Organizational effectiveness/Learning center/Working with online contributors to build communities
This is a page about a strategy included in the organizational effectiveness learning center.
Use this page as part of the organizational effectiveness tool.
Working with online contributors to build communities
This strategy focuses on how organizations offer support to the people who work on the Wikimedia projects (for example, people who create or improve articles on Wikipedia or upload images to Wikimedia Commons), to help build communities. Communities in this context are a group of people who share a common interest, of contributing to the Wikimedia projects. Communities on the Wikimedia projects may define themselves in many different ways: they may be defined geographically, by language groups, or by specific projects. Building communities is an important aspect of supporting more contributions to the Wikimedia projects. While communities will grow themselves, organizations can play a supporting role in strengthening them by communicating with communities about their needs and supporting ways people can interact more effectively.
Recommendations for community building
If your organization wants to get better at working with online contributors to build communities, here are some concrete recommendations that may help your organization build capacity in this area. Some of these recommendations may be more or less applicable depending on your organization’s strengths and gaps in this area, and your organization's context. We realize many organizations are already using strategies like these.
Engaging online contributors through offline and online gatherings
- Consider if meeting in-person is a practical and cost-effective option in your specific context. Create situations where online contributors and your organization’s volunteers can meet in person, to share experiences and lessons learned. Consider holding a rotating happy hour or other social event that travels to where active groups of online contributors happen to be, or consider holding events in places or contexts that are likely to appeal to diverse groups of contributors. You might try to organize events among contributors and volunteers that work closely together, or who don’t normally get to work together.
- When planning offline activities for community building, carefully consider the context and culture of your community. For example, some Wikimedians may enjoy socializing in a party atmosphere, while others may prefer a quieter activity that allows space for talking. Some may enjoy open space to socialize, while others may enjoy socializing over a structured activity (like a game). If a goal of your organization is to be more inclusive, make sure most of your events and activities are accessible and appealing to a wide variety of people.
- To save resources, you might sometimes combine community building for online contributors with other strategies, such as those used for engaging volunteers who work directly with your organization.
- We have found that many contributors prefer to work together on a common task. Consider using a challenge or contest to bring together online contributors and motivate them around a common cause or theme; for example, mobilize a community of contributors to create a new category of content in a particular language, or help a struggling Wikimedia organization generate content about a current event or issue if it lacks the volunteers to do so. Consider working with other Wikimedia organizations who may want to collaborate in similar languages or on similar themes. This can be done entirely online or can include an offline component.
Supporting effective communication online
- Find an example of when two or more online contributors worked well together, and an example when two or more contributors did not work well together. Use these case studies as a lens to discover how online interactions are effective in your context.
- Examine how your organization communicates with or encourages communication among online volunteers, and how you can intentionally use those exchanges to build communities. *Make sure online contributors have a mechanism or process in place to share their thoughts and concerns with your organization.
- Is there a clear place where people can gather online to share ideas and build community? Is this a supportive and welcoming environment? Consider how you can work with your community to improve or become a part of this gathering place if it exists.
- If there are people in your community of contributors that are particularly effective in their interactions with others, try to recruit them as “ambassadors of good will”, to encourage more positive interactions in your community.
- Find ways to recognize and publicly appreciate effective online communication or work, so that others in your community see their value. You may want to recognize online contributors that play key roles in your community and also build community through their work.
- Create a starting or ending ritual to all online and offline meetings. This may be as simple as everyone stating one thing they’ve learned recently, or asking a new question each time.
Understanding the needs of online contributors
- When your organization makes a decision (such as making a plan about how you will use resources), consider how the decision may affect online contributors. Find structured ways to consult with online contributors about key decisions that affect them and structure this community consultation in a way that strengthens your organization’s ties to online contributors. For example, be clear about how their feedback will be taken into account as part of the decision-making process.
- Ensure your staff (if you have staff) or key volunteers are interacting regularly with online contributors. ,
- Facilitate channels for feedback for online contributors to communicate with your organization about their experiences and their needs. Work with existing systems for supporting contributors, or consider creating new ways to support contributors if there is a need.
- Consider conducting a formal or informal needs assessment, to find out how online contributors want to engage with your organization or identify areas where they need support. *You won’t be able to respond to all of the needs of every contributor since you will need to match these needs to your organization’s priorities, but this information could be essential to understanding your opportunities to work with online contributors.
- Even if you can’t support online contributors directly in some areas, you may be able to connect them with other resources, or advocate for their needs. For example, online contributors may be communicating in their local language and may not know how to reach out to the Wikimedia Foundation regarding an important need, and you can help with that.
Wikimedia organizations with expertise in community building
If your organization has expertise in working with online contributors to build communities, please list yourself here and briefly describe your expertise that others wanting to build capacity in this area can contact you:
- Wikimedia UK has a range of experience as regards working with volunteers and welcomes contributions from Wikimedians further afield to our discussions
- Please add your organization’s name here, with a description of your expertise.
Here are some learning patterns related to this strategy. Create your own learning pattern here, if you have learning to share in this area.
Ongoing challenges in the area of working with online contributors to build communities
If your organization would like to share an ongoing challenge in this area, that is or is not addressed in these recommendations, please write it down here as a starting point. We can try to build resources in this area or help different Wikimedia Organizations connect to address the challenge together.
- Please add a description of your challenges in this area here.
Please add useful resources you know about, whether created by the Wikimedia movement or in another context. Good resources in this area are still be developed by many experts! The scope of Wikimedia’s work with online contributors is unique, and we will need to drive this work forward together.
- The Wikipedia article on community engagement may provide a helpful overview of concepts (though not specific to online communities).
- An article with some general suggestions about engaging contributors online
- A set of community building tools from an organization working with local communities in the US (not specific to online communities)
Create a capacity building plan for working with online contributors to build communities
If your organization has decided to prioritize capacity building to improve your ability to working with online contributors to build communities, please create a table like the one below. The steps in this table can be part of your organization’s master capacity building plan, as suggested in the User Guide.
If you would like to share your capacity building plan publicly on Meta, you can use this button to create your capacity building plan.