Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan

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The following report is the result of a research work performed by myself, Anass, in relation with the implementation of the initiative 25 of Wikimedia 2030 Strategy: Regional and thematic hubs. In particular, this report looks into the opinions of Arabic-speaking Wikimedia community members with respect to this area. It has three central themes, with the same weight, which are: (1) Data gathering (by surveying and interviewing community members), (2) Understanding how regional hubs are envisioned by the community (by presenting the answers), and (3) Analyze and recommend for the future, based on the presented results.

The research work was done from 2021-07 to 2021-08 and was funded with a rapid grant supplied by the Wikimedia Foundation. More details about the financial report and activity breakdown can be found here.

Introduction and background[edit]

General Introduction[edit]

Initiatives prioritized for global coordination, among which Cluster D - Initiative 25 (hubs)

Hubs were a central topic since the start of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy discussions. Already at the working group stage (2018-2020), four of the nine groups touched the area in their draft recommendations. Both regional (Resource Allocation - Distribute Existing Structures, Roles and Responsibilities - HUBS) and thematic (Advocacy Hub, Capacity Building Unit, Resource Allocation - Build Thematic Hubs) hubs were taken into consideration and investigated. The big interest for this concept was reflected in the final set of recommendations, as recommendation 4 "Ensure Equity in Decision Making" mentioned explicitly both thematic and regional hubs.

In order to prepare for the implementation, and to make things more concrete, a number of initiatives (45) were taken out of the ten final recommendations. Among these, the concept of hubs had its own initiative (#25), and was made part of the "priority initiatives for global coordination"[1], which were initiatives that needed to be worked on the international level, by the whole movement, and all its stakeholders.

The current work comes as a continuation of this path, so that a number of questions are clarified, or at least put, for a good preparation of the implementation. Given the large scope of hubs in general, and taking into consideration the limitations of this work, I have decided from the beginning to narrow down the research area to an investigation around the regional hubs in the Arabic-speaking region. The aim is that information can be used from this report even for implementation work related to other regions or even to thematic hubs, but I strongly encourage interested Wikimedians to perform the same work if possible for other areas, as the sum of all works can be complementary, and will cover the full spectrum of the movement.

This paper presents surveyed opinions and feedback related to regional hubs implementation in the Arabic-speaking region. For that, it starts first by introducing a brief background of the concept of hub in the Wikimedia context, before clarifying the report's scope and limitations. The theoretical framework is then presented, by explaining the chosen methodology, and sharing the questions that were asked in the survey, individual interviews, and on Facebook. Results are then looked into in terms of participation, answers and suggestions from participants. These results are analyzed, so that general tendencies could be highlighted, and that hanging questions and recommendations are presented. Finally, a general conclusion, and suggestions for future work close this report.

Background[edit]

Regional Hubs[edit]

Participants at WikiArabia 2019, one of the biggest in-person gatherings for Arabic speaking Wikimedians worldwide

In the English language, the word hub has several meanings depending on the context where it is used[2]. An example of relevant uses for this word are "A point where many routes meet and traffic is distributed, dispensed or diverted", and "A central facility providing a range of related services, such as a medical hub or an educational hub". In our movement, and during the 2018-2020 recommendations preparation, a glossary clarifying different concepts was created. This glossary included among others a suggested definition of hubs, presented as: "a type of support structure to enable a common space for coordinating activities and identifying and advocating for the needs of the communities and organizations they serve. They can focus on supporting a specific region or a global thematic area.", a definition inspired from Oxford learners dictionaries.

Historically, our movement saw the emergence of several community-led regional initiatives attempting to coordinate the work between affiliates and communities. These include Iberocoop, East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Regional Cooperation, Wikimedia Central and Eastern Europe, WikiFranca, the Arab Wikimedians Committee, and the WikiIndaba Steering Committee (WISCom). However, all these initiatives are not official movement structures (i.e. not have an affiliate status from the Affcom), and their work remains symbolic and informal for the moment.

Being aware about these challenges, the movement strategy gave an important place for the subject of regional hubs to be studied. Currently, this area does not have a clear owner, but future ownership seems to be in the hands of the global council. The movement charter, a founding "to-be" document for us, will precise the scope, roles and responsibilities of hubs. Since these structures are not yet set, unclarities persist about many details, and this transitional period sees discussions about several current stakeholders in positions of power or enforcement, that are adopting an awaiting attitude.

The Wikimedian Arabic speaking community[edit]

The Arabic speaking community is considered among the oldest established Wikimedia communities, centered mostly around the Arabic Wikipedia, started in 2003[3]. It is a complex ecosystem, given that Arabic is an official language in 22 countries in the world, and that Arabic speaking Wikimedians are spread over different continents and corners of the world. Since 2015, affiliates started to be created in the region. Nowadays, there are eight affiliates (all volunteer operated user groups) in the Arabic speaking countries, which are:

Current Wikimedia Affiliates (User Groups) in the Arabic speaking region

Besides these affiliates centered around geography, other affiliates are present in the region, for example Wikimedians of Tamazight User Group and Kurdish Wikimedians User Group, both centered around linguistic interests. Also, several dialects and languages originating from the region have their own projects and communities. Examples are: Taqbaylit Wikipedia, Sorani Wikipedia, and Egyptian Arabic Wikipedia, without mentioning other initiatives still at the incubator phase.

The biggest and most central project in the area is the Arabic Wikipedia. It is the 16th largest edition by article count (over 1.1 million articles), and the 8th in terms of depth.

Although the Arabic Wikipedia has more than 5000 active users (and a total of 2 million users)[4], and even if there are 11 affiliates operating in the region (8 geographical, and 3 linguistic), the local communities experience many challenges. Several of these challenges are detailed in these reports, that were synthetized during the first phase of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy. Among the most recurrent issues expressed by community members, was the need of support in various matters, related to coordination, but also staffing, as all the affiliates do solely rely on volunteers, who perform administrative routine tasks, reserved for paid staff in other parts of the world.

In this context, an earlier effort was made in the Arabic-speaking region, where affiliates came together and started to plan the creation of an entity called the "Arabic Committee". This committee was announced to be launched during WikiArabia 2019 in Marrakesh, and had members coming from all 6 affiliates of that time. Its aim was to coordinate, share knowledge, and foster partnerships across the region. Unfortunately, this first effort did not succeed due to internal challenges and governance problems. Nonetheless, it was a very valuable lesson for a group of volunteers who created a user group (Arabic Wikimedians User Group) attempting to "simplify resource sharing and skill development among Arabic speaking community in order to strengthen and empower Arabic speaking Wikimedians". This initiative is a user group, as the hub structure is not yet clarified, and is still at the discussion stage.

Earlier research[edit]

Given the recent aspect of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy work in general, as well as the big number of areas requiring attention and investigation, the only research work conducted earlier regarding Wikimedia hubs was the different discussions happening during the transition phase. In particular Global conversations of November 2020, December 2020 and January 2021 had dedicated discussions for the matter.

Following the global conversations, this work comes at an early stage of research about Wikimedia hubs, and aims to provide a new layer of material and information that can be used for a good future implementation.

