Let’s Connect – Peer Learning Program
What is the Let’s Connect – Peer learning program?
The program creates an open and safe learning space for any Wikimedian that is part of an organized group to share and/or learn different skills ( organizational / interpersonal / grant related / learning & evaluation ...) with other peers to add value and contribute collectively to the community. The purpose is to further develop skills, share knowledge and promote human connections and mutual support between different groups and communities, in alignment with the Movement Strategy.
Where did this initiative come from?
The Peer Learning program is a response to requests made by diverse community members during the consultation process to relaunch the grantmaking strategy, who emphasised the importance of support beyond funding and the importance of sharing knowledge amongst grantees. It is also aligned with the Movement Strategy recommendations to develop capacity-building opportunities within the movement.
Who is Let’s Connect for?
It is directed at Wikimedians in all regions that are part of organised groups (this can range from a group of individuals that are not formally organised, user group, chapters and mission-aligned organisations). The importance is that participants are seeking to share their knowledge and learn from others to continue to develop their work within the Movement. They can be those that receive funding from Wikimedia Funds, or could potentially do so in the future.
Checklist of criteria:
- Wikimedians that are part of organised groups (these can be formally recognised affiliates or not). The important thing is that the group plans and implements collective Wikimedia work to contribute to the Movement.
- Wikimedians should have a role within this organised group – either as a volunteer, core team or staff member, or in the least be actively involved in contributing to the organisation.
- Wikimedians that want to learn and share skills that benefit the wider group, it is not just for individual learning.
- Wikimedians that want to learn skills more related to organised work (planning, events, evaluation).
- Wikimedians that want to learn on wiki skills with a view of organising spaces to train others (not only to learn these skills for their own contribution efforts)
Who is Let’s Connect NOT for?
- Individual Wikimedians not associated with any organised group or affiliate and are looking to build their on-wiki skills for their individual contribution to Wikimedia projects.
- Newcomers that have just started contributing to Wikimedia projects as individuals. Building these skills is precisely the role of organisers and affiliates, Let's Connect does not have the capacity to train newcomers on-Wiki skills.
- People that do not engage with organiser-type task (such as training others, planning events, supporting the organisation in different tasks).
Why is peer learning the focus?
- Peer learning is one of many collaborative forms of learning. It differs from formal training, which generally seeks to build and transfer knowledge in a structured and more formal setting. Training is still a very important method of learning for the Movement in general, particularly around specific Wiki skills and program tactics.
- Peer learning can and should complement these efforts, creating horizontal and flexible forms of learning amongst colleagues, volunteers, and community members – people carrying out similar tasks or facing similar challenges, driven by the same mission. It can provide a comfortable and safe environment for different stages of learning: not only gaining knowledge, but putting that knowledge into practice, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting on what was learned, and making the learning process more socially connected and fun.
- Peer learning can increase skills and abilities through diverse formats and connections. It can also allow for a continuous, autonomous process driven by needs and interests as they arise. Naturally, it has been a common form of learning in our Wikimedia movement, built on collaboration and volunteer effort.
Important note: This program will certainly not address all the capacity-building needs that communities have, however, it may help: 1) Identify and connect communities to other learning and training spaces within the Movement 2) Find ways to prioritise capacity-building investments within Wikimedia Funds investments.
Characteristics of the Program
Culture and Characteristics of the Program
- Promote a good learning environment and culture
- Adaptable: to the different contexts, regional dynamics, and levels of development of different communities and cultures.
- Fit into volunteers' availability, workload, needs, and contextual diversity. Not seen as a form of evaluation, a burden, a demand – but a space that is useful and something to look forward to.
- Focus on what factors determined positive results, but also as importantly, from what didn’t work and where (the unexpected, the mishaps, the “failures”) and what was learned from this. For instance, understanding what may work well in a specific geography, theme, or language, but may not work well in others.
- Practical and contextualised: relevant topics shared with enough depth to learn from the process itself, with practical insights to understanding how this can be applied to different contexts.
- Offered in a timely manner: that will fit into the project design, implementation, and evaluation cycles in each region.
- Interactive: enabling human exchanges and more hands-on experience.
- Flexible: allowing for multiple topics, formats, and timing.
- Inclusive: seeking to make visible capacities in communities that are sometimes not visible in more formal training. Also, incorporating support services and timing is needed to reduce barriers to participation. Use of clear and simple language to facilitate understanding and translation.
Different Ways of Participating:
- As sharers or learners: these are the main participants who will be community members engaging in the spaces to share their knowledge and experiences and learn from others.
