CIS-A2K/Reports/Community Mid-Year Reports/1st & 2nd Half 2011
A few days ago (shortly after Shiju & Nitika had sent long emails on Indic languages and supporting outreach, I was asked by a community member why I hadn't written a long one myself. ..well, here you go!
Jokes aside, it's important ever so often to step back and reflect, think through and communicate the work we are doing. Here are my thoughts on 2011 and plans for 2012.
2011 was very much about putting in place building blocks. There has been a lot of activity - but much has been behind-the-scenes. Here are the top 10 (in broad chronological order.)
- Community Engagement
- I spend the first 2 months attending just about every community meetup that happened in the country - which took me to Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The purposes of my trips were to listen, understand and learn from community members, as well as to introduce myself. I updated the community on regular intervals on mailing lists as well as through monthly IRCs - and this communication needs to be intensified going forward.
- India Programs Plan
- My first task was to develop an overall plan. This was done collaboratively with the community on meta and identified 3 key areas of work: supporting community outreach, exploring the education system and initiating digital outreach to complement community outreach. This exercise also mapped out the India Programs team structure and included the selection of Delhi/NCR as the location for this team.
- Team Building
- I joined in February. India Programs started as team only in the latter half of the year when Nitika & Shiju joined. Setting up a team is tough and takes time and effort. For the 4 positions we wanted to fill, I have personally interviewed over 50 candidates - many of who were fantastic - just to make sure we get the team right. With the further addition of Subha (who's just joined), I am confident that we have a strong team that can serve the community well. It has the right intellect, experience, work ethic, values and personal qualities. The missing link is the communications lead who I have not yet found. I am working on it and hope to report back with good news in the next couple of months. Shiju & Subha are existing community members while Nitika & I were new. The two of us have worked hard at getting understanding projects, editing and contributing in other ways. We now both feel like we are community members, which is great. Personally, I would like to thank and acknowledge the help of everyone - especially Theo - who helped me so much in the early days.
- Organisation Basics
- India Programs team is currently a bunch of independent consultants. There is the need to have an organisation for them and to take care of basic stuff like an office. A huge amount of time has gone into the regulatory and legal aspects of setting up an independent trust to eventually house the team and the necessary approvals for this. This is still ongoing work and there is much still to be done. I have secured some office space in Delhi (in my personal capacity.) This space is is not linked to either the Foundation or the Trust. I can't begin to tell you how much time this has taken. Every little thing has been a hard slog - from the trust registration process to furniture to an internet connection to drinking water!
- This was the first pilot of India programs. The objectives were to encourage editing in classrooms and to encourage & enable students to become newbie editors beyond their semesters. Due to the problems with content quality (plagiarism, writing style, references and images) and the consequent adverse impact on the en-wp community, this pilot failed. There is an independent report that has been commissioned by WMF as well as some data analysis that is being done; both are due in the next few days. I am aware of the many of the issues and I/we have very deliberately made sure that this learning is reflected in all work that we are doing and will do (including and beyond education.) These include improving involvement of the respective language community, driving stronger program design, operating only at a scale that can be managed, as well as providing adequate training and support to newbies. It is important when you try and fail to have the humility to learn and I/we are doing this.
- This was the first ever national-level meeting of the Indian community. It had a large attendance and I estimate that nearly 150 folks attended most parts of the conference (out of a total of 700.) India Programs team invested significant effort and provided considerable help in terms of counsel and hands-on support to the organisers. This was through providing direction for the event, co-ordinating 2 Fellowships, providing ad hoc advisory (such as media management), mediating intra-community issues and motivating the community of organisers. While there were issues with the conference, it was an important milestone for our India community and provided a forum for building relationships, sharing ideas as well as inspiring & energising community members. It is encouraging to see the level and intensity of community interactions and activities after the conference. It is useful to underscore that this was arguably the first and certainly the single biggest event co-ordinated at a national scale by our community.
- Chapter Relationship
- I have worked hard at building a working relationship with the India Chapter. We now have regular monthly calls where we share updates, plans and advice. This was initiated by the Chapter and I'd like to acknowledge and thank them for their efforts on this. I will be honest and say that we still have some way to go towards a truly strong and deep partnership - but I continue to work towards this. We might not always be in agreement with the Chapter but will keep trying to work effectively.
