Community Insights/Community Insights 2020 Report/Thriving Movement
Co-creating, growing, and cultivating a safe and welcoming, diverse, sustainable, and thriving movement of leaders, contributors, advocates, and partners for free knowledge.
The Wikimedia Foundation is committed to building and supporting a movement that represents the world, fosters a safe and inclusive environment, and is self-sustaining. Each year, the Community Insights survey measures our progress towards these goals.
Community and Newcomer Diversity
People living in Asia and especially Africa are dramatically underrepresented among Wikimedia contributors, but there is slightly better representation among newcomers who have joined the movement in the last two years. Contributors in Europe and Northern America make up a disproportionate majority of Wikimedians (See Figure 10). However, a comparison of the geographic distribution of newer to more tenured contributors among respondents shows that we may be seeing small gains in geographic representativeness. In 2019, newcomers were more likely to live in Latin America or the Caribbean and especially in Africa and Asia, and less likely to live in Northern America and Europe, than more tenured contributors (see Figure 11).1
People who identify as women are also underrepresented among Wikimedia contributors, and here we also see evidence of small gains in gender representation among newcomers. Of all contributors responding, 87% identified as male. 12% identified as women, but newcomers were more than twice as likely as more tenured contributors to do so (see Figure 12).2 1.8% identified as transgender or non-binary, and we found no difference in gender minority representation by length of tenure.
Wikimedia contributors are also growing more socioeconomically diverse (see Figure 13). Almost half of the world’s population lives outside a metropolitan area, in a small city, town, or rural area. Only one-third of tenured contributors do so but newcomers are more likely to.3 New contributors also are less likely to have completed the equivalent of a post-secondary degree than tenured contributors, though both rates are still much higher than recent estimates of global post-secondary degree completion.4 Furthermore, over a third of contributors new to the movement since 2018 are under the age of 25 (35%), highlighting the importance of newcomer retention in building a more representative population of global contributors.
Newcomer Empowerment and Support
Most newcomers feel empowered to contribute to Wikimedia platforms, though some groups find acclimating to these social and technical spaces more difficult. The average empowerment score for all newcomers was 3.71 out of five (see Figure 14), with the most agreeing that learning to edit had been easy and that they feel as though they understand rules for editing content. Fewer felt that other editors had been helpful and that editing policies were easy to use.5
Newcomers who were younger than 25 had a higher overall empowerment score (4.00) than others and were more likely to agree that learning editing policies had been easy (70%). Those who knew of opportunities for mentorship (55% of all newcomers) also had higher overall empowerment scores (4.00). Results also indicate that our in-person events may support newcomers to feel more empowered, as those who had attended a movement event were more likely to understand rules for content (89%) and find other editors helpful (83%) than newcomers who had not attended an event. There were no significant positive differences in newcomer empowerment by geography except for the fact that newcomers living in Africa were more likely to find other editors helpful (100%) and kind (100%).6
Newcomers who identify as women, live in Eastern Asia, or who are not fluent in English, indicated lower levels of empowerment overall (3.50, 3.36, and 3.48 empowerment scores, respectively). Those not fluent in English and living in Eastern Asia were especially less likely to agree that using editing policies had been easy (48% and 41%, respectively). Women newcomers were less likely to agree that other editors had been helpful (60%) and that they understood the rules for editing content (68%) than others.7
Community Belonging and Engagement
Survey respondents answered several questions about how much they feel they belong in the Wikimedia movement, as well as their sense of engagement—that is, how much they enjoy and intend to continue contributing—in Wikimedia projects. On average, contributors felt a moderate level of belonging, and somewhat higher feelings of engagement (see Figure 15).8
Contributors to the Japanese and Dutch Wikipedias indicated less of a sense of both belonging and engagement than other contributors, as did those living in Eastern Asia. Users on German and Russian language Wikipedias also reported lower feelings of engagement, as did contributors not fluent in English. Feelings of belonging were lower for contributors to the simplified Chinese Wikipedia.9
Contributors who had attended movement events, however, displayed greater feelings of both engagement and belonging than contributors who had not attended any movement events, as did movement organizers and those living in Africa, when compared to others. Contributors active on the WikiData, Commons, and Spanish Wikipedia projects reported higher feelings of engagement than other contributors. Feelings of belonging were higher among contributors living in Southern Asia and on-wiki administrators.10
Members of Wikimedia communities exercise leadership in a number of ways, including as movement organizers who organize projects, events, or groups; as well as serving in on-wiki administrative roles. The Wikimedia Foundation committed in its 2019 Medium Term Plan to support strong and empowered movement leadership.
