The chapters meeting 2010 was organized by Wikimedia Deutschland in Berlin, from April 16-18. The meeting was participated by 63 participants from 25 chapters, 1 candidate chapter, the chapters committee and the Wikimedia Foundation. The chapters meeting meeting was part of the Wikimedia Conference, which also included a Developers Meeting, Wikimedia Foundation board meeting and a Chapters Committee meeting. This report will focus on the outcomes of the chapters meeting.
You can find the full schedule of this meeting at schedule page. Of course not everything can be discussed in this summary, so you will also find there links to more extensive documentation of almost each session. The topics of the meeting ranged from the strategy of the years ahead, professionalization and the formation of new chapters to outreach case studies, Wikipedia's 10th anniversary and institutional partnerships. Some of the sessions were mainly about sharing of experiences, asking questions etc, some were more discussion oriented and aiming for specific outcomes.
During the “State of the Chapters” all chapters got the opportunity to present themselves in 3 minutes. Not to give a full overview of all their activities, but to tell about what they thought to be the most important aspect of their chapter to share. In this way, 27 chapters presented themselves at the begin of the day. Sue Gardner presented the current state of the Wikimedia strategy process extensively, where she outlined where according to the Wikimedia Foundation the focus should lie of the different organizations and what the focus and goals will be for the Wikimedia Foundation for the years to come. The numbers and details are available through the powerpoint slides at the schedule.
But this was not the only strategy related session. In the Roles of the Movement session Arne Klempert and Jan-Bart de Vreede outlined the process that will lead to more clarity in the organizational roles within Wikimedia. During the session it became apparent that the process should be finalized in summer 2011 and that there should be broad support from the Wikimedia chapters and other key stakeholders for these outcomes. The process will be lead by a committee that will be centrally set up by Jan-Bart and Arne, and will get sufficient resources allocated by the board to get to useful results.
The discussion about new chapters focused around how to make it easier for chapters to be founded. After some analysis of the current situation, it was concluded that the most important thing about chapters is, is that they have to be functional. Both in their specific country and situation as in relation with the Wikimedia community. There has to be a balance in the assessment of who are founding the chapter: on one side it is agreed upon that there has to be sufficient community involved, on the other side there should be no veto on “outsiders”. There should be a balance between private and public communication and discussions – something to keep in mind when going through the process.
The professionalization discussions resulted in the consensus that when chapters are growing, it might be useful to hire staff or outsource work to make things scale. There are however several models which can be considered in deciding what kind of staff should be hired. Especially the know-how on fundraising and legal issues is considered to be crucial.
Another important topic in growing chapters is the recruiting and supporting of volunteers. In the session on this topic it became clear that a lot of chapters are especially having problems with finding people who can coordinate activities – people to perform little short term tasks with little real life responsibility are usually easier to find. The most important solution to this was organizing activities and starting a self enhancing circle where new volunteers can be recruited at chapter activities and can help to organize more.
At the session about the chapter selected board seats, progress was made on writing a profile for the candidates, setting out an updated timeline and agreeing on the moderation structure.
During the outreach sessions, four cases were studied of part or future outreach projects. The Public Policy Initiative by the WMF aiming to attract experts in a field from students. The model used is going to be developed in a way that it can be replicated for other topical fields. Britain Loves Wikipedia is the British version of Wiki Loves Art, but with less success. The versions were compared with each other and lessons were drawn. Some ideas were produced with respect to world wide events in combination with Wikipedia's 10th anniversary, which were finalized further in a working group.
A Dutch cooperation with libraries focuses on media literacy, local cultural heritage and linking from Wikipedia to library expertise and collections. The project was mainly set up in a way that it can scale easily, and will run as a test in one library. This project can be seen as an example where an outside organization takes care of funding and staff while the chapter brings in expertise and provides feedback for the developed materials.
The Polish chapter presented their Wiki expedition where a group of Wikipedians and others travel around in an area which is limited visually present on Wikimedia to make photos and enhance articles together.
At the session about the institutional partnerships it was clear that a partnership has to come from two sides: both Wikimedia and the partner have to benefit from the cooperation. Wikimedia mainly by having more free content and a better perception, the constitutional partners (Museums etc) mainly by massive exposure, contextualization and improvement of metadata. Some question remained open: what is the best resolution to go for, how to communicate most effectively and it was agreed that an information kit for the cultural institutions would be needed. The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities and that Wikimedia has a lot to offer. Communication remains to be an important corner stone.
Six working groups were set up at the meeting, which went more in depth into specific topics. Probably the most “cheerful” working group was the one discussing the 10th anniversary of Wikipedia in 2011. The working group concluded that a series of decentralized events (including a world wide scavenger hunt) would be set up, as a cooperation between Wikimedia Foundation, chapters and editing community. There would be both a “great day” at January 15 as a number of events in the period thereafter. The events will be registered centrally and supported by the WMF, amongst others by an event kit, press release etc. A mailing list was set up for coordination, a page created on outreach wiki and it was agreed that the taskforce would meet again at Wikimania. A timeline was set up to get the events organized in time.
The working group on the developing world analyzed the position of Wikimedia in the developing world and tried to find specific solutions and approaches to improve the presence of Wikimedia in those regions, specifically targeted for each region. All outcomes have been documented at this pdf and will be moved forward after feedback opportunities by the working group, specifying it further into action points.
The educational institutions working group first of all made a differentiation between the higher education (university, college) and lower education (high schools etc). At higher education, it was agreed that a more friendly and welcoming environment would increase the chance of attracting people who are experts on their field from these institutions. Several ideas and best practices were collected, such as workshops, providing interfaces and explaining better how Wikipedia works. At high schools, the focus would be more on media literacy projects for both students and teachers and an improved PR.
The external communications working group discussed how Wikimedia should/could be discussing to the outside world. The importance of this communication was outlines several times: “you can't run a fundraiser just from Wikipedia site notice” - it will be much more effective if you are able to use the press well. To do this, more communication between the chapter spokes persons is important (through Communications Committee – ComCom), and all should be on that mailing list. Information and questions should be more often shared amongst each other, especially when the material can be translated and reused. It was also stressed that especially Wikimedia Commons but also other sister projects should be definitely mentioned in the press contacts. This gives great visual material, and that can be used as well!
The internal communications working group discussed the communication between the chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation, volunteers etc. It was soon concluded that this will not find a perfect solution soon, but that some improvements can definitely be made. A general remark made multiple times was that people who “do something” that will affect others, should be thinking more explicitely about communicating with them. Partially in that light, there is a need for a clear list of contacts for all chapters and WMF – currently this list is spread over several pages and websites. A list will be created. Also, a chapters kit will be produced which gives links for new chapters and templates for reports etc. The chapters committee will take the lead here.
Finally, the toolserver working group, discussing the future governance of the Wikimedia Toolserver, was able to set up a longer term working group, set out the outlines and mandate of this working group and decided that there should be a proposal by the end of September. Chapters who want to commit to investing more than 5000 euro into the toolserver over 18 months and share in the costs for that group, are welcomed to participate in this working group.