Donatien: Bridging Wikipedia’s Goalposts and Community Empowerment

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This month we Wikicelebrate Donatien Kanga (User:Papischou), a Wikimedian from Côte d’Ivoire, editor of French language Wikipedia, a community leader active on local, regional, and global levels, a huge football fan, and the co-creator of the Wikimedia Community User Group Côte d’Ivoire, which is now celebrating ten years of existence. 

Donatien Kangah

Donatien, a professor of digital media and creator of one of the first digital communications agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, first crossed paths with Wikipedia around 2012, when his agency organized an event with training and workshops. One of them being about Wikipedia. This connected them to the movement and started a longtime journey in which he supported the free knowledge mission through many activities on local, regional and global levels. Donatien is an experienced Wikipedia trainer, and a member of a micro grant committee of Wikifranca (a global collaboration of Francophone Wikimedia groups). He supported Wikimania through his activity in the scholarship committee, worked in the capacity building group for Movement Strategy and collaborated with communities from Senegal, Togo, Chad and Guinea. Most of his engagement is connected to the Community User Group Côte d’Ivoire, which he co-founded and which he now leads. 

In the past ten years, the Wikimedia Community User Group Côte d’Ivoire has grown immensely, from a  small network with less than 10 members to a vibrant organization, with a formal legal status and 67 members, more autonomy and sustainability. And one of the proudest moments for the group and Donatien himself was the Wikiconvention Francophone, a conference for Francophone communities, which happened in 2023 in Abidjan. With more than 130 participants and a well thought through program, the event was a shining example of community work. Donatien still gets a bit emotional, when he reads comments about the event, and discovers how much joy and feeling of success it brought not only to the community of Côte d’Ivoire, but to the larger community of Africa.

While you can see some of his edits on French Wikibooks and Wiktionary, Donatien ist most active in French Wikipedia, where he made edits in a variety of topics: from Akwaba, the official mascot of the 2024 Africa Cup of Nations, to Presidency of Nelson Mandela

a yellow barnstar leaving a yellow trail as it flys through a white background.

For Donatien the value of editing lies in learning through sharing. Each act of sharing knowledge in Wikipedia is about checking sources, discovering new facts. Even if I already know a lot about the topic, I discover new facts in sources. It is like swimming in information. Sharing knowledge is not a passive process, it is a constant discovery. Through contributing I have learned a lot about my country, Africa and the world. Editing allows you to grow through giving, says Donatien.

As a great football fan, Donatien especially remembers one of his contributions. It was the finale of the Africa Cup of Nations, and the Côte d’Ivoire team was fighting for victory against Ghana. The game was going to be  settled through penalty shots, and all eyes were on Copa Barry, Ivorienian reserve goalkeeper who was shooting the penalty. Donatien was watching the play with his friends, and kept his fingers crossed for his national team. If Coupa scores, I will update his Wikipedia article, Donatien promised. Copa Barry made his winning penalty shot, and while everyone in the room celebrated, Donatien spent time over the keyboard updating this information in Wikipedia, as promised. And while this was a minor edit, the circumstances made it very special in Donatien’s memory. 

Asked about challenges for the Movement, Donatien names the importance of knowledge and leadership transition in different movement organizations. African contributors are mostly young people, students younger than 35 years. They are very active in their work, but they need to also think about the people who will come after them. We need to think about transitions. Creating processes and protocols that can be followed, if the leaders leave, he says. Another important challenge according to Donatien is conflict management. We are here to focus on free knowledge, but sometimes conflicts happen. We need to anticipate when they might happen, and have processes and frameworks which can help to deal with them. There will always be challenges, this is how the world works. But the most important thing is to be ready and have solutions that will prevent those challenges from taking us away from our work, mission and goals

And Donatien can even see some of those challenges being tackled right now: in the growing reality of becoming more and more multilingual, with growing numbers of translation and interpretations from the Wikimedia Foundation, supporting communities from around the world in participating in the global movement. In a movement with an encyclopedia in 300 languages, you can’t expect English from the whole community. Through movement strategy we understood that integrating other languages is important and the efforts on that are key for a truly global, inclusive movement. 

When asked about advice he would give to other Wikimedians, Donatien names three main areas for Wikimedia affiliates: working towards clear objectives, working on community building and remaining focused. There are so many things happening in the movement all the time: campaigns, projects, funding opportunities, events. Trying to do and participate in everything is impossible, and will lead to feeling overwhelmed and burnout. At some point you need to choose your areas of work, and do it well. He also points to the value of community-centered leadership: according to Donatien, in the movement following the direction of knowledge as a service, leadership also needs to be a service, a service to the community. This will help to bring the true value of collaboration to the world. 

Donatien, we are so proud and grateful to have you in our movement. We thank you and wish many successes to you, your user group and… the football team of Côte d’Ivoire! 

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