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Chapters Dialogue/Further Information/Archive

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Chapters Dialogue is a structured assessment of chapters' needs, goals and stories combined with a stakeholder survey, initiated by Wikimedia Deutschland. It will not only allow all of us to reflect the status quo of our roles and relationships, but will enable us to actively shape them in the future.


  • Factsheet: Get a quick overview on the project.
  • Questionnaire: Our questions for chapters and stakeholders.
  • Facebook: Follow us on our tour around the world! (The page is public, no FB account needed.)
  • Commons: Photos!


Dialogue from above
Chapters Dialogue Session at Wikimania 2013

Wikimedia chapters are part of an international movement of Free Knowledge enthusiasts. They are crucial stakeholders in our movement, covering a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. They work closely together with the local communities, cover financial and logistical support for projects to further our joint mission, facilitate the exchange of experiences, team up with partners from inside and outside the movement, and lead a whole lot of different programmes in support of Free Knowledge. While all Wikimedia chapters are part of one movement, each chapter has its unique set of goals, cultural values and knowledge.

We as Wikimedia Deutschland see our role not only in working together with our local German communities and stakeholders, but also in supporting the cooperation among chapters and with other movement entities. We are convinced that the national Wikimedia chapters play an important role in supporting the movement's diversity. Various cultures, points of view, experiences in spreading, defending and promoting Free Knowledge are important assets of the movement. We consider it of the utmost importance to enable chapters to develop, organise and collaborate with their stakeholders from within and outside the movement.

In order to achieve that, we have to establish some facts and stories about chapters in their individual environments and needs in the first place.

What do we know about chapters?[edit]

We have to find common ground on questions like: What is a Wikimedia chapter? How does a chapter work? What are the chapter’s goals? What internal and external influences play a role in the daily work of a chapter? What challenges does a chapter have to face? How is a chapter organised and governed? How does it communicate and with whom? How does it learn from, collaborate and share experiences with other chapters or movement entities? What are the chapter’s stakeholders and how does a chapter prioritise their interests? What are stories of success and failures? What are a chapter’s wishes and needs? What are possible paths a chapter can go? Who can help and support a chapter on its path?

We know a lot about chapters. We read about their ideas, goals and projects on our various communication channels. Chapters meet each other a few times a year to share experiences, success stories and concerns; communication and exchange of knowledge regarding such topics take place on an occasional basis.

We are friends and partners. We are working together towards our joint mission – persistently and full of enthusiasm. However, what is missing is a structured assessment of chapters needs, goals and stories combined with a stakeholder survey of other parties involved.

Let’s find out about the chapters’ needs, goals and stories[edit]

To empower chapters to explore key issues in more meaningful detail, Wikimedia Deutschland has initiated the project Chapters Dialogue, which is led by Nicole Ebber (International Affairs).

For the initial phase of the Chapters Dialogue, we are collaborating with Design Thinking & User Research expert Kira Kraemer who will facilitate the collection of stories and insights. She has three years professional experience with the Design Thinking methodology, both running projects based on the user-centered approach and teaching the method to different types of organisations. Kira is not a Wikimedian, which provides us with a neutral perspective of an observer – without a personal Wikimedia history or agenda.

The goal of the Chapters Dialogue is to gain an overview in the universe of Wikimedia chapters and their numerous stakeholders and to uncover existing stories about how the chapters define themselves and their roles in the international movement, and what interests they have and problems they face. Uncovering these facts will enable chapters and other organisations in the movement to develop a mutual understanding about their roles and relationships.

We are aiming at an on-going Chapters Dialogue beyond this single project. Based on the results of the analysis of chapters' needs and goals as well as the stakeholder survey, next steps can be defined. Hopefully, the dialogue can provide stronger answers about the role and value chapters hold in the Wikimedia movement and can be used for its strategy processes. Chapters' roles and development paths are important movement topics, but currently not actively pursued by any Wikimedia entity. This gap needs to be closed.

What is Design Thinking?[edit]

Design Thinking is a process framework that can be applied to different projects, challenges and questions.

Design Thinking

  • strongly focuses on the user’s context, values and needs and therefore is a user-centred approach
  • fosters the deep understanding of a challenge in its complexity, before starting to think about possible solutions
  • considers all relevant stakeholders and their perspectives instead of touching on isolated aspects of a challenge – this is also called the 360° view
  • helps all participants to gain a better understanding of the complex environment they are embedded in and provides a good base for the creation of possible solutions later on
  • has an iterative character – it allows and fosters the improvement and re-design of the process in the course of the project and is open towards possible outcomes

Therefore, Design Thinking fits very well with the core values of Wikimedia: based on feedback of chapters and stakeholders, we can adjust the research process and content anytime. We want to conduct the research project in an open and transparent way, calling all chapters and interested people for active participation.

How can Design Thinking help facilitate the Chapters Dialogue?[edit]

For the initial part of the Chapters Dialogue, we are focusing on the research part of Design Thinking that can be best summarised in two words: Understand and Observe. In the first place, it is about Understanding the broad context and history, the different stakeholders and their interconnectedness, existing (documented) issues and their roots – you might call this part “desk research”.

The second part is Observing, which summarises all activities around the field research. We will design and conduct extensive story-based research and we would like to interview as many chapters individually as possible. We will ask questions, listen closely, collect stories and try to gain insights or uncover patterns and contradictions. We will also consult with their key stakeholders and partners (Wikimedia Foundation, the Affiliations Committee, the Funds Dissemination Committee and the project communities) to ask and understand their perspectives, expectations and hopes.

