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Community Engagement/Defining Emerging Communities

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In 2014, the Grantmaking dept. (as it was then known) initiated a change in the terminology we use, moving away from the UN/ITU's term and definition of "Global South" to instead use "Emerging Communities".

This switch is not just a change of euphemism, but also an opportunity to define our own term and detach it from the (quite controversial, including among Wikimedians) politics of international development, as well as imbue it with greater relevance to our movement and the factors that truly distinguish those communities. Emerging communities should be those communities with which we should spend more attention and resources, especially (but not only) in the Community Resources team.

The main difference between the old and (proposed) new definition is the inclusion as a factor, with very high weight, of the actual current size and capacity of the Wikimedia editing community in each country, language, or project.

This focus makes the definition a good lens for looking at and prioritizing some of WMF's proactive investment in editing communities, e.g. programs such as Community Capacity Development.

This focus is much less useful for looking at readership, donors, institutional partners, and other constituencies of the Wikimedia ecosystem, and accordingly, those discussions and teams would continue to use other terms.


  • Clarity and stability are crucial to this becoming a useful definition.
  • The most important factor about a country and/or language and/or project is the actual state of our contributors community in that country, language, or project.
  • Other things being equal, we should prioritize (in our proactive work[1]) larger scale (of readership, of editorship, of content) over smaller scale.
  • The "emerging communities" label should mean something. It shouldn't just be "everything else" or "everything beside the Anglosphere and Western Europe".
  • Completely retire the phrase Global South from the Community Engagement department's discourse.[2] (It is still being used in other contexts, for example by the Reading team in discussing audiences of Wikimedia content.)

Proposed definition


"Emerging Communities" should mean:

the set of projects, languages, and countries where:
  1. there is great potential for increase in quantity and quality of Wikimedia work, and
  2. there is, locally, insufficient capacity to realize that potential, and
  3. there is an existing active core of self-motivated volunteers,

which therefore WMF could effectively devote some proactive resources to support and nurture.

This means "emerging communities" should also exclude the most-developed communities and countries ("developed communities") on the one hand, and the least active and lowest-potential countries and languages ("least developed communities"), i.e. creating a third category which WMF will not be allocating resources to proactively support, until such time as they meet the 'emerging' criteria.

Open issue


This still leaves us with the development vocabulary, which is controversial and tied to UN politics. But what would be better as terms for the categories on either side of Emerging?

Side idea: can we perhaps just offer the emerging definition, listing countries we consider to meet it, and leaving it at that? I.e. literally not give any label to the rest?

alternatives for "developed"

  • Thriving communities
  • Self-sufficient communities
  • Advanced communities
  • Self-developing communities
  • Mature communities
  • Well-established communities
  • Consolidated communities
  • ...?

alternatives for "least developed"

  • Nascent communities
  • Incubating communities
  • Non-emerging communities
  • ...?


  • Exclude from "emerging communities" all communities (languages) with more than 2000 active editors (as of September 2017, this means English, German, French, Japanese, Spanish, Russian, Italian, and Chinese)
  • Exclude from "emerging communities" all communities (languages) with fewer than 10 active editors[3]
  • Exclude from "emerging communities" all Wikipedia and Wiktionary languages with fewer than 750,000 speakers.[4] (as language-preservationist projects rather than knowledge creation and sharing projects.) NOTE: Wikisource remains worthwhile for any language that has a body of works.



This section (and whole page) uses the term Projects in the sense of "Wikimedia Foundation wikis", i.e. Wikipedia is a project, Wikidata is another project. It does not refer to any other use of the term "project", such as various programs, grants, WMF or community initiatives.

  • Include as "emerging communities" the moderately successful sister projects that have higher potential impact but struggle with self-organization, global collaboration, and effective (lobbying for and self-organization of) technological progress, viz. Wikisource (in any language) and Wiktionary (in any developed or emerging language).
    • (Wikipedia, Commons and Wikidata are considered "developed")
  • Exclude from "emerging communities" all Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikibooks, Wikiversity, Wikivoyage, and Wikispecies projects, in all languages. (This reflects status quo, wherein these communities do not receive proactive investment.)




  • Include as "emerging communities" countries classified (by the UN) as "Global North" that share community challenges with "Global South" communities (e.g. Argentina, Greece, Lithuania)
  • Include as "emerging communities" countries where Wikimedia communities have had several years of difficulty growing or self-organizing (e.g. Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Hong Kong, Hungary)
  • Exclude from "emerging communities" countries where there are fewer than 10 active editors in the most-edited language (This excludes, for instance, Niger and Mali, but still includes, for instance, Uganda and Kenya.)

