Learning patterns/Community Growth via Capacity Building

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A learning pattern forvolunteer management
Community Growth via Capacity Building
problemYou wish to work in community growth for any particular project (such as Punjabi Wikisource) or establish a Wiki Club in a city with little or no volunteers. How to recruit interested people to become part of community and contribute to the project?
solutionDesign the workflow with welcoming environment, consistent follow-ups and fun initiatives to sustain volunteers in community culture
created on18:16, 20 March 2020 (UTC)

What problem does this solve?[edit]

You’re a Wikimedian who wants to start a new community or grow the existing communities in terms of project and editor demographics but are not sure how to get the volunteer culture adopted in a new place.


Our learning comes from the work we've done as GLAM-Wikisource community in 2018, including our support of the cultural institutions in North India. It incorporates insights from the work for developing capacity of community via multiple campaigns, training workshops, contests and consistent online engagements.

What is the solution?[edit]

Capacity building and community growth occur when we empower the stakeholders with skills, knowledge, tools, other resources, recognition and a sense of community belonging to grow and expand their impact and involvement. It is fostered when experts, peers, participants, and others are empowered to work together and support each other in developing and attaining goals to make the project and community sustainable and responsive.

Example: We built Punjabi Wikisource project and its community from scratch with sixteen months of persistent work with over 100 new users in 2019 and 50 active users.

Why do you want to do this?

Understanding what is the purpose behind this initiative, can be the key in shaping the path towards building capacity. Your inspiration would make it easier to support the leadership and expertise of those you work with and help you target the right audience for your outreach campaigns.

Example: When we began our work, we understood the knowledge gaps of cultural heritage and online resources from our language and region missing from the internet. In order to cover that gap, an institutional partnership can help for content digitization of the priority 150 open source works of cultural texts with over 25000 pages defined from surveys with the readers and the scholars cultural texts that were uploaded on Commons and transcribed in the Wikisource project in the genres and themes they liked working on.

Who do you invite?

Identify the target audience: Understanding what kind of knowledge consumers and contributors would be interested in the project is one the core foundation in which the target audience can be defined. Define who would benefit from the outcomes of your project and who can be interested in being a collaborator.

Example: From our previous engagement with previous projects, we had experience working with students. We were aware that literature lovers, scholars, readers, teachers and school students were the best target group for Punjabi Wikisource project. For Commons project it could be an artist community, art lovers, art students, photography club and agencies.

Where do you begin?

Strategic Goals: Defining the principles can be a good way to establish a strategic plan for sustainability, inclusively, welcoming and safe culture for the community growth. Please remember that you may need to provide additional support for the marginalized community members to ensure equitable opportunities for participation and diversity. You need to understand that you may have to work in the space, rhythm, pace that matches theirs and is suitable for them. Prioritizing their needs, time frames and space is an essential key to build trust and inclusion. The strategic goals should be contextualized with the local culture and challenges.  

Example: Most people including marginalized community members (women, minorities) have mobile devices and come from remote areas. We ensured that the workspace and time frames of our offline workshops were designed keeping these factors in mind. As a result of our capacity building initiatives from last year, fifty percent of the editors are women making Punjabi Wikisource one of the top Wikisource projects to bridge the gender gap in terms of editor demographics.  

Safety culture: You should create and share safety and security guidelines following the principals of friendly space policy and anonymity. Help the individuals working with you to understand about safety guidelines and assist them adopt this culture so they feel comfortable working with you - ensure that marginalized members understand that they are safe and their comfort and safety will be kept in account for all the initiatives they participate in - offline and online both. You can later jointly reshape the guidelines with the community members you invite with a collaborative study that is contextualized according to their needs.

Example: We ensure that the online channels we collaborate in and the offline events we organized for outreach has friendly space and a cordial welcoming environment. Having gender diversity in spokesperson and trainers can help in creating a comfortable atmosphere for everyone working in the project.

Community engagement: Ensuring consistent community engagement is necessary to establish a connection with the individuals and help them transition into community culture. You need to ensure to create a welcoming and usable environment where contributors can safely flourish. The effects need to be consistent  and should not be restricted to only the offline spaces, but extend to external social media channels, on-wiki support and workgroups so new contributors can thrive learning from each other, their mentors and get active support from peer-to-peer network for a better sense of belonging and safely flourish.  

