Grants:IdeaLab/Community support services

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Community support services
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summary:
A process is developed to make trained and certified counselors available to support Wikimedia community members who are attacked as a result of their volunteering for Wikimedia projects.
created on: 18:03, 17 June 2014

Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

Volunteers for all kinds of social causes can be targeted for harassment, stalking, bullying, abuse, and other kinds of attacks. There is a historical precedent among brick and mortar organizations to provide volunteer support services to their volunteers especially when they expect that their volunteers will be routinely targeted for harassment. LGBT rights organizations are especially known for providing counseling services, because persons supporting LGBT causes are especially likely to be harassed and stalked in such a way that is not a criminal or civil offense but which is extremely distressing and discouraging to volunteers. In many cases, the organization and counselors are powerless to address the attackers, so the remedy is to support the victim instead.

Wikimedia projects are known to be a hostile place for many volunteers. Volunteers are targeted for a range of issues, including gender, sexuality, views on human rights, nationality, and a range of other issues. Many people are targeted for attack for no reason at all. To the extent that other similar organizations provide victim support services to their volunteers who in the course of volunteering and for the sake of their volunteering are targeted for harassment, the Wikimedia community should similarly provide some kind of victim support.

Even in cases where there is no hostility, some users may feel harassed and need access to counseling. In other cases, one person may perceive another as an aggressor when that person is merely ignorant that their actions are harming another, and more sensitivity would make the situation less tense.

What is your solution?[edit]

Ideally the solution will be based on precedent set by research and experience, perhaps from the professional discipline of occupational medicine or concepts such as occupational safety and health. Such a perspective might presume that volunteers on Wikipedia are analogous to persons engaged in any workplace, and subject to the same kinds of stresses and in need of the same kind of relief. Victim support may take any of the following forms:

  • Having a confidential complaint repository set up so that victims can privately complain of harassment. This would insure that if a particular attacker has a history of attacking many people, then the victims complaints could be combined and a record of the problem would exist. Many victims may not want their complaints in a public forum but might be willing to be privately contacted by a professional counselor.
  • Counseling services could be provided in private phone, video conference, or IRC channels.
  • A professional counselor could be on hand to moderate discussion about relieving harassment on Wikipedia in a public channel.
  • Someone could collaborate with other nonprofit organizations to standardize the field of online victim support services
  • An email address could be set up so that people could get advice about best practices for responding to harassment.

Project goals[edit]

  1. Provide this service in coordination with other related services, perhaps under the direction of a community human resources staffperson
  2. Reduce the number of Wikimedia community members who leave the project complaining of unaddressed harassment.
  3. Make victims of harassment on Wikimedia projects more satisfied with their options for addressing harassment.
  4. Set a precedent for providing online counseling services to compare with in-person counseling which is provided by brick and mortar non-profit groups.

Get involved[edit]

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