Learning patterns/How to introduce a new target group to free knowledge and open source

A learning pattern forevent, hackathons, outreach
How to introduce a new target group to free knowledge and open source
problemReaching out to an audience which is not yet part of your community (e.g. game developers and designers) can be challenging, but has great potential to enlarge your existing community.
solutionFind ways to attract a new target group through, for example, the organization of a new event, which clearly addresses the interests of the new audience - in this case the Free Knowledge Game Jam.
created on08 March, 2016

What problem does this solve?


The use of free knowledge and open source is not implicit in the commercial sector. There are some business areas where free knowledge has not yet gotten a foot in the door and thus, content and code cannot be accessed freely. The gaming industry is such as case: Mostly driven by commercial products and companies, commercial aspects and goals are often already established during the education of game developers and designers. There is no lobby for open source and free knowledge in this industry, which prevents open data from being used in games, for example. Furthermore, a majority of computer games cannot be accessed or changed because they are not open source.

Wikimedia Germany tried to reach out to the gaming industry and introduce the idea of free knowledge to a commercially driven sector. The pattern is useful for communities which aim to spread their ideas to new target groups with a potential to becoming part of the community. It gives practical tips about how to do that and what the obstacles might be.

What is the solution?


This pattern applies to communities wishing to expand their reach to a greater audience and spread the values they stand for.

Carmen, our presenter at the Game Jam
Game jammers
  1. Get an insider of your new target group to help you: In our case, it was an experienced gamer developer trusted by her peers and well established in the game scene.
  2. Find a format which bridges the gap between you and the new target group: In our case, it was a game jam (a game-hackathon) where game developers have 24/72 hours time to come up with a prototype game. These game jams are themed, thus the theme could be our values of “free knowledge”.
  3. Get out of your comfort zone and try to stay open-minded about new partners: In our case, we had never been to a game jam nor did we know much about it. Here, our insider was important because she helped us to get a feeling for what is expected from us. Furthermore, we needed partners who gave us some credibility in the new target group. For us, that was the Computerspiele Museum Berlin and later the Cologne Game Lab.
  4. But don’t compromise for what you stand for: When we searched for funding and new partners, we also approached companies from the commercial sector. This proved to be rather difficult as they expected something in return for their help, for example recruitment opportunities. Here, we had to carefully consider if the values we are standing for and the event we had in mind lined up with the compromise we would have to make if we partnered with them.
  5. Put yourself out there and accept media partnerships: Since we did not have any credibility in the game scene, we asked many potential partners and persuaded them of our main goal. Through this process, we were able to gain media partnerships, good advice, a high ranking jury and devices for the game jam.
    Third Place winners: TexTiles
  6. See the greater potential of some partnerships: Ask questions like: How do these new partners fit into the whole picture? Are they useful for our long-term goals? These help you to understand how you can work together with new partners in the future, beyond this one-time event. Networking can be a very effective tool to build ties across sectors and communities.
  7. Know what else is happening in your target audience: The biggest mistake we made concerned our lack of awareness about another huge group of gamers who meet regularly for a mini game jam. That particular game jam was planned on the same day as the one we were planning, which significantly reduced our number of participants. Thus, get to know the new scene, its biggest events and happenings thereof.
  8. Expect to explain a lot: In our case, the concept of free knowledge was not self- explanatory for game developers or designers. We had to extensively explain, give examples and provide background information in order for them to understand how this fits into their usual game development environment and how they can profit from it. Here, it is important to be open and be able to put yourself in the position of someone who is not part of your community yet.
  9. Follow up with your new target group: Once you reached out and got the attention of your new audience, try to keep them focused on your values. Just because you had a successful event, you did not change the whole scene. This will take time. Therefore, make sure you keep the ties you made and find ambassadors to spread the word.
  10. Document and share your work for potential imitators: When you are coming from a big community which has hubs around the world, make sure to document your work and take opportunities to share your experience. For us, this included going to FOSDEM and holding a talk in the developer room, for example.
  11. Try to evaluate the long-term impact of your event: If you are curious about your success in involving the new audience with your community, topics and activities, consider to conduct a follow-up evaluation. In our case, one year after the event, we invited all participants to fill-in a very short online survey, asking if they were still engaged with Free Knowledge in the time after the event. In this survey, 77% of the respondents reported to be very engaged or somewhat engaged with Free Knowledge after the event. Additionally we observed many of this new contacts to show up up at following FOSS development events we have organized.

For more information on this learning pattern or this event, please feel free to contact Julia Schütze (WMDE).