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Proposal:Alliances and partnerships

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About this Document

This document was submitted by Sara Crouse, Head of Partnerships and Foundation Relations for the Wikimedia Foundation.
The purpose of this document is to recap, assess, and make recommendations about partnership-forming activities of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF); to document general knowledge about partnership activities of WMF; and to augment the recommendations of the Partnerships and Alliances task force for the Wikimedia Strategic Planning process. This document is not intended to capture the partnership activities of the Wikimedia chapters and volunteer community at-large; nor does it make recommendations on specific partnerships or relationships. Rather, it represents one viewpoint on how to structure a strong partnerships program using existing resources. This document does not represent the outlook or viewpoint of the Wikimedia Foundation.


For purposes of this document, definitions are as follows:

A Partnership is a strategic alliance or cooperative effort between the Wikimedia Foundation and a like-minded, mission-oriented organizations, primarily of a charitable and educational nature. Partnerships exclude revenue-producing business relationships: the broad end-goal of a partnership is to create a positive and broad social impact, not monetary gain.

Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) is the non-profit organization; Wikimedia is the movement or community at-large, including chapters and volunteers worldwide.

The term like-minded refers to organizations that play a role in the movements which intersect with WMF's mission and the core values of the Wikimedia projects. These movements include “Free Culture,” Open Source, Open Educational Resources, Open Access, etc. The term ecosystem is used to refer to the sum total of these movements.

This document does not define or break down various types of partnerships (such as content partnerships, educational partnerships, etc.).

Partnership Criteria

Currently, the general preconditions to WMF partnerships are:

  • Partner organization aligns with the mission and principles of WMF and the Wikimedia projects, such as the premise that content be made available free of charge and free of advertising under open and free content licenses.
  • The partnership enhances the primary objectives of WMF to increase participation, quality and reach of the Wikimedia projects, and to positively impact the ecosystem on the whole.

Other beneficial elements of partnerships are or may, in the future, be:

  • The relationship and/or its outcomes can be taken forward by the Wikimedia chapters and volunteer community.
  • Lessons learned from the process of developing the partnership can be documented and applied in other contexts.
  • The potential outcomes of a partnership are consistent with priorities that derive from the strategic planning process.
  • The partnership strengthens multi-party alliances within the ecosystem.
  • The partnership has co-funding or support from a grant-making foundation.

WMF Partnerships: Background

WMF has implemented or supported partnerships with like-minded organizations over several years, with an increase in activity as staff and volunteer resources develop are discovered. The development of these partnerships and exploratory discussions has been of an ad hoc, informal nature. Some resulting, formalized partnerships have emerged from this activity. These partnerships have not been assessed for success/failure, except for externally funded partnerships on which WMF reports results to the grantor (e.g. the wiki-to-print project, which was partially funded by the Open Society Institute). There are no widely held or WMF board-approved definitions or parameters around partnerships.

There is great expressed interest and inquiries from organizations around the world in partnering with Wikimedia. WMF has had the capacity to directly facilitate and develop only a few high quality full-scale partnerships (see Section 6.1).

Current Resources for Partnerships Program


WMF staff members who have played a primary role in executing partnerships include the Deputy Director, the Head of Public Outreach, and the Head of Partnerships and Foundation Relations. Partnership work has been facilitated by the WMF technology team and Wikimedia volunteers.

To-date, the staff's work related to partnerships has generally been as follows:

  • Cultivate relationships with funder-partners i.e. mission oriented grant-making foundations, which support WMF priority projects and WMF's financial sustainability goals.
  • Develop or follow through on a limited number of key partnerships, detailed in Section 6.1.
  • Hold preliminary discussions with like-minded organizations, such as those in Section 6.2.
  • Endorse work of academics and other organizations that is consistent with WMF's objectives and principles (see Section 6.3).
  • Attend events and conferences of like-minded organizations, in order to build relationships, and have a presence and stake in the ecosystem.
  • Align WMF with grant-makers that support like-minded organizations, and can help foster alliances (such as the Hewlett Foundation, which funds Open Educational Resource projects).
  • Carry out public outreach and technology development projects in partnership with other organizations, as detailed in Section 6.1.

