How does the UNLOCK Accelerator program relate to Wikimedia?
The UNLOCK Accelerator is designed, financed and carried out by Wikimedia Deutschland e. V., a non-profit organization located in Berlin, Germany. The organization is committed to strengthening Free Knowledge in our society. Wikimedia Deutschland’s vision is a world in which everyone can share, use and multiply all of humanity’s knowledge.
What is meant by Free Knowledge?
Wikimedia’s vision is a world in which everyone can share, use and multiply all of humanity’s knowledge. By Free Knowledge we mean knowledge that is available, changeable and reusable free of charge for everyone at any time. The best known source of Free Knowledge is the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
About the UNLOCK program
What is the UNLOCK Accelerator program?
UNLOCK is the first Wikimedia accelerator program that promotes ideas and solutions that open knowledge up to all – making it more diverse, more equitable, accessible and inclusive.
The program was initiated and is implemented by Wikimedia Deutschland. At UNLOCK, we work with enthusiasts, change makers, activists, technologists and creative minds to accelerate sustainable free knowledge solutions, drive innovation, and empower communities. During the accelerator program participants will be equipped with mindsets and skills through needs-oriented coaching, collaboration, peer-to-peers and expert sessions. We hope to build relationships that will last beyond the program’s duration and nurture a bigger movement that promotes Free Knowledge globally.
During the program, participants will attend three sprints and additional kick-off and concluding events. UNLOCK is a virtual program.
At the end of the program, participants will have the opportunity to present their prototypes and results to the public, including – but not limited to – the global Wikimedia communities, international free knowledge and open source representatives, project stakeholders as well as the press at the UNLOCK Demo Day.
Where will the program take place and what’s the program language?
UNLOCK is a virtual program. All events are organized from Berlin in Central European Summer Time (CEST). The program will be held in the English language.
How many teams are accepted into the program?
The application deadline for UNLOCK 2022 ended on May 29th. For the 2022 edition, we have accepted seven teams into the program. Head over to our landing page to learn more about the projects we will be supporting in this edition.
What is the duration of the program?
UNLOCK is a 4-month program. UNLOCK kicks off on June 30, followed by two intense working phases (so-called sprints) and a concluding Demo Day at the end of October. All event dates and milestones can be viewed here.
What will participants learn?
The UNLOCK accelerator program provides you with coaching and mentoring regarding project management and (open source) product development: from vision scoping and value proposition, user research and testing to rapid prototyping. Participants are challenged to refine and further develop their idea and impact and will learn how to sustain their projects and initiatives. All teams will benefit from the collaborative nature of the program and the global network of Wikimedia Deutschland and its partners. We hope to build relationships that will last beyond its duration and nurture a bigger movement that promotes Free Knowledge globally.
What is expected from the participating teams during the program?
UNLOCK is a hands-on working program. We will combine highly individualized coaching with input from experts to advance your ideas. This means we will cater to the specific needs of your project. In return we expect that you attend all of the scheduled events as well as put in the time required to work on your idea individually. Experience has shown that you should allocate approximately 20 hours per week each during that time to properly advance your project and make the most of the program.
By the end of the program each team is able to present a functional prototype of their initial project idea or has further developed their prototype to a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and will record a video of your finalized product.
To reach this goal the program is structured around several milestones that the teams will work on with the program coaches. Each team is also asked to write an interim report in the form of a blog entry by the deadline on September 16 (TBC). The report will provide a glimpse into the progression of your project. You must also agree to the publication of your interim report on the UNLOCK blog.
The project results will be made publicly available under a free license in the meaning of Open Source Licenses and the Open Definition on www.wikimedia.de. This allows the project results to be freely shared on the web and for others to build upon them. We recommend: The licenses GPL2, GPL3, MIT or Apache for source code, for all other content like text, images, graphics, videos, music either CC BY 4.0 international or CC BY-SA 4.0 international.
What will the project support look like?
Your journey will include coaching and mentoring that will guide you through your individual project and product development process. On top of that, additional experts will offer their specialized expertise in fields ranging from product design and information / software architecture, to community engagement, modeling social businesses as well as impact measurement of your project. The UNLOCK team will also assist you throughout the program, organize the events and share their professional and creative knowledge. A scholarship can be provided.
What technical equipment is required for participation in the program?
To be able to participate in the program events, each team member needs to have a stable internet connection and a personal computer, laptop or tablet with built-in camera and microphone. We will provide several digital tools such as video conferencing and online whiteboard tools for virtual collaborations.
What level of English is required to participate in the program?
The program will be held in the English language. Therefore, a good command of the English language is required both verbally and written.
What happens to our project after the program?
We will invite all project teams to the UNLOCK Demo Day. Here, the teams will have the opportunity to present their project results and talk about their successes, challenges and issues. The Demo Day will be a public event to which we will also invite other guests. Here, you have the opportunity to publicly promote your product and to get in touch with other stakeholders.
Following the Demo Day, we envision three possible scenarios: a) You would rather continue on your own; b) You will develop your idea further in collaboration with Wikimedia Deutschland and c) You will develop your idea further with one of Wikimedia Deutschland’s networking partners. We will jointly discuss on how to best continue with your project once the accelerator has been completed. We also strive to maintain close contact with all UNLOCK participants going forward and to connect you with previous participants as well.
Do the teams retain the rights to their concept?
Yes. While we want to openly share what happens during the UNLOCK Accelerator, the idea itself remains yours.
Is participation in the program free of charge?
