Hubs/Documentation/27 November Workshop

One paragraph summary: The Hubs workshop on 27 November was a fruitful brainstorming, but did not arrive at an exact definition of “hubs”. Some of the highly-supported responsibilities for hubs are funding, knowledge sharing, and capacity building. Other roles need to be discussed and defined, namely governance, legal support, and technical development. To further clarify these, future discussions of thematic and regional hubs may need to be separate.

Video by Asaf Bartov on important questions around the concept of "Regional and Thematic Hubs" (November 2021, the subtitles as one wiki text page.)

About forty Wikimedians convened in a Hubs co-creation workshop on 27 November 2021 to discuss the concept of regional and thematic hubs as proposed in the Movement Strategy recommendations. During three hours, participants tried to identify why hubs are needed, what is their future role in the Wikimedia movement and what are some of their advantages and disadvantages. The purpose of this workshop was not to come up with any decisions regarding the hubs, but to: 1. advance the discussions within a small group of people who are already engaged in planned hub projects, and 2. to help start the discussions to define “hubs” in the Movement Charter. Please keep in mind that all the following results of the workshop represent the viewpoints of this small group.

What will hubs do?Edit

At the beginning of the workshop, participants were asked to imagine a future where “hubs are operating at full capacity”. Responses to this task helped show what hubs can improve in the Wikimedia movement, but also what they might complicate.

The following graphs, taken from a form shared during the workshop, show the major trends.

Roles of Hubs, ranked
Role 1st Rank 2nd Rank 3rd Rank 4th Rank 5th Rank 6th Rank 7th Rank
Legal support
5
3
0
3
8
4
9
Contextual resource allocation
4
11
3
5
2
3
4
Capacity building and mentorship
13
6
3
4
4
1
1
Inter-group coordination
6
6
12
1
3
3
1
Developing and maintaining technology
3
2
2
6
2
3
14
Evaluation services
2
1
3
2
8
12
4
Regional partnerships
5
4
6
10
3
3
1


PositivesEdit

The most obvious need that hubs can fulfill in the future is improving the accessibility to resources. Small communities currently have a hard time accessing these resources, due to centralized processes that “lack [an] understanding of the local context”. Hubs, on the other hand, would offer more such opportunities through decentralized structures that could “come up with solutions that best address the needs of their communities”. They could also help distribute the funds more equally through the movement and beyond the Wikimedia Foundation, and help build the capacity of smaller communities to receive and manage these resources.

Hubs may fulfill these needs by becoming a platform for collaboration and peer or staff support. They could help communities and affiliates to connect and cooperate across projects, countries, or languages. This includes the exchange of non-financial resources, like capacity, knowledge, and expertise. Some examples of such cooperation could be the implementation of “long-term strategic areas”. Hubs could also be a space to ask for help and to assess the challenges and needs of communities.

When discussing both needs and concerns, there may have been confusion of both thematic and regional hubs. For example, decentralizing resources and support is an essential goal of regional hubs, but the complete opposite goal of thematic hubs. It was clear that these two types of hubs and their very different functions and context.

Participants prioritized the most important roles of hubs by ranking seven suggested roles according to their importance. The percentage shows the amount of participants (out of 32 in total) who picked each priority.

Other rolesEdit

There are other roles in which hubs could be useful, but which may either require further consideration or may come with their own trade-offs. These roles included the involvement of hubs in legal support and technical development or maintenance.

Legal support appeared to be both a common need and a vague one. It was described to be underrated in the prioritization form, in which it generally ranked among the lowest priorities for the future hubs, but also received the most disproportionate number of first versus last priority rankings. Although a movement group like the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU (FKAGEU) is offering support in this area, it was argued that legal support can be “so different between countries”, and that it might be “best if the Foundation provided [it]” or if other existing entities did. The exact nature of this support was not fully-clarified but may include things like helping establish operative non-profit legal structures for the movement.

Developing and maintaining technology was consistently ranked as the lowest priority for hubs. The reason for this was not a neglect of technology, but a view that hubs “may not necessarily be the right solution“ for technology tools: Rather, it is “better having them centralized” and “handled by the Wikimedia Foundation”. This argument, however, was not conclusive. Others pointed out that “decentralizing tech development was a movement strategy recommendation”. There have been successful experiences in decentralizing technology, including the Wikimedia Commons app (by volunteers) and Wikidata (by Wikimedia Deutschland), and there is even an upcoming Software Collaboration project to further distribute the latter. Certain aspects, like localizing software, can be even obvious responsibilities for hubs.

ConcernsEdit

While there are clear needs for them, there are also concerns about the hubs. Some of the major ones mentioned were: Increased bureaucracy, overlap between the new hubs and existing structures, and conflicts between Movement entities and communities.