Chapters and Volunteers

The global network of Wikimedia chapters and volunteers has done extensive work to further partnership activities that promote specific regions, language, subject matter areas, Wikimedia projects, and Wikimedia's activities on the whole. The table below (Section 6.1) includes a few examples of partnerships that have been successfully executed by the Wikimedia community and chapters, which may serve as case studies or templates for future partnerships. These activities have not been captured in a systematic way.

Wikimedia Partnership Activities

Some current and previous partnerships

The following table shows examples of partnerships that have been formed by WMF and/or Wikimedia chapters and volunteers. It is not a comprehensive list of Wikimedia partnership activities.

Partners involved Nature of Partnership Background
Wikimedia Germany and the German Federal Archive Content donation and linking to persondata. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Bundesarchiv
Wikimedia Germany and Deutsche Fotothek Content donation. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Deutsche_Fotothek
Wikimedia Foundation and SOS Children, UK Wikipedia Selection for Schools DVD. http://schools-wikipedia.org/
Wikimedia Foundation, Commonwealth of Learning, the Open Society Institute, and PediaPress.com Wiki-to-print technology (books from Wikipedia articles). http://blog.wikimedia.org/2009/02/20/wiki-to-print-feature-activated-in-six-more-wikipedia-languages/
Wikimedia Foundation and One Laptop Per Child Wikipedia on OLPC laptops. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Press_releases/One_Laptop_Per_Child_Includes_Wikipedia_on_$100_Laptops
Wikimedia Foundation and Mozilla Open Source video development. http://blog.wikimedia.org/2009/01/26/mozilla-and-wikimedia-join-forces-to-support-open-video/
Wikimedia Foundation and U.S. National Institutes of Health Wiki training and workshop for NIH employees, to make health and science information more accessible and reliable. http://www.nih.gov/news/health/jul2009/od-14.htm
Wikimedia Foundation and UNU-Merit First-ever, comprehensive and global Wikipedia survey. http://blog.wikimedia.org/2009/04/16/first-preliminary-results-from-unu-merit-survey-of-wikipedia-readers-and-contributors-available/
Wikimedia Foundation and/or Wikimedia Chapters, and educational or cultural institutions worldwide Wikipedia Academies: Public outreach events designed to coach academics and other subject ­matter experts on how to contribute to Wikipedia, and to view it as user-friendly. http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia_Academy
Volunteers worldwide, and educational institutions Projects promoting Wikipedia in schools and universities. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:School_and_University_projects

Exploratory discussions

Following are examples of organizations with which WMF has held substantive partnership discussions


From time to time, WMF provides letters of support from the Wikimedia Foundation to an organization or individual who is doing work that aligns with WMF's mission and objectives and/or supports the ecosystem on the whole. Endorsements are requested by the external party and considered carefully by the foundation. An endorsement from Wikimedia can enhance the recipient's potential to receive grant funding for their work and/or serve as vote of confidence for the organization/individual in the public eye. Following are some examples of organizations and proposed activities endorsed by the Wikimedia Foundation.

Organization/person endorsed Activities endorsed Background
CK12 Development of textbook materials that are accessible at a lower cost for K-12 students, and which allow teachers to adapt the content of their teaching materials to best suit their students\' local learning environment. http://ck12.org
Palo Alto Research Center (Ed Chi) and University of Illinois Urbana Champaign Research into real-world tools to improve Wikipedia credibility and quality, and developing a better understanding of coordination and conflict among editors, quality and credibility, and ways of improving reach and participation, and quality and credibility among editors. http://asc-parc.blogspot.com/
Europeana A potential collaborative effort between the Wikimedia volunteer community, led by the Wikimedia Germany chapter, and Europeana, in order to integrate content on European cultural heritage content, presented via Europeana, with Wikipedia. http://www.europeana.eu/portal/
Professors John Riedl and Aniket Kittur The development of analytic tools and interfaces that enable research into intelligent user interfaces for Wikipedia. http://www.cs.umn.edu/people/faculty/riedl
Dr. Kevin Crowston The creation of a common wiki data repository to be shared among researchers. http://crowston.syr.edu/
OER Foundation (Connexions) and WikiEducator (Wayne MacIntosh) Implementation of interoperability mechanisms among free content and open source initiatives; and building solutions for Connexions and WikiEducator to use media from Wikimedia Commons through import/export functionality between these respective open source platforms. http://oerconsortium.org/2009/11/17/wikieducator-and-connexions-collaboration/

