Our Shared Future: Planning Ahead with Regional Communities (Part 1)

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Beginning in July 2022, the Foundation committed to spending the next year advancing knowledge equity by bringing a stronger regional focus to our work. Our regional staff have spent much of the last year deepening connection with Wikimedians around the world, and our understanding of regional priorities shapes the draft goals and project ideas that go into our annual plan. In April, we shared these draft priorities with the Wikimedia movement to ensure collaborative planning. Foundation staff engaged with volunteers on-wiki, over focus groups, and in open calls to discuss the draft priorities and make adjustments to the final plan based on community needs. An important part of these discussions was hearing directly from affiliates and volunteers about their own plans, which feed into the Foundation’s regional priorities for next fiscal year beginning in July 2023. 

After all of these conversations, what are communities across the Wikimedia movement hoping for in the year ahead? Here are some of the upcoming projects, conferences, and priorities that Wikimedians are leading in the coming months. 

Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Last month, the MENA region launched the latest Behind the Screen video, as part of a global campaign highlighting stories that celebrate the global diversity of both our movement and the ways that we contribute to Wikimedia projects. This video celebrates three volunteers, Nassima Chahboun, Mervat Salman, and Luma Salman, each with their own story of how they began editing and their hopes for the future. For MENA in particular, partnerships, movement strategy, and skill development were highlighted as priorities for the next year. 

Another important topic about the future of the MENA region is the formation of a regional hub, which has been the subject of active discussions since WikiArabia last October. Volunteers in the region see the hub as a solution to overcome some of the financial challenges they have faced in receiving grants, as well as an opportunity to increase collective output. The community continues to actively participate in global campaigns such as #WikiForHumanRights, as well as taking collective and individual action to improve Arabic content on the wikis.

Wikimedians in MENA are also finding ways to address content gaps and create engaging projects to welcome potential volunteers. For example, in Libya there is a new initiative to launch a new Libyan Wikimedia community and increase content about Libyan history and culture on Arabic Wikipedia. A recent community call for this work was attended by over 36 people, and focused on an introduction to Wikimedia projects for newcomers. Participants from other communities in the region attended to offer their support. 

Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)

In Latin America, campaigns around “topics for impact” remain central to how volunteers collaborate and contribute to the Wikimedia projects. For example, communities in Argentina and Colombia recently focused on participating in the conference Queering Wikipedia, and more broadly, on welcoming newcomers and increasing contributions around gender diversity topics. Similarly, affiliates from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela and Uruguay were heavily involved in the campaign #WikiForHumanRights and the 1lib1ref campaign. In February after a long process of planning and organization, Wikipedia in Wayuunaiki was born, a new language project for Wayyu-speaking indigenous communities in Venezuela and Colombia to contribute and share knowledge freely on the wikis.

In connection with content campaigns, the LAC region is looking forward to hosting two global conferences later this year. This includes the first ever International Conference on Education, Wikimedia, and Digital Cultures, which will take place in Argentina this coming September. In November, Uruguay will host the upcoming GLAM conference, which is hosted once every five years. Both of these conferences are intended to strengthen leadership capacity building and welcome newcomers in the region. 

Looking ahead, regional LAC leaders have also expressed a desire that the year ahead will allow for increased clarity around resource allocation in the Wikimedia movement. Community members in the region have been participating in conversations with regional Foundation staff and members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees about topics like grant making and fundraising processes, with an eye to how it affects programmatic budgeting for affiliates. This kind of two-way dialogue about priorities is important in order for affiliates to make decisions about budget allocation, and for the Foundation to ensure that its regional plans for next year are designed to meet these needs. Also in these conversations, the Community Wikimedia User Group Haïti shared their contribution workshops on Wikimedia projects, participation in international campaigns and Wikimedia events, and a call for contributions in Haitian Creole.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the top priority among the movement is regular and consistent connection and enhanced capacity building. In follow-up from WikiIndaba 2022, the Wiki Indaba Steering Committee  (WISCOM) and the Foundation’s Movement Communications team in February launched Afrika Baraza. Baraza, which means “an open meeting place” in Swahili, will bridge conversational gaps, provide an opportunity for volunteers who do not attend Indaba to contribute to continental discussions, and create an active forum for Africans by Africans. Afrika Baraza recently spearheaded collaboration around the Open the Knowledge Journalism Awards, a partnership between African communities and the Wikimedia Foundation to increase journalistic coverage of key themes in Africa. African communities are also leveraging the Let’s Connect program to grow their own skills and knowledge; over 60% of attendees over the last quarter came from Sub Saharan Africa.