Emerging Communities (proposed)

  • Albania
  • Algeria
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Croatia
  • Egypt
  • Georgia
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran, Islamic Republic of
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Macedonia
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Moldova, Republic of
  • Morocco
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • New Zealand
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Palestinian Territory
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Rwanda
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serbia
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Syrian Arab Republic
  • Taiwan
  • Tanzania, United Republic of
  • Thailand
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • Uruguay
  • Uzbekistan
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam

Developed Communities (proposed)

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Canada
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea, Republic of
  • Luxembourg
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Russian Federation
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

Least Developed Communities (proposed)

Least developed communities
  • Afghanistan
  • Angola
  • Bahrain
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cayman Islands
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Congo, Republic of the (Brazzaville)
  • Congo, The Democratic Republic of the
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • French Guiana
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Guam
  • Guatemala
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Kiribati
  • Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
  • Kuwait
  • Lao People's Democratic Republic
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Macau
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mauritius
  • Mayotte
  • Micronesia, Federated States of
  • Mongolia
  • Montenegro
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nauru
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Niue
  • Oman
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar
  • Samoa
  • Senegal
  • Seychelles
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Sudan
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Tajikistan
  • Togo
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Western Sahara
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe



There is not enough information about the state of the communities (if any) in the following countries and territories to be able to classify them.

Unclassified countries
  • Aland Islands
  • American Samoa
  • Andorra
  • Anguilla
  • Antarctica
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bhutan
  • Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba
  • Bouvet Island
  • Brunei Darussalam
  • Cape Verde
  • Christmas Island
  • Cocos (Keeling) Islands
  • Cook Islands
  • Curaçao
  • Dominica
  • Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
  • Faroe Islands
  • French Polynesia
  • French Southern Territories
  • Gibraltar
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guernsey
  • Heard Island and McDonald Islands
  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Liechtenstein
  • Marshall Islands
  • Martinique
  • Monaco
  • Montserrat
  • Netherlands Antilles
  • New Caledonia
  • Norfolk Island
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Palau
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • Reunion
  • Saint Barthelemy
  • Saint Helena
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre and Miquelon
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • Sao Tome and Principe
  • Sint Maarten (Dutch part)
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Svalbard and Jan Mayen
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu
  • Vatican State
  • Virgin Islands, British
  • Virgin Islands, U.S.
  • Wallis and Futuna

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the significance of being classified an "emerging community"?
The primary significance is that emerging communities will receive (in varying degrees and according to further prioritization given limited resources) deliberate and proactive attention from WMF program officers.
For example, WMF has been, and will continue, to plan and execute trainings for and mentorship of emerging communities in the context of the Community Capacity Development program.
Also, investment in emerging communities (e.g. grants given, staff visits, mentorship, stakeholder groups) will be tracked and reported on by the Community Resources team. (this has been tracked since early 2016.)
How were the specifics arrived at?
Through assessment based on the principles listed above, and the application of accumulated WMF experience and insight.
That sounds a little... subjective.
Yes, it is a little subjective. But not too subjective.
I am confused by the three lists (three axes) of the definition. How do they intersect? Can something be both emerging and not emerging?
Each list and set of criteria are relevant to that aspect only. When considering a given project in a given language in a given country, all three axes matter, and it is sufficient that one axis is emerging to be eligible for "emerging communities" support.
For example, while Wikipedia is a developed project and the English-language Wikipedia community is developed, the English Wikipedia editing community in Ghana is emerging, and could benefit from additional WMF support.
Likewise, while the US is a developed country and the English-language Wikisource is the largest Wikisource community, the Wikisource project as a whole is considered emerging, so American Wikisource volunteers (and Wikisource volunteers everywhere) would be eligible for support as emerging communities.
Would these classifications ever be revisited?
Yes. They would be revisited at least once every two years, and more often, if necessary.
What if I'm not happy with the classification for a given country?
You can discuss it, specifically, on the talk page (ideally), or directly with Asaf Bartov, the primary program officer in charge of Emerging Communities. If the country is currently classed as having a Least Developed Community, the best thing you can do to get it reclassified is to encourage more people from that country to edit the wiki (especially on mainspace).
Does it mean Least Developed Communities will get nothing?
No. Least Developed Communities will still benefit from reactive (as distinct from proactive) support from WMF, including access to grants, travel scholarships, etc.
But what about the Lao language? What about the ~50 million speakers of the Hausa language?
We cannot (though we'd dearly like to) seed communities from zero. We (and others) have tried, more than once.[5] We have not found a way to do it within community norms. Given our limited resources (significantly limited, in relation to the magnitude of the vision), we must focus our efforts on more achievable and more efficient goals.
We can support some experimentation toward creating editors in those languages, via grants to interested individuals or groups with bright ideas. That mechanism is explicitly still available to "least developed communities".
Why make 10 active editors the threshold? Why not 30? Or 5?
Our experience suggests that communities with fewer than (approximately) 10 active editors are not viable in the long term. A community that has fewer than 10 active editors can organically reach 10 active editors sooner or later, and become eligible as an emerging community. But 10 seems to be an absolute minimum for ensuring there would be one or two volunteers available to collaborate with WMF and do proactive work together.
What if I still have a question?
Use the talk page. :)


  1. as distinct from reactive work, such as grant-making.
  2. think of the kittens!
  3. See FAQ.
  4. m:List of Wikipedias by speakers per article
  5. For example, the Setswana Wikipedia Challenge, which was a complete failure in recruiting editors (zero editors retained), and indirectly led WMF to invest thousands of dollars in volunteers who were not self-motivated editors. Another example is Wikimedia Sverige's attempt to seed an editing community in the Luganda language (spoken by the Ganda people in Uganda).