Grants:Project/MSIG/Oral Culture: African History Representation on Wikipedia

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Papa Baiden/Oral Culture: African History Representation on Wikipedia
The overall aim is to collate positive learnings from previous oral history projects on Wikipedia,

and combine them with the specific needs of the communities in accessing this content in its right/most convenient format. The outcome of this research will be a set of recommendations and a plan for how we, as a project team, would best implement a podcast project based on the learnings from the community engagement. The actual production of oral history content will then fall into our next grant application, and therefore a separate scope of work.

At large, the project team is interested in the representation of African stories on Wikipedia projects (wider than just history, though this in itself is vast). At present for this pilot project, our focus will be on African history as it is a more concrete/fact-based starting point.
targetPrimarily; Wiki Commons, Wikipedia Kiswahili, Wikipedia Igbo; secondarily; Wikipedia Italy, Wikipedia English
start date01/04/24
start year2024
end date17/07
end year2024
budget (local currency)€18,877.42
grant typeindividual (collaborating group of Wikimedians)
grantee@Papa Baiden
contact(s)• papa(_AT_)

Applications are not required to be in English. Please complete the application in your preferred language.

Project Goal[edit]

What will be the outputs of your project and how will those outputs contribute to advancing a specific Movement Strategy Initiative

In this project we will be conducting research to better understand:

  • The challenges faced by many African communities when it comes to citation and referencing of *African stories on Wikipedia on Wikipedia
  • How these challenges can be overcome, i.e. feedback and inputs on whether oral narration can be a solution to those challenges
  • The general layout of past/previous oral history projects on Wikipedia and sister projects, relevant examples off Wikipedia, and learnings from them.
  • The needs of 2x African Wikimedian communities (Tanzania and Nigeria) and 1x European community regarding the representation of African history on Wikipedia.

The overall aim is to collate positive learnings from previous oral history projects on Wikipedia, and combine them with the specific needs of the communities in accessing this content in its right/most convenient format. The outcome of this research will be a set of recommendations and a plan for how we, as a project team, would best implement a podcast project based on the learnings from the community engagement. The actual production of oral history content will then fall into our next grant application, and therefore a separate scope of work.

At large, the project team is interested in the representation of African stories on Wikipedia projects (wider than just history, though this in itself is vast). At present for this pilot project, our focus will be on African history as it is a more concrete/fact-based starting point.

Additional context:

  • Oral histories have been a common method of collecting and transmitting information for millennia, and a continued practice in some parts of the world. Wikipedia may struggle to truly embody the “sum of all knowledge” whilst omitting these oral histories.
  • Oral histories retain knowledge that is seldom found in books. And whilst the editing process for mass produced history books is necessary and fundamental, the result is often a heavy western bias in sources and narratives. This can sway what is regarded as “fact”, and can easily leak onto Wikipedia.
  • In many African cultures, oral history is still alive and practiced. However, this narrative of lived history runs concurrently to edited and published narratives. These experiences rarely converge on one another, and the heart of this is the key topic: are there cultural nuances to what makes a “credible knowledge source”?
  • Regarding African history specifically, there’s a notable imbalance in the relationship between a history’s representation in European languages (e.g. English) versus the representation of the history in the language of the country concerned (e.g. Kiswahili for Tanzania, or Igbo for Nigeria).

Project outcomes:

  • Gaining awareness of current efforts of oral history/oral content onWikimedia projects, in order to collate this knowledge in a single place, and to avoid duplication of efforts.
  • The general understanding of what the communities/ a network of Wikimedia content contributors think of oral history and narratives on Wikipedia and its sister projects.
  • Gaining a critical understanding of community needs and motivations to access the content we intend to produce, and learning in which language communities our efforts can be most effective.
    • We’re targeting the following as primary focus languages: KiSwahili, Igbo, Hausa, Igala. These are the languages in which oral history content would be produced, and mainly how we think it’d be accessed.
    • We’re targeting the following as secondary focus languages: English and Italian.
  • Understanding of the current challenges and pitfalls concerning the use of oral sources on wikimedia projects.
  • General understanding of what other methods the communities think can be a solution to the existing barrage of some of the African stories on Wiki platforms caused by lack of reliable African sources that meet English Wikipedia sources- reliability criteria.

What specific Movement Strategy Initiative does your project focus on and why? Please select one of the initiatives described here

Our project aims to support recommendation 9 ‘‘Innovate in Free Knowledge’’, and specifically within this, recommendation 42:

The project aim of this research is to explore new pathways for creating free knowledge, and with this, a new methodology that can be replicated by others (along with our consolidated learnings). We aim to ask what people think about bringing the tradition of oral histories together with the modern information formats of podcasting in order to generate content that can sit on Wiki commons, and is therefore re-usable content.

