Everything started on a rainy day in the airport. Rain poured us and the propeller of the plane started moving while Ingrid Bergman… well. It wasn’t that way.
It was a sunny day in sunny Valencia. It was April and we were celebrating the Internet Freedom Festival, an event held yearly in my city. It wasn’t Ingrid Bergman or Humphrey Bogart, but Liang, Board member of Wikimedia Taiwan and Strategy Liaison for the Mandarin-speaking community, who I found there. He was the first person from my team that I met. He was coming to Valencia with more members of Wikimedia Taiwan to talk about Chinese Wikipedia and also about censorship. It was a good experience to train myself in my new role as Strategy Liaison for the Spanish-speaking community and also arranging the first Strategy Salon I was going to see: some festival attendants and some local Wikimedians had arranged a meeting to talk about the future of our movement.
Strategy Wikimedia 2030
So what is a Strategy Liaison? Back in 2015, the Wikimedia movement set a goal of becoming the essential support system in the ecosystem of free knowledge by 2030. To help us get there, the community has been working to better understand how we work, what our values are, our strengths and our weaknesses. Nine working groups with about 15 people each have been researching and analyzing the movement to develop recommendations for change. A key part of this has been gathering insights and perspectives from Wikimedia’s global community. As a Strategy Liaison, my role in this process is to engage the Spanish speaking Wikimedia community, keep them informed about movement strategy and share their insights into the work the working groups produce that can arrive in formal and informal channels.
As somebody who has been a Wikimedian for more than a decade and has been active locally by volunteering for edit-a-thons, workshops, and who is the first Wikimedian-in-residence in my region, I’ve always been interested in the movement. In 2018, I had to step away from the movement and even editing a little, but when I had the time to engage deeper in the movement and I discovered how many things we could be able to do with this new horizon in mind, I didn’t hesitate to join.
Once on board with this new adventure, I met a team of people who would function as Strategy Liaisons for six other language communities and who are all very inspired by the goal of better understanding the needs of the Wikimedia movement and what we are going to face in the next 10 years. And fortunately, our communities were also very focused on that objective: When I landed in the Strategy Liaison team, some people were already writing their feedback about working group work on Meta pages. In parallel, about 80 people from many regions and languages from the Spanish speaking world participated weekly in our Telegram channel, discussing and giving feedback about the work that the 9 working groups were producing.
Developing a broad reach
A core focus of our work as Strategy Liaisons was to hear from a diverse range of people and communities. To guarantee that a plurality of voices and points of views were covered, I actively reached out to minorities willing to talk about what they hoped to see in the future of Wikimedia. In person and via telephone, I spoke with activists, editors, journalists, and cultural agents who were representative of a wide range of people from the Latin American indigenous peoples to Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea. I also met the smallest Wikimedia community in Spain: the editors for the Aragonese language welcomed me to their annual meeting, and we discussed for several hours their reality as Wikimedians in a community with 30,000 speakers overall. A lot of valuable feedback about diversity was provided from their unique point of view for a European language.
Despite Aragonese being a language that is not so well covered by the media, local Wikimedians have been able to overcome those difficulties by adapting the notability policies to their context by giving more attention to who the author is of the source rather than its format. Their example can be used in many other contexts.
Thanks to the extremely focused and participative Spanish community, the working groups received substantial feedback from the Iberian and Latin American community. This was used to help create the draft recommendations for our movement’s future, which were made public before Wikimania. The peak of the discussions happened at Wikimania, when 9 sessions (one per working group) were held with levels of attendance ranging from 30-60 people. Afterward, the Spanish-speaking Wikimedia community continued to discuss and debate these recommendations and what they would mean for the future of the projects they cared about. On each occasion, discussions were designed to be open and participatory; in other words, Wiki-style.
Spanish-speaking strategy salons
Meanwhile, over the summer, communities in Venezuela and Bolivia held three Strategy Salons – in-person community meetings designed to discuss the future of our movement – with feedback that reflected their particular realities. The events were held in spite of electric shortages and forestal fires damaging these countries. Thanks, boys and gals, for giving us your time and effort in those hard times to build a better world with free knowledge in mind. Given the huge diversity of contexts in Latin America, these discussions were marked by the communities’ needs in capacity building as affiliates who strongly believe in their volunteers. Experiences like the block of Wikipedia in Venezuela were highlighted, providing a valuable testimony that will be helpful in case of new threats to the freedom of information. TOR editing, censorship, and anonymity but also the testimonies of people whose lives have been improved thanks to Wikipedia were some of the topics discussed by about 30 people in two morning-afternoon shifts. Despite the difficulties that made Wikimedia Venezuela drop its activities by 80% last year, theirs is a living community with a great energy and the will to keep the good work for free knowledge in a voluntary basis.
In the Bolivian context, 2 Salons were hosted, one of them for young people. Here, indigenous communities had a strong presence, with their needs as people who have been historically marginalized and also their experience with minority languages brought to the fore. About 15 people participated in the two events, with a strong emphasis on local difficulties and needs, especially when it comes to access to sources and information in mountain and non-urban areas, but also with a very constructive debate about how neutral the sources available are and which point of view they represent. This is a very sensitive issue in a country with a majority of descendants of indigenous people where most of the available sources have been written by white descendants.
The Catalan community was also able to organize a full day meeting where all 9 working group thematic areas were discussed. More than 10 people spent about one hour overall analyzing each of the recommendations per area, with a fast sandwich lunch to save time. Gràcies, eixerits. Especially to those who kept the discussions alive until the last moment, as I had to leave them to get the last train to my town. I didn’t have the time to stay to the end, but you all did.
In this case, a strong focus was put on the need to strengthen volunteers as the main force of our movement. Open, participatory channels, grassroots decision making and fully elected bodies formed by editors were some of their suggestions on the organizational side.
We must arrive far away
And with all that feedback we arrive at our current point. Arrangements were made, changes were asked. The draft recommendations are public and everyone in our movement is working to take them forward. Some of the final recommendations will be very exciting. Some others may be more challenging, but necessary. As a movement, we will need to work together to give life to the final recommendations and decide what they mean for our future.
My grandma would be shocked, and my grandpa would laugh when quoting Buenaventura Durruti. As the famous anarchist guerrillero said: “We are not afraid of ruins, because we have a new world in our hearts. And that world is being built right now”. And a new world with free knowledge in mind is being built by our Wikipedia 2030 Strategy Plan.