Assessment of Current State

Great interest at-large, many viable partners

A qualitative analysis of the volume and nature of communications and inquiries to WMF about partnerships shows that there is great interest among like-minded organizations around the world to partner with WMF, and to improve the Wikimedia projects and the ecosystem in general. WMF is contacted by museums, archives, universities, research groups, educational institutions, government affiliates, public interest groups, public media organizations, technology organizations, etc. It can therefore be inferred that there is great potential to partner with any number of viable organizations. Equally, many organizations that do not align well with WMF and its mission wish to partner for various reasons. It is therefore generally held, at WMF, that a measured, consistent, and responsible approach should be taken towards relationship development with potential partner organizations.

Strong volunteer resources

Wikimedia chapters and individual volunteers alike have successfully formed partnerships of their own accord, with limited resources or support from WMF, as exemplified in Section 6.1. The Wikimedia community has expressed strong interest in participating in partnership activities, and there have been forums for discussion and presentations on this topic at events such as Wikimania, the annual chapters meetings, the recent Multimedia meeting in Paris, and the GLAM conference in Australia. The cultural partners mailing list is an active forum for exchange and communication among community members who are interested in supporting and executing partnerships. Many individual volunteers who want to help have self-identified. There are enthusiastic volunteers with highly specialized skills, knowledge, and relationships that would be valuable to the development of Wikimedia's partnerships.

Decentralized communications and resources

Channels of communication and resources regarding Wikimedia partnerships include the following:

Many other resources and forums that exist around this topic, however, they have not been pooled or centrally coordinated.

WMF priorities and capacity

From 2007-09, WMF's core focus was on becoming a sustainable non-profit, and undertaking the work necessary to mature past its first phase of growth. This work includes organizational development, staffing key areas (technology, programs), and fundraising. WMF then focused on launching projects that are preconditions to core mission work and key to the success of the Wikimedia projects, such as improving usability, and the development of a core set of educational resources and training materials (the Bookshelf). A Partnerships program has not been within the scope of WMF's major priorities to-date.

With minimal staff resources and no coordinated volunteer effort, WMF currently maintains few, yet significant, relationships with partner organizations. All the while, WMF carefully navigates new relationships to set the stage for the future (without having yet developed a strategic or business plan). The stopgap solution has been to place low priority on actively seeking new relationships that cannot be proactively maintained, but to develop an ongoing rapport with some like-minded organizations that are obvious “fits”, and to sustain the highest quality partnerships possible given minimal resources and current priorities, which may change or be augmented post-strategic plan.

Needs and Questions

Given the assessment above, the current state of partnership activities, and what we can infer thus far to-date, the following needs and questions arise.

Basic definitions and parameters needed

  • What is the formal definition of a “partnership” and at what point is it deemed officially a partnership?
  • How are partnerships categorized? By the activity that they promote (e.g. content acquisition, technology development, etc.)? By region? By type of partner organization? Or a hybrid of all of the above?
  • On what criteria should a potential partnership be assessed?

Coordination/management roles need to be defined

  • What will be WMF's level of involvement with respect to partnership activities, and what priority will it place on partnerships going forward vis a vis its other operations?
  • What funding will be allocated to staff and resource partnership activities at or via WMF?
  • How can WMF best facilitate partnerships and maximize opportunities via the global volunteer network?
  • What will the chapters role be in partnership activities?

Existing resources need to be thoroughly assessed

  • What promising relationships are being developed or exist between the Wikimedia community and potential or existing partners?
  • What partnerships exist already, that have been formed by Wikimedia volunteers and chapters that are unknown to WMF?
  • What information is available, on wikis, mailing lists, blogs, etc. that may inform partnership activities (such as those resources in Section 7.3)?
  • Who documents partnership activities and where are they documented?
  • Which volunteers know how to execute technical partnerships, content partnerships, etc.; and, which volunteers have the time, interest, and skills to pursue and follow through with partnerships?


