Community Capacity Development/Ukrainian 2016
This page describes the capacity development pilot project in the Ukrainian Wikipedia community.
Note that most of the discussion took place on the Ukrainian Wikipedia, for ease of access to the Ukrainian community. This page attempts to summarize and track the project overall, for comparative analysis and for the long-term record.
The Ukrainian community is large and quite active (~1000 active editors), and is supported by Wikimedia Ukraine, a mature chapter. The chapter, in particular, has shown great interest in improvement and skill-building, and was an eager partner working with both peers (in the context of the CEE network, and outside it, with individual communities and thought partners) and with the Wikimedia Foundation. The Ukrainian community and chapter have had a leading role in programmatic innovation (e.g. Wiki Loves Earth) and regional cooperation.
At the same time, alongside ordinary conflict about content, orthography, and internal/national politics most Wikipedias contend with, the Ukrainian community has been affected by the serious geopolitical pressures related to Euromaidan and the conflict with the Russian Federation related to the annexation of Crimea.
The intensity and frequency of conflict has repeatedly been identified by Ukrainian community members as a major problem facing that community, and is understood to be related to both new user retention and volunteer burnout.
- A discussion was held on the Ukrainian Wikipedia in September-October 2015 to determine community wishes and preference. Its result was a decision to focus on the conflict management and new contributor engagement and growth capacities. Conflict management was determined to be the more important among the two, in that conflict is itself a significant issue contributing to low user retention.
- A conflict management trainer has been identified: Dr. Aftab Erfan from the University of Vancouver.
- The curriculum of the in-person training was developed by the trainer in collaboration with Asaf Bartov
- The in-person training was held on May 21st-22nd 2016, in Kyiv.
- Perceiving value in the training, Ukrainian community members have asked Asaf to deliver a condensed version of the workshop at the CEE Meeting 2016 in Armenia, and again (to people who had not attended the May training) at the Ukrainian WikiConference 2016 Kyiv. Both of those repeats were 3-hour versions of the 2-day workshop, and were well-received, though no surveys were done.
- a possible new contributor experiment was discussed during Ukrainian WikiConference 2016 Kyiv and on the Ukrainian Wikipedia, but despite appointing a volunteer committee to move it forward, no progress has been made so far, and there is nothing further to report on this additional capacity in this report.
Funds spent (US dollars)
(TBD) In addition to staff time, the following costs were associated with the program in Kyiv:
- Travel (international and domestic) and per diem allowances - ~$3600
- Accommodation for non-local attendees - ~$800
- External trainer - ~$4000
- Real-time interpreter - ~$110
- Venue rental - ~$150
- Food and supplies - ~$100
Approximate total cost excluding staff time: ~$8760
Qualitative interviews in November 2016 through January 2017
- We were quite skeptical, but welcomed the chance to experiment and possibly learn.
- Reflection after the training
- Recognizing signs of conflict, and of people's emotional reactions, was useful. Post-training, I could have a more calm and thoughtful approach to conflict.
- the training for me personally turned out to be very useful; I realized I was part of the problem too.
- the theories were interesting, but are quite hard to apply for our actual on-wiki conflicts.
- I realized I was exhibiting signs of The Resistance Line; realizing this, and the techniques discussed in the training, empowered me to change my behavior and face conflicts with more confidence. This (my changed behavior) has already resulted in the retention of a promising newbie who faced conflict early on.
- I adapted Asaf's presentation and gave it at my own day job, to improve understanding of conflict at my workplace. It was well-received and helped me have complex conversations at my workplace.
- Observed outcomes in the community
- The training skills were explicitly stated to be in use by someone at our last (in-person) general assembly
- A project of ours ran into severe conflict between two key organizers; we were able to employ some of the techniques taught at the training to de-escalate the conflict and reach a compromise, allowing our project to continue and achieve success.
- It's hard to see a systemic effect on the community as a whole. Perhaps we need follow-up training or facilitated discussion focused on our actual recurring conflicts.
- it is also hard to point at individual effects other than on oneself. I think I see some change in some people, but I don't know if they realize it, or, even if they do, if they'd admit it.
- Does the CCD approach (high-contact, in-person investment by WMF in a specific community to build a specific capacity) seem worthwhile?
- Yes; volunteers' real-life situation matters a lot, and burnout is a significant problem. Directly addressing that makes sense.
- Yes; though some of the people who would benefit most from the training did not attend; it would be good to find a way to offer this online.
- It is one of the few bridges between WMF and the community; but I hope it won't turn into something invasive, as some WMF initiatives were.
- What other capacities would you be interested in WMF offering help with?
- working with external partners; "It is impossibly difficult to explain what we are and what we are not."
- internal communication and project management
- On the other hand, we're not always impressed with how WMF organizes its own work, so we're not sure they can teach us effective things. It may also be too expensive.
- The Conflict Engagement training delivered at in this program, developed by Dr. Aftab with contributions by Asaf, was condensed by Asaf from a whole weekend into a more intensive (and less interactive) 3-hour workshop, at the suggestion from some Ukrainian and other Wikimedians.
Since the training, Asaf delivered this condensed workshop (using between 2 and 4 hours, as available) on several occasions:
- Wikimedia CEE Meeting 2016 in Armenia
- WikiConference Ukraine 2016 (September, 4 months after the original, weekend-long training)
- WikiConference Bulgaria 2016
- Wiki Indaba 2017 in Ghana
The talks were well-received, and saw some individual feedback and anecdotal evidence of usefulness, but no surveys were performed.
Conclusions and recommended next steps
- It is impossible to determine whether this pilot project was successful or not, in actually improving the state of conflict management within the Ukrainian community.
- On the one hand, we have anecdotal evidence (from qualitative interview, above) that individuals found value in the training, and feel more motivated to engage in resolving other people's conflict on-wiki (a major challenge according to Ukrainian admins), as well as statistically-insignificant indication of the same in the follow-up survey.
- On the other hand, we have no solid evidence that the frequency, heatedness, or frustration involved with conflict on the Ukrainian Wikipedia have decreased.
- Repeated teaching of the condensed (3-hour) version of the workshop (see immediately above) was consistently well-received and anecdotally appreciated as substantive and helpful for people's daily wiki experience.
- Of the three pilots in this first year of the CCD project, this was known to be the hardest to measure, as well as the most challenging to effect change in. One possible conclusion is that achieving change may require more intensive, ongoing work with the Ukrainian community, accompanying interested community members in medium- to long-term work to address some abiding conflicts in the Ukrainian community.
- Recommended next step #1: It is probably worthwhile to continue offering conflict engagement training directly to community members, at both international events (economically reaching delegates from multiple communities) and local or national events (economically reaching multiple volunteers from single community; focused examples and questions). This has already been happening ad hoc (by Asaf), but can be built into more than one person's annual plan and conference plans. While the in-person aspect seems central to the observed efficacy (to the [anecdotal] degree efficacy is indicated), it still makes sense to record a high-quality version of these training talks (perhaps at WMF headquarters) and to make it available for the use of volunteers (subtitles or dubbing) and for self-study, to help us reach volunteers we aren't reaching (and perhaps won't ever reach) at live events.
- Recommended next step #2: This particular capacity, central as it is to volunteer morale and motivation, and implicated as it is in both new user retention and preventing and combating harassment, is probably worth exploring at greater scale. The Ukrainian community seems open to further work, and still feels conflict is a major issue, so it would be ideal to continue working with the Ukrainian community along a longer timeline, and engage more closely with the substance of actual conflicts on the Ukrainian Wikipedia. This would still be exploratory/pilot work, to determine (ideally) whether and how noticeable improvement can be achieved in this capacity.