Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan/Interview 6

This page is part of the Implementation Report for Regional Hubs. It regards specifically Interview 6.

BackgroundEdit

  • Date: July 6, 2021
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Profile: Wikipedia Editor - User Group Leader (active online and offline - relatively newcomer)
  • Region: Western Asia
  • Gender: Woman
  • Interview language: Arabic

Questions and answersEdit

1. How do you see a hub in your region by 2030? What would be happening by then?Edit

  • I define my region as the Arabic-speaking region, and I support having one regional hub for all the region. For me the hub and its grounds are the Arabic Wikipedia, and the hub should be centered about it. If we talk about minority languages, we will need to have tens of hubs in the region, which is not realistic. There are two solutions in my opinion: Either to have them within this hub in a special department, or to have them under a specific international hub for minority languages. But in all cases, I believe that the hub in my region shall be the Arabic-speaking hub covering all Arabic-speaking countries, with and without affiliates.
  • I think that a regional hub would work like a mini Wikimedia Foundation. I am relatively new to the movement (around 1 and a half years activity) and see that we have a complex environment and many things to learn in relation with the Foundation and the strategy. To come back to the question, I see the hub as a structure with a board of volunteers, then a number of employees (staff), and the broad community benefiting from the hub, and having the ultimate last word in terms of decisions.
  • We have learned how to work digitally, so I do not necessarily imagine a big building with offices. Maybe the regional hub will be a number of people working remotely? The most important for me is that there is work and collaboration happening at the regional level, that can be called "a hub".

2. What is the difference between what you have mentioned and a chapter or user group?Edit

  • The chapter by definition is restricted to a country or a relatively small area. What we are talking about in this discussion is much bigger. We are talking about a region united by a common factor which is the Arabic language and the Arabic Wikipedia. A hub is a structure much bigger than chapters and user groups. We have many user groups in our region, and we will not create a chapter covering all these user groups, as it would just be more conflictual. Moreover, many of these user groups want themselves to evolve into chapters, so we cannot have a chapter under another one. For this reason, the hub should be a separate structure for the region. I request from the Affcom to find a solution to this structure so that people wishing a hub in their region can apply to it soon.
  • That a hub coordinates in the region does not need that it will be above the other local affiliates. It is important to keep the distinction between their responsibilities.

3. How to ensure that this distinction is kept? How to avoid conflicts between the hub and local affiliates?Edit

  • It is important to agree between all the local stakeholders before a hub is created. A document such as the movement charter should be made at the local level, where clear roles and responsibilities are written. If necessary, even specific projects can be written in this document to avoid any unclarity. Also, it is important that representatives from different local groups are members of the hub. Actually, the hub itself will be created by the local affiliates (and online community), so it will serve them, and cannot conflict with their work.

4. What about the WMF? Will the hubs be reporting to the WMF or will they be independent?Edit

  • Some people say that local communities can raise funds and work with them locally. In my opinion, this is definitely not possible in the Arabic-speaking region. Moreover, the funding of the WMF itself is to sustain free knowledge in the whole world, not only in the west or for English speaking Wikipedia. This means that our Arabic hub will also need to receive a part of this funding from the foundation. Another argument I have (being aware of my local community), is that we in our region, are not ready to create such big projects by ourselves at this time. Not only in terms of funding, but also in management and other skills. I think that the involvement of the Foundation is more than needed for a hub in our region. As volunteers, we cannot be left to ourselves to create a hub.
  • Currently, due to the challenges in the region, and the disparity of views between community members, I think that it is important that the WMF is present somehow in this work. This said, I think also that we need to have our own legal structure (such as an association), and decide where it will be located, or if it will be fully decentralized or online.
  • This does not mean that the WMF will micro-manage the hubs. I can give you an example: our local user groups are working independently, and it is contributors in our countries that vote for the board without any intervention from the WMF. The WMF supports us however with grants and any requests we need. I see the regional hub in the same way. That it can work independently somehow, but still report to the WMF in financial matters, and writes reports such as the user groups are doing.

