Hubs/Documentation/12 March 2022 Global Conversations
The Global Conversation event on Regional and Thematic Hubs was held on Saturday, March 12, 2022. It was attended by 84 Wikimedians with diverse backgrounds and experiences from across the movement. Participation at the event was open with a request for pre-registration. As a result, anyone interested in the hubs’ conversation could participate, irrespective of their actual intent to start or continue working on a regional or thematic hub.
The goal of the event was to:
- Share the findings from the Hubs Dialogue qualitative research interview series.
- Validate the key findings of the research with the participants.
- Clarify whether the identified generally shared needs could be fulfilled by a Hub structure only.
- Gather more input for drafting a preliminary definition of Hubs.
The event's main goal was to present the Hubs Dialogue report and discuss its findings. The report concluded that there are four generally “shared needs” for hubs: 1. knowledge sharing, 2. skill building, 3. coordination and 4. staff support. Most participants agreed with these findings, and many of them suggested adding the following needs: 5. Funding/resourcing and 6. technical infrastructure.
Within the discussion it was concluded that none of these “shared needs” are necessarily exclusive to hubs, because they can be fulfilled by other structures (e.g. affiliates). This wouldn’t make hubs redundant to affiliates, but complimentary to them in amplifying and coordinating. Most participants, however, agreed that hubs would be much less useful if they are unable to meet these aforementioned needs. Additionally, at least one need (that of “coordination”, with the possible addition of “staff support”) was seen as an essential role for hubs.
The next steps are for the Movement Strategy & Governance team of the Wikimedia Foundation to come up with a preliminary definition for hubs. This definition may help create the needed clarity about the role of hubs, and how they are related to existing structures in the Wikimedia movement.
Hubs Dialogue Key Findings
The Hubs Dialogue is a series of interviews conducted prior to the March 12 Global Conversation that served as a data-rooted basis for the discussions at the event.
The interview pool included:
- the groups that are clearly planning or working on establishing a regional or thematic hub in their context
- the groups that are already working in hub-like collaboration structure, but do not necessarily intend to become a hub.
The focus of the Hubs Dialogue was on mapping the needs shared across many or most of the groups, and needs that are more context-specific and/or particular to few groups.
|Generally Shared Needs
(identified across ≥6 groups)
(identified across ≤5 groups)
Important note: If a need was not identified during the conversations, it does not mean that the need does not exist. It simply did not emerge during the conversations.
To find out what the event participants think about the presented general shared needs, and to confirm their understanding, a simple poll was used. The following question was asked for each of the four shared needs “Does each of the shared needs align with your experience with hubs?”
A 4-level Likert scale was used for defining the agreement level with an added option of “not sure”. 55 people decided to participate in the polling exercise. The agreement rate in the table is calculated by summing “strongly agree” and “agree” choices. The mean has been calculated by deducting the “not sure” votes and by multiplying each vote by its agreement level (“strongly agree” = 4, “agree” = 3, “Disagree” = 2, “Strongly disagree” = 1).
|Need||Strongly Agree (4)||Agree (3)||Disagree (2)||Strongly Disagree (1)||Not sure (N/A)||Agreement rate||Mean|
|Knowledge: Centralized knowledge exchange in a decentralized way||27||49%||21||38%||2||4%||1||2%||4||7%||87%||3.45|
|Skills: Centralized Support and capacity building||34||62%||16||29%||1||2%||2||4%||2||4%||91%||3.55|
|Coordination: Formal entity to support convening, representation, partnering, and advocacy||27||49%||22||40%||0||0%||2||4%||5||9%||89%||3.52|
|Staff Support: Sustainable Staffing or consistent contribution to the movement||25||45%||17||31%||4||7%||2||4%||7||13%||76%||3.35|
In conclusion, there is a relatively high level of confirmation and validation that the identified shared needs are generally aligned with the participants’ experiences with hubs.
Initial reactions to the findings and the poll
- Starting point - It was observed that people are generally rather thinking about the very first next step of implementing a Hub with the implication to focus on research and community conversations, which are necessary to conduct to progress. Such a step that doesn’t really require many resources, but requires staff support and coordination. A purely theoretical discussion about hubs is not really beneficial or interesting for most of the communities, but the conversation should be more pragmatic and be focused on trying to figure out how implementing hubs is going to work practically.
- No mention of resourcing needs - Several participants raised concerns about the absence of the aspects of money, fundraising, grant-making, and financial support of the Hubs overall. Some participants had estimates that running a hub would cost a significant amount of money to run. In relation following questions were raised:
- Why would we spend that money?
- What are we going to get for the money?
- Why are we doing so much fundraising out of one place?
- How are we distributing our funds?
A hypothesis was made that the resourcing has not been identified as a need because it's already taken for granted.