Limitations[edit]

Although the scope of this project was already limited to ensure its feasibility, additional practical barriers needed to be taken into consideration along the way. These include:

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  • Scope re-adjustment - As soon as the first in-depth interviews were conducted, there was a clear indication that work with this specific regional hub is tightly connected with the Arabic language. In this context, and given that the Turkish and Farsi speaking communities are not strongly tied with the Arabic speaking community, most participants expressed explicitly their wish to have the scope readjusted to be around the language. Moreover, it seemed from an initial contact that the needs and challenges of Turkish and Farsi communities were much different than those in the Arabic region. A risk of engaging these communities would be that surveys and interviews would need to be conducted with different ways and approaches, which was not possible given the time and budget limitations of this project.
    • For these two reasons, I adapted the report to reflect this wish, and therefore, this report does not highlight a MENA regional hub, but rather a hub(s) centered on the Arabic language.
  • Data gathering - In statistics, it is important to reach a "representative sample" of the group that is studied. Even with the best effort of reaching out to all parts of the community, elements such as (1) absence of a specific group at the exact time this study is performed, (2) time limitation related to the project time plan, and capacity to interview a limited number of people, and (3) budget limitation, shrinking the time that could be allocated to this work, are limitations that affected data gathering, as it cannot be said that this study represents 100% of the community. However, by informing and disseminating information through popular channels, a big majority of the community was made of aware of this research, and those interested could reach out and provide input.
  • Technical issues - In many countries of the Arabic-speaking region, there are still several technical challenges preventing volunteers from communicating at their ease. Some countries experience a war situation (Syria, Yemen), while others suffer from energy crisis (Lebanon), and even electricity could not be provided. Unfortunately, and even if having a first discussion and engagement from volunteers from these areas, they could not provide their input (even in written form) due to the situation in their countries.
  • The pandemic - COVID-19 is still a problem in most of regions of the world. Even with the best preparations, meetings and discussions could easily be postponed or cancelled in the current circumstances. A number of volunteers could unfortunately not provide their opinion either because they contracted the virus, or because of indirect factors related to the sanitary situation in their area.
  • Missing background - Even if a big effort was put earlier to communicate about Wikimedia 2030 and its different initiatives (including regional hubs), many community members lacked the necessary background to discuss these subjects on a deep level. A number of discussions remained on a basic level, or were out of the scope of this work (as they became a reminder/crash course of movement strategy). This work was time consuming, and drained valuable hours from this project (although giving background is a well invested time for future discussions). Fortunately, many other people had a good background, and participated with excellent input and ideas :)

Although not all these challenges can be solved, some of them can be addressed in future works by anyone taking over this initiative. As a way forward regarding these limitations, I recommend the following:

  • Encourage several projects related to the same initiative. As each work will have limitations, gathering the pieces can prove being a good strategy to ensure a good representativity and inclusivity in the final product.
  • Broaden the scope of the projects. It is true that rapid grants allow a fast and efficient funding, and are easy to manage, but from the other side, its limited budget (2000 USD) cannot fund bigger research initiatives that can be very useful in this context. The maximum budget of a rapid grant is equivalent to a full-time work for a consultant, which is not enough to provide an extensive report on important and big initiatives. Gathering data and analyzing it (especially for bigger communities) can alone take more than a week, unless information is cut (having less interviews, sending less emails), which is not good for the quality of the final report.
    • Alternatively, one solution that could be thought about is to receive support from WMF staff, who can take over some administrative tasks related to these research works, or perform translations, so that most of the project working hours are actually allocated to the main purpose of the studies.
  • Design and prepare video tutorials explaining the different Wikimedia 2030 initiatives. These videos shall then be shared with the community. This way, information could be found easily in case there is need for it. Moreover, the video format has proven to be essential in our time, and is one of the most used means to share knowledge. This logic applies to our community members who expressed several times their interest in video tutorials.
  • Investigate the possibility of supporting affiliates with technical solutions. It is understandable that a single Wikimedian in a conflict zone will not request a grant from WMF to buy a data plan to have a call with Anass about regional hubs, but if this person knows that their local affiliates (if it exists) can support them, either by refunding them, or by offering their offices/meeting rooms for a digital meeting, it can be very helpful to get their voice as an underrepresented group to be heard.
    • This possibility shall be investigated in the long term, so that local affiliates (in our case user groups) have a certain amount that they can use flexibly when a certain situation needs it, such as the ones mentioned in this report.

Acknowledgement[edit]

I would like to thank the Wikimedia Foundation, and more specifically the Strategy team, for funding this research work and making it possible. I would also like to extend my thanks to all community members and affiliates who gave from their time and participated in this project, either by endorsing the proposal, participating in the discussions, or sharing information. Without you, this report would not have been elaborated at the way it is now. Thank you!

Theoretical Framework[edit]

Methodology[edit]

In order to understand the Arabic-speaking community members opinions about the regional hubs, a mixed approach was used. In particular, I wanted to ensure that those not having the possibility (or not wanting) to directly engage in meetings and calls could still participate. For this reason, participants could provide their opinions and feedback either through answering an anonymous survey (asynchronously), by attending 1:1 video meetings, or by answering Facebook polls. Questions were made as clear and direct as possible, and contained a mix of simple "yes/no" questions and deeper advanced queries needing longer and justified answers.

The timespan of participation was rather generous (given the limitations of the project), and was extended to more than 3 weeks, allowing a maximum to participate. Information about this work was shared through different means, including Facebook posts, messages in the Arabic village pump, emails to all affiliates in the region, and personal message in social media.

Survey Questions[edit]

Between the end of June and the start of July 2021, a survey in Arabic and English was shared with community members through different means, to allow them to share their opinion about a hub/hubs in their region. The platform on which the survey was shared was Google Forms. Although it is not an open source solution, and although it is owned by a private company, none of the participants expressed any discomfort using it. This said, and being aware about these points, future alternatives can be investigated for future work.

The questions that were asked in our survey were the following:

Click to read the survey questions
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  • How do you describe your Wikimedian activity?
    • Online community/Editor
    • User Group member/Offline community
    • Both
    • Other
  • Do you think that your region needs a Wikimedia hub?
    • Yes
    • No
  • What do you define as your region (in terms of a hub)?
    • Arabic speaking region
    • Only North Africa/ Only the Middle East
    • Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
    • Other
  • Why do you need a hub in your region? What is currently missing that a hub could solve?
  • How do you see a hub in your region? Can you describe it? (Will it have offices, where? Who will work there? What roles and responsibilities they have? etc.)
  • What should happen so that you can have your dream regional hub? Who should work to implement it? (is it the communities? or the WMF? what are the steps?)
  • How should the relationship between the regional hubs and user groups be? Should they be independent or not? How do you ensure that they will not overlap?
  • How should the relationship between the regional hubs and the Wikimedia Foundation be? Will the hubs be independent or be under WMF?
  • Who will benefit from the hub's work? Is it online communities or offline? Or both?
  • Who should work in the hubs? Is it employees? Or volunteers? Who will hire them? And based on what? Will they be community members or external?
  • In which city/country should the regional hubs office be? Why?

For those interested, surveys can still be consulted both in Arabic and English.

Individual Interviews[edit]

In addition to the public survey, 10 individual interviews were scheduled with community members who expressed their interest in sharing deeper insights, and providing extended feedback about regional hubs. Questions asked during these interviews were detailed, given the possibility of interaction, and that time allowed for longer discussions and clarifications. Not all participants answered all questions, but the original pool contained a complete set that was answered by a majority. The questions were the following:

Click to read the 1:1 interviews questions
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  • Why do you think you should have a hub in your region?
  • In an ideal world, how would a regional hub look like in your region by 2030?
  • Concretely, can you describe how a regional hub will be? What will be its structure? Its roles and responsibilities?
  • What do you define as your region? Why?
    • What about the other languages in the region? Will the hub cover them as well?
  • Will the hub serve the online or offline communities? or both?
  • What is the difference between a hub and a chapter or user group?
  • How will the implementation of the hub that you imagine be done?
    • What are the concrete steps that need to be taken to achieve a regional hub?
    • Who should take the responsibility over the implementation of the hub?
    • How do you think legal support can be provided to a hub?
  • What about people at the hub? Will they be volunteers or employees?
    • Who will work in this hub? Is it employees from the hub itself or the WMF?
  • What is most important for a hub? Is it legitimacy or competence?
  • How do you envision the relationship between the hub and the WMF?
  • How can we ensure that the work on the hub will not fail as other earlier initiatives?
    • How can we ensure that the hub will not be in conflict with the local affiliates?
  • There are different communities in the world. Do they all need to have hubs? In the same way?

