Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Reports/Movement Strategy Playbook/Reduce barriers to participation

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Reduce barriers to participation
East Africa Strategy Summit 2019 in Kampala, Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy

When we asked Movement Strategy participants about how their experience could have been better, a consistent set of clear themes emerged. Participation was often hindered by barriers related to:

  • Time commitment
  • Travel, language and time zones
  • Access to technology and data
  • Training and capacity
  • Experience / familiarity level (eg, newcomers vs. veterans)

Set realistic time commitments[edit]

  • “We want diversity, inclusion, and participation from emerging markets. But those volunteers can't necessarily read all this stuff we require them to read, or be actively involved in all aspects of the process.”
  • “Ensure realistic time commitment from average participants. Be more realistic about the amount of time required.”
  • “Participation from the community is not always easy due to barriers in language, time zones, country processes, or restrictions. We sometimes had to trade off participation, and struggled to reach new voices due to these barriers and our own time constraints.”

Break down travel barriers[edit]

  • “We need better understanding of the limitations that participants outside of North America and Europe have to travel — like limited travel funds, paying up front for visa costs, meals that aren't provided at events, taxis, etc.”
  • “To genuinely engage community -- a whole range of diverse community -- at events, consideration needs to be given to:
  • multi lingual support,
  • more time to create common understanding during events,
  • a culture + diversity lens applied at the design phase,
  • ...providing the tools and resources for people to participate (eg, hiring a local space with stable internet, etc).”
12 members of the Roles and responsibilities working group pose for a photo outdoors at Wikipedia summit 2019, they are holding posters that read 'Role and Responsibilities'
Roles and Responsibilities Working Group - Wikimedia Summit 2019

Lower barriers to internet access and data[edit]

  • “Volunteers have to contribute not only their time, but also their resources. Data is expensive.”
  • “The core team should have provided us with materials such as a computer and connection. Even if we have our own materials, they may be of low quality and not good enough to work on a digital activity such as this one.”
  • “The challenge we are facing for most African communities is internet. When you need to volunteer not only time, but also resources, it's too much.”

Be more accommodating to different time zones[edit]

  • “Staying up for online meetings in my working group was difficult. They mostly happened around 2am for me — and most of us go to work at around 7 or 8am. This makes it difficult or impossible.”
  • “It was really difficult to accommodate both South Asian and American time zones. Maybe we should have used rotating meeting times to accommodate Asian time zones better.”
  • “My time zone in Singapore is the furthest end of when we do working group meetings. They usually happened at 11pm my time, right after my work, during my commute time. I really appreciated having the meetings show up on the calendar on my smartphone, to see if they would conflict with my work, so that I could delegate it to someone else if necessary.”

Provide added resources and equity[edit]

  • “The volunteer culture in African countries is different. Resources are scarce, so when other organizations ask for people to do volunteer work, they facilitate them and help them with resources. When volunteers come to Wikimedia, they come with the same expectations — but don’t receive those things. The retention rate is very limited because of that.”
  • “In my community in Nigeria, volunteering is really a challenge. A lot of people want to volunteer. We can help these people through scholarships and empowerment programs, as a way to say: ‘we don't just want your time and expertise, we’re also adding value to you.’”

Match volunteer asks to training, capacity and interest[edit]

  • “Sometimes we ask volunteers to do things that they don’t really have the training or capacity for. You can't ask people to work outside their experience unless you train and support them.”
  • “The idea of doing radically open collaborative strategy is at the heart of who we are. But most of us don't really know how to write strategy — and neither do the professionals. It's extremely hard to do!”
  • “You have to design for the capacity of the people you are engaging. And invest in lifting them up to the level they can participate as equals at the table. There is a learning component to open participation, and we tend to skip that piece.”

Invest in facilitation for better experiences and more inclusion[edit]

  • “Oftentimes in groups you're not hearing from everyone. There are quiet voices, not just those who can speak loudest. Facilitation is important in ensuring every voice is heard.”
  • “During our salon we used a ‘world cafe’ facilitation style to get people to participate and it worked so well for us.”
  • “Post-its and round table conversations in small groups can help in facilitation.”

Tools and examples for reducing barriers to participation[edit]

Do you have tools, methods or ideas that you, your community or organization use for this? Add them to this section for others to see.