- Clarity needed for resourcing structure - The point was made to surface a need for a structure to receive money, because it was assumed that if there wasn’t a regional structure able to receive regional money, only chapters with capacity could receive it. However, it was recognized that the Wikimedia Foundation Community Resources team has worked on new grant-making programs to move toward more regional structures. It was perceived as happening in response to the Wikimedia Movement Strategy, yet the concern was raised that these processes have not been truly linked to the movement strategy implementation process.
- Thematic collaboration structure - The work that happens in the Wikimedia Foundation around regional partnerships and regional capacities such as GLAM and education and campaign organization was also highlighted as work well aligned with Movement Strategy, yet poorly connected to the implementation process. This work would need to have connections to the implementation of thematic hubs.
- Technical infrastructure - A participant was surprised that the need for better contextually fitting technical infrastructure did not emerge as a generally shared need.
- It was observed that it is a border-line need between context-specific and generally shared needs.
- Open questions
- Questions were raised about hubs' governance and ownership, but, while an important subject to resolve, yet not an immediate issue to resolve for the short term.
- Questions about the relationship between Wikimedia Foundation and Hubs were raised, especially on the programmatic level.
As the conversation progressed, the event participants were asked to define which shared needs must be met by hubs in order for them to be useful for communities that they are working with; and which needs do not necessarily have to be met by hubs. A total of 56 participants filled out the poll, choosing between the options of “must have”, “nice to have”, and “not sure”.
|Shared Needs||Must have||Nice to have||Not sure|
From the poll data it can be understood that a good number of the event participants thought the four shared needs are necessary. In ranking, the “skills'' come first as a must-have (75%), closely followed by the “knowledge” theme (71%). The “coordination” (57%) and “staff support” themes ranked notably lower, yet still exceeded the 50% threshold. The following chart illustrates the spread of opinions.
Discussion: Can the need be only met by a hub? If so, why?
- A general comment stated that whether or not a need can only be met by a hub depends on the region. For example, legal support can only be done through a hub in some regions, while in others chapters could provide or coordinate such type support. Regions with structured entities could advance centralized knowledge, but in emerging regions, without hubs, it was difficult to centralize and coordinate efforts, participants said.
- Participants agreed that the need “Centralized knowledge exchange delivered in a decentralized way” doesn't necessarily need to be met by a hub only. However, it would make centralizing knowledge exchange in a decentralized way easier and more systematic. Having a hub would give impetus to existing processes which are managed by volunteers and sometimes in isolation, which means slowness and dependency on many external factors. A clear structural link between the need for centralizing knowledge and staff support was made.
- Using Hubs for centralizing knowledge would decrease dependency on single, larger affiliates and could create capacities through a pure learning structure, a participant said. So far, knowledge sharing would happen language-based and informally, a Hub could provide structures for multilingual and more formal ways of knowledge sharing. A participant voiced the hope that having hubs would make knowledge easier to navigate.
- It was concluded that knowledge exchange through a hub structure could bring benefits, but was not necessarily tied to a hub per se.
- It was clarified that knowledge exchange and capacity building needed to be differentiated. Although they overlap, they're not necessarily the same thing.
- A participant mentioned that hubs could be helpful as a capacity-building structure, but similarly to the knowledge sharing aspect it shouldn’t be tied to Hubs alone.
- Also on coordination it was stated that Hubs could be useful to have coordination responsibilities in a region or a topic, but a hub alone would not have the capacity to manage the coordination.
Discussion: Would hubs still be useful if this need is not met?
- Most of the participants supported the idea that Hubs would still be useful, even if the mentioned needs would not be met. However, it was generally perceived that without filling these needs the hubs would be less valuable. Even if other resources or structures would fulfill some of them, Hubs would still be useful, participants said.
- Participants raised about the cumbersome set-up process for Hubs, and thus, alienating volunteer resources from the originally raised needs from communities. Also, participants mentioned that Hubs should support existing structures and be a means to end.
- The idea was raised that Hubs could allow for articulation between the affiliates’ volunteers and other stakeholders on a higher level than now. They could also connect capacity-building processes in context and serve as knowledge sharing platforms, i.e. hubs would function as a connectors between knowledge sharing and skills development/capacity-development.
- It was voiced that overlapping structures/functions between a Hub and existing affiliates wouldn’t necessarily imply a redundancy or inefficiency, as taking up such responsibilities in a more structured and coordinated way could be useful.
- Open questions:
- At the moment, it is not clear which existing responsibilities taken by affiliates would overlap with future Hub structures.
- A clear distinction between a Hub and affiliates was perceived as missing.