Although decentralization has many advantages, it comes at a cost of increased complexity in governance and coordination. According to the workshop participants, new structures (like the hubs) may cause more bureaucracy due to creating: more entities with more financial power, longer and more time-consuming decision making, a need for coordination between the hubs themselves, and a dispersion of efforts and resources. These various issues may increase the barriers in some cases, rather than reducing them. Moreover, concerns were expressed that hubs can generate problems in the balance of power and generate conflicts.

When asked about what hubs should not do, the most frequent response was that they should not interfere with the current structures, including the affiliates and communities. Although hubs should “empower people working on the local level”, they should not engage in the same work as existing local affiliates. Participants also repeatedly mentioned that hubs should not “be a governing body for affiliates/communities”, not “represent individuals and user groups”, not “have power over affiliates” and not even be a “member of the Global Council”. Granting any decision-making power to hubs was, overall, undesired. It is unclear, though, how the desire to limit decision-making powers would relate to the role of hubs in allocating resources and funding.

 
During the main activity of the workshop, participants wrote notes about the effect of hubs on the future of the movement and grouped them. The notes were grouped according to how the future Hubs may lead to the following changes:
1. What pain points are no longer present?
2. What is easier?
3. What is harder?
4. What stays the same?

OutcomesEdit

The workshop helped identify some of the needs and possible roles for hubs. Each hub will focus on different roles according to the needs of the communities that it serves. These roles, however, should be better defined at the global level first, in order to understand what they will change about the future of the movement. For example: How will hubs interact with existing affiliates? And what legal support could or should they provide?

Other takeaways can shed light on the relationship between the future hubs and the existing structures in the Wikimedia movement. While they are needed to support and empower, hubs should not duplicate or intervene with the local work of affiliates and project communities. The exact dynamics between hubs and communities, though, will be significantly different according to the regional or thematic focus of these hubs.

Some of the open questions regarding the role and definition of hubs were:

  • Which Wikimedia Foundation responsibilities should be transferred to or shared with hubs? Which responsibilities should stay centralized?
  • Should hubs be a “representative" or a decision-making structure at all?
  • Will hubs exclusively work with affiliates, or also with project communities?

Next stepsEdit

Next steps to work on hubs, after this workshop, include:

  • For those who attended the workshop: To “take back what [they] have heard to [their] different communities and see the various perspectives that they will add to it”.
  • For those working on hub projects: To continue to report their ongoing work and conduct more research about the needs for hubs, possibly through the Movement Strategy Implementation Grants (the research report from the Arabic-speaking region was cited as an especially good model to follow).
  • For the Movement Strategy and Governance Team: To bring together these perspectives into a new workshop, in January/February 2022, to further work on a “minimal definition of hubs” that would inform the Movement Charter Drafting Committee.

Feedback evaluationEdit

As is common after Movement Strategy events, the Movement Strategy & Governance team had invited all participants to fill out a feedback form (via Google Survey), the results were published as slides.In total, 22 of 41 participants had filled out the form (~53%). Key highlights from the evaluation:

  • Overall, a huge majority of participants enjoyed the workshop and said the overall experience was very positive or positive (17 out of 22; ~77%). Even more participants (20 out 22) agreed to the statement that it was “worth the time to attend the workshop”.
  • Most participants (90%) agreed that the workshop was an opportunity to voice their opinion on the topic. However, only roughly half of the participants now have a clearer understanding of what “Hubs” are. A third (~36%) couldn’t agree or disagree with that statement, 9% disagreed.
  • We had hosted just one workshop session instead of two for different time zones, as we had done  before. The idea was to increase the convergence on the topic. When asked participants about this, opinions seem to be split: While almost two third strongly agree or agree (19 + 43 = 62%), around 24% neither agree nor disagree. Around 15% disagree or strongly disagree on that.
  • Asked about the positive sides of the workshop, one participant mentioned “a lot of engagement and […] a very lively discussion […]”. Another participant wrote “We had a group of highly motivated and well-informed people, large enough to be diverse but small enough to make conversation possible.“ Also the Jamboard tool was mentioned positively several times as well as the facilitation.
  • Asked about the negative sides, several participants expressed their discontent about the Zoom chat, which was used in parallel, and was hard to follow. Another participant wrote that the whole workshop was “too vague”, another one suggested to split the discussion into one about regional hubs and another about thematic hubs, as their concepts seemed to differ a lot.
  • We also asked participants on how the Wikimedia Movement should move forward on the topic of Hubs. Opinions generally differed a lot, but 14 participants said that more community conversations were necessary, both on a global and regional level. 7 participants said the Wikimedia Foundation should fund “prototypes of Hubs” and allow more experimentation around it.
  • For the first time, we provided a private, not listed Youtube livestream for participants who wanted to 'just' watch and observe. An overall majority expressed positive feedback on that (20 out of 22). Only one person felt hindered because of the livestream.

SourcesEdit

  • Etherpad: Including discussion notes and input copied the Zoom chat.
  • Jamboard with post-its from the workshop.
  • In-meeting poll and prioritization form.
  • Post-workshop feedback survey.