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Drawing on community capacity for strategy, and beyond: A look back at the Capacity Building working group’s meeting in Singapore

User:Oscar_., CC BY-SA 4.0

The Capacity Building Working Group met from 18 to 20 June, 2019 in Singapore, using a rare chance to work together in person in a place with few visa requirements, building upon  months of conversations from virtual gatherings, to plant seeds for what will become draft recommendations ahead of Wikimania 2019. The Working Group has defined Capacity Building as comprising the activities and communications that systematically build, obtain, strengthen, retain and share the knowledge, skills, beliefs, tools, processes and resources for all Wikimedia stakeholders to move towards the Strategic Direction.

"Having recently joined the working group, I had a lot of catching up to do. With group members sharing their notes about ideas almost instantly on Telegram and later on Google Docs I was kept up to date. I especially enjoyed the video call-in where I was briefed by the team visually during a brainstorming session as I actually felt like part of this team.

Hüseyin Hakan Özdemir, Wikimedia Turkey User Group (remote participant)

Over a busy three days, the group’s members (both those present and those joining remotely, like Hakan from Turkey) focused on developing  a set of draft recommendations that lead to structural changes, aimed at reforming how and at what scale capacity will be built by and for all stakeholders of the Wikimedia Movement. The meeting was a fruitful opportunity for the Working Group to deepen their connections and develop a sense of ownership over a process that at times has felt confusing and overwhelming. They discussed and identified ways to integrate their conversations, ideas and the questions expressed in the Scoping Document, looking beyond the end of this phase of the Strategy and even beyond their own thematic area. Amongst many topics, the members discussed how to capitalize on vast competencies that exist within the Wikimedia family, and further develop and enhance accessible knowledge bases.

"There have been several points over the last few months that have felt like we were going through the "hard part" of our work on capacity building, that we were in the messy and mired part of the work. Coming up to this week I certainly had that feeling, and I worried that we wouldn't get "enough" done. Well, I was wrong! Through diligent preparation and careful use of our time, as well as being able to work together as the close team we have become, we have made huge progress in synthesising the recommendations. It wasn't without a healthy amount of debate, disagreement with mutual respect and understanding, and that made it feel all the more worthwhile and substantive than I could have imagined."

Rebecca O’Neill, Wikimedia Community Ireland

Issues discussed by the working group included strengthening regional collaborations, efficient communication channels for capacity building, greater support for emerging and expanding groups, incentives for and promotion of contributors, mentoring, peer-support, and innovative training, among others. Capacity building is cross cutting with all other thematic areas, such as Resource Allocation, Community Health, Diversity, and Product and Technology. No thematic area exists in isolation from the others, and members from the Capacity Building and Roles and Responsibilities Working Groups have already connected following the in-person meeting to discuss synergies and identify overlaps.

"We have incredible assets in this movement: knowledge, skills and experience held by each Wikimedian across the world. In our recommendations, we will propose a sustainably resourced and staffed structure that allows for decentralized peer-based capacity building in and across regions, cultures, thematic areas and levels of capacity. In this manner, capacity building will not only enable Wikimedians to work towards free knowledge, but also forge rich connections between the people of the movement."

Nikki Zeuner, Wikimedia Deutschland

Incorporating feedback from communities was a key ingredient in formulating "seedling" recommendations, and Community Conversations were of immense help towards framing the big structural questions in this vast thematic area through a localized lens. The insights and perspectives provided from across the Movement enabled the group’s members to contextualize their recommendations with community needs. The seedling recommendations will be further developed by the Working Group to become draft recommendations for key capacity building areas, such as methods, evaluation and resources. The Movement Strategy Survey, Strategy Salons and key regional gatherings, such as the upcoming ESEAP Strategy Summit, will provide additional opportunities for Wikimedians - seasoned and newbie, emerging and established - to add their personal and organizational experiences to Working Group discussions, and to further contribute to global Strategy conversations.

With much work at hand and a lot of food for thought after the in-person meeting, the Working Group will resume its online discussions and will continue to develop its recommendations, aiming to have initial draft recommendations by Wikimania in August.

Want to get involved in building the Movement’s future? Read up on Strategy, reach out to Community Strategy Liaisons, and complete the Strategy Survey.