- Let’s Connect Learning Ambassadors: these are community members that would like a role helping to organise learning spaces in their region or around topics of interest and access financial and logistical support to do so.
- Let’s Connect Working Group: community members that support the general coordination of the Program, either in an advisory role or actively participating as part of the operational team.
How does Let’s Connect work?
The Program is composed of two main learning spaces:
- Learning Clinics for monthly connections between groups of around 20 participants. These can be regionally based or cross regional.
- One-on-one matches between community members to share a live virtual conversation (coffee/teas) and/or resources. These happen on a continuous basis with connection being made directly by participants using the skills directory and proposed by the working group.
There are three support elements so that these spaces can work.
- The skills directory: A general database that identifies skills and sharing interests amongst community members that forms the basis for the “matching”
- Resource centre: A very basic space on Meta for sharing any material associated with the learning spaces – video recording, guidelines, documents, references, decks.
- Making other connections: informing and connecting participants to existing spaces within the Movement. These spaces vary in each region and around different topics or programs, such as communities of practices, periodic meetings, training, events, etc. One important source of information and connection will be the Movement’s community calendar.
Live learning clinics with “hot topic of the month” and around proposal and reporting cycles
These learning clinics can happen around two areas: I. Monthly clinics around hot topics, II. Quarterly clinics around proposal writing and reporting.
- Monthly group sessions focused around special topics that are recurring in the learning needs mapping and where there are interesting cases to share and learn from. For instance: some of the issues highlighted in the topics table, such as interesting training tools and methods for newcomers. Format proposed: 1.5 hour live sessions via zoom in two different time zones with live interpretation.
- Quarterly regional/thematic group sessions with learning around Wikimedia funds reporting and proposal writing phases. These can happen across common themes or strategies developed in the work carried out with Wikimedia Funds and by region. The aim is to discuss interesting results and tactics, things that did not work out so well, challenges, things that can be adjusted or scaled.
- The working group and Learning Ambassadors will use the database to identify interesting case studies to present. If there are not enough registered participants to share, they can actively seek these through community networks.
- Community Resources (CR) will provide methodological support in the sessions if needed, as well as the technological platform and translation services and financial support.
Asynchronous participation Community Resources will organise the information after the session to the Let’s Connect resource space so that they are available to non-live participants and can be openly used and downloaded by other community members. This will include full or partial live recording (with participants’ consent) and any material shared and translated.
Let's Connect coffees and teas for 1:1 connections
Structure: 1:1 matches between learning interests that one community group has, with the sharing capacities of another. The suggested format is a 1.5 hour 1:1 coffee/tea live conversation. Max 4 people to enable more meaningful conversation and be able to go into more depth and contextualise to specific needs. There are two ways to develop these 1:1 Connections. Option 1: Connectmaking is promoted by the CR team and Working Group on a monthly basis by using the Skills directory. Option 2: Connections that are done directly by participants (sharers). They can contact the CR team for support if needed, i/e. to offer translation services.
A key feature is to identify potential community members that are sharers according to their area of interest at a given time and stage in their process and be able to use this information strategically. Developing a robust tool to register and match these interests continuously is something that requires more time and investment and is something that a working group of Wikimedians is planning to do through the Capacity Exchange initiative. Once this tool is developed (2022), this can be useful for the “Let's Connect” program as one of the primary sources of information. In this initial phase, basic data collection tools will be used through google forms and google sheets to register learning interests and needs and share ideas and capacities. Wiki Franca and Wikimedia Sweden have also developed useful tools that can be explored.
The CR team will consolidate this “skills directory” using two sources:
- Information gathered from fund reporting (2020/21) and proposals (2021/22). Reports will be analysed to capture interesting cases and learning and common areas of interest. Likewise, proposals will be analysed to see where there are potential areas of learning from others.
- A registration form that will be sent out to all affiliates, current and potential grantee partners. This form will be open so that potential participants can continuously update their information and register new learning and sharing interests.
Use of the skills directory
- With participants' consent, some key information in this initial database will be made public on Meta. It will be used as a source of information to proactively communicate and organise the different learning spaces.
- Proactively invite members to “Let's Connect” clinics when the topics may be of interest to them.
- Provide any community member with key information about others’ learning and sharing interests to contact them autonomously and set up a 1:1 Let's Connect coffees/teas or resources sharing. The only requirement is that community members register a brief summary of the result of the interaction.
- Proactively invite members to connect to existing resources and learning spaces organised by other community members and/or the Wikimedia Foundation (as those outlined in the ecosystem mapping). These spaces and channels will be continuously mapped and communicated through the Learning and Evaluation meta page, email group and through the Let's Connect telegram channel.
