Learning Clinic on Building A Wikimedia Affiliate/Group

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Let’s Connect has been an exciting space both for affiliates and experienced Wikimedians across the globe for sharing and learning a variety of skills that range from organizational, tech skills, governance, communication, and other relevant capacities. Not only has it served as a venue for training, but it has also connected Wikimedians and volunteers to a more collaborative environment through monthly connectathons and sharing during learning clinics. 

Poster for Learning Clinic Building A Wikimedia Affiliate
Poster for Learning Clinic: Building A Wikimedia Affiliate

In its first session for this year, the Wiki Advocates Philippines User Group had the opportunity to share their experience in building their group, from scratch up to where they are now. A lot of these skills and strategies are available on the Meta-Wiki, in reports provided by long-time affiliates, and in guidelines by the WMF Departments and Affiliations Committee. But in this session, they have tried to break down 9 initial steps each group may take to have a well-grounded application. Imelda Brazal, the Executive Director and one of the creators of the group, has shared the affiliate’s journey from being an independent community organizer to a recognized affiliate.

Community with the Same Interest

A user group in the Wikimedia Movement is defined as a community of volunteers who have committed to work on improving a specific project that will benefit their community. A user group is a community of advocates who share the same interests. 

People who had similar interests, talents, and information gathered to work together to achieve a common goal. Why is this important? Every member who will play an important role in the formation of the user group must consider their knowledge and skills. The application process will be considerably easier if everyone in the team understands the group’s goal. 

The simplest approach is to begin with what each member already knows or is willing to learn more about. As a founding group, the aims and objectives must be closely aligned with the founders’ capacities.

Work on a Wikiproject

As an affiliate, your group must be willing to contribute to or improve any Wikimedia project. The Wikimedia Incubator is an excellent resource for building these initiatives. 

Creating wikiprojects in the Wikimedia Incubator has relatively few criteria, and it’s a fantastic place to start for teaching new editors, learning how Mediawiki templates function, and boosting your editor profile. Wikimedia Incubator is the best place to discuss how to contextualize your initiatives based on the needs of the community.

A few user groups have begun working in the Wikimedia incubator, and they have decided to collaborate and have their group recognized. 

Just a brief note: the Affiliations Committee requires five hundred (500) edits for each of a group’s three contacts when applying for a user group. Their accounts must be at least six months old. Indeed, someone can’t apply without first attempting to make their edits.

Join Online Trainings

Another point to consider when creating user groups is whether the group’s knowledge and skills are sufficient to begin developing a user group. Your team may try to attend training sessions hosted by the WMF and other Movement affiliates. These trainings are intended to help members build their competencies before they take on leadership roles as group founders. 

For starters, you can subscribe to various media channels to stay up-to-date on the newest training, changes, and new materials that may be valuable to you. You will always find sessions involving various aspects of our community, such as editing basics, on-wiki tools, Movement Strategy conversations, policies, and governance, and, Let’s Connect Learning Clinics. These are all excellent ways to learn about the Movement and its affiliates. 

Time zones can also be a concern, however, these trainings are frequently recorded and uploaded on YouTube, and for conversations, people can subscribe to podcast channels like Wikimove

Join Global Campaigns

How do you feel when your small contribution has a larger impact? Annually, global campaigns are launched to promote various initiatives. The group can benefit from a wide range of learning opportunities.

Running campaigns have a defined format. It includes a theme, goals, rules, objectives, a topic list, and reports. Knowing such things already prepares your group to execute effective community campaigns. 

Participating in global campaigns also allows you to meet other Wikimedians who may be able to guide you on your path to becoming a recognized affiliate. Some of these folks may have faced issues similar to those you may face as a user group. 

This is also the best time to learn about the campaign tracking tools, which include the Wikimedia Hashtag Tracker tool, the Programs and Events Dashboard, and Event Metrics. Hashtags are commonly utilized in campaigns like WPWP and SheSaid, while the annual Art+Feminism edit-a-thon makes use of the Programs and Events Dashboard.

