing support for the existing Sibling Projects.

The evaluation process for a request to open a new Sibling Project will include assessing the cost of migrating existing external projects, developing or adopting new tools that may be needed, and maintaining the project over time. For example, Wikifunctions needs resources that are very different from Wikivoyage. 

At the same time, we would like to evaluate existing Sibling Projects for success and sustainability. It would also be beneficial to have clearly defined approaches for splitting, merging, and sunsetting Projects, adopting external projects that come with their communities, and preparing Sibling Projects for merging or adoption by external organizations.2

“We have always needed a clearer process for sibling projects, which are essential to our mission. It’s great to have attention to these issues; this draft procedure is a healthy start, community input will improve it,” said Sam Klein, a contributor to many sibling projects and advisor to the Task Force.

We want your feedback

We will collect feedback on this draft procedure until June 23, 2024. We hope this feedback period will allow for rich discussions without feeling rushed. There are several ways to provide feedback:

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