Navigating the Path to Revival: Lessons from Rebuilding the Wikimedia Community User Group in Botswana

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Limkokwing School Club Group Photo

Being part of a community that was once recognized, then derecognized, and now recognized again by the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) this year has been quite the journey. The road to regaining trust, rebuilding, and reawakening the Wikimedia community has been challenging yet exciting.

Taking the reins from former Wikimedia leads and steering the community to where it stands today has been a journey marked by perseverance. Rebuilding trust in the wiki ecosystem, training the community in Botswana about Wikipedia, and establishing a structure for our community were essential steps along the way.

Our journey to revive the community began in 2020 with projects funded by rapid grants. However, irregular project occurrences made it difficult to maintain community engagement. Hosting regular activities became crucial to keeping the community active. The turning point came with the introduction of annual grants in 2022/23. This steady funding allowed us to grow steadily, evidenced by the significant increase in the number of Setswana articles on Wikipedia. Where once we had around 700 articles, we now boast approximately 1300, a testament to our progress in rebuilding the Wikimedia Community user group Botswana.

Our efforts to revive the user group consisted of a range of activities, including edit-a-thons, Wikipedia sister projects training, capacity-building workshops, and panel discussions etc. Each initiative played a crucial role in rebuilding our user group and rekindling interest in Wikimedia projects among our community members.

In our relentless pursuit to revive the Wikimedia community in Botswana, collaboration has been key. We’ve been fortunate to partner with various Wikimedia user groups, including Wikimedia ZA, the Igbo User Group, and Wikimedia Zambia and more great community members from other usegroups. These collaborations have been invaluable in providing training and support for our community members across different Wikimedia projects.

Our journey has been enriched by forging meaningful partnerships with institutions in Gaborone and Palapye, such as the University of Botswana, Limkokwing University, BIUST, Francistown Library and Botho University. These institutions have not only provided us with access to resources and facilities but have also helped us to expand our reach and engage with a broader audience.

Among our collaborators, Wikimedia ZA holds a special place. Serving as both a fiscal sponsor and a community from which we receive invaluable advice and support, Wikimedia ZA has been instrumental in navigating the challenges of rebuilding our community and shaping our strategies for growth and sustainability.

Attendants of the Setswana Wikipedia Launch

Palapye BIUST group photo

However, our journey hasn’t been without its challenges. One of the biggest hurdles we faced was dispelling misconceptions about Wikipedia and convincing stakeholders to collaborate with us. We also encountered difficulties due to limited resources and internet connectivity issues. Overcoming these challenges required perseverance and a commitment to consistency.

One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is the power of persistence. By consistently reaching out to potential collaborators, engaging with the community through various channels, and actively publicizing our activities, we’ve been able to gradually build trust and garner support. This advice is especially pertinent to derecognized communities aiming to regain recognition from the Wikimedia Foundation.

To any community facing similar obstacles, we would emphasize the importance of perseverance and engagement. Keep knocking on doors, keep reaching out to stakeholders, and keep advocating for your community. With time, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to your goals, you can overcome challenges, rebuild trust, and reignite the flame of the Wikimedia movement in your community.

File:Attendants of the Setswana Wikipedia Launch.jpg

2nd session setswana wikipedia challenge participants 2023

As we journey forward, our commitment to nurturing our community, fostering growth, and making meaningful contributions to the Wikimedia movement remains unwavering. Together, we’re not merely rebuilding a community; we’re crafting a legacy of empowerment and knowledge dissemination that will resonate for generations.

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