It is a very basic space on Meta (link to the tab) for sharing any material associated with the learning spaces – video recording, guidelines, documents, references, decks, etc. Whilst it may not be possible to translate all material, efforts will be made to translate as many as possible. Important note: Note: it is not the robust resource centre that Movement Strategy calls for. There will be minimum curation, more curation will require community effort and staff to support this (desirable in future phases). This programs hope to support the development of more robust Movement-wide resources centres in future.
This is a complementary but key component. Rather than replicating many spaces that already exist, but may not be widely known to communities, particularly newcomers, this strategy is aimed at informing and connecting participants to existing spaces within the Movement. 1. By providing all registered participants with a calendar of learning spaces and contacts according to their areas of interest. The calendar should be based on the Movement's community calendar developed by the communications team. These spaces vary in each region and around different topics or programs. They can be a community of practices, periodic meetings, telegram groups, social media accounts where learning is shared, newsletters where learning is registered, on-Wiki connections spaces, events, conferences, and mentoring programs. This calendar should be built with the help of Foundation staff and community members leading these spaces. The incentive to do so will be to provide another communications channel for their spaces.
Fomenting the “Let's Connect” environment and culture
Peer learning requires working in the right mindset, environment, and incentives for this to happen. This is a process that needs time to build and consolidate. It is important first to communicate the nature of the program so that people will be interested in registering their information and participating in the spaces. It is important to emphasise the “culture” that the program wants to help promote. Let's Connect is:
- A space that welcomes curiosity and where there are no stupid questions.
- A space that welcomes errors and dialogue. A space that welcomes sharing knowledge, without fear of it being misused or appropriated by others. A space that welcomes newcomers, that values fresh ideas, and limited knowledge of the “Wikimedian ways of doing things”. A space that explicitly tries to give space for groups that are not often seen or valued as “sharers” of interesting case studies.
- A safe environment that abides by the Universal Code of Conduct and Friendly Space Policy.
- Not a space for showcasing successes, or as a form of reporting or feeling evaluated. This should be an environment for honest reflection about processes, learning the WHY and HOW something worked well, but even as important, why it might not have and what was taken from this.
- Horizontal and community-led/owned, supported by the Foundation. Whilst the Foundation may take more of a lead in the initial phase, it is hoped that the different spaces will empower community members to take lead and maintain a strictly supportive role.
- A space that values different forms of learning and seeks to provide multiple options to connect. One size does not fit all.
- A space that values recognising other people's work and adapting/replicating it with the necessary attribution.
- A space that recognizes its limits, and provides pathways for complementing with other forms of learning, as well as funds and resources for capacity building.
- A space that encourages solidarity and mutual aid and bi-directional learning.
These key aspects will be reiterated throughout the communication and registration process, as well as in each learning space. If necessary, specific sessions will be organised to further reflect on how best to build this program culture and evaluate if this is effectively being built.
What learning will happen?
The program is mostly aimed at supporting initial connections and broader, higher-level learning of processes. However, the multiple spaces and connections generated will hopefully open further opportunities for deeper learning and practice. For instance, the live learning clinics or 1:1 conversations, will most likely not be enough to produce in-depth learning of organisational or technical Wiki-skills and tactics that require time and practice, however, it may connect groups to understand key issues, tools, approaches, and case studies, that lead to further mentoring or training opportunities with their peers, in existing community spaces or by seeking opportunities to include formal training in funding proposals.
The table below is an initial attempt to classify some of the common topics and areas that may be of interest, based on initial conversations and other learning needs mapping exercises carried by community members and Foundation staff. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all learning needs and will certainly change with time. A large part of the initial testing phase will be to determine if the learning spaces provide enough depth and connections for practical learning and to work with participants to identify topics of interest based on learning and sharing needs and capacities. Some interesting topics to start the program with are highlighted in green, given that they came up frequently in the conversations.
|Specific Funding-related issues
|Organisational skills / capacities / sustainability
|Technical skills for Wiki projects*
*It is important to note that there are a wealth of resources available for learning Wiki technical skills, such as the use of tools, editing for newcomers, etc. This program does not seek to create new training toolkits but generates spaces where knowledge about these tools can be shared and communities can access further mentoring and guidance around these.
Timing will be important. Whilst learning at any stage may be interesting. Learning spaces that coincide with funding proposal development or reporting in each context, can lead to a more practical application of the learning experience.
|Phase 1: Pilot Phase
|Initial testing period
|March 2022 ‒ September 2022
|End of Phase 1
|Present results and future of the program
|Learning and Adjusting
|Quick evaluation: evaluate feedback, results through quantitative and qualitative data.