Participation in the UNLOCK Accelerator program is offered free of charge. We do, however, expect commitment and engagement from each participant in order to create a valuable experience for everyone.
About the financial support
How exactly does the financial support work?
If required, we can support your participation in the program with a scholarship of up to EUR 1,000 per month and team member. The grants are meant to help finance your living expenses and make your participation possible if you intend to work on your project full-time.
The scholarship money will be paid to individuals who are of legal age with a registered bank account in Europe. The scholarship will be paid in Euros. The recipient bears all transaction and conversion fees.
If you want to apply for the scholarship, please be sure to state in the application form which of your team members might be in need of financial support in order to be able to participate in the program.
*Although we will try our best to approve all applications, please note that the receipt of a scholarship is not guaranteed. Eligibility to receive a scholarship must be assessed on a case-by-case basis as the transaction into certain countries is not possible as a Germany-based non-profit organization for varying legal and political reasons. We will assess this together.
Once the scholarship is approved and you have received a written confirmation, the scholarship will be paid out in two equal installments. The first installment will be paid out at the beginning of the program following the Kick-Off event. The payment of the second installment will be made in the latter part of the program.
Are any conditions attached to the scholarship?
Yes, once eligibility for the scholarship has been confirmed, it is attached to the following conditions:
- You are required to participate in all scheduled events (Kick-Off, sprints 1 & 2, coaching sessions, rehearsals and Demo Day).
- You will make your project results publicly available under a free licence in the meaning of Open Source Licenses and the Open Definition on www.wikimedia.de. This allows the project results to be freely shared on the web and for others to build upon them. We recommend: The licenses GPL2, GPL3, MIT or Apache for source code, for all other content like text, images, graphics, videos, music either CC BY 4.0 international or CC BY-SA 4.0 international.
Do taxes need to be paid on the scholarship support?
According to paragraph 3, section 44 of the German income tax code (EstG) scholarships are tax free under certain conditions. It is solely the responsibility of the recipient of the scholarship to ensure that any tax payments are made in accordance with regulations of their home country. It is solely the responsibility of the recipient to ensure any continued insurance payments and, where applicable, to obtain any approvals of third parties with a view to their eligibility for the scholarship. Wikimedia Deutschland does not guarantee that the scholarships are tax free. In the case that the scholarship money is subject to taxation, the above-mentioned amount is the gross amount.
About the application process
- When will applications for the 2022 batch open?
What kind of projects are eligible for application?
In terms of content, your project should offer a solution to the set challenge as outlined here. Also, we believe that concepts that are made freely accessible offer opportunities for further development and generate new ideas and collaborations. We want to ensure that projects supported in the program can continue to be developed in the future. Therefore, all project results should be made publicly available under a free license following the program.
What stage should projects be in when applying?
UNLOCK is designed to boost early stage project teams with a ready / almost ready prototype. You should be prepared to either start validating and testing your idea with first pilot users, or to further develop your prototype to an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and expand your existing user base.
Who can apply to the program?
For the third edition of Wikimedia’s Accelerator UNLOCK we teamed up with Wikimedia Serbia and Impact Hub Belgrade to jointly design and host the program in 2022: UNLOCK Germany x Western Balkans! The 2022 edition of UNLOCK is open to free knowledge enthusiasts, change makers, activists and developers based in the following countries: Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia. You must be a team of a minimum of two and no more than five members. All team members must be of legal age and be proficient in the English language as this is the working language of the program. All participants must commit to the entire program, attend all events and be ready to put the time in to work on their project individually. Also, you must be willing to make all project results developed during the program publicly available under a free license. This allows them to be freely shared and for others to build upon them.
Find our eligibility criteria for participation here.
Why may only teams apply?
You never walk alone – the accelerator is designed as a program for teams because we believe that the best ideas and concepts are developed in groups. Each team should be made up of a minimum of two and no more than five members. Also, your team setup should cover the core expertise required to implement your idea. In case your project team is bigger than five, we expect participation from the relevant decision makers.
How long does it take to complete the application?
To complete the application, you’ll need key information about your idea/solution, your team, and your motivation. If you have all the key information ready, the process should not take more than 45 minutes. You can save your application at any time and come back to it later. You can also download the application form to prepare it offline. Please note that the application deadline for UNLOCK 2022 closed on May 29th, the application form is no longer accessible.
What does the application process look like?
- Written application: All applications must be sent in by answering the questions listed in the online application form.
- Preselection: The UNLOCK jury will review all submissions and will pay special attention to the following three aspects of your application: How well is your idea suited to the problem? Is your team well staffed and equipped? And to what extent can the UNLOCK Accelerator be of meaningful assistance to your project at this point in the process?
- Video call: Prior to the final selection we want to get to know your team personally. To this end, we will invite the shortlisted teams to a virtual get-to-know-you-call in mid-June.
- Decision: Following the calls, we will make a final decision and send acceptance letters via email to the final seven teams. In case one of the final seven teams is unable to confirm their seat in the UNLOCK Accelerator, a replacement team will be chosen and contacted as soon as possible. Once all the teams are confirmed, we will send a message to that effect to all applicants.
The application form states that I must agree to an evaluation – what exactly does that mean?
We’ve already learned so much from two UNLOCK editions and we want to continue improving the program going forward as well. This is why we are planning on regularly asking for your feedback and suggestions. What we are most interested in is listening to your evaluations in talks held in small groups throughout the program. In addition, we’ll plan to conduct 1-2 surveys to back our findings in the conversation. And we will of course share the results with you.