Annual Report 2020
As for the rest of the world Wikimedia Sverige had a turbulent 2020 due to COVID-19 with many significant changes in plans and activities. However, much of our work could either be rearranged in time or taken online and we have continued to execute well during these times, with all of the staff members working the same amount of time per month as usual.
The four programmatic areas developed in 2016—Access, Use, Community and Enabling—have continued to form the base of the project structure. The first quarter the chapter had a large number of events and activities planned and successfully executed on them. We had a few major trends this year:
- We grew to continue growing
- We successfully onboarded five new great staff members: Josefine Hellroth-Larsson (project manager education and trainings), Karl Wettin (developer), Maria Burehäll (organizational assistant), David Haskiya (organizational strategist) and Jenny Brandt (organizational assistant).
- Work to develop a new stream of funding from Face2Face fundraising has been an increasing focus this year. We launched a set of experimental events in the autumn of 2020 where we hired 4 people to work part time with fundraising for 3 months. Based on the insights from these experiments we will increase the local fundraising work in the coming years.
- Policies and procedures were reviewed and supplemented when needed to allow not only for a larger team, but for a more diverse and distributed team. Planning for a comprehensive effort to translate existing material into English is ongoing.
- We further internationalized our work
- During the year we continued to prepare the organization to take a leading role in the movement and develop into a thematic hub focusing on supporting the Wikimedia movement around content partnerships. Even though the work was delayed due to COVID-19, see below, we manage to make significant improvements in our planning and operations to allow for a major increase in staff and capacities with a short notice.
- We actively participated in the development of the final version of the Wikimedia movement’s global strategic recommendations and of the implementation work that followed. Our ED was one of the main writers to the final document. The global strategy work also influenced the development of Wikimedia Sverige’s new multi-year strategy.
- The WikiGap campaign was successfully organized for a third year in a row. Originally physical events were planned in 40-50 countries, but many had to be cancelled last minute or moved to a virtual setting due to COVID-19. A large amount of the events were carried through anyway, with innovative solutions on how to make virtual WikiGap events. What was new this year was that we partnered with UN Human Rights to identify articles to focus on for our online challenge. To engage partners to identify missing articles is something we think can be scaled significantly next year and we have initiated discussions with a few interesting organizations for the international work.
- A new long term partnership with UNFPA was formalized in 2020. We initiated our joint efforts to design a way for UN agencies to contribute with knowledge in a crisis situation, with COVID-19 as a first test case. We will also work to share their content on the Wikimedia platforms and to partner to continue developing WikiGap. This is a model we hope can be used in other UN cooperations in the coming years, as a number of UN agencies have been in contact with us. We continue to discuss with them but have chosen to not rush into any new major partnerships, but instead to continue to develop the partnership model before we move forward.
- During the year we deepened our partnerships with different Wikimedia affiliates. We continued cooperating with Wikimedia Deutschland around technical development and we have also supported Wikimedia Israel in their work to develop a new statistical tool for GLAM partnerships. We have also had one of our staff members now working from Wikimedia Norway’s offices, which we now cover some of the costs for, and we hope that we will be able to deepen our cooperation around languages and technology with them.
- We provided five minor event grants to a number of Wikimedia organizations in Africa. The aim with the grants was to increase the coverage of African GLAM institutions on the Wikimedia platforms.
- We took important steps to increase our volunteer engagement
- Preparatory work was done to allow for an expansion of the volunteer engagement through the development of a long term strategy, a volunteer strategy and new training and educational material.
- More than a hundred librarians trained to use and contribute to Wikimedia projects and to organize local activities at the libraries with the long term aim to develop local volunteer groups across the country.
- We increased political activities
- Our work to provide inputs during the implementation of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive of the European Union into Swedish law continued, and we initiated a network of NGOs and cultural institutions and organizations affected by the proposal. This network can hopefully be maintained and facilitated for long term activities.
- We met with European Commission representatives around the future of digitization of cultural heritage a number of times and provided feedback on material that they produced, e.g. around 3D digitization.
- As UNESCO’s new OER recommendations was adopted by the Swedish government we worked to create and facilitate a network of engaged experts in Sweden to support the implementation of the recommendations at different authorities in Sweden.
