My life as a Strategy Liaison for the French language
By Diane Ranville
I am the Strategy Liaison for the French-speaking Wikimedian community on behalf of the Wikimedia 2030 movement strategy process. This long title may sound a bit obscure to most people, but for me, it’s been a daily reality for almost five months now. Community conversations, strategy salons, working groups… all these things I have become familiar with.
And today, I’d like to share with you some of this reality: if everything goes well, it should sound a little less obscure afterwards 😉
Strategy Salon in Parakou (Benin) about Community Health. — Nerus1er CC-BY-SA 4.0.
As in any good Wikipedia article, let’s start with some etymology: wiktionary says the word liaison « liaison » comes from latin ligare, meaning to bind, to connect.
And that’s indeed my role. I am the link, or the bridge, that allows dialogue between, on the one hand, the strategy teams (Core Team and Working Groups), and on the other hand, the francophone community. Concretely, it means I inform the community about the progress made by the working groups (whose goal is to produce recommendations for the movement), and in return I collect the community’s views, needs and analysis and I relay them to the working groups. Thus they can adjust their work in accordance with practical feedback, which they are always very interested in.
Of course, the connection is not always easy to make! I have to join together two worlds that don’t always have the same codes, the same worries, or the same words to talk about them.
As a consequence, one of my tasks has been to translate documents, not only from English to French, but also from one context to the other! The strategy process’s issues are not so different from editors’ daily concerns – but we need to make the connection between them.
The incredible diversity of the francophone community
For the WikiConvention Francophone 2019, I designed this huge strategy poster to collect feedback from the community. — Diane Ranville CC-BY-SA 4.0.
We are seven Strategy Liaisons. In addition to French, other represented languages include Hindi, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Mandarin. And each community is specific in its own way.
What struck me when I started connecting deeper with the French-speaking community is its huge diversity. Diversity among online communities, of course, notably because francophones are very active on sister projects. But diversity also, and more direcly visible, when you look into how communities are structured offline.
I am a Wikip/median from Grenoble, and I found myself getting in contact with volunteers from a full range of countries whose issues I only vaguely knew about before. From the big Chapter of Wikimedia France, with which I was already familiar, to the recent User Group of Guinea, and including countries like Canada or Cote d’Ivoire, situations are incredibly diverse and conversations are all the more interesting.
In Benin for example, where there is a very dynamic team, contributing to Wikimedia projects remains complicated. Limited internet access, lack of digital literacy among the population… Local volunteers face huge challenges, and still they manage to organize workshops and trainings, partly thanks to support from the broader community.
Nevertheless, I also realized that, even if at a different scale, some issues are similar in Africa and in Northern countries: the need for more user friendly platforms, uniformity of social profiles, concentration of skills in large urban centers… This allows for identifying structural issues, and better understanding the big picture from a global point of view.
Group photo at WikiConvention Francophone. From left to right: Emna Mizouni (Wikimedian of the year, from Tunisia), Aboubacar Keita (young president of Guinea’s User Group), and myself, Diane Ranville. — Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf CC-BY-SA 4.0.
The future of Wikimedia projects
Technology, partnerships, community health and diversity, resource allocation… I held discussions about all of these topics, and I did it both physical or digital places, including the village pumps of French Wiktionary or Wikipedia, Twitter and Telegram, emails and videoconference, during meetings in Paris and Lyon, in Stockholm for Wikimania and in Brussels for the WikiConvention Francophone. I collected and translated strategy salon reports from Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, DRC, Tchad and Benin.
Of course, throughout conversations, people expressed frustrations, both about what should change in our movement and about challenges in the strategy process itself: we can always do better, that’s for sure. But these ideas have a positive lining: they mean people wish we would better function as a movement, better support volunteers around the world, better design our platforms for all our projects. And in the end, all of this shapes a very exciting vision for the future.
Of course, reshaping the deeper structures of our movement won’t happen overnight – it’s a big machine. But the Wikimedia 2030 Strategy is precisely about changing the game in order to be more in tune with Wikimedians’ needs. So in the weeks and months to come, I will continue supporting connection between community voices and the recommendations for our future produced by the working groups. The goal being that strategic recommendations will be as close as possible to the community’s aspirations, and will shape a vision of the future that we’ll all want to contribute to building.
And here we are, coming to the end of this post. I hope you now understand a little better what I do as a Strategy Liaison. And if you still have questions, please feel free to comment!