Daily Facebook Polls[edit]

During 6 successive days (4-9 July 2021), a number of direct questions were asked to community members through the "Arabic Wikipedia group", a Facebook group with more than 11.000 members, most of which are Wikipedia editors. Every day, a specific question was asked, with a number of alternatives offered as suggested answers, but allowing also to add other alternatives, or to comment on the post. The six discussed questions were the following:

Click to read the Facebook poll questions
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  • Do we need a hub in our region to centralize efforts and coordinate with the community and the affiliates?
    • Yes
    • No
    • Unclear
  • In your opinion, who should take the initiative to create a regional hub?
    • The Wikimedia Foundation
    • The community
    • Both
  • How many hubs should be in our region? Why?
    • One
    • Many
  • Should the regional hub report to the WMF or be independent?
    • Report to the WMF
    • Independent
  • In your opinion, how will the hub interact with the affiliates?
    • The affiliates will report to the hub
    • They will all be equal, the hub itself will be an affiliate
    • Affiliates will be completely independent from the hub
  • What is the best location to have offices for a regional hub? Why?

Results[edit]

Participation[edit]

The total participation was of about 78 participants across all different surveying channels. They were roughly divided equally in terms of geography (between North Africa and Western Asia), and with a gender representation of 70% identifying themselves as men, and 30% as women. The detailed breakdown can be found in the sub-sections below. It is worth to mention that many participants gave their feedback in more than a forum, especially that the Facebook pool as well as the survey were open for all.

Although effort was put into ensuring inclusivity and equity, there still remained gaps to be bridged. The typical person offering their feedback in this work were men from Western Asia, while the most missing voices were those of women from North Africa. If this reflects somehow the current situation of the community (and that participants cannot be blamed for being active and willing to answer surveys), there needs to be more work in the future to have a broader diversity in the editors/affiliate members spectrum, in all Wikimedia communities, as recommended by the 2030 Strategy.

Survey[edit]

25 persons answered the survey in Arabic language. As the survey was anonymous, it did not contain any elements susceptible of identifying or tracing the participants, so that they could share their feedback in complete transparency and freedom. The answers to the first question did however provide a good insight about the background of the contributors, as more than the half (13 people) stated that they were active both online and offline.

Individual Interviews[edit]

10 individual interviews were conducted for this study. Each of these interviews lasted exactly one hour, and they touched all the same subjects and areas. Their purpose was to dig deeper in the different motivations and arguments that community members have around the regional hubs. All participants who wished to meet for an individual interview had this opportunity. This guaranteed a good representativity, and solid information. Of the interviewees were 7 men, and 3 were women. 6 were from Western Asia, while 4 were North African. A good balance between experienced, newcomers, offline and online editors was respected, to guarantee a forum of expression for all community constituents.

Facebook Polls[edit]

The Facebook polls had a particularity which was that they could be answered by the same people, as everyone had the possibility of voting for the question of the day. For this reason, and to simplify, I considered the number of "Facebook" participants, as equal to the number of participants in the day that saw most influence, which is 43 persons. Although this number might be less than the real one, this approximation is balanced by the fact that other participants gave feedback also through other channels. The detailed participation breakdown for Facebook polls per day is:

  • Day 1 (July 4): 25 participants
  • Day 2 (July 5): 43 participants
  • Day 3 (July 6): 23 participants
  • Day 4 (July 7): 15 participants
  • Day 5 (July 8): 13 participants
  • Day 6 (July 9): 17 participants

Opinions and feedback[edit]

In this section, answers to the different questions that were asked are presented by groups (depending on the channels), so that the reader can have a general initial sense about them, before analysis is done in later sections.

Survey[edit]

One-pager summarizing key takeaways from the individual interviews.

