Wikimedia Conference 2018/Program/49

49. How can affiliates without staff support their volunteers


Rémy Gerbet (WMFR), Raimund Liebert (WMAT), Veronika Krämer (WMDE), Natalia Szafran-Kozakowska (WMPL)

Length (min)


Audience / Target group

Volunteers supporting other volunteers in their (Wikipedia-/Wikimedia) communities

Session Format

Input and group discussion


Many affiliates that do not have dedicated paid volunteer supporters, struggle with the challenge to support, empower and include volunteers in their activities. After a short input why we think community engagement and support are so important, we will go into a group discussion to discuss the topic of community support by volunteers with interested participants. Ideally, we will then end up with a collection of possibilities and strategies for non-paid volunteer supporters.

Desired Outcome

A collection of “best practises” / how-tos for non-paid Wikimedia volunteer supporters (and publishing it)

Next Steps and Milestones

Possibly a follow-up at Wikimania

Documentation / Notes

The session „How can affiliates without staff support their volunteers?“ was aimed at volunteers supporting other volunteers in their (Wikipedia-/Wikimedia) communities.

Many affiliates that do not have dedicated paid volunteer supporters, struggle with the challenge to support, empower and include volunteers in their activities.

This is why this session was conceptualized as a group work and discussion, where participants could share their experiences and challenges and come up with possible solutions together.

The session started with a short input by members of the Volunteer Supporters Network (VSN) to remind us all why volunteer support in a Wikimedia context is so important: volunteers are at the heart of our movement - without them, Wikipedia and the sister projects simply wouldn't exist and wouldn't be able to stay alive and flourish.

All the volunteers who dedicate their time and energy to our movement's mission have their individual reasons for doing so, they all have their own motivation. We shortly outlined key points of how to help volunteers maintain their motivation (see /Volunteer_Supporters_Network/Motivation for more details) and briefly talked about the six key points we are trying to achieve with volunteer support:

A happy community, good relations between the community and the affiliations, an increased the number of editors and volunteers, helping our volunteers use and improve their skills, having partnerships with GLAM institutions or other partners, and ultimately, improving the content of Wikimedia projects (for more details, also see “The 6 pillars of community support” talk).

The support leading to those outcomes can take on various different forms. It can be material or financial support, it can be support through skills, tools or contacts, or it can be emotional support in the form of appreciation, recognition and the feeling of not being alone. It is also very different depending on the context, the size of one’s affiliation or community, the awareness that people in one’s country have about Wikipedia, the financial and human resources available and so on. This means that there is no one valid way of doing volunteer support that works for everybody.

Dividing the audience up into four groups of ca. 6 people each, allowed for specific volunteer support related challenges to be discussed by participants in detail. The groups started by talking about how they currently support their communities and then collected things that they are currently lacking or problems they are facing in supporting their communities in affiliations without staff. A few of the biggest challenges were discussed by the groups in detail, including concrete solutions for overcoming those problems.

The challenges identified by participants were varied and reached from things related to a lack of know-how or information (how to apply for grants, where to find support for particular issues) to “classic” community management topics: how to grow the active community, how to get more people to attend events or meet-ups, how to gain more editors or how to organize events together with partners.

Some of the mentioned problems could directly be solved by directing people to existing information on Meta, and for other challenges, interesting ideas were shared during the discussions. The feedback from participants made it clear that the session was considered a great occasion for sharing experiences, concerns and connecting with others in similar situations.

We are hoping to continue this form of exchange in the future and come up with some “typical” problems and possible solutions for these.