Group photo of Wikimedia Levant's Strategy Salon.
Time & PlaceEdit
- Time: 4:00 - 10:30 pm Wednesday August 7th, 2019.
- Place: Hotel Gerasa, University St., Amman, Jordan.
- Approved WMF Grant amount: 1,385 USD
- Amount received in local currency: 978.62 Jordanian Dinars.
- Amount spent in local currency: 987 Jordanian Dinars (about 1,390 USD).
A dinner always helps increase engagement+happiness levels in a Salon, as long as there isn't much work needed after it!
Wikimedia Levant's Strategy Salon was hosted in Amman, Jordan on August 7th, only a week before Wikimania (to which several members were headed) and a weak after the Community Health Working Group meeting in the same city, which greatly helped inspire facilitators. The event's budget included funding of a (short) international travel for almost half of the participants, to come from Palestine, which created a lot of logistic challenges but added a unique diversity and a broader representation of a user group that operates in four different countries. Due to the travel included, the duration of the Salon was a rather lengthy six hours, with a dinner included.
The Salon started with a brief introduction to the Strategy process, of which most attendees had little previous awareness, with the main themes discussed being those of Community Health and Capacity Building. Luckily, a veteran Strategy Working Group member (Mervat) was there to facilitate the theme of Community Health, providing deep, expert insights and top-notch facilitation. Participants, many of whom are medium range editors or Education Program students, expressed their little knowledge of Strategy at the beginning of the Salon and the amount of extra knowledge and interest they gained by the end. Input provided by the participants was tremendous and the engagement was very satisfying. Some even stated that they would like to get more involved in Strategy discussions on-Wiki. In the next section, a more detailed analysis of the responses is shown.
Participants of the salon can be categorized to:
- Experienced online contributors
- Experienced offline contributors
Basic Topics CoveredEdit
- Concept of community health, what it means, what it includes, its characteristics and why it is important
- Barriers that makes it difficult to build and maintain a healthy community
- Recommendations: What we need to maintain a healthy community.
Discussion was open for the three items above, that everyone participated and spoke his/her ideas.
For some participants, the concept was not really clear.
Explained the different aspects, including the importance to welcome new comers, report problems, feel the responsibility.
Explained that our community doesn’t have a unique situation, but what happens in our community happens with others in different forms and levels; hence, within the strategy of the movement, we are trying to raise the awareness related to the health of any community.
Agreed on that there are reporting channels that everyone should know about and use.
Highlighted the idea on mental and physical health and that every contributor is responsible for his own mental and physical health that could be affected negatively because of the non-controlled participation.
Characteristics of a healthy community?
Respect, freedom, welcoming behavior, capacity building, healthy environment, well-defined structure (reporting structure), absence of fear when contributing, supportive community, safety (There was a longer discussion on the point of safety and people fearing to contribute due to political repercussions), personal health (community health is sustained when each individual works on their own health as well).
Administrators and the bureaucratic structure. Responsibilities and relationships are not always clear. Policies are not applied the same way
Management in Wikipedia is not easy, admins are sometime not responsive of tough, lack of openness and participation in decision making
Behavior issues, such as condescending behavior, lack of respect, negative behavior in general, behavior driven by personal interest that conflicts with the community goals.
Some people come for one purpose and are not ready to commit to the policies, so welcoming them is not easy and changing their behavior is not easy;
Awareness: lack of clarity towards individual responsibilities, absence of clarity in community goals, absence of community engagement, not easy to talk to people and convince them. This is a main issue students face at universities. Newcomers are not encouraged or supported, they don’t get sufficient training. There has to be creative ways to increase awareness, specially about some concepts like “Community Health”
Also lack of awareness about WMF’s entities, such as security and safety team, etc.
Diversity: Lack of diversity of individuals within the community, sometimes influenced by other barriers like geographical barriers, where activities are focused in specific areas.
Lack of support: lack of governmental and institutional support (important for capacity building, promoting a positive view of the community, sponsoring equipment and events), a conservative community that doesn’t accept new ideas.
Technical Issues: editing is not easy, especially for newcomers.
To launch the discussion on Capacity Building, and due to the relative unfamiliarity of the theme to both attendees and facilitators (when compared to CH), the Scoping Questions set by the working group were used as a reference and proved moderately helpful. Two questions were explored in depth during the session, which lasted for about an hour (significantly shorter than the previous one, because of time management issues). The two questions and their results are stated below.
How do we make capacity building inclusive and equitable?Edit
- The question was asked in a manner intended to target both Capacity Building and Diversity, suggesting how the lack of capacity building might have a direct effect on the amount of diversity in Wikimedia Communities, and, consequently, on content gaps, neutrality and other Wikipedia principles.
- Local examples, including content on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, were used to illustrate how the lack of capacity can lead to unequal representation in Wikimedia communities.