- We got even more digital
- As we closed down our office we had to implement a number of new procedures and tools to continue working effectively. Already before COVID-19 we were a very well developed digital organization, but there were a number of missing pieces that we worked to put in place allowing us to go fully digital as an organization. This included digital signatures for contracts, detailed plans for digital events, digital team building activities etc.
- Due to the physical risks with meeting in person the board took the decision to adjust our Annual General Meeting to become fully digital. This was the first time in the history of the association and there were a lot of practical issues to solve. The feedback from the participants were very positive, and we shared our learnings with the wider Wikimedia community and Swedish civil society organizations as many other organizations were planning digital AGMs (after ours had already taken place).
- We continued to innovate
- We joined a number of research initiatives with the hope for funding in the coming years, e.g. around article quality, around natural language processing and of cultural heritage digitization.
- Our work around natural language processing and audio on Wikimedia’s projects continued and we experimented in a number of ways in this underexplored area. We did deep dives regarding both musical recordings, sheet music, lexical resources and speech recordings.
- We participated in the digital version of the LIBER 2020 Annual Conference, where we were honoured with the price LIBER Award for Library Innovation.
The funding we already have secured is covering our costs until early 2022, but do not allow for increase in operations. If no further funding is secured the current spending would deplete our reserves, which we started rebuilding just two years ago.
We struggled to gain the long term funding we had hoped to secure starting 2020. The work to become a thematic hub, and as such take a larger role in the Wikimedia movement around content partnerships, was delayed. The plan was originally to scale up the work in 2020, but Wikimedia Foundation decided last minute not to increase funding for any new initiatives due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential effect on their fundraising efforts. After negotiation we secured the same funding as previous year, which allows us to continue ramping our efforts to be even more ready to scale up our operations in mid-2021 instead.
We also received negative news regarding our application to the Swedish Postcode Lottery to become beneficiary of their ongoing funding support. The Lottery scaled down their funding for the year and only accepted one new organization (out of 40 qualified organizations applying). We are fulfilling all the formal criteria and intend to re-apply in 2022 or 2023, after we have increased our brand visibility in the country with a dedicated project we hope to secure from the Swedish Postcode Foundation.
We have significantly increased our work with fundraising, both with grant applications but also with Face2Face fundraising and online fundraising on social media.
Our Access program focuses on improving the free content on, or available to, the Wikimedia projects both short and long term. This continues to be our largest program, both in number of ongoing projects and initiatives, and in budget. Preparations to further scale this program in the coming years were a major focus during 2020. However, it is worth noting that a lot of work that also supports the community happens as an integrated part of the program – for example in the FindingGLAMs project support was provided to local volunteer communities in five countries.
We have over the years established strong practices around expert engagement, partnerships and technical support and we have successfully continued to build upon them during the year. We have continued to experiment and develop our toolbox to allow for new types of partnerships or activities to happen. Some of the learnings have been presented in our white paper, based on the experiences gained during the 18 month long FindingGLAMs project. They form a foundation for our thinking and planning for what technical development is needed in the movement to support GLAMs better. We continued to develop these ideas into a technical direction for the thematic hub (still to be published and distributed widely for feedback) and to a number of external grant applications that we are currently in the process of finalizing.
The interests from GLAM professionals to learn about our work and discuss possible partnerships was very large and seemed to be steady during the pandemic. There seems to be an increased interest and understanding about the values created with digital representation and activation when the physical activities have been rendered impossible. Our discussions have been very positive with many organizations and we have had a large participation at our online trainings. That said, we see many opportunities for further engagement and discussions. Our experience in this area has given us an opportunity to take a leading role and we hope to keep this momentum going.
As staff from our partner organizations work from home and focus more on the digital aspects we have seen quick responses and interest to work on different initiatives around batch uploads and the support to prepare the metadata to different collections have been very good. We will still have to see how the reduced financial strength amongst the GLAM institutions, due to lower levels of visitors etc., will affect their willingness to buy our services around batch uploads in 2021. In 2020 we did not provide any consultancy service – in fact we did not offer this to any partners as our staff’s time was fully occupied.