The recommendations in Section 10 are based on the needs and questions identified in Section 8, and on several assumptions:

  • A successful partnership has intrinsic value (such as cultural capital and educational benefit) to the Wikimedia projects and ecosystem.
  • There is untapped potential for WMF and the Wikimedia movement with respect to partnership activities.
  • This potential could be realized by a coordinated effort to capitalize on existing resources and relationships, and a highly engaged volunteer community.
  • The strategic planning process will provide recommendations for priority areas that should be the focus of future partnerships where WMF is concerned.
  • There is no existing formal structure or roadmap for partnership activities at this time.


The following recommendations do not represent the viewpoint of the Wikimedia Foundation. Recommendations are based on the premise that we need to better understand the current state of the partnerships landscape, identify existing resources, define priorities, and apply all of the above to developing partnerships. A process that pulls in all manner of resources and diverse voices is recommended. A course of action modeled on the current Wikimedia strategic planning process (on a much smaller and general scale) would ensure a comprehensive and collaborative approach that will maximize partnership opportunities for Wikimedia.

Recommendation: allocate volunteer and staff resources to partnerships program.

  • WMF hire a partnerships coordinator or dedicate staff resources to partnerships program. This person would facilitate the development and work of a Partnerships Committee, and eventually assess further staffing and funding needs.
  • Convene a Partnerships Committee of experienced volunteers and stakeholders involved in partnerships to-date. With staff support, this committee would determine how to best resource and carry out the activities described in the recommendations below.
  • Assign communications liaison(s): a volunteer(s) or intern to monitor existing communications channels (e-mail lists, OTRS, etc.); volunteer(s) will prioritize and respond to inquiries while partnerships program is being developed, and summarize the nature of real-time activities to the committee.

Recommendation: undertake a comprehensive appraisal of the partnerships landscape.

  • Survey community, stakeholders, and organizations in ecosystem in order to assess partnership activities that are underway or desired. Document results on-wiki.
  • Identify and streamline existing communications channels and information about partnerships. Centrally coordinate on-wiki.
  • Offer “Wikimedia Partnerships” as a case study for an MBA or other graduate program, to assess opportunities from an external perspective.

Recommendation: develop definitions and priorities, based on assessment of partnerships landscape.

  • Identify categories of partnerships by region, type, volunteer group, etc.
  • Define “partnership” for the Wikimedia movement.
  • Measure partnerships landscape against WMF objectives and the priorities that emerge from the strategic planning process. Broadly identify desired partners/groups based on this assessment.
  • Identify opportunities for joint funding of partnership activities.
  • Develop criteria grid to assess and prioritize potential partner organizations. Some sample criterion:
    • Partner organization meets committee-defined preconditions;
    • Number of shared objectives (partnership will enhance reach, quality, etc.);
    • Complexity (number of parties involved or resources/time needed);
    • Availability of funding or resources to support partnership, etc.

Recommendation: produce a basic set of resources and “how to” materials related to partnerships (partnerships “bookshelf”).

A partnerships bookshelf would serve as an information resource and enable widespread volunteer-driven partnerships that are consistent with an overarching program and plan. Examples of materials that could be shared for this benefit are below. Some already exist and need refinement.

  • Partnerships FAQ
  • Guidelines for forming partnership by type of partnership
  • Defining partnership versus business relationships
  • Best practice documentation and case studies
  • Partnership templates/agreements that can be customized, adapted, and used by chapters and Wikimedia advocates
  • Advocacy materials
  • Cross-reference to Wikimedia Bookshelf materials (such as “Introduction to free licenses")

Recommendation: initiate outreach to target groups/organizations.

  • WMF convene a conference of like-minded organizations.
  • Issue RFP on-wiki and to potential partner organizations.
  • WMF develops and maintains a select few high priority relationships with organizations and funder-partners.
  • Chapters and volunteers develop and maintain regional, language-based, and other specific relationships with organizations.

Community Discussion

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  1. Vibhijain 11:03, 6 May 2011 (UTC)
  2. .. Sign your name here!