Looking back on a year of building a movement leadership development plan

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When the Movement Strategy recommendations came out, it advocated for Investing in skills and leadership development “to intentionally make our Movement more distributed and sustainable”. Our commitment to decentralisation and empowerment of volunteers is our DNA and one of the reasons for the Wikimedia Movement’s success and resilience. Yet, there still is room for improvement. To create ideas on how to empower contributors to make a difference, the Community Development team assembled a Leadership Development Working Group (LDWG) – that’s us! We came together in June 2022 as a group of globally distributed volunteers from all sorts of backgrounds within and outside the movement. 

Our mandate was to come up with strategies to foster leadership in the Wikimedia Movement. But how does one go about that? After all, to many, the idea of “leader” and “leadership” sounded like a few people deciding what their subordinates are supposed to do – the opposite of what Wikimedia is about. It was clear to us that the first thing to do was to elaborate on what shape leadership needs to take to suit our Movement. 

  • We first set out to come up with a shared definition of leadership that encompasses our grassroots spirit. 
  • Building on that foundation, we drafted a Leadership Development Plan tailored to the special needs of the Wikimedia Movement. 
  • In the remaining time of our one-year tenure, we started implementing parts of the plan in several small- to medium-scale projects and initiatives.

Amplifying our work at Wikimania

Most of what we accomplished was to establish a vocabulary of concepts (the definition) and a directory of tools (the development plan) to make it easier for Wikimedia members to progress on their leadership journey. Consequently, our work critically depends, even more so than other projects, on Wikimedians being aware of what we did so that they can use it. Wikimania 2023 in Singapore was our time to shine – and we took full advantage of that! 

What working together taught us about leadership

As many working groups before us, we faced – and eventually dealt with – the occasional lack of motivation, disagreement over the content, lengthy discussions about priorities and the choice of process to get them done. Managing issues like these is at the heart of leadership, so observing and reflecting on how we worked together had a special place in our group. We elaborated on some of these topics extensively in our Leadership Development Plan, but based on what we learned while we were writing it, we would like to share three pieces of advice that helped us a lot:

  1. Be open about your abilities and needs, especially availability and energy levels. There is no point in keeping up appearances here – we are all volunteers, no one knows everything or is available 24/7. You do yourself and your team a favor when you are transparent about these things.
  2. Make consent-building a habit. No matter how you choose to work on a project, in the end, all of your names will be on it. Reaching alignment on what to do and publish is often hard but you can make the process a whole lot easier when it becomes habitual. We, for instance, adopted Sociocracy-based consent-building processes after a couple of us attended a workshop on the topic.
  3. Be a community – get to know your colleagues. You, as a team, will be much stronger when you can truly appreciate the personalities and stories your fellow Wikimedians have to share. There are really interesting people around here!

What’s next?

We envision a vibrant and collaborative network where individuals from across the Wikimedia community will unite to foster leadership growth. During Wikimania Singapore, we kickstarted the Leadership Development Network. This initiative aims to create a dynamic space where people can freely exchange ideas, share their challenges and showcase their leadership projects within the Wikimedia ecosystem. This network will facilitate the transition from the Leadership Development Working Group drafting concepts into a more decentralised, distributed and flexible working space that puts leadership development into practice. By nurturing this supportive environment, we hope to encourage both seasoned contributors and newbies to innovate and drive sustainable change within Wikimedia. We welcome all individuals who are interested in working on leadership development in your projects, communities and regions to join the Leadership Development Network. You can already do so now by following this link to our semi-formal telegram group. We’d love to hear from you soon!

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