Support and content growth for underserved languages is another regional priority, now and in the future. Communities in West Africa have recently celebrated the creation of three new language wikis which have been approved from the incubator. These are Fante Wikipedia, Ga Wikinews, and Tyap Wikinews. For these and other regional languages, volunteers in Ghana recently hosted a mini-conference to bring communities together around strengthening indigenous languages in the country. In parallel, the language team at the Wikimedia Foundation has been exploring infrastructure support through machine translation for regional languages including Igbo, Zulu, Dinka, and many more. 

African volunteers and Wikimedia staff are also partnering on initiatives aimed at boosting African contributions on larger language projects, particularly English Wikipedia. The Editing Team is currently working on a set of improvements to Visual Editor which will help volunteers in Sub Saharan Africa understand and follow English Wikipedia policies and guidelines. This initiative is intended to help African volunteers feel safe and confident when contributing on wiki, and to contribute edits that experienced editors are less likely to revert. 

Central and Eastern Europe (CEE)

The CEE Spring writing campaign is one of the most robust and longstanding Wikimedia content campaigns across the world. It takes place every year in March. This year’s campaign brought together 29 communities from the region and 3 guest communities from other regions across the globe. Campaigns are especially close to the heart of the region; Wikimedia Serbia is traditionally one of the most active global participants in 1lib1ref, Wikimedia Ukraine unites global communities through Ukraine’s Cultural Diplomacy Month, and Wiki Loves Earth was started in the region. A new Behind the Screen in CEE video shows community leaders from the CEE talking about how they use campaigns to create outreach, bring content and promote diversity.

The topic of regional hubs is central to both current and upcoming activities within CEE. This quarter marked an important milestone for the CEE Hub –  the CEE Hub Steering Committee and staff met in Zagreb, Croatia, for their first working meeting. The event resulted in an updated activity and work plan for the hub, one that is better aligned with the current needs of the region, as well as advancements in discussions around current and future governance models. 

The hub has also been busy working on one of its programmatic pillars: communication. Together with the Wikimedia Foundation’s Movement Communications team, the CEE Hub kicked off bimonthly online CEE Catch-up meetings. These meetings aim to enable connection, networking, and sharing of activities happening in the region and the movement at large. The hub has also recently relaunched the CEE newsletter after 5 years of inactivity. The newsletter will serve as a primary source of knowledge about the region, bringing fresh news from the wider movement, CEE affiliates and communities. Finally, the Let’s Connect network and learning clinics have been supporting the hub’s goal of capacity building. The members look forward to attending events for skill building and leadership development. 

Looking ahead, all of this coordination work across CEE will help the region prepare for the major milestone of hosting Wikimania 2024 in Katowice. Like Wikimania 2023, Wikimania 2024 is a shared endeavour that will be co-created by many communities, the Foundation, and affiliates across the region. The 2023 Core Organizing Team (COT) in Singapore is already hard at work sharing lessons learned with the organizers of the upcoming Wikimania in Katowice. They have also met on site with the potential partners of the event. The COT for Wikimania 2024 in Katowice is now working on a theme for Wikimania in partnership with the movement in the region. 

There is so much happening in the Wikimedia movement – and we’ve only covered four of our regions! Stay tuned for Part 2 of our quarterly update series, which will be coming out next week.

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