In three editions, the UNLOCK Accelerator has managed to expand the existing Free Knowledge project landscape and has brought us closer to overcoming knowledge inequities. In three cohorts from 2020-2022, 17 prototypes were developed by project teams spanning 11 countries. Of these, more than 50 percent are still being further developed and implemented. (Want to dive deeper? Browse through the project results on our landing page.)
So what are our concerns?
However, there have also been some challenges faced by the program. Here are our main pain points:
- The UNLOCK Accelerator has always been open to both people who are already invested in existing Wikimedia projects, as well as to teams not yet involved in the Open & Free Knowledge universe. What united them was their drive to change the world for the better. They shared an entrepreneurial mindset, but a social spirit. With that, they had a concrete solution in mind on how to ensure that more people have free access to the world’s knowledge. This might seem like a sufficiently homogenous group. However, our evaluations have shown that it is difficult to effectively cover the needs of both target groups in one and the same program. Instead, two different approaches and types of support might be more appropriate, ranging from communication tools to capacity-building techniques.
- Further, merging the two target groups into one community and integrating them into the existing Wikimedia landscape was a dream scenario, but did not run as smoothly as we had hoped. The exchange amongst peers was always considered to be one of the strengths of the program according to participants. Together, immense value was added to the Free Knowledge ecosystem as a whole. Yet, as we opened up to new target groups outside of our community, the bigger the challenge became to fully integrate their ideas into an existing Movement in the long run.
- Our ultimate goal has always been to make a positive impact on our knowledge society, combating inequities, closing knowledge gaps and making the access to knowledge more inclusive and easier for all. Impact does not happen overnight. It requires longevity, patience and sustainable business ideas rather than short-term solutions. The UNLOCK Accelerator provides early-stage support to amazing projects and has been praised for making a true difference in their project developments. But it pains us that the program is not designed for more long-term support. We ask ourselves: How can we better address this need for sustainability?
In 2023 we are making room for something new
In light of these challenges, the decision has been made to discontinue the UNLOCK Accelerator in its current form. Instead, throughout 2023, we will explore what the “UNLOCK of the future” might look like in order to create greater impact and be of most value to the Wikimedia Movement.
The ultimate outcome we are working towards is for UNLOCK to become an innovation engine for free knowledge and create an environment in which innovation and innovators from our communities can grow. We aim to encourage people to experiment with and create new Free Knowledge projects and contribute to the development of an innovation culture and thereby strengthen the Movement’s capacity to innovate.With this in mind, the overall intention of our work will not change from the past few years. Rather, we are considering new modes of implementation. We will test new formats and activities as we build a new program. In this process, of course, we want to incorporate all of our key learnings from running three editions of the UNLOCK Accelerator program.
What will this process look like?
As we want this process (and the outcome) to be most beneficial for the entire Wikimedia community, we do not want to run it by ourselves. This is why we will build on partnerships already setup and nurtured over the past years and make new connections. Together, we want to co-create the re-imagining process together with relevant stakeholders in the following steps:
- The Exploration Phase: Together, we will start by going into conversations with stakeholders to map the status quo of our Movement. We want to know: What are current needs and challenges? What innovative potential is already out there that we might have overlooked so far or want to tap into more? Here, we also want to consider our findings from three editions of the UNLOCK Accelerator.
- The Ideation & Prototyping Phase: Let’s stop talking and start doing! We want to identify and share specific ideas for activities and formats the Movement didn’t even know it needed. And of course: Test these ideas as samples in different contexts together with our stakeholders.
- The Prep Phase: The next step will be implementation, so we want to make sure that we get a solid action plan in place. In this phase we will collect our recommendations and formulate a concrete concept for what UNLOCK will look like in 2024.
It is true, we have a long journey ahead of us; but also the luxury of several months at our disposal to dig into the process and take the time to do things right. We look forward to this new strategic process. And of course, we will take you along the journey on our socials – follow along!