I just passed my first anniversary since I joined the Wikimedia Foundation and we created the Global Development team. Below, I have summarized some highlights from our past work, and the opportunities and challenges we face in achieving our goals – please visit Meta for a more detailed version of this report.

Why we exist

At the heart, the Global Development team’s role is to help the community to grow and thrive in places where we have not yet achieved our movement’s potential. At a time when Wikimedia’s editor community (dominated by Global North editors) is ebbing and readership on the personal computer is plateauing, we need to be proactive in working to create strong communities in the Global South, where more than half of Internet users live today and an overwhelming share of future Internet users will come aboard. The foundation has set clear goals in our strategic plan to reach 1 billion readers by 2015 and to increase the number of active editors to 200,000 with 37% from the Global South.

The Past Year for the Global Development team

Building a diverse team:

A year ago, we were a team of four with a range of foundation-wide responsibilities. Since then, we have built a diverse (and I’d say very talented) team – a mix of experienced Wikipedians and folks who bring valuable new capabilities. Though we will continue to grow a bit in 2011/12, most positions will be filled in India and Brazil.

Executing effectively:

While we were building the plane, we were flying it too! We had important accomplishments, all of which happily involved close partnership with our community around the world. Some of the highlights included:

  • Wikipedia’s 10th Anniversary celebration was a great success with events in over 200 locations, many of which received special edition T-shirts and buttons that helped to bond our world-wide community. We also garnered incredible media coverage.
  • We launched our India catalyst initiative with efforts to help build the community via visits by Jimmy and myself, along with support for community work on outreach. Media coverage of our (community and WMF) activities added momentum to our work. In June, we launched our first program – the India Education Program.
  • Our grants program more than doubled, implementing initiatives large and small. In addition, we continue to provide support for Wikimania and will enable a large contingent of Wikimedians from over 20 countries to attend Wikimania in August.
  • In close partnership with community developers, we invested to improve the tools available for offline projects with the integration of OpenZIM and a usability upgrade for the Kiwix reader.
  • We conducted our first systematic survey of the global editor community, translated by volunteers into 22 languages and completed by over 5,000 editors. We also embarked on a research effort to understand the needs of mobile users in India and Brazil.
  • We worked closely with chapters involved in fundraising both improve the fundraising agreement and resolve some difficult issues regarding international funds transfers.
  • We also managed to improve our joint compliance regarding chapter agreements, which places the relationship between chapters and WMF on a stronger footing.

Not a bad year for our little team, though there have been bumps in the road. Two areas where I would say we didn’t get the job done:

  • We did not make as much progress on our mobile work. I take responsibility for this and have been acting aggressively to get us off to a fast start in 2011/12 – through additions to the team, greater focus and attention from Kul and me, efforts to accelerate discussions with partners, and close work with our Mobile Engineering team to quickly strengthen our mobile portfolio.
  • Despite amazing progress, we didn’t get our new online store launched. We expect to launch in July, and I’m excited to see what the community thinks.

The year ahead

Our team has signed up to tackle two critical foundation-wide goals for 2011/12: Reverse the editor decline, and dramatically increase mobile. We aim to contribute significantly to the goal of returning our active editors per month to 95,000 and to increase mobile page views to 2 billion, both by June 2012.

Global Development’s efforts to reverse the editor decline revolve around our work with the community in the Global South and the scaling of the Public Policy Initiative into the Global Education program. In the next few months, we will expand the India Education Program, launch additional programs in India, start work in Brazil, support the launch of education programs in new geographies, and make grants to chapters and like-minded groups while focusing on editor community health and growth. Our communications team will support this effort with media and communications work that highlights “contribution,” which will start in India with an [Edit] India campaign. Our research team will capture insights from the editor survey and will begin to generate insights from our own data to help identify opportunities and challenges.

On the mobile end, we are beginning to approach mobile operators and handset makers to improve the prominence of Wikipedia in their offerings. We would like to secure deals through which mobile operators offer Wikipedia access for free (no data charges). In partnership with the Mobile Engineering team, we plan to invest  both in creating applications for the major operating systems and in developing features that enrich the experience and create ways to contribute.

In addition, you will see other important work happening on the Global Development team:

  • We have doubled our grants budget again to $600,000 and will work to develop grant programs that achieve the goals laid out in our strategic plan. Specifically, we plan to start tracking the change in active editors in the geographies where we make grants over the next year.
  • We will continue to build on our initial work on offline projects. By the end of 2011/12, we aim to double the number of deployments of offline Wikipedia around the world.
  • We will support Wikimania in Haifa with a $100,000 grant, as well as contribute $130,000 from our own budget to support scholarships for over 70 attendees. We will also provide support for Wikimania 2012 in Washington, DC.

The Year Ahead for me

My first year was a great learning experience, and I feel I’ve a clearer sense of both the opportunities and challenges ahead. My greatest challenge this past year was the sheer breadth of the Global Development portfolio. My goal for 2011/12 is to focus more of my time on the top priority areas of growing the editor base in India and Brazil, and implementing our mobile strategy.

For me, success in 2011/12 will mean:

  • Mobile partnerships that reduce the cost of accessing Wikipedia to zero (or close to zero) and marketing Wikipedia on the mobile in key countries in the Global South that cover over 500 million mobile users.
  • Wikimedia’s mobile services expanding, including quality apps on Android, Windows, iPhone and Blackberry.
  • An initial set of contribution tools integrated into the mobile offering; our mobile site works well on a wide range of phones.
  • Strong  growth in the India editor community with clear results in terms of editor growth from WMF’s India program activities.
  • A shift in the Brazilian editor community toward healthy indicators, returning to growth in the editor community, and successfully launching WMF’s Brazil team in the second half of the year.
  • The Global Development team functions cohesively as a group and partners well with the community, other WMF teams, chapters and our partners.
  • The staff on the Global Development team continues to grow professionally and maximize the impact of their work.

We move forward into the coming year with a clear purpose of meeting our goals and learning along the way, while also collaborating with a wide range of groups and individuals in the movement. Onwards!

Barry Newstead, Chief Global Development Officer