Wikimedia Sverige is in this for the long run. We aim to change the way organizations and the society think about knowledge dissemination and production. Creating that kind of change in attitudes will allow for the full impact of free knowledge. By convincing decision makers to adopt different forms of policies around openness we are laying the foundations for accessing new material in the future. One interesting area is to target the funds available, and this year we had the opportunity to engage with the European Commission’s next 10 year fundraising strategies, the Horizon Europe and Digital Europe programs. We have participated in meetings and send written feedback on documents to them.
We continue to support the staff at our partner organizations with trainings. We intend to broaden the offers we have to them with e.g. more networking opportunities and to take part in different reference groups where their expertise can guide our work. We established our first network around open educational resources (OER) in the spring and expanded the work during the autumn. The learnings from this network will allow us to scale to other areas of relevance to our organization, where we believe that there currently is missing support to the experts interested to further engage in an area.
We met with the permanent delegations at UNESCO to share our work with the FindingGLAMs project.
The focus of the program is to make the platforms and activities known, appreciated and trusted. It also includes our work to make the platforms easy to use and both our platforms and activities accessible to everyone.
Making the platforms and activities known and appreciated
Previously, with more limited resources invested, we have targeted different expert groups etc. in our communication, e.g. Facebook groups for GLAM professionals. In 2020 we have invested resources to develop our presence on social media so that our activities and messaging will reach a significantly larger audience. This was part of our preparations for an increased focus on fundraising in the second half of the year and for our application to become a so-called Förmånstagare from the Postcode Lottery. At the end of the year we organized a second social media campaign for the year. This time we tried to test out some fundraising messages and improve brand awareness.
We broadened our focus on social media to actively share information about the value and importance of free knowledge and about the Wikimedia platforms as tools to achieve more free knowledge of better quality. We also experimented with engaging our followers to do small tasks, with the idea that this will get them “hooked” and engage more over time. This turned out to be rather hard, but we saw a lot of active interaction with the posts.
We believe that more communication will, amongst other things, improve our possibilities for increasing participation at our events, help us to find more partners, increase funding opportunities and avoid misunderstandings about our work and the Wikimedia platforms. Also, our goal of reaching 5,000 members in the association in 3 years is dependent on developing clearer communication that highlights the value of the work we do.
Making usage easy and accessible to everyone
Through our efforts we hope to make the platforms easier to use for our readers. We focus both on our in-house development, mainly through the ambitious Wikispeech project, and on informing other developer teams about issues that we encounter during workshops and other events that we organize. We also work on methods to bring content of high value during a crisis accessible as fast as possible.
We are putting more and more effort into regular communication through our social media channels. For example, before Wiki Loves Earth we invited one of the previous winners to share his advice on our blog.
Supporting existing community
We work to support our wider community in a number of ways, which is possible thanks to staff members with a wide variety of skills and because of the infrastructure we have built up in the last few years.
We see the Wikimedia movement needing two different sets of volunteers, that to some degree overlap:
- The online contributors that for example edits Wikipedia, that photograph for Wikimedia Commons or add data to Wikidata.
- The volunteers that are interested in supporting free knowledge offline in different ways, such as organizing events, giving lectures, soliciting new members or forming new partnerships.
We have historically focused on the first group, but now we are aiming to create resources needed to grow the second group. This year we have therefore focused on building a stronger foundation by developing communication tools, developing a strategy and by developing training material.
We continued to create meeting spaces and to cover costs associated with the volunteer work. Due to COVID-19 these efforts have however been hampered as events have not been able to be organized by the volunteer community, e.g. the yearly Wikimedia camps we have organized had to be cancelled. Other parts were however possible to move online, at least partly, e.g. the regular edit-a-thons hosted by some of the volunteers.
We also worked to provide technical support to create tools (i.e. requested solutions for long standing technical problems) for the most active volunteers. This year we added a maptool to Swedish Wikipedia which had been requested.
Expanding the community
To grow the community on the Wikimedia platforms we organized a number of activities during the year. They were specifically aimed at creating interest amongst groups of people who have yet to engage on our platforms, or around free knowledge in general.
We worked to raise awareness of Wikimedia projects in order for new participants to engage. When the new participants started to contribute we made sure to provide support to lower barriers and to create an inclusive environment.