Project Background[edit]

When do you intend to begin this project and when will it be completed?
We intend to begin this project from April 2024, and aim to be completed by mid July. The following rough timeline assumes a start on first week of April:
  • Phase 1: Context mapping (5 weeks - April)
  • Phase 2: Community selection and Interview preparation (3 weeks - May)
  • Phase 3: Community engagement interviews (4 weeks - May to late June)
  • Phase 4: Recommendations (3 weeks - late June to mid July)
Where will your project activities be happening?
Our project activities will be spread across a few Geographies. Main project activities will be split between:
  • Italy, where the Project manager and researcher/comms specialist will be based
  • Nigeria, due to Tochi Precious Friday of Wikimedia Igbo
  • Tanzania, due to Antoni Mtavangu of Wikimedia Tanzania.
  • Linguistically, this means the primary focus languages will be Kiswahili and Igbo. Languages of secondary focus, English and Italian, will be used for engaging with communities trying to access the content from afar.

Are you collaborating with other communities or affiliates on this project? Please provide details of how partners intend to work together to achieve the project goal.
In this research scope, we will be primarily collaborating with the WM Igbo and WM Tanzania communities amongst the African Wikimedian community. We will also be engaging some European language communities to gain perspectives of their interests and motivations to accessing African history content on wikipedia projects, as well as knowledge of any oral history projects in these communities. As a project group, we will have weekly meetings and share knowledge and best practice between us. The project manager will ensure we act in a coordinated manner towards achieving our goals, however timing and deployment may flex for each community as they discover what timings and methods work best locally.
By way of collaborations, we are intending to collaborate with AfLIA on the following oral history project, and will include them in interviews during this initial research project. We have a good relationship with the co-founder via Tochi, and have complementary aims on preserving African history, and sharing free knowledge. Their reach on the continent and achievements are admirable.
What specific challenge will your project be aiming to solve? And what opportunities do you plan to take advantage of to solve the problem?
One specific challenge we’re trying to solve is the challenge of “incompatible knowledge”. The Wikipedia platform essentially “misses out” on large parts of history and culture from many peoples across the global south due to their preferred method of knowledge sharing - oral histories- not being compatible with how knowledge is currently stored and shared on Wikimedia projects. This incompatibility of knowledge sources is a huge issue, and means Wikipedia projects will continue to omit hard to reach knowledge sources. By devising a reliable methodology to document oral history, co-created with communities, we hope to contribute toward solving this challenge and enabling a new and reliable technique.
Another challenge is the heavy western bias of the content that is present on the platform. This is a direct result of lacking diversity within the movement, which is reflected in the content that’s produced on Wikipedia projects. In the past, we’ve noted this as a contributing factor to the opinions of administrators outside of the language communities (mainly from Europe) trying to weigh in on how referencing and citation is done in African language communities.
Another challenge we’re tackling is that knowledge on oral history projects is very dispersive. There seems to be no central resource at present which collates previous projects in one place. We will collate knowledge of other projects concerning Oral Culture/Oral history in our research phase, with the ultimate aim of adding to this knowledge. We’ll be considering how best to disseminate the project outputs in a simplified communication plan.
We will be able to support/inspire countless other movements with consolidated learnings of oral history projects in our final report.
We will have a critical understanding of community needs and motivations towards accessing African history content, and oral history content on Wikimedia projects.

Does this project aim to apply one of the examples shared in the call for grants and if so which one?

Project Activities[edit]

