Verksamhetsberättelse 2020/Story: Adjusting to a pandemic

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2020

In this Story we are focusing on the impact the pandemic has had on the organization and the changes we successfully implemented to handle it. These changes include teleworking, more digital activities and changes in our communication around certain activities.

The response to our first digital AGM was very positive (key: dark green = very positive, light green = pretty positive, yellow = not positive nor negative, orange = pretty negative, red = very negative.
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With the COVID-19 pandemic changing 2020 for all of the world many plans had to be adjusted or scrapped. Wikimedia Sverige acted quickly to the problem and adjusted the work situation for the staff with mandatory work from home rather than at the office. All staff could freely bring home any needed office equipment from March onwards. Staff members were also regularly offered office equipment to be sent to them from the office, or new equipment being ordered to their homes to improve the quality of their home-offices. The staff was also offered dedicated, paid, staff time to increase their personal readiness level (e.g. with prepping).

Over the year we moved most of the non-digital parts of our regular work online, e.g. signing of contracts, and established a number of digital meetings to provide space for both work and social interactions. These efforts will allow us to continue to keep all operations fully up and running if the pandemic continues for 2021 or longer. These measures will also allow us to have more of the staff working from outside of the office for longer periods of time, which is beneficial regardless of the pandemic.

Our adjustments were further amplified when WMF decided to prevent APG funding to be used for events. The guidance from the WMF was generic and not customized for different contexts, which had both good and bad effects. In the short term it ended unnecessary discussions about what to cancel and what to continue with, while in the mid- and long-term the one-size-fits-all approach across the world arguably limited the work in an unnecessary way and created some confusion and frustration. This was an interesting approach to take in an international and diverse movement, known for its bottom-up approach. We note that none of our other funders or potential funders reacted in this way (for example the EU or local actors), but instead emphasized that they allowed organizations to take responsibility and act as they deemed fit in their context – and rather reduced their control to allow for more diverse and localized adaptations.

Due to the pandemic, some of our initiatives had to be cancelled for parts of the year, such as community support in the form of media accreditation or support to organize physical events. As such we have underspent and underperformed in those areas. Other areas we could adjust less dramatically. We adjusted our plans around editathons for librarians to be moved online which limited our abilities to plan physical events with the participants (a main goal of the project) but allowed us to still involve a large group of people. We readjusted our communication around Wiki Loves Earth to emphasize a local focus of taking photos of protected nature areas around you to avoid unnecessary travel. For that we also developed a prototype for a map tool to visualize it – which turned out to be popular. We also moved all our board meetings online with shorter meetings at a more frequent schedule and with more preparations and pre-readings in advance and less presentations during the meetings.

The main adjustment for us was to move our Annual General Meeting (AGM) online for the first time. As this is the most important event during the year where major decisions are taken, the AGM had to work flawlessly and at all costs avoid a situation where a member was unable to participate. As such the office formed a team of four staff members who worked together during the month before the meeting with testing and planning different solutions. We also engaged an external facilitator who has, literally, written the book about digital AGMs. The AGM was very well attended and positively received by the participants based on the feedback gathered. We shared our experience with the global Wikimedia community and with the Swedish civil society, as we expected that other organizations would struggle with the same issues we had. We hope that our documentation of the process could increase their success rate and save them some time and money.