Wikimedia's Theory of Change
- Main article: Theory of change
A theory of change provides a picture or description of the cause-and-effect logic by which desired results are achieved. Theories of change generally describe how resources and activities are used to reach an organization or movement's intended impact. Here is a more complex version of the
Our vision is a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
How will we achieve this vision? We believe there is a virtuous circle between participation, quality and reach. We expect that greater and more diverse participation will increase the quantity, quality, and scope of content that is available; with more relevant and comprehensive content, Wikimedia projects will be accessible and engaging to more readers around the globe. We believe that community tries to increase participation and extend our reach will have positive ripple efforts - just as greater participation will lead to greater reach, greater reach will lead to more participation down the road as readers become contributors. Likewise, we recognize the potential for negative feedback loops - if participation in our community declines too much, the quality and relevance of the content could suffer; this could, in turn, cause a decline in readership.
To reach more readers, engage more participants, and contain more quality content (including richer audio and video material), Wikimedia's infrastructure and technology platform must be sufficiently robust and stable. Further, we know that change is certain: the world and the Internet will be vastly different in five years than it is today, as will be the expectations of our readers and participants. Wikimedia must invest in experimentation and innovation to continually adapt to the changing world.
Based on this theory of change, we have established goals for the next five years in each of five areas:
1. Increase Reach
2. Improve Content Quality
3. Increase Participation
4. Stabilize Infrastructure
5. Encourage Innovation
- Main page: Reach
2015 Goal: Wikimedia has at least 680 million online visitors per month and 54% of those visitors will represent the Global South (2010: 42%).
Rationale: Wikimedia's vision is for the sum of all knowledge to be freely available to every individual in the world. There are currently about 375 million readers accessing Wikimedia content all over the world every month. While that's a huge number, it's only about 6% of the world's population. We have a long way to go before every human on earth has access to our content.
Summary: Wikimedia has experienced strong, steady growth in readership since its inception. Wikimedia has achieved great success among Internet users in many parts of the world, particularly in the Global North. Today, the Global South is under-represented in the Wikimedia movement, among readers, editors, and donors. Cultural awareness that free knowledge exists, can be drawn upon, and can be collaboratively created to serve others is also low. We need to continue to make gains toward our vision of free access to and sharing in the world's knowledge for every single human being on the planet.
|Key Indicators||Possible Targets||Other Measures|
|Global unique visitors to all Wikimedia web sites||
|Reach of Wikimedia content among people with no or limited connectivity||
1 Current baseline: 375 million visitors/month as of April 2010.
Improve Content Quality
- Main page: Quality
2015 Goal: The quantity of content available is X% higher than the 2010 baseline, and quality of content is transparent and commensurate, as measured by suitable metrics which include reader feedback for varying levels of reader. The number of projects reaching a given level of coverage of core topics, number of articles, and editor activity is Y% higher than the 2010 baseline. Editorial processes to minimize quality lapses and ensure all articles meet some minimal standard are developed on Z projects and broadly encouraged. A richer network of inter-project collaboration has developed to facilitate improved knowledge-sharing between similar groups of editors on different projects.
Rationale: While increasing readership and participation are important, they must be done with quality in mind. Quality (and not to be under-estimated, the perception of quality or of its lack) drives Wikimedia's reputation, which in turn drives readership and participation.
Quality has objective and subjective components - what Wikimedia is and also how Wikimedia is perceived and experienced. 'Quality' potentially covers all issues that adversely affect the experience of our readers. Technical, communal and interface issues such as poor presentation, lack of ease of access, navigation, and editing, lack of help and support, low levels of globalization, and other perceptional matters are very likely to be experienced as a lack of quality by users worldwide.
While quality is hard to measure, a key finding during the strategy process was that Wikimedia is far more likely to be judged in the public eye by its lapses or failings, however few, than by its successes. Attending to substandard material (including a simple baseline that all content should be able to reach and maintain within a short period after creation) is likely to be disproportionately valuable and create a perception of reassurance to readers. Substandard and fledgling content is also considerably easier to detect and easier for most editors to improve, compared to mature content.