5. Should the hub serve online or offline communities most? Or both?Edit

  • We have online and offline communities, and although they can collaborate with each other, I believe that only few people are involved in both. When you are volunteering, it is difficult to keep a good pace in both. We are obliged to choose either to commit to online editing or our local affiliates. This situation created a cleavage between the two communities. We are different than the west, where groups have staff that do offline work during their working times, then can volunteer online later. For us, we have to choose, and our communities become therefore more and more polarized.
  • This said, I believe that the regional hub shall serve both communities. Ideally, these communities should blend together and be closer to one community than to two separate. A hub can help in that, as having community members employed in offline tasks will free a lot of time for online editing at their free time.

6. Which roles and responsibilities should be covered by the regional hub?Edit

  • I think one of the biggest roles of a hub would be to disseminate international knowledge to the local community. For example, the WMF has many good initiatives, but that are not really known by our community. We can see the hub as a central place for our community, from where information can transit in all ways. If one community member needs an information, they can check with the hub, who in its turn can even answer requests from WMF and other actors about the Arabic-speaking community. User groups are very limited and cannot perform this work.
  • Also, by being bigger than a regular affiliate, a hub can be able to create and foster more partnerships. One of the biggest challenges in our region is the lack of recognition for volunteers. A hub will provide a good framework for us Wikimedians to be able to partner with official bodies and organizations in our region.

7. Who will be working at the hub? And who decides on that?Edit

  • The choice shall be a mix of skills and legitimacy. Everything starts by setting up an interim committee (can be compared to a volunteer board). This committee drives the starting phases and decides on which roles need to created and who shall be hired. The hub will then have two groups, the decision-makers (volunteers), and the staff (employees). It will be this committee that will decide on employment in the hub. I can already see many roles in the hub such as a manager, accountant, legal specialist and administrators.
  • If you ask me how the committee will be set up, then I will return to the community. I think that elections should be run at the Arabic speaking community level, and that results from these elections determine the committee who will drive all work later on.

8. What needs to be done so that the community becomes ready to create a hub?Edit

  • It we go back to the experience of the Arabic committee. One of the reasons why it failed was that the local affiliates themselves were not very active, but wanted to drive ambitious projects together. You cannot build a second floor in a building where there is no first floor. It is important to start slowly, but strongly. My observations extend to the present also, where I see that these same affiliates are mostly inactive.
  • It is very important that our community understands that work relies on structures and processes and not on people. Most of us are volunteers, and might leave the movement at a moment or another, with a lot of knowledge. We have to document more our internal knowledge, so that even if people change, work remains and that we can advance.
  • There is a big correlation between a good working hub and a healthy community. We need to ensure that our local community and affiliates are also working well before we can consider creating a hub. Who will help to ensure this without that local affiliates feel that we are intruding them. Will it be the responsibility of the WMF? Of the Affcom?
  • I would like to acknowledge that there is a point of view (that I disagree with) which says that maybe we can start a hub directly, and that the hub solves the internal problems of local groups. I disagree with it and think that it is too risky.

9. Do all regions need a hub?Edit

  • First of all, we need to know why a hub is needed? In our case, it is to coordinate and organize the community. Maybe in the west they do not need regional hubs, as they already have many chapters and staff. Maybe we have more urgent need than them in this area.

Key TakeawaysEdit

  • There should be a hub for the Arabic-speaking region at-large, covering all the Arabic-speaking countries, with or without affiliates.
  • A hub is different than a chapter. Even in regions without chapters, hubs need to be created, as the current user groups might evolve into chapters later, and we cannot have chapters under each other.
  • Affcom needs to look soon into how the hub structure can be implemented.
  • As volunteers, we cannot be left to ourselves to create a hub. In fact, we have a dilemma to choose whether we would like to commit to work online or offline, but we cannot do both because time is needed. WMF should take this into consideration when asking us to create a hub alone.
  • In our region, we have not resources to build a hub alone. We need support (financial and managerial) from WMF to create it. Once implemented, this hub will report to the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Does the WMF expect that we (the communities) create a legal entity and decide on the location of the hub alone? Or is it something that we can brainstorm together with the foundation?
  • To start creating a hub, the proposed method is to: (1) Organize elections within the community to elect a representative volunteer steering committee, (2) The committee will drive the creating of the hub and ensuring it to have a legal structure and employees.
  • There is a big correlation between a good working hub and a healthy community. We need to ensure that our local community and affiliates are also working well before we can consider creating a hub. Who will help to ensure this without that local affiliates feel that we are intruding them. Will it be the responsibility of the WMF? Of the Affcom?