NDEC Wikimedia Bootcamp 2024: The Lessons

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[This is the second one of the series of three diff blogs about NDEC Wikimedia Bootcamp 2024]

NDEC has been running Wikimedia bootcamp since 2020 and has trained hundreds of students, likely exceeding a thousand! In the early days, our retention rate was quite low. We quickly learned from each experience and continuously improved. The 2024 edition has achieved a more stable structure after much trial and error. We learnt a lot from the 2024 edition, just as we have done in previous years. We are sharing some of our insights with fellow Wikimedians working in ECWOs and anyone else involved in Wikimedia and Education spaces.


More than 150 students registered for the 2024 bootcamp, which is 65% of the 2022 edition’s turnout. Below are the statistics from both editions for you to pause and ponder.

Statistics from the 2024 edition of the bootcamp. (Images by NDEC, CC BY SA 4.0)

Statistics from the 2022 edition of the bootcamp. (Images by NDEC, CC BY SA 4.0)

What we learnt

  1. Money matters: Volunteerism is at the heart of the Wikimedia movement. When taking on larger responsibilities, financial support is a must. Money acts as a catalyst, if not the primary fuel. From 2020 to 2024, we funded all four bootcamps from our personal accounts, despite being high school students. Each bootcamp trained several hundred students and lasted for two weeks. As we continue to learn and improve the bootcamp, we realize that relying solely on personal funds from high schoolers is not a sustainable way to run such a large-scale Wikimedia outreach program. We are grateful to the Wikimedia Foundation Community Development team for their generous support with their online meeting solution. This was particularly helpful as we were unable to secure a subscription ourselves. In this edition of the bootcamp, our participants had to join one in-person workshop that lasted for two hours. They had to join the college classes the whole morning, and then join the bootcamp after that which took them around 4 pm to return home. And we were not able to provide lunches for them, which we mark as our failure as organizers. 
  2. Safety first: Safety is one of the biggest considerations at our bootcamp, especially for our high school students (aged 16/17). We understand the importance of protecting young minds and fostering a positive learning environment. Throughout the physical workshop, a well-trained volunteer team of over 30 people, led by our Director of Legal and Advocacy, was present in the designated areas. Easily identifiable by a designated uniform, they provided on-site support and ensured participant safety. Our safety protocols include informing and collaborating with relevant safety authorities, such as the WMF Trust & Safety team and local law enforcement. Due to safety concerns, details of our 2021 and 2023 bootcamps will continue to remain confidential. 
  3. Educational institutions are unpredictable: The bootcamp faced numerous challenges due to the academic schedule, including continuous exams, results announcements, and lab classes. Some students were restricted from using the internet by their guardians, while others were too frustrated with their results to participate. One student even sustained a major injury while playing on the college field, preventing them from joining the edit challenge. Finding the sweet spot in the calendar for the two-week program is one of the toughest challenges for the organizers. Aligning the bootcamp with a major vacation period, with no significant exams immediately following, is a good strategy.
  4. People love to go global: One of the most beautiful lessons we learned from understanding our participants is that people inherently love diversity. They are attracted to different cultures, languages, and perspectives. The idea of a global volunteer community, where people from almost every corner of the world donate their time and effort for a common goal, is fascinating for anyone new to Wikimedia. When we showcased global Wikimedia activities, our participants became more engaged with the bootcamp. In earlier editions, we focused solely on the process of editing articles and uploading images to Commons. We revised our bootcamp’s outline to provide a broader view of the movement after receiving feedback from participants who struggled to find value in simply editing and aligning Wikimedia volunteering with their priorities. They didn’t understand the purpose behind making hundreds of edits across various Wikimedia projects. Since the 2022 edition, we’ve adopted a new outline that highlights the global collaboration inherent to the movement, which has proven to be extremely impactful. The welcoming video we published before the bootcamp was particularly helpful in this regard.
  5. Edit challenge retains more people, but provokes editcountitis: In previous editions of the bootcamp, we designated editathons as the hands-on activity for the second week, where participants created articles on Wikipedia. We noticed that participants were gradually dropping out. Writing a complete article proved challenging for new Wikimedians, and not everyone enjoyed the process. We realized the need for a lighter yet effective editing program for the hands-on part of the bootcamp. Thanks to Wiki Club Jamia, their 500 Edit Challenge highlighted the importance of micro contributions during the initial days of a Wikimedian’s journey. Inspired by this, we adopted the Edit Challenge, replacing the Editathon in this edition of the bootcamp. The results were amazing, with a significantly higher retention rate. This change introduced a new challenge: some participants began to exhibit symptoms of editcountitis, which was initially difficult for us to manage. We’ve since developed strategies to address this issue and will implement countermeasures in the next bootcamp.
  6. Health needs to get more priority: The bootcamp was originally scheduled to run from April 24 to May 7. Just days before it began, a heat wave struck the country, leading to the nationwide closure of educational institutions. As the first workshop was planned to be in person, we had no choice but to postpone the bootcamp indefinitely. One of our organizing team members even experienced a mild heat stroke. Once the temperatures dropped to a comfortable level and educational institutions reopened, we rescheduled the bootcamp to take place from May 8 to May 24. This experience has taught us a valuable lesson, and we will ensure that future bootcamps include provisions for special medical attention.
  7. In-person meetup increases the impact: In our previous bootcamps, everything was conducted online, which created a sense of detachment among participants. Many of them suggested incorporating in-person events. For the 2024 edition, we decided to hold only the first workshop in person. This decision proved beneficial, as it helped establish a stronger connection with the participants. The bonds formed were stronger, and the participants showed more dedication to completing the bootcamp. Based on this success, we plan to continue including in-person events in future bootcamps.
  8. Legacy is valued: Every year, the most junior batch of the college participates in the bootcamp. The following year, these same students serve as safety and hospitality volunteers. The year after that, they step up as leaders of the bootcamp. For instance, the current leaders participated in the 2022 edition, while the volunteers took part in the 2023 edition, the details of which remain confidential. This progression fosters a sense of legacy among the bootcamp participants, creating a strong connection to the team and the broader Wikimedia movement. We will continue this legacy for years, passing the torch of open knowledge from generation to generation. 

Every bootcamp is a learning opportunity for us, and this year’s edition is no exception. We are eager to share our learnings with our Wikimedia colleagues from across the wikimediaverse. We welcome collaboration with any Wikimedia entity that wishes to utilize our experience and insights in their own Wikimedia programs.

About the author: Towhidul Islam is the former DIrector of Communications (2023-2024) of NDEC Wikipedia Editorial and Research Team and led the communication work during the NDEC Wikimedia Bootcamp 2024.

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