Question 1. How do you describe your Wikimedian activity?
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  • Both online and offline (52%) - 13/25
  • User Group member/Offline community (24%) - 6/25
  • Online community/Editor (16%) - 4/25
  • Other (8%) - 2/25
Question 2. Do you think that your region needs a Wikimedia hub?
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  • Yes (92%) - 23/25
  • No (8%) - 2/25
Question 3. What do you define as your region (in terms of a hub)?
Regional Hubs Report - Survey - Graph Question 3.jpg
  • Arabic speaking region (48%) - 12/25
  • Middle East and North Africa (MENA) (24%) - 6/25
  • Only North Africa/ Only the Middle East (20%) - 5/25
  • Other (8%) - 2/25
Question 4. Why do you need a hub in your region? What is currently missing that a hub could solve?
  • Communication
    • Most of the community members from my region are not able to convey their voice because of the lack of a common language between them and the Wikimedia Foundation. There is a poor organization and coordination between the foundation and the communities, as well as a lack of interest from the foundation to communicate with the Arabic speaking community. There is a need to address the problems that exist in our community and communicate them to the foundation, so that our projects are not hindered. A hub can definitely fulfill this role.
    • More dialogue, consultation and coordination.
  • Coordination
    • Coordinating efforts, training community members, and opening global job opportunities.
    • Coordination and teamwork in projects that take into account the needs and context of the local community.
    • Unify work, help organizing efforts between Arabs, as well as managing projects and activities in all Arab countries, and increase cultural communication between the different community members.
    • Coordination, training, organization of work development forums.
    • Unification of the work of the existing Arab working groups, as well as the inclusion of societies that do not have user groups.
    • Coordination across the region.
    • Adopting an impartial and accurate opinion regarding politically and religiously sensitive issues
  • Documentation
    • A historical, archaeological and scientific hub.
    • Increase users' activities, enriches content about the region and its main notable people.
  • Human Resources
    • Providing full-time employees to enable official partnerships with organizations in the region.
    • To be independent from Wikimedia Foundation and to provide jobs for the region.
    • To give opportunities to a more people in the region to work on their local matters.
  • Linguistic Development
    • To better represent and promote sister projects of the region, enrich the content in Arabic and bring the largest possible number of speakers of this language.
    • Linguistic coordination between countries, and between the Middle East and the Maghreb.
  • Operations
    • We need a regional hub that covers the activities of the converging Arab geographical centers, such as the Levant, the Arabian Gulf, and the Maghreb.
    • Catalyze the launching of activities in the region.
    • Spread Wikimedia culture in the region, motivate people to volunteer and enrich open source content.
  • Support
    • The burden in the Arabic Wikipedia is huge, and a support from an organized structure is much needed to allow a more diverse participation from Arabic speaking wikimedians.
    • Deeper and advanced work in the region with local experts.
Question 5. How do you see a hub in your region? Can you describe it? (Will it have offices, where? Who will work there? What roles and responsibilities they have? etc.)
  • Community Driven
    • The role of the hub must go beyond coordination. It must be a decision-making entity and participate in the growth of the community and of the Arabic Wikipedia. Anyone with a neutral mindset and required skills aiming to solve our community challenges, can be working in this hub.
    • A regional hub with offices located in a big city in the region. Its roles: Coordination, training, searching for funding, financial and moral support, etc.
    • It must have an office with a majority of employees emanating from the community, and who should be based in the region. This hub will coordinate and follow regional projects. It will be the local affiliates and the online community that will select the employees through democratic means and discussions.
    • A hub that puts the Arabic speaking region at its center. Its leaders and employees should be elected directly from the community.
  • Coordinating Hub
    • I think a regional hub helps in policy discussions, in reflecting the issues of the region, unifying efforts and working to bring viewpoints closer and reflect, as well as the identity of the different communities. Decisions about the hub are made by the community and in coordination with the WMF, to set roles and responsibilities in consultation with local communities.
    • This hub needs to cooperate and collaborate with local universities interested in technology, and support the volunteers with different resources and capacities.
  • Regional Structure
    • Regional office. Possibly remote. Hierarchical management system. Its employees are chosen from the active community members.
    • Regional office in Amman, Jordan. It will be operated by community members and groups remotely. The community will choose the employees.
    • A hub in the United Arab Emirates and another one in a neutral area in North Africa. They should have offices and employees, from all over the region.
    • It can be located in the country that has the largest community, but with a board with representatives from the different countries of the region.
    • Structure operating virtually, with online employees and volunteers.
    • From its name it should be a big structure gathering affiliates and volunteers from the region. We should clarify the difference between a hub and a regular "regional gathering".
    • A hub with an independent office in a big capital, that will employ community members with the best skills.
  • Shared Responsibility
    • Shared responsibility between the Foundation and the community.
    • I suggest that the hub reports to the WMF and is under it. However, decisions and choices should come from the community. The hub should be diverse and not have a majority of employees from a specific area.
Question 6. What should happen so that you can have your dream regional hub? Who should work to implement it? (is it the communities? or the WMF? what are the steps?)
  • The Wikimedia Foundation should start the implementation
    • It is not realistic to expect the volunteers communities to start hubs. The WMF should take its responsibilities and drive this work. Communities will still play an important role in decision making, as these hubs are aimed towards them.
    • It is very clear on who should start the work. It is the part that has power, resources, and financial means to do this work.
  • The community should start the implementation
    • Affiliate leaders can start the work.
    • Affiliates and the online community need to agree to start a collaboration and draft a charter to build trust and be able to start a regional hub.
    • Affiliates need to be more active so that the WMF sees their activity and motivate the need for a hub. Information about this hub needs to be communicated to the community so that it is not disconnected as it is happening now.
    • User groups should take the initiative.
    • The community should take the initiative.
    • Arabic Wikipedia administrators should start this work.
    • Volunteers according to seniority and hierarchy
  • Collaboration
    • Consultation meeting between the communities should be coordinated/facilitated by the Foundation, until being able to advance to the next steps.
    • The Foundation should take the initiative, but in collaboration with the local communities and by informing and updating them.
    • The community should take the initiative, but with close support and follow-up from the WMF. There are many trustworthy community members who can be trusted to start this work.
Question 7. How should the relationship between the regional hubs and user groups be? Should they be independent or not? How do you ensure that they will not overlap?
  • Independent
    • Affiliates should be independent from the hub, in the sense that each group has its own structure and projects. Of course, these affiliates will contact the hub and collaborate with it, but the limitation should be clear. The hub shall not intervene in affiliates matters except in exceptional situations.
    • They should be completely independent. However, volunteers could be member of both if they wish to.
    • They should be independent, but coordinate with each other to advance with projects and programs.
    • The regional hub should have a much broader scope that the user groups, and work in different matters that the groups cannot cover.
  • Linked
    • There should be a good strategy and plan to be developed in order to ensure that the hub coordinates well between the affiliates, but without directly interfering with their work. Also the user groups should support the hub and be active in its work, so that the relation is from both ways.
    • The hub should enable coordination between user groups.
    • The hub exists to support the affiliates and should be linked with them.
    • The affiliates should report directly to the regional hub instead of the WMF, as it knows their local context better.
    • The regional hub will be an intermediary between the local affiliates and the foundation, therefore it shall be linked to both. It will have permanent representatives as well as elected members.
    • They must be interconnected, otherwise, and if they do not collaborate, their actions and responsibilities will conflict. If groups want to be completely independent, they should not receive support from the hub.
    • There must be a link between the hub and the user groups, in order for the hub to strengthen the affiliates and enhance their activities.
    • They must collaborate, but have different goals.
    • They should definitely be linked so that we in the affiliates know about the hub and receive support from it. We can see that now that the WMF is independent from us how we never receive support and we are disconnected. This should not happen with the hubs.
Question 8. How should the relationship between the regional hubs and the Wikimedia Foundation be? Will the hubs be independent or be under WMF?
  • The hub is independent from the Wikimedia Foundation
    • The hub should be independent from the WMF, but can keep contact with it for questions, communication, and support.
    • It is better that the hub is totally independent from the WMF that is based in the USA.
    • The hub shall be sovereign and have decisions about itself and its work. The WMF can observe from distance and help if needed or asked.
    • I prefer independence, but there may be joint activities and collaborations.
  • The hub reports to the Wikimedia Foundation
    • The regional hub should be under the Wikimedia Foundation
    • It is better to design the hubs initially under the supervision of the institution to ensure the fulfillment of the strategic objectives. This means also that the WMF should me more proactive during the implementation phase.
    • I want a hub under the WMF, so that there is no chaos in coordination, and no disorganization.
    • I believe that the regional hubs, such as the affiliates should report to the WMF, even if they will somehow be independent in their internal matters, and ways of work.
    • It is preferable that there be subordination to the foundation with decentralization to allow freedom of action and decisions for the community in internal hub matters.
  • The hub is semi-independent
    • The hub should be legally and politically independent from the WMF, but ideologically linked with it and its values.
    • Independent and interdependent at the same time.
    • The hub can be partially independent in a way that does not impede its activities, but linked in terms of accountability and responsibility.
    • The relationship needs to be independent within certain limits.
    • The hub shall report to the WMF, but have independence in its decisions.
  • Prefer not to answer.
Question 9. Who will benefit from the hub's work? Is it online communities or offline? Or both?
Regional Hubs Report - Survey - Graph Question 9.jpg
  • Both online and offline communities (93%) - 13/14
  • User groups (7%) - 1/14
  • Additional comments
    • It is preferable that the work of the hub is comprehensive and works with communities in general so that it is not limited to user groups.
    • All communities should benefit, but especially user groups working offline.
    • The benefit should be for the community at-large, with more projects and impact.
Question 10. Who should work in the hubs? Is it employees? Or volunteers? Who will hire them? And based on what? Will they be community members or external?
  • Employees
    • There should be employees in the hub, who are community members.
    • It is better to have employees who are experts in their area, with skills and experience in their work.
    • It is important to have staff from the local community as they can serve it best.
    • There should be staff from the community. In case it is not possible, then they can be external as the most important is skills to be able to deliver results.
    • The majority of the regional hub employees should come from the local community.
    • Employees should be elected and agreed by the community.
  • Volunteers
    • It is important to have volunteers in the hub, especially in decision-making roles.
    • There should be both employees and volunteers, similar to the operating way of the WMF.
    • It is important that most of the hub members are volunteers. Of course, there should be employees, but they will support in non-volunteer work, such as administrative and organizational tasks.
  • Answering this question is difficult without further details. All configuration can be possible, including part-time employees.
  • The WMF can select who works in the hub from members of local affiliates.
Question 11. In which city/country should the regional hubs office be? Why?
  • Sudan, given its central location between north and south, east and west.
    • Khartoum, for the simplicity of financial transactions and event organization.
  • The most active area (to be identified).
    • The country with the most active members, on rotation basis.
  • Jordan, for its political stability, user activity, and geographic position.
  • France, as it is a neutral country with good relations with all Arab countries.
  • Dubai for the Middle East hub, for North Africa a city needs to be decided.
  • Emirates, as it is an open country.
  • No matter what the location will be, a serious and inclusive discussion will need to happen before a choice is made.
  • The hub should be virtual, with staff working remotely.
  • Other answers: Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt Iraq, Saudi Arabia
  • It is better if the hub is hosted by a partner university in their campus.

