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Chapters Dialogue/Project/Set-up

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Chapters Dialogue

Project set-up

How was the project designed?

Wikimedia Deutschland sees its role not only in working together with the local German communities and stakeholders, but also in enabling cooperation among Chapters and with other movement players such as the Wikimedia Foundation. We were the first of the Chapters to put an “International Affairs” unit in place, to liaise between Wikimedia Deutschland and the movement. Nicole Ebber heads this unit and is shaping our collaboration and communication with the global Wikimedia entities.

Nicole has initiated and led the project. Pavel Richter, WMDE’s Executive Director and Delphine Ménard, former WMDE board member, provided valuable input throughout the whole process. Their mentorship and vision were essential in making the Chapters Dialogue such a comprehensive and cooperative project.

Presenting the project's idea at the Wikimedia Conference 2013 in Milan, Italy

In March 2013 we put a first outline up on Meta, presented our plans at the Wikimedia Conference in Milan in April 2013 and gathered more input from interested Wikimedians. On top of that, several people provided feedback on- and off-wiki, and helped Nicole to shape the final goals and scope of the endeavour. These feedback circles allowed us to steadily adjust and iteratively design the project outline.

It was clear from the outset that we needed qualitative research for this kind of project. There have been several attempts to collect data about the Chapters but rather than crunching numbers, we wanted to uncover their stories. And besides that, we wanted it to be huge! We wanted to approach complex questions concerning the joint promotion of the Wikimedia mission pro-actively. We planned the project thoroughly and implemented it in a structured fashion, allocated the relevant resources and devoted ourselves to this task with dedication and commitment. In our view, these types of movement-related topics cannot be satisfactorily dealt with by setting up a Wiki page and a mailing list or by having isolated conversations.

An inside perspective combined with an outside view

Nicole created a job advert for a contractor to realise the research. We were looking for a person with the ability to shape and actively guide the dialogue, with knowledge of project management and interview techniques as well as experiences in survey design and analysis: someone who was more of a story collector than a story teller. We received several excellent applications from within and outside the movement. In the end, we decided to hire a person with no movement background at all. We gave preference to a researcher with a neutral perspective, without a personal Wikimedia history and agenda.

Kira Krämer started working for the Chapters Dialogue on 1 July 2013. She is a Design Thinking and user research expert with three years of professional experience, both running projects based on the user-centred approach and teaching the method to different types of organisations.

Who participated?

In order to get a comprehensive picture of the Chapters’ goals, needs and stories, we decided to talk to representatives of all forty Chapters. Being the first and only Thematic Organisation in the Wikimedia affiliations model, Amical Wikimedia was also among our interviewees. We wanted to include different perspectives, and consequently also consulted with the Chapters’ key stakeholders and partners.

Stakeholders are all individuals and entities that have an influence on and requirements towards a Chapter’s work and structure. For a balanced view of the movement structures we had to understand the expectations, perceptions and fears of the Wikimedia Foundation, the Affiliations Committee and the Funds Dissemination Committee. For the scope of the Chapters Dialogue, we defined those three as the main stakeholders.

We were aware that it was not an exhaustive list of stakeholders, but we needed to draw a line for this first phase of the project somewhere. It would be especially valuable to include the community and the readers, as well as donors and like-minded organisations at a later stage of the research.

Our interview partners

One of the interviewees was Frieda Brioschi, former president of Wikimedia Italia

We contacted all the Chapters and asked them to appoint their representatives for the interviews and put us in touch. The design of the process required us to interview two representatives of each Chapter: board members, former board members with profound knowledge about the Chapter’s history or just a person with a deep understanding of the context, strengths and issues of the organisation. From Chapters with staff, we interviewed one staff and one board member.

From the circle of stakeholders, we selected the interviewees ourselves or followed recommendations from within the organisations and committees.

Some people were interviewed in their role as “experts” having a deep knowledge about the history and the context of the movement, but not necessarily a strong relationship to a movement entity.

The official part comprised interviews lasting 90 minutes. In addition, we tried to spend some time with the interviewees and their fellows for a chat over lunch or dinner. In this way, we were able to gain a deeper understanding about what matters to them, and to uncover stories from those who hadn’t been interviewed officially..

Best stories are told face to face

For the successful completion of the Chapters Dialogue, it was crucial to interview as many people as possible face to face. We took advantage of different gatherings that took place in the course of the project: at the Iberoconf in Mexico City we interviewed four Spanish-speaking Chapters during one weekend; at the CEE Meeting 2013, we talked to six Chapters from Central and Eastern Europe and at the Diversity Conference 2013 we arranged meetings with some Chapter and Affiliations Committee members. In this way, we were able to organise the travelling in a more economical way.

Kira, sometimes accompanied by Nicole, visited around 15 Chapters in their hometowns around the world. The complete timeline is available on the Meta page, impressions from the world tour and photos from the interviewees are collected on the Facebook page of the Chapters Dialogue.


Number of people interviewed

Chapters (volunteers and staff)


Committees (AffCom + FDC)


Wikimedia Foundation (Board and staff)




Furthermore, for logistical restrictions, some interviews had to be conducted via online audio or video call. Three chapters were not available for an interview.

In total, 94 movement representatives were interviewed. The huge majority were Chapter-related (67 people), 55 of whom were volunteers, twelve paid staff. Furthermore, Kira interviewed eight volunteers of the two committees (AffCom and FDC) and also twelve staff members of the Wikimedia Foundation and two members of the Board of Trustees. Five people were interviewed as experts.

All interviews – if agreed upon by the interviewees – have been audio-recorded and transcribed afterwards. For privacy reasons, we will not make this material publicly available. The report contains no statement or comment attributable to any individual.

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