Grants:APG/Policies/Site visits/2017/Amical Wikimedia

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Site Visit with Amical Wikimedia - June 2017



10 AM - 13:00: Meeting with ED and President at Amical HQs at Casa Orlandai (Jaume Piquet, 23)
13:30: Lunch (restaurant, near Orlandai)
16:00: Meeting with CCCB partner (Montalegre, 6)
18:30: Meeting with wikiwomen group (Carrer Ramon Turró s/n) > Room 13107, on the first floor
21:30: Dinner at Enville (restaurant downtown, near CCCB)


10 AM - 13.30: Meeting with board. Financials at Casa Orlandai
14:00 - 16:00: Lunch (near Orlandai)
16:00: free afternoon

DAY 1 - 6 June 2017[edit]

Morning Meet with Laia and Àlex at Casa Orlandai[edit]

  • The space Amical uses is a communal space that is rented per year (about 40€) and that Amical can use in exchange for animating the space with editathons and other Wikipedia activities. This cooperative approach is aligned with Amical values.

This day was full of discussions and exchanges, with a few recurring topics.

Discussion about the role of the organization in the community

  • In Amical, the same people who edit, do the strategy etc. The organization is the community. Laia has taken the role of president because she has a strong history of managing volunteers and working with them to achieve results. She enjoys in this role the fact that she can work with people to find the projects that they can relate to and will commit to.
  • For Amical, the community is key. There is a general feeling among the members, and specially in the people strongly involved in the organization's activities, that professionalization of the Wikimedia movement is an unfortunate development. Without too much money and too much staff, the community works better, is happier and more connected.
  • Laia points out that Amical *is the community" and does not only *work with the community*. Chapters often fight with the community and that makes it hard to convince people to work for the organization.
  • This notion of volunteers that are in the community is very important, as reflected in the metrics of engagement Amical has chosen in their annual plan.
  • Àlex and Laia point out that often they observe chatpers and organizations that have good projects and try to "fill them with volunteers". They think that projects should first and foremost stem from the community. Organizations should not believe that the community is "outisde" of them.
  • Laia and Àlex further talk on the importance of connection between the wiki and the organization. It is important to know the contributing community and match their skills and interest with real life things. The organization should be the foundation, the tie, the coordination between real life and the community, not an "idea maker".
  • Laia and Àlex explain how you need to listen to the community and understand what they are working on. Amical is focused on accompanying the community to grow in confidence, on listening to the community needs, on taking care of the community, preventing burnout because people give a lot to the projects. We are looking also at people who may fail, and making sure they find their place elsewhere, so that they are happy. People must fit, everyone finds a role in Amical, but not everyone does everything.
  • Winifred points out that the community in the Catalan projects is highly motivated by the cultural component. And wonders what danger there really is in other models than that of Amical.

Discussion around goals of Wikimedia Groups and Organizations

  • Àlex and Laia point out that while they think user groups are a huge opportunity for the movement, allowing non-white, non-middle class, non-educated backgrounds to come in, they are worried in the extraordinary rise in user groups. It seems that lately the goal is not to do a project, but to become a user group. And a user group ends up being just that, a user group, rather than work together to do projects. The goals should be concrete projects and the structure should come to serve that. The goals shouldn't be "ask for an APG grant", or "Have an employee". Also a lot of chapter resources are used to maintain the structure itself and the more people are tied into a structure, the less they are devoted to do the work.
  • An ideal separation of time and resources spent would be: 30% strategy - 30% implementation - 30% evaluating - 10% documenting.
  • Discussion goes on around how affilaites work together, or don't, how there is not real strategy about how user group and chapters interact, how overlap is often not taken into consideration. Geographic overlap, thematic overlap.
    • Strong feeling that Amical tries adapts to reality. For example, they put the language in the center because it is what people have in common. They don't do politics, as it may divide rather than bring together.

Conversation about the wiki way and the ties between wiki and organisations

  • Àlex notes that the Wikimedia organizations should copy the model from the wiki, not the other way around. Many failures are coming from the organizational side rather than the wiki side.
  • Winifred and Delphine point out that many people have respect fro Amical's achievements, but that their model does not work everywhere, in other environments. Language is not always a unifying factor, different models may be needed in different contexts.
  • Delphine later points out that bringing the wiki way to reality does not always work. The idea of NPOV, not taking sides, may lead to everyone trying to please everyone and no-one making decisions. What works in a community may not work in another, but you have to go forward and make decisions for that, even if they alienate some people. All users are different, some bring different values to the projects or the organizations, and you ahve to take this value into account. In the Wikimedia movement we are often not good at saying no.

Conversation about money

  • How the APG process has changeed, adding simple ApG to cater to different needs of other organizations or groups that are doing things and slowly realize they need coordination, more means etc.
  • Àlex points out how money is an afterthought, in that Amical tries to first talk about what people really want to do. While there is some money, we need to be careful about it. It's donors' money. Money is a useful resource, but shouldn't be taken for granted and people should not just ask for it because it is there. There are many things that can be done without money, money should be for things that you don't know how to do. The lack of money should push us to be creative, look for productive partnerships. Also you have to be wary of partnerships that only hinge on money, they might mean the end of a partnership if the money runs out.
  • Winifred points out how organizations have different levels of effectiveness in their staffing. Some are being frugal, and we want to make sure that those are funded. This said some extrenal factors are hard to judge, such as potential, size of community etc.

