Wikimedia Community Ireland/Annual plan 2021-2022
Given the upheaval of the past year, and the continued uncertainty surrounding the reopening of Irish society in the coming year, we have chosen to focus on those events, campaigns, competitions and partnerships that have garnered interest and engagement throughout 2020 and early 2021. Photography competitions in particular remained popular with participants, as most could find ways of taking part while adhering to both travel restrictions and social distancing. We have also seen sustained interest from our educational partners in third level institutions and from our GLAM partners. There has been a marked downturn in the primary and post-primary educator’s capacity to work with us, and similar issues with those engaged in the Irish language as educators and advocates.
For this coming year, we are going to focus on these areas of engagement and work with those partners who have maintained a connection with us during the pandemic. In this refocusing and concentrating of our efforts, we will explore ways of supporting and engaging with new and developing communities who wish to work with us in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways. This renewed drive is underlined by our new strategic plan, which was authored by the group in late 2020 and covers the period from 2021 to 2024.
The overarching themes of the strategic plan are:
- building a more sustainable organisation
- building and strengthening existing partnerships
- exploring new ways to engage and support the existing and emerging partners into the future
Wiki Loves Monuments has been a feature of our annual events since our foundation in 2014, and has continued to encourage new and returning participants to contribute to Wikimedia projects each year. 2020 saw Ireland’s first Wiki Loves Earth, and in 2021 we experimented with running a Wiki Loves Folklore local edition. Such photography competitions offer individuals an entry level participation into Wikimedia projects with the potential for significant impact relating to the representation of Ireland internationally. Given the relative ease with which participants can take part, regardless of the ongoing pandemic, in the coming year four photography competitions will feature in our events calendar:
- Wiki Loves Monuments (WLM) September 2021
- Wiki Science November 2021
- Wiki Loves Folklore (WLF) February 2022
- Wiki Loves Earth (WLE) June 2022
All four competitions offer outreach to sectors and communities with whom we have worked with previously, or with whom we wish to develop stronger relationships. In particular, Wiki Science with students, researchers and educators, and WLF with GLAMs, related research groups and societies. As the effects of the pandemic will most likely strongly impact our outreach work with these groups and sectors into 2022, offering forms of participation which are not reliant on intensive support through workshops, will provide us with methods of engagement that are widely impactful on Wikimedia projects. The four competitions also punctuate the calendar, giving an overall structure and theme to distinct yearly quarters, allowing us to align related outreach.
Outreach into the Irish language community and efforts to increase awareness and participation on Vicipéid has been the programme most negatively affected by the pandemic. Our ability to connect and engage with stakeholders, and to roll out new campaigns and initiatives to work with those working in the Irish language has been greatly impacted. We continue to look for new methods and opportunities to work with the Irish language in all possible avenues, the current circumstances mean that we can not plan for any events or outreach in a meaningful sense. We are currently pursuing a grant with EU partners which aims to get students in a school in Ireland editing Vicipéid, which we hope will give us the capacity, support, and connections to engage with more Irish language educators in the future.
The community that has built up around the Celtic Knot conference is an important knowledge base and support structure for our work on Vicipéid. Working with colleagues in Wikimedia UK, we are building up more connections and potential structures that can allow for greater peer-to-peer support and communication across the various small language Wikipedias. This is an on-going effort, which centres around the annual Celtic Knot conference, which this year is taking place virtually in Norway as the Arctic Knot. There are initial plans for another conference in 2022, which we would also participate in.
Inclusion and diversityEdit
A feature of the move to virtual events during the pandemic is increasing awareness around accessibility to allow for greater inclusion. Within the work of WCI, we took part in an event with House of STEM for Pride in STEM in 2020 which included an Irish Sign Language (ISL) interpreter. This was the first time we had taken part in such a supported event, and it highlighted to us how the provision of a budget for ISL support would be a simple and highly effective way of making a number of our higher profile online or streamed events more accessible to the deaf community in Ireland. In recording these events, and making them available in a number of sites, also allows for the use of either auto or user-generated close captioning to be added for future reuse.