- Some of the proposed solutions included:
Which stakeholders should be a part of capacity building efforts, and how?Edit
- Awareness: Most community members in Wikimedia Levant, especially those who don't have the chance to attend conferences or international events, are unaware of the existence of a Trust & Safety Team, neither of any other guidance within the Movement to help them deal with harassment and health issues. More resources should be available to educate the community about this stuff: for example, the T&S Team should have links displayed on Wikipedia's Main Page or on other primary places for the online community.
- Enhance and strengthen the institutional support by WMF to emerging communities.
- Enhance channels of communication and reach out; encourage people to speak up especially when they need support. Open channels to communicate with WMF entities and departments.
- Promote Wikimedia educational initiative and generalize the most successful programs to other universities and communities, especially if there are acceptance for Wikipedia within the curriculum. This is because participants thought educational programs in our community were successful and managed to enrich the content effectively, but educational programs are not always run in a health environment due to personal interests and lack of support and awareness.
- Need a user-friendly environment for beginners; need many disparate tutorials on how to edit Wikipedia and how to understand the community space including talk pages and history pages but beginners are not aware of their presence and don’t know where to start. Even the welcome post on talk pages to people who create an account is not clear and not easily accessed. There are many usability problems that are obstacles to growing the community.
Four main thematic topics of recommendations emerged from the discussion, within which there were several sets of more specific/particular ideas:
- Outreach: maximizing Wikiprojects outreach by various means, including events, meetings, contributors rewards, social media and audiovisual content that creates a more appealing and easier recruitment process.
- Knowledge Exchange: sharing knowledge between different people from different backgrounds to mutually improve skills as well as to promote diversity, multiple POVs and inclusivity (e. g. contributors from Arabic and English Wikipedias, or veteran contributors with newcomers).
- Regional hubs: launching legally bound,regional branches of Wikimedia to support various activities, help strengthen communities and empower volunteers on new levels.
- Interface/Design: re-create and consider the elements of Wikipedia’s main page very carefully to invite visitors to contribute and to lead, guide and encourage them to become active participants in the community and to build/improve their skill sets.
- Host edit-a-thons with different themes (as in WikiGap for women) to increase diversity in both content and community, as the events will attract people from particular backgrounds and will help train/recruit them to the community.
- Effective usage of social media platforms to promote Wikipedia and recruit new contributors, as well as to increase awareness of policies and principles.
- Partnering with other organizations to provide training to new, more diverse communities.
- Publishing regular video content (available on the main page) with Wikipedia tutorials: as in how to add references, etc.
- Building a platform for capacity building and skill training.
- Organizing events in unusual communities, such as refugee camps, countryside areas and female schools.
- Start a hotline/helpline to answer needs of Wikipedia contributors and users.
- Provide tutorial tours to guide participants through.
- Interface & Design:
- Re-design Wikipedia's main page to consider those less familiar with the Wikimedia environment. The main page is a valuable platform to introduce materials that can help educate people about Wikimedia, train new participants and provide important skills.
- Publish videos/banners on the main page to attract new contributors in an appealing manner. Include educational materials to help them learn editing Wikipedia.
- Knowledge Exchange:
- Sending volunteers abroad to attend international meetings or training to increase their capabilities.
- Exchanging expertise between Wikimedians from different languages communities (e. g. Wikipedia admins from the English and Arabic versions).
- Having more meetups, workshops and Wikipedia "exhibitions" for contributors to share expertise and learn from each other.
- Veteran admins or volunteers to share best practices.
Reflections on the SalonEdit
Members from the Wikipedia Education Program (Palestine) and the Jordan Open Source Association, enthusiastically adding their part to the recommnendations!.
Participants were asked at the beginning of the event: "What do you know about Wikimedia Strategy?", and, apart from facilitators and organizers, almost none of them had any prior knowledge of the process. Only one attendee said he had previously engaged in Strategy discussions with the Arabic language liaison (Anass), and few others were familiar with the Strategy posts/videos made by the liaison, but had never really read them.
The same question was asked again, per the recommendation of Kelsi's guide, at the end of the event. This time, after five hours of presentations, rich discussions, writing sticky notes and clustering our feedback and view points together, the participants impression had completely changed. They were happier, more energetic and more enthusiastic about the process. They said that their understanding of the 2030 Strategy was on a whole new level, they had plenty of ideas to share (already scribed above) and some were eager to share more. Education Program students from Palestine (3 of whom were funded to attend) were especially engaged during the event, and one or two of them expressed interest in participating in the Strategy process further forward. Many of the attendees were not previously aware of things like the Trust & Safety Team or the WMF role in supporting the community, and were glad to learn more about it.
Overall, feedback from the event was very positive. It was a chance for many of Wikimedia Levant's members to meet together for the first time and to share their views and opinions on critical things to them (i. e. Capacity Building and Community Health). Even though Strategy may feel abstract sometimes, the discussion it spurred was very real, practical and relevant to the participants' own experience with Wikimedia. It's highly likely that the event will increase the engagement of those who attended not only with Wikimedia 2030, but with the Movement as a whole.