Peer Support Networks within the Wikimedia Movement

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Peer Support Networks within the Wikimedia Movement

Warning note - this is a page of a project that is only just starting. We are not able to actually give support to Wikimedians in need until we have trained volunteers as peer supporters. But you can already look for help through our resource page. Please leave feedback for the project on the talkpage.

What is this project?

  • A place within the Wikimedia movement, where targets of harassment can get support from other editors
  • A way to learn about dealing with stress and other negative impacts harassment has on Wikimedians
  • A program where Wikimedians can get trained to help other editors who suffer from the impact of harassment

While the Wikimedia Movement in a way is a peer support network in and of itself with the goal of sharing, distributing and curating knowledge, Wikimedians have been asking for more dedicated peer support within this ecosystem for some time, focusing on the support of mental health of volunteers in general or the support of targets of harassment (see these two talks at Wikimania 2019 for example: Mental Health, Targets of Harassment, but also this learning pattern from 2016 about peer support for new editors).

The global Covid-19 pandemic has heightened awareness about online mental health and how online spaces like the Wikimedia projects can impact such issues. It has shown us how important it is to create an ecosystem that provides more safety and is more supportive of everyone's mental health.

Editor retention has long since been identified as one of the key factors of keeping communities active and healthy and it is closely related to fighting harassment. We know that harassment can lead to people leaving the Wikimedia projects or stopping to contribute to certain topic areas, that harassment unfortunately seems to be a common experience on the projects over years and that long term harassment is a serious issue as well. The active participation of interested community members in a WikiLearn pilot about identifying and addressing harassment shows that there is an interest in training on this subject.

Up to now most efforts to fight harassment have been focused on identifying and analyzing harassment and dealing with the harassers through warnings, blocks and bans. The perspective of the targets of harassment has often been overlooked. Other efforts have been limited to spaces with limited audience and safety concerns like private channels or groups on social media.

This project wants to start with this perspective and train volunteers to support the targets of harassment directly. It will create a growing network of trained volunteers (responders), who can help and support other Wikimedians in need.

Training volunteers to build response capacity is explicitly called out in the 2030 strategy. In this project, the Wikimedia Foundation through the Community Development Team is training cohorts of individual volunteers and interested affiliate staff as supporters for those volunteers and is providing resources on- and off-wiki for responders, supporters and the targets of harassment themselves.

Who is this project for?

  • Wikimedians who have become targets of harassment because of their work for the Wikis, who
    • Do not know where to report things
    • Feel stressed out and suffer from other negative health impacts of harassment
    • Belong to marginalized groups and feel unsure about reporting discrimination or hate speech
    • Feel isolated and alone with their experience
  • Wikimedians who want to help and support other editors in need outside of administrative actions against harassers.

What are the limitations of this project?

  • Peer supporters are normal volunteers in the Wikimedia spaces. This means:
    • Volunteers have limited capacity and time, which also means there might be waiting times before a request can be answered. This can create lag in resolving or bringing awareness to the issue at hand.
    • They can’t take administrative actions against harassers. But, they might be able to point to the right place to report and help prepare a report.
    • They generally have limited influence on actions of others on and off wiki.
    • They are not trained mental health experts or lawyers. Please seek professional help where appropriate.
    • Only languages spoken and understood by the volunteers who sign up are supported.
    • They will come from diverse backgrounds and will have different understandings about concepts like harassment and mental health. They will have access to resources from different regions of the world which again might reflect different aspects of such concepts, but perhaps not exactly match your own understanding.
    • This is a slowly growing network. We are only starting. Full efficiency will take time.

Privacy and confidentiality

We believe that everyone involved in a situation of high stress that includes elements of harassment needs special protection of their privacy. The Foundation has put measures into place to protect you from harm. However, please be aware that your conversations with volunteer supporters will not be recorded or monitored by the Foundation. Please consider all options you have to protect your own privacy during these conversations where the Foundation is not involved. For this reason, you may:

  • Contact the peer supporters anonymously/pseudonymously through Wikimail.
  • Create a new account solely for the purpose of contacting the peer support network.
  • Choose your preferred mode of communication after your first request by Wikimail together with the volunteer supporting you.

We are committed to:

  • Protecting any personal information or related data you might reveal during the peer support process to the best of our ability.
  • Retaining your personal information or related data for the shortest possible time that is consistent with supporting you in your request.
  • Only sharing data on a need to know basis internally.
  • Not sharing any data outside the peer support network and the supporting staff except for anonymized, purely statistical data that can not be used to identify individual cases or with your explicit consent.

Be aware:

  • When contacting the peer support network per Wikimail, volunteer responders will be able to see the Email Address you use for the account you are sending it from.
  • Volunteer supporters offer a range of communication channels which reveal different personal information. Choosing to exclude certain channels makes your data more secure, but might also limit the number of supporters able to take your request and lead to longer waiting times.

How to contact a peer supporter

As soon as the first peer supporters are trained, you can contact a peer supporter by clicking here.

First contact will be made via Wikimail. You can later choose a different appropriate and convenient communication channel together with the person responding to your request.

How to become a peer supporter

You can sign up for the training to become a peer supporter as soon as we are ready to process applications, by clicking here. This will not happen before mid February 2023.

Sign-ups are not public to protect you as volunteers.