Through our networks in the wider open knowledge space in Ireland, we have been asked to consider outreach to the blind and visually impaired communities in Ireland. We have had some initial discussions with some representatives of the community and with the WikiBlind User Group about how to go about supporting events in 2022 and beyond. Tentative plans include preliminary information events or lectures on Wikimedia projects, followed up with workshops and support for any events that are of interest to groups within the community.
A major effect of the pandemic on our activities in education was the complete suspension of any events or outreach to primary or post-primary students. Schools in Ireland have remained largely closed for the majority of 2020 and early 2021, with a phased return to in-person teaching in April 2021. These students have returned to the classroom, but with other restrictions in place, with workshops or other events with students or teachers not permissible. We have also discovered that educators have been under a large amount of extra stress and pressure due to pandemic and adapting to teaching in this new environment, so their capacity for any additional activities being brought into the classroom has been severely impacted. This has necessitated a pivot away from our previous focus on generating materials and resources for use in these educational settings, as for the success of that relied on the expertise and input from those educators, and the ability to pilot them within the classroom. This is also true of our previously planned Vicipéid and Irish language activities.
We have had sustained connection with many of the lecturers and educators at third level, and have continued that work with some modules incorporating Wikipedia editing into their course work with existing and new educational partners. During the pandemic, we got many requests for guest lectures to students and staff from our project coordinator. These lectures would often focus on a particular subject area on Wikipedia, highlighting how students and staff could include Wikipedia editing and participation in other Wikimedia projects within their work. The need for these lectures was in response to many students not having Erasmus or placements open to them during the pandemic, and the need for curriculum to change quickly. Given that a large portion of third level education is likely to remain virtual for the immediate future, a demand for such outreach events is likely to continue, and offers us unique and diverse ways of communicating with groups that we had no contact with previously.
In 2021 to 2022 we will look for more ways to connect with educators and staff in the Institutes of Technology, with whom we have had limited contact with. We aim to do so through active participation in relevant conferences, workshops and events, and continuing to use our connections within the academic library network to highlight the possibilities of integrating Wikipedia editing and other Wikimedia participation into third level teaching. We will also advocate for the adoption of Wikimedians in Residence within the education sector by highlighting their success internationally.
2020 saw two large Irish institutions, the National Museum of Ireland and the National Gallery of Ireland, move towards the adoption of open licences for some or all of their image collections. However, there are a number of technical and other barriers to the incorporation of these images into Commons for reuse, it has given further space for meaningful partnership between WCI and the staff of these institutions. It also sets an important precedent for other GLAMs in Ireland when discussing the benefits of adopting open licences which are compatible with Wikimedia projects.
We will continue our outreach and communication with the GLAM sector through the relationships we have developed over the past number of years, and our participation in relevant conferences and events, particularly those convened by the Irish Museums Association. Participating in these events not only keeps us up to date with emerging conversations within the GLAM community in Ireland, but also enables us to take part in those discussions where it is useful and mutually beneficial. We will continue to highlight the potential for programmes and initiatives such as Wikimedians in Residence to be adopted within Irish GLAMs.
In 2021, we have discovered that there is a particular interest in the use of Wikidata for Irish GLAMs. In light of new adoption of open licences by the NMI and NGI, how those images can be used in the most impactful way to describe the cultural heritage, people, and histories of Ireland through Wikidata will form a key part of our GLAM plans in 2021 and 2022. With a small number of GLAM professionals now interested in supporting a drive to educate the sector on the possibilities of working with Wikidata, we aim to build on this by proposing a set of outreach events with relevant partners to increase awareness of Wikidata sector wide. We will draw on expertise from Wikimedia UK and beyond to showcase best practice for integrating cultural data into Wikidata to support content focusing on the various language Wikipedias and Commons. We have not previously focused on Wikidata as an outreach tool, but anticipate that it will form an increasingly large portion of our outreach work going forward.