A second key finding was that inter-project collaboration is probably a powerful and very overlooked tool to improve quality. At present, various WikiProjects mirroring each other in interests and goals may exist on different wikis, and yet knowledge and materials remain mutually isolated to the detriment of each project. Articles and topic areas on fledgling projects cannot easily benefit from work done on more mature projects or their thriving teams of editors interested in the topic, nor can more mature topics easily cover their topic as it relates to countries or languages unfamiliar to its editors. Editors on smaller projects may be the only active users with a specialist interest on that project - a situation under which discouragement is easy and seeking peer advice is hard. This could be remedied given better established ongoing collaborative links to their similar-minded peers in other Wikimedia projects. It also provides a home within the Wikimedia model for subject specialists who wish to help a topic area grow in quality by offering review or editorial help and knowledge but do not wish to fight disruptive users, by creating a space where editors from any project can visit to ask for review of or advice on a topic issue (competent reviewers for a topic may not exist on many smaller projects).
Summary: It's not enough to reach a wide swath of readers if the quality of our work in the broadest sense is to an insufficiently high standard. We want to encourage the creation and improvement of high-quality content. Our strategy on developing high-quality content centers largely around improving participation (see below). We also see an opportunity to make the quality of the content more transparent, through reader rankings and other means, rich potential to improve the "low end" of quality to the benefit of our reputation, and strong grounds to support the development of inter-project communication and collaboration. Quality covers the quality of the content and the project experience and perception to our users worldwide; however these other areas are largely the subject of their own studies in this project and in particular software/usability, accessibility/reach, and community health.
|Key Indicators||Possible Targets||Other Measures|
|Available content should meet content demand.||
|Contributors and community are fully aware of content quality's importance.||
|Independent audits by content experts.||
|Quality baseline (which may vary by project)||
|Interproject topic collaboration, by umbrella groups or otherwise.||
- Main page: Attracting and retaining participants
2015 Goal: Wikimedia has a healthy, global, and diverse community of volunteers.
Rationale: The ongoing quality and sustainability of Wikimedia content is critically dependent on the active participation of a critical mass of editors with diverse expertise and experience. Today, there is significant variation in the number of active contributors engaged in different Wikimedia projects and there are warning signs that our communities' need to be revitalized from within. There is much untapped potential to bring in new groups of contributors so that our communities more closely resemble the rich diversity of our globe as well as to retain the community leaders and contributors who have made the projects what they are today.
Summary: Wikimedia's core asset is its community of active contributors. The community has grown and changed shape since its inception in 2001. The number of active contributors across all language versions of Wikipedias, for example, grew quickly from 2001 to 2007 (increasing from 9 in January 2001 to 91,072 in January 2007). But since 2007, the total number of active contributors on Wikipedias has plateaued at about 90,000. To truly understand the dynamics that are underlying this general trend, however, it is necessary to dis-aggregate the data and consider the communities that are engaged in different projects within the Wikimedia movement.
On mature projects, such as English and German Wikipedia, the number of active contributors has plateaued. There are some signals that we are not as effective as we could be in helping new editors become active contributors to replace those who leave the projects. There are also signals that more experienced editors and administrators are becoming discouraged due to an increase in hostile behavior. Further, while these projects contain vast numbers of valuable articles, there is some indication that they suffer from systemic bias due to an imbalance of its contributors' demographic groups. This manifests in an imbalanced coverage of many subjects. We need to proactively reach out to a diverse group of potential participants and encourage them to contribute. We also need to create and value different levels of contributions. The value of a contribution should not be solely a result of the amount of free time available.
We also need to recruit and support new communities of editors to develop emerging projects. Many Wikimedia projects have fewer than 100 active contributors; at their current growth rate it could take years or decades before they have developed the type of information resources that are available to those who read English, German, French, and other languages more widely spoken in North America and Western Europe.
Achieving greater global diversity both within and across projects will require continued attention to the health of the Wikimedia movement. Wikimedia needs to be a respectful, civil, and welcoming place. It needs to value boldness and collaborative change. This will continue to build Wikimedia as a movement where many different ideas and topics from all perspectives are presented.
|Key Indicators||Possible Targets||Other Measures|
|Significant growth in number of active contributors.||
|The proportion of editors in under-represented groups increases.|
|Healthy, open source developer community|
|Growing and thriving Wikimedia Chapters||
- Current baseline: 100,000 active contributors (February 2010).
- "Mature" and "emerging" projects have not been rigorously defined.
- Main page: Technology
2015 Goal: The underlying project infrastructure is secure, stable, and sufficient to guarantee the permanence of the projects and support ongoing growth. The infrastructure is sufficiently strong to allow Wikimedia to remain innovative and actively stand at the cutting edge as web usage and expectations of online interactions and knowledge-seeking develop.
