Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan/Interview 8

This page is part of the Implementation Report for Regional Hubs. It regards specifically Interview 8.

BackgroundEdit

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

Questions and answersEdit

1. How do you envision a hub in your region by 2030?Edit

  • I see the hub in my region as a number of Wikimedia Foundation employees who are serving the local community in the region. In other terms, I describe the hub as a department of the WMF working on the region. Why will it be the WMF? Well because it is an already known foundation, and that working for it, with its email address will be very helpful for the region to grow and foster new partnerships and projects.
  • The hub shall be well organized and with a clear structure and hierarchy. It is important that its staff do not all come from the same country or area, and have diverse profiles and backgrounds.
  • For the location, it is a complex issue as we have several challenges in the region (security, closed borders, visa, etc.). If we are talking about a physical location, it needs to be a country located somehow centrally, not at the edges (too much to the West or the East), and most importantly have a good relationship with all the Arabic-speaking countries. It is a difficult question, but it needs to be tackled pretty soon.
  • The hub can also very remote. This gives more flexibility in terms of diversity of profiles of members, but also avoids us to go into the problem of the choice of physical location, that can prove to be very complex in our region. Working remotely is a serious alternative in the world now after COVID-19, is time, energy and money efficient, so it has several benefits.

2. Can you clarify what you identify as your region?Edit

  • The region that I have set in scope for the hub I am taking about is the Arabic-speaking world. I think that it will be very difficult to introduce languages such as Turkish, Urdu, or Farsi to the hub, because they are very different, and even their communities are almost disconnected with the Arabic speaking community. Moreover, the Arabic language is a big language and deserves a hub for its own.
  • If I am a decision maker for the hub, I would request fluency in Arabic as a must to be able to work in the regional hub. In fact, I want our hub to serve the Arabic speaking community. You cannot serve people that you do not speak their language or know their challenges and context.

3. Why do you need a hub in your region?Edit

  • First, we need to define what are the problems and challenges that we have, so that we can see if it is a hub that will solve them. In my countries, we have many ethnicities, many religions and a lot of cultures. The diversity in my country can even be compared to a region, or to a set of countries. The biggest problem that we face as volunteers in this environment is that every time we would like to engage in an official project or partnership, we are stopped by the question: "Who are you?". The official organizations in my area do not see you the same way depending if you are a volunteer or an employee.
  • Now some people might say: Well you can have staff at your user group or chapter. Why do you need exactly a hub? Well the answer is that either a UG or chapter need local legal recognition, which is a very risky way for us that can even take us to prison. I prefer that an initiative is taken at the regional level, where a structure is chosen in a "safer" place, but can allow us to be employees. Not everyone can work at the WMF (which is an American foundation, another barrier in some countries of the region), so having hubs in a region where there is no staff is for me an utmost priority.
  • Moreover, you can see that in some regions of the world, there are groups of chapters and user groups that have gathered, such as ESEAP, and speak in the name of their regions in several events. They have even made presentations, and discuss with the WMF in several matters. We need a similar setup in the Arab world, and this is why I see the hub as a spokesperson and representative of the region when discussing with the movement and with the foundation.

4. Can you explain concretely how a hub will start? What processes will be engaged to hire people for instance?Edit

  • What is the most important for me is to have an official representation in our region. If it is not the hub, then let it be a WMF department. The fact is that we cannot continue as volunteers as this situation is definitely not sustainable.
  • In my opinion, it is not important if this representativity comes from a hub emerging from the community, or it it is a department at the WMF. The most important is that it is community members from the region who will take these roles, and they will have an official status, and can engage discussions with official and legal entities in the region.
  • A very important point that we need to clarify, not only for our community but for all the others, is how this process will be formalized. According to what I understand now, there is a status-quo situation currently, where the WMF is watching, and where each community tries to reinvent the wheels. The ESEAP makes presentations on events, WikiFranca creates a user group, the Arabic committees gathers user groups. Nobody knows what is the solution, and a lot of work is done, I fear in an inefficient manner. We already know that many communities want to create a regional hub in their area. Why not formalize the process? Why is the Affcom not doing anything about it?
  • It seems to be that there is a blocker currently, and the attitude of "wait and see how each community will come to us with their suggestions" is not the best in my opinion, because some communities have only volunteers, and we cannot waste our time on a process we are not even sure if it will give a result.
  • Supposing that the status-quo remains, my suggestion for my own region is that we create a core team of trusted community members, who have legitimacy (for example by being elected). This core team can drive the preparation work for a hub. However, this is also not the best and most efficient solution, because core teams created in other regions will do different works, and maybe double work will be done in several regions of the world.

5. What will be the roles and responsibilities of the hub? How will it be different from the WMF?Edit

  • In my long Wikimedian experience, I did never witness a project being directly initiated by the WMF in the Arab world. The initiative is always coming from us the volunteers. I would love to see a structure coming to my country and suggesting projects and asking me for help or guidance (even as a volunteer). The WMF is not doing that, and this is why a hub is needed to do it.
  • It is not fair to expect volunteers to start complicated and time consuming projects that need full time staff, and only support in grants or small matter. For me the support needed is the having staff itself, because they are the ones who should do this full-time work, and this is why a hub is important. This will be one of its main important roles.
  • This work does not conflict with the affiliates work. In fact, our affiliates do not have a legal status in their countries and cannot drive bigger projects with governments or ministries. I am not talking about organizing local workshops or edit-a-thons, but rather about nation-wide projects in collaboration with a ministry or with an international organization. This cannot be done by a volunteer driven affiliate, as they are not considered by these partners. Also, volunteers have a life with many engagements, and cannot deliver good results. Full time dedication is needed for this work.