Individual Interviews[edit]

One-pager summarizing key takeaways from the individual interviews.

Questions and answers from the individual interviews were very detailed. For this reason, I have gathered the original text from all the discussions at the further readings section. Interested readers are encouraged to read these transcripts in detail. In this section, I have synthetized the answers and gathered the main tendencies that I saw redundant in different calls. I have also reorganized the questions in clusters, so that a logical flow is respected. Additionally, I have created a summarizing one-pager (to the right), gathering the most important takeaways from these individual interviews.

Question 1. What do you define as your region? Why?
  • I see my region as the Arabic speaking world
    • The regional hub should be centered about the Arabic-speaking region, but support minorities as well.
    • There should be a hub for the Arabic-speaking region at-large, covering all the Arabic-speaking countries, with or without affiliates.
    • I identify my region as the Arabic-speaking region. I think that there shall be a hub for all the Arabic-speaking countries (covering minority languages in the region). It is difficult to incorporate other languages such as Turkish and Farsi in this specific hub.
    • There should be one single hub for the Arabic-speaking region, centralized on the Arabic Wikipedia, but being decentralized and flexible enough to support the smaller projects and minorities in the region, and serve them as well. This is better than having many small hubs spread across the region.
  • I see my region as North Africa
    • It is better to have a specific hub for North Africa.
    • There should be a regional hub for North Africa. The Arabic speaking hub is a linguistic hub that has a different scope.
Question 2. Why do you think you should have a hub in your region?
  • Decentralization
    • Hubs enhance decentralization, and will allow the communities to be more independent in their work, and not necessarily be guided by a foundation reporting to the American government.
    • One important advantage of a regional hub is that our local communities will not "suffer" from being tied with a Foundation obliged to abide by the American law, given that many countries in our region do not see USA and organizations coming from it with a good eye.
    • A hub with legal registration in the region solves the problem of funding for the countries and communities that cannot receive funds from the USA.
    • Each country and region have their own contexts. These are not always well understood from the WMF, who impose their policies and rules on all regions, resulting in discrimination for some Wikimedians. Having a hub with staff from our region, understanding our context, and who can allow funds to be used according to it is a necessity for us.
  • Efficiency
    • Creating regional hubs will decrease bureaucracy a lot, and will allow work to happen work much more efficiently.
  • Support
    • A regional hub is very important in our context, as it will foster partnerships with official bodies, given the the legitimacy and weight that it will have.
    • The reason why a hub is needed in the region is because we cannot have dedicated local staff otherwise. We do not have capacities in our local groups, and the autocratic nature of our regimes do not encourage us to create legal structures that can put us at risk.
    • The WMF is not initiating projects in my region. We need a hub that will have among its roles to suggest and drive projects in the region's countries (in agreement with the affiliates), especially that we cannot expect also from volunteers to "brainstorm" and create projects.
    • Volunteers in our region are overwhelmed, as they have to do both volunteer and staff work. Since they cannot start official structures alone, the hub is much needed in order to take over at least the staff work, and let volunteers concentrate their time on where it is most needed.
Question 3. How do you envision a hub in your region?
  • Linguistic Hub
    • The regional hub should be serving the Arabic-speaking community, and have Arabic as its core (same as linguistic hub).
  • Support Structure
    • I see the hub also as a support structure, especially for technical matters where we need a lot of help in our languages.
    • The regional hub would be a small structure with a number of employees. Its main purpose would be to serve the local community in "non-volunteer" matters. The WMF can be seen as a "hub of hubs", coordinate between these structures, and ensures a good communication and collaboration.
    • In 2030, I envision my regional hub as a structure with staff aiming to support the local community and serve it (in terms of technical skills, capacity, and resources).
  • Community-led Structure
    • The legitimacy of the hub comes from the community. The latter should be consulted in all steps and decisions before they are made.
    • A hub is a structure that emerges from the community and knows it very well. It will be the structure that will support the community in all different matters (legal, financial, governance, technical skills, etc.)
    • It is important that the regional hub has legitimacy within the regional community. This is an entity serving the community and needs to be supported and endorsed by it. This can be done first through this trusted core team, who will then drive the process and the hub forward. Legitimacy comes from the fact that a the team and its decisions need to be endorsed and voted by a majority of the community.
    • The hub will represent the community, and WMF needs to take it into consideration when hiring or working in projects related to the region.
    • Priority at working in the hub should be given to local community members, who are the most aware about the context, and who are also the closest to the community and know its problems and challenges.
    • The ultimate decisions around the hub staffing should be made by the community, and can be done through a volunteer board. Eventually, this board can also be a contact entity with the WMF, that the WMF consults before hiring people working in the region, so that problems of the past do not happen again.
  • Mini-WMF
    • I see the future hub as a WMF department dedicated for the region. Each region will have a number of WMF employees dedicated to it, and who can serve the local community and ensure a "professional" representation of the movement in the region, and can contact official organisms for future partnerships.
  • Organization
    • The hub shall be well organized and with a clear structure and hierarchy. It is important that its staff do not all come from the same country or area, and have diverse profiles and backgrounds.
  • Remote
    • Logistically, it can be better to have the hub employees work remotely so that they can be distributed across the region. We saw that there is a possibility to work digitally and remotely with COVID-19. This can be a good alternative and avoid many problems.
  • Legally recognized
    • Regional hubs will be official structures with a recognized legal status, and are primordial for supporting the community in areas where volunteers have challenges to formalize their groups and go beyond informal volunteer gatherings.
Question 4. What roles and responsibilities will the hub have?
  • Coordination
    • Act as a coordinator in the regional projects such as WikiArabia.
    • One of the main responsibilities of a hub will be to act as a link between the communities and the WMF.
    • A hub is a very important structure to centralize resources in a region. Many community members face challenges but are "reinventing the wheel" to solve them. A hub can gather the necessary documentation and skills necessary to solve recurrent issues more efficiently.
  • Community Support
    • The regional hub should serve both online and offline communities.
    • The regional hub should be a support center for the community, and serve its needs and interests, especially the work that cannot be done by volunteers.
    • The regional hub is a mini-WMF, but limited to serving the local community of the region in question.
    • A hub can even act as fiscal sponsor for affiliates who do not have a legal status in their countries, or those who cannot receive direct funding from the WMF, as it is an American Foundation.
  • Expansion
    • One of the important tasks that a regional needs to do is to cover the areas without current affiliates, and foster opportunities there.
    • In the countries without affiliates, the hub can have a very positive role, by encouraging the creation of local affiliates, and supporting the emerging leaders there to take more responsibilities in the future. This can even be one of the biggest arguments why we need regional hubs.
  • Communication
    • A hub can be a spokesperson for the region. This is benefit from two sides. First the community can turn to the hub when it has messages to convey to the wider movement, and second, whenever the WMF or any part of the movement seeks information, feedback or opinions from the Arabic community could be conveyed by the hub.
Question 5. How will the hub interact with the other stakeholders in the movement?
  • The hub will be coordinating, but not really driving the projects
    • Managing the projects would be the responsibility of the local groups.
    • The hub is needed for offline and organizational support, setting partnerships, and supporting the community with resources. It must not be involved in any content creation, nor in interfering with online policies, which need to remain in the hands of the online community.
    • The regional hub should not overlap with the local affiliates, and the boundaries should be clearly defined. The question is: by whom?
  • The regional hub and the WMF should be complementary, and exchange skills and expertise from their employees if needed.
  • In an ideal world, the hub should be legally separated from the WMF, and have its own legal structure. This will help it to be independent from the American law, which is very beneficial for our community in the Arabic region.
Question 6. How can we concretely start the work of creating a hub?
  • It is the community that should start creating the hub
    • The regional hub should be initiated by the community. The Arabic-speaking community should come together and create a core team that will initiate this work.
    • But it should not be left to itself. WMF should support in needs the community asks for.
    • WMF should not put all the regions in the same bag. It shall hear those who ask for more support to create their hub, and provide the resources that they need, by providing consultants helping them find a way forward. The most important is that the communities express their need and will to have a hub, so that support comes to them.
  • It is the WMF that should create and drive hubs in our region
    • There is a blocker currently. The situation of "wait and see how each community will come to us with their suggestions" is not the best in my opinion, because some communities have only volunteers, and we cannot waste our time on a process we are not even sure if it will give a result.
    • If you give the initiative to some communities without monitoring, they can create problems and not be democratic in their work.
    • We should not forget that we as a community in our region are volunteers and have very limited resources. If a lot of responsibility is given to us in solving our problems, and figuring out solutions "by ourselves", it can contribute in letting us under-represented, while the biggest communities who have staff working full-time to solve problems will reach a lot of results. This approach will contribute to even bigger gaps in our movement.
    • As volunteers, we cannot be left to ourselves to create a hub. In fact, we have a dilemma to choose whether we would like to commit to work online or offline, but we cannot do both because time is needed. WMF should take this into consideration when asking us to create a hub alone.
    • The main responsibility on regional hubs implementation falls on the strategy team (as they are employees). They need to start the preliminary work, and ensure that there will be discussions across regions about the hub matter. Some regions with only volunteers cannot do this alone.
  • Practical solutions
    • To start creating a hub, the proposed method is to: (1) Organize elections within the community to elect a representative volunteer steering committee, (2) The committee will drive the creating of the hub and ensuring it to have a legal structure and employees.
    • One way forward that is suggested is that a core team of trusted community members in the region is created. These members shall have legitimacy (for example by being elected). and will drive the preparation work for a hub. However, this is also not the best and most efficient solution, because core teams created in other regions will do different works, and maybe double work will be done in several regions of the world.
Question 7. What are the challenges you see for a regional hub at the moment?
  • Ownership of the process
    • There needs to be a clarification about who needs to clarify questions about the hubs. Is it the WMF? Is it movement charter? Is it the communities creating the hubs themselves?
  • General clarifications
    • The structure of the hub needs to be investigated and clarified. Question: Who has the mandate to do this work? Is it the Affcom?
    • Who will fund the regional hubs? And how to ensure that this funding is not problematic for each context?
    • There is a big correlation between a good working hub and a healthy community. We need to ensure that our local community and affiliates are also working well before we can consider creating a hub. Who will help to ensure this without that local affiliates feel that we are intruding them. Will it be the responsibility of the WMF? Of the Affcom?
  • Communication
    • Communities wanting to implement hubs but lacking resources (either financial or administrative or skills) need to receive support from WMF. Clear pathways and processes for this support should be implemented so that communities can reach out.
    • There needs to be a clear pathway/process explaining how we at our region can contact the WMF to request them to allocate staff serving our region. We do not know whom to contact exactly and who takes this decision. Maybe if we have more staff in/for the region, we might not need really a hub.
    • Does the WMF expect that we (the communities) create a legal entity and decide on the location of the hub alone? Or is it something that we can brainstorm together with the foundation?
    • How can our voice reach the WMF so that they allocate resources we need (most specifically staff)? And whom to contact?
    • The idea of a hub should become a reality in the minds of the Board of Trustees, because they are the ones who take the decisions. The question is then: How to reach out to the board to ask them to enable us to create a hub? What do we need to do before?
  • Resources
    • There is a needed support from WMF to enable building a hub in the region. This support should be financial, legal and in terms of skills.
    • In our region, we have not resources to build a hub alone. We need support (financial and managerial) from WMF to create it. Once implemented, this hub will report to the Wikimedia Foundation.
    • There is a risk of a situation of catch 22, which is that if a community is not mature enough, it cannot have its own hub, and therefore will remain in the state of immaturity.
      • There should be support from WMF at the first stages to enable communities that want to have a hub to create one, before they can fly with their own wings later.
  • Legal questions
    • Foreign funding is very problematic in our region, and can be a barrier for the development of the hub. People working on developing the hub should work together with the WMF to solve this issue.
  • Affiliations Committee
    • There is a problem with the Affiliations Committee who does not provide any alternative about creating a hub. I would like to urge them to address this as a priority issue, so that they do not block communities wishing to create hubs.
    • Will the Affcom create a new status for a hub so that our communities can apply to it? Do they have a plan for it?
    • We need to clarify how the hub creation will be formalized. Many communities want to create a hub now, and each of them is reinventing the wheel separately than the others, which is very inefficient. The Affcom should take its responsibility and clarify this process.
    • One of the problems with the Affcom is that it puts a lot of barriers but no solutions. I know for instance that they do not allow a chapter to stretch over more than a country, but on the same time, they do not offer other alternatives, and say that they cannot give the "hub" structure at this moment to a community that asks for it.
    • How is a hub going to be created in practice? Whom to contact at the WMF if we are ready and want to have a hub? When will the Affcom prepare a status for the hub so that applications can be submitted?

