Chapters meeting 2010/Documentation/Professionalization II

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

Professionalization & volunteers[edit]

Defining the problem: When we say "professionalisation", different people mean different things:

  1. Hiring staff (how to find staff, what to hire for, office space, etc.)
  2. How to make volunteers more professional.

The group split into two:

Volunteer professionalisation[edit]

Most chapters have the same problem - a core of (mostly - sometimes entirely! - elected board members) volunteers who shoulder the great majority of the work, and a wider community of supporters who wait for said core group to do the work. Different ideas as to how to deal with this:

  • Australia - special challenges as big country, so members need to be more independent and can't rely on a centralised base. So chapter decided it will produce a membership/information kit to be sent to individual members. This provides members with the necessary information and materials to confidently approach institutions, give talks in schools, organise events etc. It would include things like instructions, talking points, Powerpoint presentations, and "best practice" from past experience. The kit is still in development.
  • Norway - lacks manpower, has problems kicking off volunteer effort. They tried to construct a course to train volunteers, but ended up getting external company / external coaches to make it and release it under a CC-by-SA licence. The first course will be run in May.
  • NYC had a successful internship program where they advertised in universities for graduate students who would receive a $500 stipend and spend 50 hours over 6 months working with the chapter as part of their own professional development - they applied in a manner not dissimilar to a job application and it was intended to be competitive. The three interns they ended up hiring specialised in video work, legal issues and the "Dot NYC" wikis for neighborhoods.
  • Another idea from NYC was "asset-based community development" where the chapter surveys the skills of its members and then can directly approach them when something comes up. Also maintain a "portfolio of ideas". This means instead of putting out general requests which people can ignore, one is putting out specific requests based on immediate needs to the very people who can take care of them. "Make others excited!"
  • Poland has active volunteers who use an IRC channel to collaborate. Also, the Polish Wikipedia interface has a menu item on the left side inviting people to "Submit an error" which opens a page which sends feedback to Wikimedia volunteers who can then assist in fixing the errors. This helps engage volunteers.
  • Another idea (don't know from who?) - have a contact person that volunteers running projects can contact if they need advice or are stuck - usually this person will put them in contact with someone else who has past experience of the issue.

Project-page to make it able for users who are not able to correct mistakes by themselves because of technical problems to report them (not as MediaWiki-extension) Pay direct attention to the pages of the chapter and reach out to them India (Malayalam language): Reached the goal to produce a CD with wikipedia on it to attract volunteers Norway: Courses to teach instead of having materials

Hiring staff[edit]

Who finds it difficult to assign tasks (hired persons/volunteers) → result: Different opinions about it

Type of people you can imagine:

  1. Polish: Supportive / administrative the community-assessment
  2. German: Executive persons/to build up the community
  3. French: Project persons → could do projects which do not happen

Things to think about:

  1. Convenience vs. goals (find the best one / find the easiest one)
  2. Short term / long term (short project, contractor for one event, or long period → better for structure structur)
  3. Wikimedian vs. External (To use someone who is already a Wikimedian or not)


  • offer value
  • have an objective view
  • build capacity

Discussion about it:

  • Depends on the state of the chapter: In the beginning maybe more short term staff, after that more long term staff to keep structure
  • You should always think long term (have a long term plan), but short term staff may be part of that plan (setting up the organization). (Always think long-term)
  • What kind of people?
    • administration, lawyers, media, PR experts...