Capacity Building: Top 5 Themes from Community Conversations
By Diane Ranville
Capacity building is the process by which a community or an individual acquires skills, knowledge or resources, allowing them to grow and thrive. As Wikimedia communities develop around the globe, our movement needs to ensure they are given the necessary tools and resources to be able to strengthen their capacities. Capacity building has hence been one of the 9 topics discussed in 2019 community conversations within the Wikimedia 2030 movement strategy process… and it turned out to be the most popular theme!
From Nigeria to Venezuela, from France to India and from Morocco to Macedonia, hundreds of comments and suggestions were shared across languages and cultures. This Top 5 gathers the main ideas discussed by communities, which insisted on the need for both efficient and contextualized tools and support, with a special hint at peer-learning.
#1 Multilingual Online Learning
The idea of online capacity building has been widely advocated for across numerous Wikimedian communities – most likely because our movement has a lot to do with online learning! Contributors from the French Wiktionary and the Arabic Wikipedia, for example, explained that they already work to create online resources like MOOCs or video tutorials.
Screenshot from the first Wiki-MOOC in Arabic, created by Wikimedia Algeria – Dreamart-prod
In addition to such resources, people have also suggested clarifying help pages or promoting online mentorship programs. The idea of a learning platform featuring multiple formats was often cited and supported. And systematically, people have emphasized the need for these resources to be localized in various languages and cultural contexts, so that people and communities from all over the world are equitably empowered to learn and thrive.
#2 Capacity Building for Affiliates
Just like people, organizations need to learn and grow. Our movement is composed of dozens of affiliate organizations, and they all need to build their capacities. How do you run an awareness campaign? How do you manage a project? How do you attract and retain volunteers? How do you obtain a legal status for your organization?
Meeting of the User Group Wikimedians of Nepal in 2013 – Ganesh Paudel
All of our affiliate communities broadly share these general questions, as well as some more specific concerns. For example, Arabic communities are especially keen on receiving governance and conflict resolution training, while South Asia communities are really eager for capacity building to help them apply for and receive grants.
Wikimedians have shared a number of ideas, some of which already exist to various extents, to improve organizations’ capacities. These include train-the-trainers programs, which are seen as an indispensable starting point, as well as specific training for leaders, not forgetting tailored, sustained support for organizations growth with the help of dedicated staff.
#3 Peer-based capacity building
Wikimedia is all about collaboration. No wonder, then, that peer-support and peer-learning are globally praised by Wikimedians. To them, horizontal learning is more efficient than vertical teaching, especially because it allows for more contextualisation.
Learning days at Wikimania 2017 in Montreal – María Cruz
Mentorship and exchange programs are seen as great ways to build capacities for individuals and organizations alike, as well as editathons or hackathons, where Wikimedians can learn from each other. Larger international events are also cited as a booster for participants and for hosting countries, as they allow communities and people to connect and share experiences and knowledge.
#4 Movement Knowledge Accessibility
Individuals’ and organizations’ capacity to take part in Wikimedia activities greatly depends on their access to knowledge about the movement itself. Are people aware that they can have access to grants? Can they easily find technical support if they need it?
Communities around the world feel that, as of now, a lot of this information can only be accessed through informal channels or in English only, creating inequities in our movement. Thus, they would like our internal knowledge to be better managed and more transparently, systematically shared, in multiple languages and formats, including through videos (for example about how WMF departments are organized, what is Wikimania, etc.), so that everyone is empowered to take part in our movement.
Across discussions, many communities have shared that, if we want to build people’s capacities, we need to keep them engaged and motivated. Both online and offline, rewards are seen as a great tool to boost motivation: it can be barnstarns rewarding on-wiki achievements, open badges to recognize skills, posts on social media to appreciate volunteers’ efforts.
Wiki Loves Earth launching in Nigeria, 2019 – Kaizenify
Contests and campaigns are also seen as a great way to motivate contributors to improve their skills, be it in Venezuela, France or Benin. Local groups also acknowledge that growing their members’ capacities works better when they plan regular offline events, focusing on various themes and with varied approaches, because it allows participants to keep motivated, connected, and to develop a wide range of skills.
And here we come to the end of this Top 5 about Capacity Building. Do you think these ideas are what the Wikimedia movement needs? Have you already tried some of these methods in your community? Or does this article inspire you to experiment with them in the future? Please share your thoughts in the comments!