Workshop Wiki 101: Welcome Wiki Luanda! – A reflection on how to support peer organizers

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After a long time of preparation, Wiki Editoras Lx (WELx) and Wiki Luanda are happy to share with the rest of the Movement their first experience working together, which marks the beginning of the activities of the first Lusophone group in Africa. Welcome, Wiki Luanda!

The milestone took place at the Wiki 101 event, in September 2023, as two days of face-to-face activity in Luanda, Angola, with a series of trainings for newcomers, including a training by the Black Lunch Table (BLT) group and a training and an editathon with Wiki Editoras Lx, in a hybrid format. As a result, we would like to share some reflections on the process of co-organizing this event, taking into account the learning process of Wiki Luanda within the Wikimedia universe and of WELx in supporting other organizers.

Participants in a conversation circle during the Edit-a-thon Wiki 101, Luanda, Angola, 2023.

A bit of our history together

Wiki Luanda was an attempted initiative since 2020, after the artist and activist  Pamina Sebastião attended an online edit-a-thon organized by the Wiki Editoras Lx. They started to outreach to feminist activist from Angola and Mozambique, reinforcing a potential network to start a wiki group Angola-Mozambique; and some of them joined Wiki Editoras Lx online editing meetings. However, the definitive kick start of the group happened in 2022, after Pamina connected with Black Lunch Table (BLT) at a photobooth event they organized in Luanda and started, once again, the attempt to initiate an editors group. This time around, Jaliya The Bird joined as co-creator and Wiki Luanda was created. BLT also continued to be very supportive, sharing their own experiences with them.

As a self-organized user group, Wiki Luanda defines itself as an Angolan initiative that seeks to create visibility and representation of marginalized knowledge from African countries on Wikipedia, with a special focus on Portuguese-speaking African countries in order to contribute for a historical reparation that would allow for the creation of a digital cultural archive.

For four years, Wiki Editoras Lx (WELx) have been acting as an user group aimed at women, trans and non-binary people who have been editing Wikimedia projects regularly on their topics of interest. They prioritize the editing content that helps to close the gender gap, with a special focus on the Lusophone communities – in particular black, migrant, indigenous, rural, roma, LGBTQIAP+, among others. They are the first Lusophone group with a gender focus. Since the beginning of this year, WELx has been funded by Wikimedia Foundation which has given the group a more strategic approach that goes beyond editing activities. In this context, they supported Wiki Luanda to organize their first event, Wiki 101.

Wiki 101: learnings on how to support peer organizers

Let them come with their own ideas. Wiki 101 was a two day event idealized and organized by Wiki Luanda, with the support of Wiki Editoras Lx (WELx) and Black Lunch Table (BLT), funded by a rapid grant, with the intention to attend the local community’s needs for potential new editors and editors with some experience. Promoting autonomy is the most important principle.

Don’t impose your views. Allow those who need help to specify what they need before making any suggestions. In this case, during the conception of the workshop, both Wiki Editoras Lx and BLT gave tips to  the new organizers on how to write their grant application and to structure  the event. WELx were able to help with the creation of the event, its agenda and the best ways to approach it, through online support calls of sharing their experience as an older editors group. But that was only possible because the organizers communicated their needs and shared their vision. Together they manage to create an agenda with the main goal to motivate people to be part of Wiki Luanda allowing the organizers to truly start creating an editor’s group.

Get involved. At Wiki 101, Wiki Luanda decided to focus on sharing who they are, their vision for Wiki Luanda, why they exist, as well as the reality of other wiki communities around the world, specially in Africa. A big part of this event was also to share about Wikimedia and the potential of wiki projects by sharing BLT´s and WELx´s experience as much as possible through a talk open to questions. The second day of the event was dedicated to an online workshop with WELx on how they edit, followed by an editathon, aimed at working on Wikipedia together. 

Allow knowledge sharing to flow both ways. No matter how much experience you have, you will always learn new things if you allow yourself to. Wiki Editoras Lx has learned a lot from Wiki Luanda already. Apart from the expected learnings when organizing something new, it’s great to see how other groups work together, how other organizers run their events, what participation and engagement looks like in other contexts. Especially for groups that, as in this case, share values that go beyond wiki activities. 

On a much more personal note, I’m going to hijack this article to say it was beautiful to see Pamina and Jaliya during our editathon, working in their own way being the facilitators of this workshop we, as Wiki Editoras Lx, do so often in our context. It was very inspiring to see how they managed to create a safe and vivid atmosphere in the room where the participants exchanged ideas all the time, even during writing moments which, in our personal experience, tend to be quieter and perhaps a little bit more “boring”. I also carry with me the memory of some collective reading dynamics that I found so pedagogical and beautiful that I hope to have the opportunity to apply in the future.

Understand that the challenges vary according to the contexts. In the case of Wiki 101, the hybrid sessions posed some challenges that required even more patience than purely online sessions. We had internet and power outages during our session, which extended our day by a few hours. These challenges didn’t get in our way, and with care and communication we managed to optimize the time offline for short breaks that are always needed during long sessions. 

In addition, an important point, which we hope will be as much a learning experience for the community and the Foundation as it was for us, was the issue of payment. It is currently difficult to send money out of Angola, so paying the trainers for the event in Portugal was complicated to such an extent that we wouldn’t know how a similar scenario would play out between groups that didn’t have the kind of relationship we have, without a support network of care and constant communication 

Develop a relationship. Pamina said  “WELx had an essential role and mentored us throughout the whole process, by motivating the creation of a group in Angola since 2020, by supporting us through WhatsApp conversations, online calls, editing some of the main documents with us, providing editing sessions during the workshop. Their role as an editors group with more experience was very much valued and appreciated, providing us not only with the tools but the care that we need as a newly founded editor’s group.”And the truth is that  it’s much easier to work together when we can develop an atmosphere of care and shared values, as in any good relationship.

The future 

As next steps, Wiki Luanda wants to continue to enhance the capacities of their recently added editors as well as continue doing events that will allow them to include more editors. Also, gaining more and more experience in editing and the use of other Wikimedia projects by attending workshops and capacity building conferences or even requesting the support of our current Africa focal point, Wiki Editoras Lx and Black Lunch Table to learn more and more so the group can improve their skills. 

We are aware that starting a new community takes time and demands a lot of flexibility, adaptation and imagining new strategies. We feel supported to continue this mission.

Flavia Doria (Wiki Editoras Lx co-coordinator) in behalf of Wiki Luanda and Wiki Editoras Lx.

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