Brazil Catalyst Project/August 2011 Update

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Versão Há uma versão dessa nota em português, como não foi escrita pelo Barry, pode ter alguma diferença semântica, mas não foi proposital, foi escrita na tentativa apenas de elucidar para o maior número de pessoas possível e ser o mais fiel ao original


I would like to take a brief opportunity to provide the Brazilian community and others interested in questions relating to work in Brazil with an update on our team’s thinking regarding our work to support the growth of our projects in Brazil and by extension in Portuguese and other languages. (Note: I received the letter from the Brazilian community after having prepared this note. I will respond to that excellent letter separately, though I think the spirit of the letter is largely consistent with the spirit of this note.)

As many know, the Wikimedia movement strategy identified Brazil as a country where we have significant opportunity to increase the impact of our projects. Brazil is a large country where the Internet is growing quickly, yet it is a place where the Wikimedia projects are not yet widely read or contributed to. Our challenge is to seize this opportunity. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) has committed to supporting growth in Brazil by investing our resources directly in Brazil to catalyze new community growth and to support existing community initiative. We have taken it slowly, as we felt we had a lot to learn about Brazil and as we started work we realized that the community needed time to work on some internal questions regarding the need for a chapter and to develop a shared sense of the opportunities and challenges.

We hired Carolina Rossini last October to facilitate a Brazil Catalyst Project (BCP). Carolina sought to engage with the community through an open, clearly documented and collaborative approach. She also brought her own knowledge and expertise from her other work in Brazil. Ultimately, Carolina’s work focused on mapping the landscape (see Brazil Digital Landscape), interviewing community members (she interviewed anyone who would agree to talk to her) and creating a set of recommendations for initiatives and pilot projects that will help advance our collective mission in Brazil.

In addition, we arranged two WMF team visits to Brazil to help to connect with the community and create an understanding of the environment. Jessie and Kul visited in January, and Jessie and I visited in June. We sought out every opportunity to learn about Brazil and we did some outreach work at Campus Party and FISL. Jessie, Kul and I also had lunch with the Brazilian contingent at Wikimania in Haifa.

Our observations[edit]

It is even clearer now that we have better knowledge that the opportunity in Brazil is enormous. We have a committed corps of contributors, a solid Portuguese Wikipedia and positive interest in Wikipedia within the country. It is also cool to see that Brazilians are important contributors beyond Portuguese, and there is a lot of potential to make even richer contributions to global knowledge in any language.

There are many challenges in building a sustainable and growing community of contributors. We’ve been a bit surprised how little offline participation there is in Brazil. There are few meetups or organized outreach activities. The meetups we had while in Brazil attracted wonderful folks, and we had fruitful dialogue, but the numbers were small. We’re also concerned about the health of the Portuguese Wikipedia community. We heard from all quarters that there is much too much conflict within the community. We also know that the trends in editor retention are not good, Further, PT-WP has very few admins and is struggling to fulfill key project oversight roles. Finally, there is a tricky tension between EN-WP and PT-WP - some view PT-WP as a “second class” project and prefer to edit in EN-WP where they have a larger audience. We think this is unfortunate and don’t believe that PT-WP is second class. We believe it should be a priority to continue building a great PT-WP, as most Brazilians (not to mention other lusophone speakers around the world) don’t speak English or Spanish, and there is a huge opportunity for knowledge-sharing in Portuguese.

We are encouraged by the positive momentum a group of community members has around the formation of a chapter to support the growth of the projects in Brazil. It is great that some of the arguments of the past have died down and that there is a renewed focus on finding ways to work as a community to advance the mission.

Our plans[edit]

We believe the main steps to move forward in the short term are to

  1. improve our collective understanding of the structure and work dynamics of the Brazilian contributor community and engage in dialogue with the community,
  2. focus on outreach projects (specifically the launch of the Global Education Program in Brazil) providing new energy for the community, and
  3. support community-led initiatives and efforts to form Wikimedia Brazil through grants and other supports. We will also continue work on establishing a WMF presence in Brazil, though that will be a secondary priority for the next 3-6 months.

We will move immediately to hire a qualitative researcher to conduct analysis of PT:WP. We will also hire a Fellow to start working with the PT community by October. Our Global Education team is looking for a consultant to help start preliminary planning for the program in Brazil with a goal of starting some pilot activities in universities in the first quarter of 2012. We have an important opportunity to create a high quality offline version of PT Wikipedia that we are discussing with the community which we would like to have completed by December. We are also ready to support grants in Brazil.

Finally, we will continue working on the creation of a WMF presence in Brazil. The goal would be to provide capacity and resources to accelerate growth of the projects in Brazil, which has been found to be quite beneficial in the case of a similar catalyst project in India. We would like to move forward carefully on this front. Our top priority is to build momentum in the community and get some positive initiatives underway. We don’t want the formation process to delay action in the short term, as we think it is most important that we get started and build momentum.

Our team[edit]

Now that we are at a point of transition from planning to action, we are going to make some adjustments to our team. Carolina Rossini has provided great support over the past months to help WMF get up to speed on Brazil, create an open forum for input and dialogue via the BCP and develop recommendations for us on the way forward. It is a good time for her to wrap up her consultancy over the next month. We thank her for her valuable contributions and wish her well as she prepares to sit for the California Bar exam and focus on her open education work in Brazil. We definitely plan to stay connected with Carol.

Since we started work in Brazil, Jessie Wild has played an important role on our team, and she has started to work with many in the Brazil community. She is going to take the lead in managing our activities for the time being. She should be your first point of contact for questions relating to WMF. I’ll continue to be actively engaged as well. We will have participation from Frank Schulenburg and his team in the Global Education Program and from members of the Community team, who will support the research work on PT-WP. We’ll be back in Brazil soon to spend more time in person with you.

We are very excited about working with all of you to achieve our vision of a world in which every single human being freely shares in the sum of all knowledge. While there is a lot of work ahead, together we can realize this vision.

Best regards,

Barry