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Hubs/Implementation/Regional Hubs Draft Plan/Interview 10

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This page is part of the Implementation Report for Regional Hubs. It regards specifically Interview 10.


  • Date: July 30, 2021
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Profile: Wikipedia Editor - User Group Member (active online and offline)
  • Region: North Africa
  • Gender: Woman
  • Interview language: Arabic

Questions and answers[edit]

1. How do you see a hub in your region by 2030?[edit]

  • In 2030, I envision a regional hub working as a miniature model of the Wikimedia Foundation. The WMF will however be a bigger structure with a wider scope and responsibilities. Some duties such as international partnerships and servers maintenance would be part of the mission of the WMF, while the regional hubs will manage areas such as grant dissemination and community support (in terms of technology, capacity and different resources).
  • By 2030, I see the regional hub as a structure with at least 5 employees, working with different roles and engagements. Their main duty will be to support the community needs, and act as a central entity for both affiliates and the online community in the region. Staff members need top be distributed over the region (either live in different countries and work remotely, or work at a central office but have different backgrounds representative of the region). Volunteers will have an essential place in the hub, and they shall make the important decisions about it.
  • I define my region as North Africa. In fact, regions can be defined through different ways, but having worked with international communities, I think that our region is different from the Middle East and from other African regions, by its own specificities and languages. Even our communities work with specific projects and are active in many languages, not just one. I think that our hub, for North Africa, can focus on the projects our 6 affiliates have (Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tamazight, Tunisia, Egypt), where volunteers work most (Berber languages, Arabic, French, Dialects). I do not think that our regional hub should be a linguistic hub for Arabic because that would exclude other languages. I think that the Arabic speaking hub should be another hub, a linguistic one. Such as WikiFranca for example is not a regional hub, but a linguistic one. Communities in French speaking Africa will probably be members of the WikiFranca hub, but also of a Western African/African hub. I would like the same in my region, that we have a North African hub, but are also members of the Arabic hub. One does not exclude the other.

2. Why do you think you need a hub in your region?[edit]

  • In my region, we only have user groups, that do not seem to advance much for the moment. By this, I mean that I do not foresee the current user groups with a core of volunteers becoming structures with staff. The reason for this is not that the volunteers do not have competence, or that these user groups are bad. No, the reason is that we have specific challenges in our region, for instance legal barriers that prevent volunteers from creating legal structures in authoritarian countries, as people fear for their safety. In my opinion, a solution for this challenge would be the regional hub. In fact, this would be a formal structure, supported by a staff, and will have more resources and legitimacy than informal groups of volunteers.

3. Do you see the hub as an offline or online initiative?[edit]

  • Given the challenges in our region, I believe that both online and offline community need support from a regional structure. This means that this regional hub shall support both communities, but of course in different ways. For the online ones, support will mostly be on technical tools, and capacity and resources required for a good online work. This can be through filming video tutorials, opening support pages on the wiki, and many other initiatives that it is currently volunteers that are doing in their free time, while this should be done by staff. For offline community, the ground is the same. Many volunteer affiliates spend a huge amount of time on tasks that are supposed to be done by staff, such as event setup and administration, or documentation. This prevents these people from doing what is supposed to do as volunteers (editing on projects, or leading the groups). These volunteers are doing the volunteer and staff work, which is overwhelming and not sustainable. A hub will be a great support for offline communities as it will take a big burden from them.
  • To summarize, our regional hub will have a lot of work to do with both communities, offline and online.