What specific activities will be carried out during this project? Please describe the specific activities that will be carried out during this project.
  • Phase 1: Context mapping- this is where we’d like to go wide with research on past projects, and raise guidance from advisors on community engagement methods and things to keep in mind for the project.
    • Preparing scope of initial research into oral history projects
      • It’s worth noting we are aware of the CapX project (Tochi is a steering committee member) but found it to have little similarity or relevance to our project aims.
      • The time and rigour in this phase is to help us go beyond the same projects that are usually named anecdotal, and actually investigate.
    • Preparing interview questions for advisors- to glean guidance on African history referencing challenges with Wikipedia, oral history project aims, and our intended approach.
    • Selection of advisors- 45 min interviews each.
    • Preparing questionnaire for Wikimedians (not location-specific) - this will glean perspectives on past approaches to oral projects, and get feedback on our intended plans.
    • Setup and distribution of questionnaires
    • Conducting research
      • Aim- research cover as many of the following for each oral history project covered:
        • Project aim
        • Location of activity
        • Target recipients (and note if aim is to cover groups not from where it was recorded)
        • Languages included and, if possible, how this decision was reached.
        • Any translation efforts around the project
        • Any cost information we can find
        • Evaluation of project (what went well and what could be improved)
      • Method
        • 4x interviews with advisors (45mins)
        • Questionnaire to Wikimedians
        • Online secondary sources(using the internet as a research tool.)
      • Output
        • 5 to 10 page document covering a specific scope of oral history projects that our project team find to be relevant examples to learn from.
    • Review of research output, and selection of what principles to suggest in community engagement interviews
  • Phase 2: Community engagement interviews (Preparation)- This is a short preparatory phase to reassess our ideas of engaging communities, and specifically who to engage within them, based on our learnings in the previous phase about the 1) general context and challenges of oral history projects on wikipedia, and 2) the perspectives of advisors and informed wikimedians on key challenges with oral history projects, and how best to engage the communities.
    • Selecting interviewees and community representatives- considering diversity and accessibility
    • Develop a consent form - explain the project, talk about data collection, how we aim to use the data
    • Refine Interview questions
    • Schedule interviews
  • Phase 3: Community engagement interviews (Conducting Interviews)- Here we’d actually be conducting the interviews with communities to understand their needs and perspectives.
    • Run up to 5x 30 minute interviews per selected community. This can be done in bulk as a focus group or individual interviews, depending on community needs. If conducting a focus group, the session will need to be at least 1 hour to allow for conversation
      • Aim- researching the challenges of language communities with citation and referencing of African stories on Wikipedia on Wikipedia, their past experiences with oral history projects, and their needs to address accessibility.
      • Method
        • 5x 30 minute interviews per selected community
        • Interviews with selected community representatives. Key questions we’re likely to include are as follows (though these are subject to change after phase 1):
          • What challenges have you/your community has faced when adding African history or African stories to Wikipedia (or its sister projects) and trying to use citations/references from African languages?
          • What are some possible solutions to the referencing/citations challenges you/your community has faced?
          • How relevant do you think oral history, from credible sources, will be to your community?
          • Have you had any contact with oral history projects on Wikipedia? If so, what’s been your experience?
          • If we were to go ahead and create an oral history project in your community, as a podcast…
            • How could we ensure it’s accessible to as many people there as possible?
            • What expectations do you have about the content you’d hope to hear it covers?
            • What recommendations do you have for the best way to introduce the podcast to your community?
      • Output
        • Interview recordings
        • Interview transcripts
    • Summarize key learnings across all interviews
  • Phase 4: Recommendations- Last phase to consolidate our thinking
    • Formulate a recommended plan of implementing the podcast concept, based on project learnings.
    • Write up the plan in a final report document. This will form the basis of our next grant application, to implement in the pilot communities consulted. This plan can and should also be the basis of other applications to create oral history projects in other communities.

For accessibility purposes, translation support may be needed after the community engagement interviews (Phase 3) to make wider use of transcripts/recordings. We may desire to create the final output (Phase 4) in multiple languages relevant to the pilot communities. Translation support will be reflected in the budget.

How do you intend to keep communities updated on the progress and outcomes of the project? Please add the names or usernames of these individuals responsible for updating the community
We will be updating people about the progress and outcomes of the project via the following channels:
  • Affiliate-specific mailing list, newsletters and social media channels
  • Sign-posted office hours for drop in conversations
  • Diff blog, if permitted!
  • Target outreach to specific stakeholder groups might be conducted through social media or email.
  • People responsible for this communication effort will be Antoni Mtavangu and Tochi Precious Friday
Who will be responsible for delivering on this project and what are their roles and responsibilities?
Name Role Description
Papa Baiden PM Overall project oversight, planning key milestones, and team coordination, reporting lead
Tochi Precious Friday Advisor Giving direction on organising Office hours, selection of advisers, input to approach to questionnaires and communities. Arranging support with in- location interviews
Additional wikimedian from WM Igbo support with in- location interviews support with in- location interviews
Antoni Mtavangu In-location WIR Organising mailing list/newsletter, organising translation support, input on selection of advisers, input to approach to questionnaires and communities, in- location interviews
Beatrice Zacco Research assistant/Comms expert Research setup and conducting, comms strategy guidance, support on recommendations formulation.

