Learning patterns/Many affiliates, one language community
What problem does this solve?
Wikimedia affiliates, chapters and user groups, sometimes share their main stakeholder – a certain language community. This is the case with Wikimedia Österreich (WMAT), Wikimedia CH (WMCH) and Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE). All three chapters address (among other communities) the German-language editor community with their support initiatives. A situation like this can be, at least, confusing for the community members. It’s also a challenge for the Wikimedia affiliates whose background concerning their approaches, resources and experiences can be quite different.
What is the solution?
Communicating with the community: keep the responsibilities clear and simple
Community members should know where to go and whom to ask when seeking support from Wikimedia affiliates. In the German-language Wikipedia community, the place of residence is the crucial factor: Austrian volunteers know that whatever they need they can contact WMAT (the same applies to WMDE for Germans and to WMCH for Swiss volunteers). This is also the case if an Austrian needs a travel grant to attend an event at WMDE’s office which is conducted by someone from Switzerland. The inevitable coordination work, especially concerning financial matters, should not affect the applicant – this should be done by his or her home chapter.
Defining clear and simple responsibilities in the affiliates’ external presentations doesn’t necessarily need to be of “geographical“ nature. Wikimedia affiliates could also specialize (exclusively) in certain fields of community support.
Define internal standard procedures – stay flexible
When affiliates need to coordinate a support activity, defined standard procedures concerning the internal communication can help. These guidelines derive from experiences. It would be counterproductive to define any theoretical procedure; e. g. if Austrian community members almost never travelled to Switzerland, you don’t have to determine and stipulate how to deal with this matter. Stay flexible and avoid over-bureaucratization in the communication between affiliates.
Keep in touch and do it regularly
If you want to improve the coordination between affiliates for the benefit of your community, this will lead to a certain amount of written conversation. Don’t limit yourself to e-mails. WMAT, WMCH and WMDE community supporters do one-hour calls every two or three weeks. Regular (conference) calls can help to process an agenda in a focused way and to exchange current experiences.