How can we drive innovation within the free knowledge ecosystem?

At UNLOCK, we help participating teams turn their innovative ideas for free knowledge into functional prototypes. As part of an international social movement, we are also interested in contributing to the creation of an innovation ecosystem for free knowledge. Therefore, we have highlighted the structures, programs and resources already available in our Wikimedia movement to support innovation and those that would be necessary in order to foster innovation in a sustainable way.

  • Kannika Thaimai
  • 9. February 2022

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. 

As part of an international social movement fighting for Free Knowledge, the team at the UNLOCK Accelerator has developed a paper that maps out how each innovation stage is or isn’t already existent within the so-called Wikimedia movement.

Some structures are already in place

In the past two decades of this successful movement, structures and processes as well as communities of volunteers and free knowledge enthusiasts have been created. These have driven the incremental development within existing Wikimedia projects. 

Some examples: 

The technical community can get together at the annual Wikimedia Hackathon 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 free knowledge ideas and projects

What will be Wikimedia’s next social innovation that fundamentally changes how human knowledge is produced, made accessible and shared? 

Our mapping has also clearly shown some significant shortcomings when it comes to experimenting with or promoting unfamiliar and novel ideas and projects. There may be many great ideas out there but currently only few structures and resources of support to truly foster them, which is equally necessary for the Wikimedia movement to evolve, grow, and become sustainable in the long run. 

Among the few support structures already in place is the Wikimedia Accelerator UNLOCK. At UNLOCK, we do not only support volunteers who are already active in the movement or involved in existing Wikimedia projects, but also people who have not been a 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. This may include new formats to make knowledge accessible as well as more diverse solutions for consuming, sharing and creating knowledge.

And we want to see more similar structures going forward!

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

Driving innovation means that we must take a more systematic approach in order to not only set selective and short-term impulses for innovations, but to create a long-term, sustainable impact with different actors and stakeholders alongside our actions. To achieve this, we need

Take part!

We are calling to all those who wish to contribute to existing Wikimedia projects and develop them further. The call also goes out to those who have ideas and approaches on how to create, disseminate, share and consume knowledge in different ways. And last but not least, to all stakeholders and organizations who are looking for synergies and want to team with us to drive innovations for free knowledge. Get in touch.