- Indic Languages
- The initiative on Indic languages is as difficult as it is full of potential. The opportunity is clear - in terms of massive language speaking populations and small communities / projects. We felt that the best way to start this initiative was to have conversations with as many Indic wikipedians as possible to understand, distill and share experiences, learnings and suggestions for the growth of their communities and projects. The plan is to identify community pilots that we can support but a more immediate benefit of this dialogue is to cross-pollinate ideas as well as to improve community cohesiveness and build momentum. Shiju shared these on mailing lists and village pumps. In addition, Shiju prepared and circulated a synopsis that provided perspectives and suggestions to Indic communities. The next stage of this work is underway; more on that in the 2012 section below.
- Supporting Outreach
- Supporting outreach is a new effort launched in December. The idea is to introduce Wikipedia to new communities of prospective editors. There is the potential of much more outreach in India but it is hampered by the lack of time, confidence and / or ability to do outreach. This work is focused on a combination of both theory and practice: we will curate outreach tips and standard presentation decks and make them easily available to everyone - but also undertake outreach efforts with other community members. Results will be measured and shared to enable and motivate a step-jump in community outreach.
- Offline & Mobile
- The team has also supported offline and mobile initiatives but this has been done on an ad hoc basis and limited to facilitating meetings. We can do much more, especially on offline.
In 2012, we hope to support the community through programmatic initiatives with community members. These will have 3 key features: strong community involvement, well-designed pilots and rigorous evaluation. In all cases, my priority will be to establish a strong set of processes for how we run pilots, measure results, gain learnings, cross-pollinate good ideas and support community members to independently run these.
There are 5 key priorities for the team for the first half of 2012.
- Supporting Indic Language Community Building
- This is the single biggest priority for India Programs. The work that is currently underway has been to place specific ideas (customised to that language) in most village pumps and to encourage and facilitate community discourse around them. The intent is to sow seeds for community building that will eventually expand communities and improve projects. Some of these initiatives will be managed independently by community members. In cases where there is a request for support for a community initiative, we will go out of our way to help in whatever manner we can. This may be in the form of a pilots or other support. Building communities needs as many people to be involved so please do engage in community discussions on your respective village pumps and add your views, ideas, comments, suggestions, etc. These are your projects and every voice counts! Shiju will be driving this, supported by Subha.
- Supporting Outreach
- We are still in the process of collating all the various presentation materials and tips. We want to participate and facilitate more outreach sessions and we want to test out the recommendations. Specifically, we want to plan outreach effectively, conduct it impactfully, stay in touch with attendees after the sessions and start measuring results. We will work closely with the Chapter on WikiAcademies and directly with interested community members on workshops. Please have a look at the page created and improve / add to the material or by sharing your thoughts and question. Also, and I make this point because of an email thread of a few weeks ago, do not lose faith in outreach. It is hard and it can take a huge toll on time but it is so, so, so essential to the growth of our community. Nitika will be driving this, supported by Subha.
- Redesigning India Education Program
- There is enormous opportunity in the youth of India and specifically with students. They can - in right circumstances - help contribute to our projects and can become shining additions to our community. We need to figure out a much more successful way of tapping into this - avoiding (as many of) the problems as we had in the first pilot. We will work collaboratively with the community and design a new pilot for this. Anything and everything can be changed in this new pilot. Do engage on this from the design stage itself, and through the course of the new pilot. We need your help right through the journey. Nitika will be driving this, supported by all of us.
- Improving Communications
- An important step will be to get a communications person on board. However, before (and of course after this person joins), there are things that we will do more and better.
- We are doing more on this but we will intensify our community communications. We will make sure that monthly IRCs happen on time. We will have monthly newletters. We will share work plans of the team. We will be (even) more regular with other updates. We will explore all options, and not limit ourselves to mailing lists such as village pumps. If required (and this might be so in the case of relatively nascent Indic communities), we will reach out to individual editors on their talk pages to inform and invite them if they are not active on more public channels. We will continue to build on the strong base of the relationship with the Chapter. Do engage with us and reach out whenever you feel we have not been clear on anything.
- Once the communications position is filled, we will also initiate work around press (especially local language print publications), digital outreach (providing online resources to inform and encourage newbies) and social media (to support community building.) We will work closely with the Chapter as well as with individual community members / groups.
- Trust Operations
- A lot of work still needs to be done on the Trust and the various regulatory requirements. This includes a bunch of regulatory compliance things as well as applying for the necessary funding approvals. This is not sexy stuff - but it is necessary.
- Also, we will start putting in place the essential elements for a small team's smooth operations - including the accounting systems and basic personnel functions. Subha will be driving this, supported by me.
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Do let me have your views. Also, please do reach out if you need any clarifications or have suggestions. As always, do respond on this mailing list or feel free to reach out to me directly.
We exist to serve the community. We will do this to the best of our abilities. Do reach out for any help you need.
Happy Wiki 11th!
Happy New Year!