6. You have mostly mentioned offline work. How can we ensure that a hub will engage with online communities as well?Edit

  • Let me answer you clearly. There are some people who never interact, never engage in discussion, either in Telegram or Facebook or WhatsApp or Meta or village pump, and then complain that their opinion was not asked. It is completely fine that you write articles all day, but if you want your opinion to be taken into consideration, you have to show it somewhere, not just complain afterwards.
  • I do not see a boundary between the offline and the online work. There are many online editors who are active offline. You do not need to disclose your identity to be active offline, just writing on a meta discussion is enough. But you cannot jeopardize others' work and hinder any initiative by saying that you were not consulted. Online communities need to be consulted, and they are the core of the community, but if you are just writing articles and not interacting, how can you be consulted?
  • Another important point is that a difference needs to be made between editing articles and performing organizational work. A hub will be responsible over the organizational work and supporting the online editors. It will be there to support them, but will not interfere with the content or policies related to it. The regional hub will for example not set notability policy or discuss article deletion. This is something within the hands of the editing community and will remain there.

7. Does a hub need to have a legitimacy or is it a strictly professional structure in the region?Edit

  • It is important that the regional hub is legitimate within the regional community. This is an entity serving the community and needs to be supported and endorsed by the community. This can be done first through this trusted core team, who will then drive the process and the hub forward.
  • It is normal that there will always be people against some actions and decisions, but the most important is to have a majority within the community agreeing on advancing the project for the hub. It is understandable that consensus would not be built regarding this point, but if a majority wants to advance in a direction, we should follow it to create a hub.

Key TakeawaysEdit

  • I see the future hub as a WMF department dedicated for the region. Each region will have a number of WMF employees dedicated to it, and who can serve the local community and ensure a "professional" representation of the movement in the region, and can contact official organisms for future partnerships.
  • The hub shall be well organized and with a clear structure and hierarchy. It is important that its staff do not all come from the same country or area, and have diverse profiles and backgrounds.
  • I identify my region as the Arabic-speaking region. I think that there shall be a hub for all the Arabic-speaking countries (covering minority languages in the region). It is difficult to incorporate other languages such as Turkish and Farsi in this specific hub.
  • The reason why a hub is needed in the region is because we cannot have dedicated local staff otherwise. We do not have capacities in our local groups, and the autocratic nature of our regimes do not encourage us to create legal structures that can put us at risk.
  • A hub can be a spokesperson for the region. This is benefic from two sides. First the community can turn to the hub when it has messages to convey to the wider movement, and second, whenever the WMF or any part of the movement seeks information, feedback or opinions from the Arabic community could be conveyed by the hub.
  • A hub can even act as fiscal sponsor for affiliates who do not have a legal status in their countries, or those who cannot receive direct funding from the WMF, as it is an American Foundation.
  • The WMF is not initiating projects in the regions. We need a hub that will have among its roles to suggest and drive projects in the region's countries (in agreement with the affiliates), especially that we cannot expect also from volunteers to "brainstorm" and create projects.
  • The hub will serve both online and offline communities. Its doors need to be open to all who interact and express their interest in joining. As soon as you communicate, you become an offline user, even if you are not performing physical activities.
  • The hub is needed for offline and organizational support, setting partnerships, and supporting the community with resources. It must not be involved in any content creation, nor in interfering with online policies, which need to remain in the hands of the online community.
  • We need to clarify how the hub creation will be formalized. Many communities want to create a hub now, and each of them is reinventing the wheel separately than the others, which is very inefficient. The Affcom should take its responsibility and clarify this process.
  • There is a blocker currently. The situation of "wait and see how each community will come to us with their suggestions" is not the best in my opinion, because some communities have only volunteers, and we cannot waste our time on a process we are not even sure if it will give a result.
  • One way forward that is suggested is that a core team of trusted community members in the region is created. These members shall have legitimacy (for example by being elected). and will drive the preparation work for a hub. However, this is also not the best and most efficient solution, because core teams created in other regions will do different works, and maybe double work will be done in several regions of the world.
  • There needs to be a clear pathway/process explaining how we at our region can contact the WMF to request them to allocate staff serving our region. We do not know whom to contact exactly and who takes this decision. Maybe if we have more staff in/for the region, we might not need really a hub.
    • The core question is: How can our voice reach the WMF so that they allocate resources we need (most specifically staff)? And whom to contact?
  • It is important that the regional hub has legitimacy within the regional community. This is an entity serving the community and needs to be supported and endorsed by it. This can be done first through this trusted core team, who will then drive the process and the hub forward. Legitimacy comes from the fact that a the team and its decisions need to be endorsed and voted by a majority of the community.