Questions about what role Amical plays in the movement, its image in Wikimedia

  • (this is mainly Winifred and Delphine talking) Amical's image is positive. Efficiency and frugality are the words that come often in relation with Amical. Very good quality of reporting, consistent over time. Some of Amical's approaches are used as examples.
  • Amical is reknown for a strong focus on GLAM. Amical has been one of the first to shift some of the focus in GLAM from individual institutions to networks of institutions. We see this happening in other geographies as well.
  • Focus also on institutions becoming more and more independant from the organization and the volunteers, this is good but it is really hard to track the long tail.
  • The community around Amical is pretty unique and centered around a language and a culture and it makes it difficult to replicate some of the aspects of Amical's work elsewhere where the same context is not there.
  • We see Amical asks themselves a lot of questions, but also that this is not reflected in applications or reports. The strategic thinking is not adequately reflected in public documents. Sometimes Amical exerts harsh judgement on other organizations in the movement and our work with these other organizations does not match the perception which seems to be Amical's.
  • Amical might benefit from trying to see things from other people's perspective. Often we feel this distanciation is not happening. In order to promote your ideas in the movement, you need to be willing to be in the conversation and to acknowledge the uniqueness of your context and how helpful it is to achieve the results that you achieve.
  • Àlex answers that yes, Amical will try to better share the "Amical values" and the "Amical Way". It seems that some things get "lost in translation". We are aware of the differences, we know of our cultural exception, we keep ourselves informed by reading everything participating in discussion.
  • The lean staffing model of Amical is a lean staffing model that also works thanks to a very engaged board. This model can't work everywhere for a variety of reasons. For example the idea that there's an ED, or program staff, these are decisions that need to be made depending on context.
  • Amical participates in the strategy discussions. Àlex partof a committee on track A and B.
  • Discussion about the fact that the FDC flagged that Amical was too "small". Delphine and Winifred don't agree with the FDC on this. Frugality is a good thing. The APG program has evolved, in content if not in process. But we did add simple APG for organizations which do no need the heavier FDC framework. Simple APG focuses on frugality. Amical and WMUA are good examples of frugal organizations with lean staffing models that get things done and get results, both qualitative and quantitative, which bring changes in the community.
  • Winifred and Delphine reiterate their advice for Amical to go to simple APG. Expectations and level of maturity has changed in the FDC. It has become more focused on working on strategy
  • Amical finds their place in the FDC process, more nimble, less constraining in terms of planning. Programs are not designed in advance since they stem from community ideas. Questions also whether their reports are even read (monthly reports). Sensation that they are communicating in a void.
  • Amical also complains about how the communication with affcom goes.

Afternoon: meeting with the Centre de Cultura Contemporánia de Barcelona[edit]

The CCCB is a cultural institution with which Amical has been partnering for 5 + years, and been in contact with for much longer. It is quite an influential insitution in Barcelona. The partnership has evolved with the years but is mostly an ad-hoc and open partnership, which takes advantage of ideas on both side to explore possible synergies.

CCCB is a local organization, very focused on a Barcelona audience, contrarily to most of the other big cultural instituations which aim a lot at tourism.

The people we met with were Maria Farràs and Edgar Rius at the Innovation department for the CCCB. One part of their work is focused on reflecting about how contemporary culture is changing and evolving and we do so by enabling conferences, workshop, tools to navigate the changes. CCCB does not have content "as such" to put online, but they worked on opening the content of their website under a free license, on sharing also under a CC license biographies of the speakers and intervenants they hosted in their institution. Amical was instrumental in guding them in further adoption of free licenses, uploding their own material on Commons.

We asked them where that open attitude comes from and their asnwer was that as department of innovation they had to be on top of the new things. They need to tackled new challenges, and find new solutions, and as such are able to experiment and share their solutions. Although the instituation to start with can be closed, the fact that they are publicly funded is a good reason for staying open, and the collaboration with Amical is important for openess. CCCB considers themselves not a museum, not a library, not an archive and yet a bit of all of those, in any case a very public service. They try and work on marginal and weird (sic) subjects, tackling complex and modern topics such as "How does economic power shape a city?".

Collaboration between CCCB and Amical takes many shapes and form. On a big data conference, on media literacy issues, where they issued for example an "educational briefcase for the internet" designed for media literacy advocacy in schools, in which information about Wikipedia was present. When CCCB worked on Africa and African artists, they had a quiz and wiki marathon on Africa. They worked on a writing challenge based on content gap in Africa which they helped visualize with Wikidata and focused on Cape Verde, and where 900 articles were written. The following year they focused on accompanying Asian month. Their next big theme will be climate change.

This meeting was very interesting especially because of its intentionality, and how one could see how Amical and CCCB have achieved some kind of synergy that slowly became normalcy, in that working together is a given. Financial burdens are shared in joint actions. Amical has made Wikimedia project very accessible, has made wiki things and open content things very easy and accessible. Wikimedia projects also have been instrumental in developing a neutral ground for institutions such as the CCCB to work together. This relationship, while nurtured by the people in place, seems to have made it to the DNA of both Amical and CCCB, and shows good signs of a fruitful and sustainable relationship, which while collaboration is not systematic, it is consistent.

Also, Àlex IS A ROBOT. Àlex has a fanclub. Àlex IS JOHN LENNON.

[Viqidones University][edit]

We went to visit the Wikidones group led by Esther (User:Tiputini) We saw her give an overview of the basics of editing and translation to the new users. There were 4-5 new editors present. Delphine had a good talk with Esther explaining the use of hashtags for events with new editors. The space is donated by the university and this offers good visibility, because people are curious and tend to stop by (they don’t always come back, but they come steadily). The meetup is held weekly, and there are usually 4-5 people present. We could see that there were very different people present. Two experiences contributors (Esther and another) were present, and we had profiles of people going from doctor editing medicine article to journalist working on their hobby suject.

Dinner with the board[edit]

  • Winifred, Delphine, David Parreño, User:Mallus, User:Barcelona, Xavier Dengra, Àlex Hinojo

DAY 2 - 7 June 2017[edit]

Financial Review