Evaluating Foundation support for movement events and opportunities to provide feedback

This year, we’ve all had to deal with significant disruptions to the in person work that we usually do together. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of you have had to cancel movement events and gatherings, or shift to virtual options. It’s been a year of tremendous adjustment, and I’m grateful to all of you for your flexibility and your creativity in exploring new ways to collaborate and connect despite these restrictions.

As we had to put movement events on hold, the Events team at the Wikimedia Foundation decided to take the time to evaluate the support we were providing for Foundation funded and produced movement events and identify areas for improvement. We are calling this exercise an “Events Refresh.” Our goal is to look at the strategy, design and logistics of events and how we can make them more effective and a better experience for both the event organizers we partner with, as well as for the participants who attend.

To begin this evaluation process for events, we hosted preliminary conversations with several community organizers and event leaders from our movement to hear directly from them about how we can better support events moving forward.

Our first finding from these initial conversations will come as no surprise. The Wikimedians we spoke with emphasized, time and again, the important role that events play in fostering community connection, engagement, and sense of belonging. They shared with us how these in person gatherings allow participants to better understand the scope and breadth of the movement, to feel that they are contributing to something bigger. You can read a summary of our initial findings from these interviews on Meta.

An Updated Friendly Space Policy for Events

This Refresh exercise also included a review of the existing policies we have in place for movement and Foundation events. Following that review, we have updated the Friendly Space policy, in order to have more clear guidelines around youth safety at events. We wanted to provide more clarity and support for community organizers that are exploring events with youth participation.

The Friendly Space policy applies to all movement events hosted or supported by the Foundation. It is designed to provide a safe and welcoming experience for all participants at in-person and virtual events, and protect against harassment. The updated Friendly Space policy contains more explicit protections to address the safety of young attendees (generally defined as ages 15-24 based on the United Nations definition of youth). These include a minimum age for young people to attend events without being accompanied by a parent, guidelines on mature content at events for youth, and a youth safety plan. We believe that these new guidelines will help organizers who are thinking of hosting movement events for younger attendees.

More Opportunities to Share Feedback on Events

Our Events Refresh exercise is just getting started, and this work will be ongoing. In the coming months, we will continue connecting with communities to better understand and design for their needs. Our first three engagements will be focused on:

  • Capacity building for event organizers. How can we increase access to high-quality learning materials about events and accelerate learning and growth opportunities for volunteers? Chen Almog will be leading this effort.
  • Participation accessibility. How can we make movement events more accessible for participants, reducing linguistic, technological, cultural, economic, social, and other event barriers? Rachel Farrand will be leading this effort.
  • Event Ecosystem design. How can we create a framework for events so that community organizers and event participants can connect and collaborate across related events? How can we ensure that events have continuity for their audiences? Joël Letang will be leading this effort.

Starting in December we’ll also be kicking off Community Events office hours to provide real-time support to current and potential community organizers, host Q&A related to Events and provide other relevant updates. Please feel free to connect with the Community Events team at communityevents at wikimedia.org

I’m looking forward to when we’ll all be able to gather again in person. Until then, please share your feedback on other ways we can support you for movement events – we want to hear from you.

Take care and stay safe,
Janeen Uzzell
Chief Operating Officer
Wikimedia Foundation

Originally published by Janeen Uzzel on wikimedia-l on Thursday, November 19 , 2020.