Rationale: Without financial and technological stability, the projects will not be able to achieve their key goals.
Summary: Infrastructure includes everything from the technology required to run the Wikimedia projects to the financial sustainability of the movement. No priorities can be achieved if the technology isn't running and responsive. Our current technology infrastructure is not as reliable as it could be. We need more redundancy in our network and better tools to support our operations. We also need more resources to support this infrastructure, from technology to expertise to funds. Playing catch up is not a sustainable strategy, especially if we are looking to expand both reach and participation substantially over the next five years. We must rapidly stabilize our infrastructure beyond our current capacity, so that we have room to grow.
Wikimedia's success and scale is due in large part to its enormous volunteer base, and we expect that to continue. However, there are critical aspects of our work that rely on financial support, many of which are carried out by the Wikimedia Foundation. In the past, the Wikimedia Foundation has not had the resources to work proactively towards supporting the movement. In order for this to change, the Wikimedia Foundation must grow bigger and faster, although it should remain small compared to the rest of the movement. The Foundation should continue to be financed largely through small donations from many, many small donors, which is in keeping with our principles and which prevents us from becoming unduly influenced by any single interest. Furthermore, it should seek even more donors from countries outside of the U.S.
|Key Indicators||Possible Targets||Other Measures|
|Wikimedia's uptime should be comparable to other web sites of its stature.||
|Wikimedia's revenue should increase significantly.||
2 If the average gift size remains at $33, this would result in annual revenue from community giving of $50 million.
- Main page: Innovation
2015 Goal: Wikimedia has processes for research, innovation, and experimentation in service to the Wikimedia vision and has efficient processes for migrating high potential innovations to production.
Rationale: Unless Wikimedia encourages a culture of innovation and experimentation, we run the risk of stagnation.
Summary: Wikimedia has existed for nearly a decade. In that time, we have seen the proliferation of mobile devices, content-rich websites, social networking tools, and Internet access across the globe. Although the Wikimedia movement has seen amazing growth since 2001, the fundamental approach to interaction both in a cultural and technical sense has remained largely static. Moreover, several Wikimedia communities have reached a mature stage in their development, which comes at a cost of reduced cultural willingness to innovate and try new ideas. Changes in many community guidelines have stabilized; in addition unwritten cultural norms are increasingly solidified. This path is not sustainable, as we cannot assume the technology and culture that made Wikimedia effective so far may not necessarily be effective in the future. Wikimedia and its communities need to respond to changes in technology and the broader social context, and at times (and within its founding principles) the communities will need to explore unfamiliar novel ideas and approaches and regularly [routinely? every few years?] re-examine itself from its roots upward, in the manner of a truly cutting edge movement.
The Wikimedia movement must be willing to experiment with new tools and processes in order to adapt and evolve. A crucial requirement is a willingness to openly accept the exploration of approaches that carry a chance of failure and learn from them -- to "fail well". Wikimedia must also organize the volunteer community to embrace iterative change, rather than stagnation and obstruction. The movement embraces a philosophy of pragmatism, and should experiment with new processes if there is evidence that there is a better way to achieve the Wikimedia vision.
|Key Indicators||Potential Targets||Additional Measures|
|Thriving environment of research and dialog regarding the social and technical aspects of Wikimedia content and communities.||
|Technologies supporting new forms of collaboration (different devices, different media, different types of content, real-time collaboration) successfully deployed into production.|
|A thriving ecology of services built on top of Wikimedia content and infrastructure.||
- For example - English Wikipedia (3.3M articles) is unlikely to have comprehensive coverage of Yemen's roads and towns, and Hindi Wikipedia (55K articles) is likely to benefit if its dedicated editors could gain easier ongoing access to the knowledge and accumulated know-how related to their fields within Wikimedia's more mature projects.
- More specifically, the encouragement of project-neutral, non-prescriptive, and non-binding spaces to facilitate people of like interest to interact with other editors of the same interest regardless of "home project" was seen as a positive and potent approach to quality improvement which would also have beneficial knock-on effects on participation and growth in smaller projects, especially by dedicated subject-editors. The concept of "Global WikiProjects" - umbrellas for all local project groups and editors with an interest in a given field, no matter what project they edit upon, aimed at encouraging cross-project collaboration, quality, and resource sharing on a given topic in a non-prescriptive and egalitarian manner - was one possible approach.
- See WikiStats for more detail.