Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan/Interview 4

This page is part of the Implementation Report for Regional Hubs. It regards specifically Interview 4.

BackgroundEdit

  • Date: July 4, 2021
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Profile: Wikipedia Editor - User Group Member (active online and offline)
  • Region: Western Asia
  • Gender: Man
  • Interview language: Arabic

Questions and answersEdit

1. What is your vision in relation with a regional hub? How would it look like in 2030?Edit

  • I believe that it is a necessity to have a hub supporting the Arabic Wikipedia. Actually, I prefer to call the hub a "support center", because this will be its main role. The hub will not be about content creation. It shall be about technical support or research and studies, as well as logistics and services. I think that volunteers in our communities cannot undertake big administrative tasks such as setting up strategies for the Arabic Wikipedia, this should be a professional work, and the best actor to do it would be the hub and its employees.
  • I cannot really give a number about how many people would work at the hub. But, I can definitely see why a hub is important in my context. I can give you a clear example: In the Arabic Wikipedia, we have a big need of technical tools and solution in a regular basis, but nobody from the Arabic community can solve it. On the same time, other Wikipedias might not have that need, or did not reach that step. For the specific need that we are having, it makes sense to have a structure such as a hub, in order to serve us and solve our own problems (related to the language we speak). This is only one example, we have many other needs specific to our community, in Wikidata, in Wikimedia Commons. Maybe the other communities have people helping them in this work, while it is not the case for us. So the number of people working on our hub will depend on the need we have in our community, and the quantity of work that is needed.
  • An important clarification I would like to make is that the Arabic region for me is the countries members of the Arab league, not necessarily people speaking Arabic, so for me an Arabic regional hub would cover these 22 countries.
  • Also, I would like to mention that I can see already now several challenges that need to be addressed: (1) First, who will fund this hub?, and (2) where will it be located? Many regions and areas in the Arabic-speaking countries can emit reserves about each other, and it is not simple to find a location all can agree about.

2. What is your motivation for wanting a hub for the Arabic region?Edit

  • First, I am against the nomination "Middle East and North Africa". It is a wrong name, and I prefer to use the name "Arab World" or "Islamic World", even if not all people living in it are Arab or Muslim, but the name is important for a common cultural identity. Therefore, I refuse the use of the name MENA and its connotations that do not apply to the region.
  • Why should we have only one hub in the region? Well, because we have only one Wikipedia in Arabic, and the hub should be about it.

3. You mentioned the Arabic Wikipedia, but what about the other languages in the region? Will the hub cover them as well?Edit

  • Although the most spoken language in the region is Arabic, it is important to take into consideration the other languages of the region such as Kurdish, Berber, and even the dialects. They can have departments within the hub to support them. However, the Arabic language is dominant in the region, and will probably takes the biggest part of the hub. This does not go against the idea of diversity that I totally endorse and support.

4. What are the concrete steps that need to be taken to achieve an Arabic regional hub?Edit

  • First of all there needs to be a legitimate and representative structure for the Arabic community (similar to the old Arabic Committee, or the new global council). It should be the community members who should choose the members of this structure. This structure can be the starting point. Once the structure has legitimacy and is agreed, it has to start partnerships with governments and even have a legal status and a transparent funding. The first question this group will face will be: How to have a legal representation, and how will the funding happen?
  • Second, the scope of the hub should be clarified, especially in our region. We must be very clear that this is not a place for content creation, so that the governments and other stakeholders do not put any pressure on these hubs. Indeed, the hubs are support structures, but not supposed to write content about one side or the other.

5. How do you think legal support can be provided to a hub? For example to protect its members from eventual abuses?Edit

  • The best in my opinion is to officialize the hub to the best possible extend. For example, if this structure is recognized by the Arab league, or partner with it, it will allow it to work in all the member countries, and have its members protected. For this, there should be a partnership between WMF and the Arab league. By having the hub members being employed at the WMF or the Arab league, this can bridge many legal gaps and protect the hub members. Organizations such as WMF and the Arab league are great because they are neutral and will allow the hub to work on all its roles, even under their umbrella.

