Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Blog posts/Walking the Talk

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User Group Côte d’Ivoire Furthers the Thinking on Capacity Building for the Movement[edit]

By Koffi Donatien Kangah and Nikki Zeuner

The Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy Working Group Capacity Building had its face-to-face meeting in June in Singapore.  During three intensive days, the group talked through some large themes in capacity building - equity, peer-to peer support, financing, evaluation, learning resources, methods beyond training, sustainability and community governance - and successfully ended the meeting with a set of draft recommendations. These are the start of a capacity building structure, with centralized and decentralized functions, to be shared for input and presented for community consultations at Wikimania. So far so good...

Unfortunately, these recommendations did not benefit from the contributions of Donatien Kangah, a member of the Capacity Building working group from Côte d’Ivoire. This was due to entry problems in Singapore.  It had already been complicated enough to ensure meaningful participation in the online meetings, due to the English/French language divide.

We were presented with the risk of having recommendations developed without the contribution of African communities. This situation was considered unacceptable by his colleagues in the Working Group. So a catch-up meeting was agreed upon, supported by the core team, and co-coordinator Nikki Zeuner travelled to Abidjan a few weeks later to meet with Donatien and his user group.

The conversations resulted in a much better understanding of the situation, the power and the ideas of emerging communities such as user group Cote d’Ivoire. Recommendations now  reflect their perspectives.

In this post, we have selected three points from the rich discussions that took place in Abidjan:

Community development and professionalization of the organization. The discussions revealed that the growth observed in emerging communities, particularly in Côte d'Ivoire and Africa, cannot be based solely and sustainably on the strength of volunteers. The reality is that at some point there is a question about the availability of these for the conduct of activities. However, this availability is eroding over the years as individual needs become more and more important. But the challenges of building the movement at the local level will inevitably go beyond  editorial contribution. Hence the need to support the development of communities by strengthening their organizational capacities,including through salaried teams, however small they may be. Even if they are limited or part-time, they are crucial for managing and coordinating projects and programmes, for accounting, logistics, communication at events, etc. All these activities cannot be carried out on a sustainable and efficient voluntary basis.

Capacity building among peers. Another element of discussion is the untapped potential of capacity building experiences between peers, between communities with similar contexts. These experiences have the advantage of being easily capitalized to overcome barriers to understanding. As an example, two years ago, the Ivorian user group received a Chadian Wikipedian through the Volontariat international de la Francophonie. For a year, he had joined the Ivorian community, participated in activities and observed the functioning of the group. Then, back in Chad, he successfully launched a Chadian User Group, which is now recognized by the Affiliation Committee. Coaching or mentoring between peers - while peer qualification must be assessed on the basis of the proximity of the capacities to be reinforced and the contexts - has powerful potential. The Ivorian User Group has also advised and assisted the communities of Cameroon and Guinea in their recognition processes.

Regional and local governance vs. global governance. The third point of discussion that emerged during this visit was related to the governance of the movement. The discussions revealed an expectation of bringing the movement's governance bodies (Wikimedia Foundation, Affiliations Committee, Board of Trustees etc.) closer to communities, through regional and local structures. But questions remain: Should we create new structures regionally? Or should we rely on existing affiliates and further strengthen them? In the first case, the question of the relationship of new structures with affiliates arises. In the second, capacity building takes on a more regional and local dimension. As a result of this input, strengthening organizations is now a draft recommendation of the capacity building working group.

In summary,

  • Travel restrictions and barriers across the world are complicating strategy work and endangering the equity of voices. We need to proactively counteract this, and not only in the strategy work, but in all future movement activities, whether they are strategic, capacity building or governance.
  • One of the ways to do this is to actively solicit participation from communities where they are.

Another is to strengthen local voices and organizations, to be strong players, leaders and co-builders of capacity in the global movement. User Group Côte d’Ivoire is a shining example of this potential of strong local groups!