Global campaigns are primarily a learning opportunity for aspiring local community organizers, and as a future user group that will be doing several campaigns and edit-a-thons, this can serve as practical instruction on how such activities are carried out.

Connect with Other User Groups

Although the Affiliations Committee’s page already provides clear and straightforward rules for forming a user group, we may learn the most from people who have done it before. Most of the queries we have are already answered in their meta pages. 

The AffCom requires applicants to set up a meta page. By examining what is contained in other affiliate pages, the group may get a sense of how they will structure, design, and supply information for their pages. 

There is no set guideline for how the group can accomplish their targets and work on their stated objectives, as each Wikimedia community has a unique cultural environment and economic capacity. Studying affiliates in your area can help the organization devise tactics for tackling the daunting job of becoming an affiliate in the future.

Some affiliates allow you to join them even if you do not live in the country they are in, as long as you adhere to the group’s ideas and objectives.

Be Part of the Wider WMF Community

Most Wikipedia users believe there is simply a community of editors working together to improve the project. They are unaware that dedicated affiliates in each region are in charge of either administering the wikiprojects or recruiting newcomers to participate in editing. 

There is a larger Wikimedia community, which consists of affiliates, individual volunteers, open-knowledge enthusiasts, Wikimedia Foundation departments and staff, and multiple roles at the back end of each wiki project.

The Foundation frequently invites volunteers to participate in initiatives and decisions that impact the community. As is typical, there are calls for volunteers, either to prepare a specific guidebook, as in the case of the Leadership Development Plan, or to perform minor things such as disseminating news; the Wikimedia Education Newsletter is one example. Later on, when we become more familiar with how things are conducted within, we can even volunteer as members of roles requiring extensive knowledge, such as the Affiliations Committee and the Ombuds Commission.

Access Rapid Fund

WMF offers an array of support streams, including guidance, training, and financial resources, to groups that desire to carry out activities under the Foundation’s goals. One of the simplest supports to access in terms of implementation and reporting is the Rapid Fund. 

But why do you need help? Some communities that work on larger projects may incur costs for data connections, participant transportation allowances, food and drinks for edit-a-thons, documentation costs, and other utility charges. This is not always the case, but if you want to optimize the community’s potential and work over a longer period, say two to three months, a volunteer may require more support in these areas. 

How will this affect your future application for recognition? Although not explicitly stated in the application requirements, effectively delivering grant projects puts the group in an advantageous position for approval. This demonstrates that the team can facilitate activities, connect with the community, and accomplish specific targets.

Clear Up Objectives

As you continue to edit and work in the Movement, you will find new interests. This is a great indication that you and your group are eager to stay, learn from others, and participate in several activities. However, a clear objective will form your intended user group’s goal, whether it is about gender, climate change, culture, history, or other specific areas of focus. Having clear objectives from the start ensures that all of the group’s activities are focused and that the core members’ training is aligned with them.

Knowing other affiliates in your area is also recommended. This eliminates the possibility of overlapping with their scope of work, especially if your group and the affiliate are close to the same geographical area. Yet, you should not be discouraged, as there are always approaches to finding common ground. This part of the AffCom criteria simply ensures that no two affiliates work on the same project at the same time. 

Apply for A User Group

When will you know you’re ready? Technically, all that is required is a group of at least ten members, each with 500 changes, a wiki account that has been active for at least six months, and, of course, the group name, objectives, and a commitment to follow the Universal Code of Conduct. The identified strategies above are just intended to guarantee that each member and the entire user group may support their application based on their previous work and involvement.

The only way to find out is to apply. Even when you go over the group’s goals and objectives, AffCom may have further comments and recommendations to strengthen your request for recognition.

What if the group wasn’t recognized? There is always a window for reapplication. This is an ideal time to restructure the goals, look into the feedback, and identify new areas to focus on. 

Affiliate status, they say, is just an additional step. Everyone in the movement is free to assemble, collaborate on any work, and conduct activities for the community. After all, the entirety of the Wikimedia community is just a group of people who converged together with a specific purpose. 

For additional resources, you may access the learning clinic materials here

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