With an aim to build connections across India and South Asia, Wikiconference India took place in May 2023 after a gap of many years. This provided a common platform for Wikimedians and stakeholders contributing to Wikimedia projects in this region to meet, connect, and share their success stories, challenges, and future strategies.
Our communities have evolved and changed since the last WCI and more recently faced many challenges due to COVID. The motivation behind deciding on “Strengthening Bonds” as the central theme was to understand all these changes, tighten the previous connections and form new ones.
In this blog, the WCI Conference Organizers aim to share their thinking and strategy behind the program design for this three-day conference which included sessions from Indian community members, South Asian Community members, and staff from the Wikimedia Foundation. (If you haven’t yet, please read our previous blogs on Conference Themes and the Scholarships Program).
OUR CORE THEMES
To give our program a defined structure and scope, 5 sub-themes were chosen after pondering upon the challenges faced by communities which were also the conference themes. While diversity, collaboration, and vibrance are like air, water, and fire for the Wikimedia community, technology is the ground we stand on, and Engagement & Growth is the sky we aim to reach every day. All these together build the strength of our movement.
The initial idea was to give the same theater-styled experience to the entire audience, which would include community showcases, panel discussions, and learning activities/workshops for each sub-theme and no parallel sessions. But moving closer to the conference, we decided to include cultural performances, unconferences, excursions, etc and made exceptions for intriguing sessions in terms of duration which made parallel sessions inevitable.
In our vision, the showcases were meant to act as an exploratory step, the panel discussions focussed on picking a larger discussion and digging deep into meta-level questions, and the workshops tried to provide tangible outputs and learning opportunities.
The conference had around 30 sessions composed of 6-panel discussions, 10 showcases, 7 activities/ workshops along with a few other miscellaneous sessions.
- Each panel discussion happened strictly for an hour with 4-5 panelists who are well equipped with the knowledge, good representatives of that domain, and can share justifiable insights and personal experiences in response to the moderator’s questions.
- Showcases (global and local) had varied timings from a minimum of 60 minutes to a maximum of 90 minutes. They had multiple segments and the presenters kept shifting accordingly. This gave a chance for all the presenters to walk proudly onto the stage and give credit to their tremendous work.
- Workshops and learning activities were mostly for an hour and had a constant host till the end.
- Cultural Showcase: In order to make the experience whole, we included a cultural showcase during Day 1 of dance forms native to Telangana, and on Day 3 the attendees were taken to Shilparamam, an arts and crafts village in Hyderabad.
Coming to the evaluation criteria, the scoring mechanism was based on how well a session resonates with the themes, its relevance to the audience, its scaling feasibility, any potential post-conference engagement plans, contribution to equity/marginalized projects, and the endorsement/support the topic has from wiki communities. With all this in mind, session proposals were meticulously evaluated by the WCI programs sub-committee, and the entire program was designed based on submissions received and dedicated to our communities.
Additionally, to account for any last-moment changes and contingencies, we kept a few backup sessions, and Plan Bs ready. Luckily for us, members of the WCI Core Organizing Team (COT) were experienced and seasoned individuals who also thought on their feet and readily gave solutions to any changes.
All our endeavors were focused on ensuring a great attendee experience that is in line with our ambition and theme of Strengthening Bonds. Thus the conference played a crucial role in fostering discussions around the best practices, learnings, and experiences in communities to drive progress in the movement for collective success.
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