Program adjustment, guarantee future funding and support services.
|Program second phase. May include new scale and support services depending on results and feedback.
|November 2022 – September 2023
|Design and kick-off [Collective kickoff]
|November 18, 2022
|Open Call for WG
|Start of expanded Team
|Continual learning and evaluation
|End of phase 2
|Present results and future of the program
What is the role of the Wikimedia Foundation's Community Resources team?
- Process financial support for participants as learning, sharers, or ambassadors and organise other incentives to motivate participation, such as certificates. (for more details read the section on incentives and support).
- Proactively communicate the learning program opportunities in different channels.
- The prime role is not building specific learning content or leading the sharing sessions. However, there are specific areas in which Community Resources can lead learning sessions as the demand arises and in its area of expertise, such as guidance on proposal development, learning, evaluation, etc.
- Promote opportunities for more equitable participation, particularly for underrepresented communities or newcomers, and build a relationship of trust and confidence with grantees so that they feel comfortable expressing capacity needs and a welcoming environment to share with others. Gather learning from the peer program to identify good practises that could be considered in future funding proposals, as well as capacity-building
- Coordinate efforts with other Foundation teams and Regional Funds Committee members to actively participate in the program design and develop content for sessions around their areas of learning and expertise, if there is demand for this. It is important to guarantee a thought partner relationship with other community sharers and develop the desired “learning culture” with Foundation staff or external participants. This could be around issues like Wikimedia tools and innovations, research areas, programmatic tactics, partnership strategies, etc.
- Align the program with relevant Movement Strategy developments and other Foundation or community-led initiatives.
Roles of other Foundation staff:
- Several other teams will actively be part of the Learning Program. They have been key in the initial design phase and it is hoped that they will actively participate in the Program implementation. Particularly Community Development, Community Programs, Movement Strategy, Movement Communications and Partnerships. Possible roles will be:
- Joining the working group to help with operational aspects of the Program.
- Offer support to map interesting cases for learning spaces.
- Review the Skills directory and complement it with information from the programs they are involved in.
- Update information about other learning spaces to connect participants to these.
- Offer methodological support and training tools and approaches.
- Communicate the Program to the Communities they work with.
- Participate in learning spaces as sharers.
- Help monitor and provide feedback on the Program.
- Trust and Safety will also play a role in friendly space issues escalating. Talent and Culture will also be important in helping to promote the Learning Culture based on their experience and tools.
How was this built?
The initial Program design was done through a participatory process, with more than 40 community and Foundation staff members invited to brainstorm around the Program’s focus and strategies. This will be a continual learning process so any community member is invited to share their ideas around the program by adding comments on the talk page or reaching out directly to Jessica Stephenson - jstephensonwikimedia.org
Summary of Let’s Connect pilot phase
The pilot phase that took place from April to August 2022 covered multiple activities and connections. In fact several learning clinics on different topics were conducted in addition to the 1:1 and cluster connections. The apprehended learning was not only limited to establishing connections but also highlighting key insights about the peer learning space. It was less about numbers and more about if the spaces, tools, support made sense and added value to the communities. For an in-depth look please read the summary report. It is established to showcase the pilot phase processes, reflections, result and detailed learning.
Below stated in brief the main key insights:
Community – Foundation working group
Results: Consolidate a small Community-Foundation team to co-operate the program.
- Need to expand, represent all regions
- More community-led is always the answer
- Affiliate-supported members are key
Who is participating?
Results: There is enthusiasm: 140 Wikimedians registered
Learning: Diverse participants:
- Mostly new and medium-level organisers, keen to learn more.
- How to respond to diverse needs offer more training paths?
- Need more affiliate-organised participation: 50% closely associated with affiliates.
- 11 Learning clinics around proposal writing, evaluation, planning, story telling, around, around 220 participations
- +15 Sharers: willing to put the time and effort.
- 25% give feedback, about 70% find it useful, but more is needed
- There is interest, but we need more sharers proposing.
- How to address different levels of needs and connect to deeper training?
- Connectivity is a big limitation
- Work with affiliates to find ways to support
Results: 17 1:1 connections and cluster groups, around 40 participants.
- Commitment is a major challenge.
- How to find easier procedures to connect, make sure people get the most out of the space.
- More proactive connecting
- More sharing + organising of resources (this takes time!)
Top skills people want to learn
- Building your organization’s plan and strategy
- Wikimedia Tools (PAWS, Quarry, WDQS) for running queries and scripts
- Defining Learning and evaluation plan
- Engaging in social media, press, and broadcast media
- Volunteer management and development (and interpersonal skills related to this)