Additional information[edit]

If your activities include community discussions, what is your plan for ensuring that the conversations are productive? Provide a link to a Friendly Space Policy or UCoC that will be implemented to support these discussions.
We’ll be leaning on the WM’s Friendly space policy, as well as the UCoC.
If your activities include the use of paid online tools, please describe what tools these are and how you intend to use them.
None so far.
Do your activities include the translation of materials, and if so, in what languages will the translation be done? Please include details of those responsible for making the translations.
Our project will likely include the translation of materials. Whilst the project team's working language is English, translations may be needed for sharing wider the outputs of community engagement interviews (the intention is to upload these with transcripts to Commons). And possibly for making our research outputs more accessible. We’re still evaluating if the community need/benefit and will tentatively place a budget line for this in case translation is needed. Hesitance is that translating many key outputs adds complexity, cost and time.
Are there any other details you would like to share? Consider providing rationale, research or community discussion outputs, and any other similar information, that will give more context on your proposed project.
None so far


After your activities are complete, we would like to understand the draft implementation plan for your community. You will be required to prepare a document detailing this plan around a movement strategy initiative. This report can be prepared through Meta-wiki using the Share your results button on this page. The report can be prepared in your language, and is not required to be written in English.

In this report, you will be asked to:

  • Provide a link to the draft implementation plan document or Wikimedia page
  • Describe what activities supported the development of the plan
  • Describe how and where you have communicated your plan to relevant communities.
  • Report on how your funding was spent

Your draft implementation plan document should address the following questions clearly:

  • What movement strategy initiative or goal are you addressing?
  • What activities will you be doing to address that initiative?
  • What do you expect will happen as a result of your activities? How do those outcomes address the movement strategy initiative?
  • How will you measure or evaluate your activities? What tools or methods will you use to evaluate your activities?

To create a draft implementation plan, we recommend the use of a logic model, which will help you and your team think about goals, activities, outcomes, and other factors in an organized way. Please refer the following resources to develop a logic model:

Please confirm below that you will be able to prepare a draft implementation plan document by the end of your grant:

  • ...

Optionally, you are welcome to include other information you'd like to share around participation and representation in your activities. Please include any additional outcomes you would like to report on below:


How you will use the funds you are requesting? List bullet points for each expense. Don’t forget to include a total amount, and update this amount in the Probox at the top of your page too!

The requested budget and budget breakdown should be in your or recipient’s local currency. We send grant payments preferably in your local currency. In some exceptional cases (e.g. hyperinflation), we allow grant payments to be made in US dollars. If you are requesting a grant in a currency other than your local currency, please reach out to your Program Officer to discuss.

is available for review using this link. It is made in the Rapid Fund Budget Template.*



An endorsement from community members (especially from outside your community) will be part of the considerations when reviewing your application. Community members are encouraged to endorse your project request here!

Strong support Strong support An educative,eye opener and interesting project. With the aim of documentation and preservation of African heritage this project will have a huge impact towards the achievement of preservation of African history and culture. I strongly support this project for the sensitisation and it's positive impact it will have in our community Senator Choko (talk) 15:39, 8 April 2024 (UTC)

  • I support the project because it will help promote our culture which is our goal / aim as a group Dagentle (talk) 15:52, 8 April 2024 (UTC)
  • A good way to document underrepresented languages. I strongly support this project Lebron jay (talk) 15:59, 8 April 2024 (UTC)
  • Strong support Strong supportThis project is sure promising to be an achievement milestone in the Wikimedia community, therefore I give my support. Sayvhior (talk) 14:54, 10 April 2024 (UTC)

Strong support Strong support The project aims to bridge the gap between oral history traditions and digital accessibility, focusing on African stories on Wikipedia. It will create recommendations and a podcast project, enriching understanding of African history and empowering communities to access content conveniently.AYM8818]]Talk 16:55, 8 April 2024 (UTC)

  • Oral history documentation is one of the aspect of knowledge gap that needs to be put into consideration to ensure that our oral know doesn't go into extinction. This aspect of knowledge gap calls for deliberate effort to ensure its sustainability and it is on this note that I strongly support the implementation of this project. Iwuala Lucy (talk) 21:55, 8 April 2024 (UTC)
  • It is very educative and will help Igbo language to grow Beendy234 (talk) 07:39, 9 April 2024 (UTC)
  • It encourages and will also aid in giving visibility to Igbo language and culture Rose ugwoke (talk) 08:03, 9 April 2024 (UTC)


  • Volunteer I beleieve I will be very useful and efficient in this project because I will dedicate my time and everything i have got on this project. I hope you accept my request to join. Francis777udoka (talk) 12:08, 9 April 2024 (UTC)