While movement organizers are in many ways more representative of global diversities than other contributors, those in on-wiki administrative roles more closely mirror or magnify the often-disproportionate demographics of the broader movement (see Figure 16). Movement organizers are more likely to be women than other contributors. They are also more likely to live in Asia than the general Wikimedia community, but only in Southern, South-eastern, and Western Asia--they are less likely to live in Eastern Asia than other contributors. They are also less likely to live in Europe (47%) than others.11
There are few differences between the geographic representation of on-wiki administrators and other contributors, though they are more likely to live in Southern Asia than non-administrative contributors and less likely to live in Latin America or the Caribbean. They are also more likely to live in Oceania than other contributors (see Figure 16).12
On-wiki administrators indicated high levels of empowerment (overall score of 4.00 out of 5), with the vast majority agreeing that they know how to handle challenges in their on-wiki roles, that they can address such challenges in a way they find appropriate, and to a lesser extent that they have the resources needed to address such challenges (See Figure 17). Few demographic differences were found, although those in South America indicated higher empowerment (4.49) and those not fluent in English indicated less (3.74). More than three-quarters of administrators agreed that other volunteers provided help or support when needed, especially those in Southern Europe (88%), and a little more than a third agreed that the Wikimedia Foundation provided that support.13
We also asked movement organizers about their satisfaction with the resources available to them and with the support provided by the Foundation and their communities or affiliates (See Figure 18). The overall Organizer Empowerment Score was 3.58, with higher overall empowerment indicated by organizers in Africa (3.86) and Central America (4.25), and lower for those in Eastern Asia (2.97). Organizers were most likely to agree that they knew others who could help them with programs and partnerships and that they knew who to ask for help when needed. They agreed less frequently that they had access to the documentation or training materials, communication materials, and tools or software to implement their programs, and were even less positive about their access to non-monetary resources, such as space, and monetary funding that they needed.14
Similar to on-wiki administrators, about two thirds of movement organizers agree that their community or affiliate provides sufficient support to plan and execute their projects, and less than half indicate having received this support from the Foundation. Organizers living in Sub-Saharan Africa (84%), South-eastern Asia (81%), and who identified as women (58%) were more likely to agree that WMF provides needed support, whereas those in Western Europe (32%) and Northern America (30%) were much less likely to do so.15
Safe and Secure Spaces
The Wikimedia Foundation is committed to promoting safer and more civil spaces, as well as reducing disparities in experiences of harassment by Wikimedians with diverse gender identities.
Over one-third of all contributors surveyed indicated that they had felt unsafe or uncomfortable in an online Wikimedia space in the last year, but among those identifying as women, almost half had this experience (see Figure 19). Contributors to the French language Wikipedia and those living in Northern Europe were less likely to say they had felt unsafe or uncomfortable, whereas contributors to the Chinese and Portuguese language Wikipedias were more likely to do so, as were contributors living in Eastern Asia, South America, and those not fluent in English. Among contributors to the Dutch (86%) and German (71%) language Wikipedias, as well as those living in Western Europe (59%), women contributors were especially more likely to indicate a lack of safety or comfort.16
Among those that said they had felt unsafe or uncomfortable, contributors were most likely to say this feeling came from others' response to their level of education (15%), followed by their age (11%), then their race or ethnicity (9%).17
Contributors were less likely to say they had been harassed, bullied, or attacked in the last year (See Figure 20). Women contributors were no more likely than others to indicate having this experience, though they were significantly more likely to say they were unsure whether they had experienced harassment, and more likely to indicate harassment (50%) among contributors to WikiData.18 Contributors to the English and Chinese (zh) language Wikipedias were more likely to say they had been harassed, as were movement organizers and those living in Northern America. Those living in Europe were less likely to say so. Women contributors were more likely to say that they had been sexually harassed in online spaces (3.8%, compared to 1.6% of all contributors).18