Example: Our Wikisource community work plan had a flow of regular training programs, edit-a-thon, meetings along with consistent online support for community members due to which our community grew from 3 active people to 50 active members in a year who are consistent contributors in the Wikisource community.

Offline campaigning: Offline engagement is one of the core elements that can help you establish a connection with individuals you wish to train as volunteers and make them feel a sense of belonging with better understanding of the community culture. Organizing regular training workshops, edit-a-thon, meetups can help in setting a peer-to-peer network. You can also establish something like Wiki Book Club that individuals can sign up as members to keep them interested.  

Example: We did regular offline engagements with new and old members to support them via training workshops, edit-a-thons, and meetups. To keep the editors' interests piqued for the Wikisource project which is essentially free e-library, we hosted a 1 Library 1 Reference event on the eve of Wikipedia's 15th birthday inviting a guest author and translator Balram Bodhi whose work has been donated on Commons at free license and is available on Wikisource for editors and readers, for having a dialogue with community members about open access of works and value of literature and its impact on real life. This event received positive feedback from the attending literature lovers and research scholars.

Online campaigning: Different online social media engagement on dedicated channels can keep the members interested and focussed. You can also organize on-wiki campaigns, discussions, contests to keep them involved in something new each month.

Example: We kept in touch with our Punjabi Wikisource community members through social media groups and channels on WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook with updated stats, discussions and engagements around different topics, Wikisource contest, book of the month, etc.  

Recognition culture for retention: You need to devise a recognition culture that allows people to feel appreciated with certificates, open badges, barnstars, and merchandise. You can also introduce a growth network with different levels in roles that community members can slowly transition to according to their interests, for instance, some people are better facilitators and some people are good at patrolling on-wiki.

Example: We did an award ceremony for all participants from Punjabi Wikisource Contest 2018-19 in a program at Punjabi University with merchandize, token and certificates. This kind of small gestures go a long way in helping editors have a realization that they are working together as a group as a part of community for their language or project with like minded people. This year we have also introduced an honorary title of Wikisource Ambassador of the year for member who does exceptionally well to feel special about their time and contributions to the free knowledge mission.

General considerations[edit]

  • Recruit as you go: Every individual volunteer may not have same availability or even interest at different points. To keep the community capacity afloat for any project, consistent outreach work is needed at all points. Having diversity of individuals with different age groups and genders can go a long way in balancing the diversity and community health.
  • Keep ongoing mentorship: Have check-ins with new editors for problems and meet-ups,
  • Follow-ups and consistent mentorship: Keep the mentorship and training going even after the workshop is over. Have check-ins with new editors for any problems, the follow up can be done with online social media group, meet-ups or even a phone call. Sometime, small advise and support can save hours of work and can go a long way in providing the editors with much needed support.
  • Practice Patience: It should not be expected from every individual to have a same capacity to learn new things. Especially in technically spaces that are new and perhaps difficult for an individual depending on the background. Example: Some editors can be elderly and some may come from rural backgrounds with less knowledge about technical work, so be kind and patient and match your pace with theirs. Balancing the outreach and training work against their patterns of availability is also a good practice to avoid overwhelming volunteers.
  • Welcoming culture for marginalized: Overall new and old community needs a lot of nurturing, love and care to grow and sustain for a long term. You should take special attention for the marginalized groups to ensure that their comfort space and needs are understood during the time they transition to the community culture on-wiki and off-wiki.
  • Enjoy the process: Make sure that this work is understood as a way of life and community culture, not a stressful time for editors to create more content for the workshops. If they are enjoying the process and volunteering on the project, they will more likely stay and grow as long term community members.

When to use[edit | edit source][edit]

  • New City Club: You are in a new city and you want to form a community club. Outreach and capacity building initiatives can go a long way in developing a full fledged club with consistent activities.
  • New Projects that need communities of interest: The small projects that come out of incubators need support of community to nurture and grow and this guide can be useful to gather the interested individuals and introduce the project.


See also[edit]

Related patterns[edit]

Learning patterns/Community impact

External links[edit]