Those of us who are a part of the Wikimedia movement already understand, as if by instinct, the value of the Wikimedia projects. It is not the millions of articles, nor the billions of pageviews, but the magical combination of ethos and platform that has allowed a deeper perspective on knowledge.
Now that our bid has been accepted and we’re going cap in hand to sponsors, we’ve been forced to think hard about how to communicate this value to the outside world. Our chosen theme for Wikimania 2014 is outreach, and it is fitting that it is exactly the same struggle that the movement is also facing in its outreach efforts – how can we make strangers see the value in what we are doing, and have them join us?
Every sponsor we approach asks “Who will come to Wikimania?” It’s a question that we (as a community) have always struggled to answer in the past, offering the evasive “Wikimedians”, which is no answer at all. In a change from previous years, our Wikimania has a public promotional element, and so in a way we get to choose. What groups of people do we want to attract, who don’t already consider themselves Wikimedians? People already interested in what we do, people with something to offer us back, people who will be inspired to become full blooded members of our movement.
We believe that understanding and correctly articulating who these people are is the key to not only our public marketing effort, but also our fundraising strategy. Corporations don’t sponsor because they’re kind, they sponsor to access particular audiences. That “Wikimedians” is not a recognised audience goes some way to explaining the failure of previous years to meet their targets. In order to succeed, we need to truly understand who we are.
We’ll put forward our thoughts in our keynote presentation at the WikiConference UK 2013, being held in Lincoln next weekend, where we’ll be launching this discussion on the brand new Wikimania 2014 wiki.