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Movement Strategy/Recommendations/Iteration 2/Capacity Building/9

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Recognizing and Supporting Individuals


Note: This recommendation is not based on full consensus among the members of the working group yet. We are looking forward to discussing the nuances of this topic at Wikimania.

Q 1 What is your Recommendation?


Enable volunteers engaged in capacity building to sustain their efforts through monetary and non-monetary supports and rewards.

Concrete Ask: Create a better understanding of barriers to capacity building at the individual volunteer level and develop a system to mitigate these.

(This recommendation could be aligned or merged with those from other working groups addressing the issue of inequity in volunteer participation)

Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation?


There's constant volunteer contribution to Wikimedia projects and all volunteers are facing challenges. This is especially true for those volunteers who take on tasks in capacity building: providing trainings, organizing exchanges, starting groups and organizations. After years of work they often face burnout, financial problems, and the choice to continue or to ‘put bread on their families’ tables’. Communities count on individuals to build capacity and grow the movement, its resources, partners, funds and members.

In the global north, volunteering is often a phenomenon seen among the privileged, who are able to donate time and their own resources. And often volunteering is supported by public funds or by well-organized charities that provide the frameworks and organizing tools making civic engagement easy, rewarding and fun. Finally, volunteering for a cause tends to not come with inherent dangers in functioning democracies and open political systems.

In emerging communities, many of these conditions are non-existent, and volunteers have to start from scratch, use their own funds, take away from time they could be earning an income, or even face political repercussions.

If we want to grow the movement in countries with emerging or yet non-existent communities, we cannot be successful if we impose the northern/western understanding of volunteerism onto the situation. Therefore we will need to better understand the situations, the culture, the political and economic environments in each case, and determine which monetary and non-monetary supports help leaders overcome barriers. This is in addition to capacity building services they may receive as described in R1,2,3, 4, and 8.

The supports and rewards could take on multiple forms, symbolic rewards a, monetary, - honoraria, stipends, reimbursement of expenses, scholarships, equipment, internet access and more. Certifications (for example as trainers, experts, speakers, circuit riders) are also a powerful way to recognize individuals, give them something to show for their time and effort, and grow their status in the capacity building community.

Supporting individuals will enable more people to take part and lead more online and offline activities. The monetary support will enable new volunteers from less privileged and underprivileged communities to be more active in our movement and will increase diversity. The new organizers will enjoy professional training, coaching, among other tools, and this will benefit them not only in their Wikimedian’s role but in their professional lives. Most likely, some volunteers will eventually be able to build a livelihood through and from their engagement, as they become paid contractors or staff of emerging organizations or regional hubs.

Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation?


the ‘5 Whys’

  • Why do we recommend to recognize the support needs of individuals? Because we need more leaders and organizers from various backgrounds in our movement.
  • Why don’t we have leaders and organizers from various backgrounds in our movement? Because many of our volunteers are already volunteering as editors. Being organizers and leaders is their 2nd form of volunteerism. It is very hard to commit to so many hours of unpaid activities.
  • Why is it hard to commit to so many hours of unpaid activities? Because people need money to live. Intensive volunteerism is a privilege that very few people can afford. We need to build a system that compensates people for non-editing volunteerism.
  • Why do not we have such a system today? Because there is a bias in the movement toward paid participation and idealizing non-paid contributors.
  • Why is there a bias in the Wikimedia Movement? Because the first volunteers of the Wikimedia Movement were editors and developers of Wikipedia and the idealization of non-paid contributors came with them. But Wikimedia is not Wikipedia and if our vision is to become the infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge, we need to build a system for recognizing and supporting organizers and leaders.

Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation?


Key movement individual volunteer stakeholders providing and receiving capacity building.

Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change?


Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk?


We propose a recognition and compensation of individuals' efforts and needs as they are building capacities, as a way to speed up growth, make engagement an opportunity equitably available, and sustain engagement of leaders.

However, monetary compensation for volunteer work is not well regarded by many in the communities at large, and seems to quickly lead to fears about paid editing. This can be addressed by establishing a transparent way to identify and recognize the individuals who with support will have much potential to grow the movement in their part of the world, support them and closely evaluate the outcomes. The argument could also be made that organizers and leaders and capacity builders are needed and merit extra support precisely to create productive environments for more unpaid editors.

Establishing a system that "works" while maintaining diversity will require continuous improvement as the movement evolves.

Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality?


We do have some mechanisms currently that reimburse volunteers for expenses, allow them to travel and that provide stipends for activities and conferences. Wikimedia Germany has an extensive volunteer support program. The new system, however, would be different, in that it will be designed for diversity and for growth, rather than funding the same group of individuals over and over.

Does it keep something, change something, stop something, or add something new?

Adds a new recognition and remuneration process.

Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how?


It connects to recommendations 3, 4 and 9, providing a financial base for the people engaged in capacity building to individuals and organizations, or in their regional contexts. It relates to recommendation 6 in that the impact of this work should be closely evaluated. It relates to recommendation 5 in that this will be an expense in the budget of the unit.

Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how?


All capacity building recommendations have been developed in response to the scoping questions and community input through Meta, local and regional gatherings, and collaboration across the Movement working groups.

Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs?


Resource Allocation Recommendation C