- Hubs serving as a compendium (collection) of knowledge was seen as useful, implying that such structures would take off stewarding meta knowledge. However, it was raised that the amount of work of stewarding and curating such knowledge shouldn’t be underestimated, as well as the challenge to make it accessible.
- Participants expressed that Hubs should be an important structure for skill building, but not monopolizing it. At the same time, skills building was perceived as one of the primary purposes of a hub, and without it, hubs will be less useful. Even more importantly, it was suggested that contextualization of skill building could only be done through Hubs.
- Another participant’s statement stating that skills development was completely central for hubs received much support among participants. The hope was expressed that while affiliates’ leaders and volunteers were already doing this, hubs would be able to amplify this work. Hubs would not provide a replacement for the work done on affiliate level, but rather a way of structuring it better and doing it in a more efficient way.
- As an example a participant suggested content partnerships initiatives, which required a lot of support, resources, training, etc. Having a thematic hub could provide support to make sure that more people in the movement were enabled to work on it.
- A participant commented that hubs were largely a response to the failure of the movement at reliable capacity building, as current structures wouldn’t and couldn’t meet this need.
- Participants agree that Coordination was a valuable core part of the hub concept, being an important aspect of both regional and thematic activities, and without it would be considered useless.
- Currently, coordination is in many regions and across many themes were volunteer's job, and a hub structure could help structure and coordinate efforts in many ways
- Overall, a regional or thematic hub could function as one front door to connecting and information sharing in a particular region or regarding a particular theme. It would be one front door entity that is coordinating efforts in a decentralized way. This would imply also ‘partnering capacity’ by being a legal entity, e.g. in a region without formalized affiliates.
- Having a formal entity to support convening or representation, partnering and advocacy is related to the problems of communities needing a social space to connect with each other. Smaller communities and affiliates were not able to voice their problems or needs in certain ways, a participant said. Having a coordinating entity doing it on a larger scale would be important and useful.
- One participant said that Hubs were needed to connect similar projects and needs, using Wiki Loves competitions as an example. This would lower the burden on individual organizers to reinvent the wheel and make it easier for new similar initiatives to get started.
- Coordination needs wouldn’t necessarily have to be met by hubs only, but they would give this more levity at least within the movement and hopefully outside as well.
- The hope was that Hub could support structures for people, groups ,and organizations, who want to participate and do it without top-down control, but with a stronger bottom-up approach and peer to peer support.
Theme: Staff Support
- The need for staffing support was widely considered useful, but not compulsory.
- In contrast there was a perspective shared that staffing is absolutely needed for the hubs, as without it, hubs would be useless, at least in the region where work is totally done by volunteers, while the same work is paid elsewhere. Overall, for a hub to function efficiently to deliver these knowledge, skills, and coordination tasks that have been defined, there is a need for staff support, and that is often the gap that people feel that exists, a participant said.
- It was noted that having staffing support would really help with proper documentation and have information available across the hubs, as documentation was not a popular activity for volunteers.
- It was noted that staffing support probably depends on the needs of the hub, as for example, a regional hub without legal support for advocacy would be pretty useless. However, for regional hubs that don’t provide the support that most affiliates do, it would still be useful if other needs were met.
- There was a shared concern and hope that resourcing hubs would not shift the support away from other entities.
- It was elaborated that depending on what the tasks of the hub will take up, some of those tasks might be also handled in some affiliates, yet hubs should be resourced to support, and maybe actually to take over some of those tasks that cannot be successfully done by smaller entities (but not completely).
- Open questions:
- For some hubs, like regional, how would chapters need to take some responsibility in contributing to the staffing of the hub in itself?
- This brings another question around WMF staff, how would they be contributing to regional needs or meeting some regional needs?
Evolving Opinions Check
After conducting the discussions, the event participants were asked to take the poll regarding the nature of the needs again, i.e. they were asked for the second time “Does this shared need correspond to a must-have or nice-to-have attribute of hubs?”
The goal was to note whether there has been any evolution in their thoughts regarding how important the shared needs are. There were a total of 41 event participants engaging with the poll (15 people, 27% decrease compared to the first poll). The results were following:
|Shared Needs||Must have||Nice to have||Not sure|
In the second poll the ranking of the “skills'' continues to be the highest as a must-have (80%). The gap with other needs has increased, with the “knowledge” theme ranking second (66%), closely followed by the “coordination” (63%). The “staff support” theme continues to be ranked lowest as a must-have (56%). All themes continued to exceed the 50% threshold. It is notable that while the uncertainty (i.e. selection of “not sure” option) regarding the needs was reduced by the discussions in the “knowledge”, “skills’, and “coordination” areas, it increased in the “staff support” area.
The following chart illustrates the spread of opinions.
When comparing the results of the second poll with the first one, the percentages did not overall differ significantly. Especially when taking into consideration that the number of participants decreased and that the participant pool was not necessarily the same for the two polls.