6. What will the relationship between the hub and the WMF be?Edit

  • The hub should be independent. Many governments in our region will never accept that an "American" hub is controlling the knowledge in the region. Even our movement is international, and is not necessarily American, so we can have many alternatives about the hub without needing to centralize it in the USA. This is even more relevant in terms of funding, where accepting funding from an American foundation can be challenging. In the ideal world, the hub should be able to fund itself. For example, the funding can be through the Arab league, who is accepted by all Arab countries. The WMF has collaborations with the United Nations, so why not collaborate with the Arab league as well? and fund it to support to hub in our region?
  • Foreign funding is very problematic in our region, and can be a barrier for the development of the hub. People working on developing the hub should work together with the WMF to solve this issue.
  • Before anyone from the region is hired by the WMF, the community should be consulted. If the community says no then this person should not be hired even if the managers want this person. It is not acceptable that WMF thinks that some of its employees are serving the community, while it is not the case. Concretely, the community should gather itself in a representative structure in order to be able to have unified opinions and be the one which talks in the name of the community and discusses with the WMF.

7. How do we go from the brainstorming phase (such as now) to the action phase? Who should do what to have a hub?Edit

  • I believe that it starts by the WMF. The WMF has historically made mistakes when dealing with the Arabic community. Several times, they have hired people who are not or barely related to the Arabic community, and claimed that they worked with us and for the region. This should be corrected. How? The WMF can reach out to the community, who will advise about a number of people the community trusts and gives legitimacy to. These people shall then be hired by the WMF and be representative of the region. Being an employee of the WMF gives a lot of legitimacy, and can allow this hub to foster partnerships, and that more doors will be opened to it. Moreover, this requires a lot of resources, especially financial.
  • Besides the hub, I think that it is not acceptable that the WMF hires people to work in relation with a region, and that these people are not community members. First their knowledge is not enough to make a good work, second the community is not even aware that they exist. Even if there will be no hubs in the future, at least people hired by WMF to work with the Arab region should come from the community to serve it best.

8. How can we ensure that the work on the hub will not fail as other earlier initiatives?Edit

  • The previous initiative failed because it was too ambitious and worked on many projects at the same time. This time, we can think about starting small, for example a collaboration between two user groups, that we can grow gradually until we reach the whole region when we feel confident. The two first groups can write a memorandum and have a scope for their collaboration. This should of course be agreed by the local communities each time a group is added, including the online community. All parts need to be taken into consideration and vote. This is not an easy work, and it will require hundreds of volunteers and hours, but it is a necessary effort to take if we want to reach a representative committee, and later on a hub.
  • The legitimacy of this new hub will be through the community vote and its inclusion since the first steps.
  • Another problem we have is that the Affcom does not have any idea about the structure of a hub. When the Arabic committee initiative was launched, the Affcom was confused and asked first to apply as a user group, then declined the application because that committee does not look like a user group. I feel that the Affcom does not know how to solve this issue, and one the same time they don't want to acknowledge that they have a problem, which is a blocker from communities wanting to create hubs.

9. How can we ensure that the hub will not be in conflict with the local affiliates?Edit

  • As I mentioned previously, the hub is meant to be a support structure, and not an entity that will actively build and manage projects. It is the local affiliates that will continue having this role, with the hub supporting in case of need. One idea to prevent conflicts can be that each local affiliate can assign one of its members as a liaison with the hub, to ensure that a good communication is happening between all the actors.

Key TakeawaysEdit

  • The regional hub should be a support center for the community, and serve its needs and interests, especially the work that cannot be done by volunteers.
  • The regional hub should be centered about the Arabic-speaking region, but support minorities as well.
  • The regional hub starts from the community, and emerges through a structure that the community creates.
  • Who will fund the regional hubs? And how to ensure that this funding is not problematic for each context?
  • To protect the hub members, WMF should support in partnerships with organizations such as the Arab league, which will make the hub members work in safety.
  • Foreign funding is very problematic in our region, and can be a barrier for the development of the hub. People working on developing the hub should work together with the WMF to solve this issue.
  • Another problematic issue is that many people working now with the WMF to serve some regions are not known by the community. This is not acceptable. Even if hubs will not be implemented, at least people working to serve the community of a region should emanate from the community.
  • The legitimacy of the Arabic hub will be through the community vote and its inclusion since the first steps.
  • There is a problem with the Affcom who does not have any alternative about creating a hub. I would like to urge them to address this as a priority issue, so that they do not block communities wishing to create hubs.