4. What steps need to be taken concretely to have a hub? Who should do what?[edit]

  • In my opinion, I think that it will be unfair to ask the communities to sort out by themselves how a hub will be created, and then tell the WMF "we are ready, please give us a hub status now. In my region, this will not work, and if anyone supports this approach, it is as if they are supporting the "status quo", and wanting to keep things as they are now. As I explained earlier, we have different groups in the region, all managed by volunteers. We cannot expect from these volunteers, who have each a full life and problems, to sit down in their free time, and do the work that is done by highly skilled staff in other regions of the world. How can you expect that local affiliates of volunteer Wikimedians will sort out a huge complex governance problem such as creating a hub? This will need senior strategy consultants. We are not consultants, and do not have the resources to engage some. I think that the work you (Anass) are doing is important but not enough. We want other initiatives such as the one you are doing, but only for this question. We need someone who does a benchmark and gives a report with a clear action list: To start a north African hub, organization A needs to do X, structure B needs to do Y, etc.
  • We are willing to have a hub, and express our urgent need to have it, but we think that the WMF should do more effort in actively supporting us to create it. Can they engage experts and consultants to help us investigate this issue? We cannot do it ourselves, and it is unfair to put us at the same level as Ibercoop and ESEAP and WikiFranca, who have each several chapters and staff working only all this all the time. You cannot expect a "bunch of volunteers" to produce the same.
  • My conclusion is that WMF should not put all the region in the same bag, and hear those who ask for more support to create their hub, and provide the resources that they need.

5. What will the relationship between the hub and the WMF be?[edit]

  • The regional hub and the WMF will be complementary. As I said in my answer for the first question, the WMF will be responsible to oversee worldwide responsibilities, such as servers, representation of the movement, and coordination between the hubs. The hubs are more local and tied with the communities they serve, on a day-to-day basis. In other terms, we can call the WMF as a "hub of hubs".
  • It is very important in the first steps that the WMF actively supports the creation of regional hubs. As I mentioned, if a given community asks for specific resources (not only financial, but staff or expertise) that they need to create a hub, it should be provided to them. Hubs and WMF are not in a concurrence position. On the contrary, they are complementary, and each of them has clear and defined responsibilities (that will be defined by the movement charter, and the global council).

6. Who will work at a hub? Is is more a matter of representativity or skills?[edit]

  • I think that the priority shall be given to those having the best skills and background to serve the region. Historically, we have seen the WMF hiring many people knowing nothing about our region, as "experts" and "specialists" of the region. This has resulted on few things done, and almost no notable partnerships or international projects happening in the region, except those that the affiliates themselves did. What I can conclude from that is that many affiliate members have great skills, and can be good fit to be staff at our regional hub. They can even do better work than external people who are hired but do not have any idea about the movement or our core values.
  • This does not mean that only Wikimedians will work at the hub. I understand completely the need of hiring external people with a certain expertise. I have myself mentioned the need to hire external consultants to analyze how we can have a hub in our region. My point is that in the cases where a local community member has a skill needed in the hub, they should get the priority, especially that they gave so much earlier as a volunteer.
  • Also this might seem out of scope of this discussion, I would like to request from the WMF to "discuss" with the local communities before they hire a person who will work with a specific region or language. If this person is going to work with us, we need to tell if we feel comfortable, if we trust the person, and if we think it will be a good fit. Otherwise, what has happened in the past will happen again, where people completely disconnected from the community claim that they are working with the community and do things for it.
  • It is also important to mention that the hub staff will primarily serve the regional community, and therefore this community should have a say about thee employees. The best way according to me will be to have a boars/steering committee for this hub, that will be emerging from the community. This way, we can ensure that at least the ultimate decision makers will be coming from the community. The discussion remains if they will be elected or how the community will decide on choosing them.

7. Do all regions in the world need to have a hub?[edit]

  • I cannot answer in the name of all regions, but I think that at least regions where communities ask for a hub should be given that opportunity. One challenge I can see here is that the Affcom did not prepare any special status for the hub. This leaves a big question which is that: 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? I think that these questions really need to be answered urgently.

Key Takeaways[edit]

  • 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).
  • There should be a regional hub for North Africa. The Arabic speaking hub is a linguistic hub that has a different scope.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Regional hubs and the Wikimedia Foundation will be complementary. The WMF can be seen as a "hub of hubs".
  • 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.
  • 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?