The mapping of the chapters and their unique context will provide a detailed snap-shot that not only will allow us to reflect the current situation of our relationships, but will enable us to actively shape them in the future. Based on this research, we can create a mutual flow of information and a structured and sustainable way to exchange valuable knowledge and experience. Chapters can reflect their current situation and the possible development paths they want to take. All other stakeholders can get a clearer picture of the chapters’ needs, values and goals and draw on this knowledge for future developments.

Our perspective of the Chapters Dialogue is an open, flexible and transparent process, always responsive to feedback. In the course of the Dialogue, stories and experiences (good or bad) will be shared right away. This means that interested chapters do not need to wait for the final report but can make use of those experiences for their own work instantaneously.

What happened so far?[edit]

Dialogue panorama
Dialogue panorama

In the first research phase, Kira dug into various data sources and collected input, questions and topics. We designed a first draft of the questionnaire for the research interviews which we opened for discussion on the talk page.

The timing for the project kick-off could not have been better: At the Wikimania in Hong Kong, we introduced the project to a broader audience and collected tons of feedback, ideas and inspiration – not only in our official Chapters Dialogue session, but throughout the whole conference. We were pleased and excited by the positive response and earnest interest the project received. It seemed that everybody had an interesting story to share, and Kira was found asking questions and scribbling notes even during the sightseeing tours or off-hours.

Besides that, Kira conducted the first interviews with stakeholders (one representative of WMF and Affiliations Committee each) and four chapters (Wikimedia Australia, Estonia, South Africa and Taiwan). Two chapters approached us during Wikimania and signed up for interviews instantly. The interviews were loaded with insights – we can’t wait to start sharing some of them with you.

We improved the research questions based on the feedback. You can still add questions that you think should be included in the interviews.

Some insights from the first interviews[edit]

For example, one representative of the Affiliations Committee emphasized the enthusiasm and the energy of chapters, their ability to cooperate and to solve their problems. They might be a little bit chaotic, but they are clever and dedicated at the same time. According to him, what is missing in the movement is the sharing of failures instead of only celebrating sucesses. In addition, the communication in the movement became confusing: While information is flooding the recipients through all kinds of channels, they have difficulties to filter relevant information and to find out who to approach for specific topics and questions.

A representative of the WMF questioned the national concept of chapters is the right way to reach the goals of the Wikimedia movement. He also expressed his worries about the WMF being perceived as “a mother” in the movement, while the WMF itself doesn’t wish to take this role. In addition, the movement developed a conservative and gridlocked attitude and thereby hindering new authors to join.

The four interviewed chapters - Australia, Estonia, South Africa and Taiwan - could not be more different concerning their history, context and tasks. Australia is the fifth-largest financial contributor for Wikimedia projects, while having no international weight and influence. At the same time, the country is so large that a physical office wouldn’t make sense at this moment of time. The same is true for South Africa, which perceives itself as being labeled “Global South” while nobody is actually willing to help tackling the issues and challenges. In contrast, Estonia has quite small distances to cover and is therefore closely connected with local authorities. Taiwan is facing a completely different challenge: the complicated political situation in the Chinese-speaking area. People from four completely different political entities (China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) are editing within the same language version of Wikipedia.

It is remarkable that all chapter agree on the lack of an organisational framework from the Wikimedia Foundation. They wish more organizational support in order to fulfill their mission and goals. Instead, they are caught up in the vicious circle of missing paid staff that would be needed in order to get the funding, which in turn is a pre-condition for being able to pay staff.

We were very pleased that all chapters expressed gratefulness for being listened to – according to their own statement, it felt good to tell their story, to express their worries and to reflect about themselves. They are curious to hear the stories of other chapters and they all wish to be more in touch with others.

What will happen next?[edit]

Based on the experiences at the first interviews, Kira worked out an improved collection of questions and we are now ready to continue with the interviews.

We plan to interview all of the forty existing Wikimedia chapters, starting in Western Europe (September), continuing to the Americas (October), Eastern Europe (November) and Asia (December). The chapters will be contacted by Kira in order to make appointments. All chapters are requested to choose and appoint the interviewees themselves. We will interview one board member and one staff member, assuming that the chapter has staff. If there is no staff, the chapter can choose the second interviewee freely – this could be a second board member, a former member that has profound knowledge about the chapters’ history or just somebody who has a deep understanding about the context, strengths and issues of the chapter. Interviews will be on-site and in person or via video conferences.

We are hoping for your collaboration in arranging dates and meetings and we are really looking forward to meeting you and to hearing your story.

If you are not an interviewee, we still invite you to join the discussion and to contribute your knowledge – we value your feedback and ideas. You can either engage on the Talk Page or get in touch directly with Nicole or Kira.

Rough timetable[edit]

  • May/June 2013: Collect feedback, find a paid contractor Done
  • July 2013: Analyse the information needs, create a project plan, design the process and the questionnaires for chapters and stakeholders Done
  • August 2013: Wikimania 2013 – first test interviews with chapters, interviews with stakeholders, project presentation and discussion at Chapters Village Done
  • September 2013 - February 2014: Interviews with chapters and stakeholders, adjust the process Done
  • March 2014: Synthesis of the interview material
  • April 2014: Presentation of the insights, tipps for continuing, documentation
  • After that, to be defined: On-going dialogue between chapters and other movement entities

Chapters Dialogue Tourdates – coming up next[edit]

You can follow the tour updates, photos and anecdotes via our Facebook page.

Contact persons[edit]

Others about the Chapters Dialogue[edit]

Further reading[edit]

In the guidelines and definitions for chapters and affiliates, we find information about the vision, focus, structure or target groups, but they do not define the work of chapters on a goal- and project-oriented level. This is the basis we can build our analysis and dialogue on. Further and historic reading (please add resources and references):