Community Engagement/Leadership Development Dialogue

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Leadership Development Dialogue[edit]

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For every leader one might identify, there are dozens within the Wikimedia movement who might also step up to lead, if given access to the right resources and encouragement. The Wikimedia Foundation and movement affiliates already support and collaborate with leaders, mentors, and guides in the Wikimedia movement, but there are also many people throughout the movement who don’t get direct support for their leadership development activities from the Wikimedia Foundation or from movement affiliates.

The Community Engagement department needs your ideas about (1) how we can design opportunities for leaders that are inclusive, to help leaders develop skills and mentor one another, and (2) how we can describe leaders in our movement. Your input will be included in upcoming training events such as Learning Days, and also may be be used to design or expand leadership development activities supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. Read more.

There are many ways to participate. Share a new idea, add to or comment on an existing idea, ask a question, or vote on words and labels. Please join us for discussion on the talk page!

The Current Consultation[edit]

We need feedback in two areas:

How can we design opportunities in a way that better supports leaders to learn from one another? Selection practices and design of a peer academy

The first aim of this consultation is to gain community input on how to design a peer academy for community members who would like to guide their communities and mentor fellow Wikimedians. The peer academy would be a series of regular events for community leaders that want to improve the skills they need to lead.

Just as a university has several schools, degree tracks, and courses, in which all learners are enrolled but take part in different classes based on their various pathways; people in our movement have different interests and activities. We would like to connect learners across different interests and activities, to communicate about opportunities for leadership development, and be transparent about how Wikimedians can take part in this program. In turn, these learners will become peer mentors when they learn ways to share their leadership skills with others in their communities.

Comment on the talk page

How do we understand and describe peer mentoring and leadership in our movement? The language we use for leadership

We call community members who guide their communities and mentor their fellow Wikimedians “leaders", but the word “leader” does not always translate well between languages and cultures. A second aim of this consultation is to gain broader input on the language we use to talk about "leaders", and to better understand what makes a leader in the Wikimedia movement.

Small focus groups over the last year have shown that many community members share a similar basic understanding of the leadership traits we want to encourage in our movement. If we can better understand what traits our leaders share, we can encourage and develop these characteristics in new leaders. This could strengthen communities and help them become more sustainable.

Comment on the talk page

Background and rationale[edit]

Why leadership development?
The Wikimedia Movement is formed by volunteers that boldly step up and help other fellow Wikimedians succeed in our educational mission. Almost every contributor has an opportunity to share something they know about contributing to the wikis or leading activities. Through leadership development, experienced individuals become models for others and mentor newcomers to participate in Wikimedia projects, and to continue to grow communities.

This form of leadership is part of the volunteer collaboration to guide and develop communities to achieve the Wikimedia vision: gathering the freely sharable and accessable sum of all knowledge. Wikimedia is a movement made of many volunteers leading through everyday acts. As we work together toward this world-changing vision, leadership is a shared practice at the core of our culture.

Why do we need your ideas? Your ideas will help us develop leadership training and mentoring opportunities in the Wikimedia movement, and decide whom to include and how.
To grow a peer academy
Our hope is to adapt the current “Learning Days” framework, toward a more inclusive and accessible peer academy system for developing peer mentoring

Activities in the Wikimedia movement are carried out by many individual contributors, volunteers, groups, organizations, partners, and others throughout the world. The leaders that carry out these activities are working to improve the status of free and open knowledge. The Wikimedia Foundation wants to support that reality, and already does in many different ways including learning and development support for program and community leadership development.

The Wikimedia Foundation has seen some success from training and learning support at major conference events such as Wikimania and the Wikimedia Conference call . These Learning Days are full of workshops that offer relevant skills and tools to leaders who implement programs that help Wikimedia communities increase contributions and improve content. There is an abundance of potential leaders, mentors, and guides in the Wikimedia movement, and a high demand for the content of these workshops. To meet this demand, we can invest in developing leaders that support and share ideas with one another through peer leadership development and exchange.