Our cooperation with different organizations has been a cornerstone in achieving success in community growth. By involving the communities of our partners in our projects, some of their community members have joined the Wikimedia community in some capacity.
Both the WikiGap initiative and the Wiki Loves contests have continued to be strong vehicles for engagement from new volunteers and we will continue to develop these concepts further.
The chapter aims to be a relevant actor for years to come and is actively working towards building the organizational capacity needed for long term activities and commitments. We need to be a good employer, a strong partner, and a well functioning democratic and transparent membership organization with a close cooperation with a strong volunteer community. The chapter is also intending to not be an isolated player but be actively involved in the international movement.
These intentions demand projects that are more long term oriented and strategic. The projects in this program therefore contribute only marginally to content production in a given year, but over time will ensure the success and sustainability of all our activities.
To be able to develop skills in relevant fields board and staff members shall be given the opportunity to develop their skills. More than half of the staff members have participated in different types of trainings this year, a few at multiple ones. The work with developing educational material for new volunteers and members to easier use our tools and join our projects has continued.
As Wikimedia Sverige intends to grow in the coming years we see a great need to ensure that we ongoingly identify and take notice of suitable board members, potential new staff members, and volunteers who have capacity to take leadership roles in different initiatives. We are in the process of developing a more comprehensive set of training materials for both volunteers and staff. We are also planning for more internal capacity building with staff members sharing their expertise with their colleagues.
Ensuring that our work is transparent is core to how we plan our projects and day-to-day work. Transparency is inherently valuable as more people can give feedback, point out problems, suggest solutions and in other ways contribute.
However, working in such a transparent manner is something that takes a bit of getting used to for new team members, new volunteers, consultants and external partners. It also comes with an increased cost to ensure that all documentation is understandable, summarized and presented in the different places where our members might expect to find it. Simply making materials available without ensuring that it is understandable, and discoverable, is arguably a false transparency.
While acknowledging the issues, our conclusion is that the value of transparency is much higher than the associated cost and we worked actively during the year to increase our transparency even further. The aim for transparency affects many of the choices regarding what tools we use and it is also something that has to be done while respecting privacy.
To further improve our work in this area quarterly reviews by the ED and COO have been instigated in 2020. During these reviews we ensure that all content has been uploaded and shared as planned and that the financial information etc. is up to date.
Improve organizational quality
For the chapter to continue to improve its quality and efficiency we worked to keep our broad and sustainable funding, with the aim of no donor exceeding 50%, and to find new financial options, including a long term increase in paid memberships and donations. We also continued our work to increase volunteer involvement in the work done by the chapter, which we believe can help ensure more innovative projects and that we can deliver high quality projects at a limited cost.
Our work to secure funding from external grants has continued in 2020. We changed our approach this year with a focus on large project grants and with new staff members leading the work on some of the applications as we identified a significant risk in this area being the dependencies on individuals. We have secured two large grants from Wikimedia Foundation, one for the hub work and one to extend our reserves, and one large external project grant that has the potential to become a multi-year grant. We also joined a few other grant applications that other organizations were developing in a supporting role, and a few of these were successful. We currently have funding secured, at our current size, into the beginning of 2022.
Significant investments will be made this year into establishing a donor based fundraising model through experiments with Face2Face campaigns, social media campaigns and telephone fundraising. The first initial tests took place in September-December 2020. Based on the experience gained we hope to significantly scale the efforts in 2021 and 2022 with the hope that it will cover a significant part of our yearly budget from then on.
Our volunteer community has been supportive and active in 2020. In addition to our volunteer run board of trustees we have had 70 volunteers helping us with our projects in different ways (not including the volunteers involved in the WikiGap events outside of Sweden). The number of volunteers was lower than in 2019 as that number was inflated due to the Wikimania 2019 conference, but significantly higher than 2018. This is positive as COVID-19 limited the type of activities we could have organized this year. We are working hard to ensure that this positive trend will continue.
In this video (in Swedish), we outline the process of developing a new overall strategy for Wikimedia Sverige
To make it easier for our members to join the digital AGM, we recorded video instructions for how to use Zoom.
Karin Nilsson at ArkDes gives an opening speech during the Wikipedia Day 2020 in Sweden.
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