Volunteer Supporters Network/Working Paper July 2015

Volunteer Supporters Network, Working Paper, July 2015


Who are we?


The Volunteer Supporters Network (VSN) is an international group of Wikimedians active in volunteer and community support. The first meeting took place during Wikimania 2014. Since then, the group has created a mailing list and a hub page on meta and introduced itself to the movement during the Wikimedia Conference in May 2015.

For more information, visit the VSN page on Meta.

To get in touch with us, send an e-mail to volunteer-supporters lists.wikimedia.org or subscribe to our mailing list here.

The VSN would like to address people from Wikimedia affiliates who work in Volunteer Support, both as paid staff and as volunteers supporting other volunteers. In addition to this, we would also like to invite other volunteers and experts to join our discussions and share their perspectives on Volunteer Support with us.

What is our goal?


The VSN’s main goal is to help improve Volunteer Support in the Wikimedia Movement.

Why is this important?

Volunteers are the heart of the Wikimedia movement, contributing to Wikipedia, Commons and other Wikimedia projects worldwide every day, making knowledge and information freely accessible online for everybody. When speaking of volunteers, we refer to non-paid people contributing content to the Wikimedia projects (e.g. as authors or photographers), as well as to people organizing projects in a Wikimedia context that pursue and promote the goals of the movement.

Volunteer Support aims at helping volunteers do this valuable work by trying to improve their working conditions. The better the conditions under which volunteers in a Wikimedia context work are, the more likely it is that the level of volunteering can be increased, and that new volunteers can be won.

Providing the best possible framework for volunteers in the movement means providing volunteers with all sorts of assistance - organizational, financial, technical, material and moral support. Of course, there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to volunteer support - every idea and project is different, volunteers have varying amounts of time and other resources on their hands to invest in projects, and circumstances and preconditions differ from chapter to chapter.

How can we achieve this goal?


The diverse volunteer support structures that exist within the Wikimedia movement are a great chance for the ones involved in Volunteer Support to exchange their points of view, share their experiences and learn from each other. While this kind of exchange between Wikimedians on an international level already exists in areas like GLAM and Education, it was new in the field of Volunteer Support.

The VSN wants to help continually improve Volunteer Support in the movement by offering communication channels for volunteer supporters to exchange their experiences, questions and advice, and by offering helpful information and resources regarding Volunteer Support.

What does this imply?


The first steps taken (between November 2014 and May 2015) to achieve our goal and facilitate exchange between volunteer Supporters in the movement were:

  • creating the VSN hub page on Meta
  • starting to gather information and resources on the VSN page
  • setting up a VSN mailing list
  • holding regular online meetings to discuss the work of the VSN
  • introducing the Volunteer Supporters Network to a broader public during the Wikimedia Conference and getting more Wikimedians to join

The main challenge that the still relatively young Volunteer Supporters Network is facing now is that there are currently only few people actively involved.

What can be our next steps to continue building the VSN? We want to:

1. Get more people involved

  • by offering VSN sessions during Wikimania 2015 and actively inviting people to those sessions, encouraging them to join the Network
  • by pro-actively contacting Volunteer Supporters from various chapters and user groups to introduce the VSN
  • by highlighting the VSN’s role as a useful contact point for specific questions concerning Volunteer Support (amongst others during the “hands-on” session at Wikimania)
  • by introducing the VSN on the international Wikimedia mailing list

2. Further develop the VSN page on Meta to ultimately make it a useful pool of resources for Volunteer Supporters to turn to

  • by publishing thoughts and findings about volunteering in Wikimedia projects that help people understand the motivations, needs and expectations of volunteers as well as the mission of volunteer supporters (interesting insights on this were gathered from the participants of the VSN session during WMCON 2015 and should be refined during Wikimania 2015)
  • by creating and / or linking to Learning Patters that might be helpful for Volunteer Supporters

3. Further develop the mailing list and help turn it into a lively exchange forum

  • by regularly sharing stories, real “case studies” and insights gained from our daily work as Volunteer Supporters
  • by actively inviting other Volunteer Supporters to joing the mailing list

4. Continue working on developing the VSN, monitoring its progress and keeping others informed about it

  • by continuing the regular online meetings
  • by holding offline meetings to discuss the Network’s work and make it visible (e.g. during Conferences)
  • by publishing regular progress reports or updated working papers (for example before the next Wikimedia Conference in 2016)