The biggest difference between the two polls was in the percentage of participants who thought the “knowledge” need is a “must-have” (which changed from 71% to 66%), and those who thought that it is a “nice to have” (increased from 21% to 32%). It is also notable that following the discussions the overall classification of needs as “must-haves” has generally reduced and their classification as “nice-to-haves” increased.
|Shared Needs||Knowledge||Skills||Coordination||Staff Support|
|Must have||Poll 1||40||42||32||30|
|Nice to have||Poll 1||12||11||22||22|
|Not sure||Poll 1||4||3||2||4|
In conclusion, however, the differences do not show that people changed their minds significantly based on the event discussions. Overall, it is obvious that participants think that knowledge sharing and skills development are the most important needs that hubs can fulfill, followed by the coordination needs.
- Some participants requested to run the polls per region, to make sure that needs across different contexts are captured.
- Some participants suggested that these questions should be broken down depending on the context. Otherwise, some communities will feel a bit worried that if the majority think that something is not very important, it will not be taken into consideration.
Global Alignment 
Overall: Ensure clarity about what hubs are and what needs to be done to pilot a hub.
It will take time to get to a really good formal agreement across the movement about what qualifies as a hub, and the exclusivity of hubs that makes it different from affiliates.
1/ Preliminary definition - facilitate an agreement regarding the preliminary definition of regional and thematic hubs
Currently, we are doing research and starting to pilot to probe, experiment, and learn for future practice. We still need to form a preliminary definition for the hubs and map out what seems to be essential for a hub. We need to answer questions like how do hubs actually address each of these needs and which of them reflect the essential aspects of the hubs more than others?
As a result, a next step is to propose a preliminary definition based on the discussions held, which will create more clarity for anyone working on or thinking about hubs. We will need to ensure that whatever we define is not abstract, but rather pragmatic and rooted in practice.
2/ Minimum Viable Piloting Criteria - facilitate a shared understanding regarding the criteria that pilot hubs need to fulfill
Having these criteria would support piloting parties having clarity regarding the work that needs to happen and also would generate accountability of hub pilots towards the whole movement. We are thinking about having a continuous conversation around this minimum piloting criteria. These criteria will also have implications in relation to the funding of hub pilots, as the funded parties would need to comply with the reached agreement.
In addition, this conversation needs to be well connected and aligned with what we will be working on in the Movement Charter conversations. As the charter will map out the roles and responsibilities for the movement, the regional and thematic hubs formal definition will be an important part of the document. In addition, the resourcing questions will probably be important in the charter conversations and development, as well as our mutual accountability ones. We need to ensure that hubs conversations and lessons we will be learning from pilots will be well connected to these discussions ahead of us.
3/ Context-specific needs: Ensure that contextual support needs are addressed and used as a platform for stronger peer connections
In the contextual part, we need to figure out how we can create stronger peer connections across the movement, so that people working on hubs and thinking about hubs will interact with each other directly in a synchronized way. This will ensure that people facing the similar challenges and opportunities would share and collaborate to ensure progress on the hubs track and avoid duplication or redundancies.
Feedback form evaluation
As is common after Movement Strategy events, the Movement Strategy & Governance team had invited all participants to fill out a feedback form (via Google Survey), the results were published as slides.In total, 33 of 72 participants had filled out the form (~45%). Key highlights from the evaluation:
- Overall, a huge majority of participants enjoyed the event and said the overall experience was very positive or positive (~75%). Roughly the same amount of participants (81%) “worth the time to attend the workshop”. Only a small majority couldn’t agree or disagree / didn’t agree.
- Three quarter of the participants (72%) agreed that the event was an opportunity to voice their opinion on the topic, much less than back in November (90%). However, the number of participants agree that to the statement that they’re have a clearer understanding of what “Hubs” are increased from 53 % to 70 %.
- We asked if such events were useful to move forward on Movement Strategy overall, opinions seem to be split: While almost two-third strongly agree or agree (19 + 43 = 62%), around 24 % neither agree nor disagree.
- For this event, we tried to increase accessibility by providing not English-only slides, but adding 4 additional language sections to each of the slides. When asked about usefulness about this addition – even at the cost of clearer overview – a huge appreciated this (50 % fully agree, 31 % agree). Only a small percentage couldn’t decided or didn’t agree (18% in total).
- When asked how we, as a Movement, should move forward on the topic of Regional and Thematic Hubs, a huge majority suggested to have more conversations on the topic on a regional or local level to understand the needs better (16 out of 33 answers). 7 participants said experimentation and piloting should be encourages, 3 participants suggested to come up a with a minimal viable definition already. 4 participants said they wouldn’t know how to move forward.