Six members of Wikimedia Thailand came together on 31 August 2019 to discuss the strategic direction and share their experience as Wikimedian. They shared what they have experienced first hand, examined the problems and identified their root causes. Towards the end of the session, we discussed how the global structure must be changed both and regional and global level for these problems to be solved, prevented or mitigated.
- Community health
Conflict between editors are not uncommon especially among the newcomers. Newcomers are usually monitored or even chased by more experienced editors. Veteran editors and administrators can be very strict. As a result, most newcomers lose their motivation and eventually leave the community. While it is obvious that a universal code of conduct should be created, it should not be mandatory. We do not believe that such universal code of conduct would be applicable to all countries due to differences in laws, culture, and traditions. Instead of a “universal” code of conduct, we should rather gear towards “model” of conduct, which will only serve as guidelines. The model of conduct should be interpreted in a way that matches both the Wikimedia values and the local context. This model of conduct should also have a right balance between giving autonomy to the community while at the same time make sure that their actions align with movement values.
It is unclear who is responsible for doing sponsorship (affiliate or WMF). Guidelines for partnership and partnership ‘committee’ should be created. Establishing a partnership can be difficult for new and small affiliates. Newly established affiliates and small user groups might have difficulty in doing partnership due to the lack of legal status. As a result, for small affiliates collaboration with external organizations usually come in a form of sponsorship rather than partnership. A partnership must be mutualistic, which means that both parties gain benefits. For sponsorships, only one party gains benefits which explains why sponsorships tend to be project based (short-lived) and not sustainable. The lack of legal status hinders the credibility of the organization and makes partnership more difficult. For brand recognition, it is usually the WMF that other organizations want to partner with, not the affiliate. Some may argue that it is the WMF who should be responsible for partnership. Examples of previous partnerships established by the WMF include collaboration with Google and UNESCO, which are international organizations. However, these organizations may not be geographically available in certain parts of the world. Due to limitations as such, we propose that affiliates should be the one who initiate partnership. The formal partnership agreement if possible should be signed by the affiliate on behalf of the WMF.
Partnership platform for potential partners should be established. Partnership can also be initiated from the outside-in, and not necessarily from inside-out. A partnership platform should be created to ensure that third party organizations know how they can be part of our movement and in what way they can be involved. Different organizations may require different models of partnership due to different resources they can provide. Some organizations may be more comfortable providing financial resource, while others can provide technical specialty, audience or volunteers.
- Capacity building
Capacity building should be tailor made to match the community needs. From our experience, what are taught as part of the learning days (both in Berlin and at Wikimanias) are usually what the WMF believes to be useful. Those attending the sessions, however, might not find it as beneficial as the organizers want it to be. Different regions have different needs and are subject to different challenges. The current attempt for capacity building is not addressing this at the moment. We propose that more regional conferences are held on a regular basis to provide training sessions that match the community needs. Training can be provided at individual level and affiliate level.
For affiliates, training may cover but not limited to the following items:
- How to apply for grant?
- How to start a usergroup?
- How to run a chapter?
- How to run contests and edit-a-thons?
- How to do partnership and outreach?
In order for all this to happen, we support the ongoing discussion that capacity building unit must be created. This unit has the duty to evaluate the status quo of each community. This capacity building unit will work closely with the regional hub/affiliate to make sure that trainings are adequately provided. This unit is also responsible for establishing the qualitative and quantitative guidelines to evaluate the capacity building.
In addition to the offline trainings, online platforms for training can be created. The tutorials hosted on wikiedu.org are very useful and can be translated to other languages.