Facebook Polls[edit]

Question 1. Do we need a hub in our region to centralize efforts and coordinate with the community and the affiliates?
Regional Hubs Report - Facebook Poll - Graph Question 1.jpg
  • Yes (84 %) - 21/25
    • Among which 12/25 (48%) asking for two separate hubs, one in North Africa, and another in Western Asia.
  • No (12%) - 3/25
  • Unclear (4%) - 1/25

Additional comments:

  • Initially, the alternatives were "Yes/No/Unclear", but one participant added the alternative "having two separate hubs", which suggests that (1) this alternative supports the "Yes", and (2) that a discussion should be about this specific question given the interest in it.
  • Another comment was about which languages the hub would serve between Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish, Turkmen, Amazigh and many others. This question will be discussed in other days and channels as well.
Question 2. In your opinion, who should take the initiative to create a regional hub?
Regional Hubs Report - Facebook Poll - Graph Question 2.jpg
  • Both WMF and the community (56%) - 24/43
  • The Wikimedia Foundation (30%) - 13/43
  • The community (14%) - 6/43

Additional comments:

  • How can we expect the community to take the initiative if they cannot provide funding and legal agreements etc.?
    • Giving the responsibility to volunteers in our region can put them in big juridical risks, where nobody can help or protect them in case of a problem.
  • It is best that both WMF and the community are responsible. The community defines its needs, and the Foundation helps in providing the necessary resources and capacities needed to implement them.
  • If it is the community that will create this hub, how will it ensure that it can fund it? Even the local affiliates that we have in the region cannot sustain themselves alone. There are many legal and practical barriers preventing us from doing this alone.
    • There needs to be a clarification about the hubs funding and where it will come from (if it is a grant, or external donations directly). Who will decide on this? Is it the global council?
Question 3. How many hubs should be in our region? Why?
Regional Hubs Report - Facebook Poll - Graph Question 3.jpg
  • More than one (74%) - 17/23
  • One (26%) - 6/23

