Grants:Simple/Applications/Wikimedia Ukraine/2020/Program story for Final report
Coordinating and improving a large international photo contest, while guiding it through the pandemic
Since 2013, Wikimedia Ukraine has coordinated Wiki Loves Earth, the largest global photo contest dedicated to nature heritage. In 2020, we held the contest for the eighth time, with over 9,000 participants having uploaded over 106,000 photos from 34 countries. We guided the contest through the pandemic and managed to better support local teams by implementing new organizational improvements.
Wiki Loves Earth 2020: Key highlights
34 countries from 5 continents participated in the 8th edition of this Wiki Loves Earth. Among those, 7 countries have joined the competition for the first time: Belarus, Bolivia, Ireland, Guinea, Kenya, Rwanda, Turkey. The contest received 106,240 photos from 9,095 participants (notably, the vast majority of participants were newcomers — around 83% registered after the contest start). Both the number of countries and the number of photos became third largest in the contest’s history.
Supporting local organizers, running international communications, and coordinating the process of choosing international winners were among the most important tasks of the international team. Local teams submitted 10 winning photos of the national level to the international round. The international jury team, which was gathered by the international organizing team, has selected 15 international winners out of 340 finalists.
Improving organizational processes
In the learning story for the 2019 report, we detailed some of the improvements the international Wiki Loves Earth team had been hoping to make. We set out to achieve them in 2020 by hiring a dedicated project manager for Wiki Loves Earth.
We ended up achieving this goal — by late February of 2020, Wikimedia Ukraine found a successful candidate, who proved to become a good fit for the position. Thanks to allocating additional staff support, we improved organizational processes in several directions, most notably two.
- Improving internal communications & support of local teams
In 2020, we set out to provide greater support to local teams on every stage from helping with setting up local contests on Commons and promoting them on social media to setting up evaluation of winners.
Compared with previous years, we put more time and effort into expanding guidelines and holding online events. We also helped with recruiting volunteers for jury duties in national rounds of the contest.
Local teams noticed the change — the evaluation of international team’s work in the annual feedback form improved compared with the previous years.
- Improving external communications
The arrival of a dedicated project manager allowed the international team to systematize and improve external communications, such as social media activity. Particularly, we developed a distinct visual style for the contest’s promotional materials and increased the frequency of publications.
For example, on Facebook, the post with the contest results has received the biggest organic reach; it has been seen by over 7,300 people. We worked with the WMF to create an announcement to be spread on WMF channels. Also, the international WLE team cooperated with local teams in content creation, showcasing experiences of different countries. For example, in cooperation with the team of WLE in Sweden, a blog post about their interactive map of nature monuments was published; the team of WLE in Turkey prepared a blog post showcasing two stories of their winning photos.
- Gallery of international winners
Addressing the pandemic
The pandemic has been a major challenge for the whole Wikimedia movement, and Wiki Loves Earth is hardly an exception. Worldwide lockdowns struck in March — just as we were onboarding the contest’s project manager and rolling out preparations for the new contest edition.
However, although having had a clear negative impact, the pandemic did not end up causing major disruptions to the contest on the international level. Most of the credit goes to all the local teams that found creative ways to keep the contest afloat and develop it in their countries — but the international team also worked to guide the project through this public health emergency.
Here, three factors have been instrumental:
- Providing local teams with greater flexibility
Within several days after the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic and the WMF ceased funding of any offline events, the international Wiki Loves Earth team developed an action plan for addressing the pandemic.
The most important part was extending the traditional contest timeline by one month, from May-June to May-July. This extension provided local teams with more time and greater flexibility. (In hindsight, it was also useful from the epidemiological perspective because summer saw a decline of COVID-19 cases in many countries). Many countries, from Spain and Tanzania to Ukraine, used the opportunity to push contest dates to July.
We also developed a brief COVID-19 guide for local teams and consulted with many teams privately.
- Organizing more online events & improving online guides
In 2020, the international team for the first time organized several online events for volunteers from local organizing teams and for the general public.
For local organizers, we held two training sessions — on working with lists of nature monuments and on the jury tool. The webinars were open to all local teams, and recordings have been made available publicly. These events were complemented by creating and improving respective online guides (general guide & specific guides: 1, 2).
For a broader audience, we held an award ceremony devoted to international results. Winners, jury members, and organizers were invited to speak, and anyone could watch the event. 30 people participated in real time, and the recording has since attracted over 280 views.
- Offering alternatives to offline activities
In our COVID-19 messaging, we tried to share information on the ways online activities could replace offline events — for example, on organizing online content campaigns or encouraging participants to dig through their archives rather than traveling.
Plans for 2021
In 2021, Wikimedia Ukraine will hold Wiki Loves Earth for the ninth time. We have collected feedback from local teams and have started preparations for the next edition, which will commence in the spring.
On the operational level, we face the problem of navigating the second year of the pandemic, and we also strive to further improve support of the local teams. One of the areas we want to improve is promotion of the contest — both on the international level and developing a toolkit for the local teams to promote their local competitions. Media usage is also the field the international team would like to focus more attention on.
Strategically, we are planning to hold consultations on Wiki Loves Earth’s long-term plans, particularly on the possibility for the contest to be held by a dedicated team with Wikimedia Ukraine’s support rather than as a WMUA’s subproject.