Wikimedia European Affiliates Cooperation/European Regional Event February 2021/Summary

General summary


The purpose of this meeting was to present ideas on concrete, practical projects that can be done soon, and that do not hinge on the more lengthy processes and movement governance conversations. Ideas were presented and further discussed in breakout sessions. People who were interested in developing these ideas further signed up for follow-up work meetings. The following project ideas were discussed:

The Capacity Exchange


In the main part of the meeting, we presented this very early stage idea: A mechanism by which people, groups and affiliates can find each other and exchange skills, services and resources. This is the presentation. We would pilot this project in Europe, but build it with an eye on scaling for the movement.

In the breakout session, which was attended by 28 participants, people provided helpful input for the concept. Some of the points made and questions posed:

  • Building capacity - looking at what projects were successful and what didn't work so well. We need this insight. Also look at  - what's been done outside the movement and how to bring this in.
  • Starting with mapping - this has value as an idea, but let's just get started. Mapping will happen as people provide more entries onto the exchange website.
  • Sharing practical, applicable knowledge rather than text - challenge is getting people to use it regularly. Once we have a basic catalogue, it makes sense to start promoting that. It will be crucial to make it a habit to consult this database otherwise it will be a waste of resources.
  • Training on building habits
  • These initiatives (CapX and Grand Tour) are mutually synergistic.
  • Sharing resources is also tricky. We need to invest in our capacity to be shared.
  • One thing that will attract users will be having financial resources to put into a project. People may want to tap into the cost of setting up an event.
  • We have to acknowledge that many people just want to contribute alone and they are not comfortable socializing. People should also have the right to be left alone, if that's what they prefer. Some people sometimes like to document, others like to edit.
  • Whatever we build here, won't just have a growth mindset it will be based on inclusion.
  • Capacity is not just best practices coming from so-called centers of excellence, but is the knowledge at the edges of the movement, where people innovate and take risks
  • Acknowledge cost of volunteering and provide volunteer appreciation but caution: when building volunteer appreciation methods, be careful not to change intrinsic motivation into extrinsic (monetary) motivation – research says this can irreversibly damage the joy that comes from volunteering
  • We need to not feed into the divisive language used on "volunteers" or "professionals". Some people are both. If everyone is part of the movement, there should not be this delineation between you get paid and you don't get paid.
  • Do we have capacity for capacity building? For staff it is a real question of how to prioritize this work.
  • Consider adding capacity building AND capacity sharing to annual organizational priorities
  • Conflict resolution trainings and non tech skills: mapping those and also offering ressources.
  • WMPL has organized mediation training for editors in 2021, developing this into a program
  • How to attract skill providers?
  • We need stipends to do this kind of work. Include budget for people providing resources so as not to reproduce privilege of volunteer time. Consider having a budget for both helpers and recipients.
  • Track volunteer "bandwidth" to avoid burn-out or overburdening key volunteers. Being  valued = Big intrinsic motivation.  Appropriate expressions of Appreciation go a long way and have been underutilized within wikiverse so far.
  • CRM to track volume of work a given volunteer has been involved in? Check in CRM before requesting more?
  • WMPL is launching a pilot of CRM-based tracking in 2021 to identify "bottlenecks" (we know we have a few volunteers with unique skills that we over-use, e.g. conference translators, technical wizards, etc.)

Towards the end of the meeting, those people who are interested in taking this idea further signed up. There is a first work meeting scheduled for March 29th, 2021.

Grand Tour of Europe breakout room discussion

  • Participants: 8
  • Questions from the lightning talk discussion in the main room
    • Sustainability or how to limit environmental impact of this travel?
    • At some conferences, the organisers have to plant a lot of trees to compensate for flights, when it's not possible to take any other mode of transport
    • When you receive a scholarship, there is a list of things to complete when the scholarship is over, they need to make sure that the gathered knowledge is spread across the local community
      • Note from the lightning talk discussion: Create a repeatable training for travellers on techniques for gathering and sharing information to maximise impact of this program
    • Clarifying expectations of the outcome before the travelling starts
    • Maybe also checking in 6 months later to reflect on the experience and what has stuck in the memory
  • Receiving more than four volunteers at a time will be difficult to manage for many affiliates
  • Groups of Wikimedians travelling should ideally consist of Wikimedians from different countries in order to encourage interaction with the hosts as well as their fellow travellers
  • Visiting Wikimedian at the Wikimedia conference is a very good model to replicate here

Prepared questions

  • Do you see a value for your affiliate with a program like this? If so, what is the main value?
    • Is this something we should be prioritising?
      • Comments: Experience of visiting another country and learning how the Wikimedia affiliate works
      • The work process is a bit different, but there were plenty of ideas that could be carried over for the work at home
      • Affiliates with no central office have the issue of having to meet in cultural centres or other public places, so how would participants meet in countries where there is no central office?
        • If the employees/volunteers are decentralised, the events would have to be decentralised too
        • Possibility of renting office/event space for these meetings via the Grand Tour budget
        • Organizing Wikipedia work camps in Austria. The exchange program was payed for by Erasmus+. By learning how to write an Erasmus+ application as part of the pilot that knowledge (of application) can be shared with other affilates and used for othertypes of exchanges. Board training sessions would also be a great opportunity.
        • Some Wikimedia related researchers could also benefit from this programme, to go and visit colleagues at other universities abroad
      • Exchanging and learning from other Wikimedians is always of value for small communities, as well as to be able to provide a microcosm of how small communities work and replicate the experience of visiting one small community to another
      • WMF staff might also benefit from travelling across a region and talking to local affiliates
      • Combining local and regional experience exchange would maybe also work, like organising a small event in the Baltics that would combine this Tour with wider networking efforts (i.e. organising an event in Riga and inviting Wikimedians from Lithuania and Estonia too)
      • Could also generate interest among more volunteers that usually don't interact with the local affiliate
  • How do we finance the initiative long term?
    • WMF funding in the short term to set this operation up, but ideally EU or national funding in the long term

Not discussed:

  • What should we evaluate it based on? We need to define what success looks like.
  • How should the travelers be chosen? How do we ensure diversity amongst the travelers?