Additional comments:

  • It is difficult to travel and coordinate between the different Arabic speaking countries, and cultures and needs are different. Even if we have one hub (having a president and a clear hierarchy), it should be well balanced and have employees living in the four corners of the region.
  • One strong hub is better than ten spread ones.
  • One hub equals the risk of hegemony from a given lobby or group.
    • Two hubs can mean the hegemony of two lobbies then?
      • Well in this case, it is at least more balanced.
  • It is crucial to have a strong hub centralizing the needs and effort, and serving the Arabic languages. It is also important to safeguard the specificities between the two regions of North Africa (Maghreb) and Middle East (Machreq) to ensure that all parts will be served.
Question 4. Should the regional hub report to the Wikimedia Foundation or be independent?
Regional Hubs Report - Facebook Poll - Graph Question 4.jpg
  • Report to the WMF (87%) - 13/15
  • Fully Independent (13%) - 2/15

Additional comments:

  • The concept of "independence" needs to be clarified in this context. Does it mean that it will be able to operate without intervention, or that it will not receive funding? What I cannot accept is central decisions from the WMF, because they are not aware about our region, and can therefore not make decisions about it, as we do not decide about their region either.
Question 5. In your opinion, how will the hub interact with the affiliates?
Regional Hubs Report - Facebook Poll - Graph Question 5.jpg
  • The affiliates will report to the hub (70%) - 9/13
  • They will all be equal, the hub itself will be an affiliate (15%) - 2/13
  • Affiliates will be completely independent from the hub (15%) - 2/13
Question 6. What is the best location to have offices for a regional hub? Why?
  • It should be a country offering flexibility in financial, legal and civil society matters. We have in our community a bad experience by users who "put" funds won by the community in their country and claimed that they cannot be shared with other countries, because of their "local laws".
    • The requirements that you mention are not present in any Arabic speaking country. Maybe the hub serving the region should be located outside of it?
  • I prefer an online hub (*3).
    • According to the current situation, and to our previous experiences, the best possible hub for the region is an online one.
    • The hub can collaborate with any existing affiliate that will be registered legally in its country, and can after that operate online, with each employee working remotely.
    • Why do we need a physical hub? And how can you ensure that this hub will not face pressure from the authorities of the country where it operates? Since Wikipedia itself is online, why couldn't the hub be the same?
  • The office should be at the location of the hub manager, while other members can work remotely.
  • I believe that the hub should be physical. It is however simpler to have it outside of the region (given the mentioned problems). But on the long term, it should be an Arab country that needs to host the hub. I am not aware which Arab country satisfies the requirements, but according to me, they are the following: (1) A country with flexible and simple administration, (2) A country with facility to travel to, and not hard visa restrictions for the other Arab states, (3) A country of tolerance, and where hub members can thrive so that all parts of the community are respected, not only those coming from a specific area or place (which in my opinion is the most important point). This might need a study on its own, to dig deeper in the requirements, and investigate the status in each country of the region.
  • Honestly, Morocco is the best choice.
  • Mauritania.
  • Cyprus.
  • Emirates is the best choice.
  • I think any country in the Maghreb, or Jordan or Emirates are good.
  • No Arabic country is suitable. If it is really necessary, then maybe Beirut could host this hub.
  • Jordan, Tunisia, Egypt.
  • Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco.
  • Jordan is a country located in the middle of the region, and has many active volunteers, part of the Wikimedia Levant group. I am against centralization, so even having the hub in a small country, such as Tunisia could be a good choice.

Analysis[edit]

General Trends[edit]

Results from the different surveys conducted in this work, presented in the earlier section, gave a number of important facts and statistics related to the opinions of the Arabic-speaking wikimedians who participated in these surveys. Among the most important take-aways that could be concluded, are the levels of agreements regarding some key ideas. I chose to divide these levels into three main groups (1) Mostly agreed by the community, (2) clarifications required, and (3) mostly disagreed/controversial, where deeper sessions and follow-up discussions need to be conducted to find a common ground. These ideas and groups are presented in the table below:

Idea/Opinion Level of agreement Comments
The region needs a hub. 1 - Mostly Agreed This idea is among the widely agreed and advocated by the Arabic-speaking community. 92% of the survey respondents acknowledged that need.
The hub should not cover countries outside the Arabic-speaking region 1 - Mostly Agreed Although there is a strong disagreement about the exact region covered by the hub, there is a consensus that this hub will not cover countries outside of the Arabic-speaking region, given the "disconnection" felt between the communities.
The "official" status of the hub needs to be clarified by the Affiliations Committee 1 - Mostly Agreed All respondents who touched on the status of the hub mentioned explicitly the current confusion related to this concept, and the barriers that are encountered when trying to set-up a hub, as there is not such a status recognized by the Affiliations Committee.
The community should be the decision-maker in hub-related matters 1 - Mostly Agreed The participants agreed strongly on the importance of a community-ruled hub, in the sense that it is the community that will need to take key decisions regarding the hub, from its inception to the concrete implementation and regular operation.
Both online and offline communities will benefit from the hub 1 - Mostly Agreed Even if a hub is an offline structure, the large majority of the respondents agreed that both online and offline communities need to be supported and served by the hub. 93% of the survey participants endorsed this opinion.
Roles and responsibilities of the hub 2 - Clarifications needed If there is a wide agreement about the need for a hub, and clear arguments motivating it, the concrete roles and responsibilities taken by the hubs need further discussion and clarification. A group sees the hub as a regional WMF, while others consider that it is best as a coordination structure. This point is tightly connected with the independence level of a hub, as the answer to that question will determine which mandate and exact roles it will have.
General structure of the hub 2 - Clarifications needed The general structure of hubs in the Arabic-speaking region need further clarifications. It is still not agreed if/how hub(s) will have a legal status, how employment is going to concretely happen, as well as how the decision-making will be applied and by whom.
Governance of the hub 2 - Clarifications needed While it was agreed that it is the community that needs to "rule" the hub, questions still remained about the "how". A group suggested regular elections (in various configurations, different from each other), while others supported the appointments of skilled members. Divergence was also noted in the level of intervention of the Wikimedia Foundation and its employees in these processes.
Relationship with other movement actors 2 - Clarifications needed The relationship between the regional hub and other movement actors (other hubs, WMF, affiliates, online communities) is seen from several angles depending on the person. A group encourages a total independence of the hub, while others support more coordination and interdependence.
The geographical area covered by the regional hub 3 - Mostly Disagreed Participants have strong opinions, split between one hub covering all the Arabic-speaking region, or two hubs (one in North Africa, and one in the Middle East). As seen, this question does not only regard the region definition, but impacts also the number of eventual hubs, as well as the thematic (since one hub in the whole region means an overlapping with the linguistic Arabic hub).
Next steps to start the hub implementation 3 - Mostly Disagreed One of the most disagreed points was about who should start implementing the regional hubs. Opinions ranged from a total control of the process by the WMF, to a completely driven work by the community, and including collaborative options. The criticality of this point comes from the fact that it can eventually be a blocker, especially if every part expects the other to start the work proactively.
Hub Location 3 - Mostly Disagreed Very few participants agreed on a same answer. In many cases, respondents were mentioning their own countries and cities, while other suggested countries outside of the region, or even a remote hub to prevent future problems.

List of hanging questions and recommendations[edit]

An important side of every discussion are the reflections emerging from it, as well as next steps to be taken. In our context, several areas proved a need of deeper investigation and discussion. In particular, points of divergence between various community members will require a good understanding of why there is a disagreement, who is responsible of managing it, and how a way forward can be suggested. The reason these areas are analyzed in this manner is to provide a comprehensive picture about them, and explain shortly and effectively both the challenge and the possible solution, which will be a valuable background for anyone working with regional hubs in the future.

