Innovation for Free Knowledge: UNLOCK analyzes the Wikimedia movement’s potential for innovation

8. February 2022
Kannika Thaimai Lucia Obst

Wikimedia’s UNLOCK Accelerator supports projects that contribute to an open and informed society. During a three-month program, selected teams receive assistance while developing their ideas relating to Free Knowledge into a prototype. The makers of the UNLOCK Accelerator have taken a closer look at the topic of “Innovation for Free Knowledge” and examined where Wikimedia positions itself as a social movement. The analysis highlights the structures, programs and resources already available in our movement to support innovation and enquires what would be necessary in order to foster innovation in a sustainable way.

How does the Wikimedia movement create innovations for Free Knowledge?

Innovation is often portrayed as an almost magical process: groundbreaking ideas hatched by extraordinarily brilliant people with a touch of creativity. What is clear is that innovation is neither simple nor predictable, but rather a complex story of loops and leaps within a process, structured into different phases. In our report, we have closely examined the different phases of innovation, from brainstorming to come up with ideas to the development of prototypes and right up to scaling and changing systems. We highlighted the structures, the human involvement, processes and other supportive measures required in each of the phases in order to nurture innovations and the innovators. 

Community structures are in place

It does not come as a surprise that we were able to observe that there are structures and processes in place to support the development of existing Wikimedia projects. The technical community can get together at the annual Wikimedia Hackathon, for example, and get involved in the development of the MediaWiki and many other areas in Wikimedia’s technical ecosystem. And structures that are already in place make it easier to integrate additional ideas and prototypes relating to already existent Wikimedia projects into the established ecosystem. This is apparent in the development of Wikidata, the Wikibase Ecosystem, Wikimedia Commons and other Wikimedia projects.

Making room for new ideas and projects

However, we were also able to observe where there are still significant shortcomings: Only a few support structures and resources are in place to foster new Free Knowledge projects that are equally necessary for the Wikimedia movement to develop further, to grow and become sustainable. Among the few that are already in place is the Wikimedia UNLOCK Accelerator, a program to support the development of new ideas and solutions that foster Free Knowledge. UNLOCK does not only support volunteers already active in the Wikimedia movement or in existing Wikimedia projects, but also people who have not been part of our movement so far. Because this is also particularly about allowing new impulses to evolve (this includes ideas, solutions and people) that we as a movement have not even seen and taken into consideration. 

We need an ecosystem for innovation – Are you ready to take part?

In order to drive innovation, we need to adopt a holistic approach to achieve a long-lasting sustainable effect with our structures, programs and resources as well as with our existing and new communities rather than generating isolated and short-term impulses for innovation. To achieve this, we need

  • openness towards change and innovation;
  • the courage to experiment and fail and to embark on a journey of continuous learning;
  • resources to broaden the phases of innovation and to build and ecosystem for innovation; and
  • participation of people and communities within the movement as well as additional stakeholders and organizations beyond the Wikimedia bubble. 

Take part!

This call goes out to all of you who would like to participate in existing Wikimedia projects and develop them further. And we also appeal to those with ideas and suggestions for solutions of how to edit, distribute, share and consume knowledge in different ways. And last but not least, it goes out to all stakeholders and organizations looking for synergy effects who would like to team up with us to drive innovations for Free Knowledge. 

No comments yet

Leave a comment