This model of peer leadership development and exchange builds on activities happening in different parts of the movement. Similar opportunities have also seen benefits to varying degree as Education program activities are now happening in more than 90 countries, and the Education Collaborative has been growing to help support these education initiatives' expansion worldwide through learning exchange and peer mentoring. Similarly, some Wikimedia Affiliates and GLAM communities (those working on partnerships with Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) have also run “train the trainer” workshops and other training activities. These approaches are consistent with the peer academy approach we are proposing now.
To develop a sustainable foundation for leadership development support
Our hope is to develop a larger framework and adapt the current “Learning Days”, toward a more inclusive and targeted peer academy system for developing peer mentoring.

Our hope is to adapt develop a peer academy system for developing peer mentoring to:

  • Support program and community learning in a sustainable way.
  • Invest in our existing community leaders so that they can be available to support others in their regional or thematic area.
  • Support community leaders in mentoring others and in sharing best practices for growing our communities.
  • Develop a shared vision and pathways for leadership development in our movement.

To begin this transition, we plan to split the next Wikimedia Conference pre-conference “Learning Days” into two formats. The first day, a smaller group of experienced mentors which will build capacity in mentoring support. The second day will expand to include newer community mentors and enable the advanced mentors to lead workshops with a growing peer mentoring group. Participants will be expected to return home and continue sharing those skills through workshops and peer-to-peer learning opportunities with their communities and continue to reconnect across opportunities throughout the year.

What have we learned so far?
We found three themes in our conversations so far
With quite a lot of overlap in topics emerging in discussion across the different groups, already we have seen three core areas of conversation.


In 2016, the Community Engagement department at the Wikimedia Foundation convened four focus groups to discuss leadership development in the Wikimedia movement: the CE Department held focus groups with staff at the Wikimedia Foundations annual staff "2016 All Hands" meeting discussion group sessions , with affiliate leaders at the Wikimedia Conference 2016, and with a larger group of community members at Wikimania. Across the four focus groups we had about 80 participants (about 25 staff and 55 community leaders) discuss four core questions:

  • How comfortable are our community members with the word “leader” and applying that to themselves?
  • In what ways have you seen leadership demonstrated in our movement?
  • What leadership qualities do you feel are most important to support in our movement?
  • What are the challenges in recognizing, supporting and building capacity leaders in our movement?

What we have learned so far:

Mentoring and volunteer leadership are common activities, and they happen through small actions For the most part, discussion focused on how “leadership” and other ways of guiding communities are already common within Wikimedia communities, and typically happen when individuals perform a number of small actions, such as welcoming a new editor or teaching someone how to use a tool.

The word "leader" can create discomfort Consistently, the word “leader” created discomfort in our conversations, since many Wikimedians didn’t want to place themselves at a different level from their peers. In some cultures and languages, the word “leader” has specific associations with hierarchy, even with dictators and misuse of power. We discovered new terms for people who demonstrate leadership skills and characteristics in our movement during the focus groups; we are dedicating the second part of this consultation to discussing these options for describing leadership in the Wikimedia movement.

There is a broad desire to cultivate "leadership" skills in our movement Individuals that have some but not all of the skills listed here would benefit from more access to training, and from understanding more about how to engage in mentoring, guidance, or leadership in the Wikimedia movement. Skills include:

  • Traits that help individuals and communities cultivate more inclusive environments online and offline. (For example, empathy, patience, emotional intelligence, valuing other points of view, positive reinforcement of successes, humor and self irony, etc.).
  • Traits that help individuals empower fellow Wikimedians to achieve more. (For example, training and educational skills, mentoring ability, the ability to connect others to learning materials, persuasion skills, etc.)
  • Practical skills to sustain leadership roles. (Listening, delegation, burnout prevention strategies, cultivating future leaders, designing sustainable community processes, etc.)
  • Skills and tools for engaging new people in the movement. (Communication skills, ability to empathize with the motivations of external communities, etc. ).
  • Traits that help individuals and communities maintain a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, while avoiding overconcentration of authority or power. (Encouraging equity in opportunities and rewards, appropriate titles and assignments of authority, valuing community consensus, etc.).

Related links[edit]