The table below gathers the list of hanging questions from the Arabic-speaking communities about the current and foreseen challenges related to the implementation of a regional hub, as well as suggested recommendations to overcome them.

Question (WHAT) Explanation/Complexity (WHY) Suggested Responsible (WHO) Suggested Way Forward/Recommendation (HOW)
Process ownership There is a confusion about who owns the process related to regional hubs, as well as who should do what, and when? There is a risk that nothing will happen as everyone remains in a passive "waiting" phase.
  • Wikimedia Strategy Team
  • Global Council
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
A suggestion to clarify this situation is to create a discussion place/forum (facilitated by the WMF strategy team) gathering all the parts interested in this process. The fact that setting up the global council takes time constitutes indeed a risk for long inactivity periods. Meanwhile, discussions need to continue, as well as clarifications regarding who is responsible for continuing them.
Geographical scope of the hub

- - - - - -

Region Definition

Several participants (with different opinions) reported their concern regarding how the region covering the hub will be decided. They have mentioned in particular the grants regional committees, where the choice of combining all of Africa and the Middle East was not really appreciated (nor discussed).
  • Wikimedia Strategy Team
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
Similar to the point above, a discussion forum needs to be opened with the communities, in order to understand their visions to their regions, and the argumentations they are offering to motivate their different choices. These discussions need also to reach the point of clarifying who will be the ultimate decision maker on the question, and why.
First steps of the hub implementation As there is unclarity about who drives the process forward, this results in a confusion related to the first steps. In the Arabic-speaking community, many members expect the WMF to drive a discussion and events related to the hub, while others think the community itself should self-organize.

Many participants reported also that it is unfair to expect from volunteers to drive such a big work, especially that we do not have chapters in the region, nor staff in our affiliates. The biggest risk is that even if there is a need and interest in having a hub, nothing will happen.

  • Wikimedia Strategy Team
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
A suggested solution is that the Wikimedia strategy team organizes sessions and meetings with communities interested in having regional hubs, and come together to discuss a clear plan. It is fine that the WMF expects the communities to do the starting work, but in this case this should be communicated to the communities so that they can start the work. A lack of communication, or a misunderstanding can as mentioned generate a blocking situation where each part is passively waiting for the other to take action.
General structure

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Governance questions

There are many hanging questions of all sorts related to the structure and roles and responsibilities of the regional hubs. The different existing conceptions and visions will need to come together.
  • Global Council
  • Movement Charter drafting committee
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
In a perfect world, the movement charter drafting committee will define a movement charter, giving a high-level picture of the roles and responsibilities of hubs, that the global council will enforce and implement. Communities will have a crucial role as the hubs can vary in terms of structure and responsibilities depending on the regional needs, which is an important reason why communities need to be consulted. A risk seen with this point is that not much can be done before the charter committee is formed. A mitigation would be to consult communities already now (from the strategy team) to survey their opinions about roles and responsibilities of a hub, so that these ideas are documented and stored (to be taken into consideration) before the final discussions.
Legal questions Several participants in the region reported legal challenges they face, and that can be a hinder for continuing the work towards a hub, even if they are very motivated to do so. Among the problems raised were funding, compliance to the American law, and the difficulty and danger related to having a legal status in their local country. They do not want to be left alone.
  • WMF Board of Trustees
  • Wikimedia Legal Team
A number of participants suggested the possibility of discussing with the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, as it is (1) the ultimate decision-maker, (2) serving the community, and (3) responsible for legal matters. A good discussion can result on a plan comforting these members so that they do not feel left alone, and so that there is a plan on how funding could be guaranteed for their region, and also how they could be supported in legal matters, as a hub will probably need setting up a local legal structure.
Status of the hub as a Wikimedia structure Many participants highlighted an ongoing challenge in their discussions with the Affiliations committee, who has current limitations, and grants only three types of structures. None of these three alternatives seem close to the definition of a hub, which is a blocker for communities who would like to come together and collaborate on a more "official" level from a movement perspective.
  • Affiliations Committee
The affiliations committee needs to establish a clear plan about how they want to proceed in solving this question, in order to see if they can create a fourth type of structure. They are also very welcome to engage with the community for advice if they would like to. The most important is that the situation is not blocked as is the case currently.
Internal community conflicts Given the different ideas observed in this survey, as well as the strong opinions that are sometimes contradictory with each other, it is important to ensure that conflicts and disagreements will be managed in a healthy way. This question regards several actors, including the affiliates, the at-large community members, as well as the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement charter committee.
  • Affiliations Committee
  • Movement Charter drafting committee
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
  • Wikimedia Strategy Team
The importance of the work that will be conducted with the movement charter drafting committee appears already now. In fact, the clearer the result will be, the lesser the risk that conflicts and misunderstandings will happen. The Affiliations Committee also has an important role in ensuring healthy mediation between different parts that could disagree with each other, as it is part of its mission. Finally, the Strategy team is encouraged to produce and communicate material that can disseminate information about regional hubs, such as video tutorials explaining and clarifying these concepts, so that they are viewed and understood by a majority.
Location of the hub The question of the hub location proved to be one of the most controversial in this work. In fact, it seems that there were as many different answers as the number of participants themselves.
  • Interested Wikimedia communities
  • Wikimedia Strategy Team
Similar to the effort that needs to be done to clarify how and who should start the implementation work, it is crucial to create a conversation space for the community to have a discussion about this matter. If the community does not create this space itself, a recommendation is that the Wikimedia strategy team takes the responsibility of driving this process forward by inviting interested community members to targeted discussions where they can express their opinions and plan a way forward.

Conclusion and future work[edit]

By surveying ideas and opinions from the Arabic-speaking community in relation with regional hubs, this report aims to provide insights for anyone interested in learning more about the subject, as well a background for those interested in working deeper with regional hubs, either for this region in particular, or for any other. It will be particularly interesting to compare the trends and results that were brought forward in this work, with similar surveys that might be conducted later on for other communities.

I have surveyed the community through different means (Google form, Facebook, and individual interviews) and synthetized the findings. Analysis of these results showed the general points of agreement within the community, but also where more clarifications will be needed, and most importantly the hotspots that can eventually be blockers given the disagreements happening currently about them. The challenges related to the controversial areas will require further investigation. In this sense, the last section of the report presented a list of hanging questions, suggested a responsible to drive and own them, as well as recommendations for first steps forward, in order to ensure that the situation will not be blocked for communities interested in building their regional hubs.

In the future, this report can be complemented by research in several of the areas that were identified as open questions (listed in section 4.2), but also with all the aspects that were not in its scope (listed in section 1.3 - limitations). In fact, each limitation in this work can be seen as an opportunity for future works, that will hopefully emerge so that the question of regional hubs and its surrounding unclarities are gradually refined, to allow a good implementation of these structures in a near future.

Further Readings[edit]

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I have gathered anonymized detailed results from the individual interviews in separate pages, that can be used as reference for those wishing to read the details. This information comes as a summarized transcription of the interview material (videos that were recorded uniquely for this purpose). The transcribed interviews are the following:

Moreover, if you are interested in reading about general background of the Wikimedia 2030 strategy, as well as on regional and thematic hubs developments, do not hesitate to browse the links below:

Slides presenting this work (in different languages)[edit]

Videos presenting this work (in different languages)[edit]

This report and its results were presented in several occasions in various community events. Recordings from these presentations can be watched below:

References[edit]