Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Transition/Global Conversations/Lessons Learned
- Title of the event: Wikimedia Movement Strategy: Global Conversations and Follow-Up Calls
- Date: November 21/22, December 5/6, January 22/23/24, January 29/30, February 5/6/7
- Organizers: Movement Strategy Transition Support Team (WMF), supported by InsightPact (external vendor)
Format of the event
Main format & duration
In total, we organized four 4-hour calls called “Global Conversations” (November 21/22 and December 5/6) in year 2020, in which the Wikimedia communities on a global level were invited to prioritize initiatives from the movement strategy recommendations for the upcoming 18 months. You can read more about the content of the Global Conversations in the November and December report.
In 2021 nine so-called “Follow-Up calls” were organized, in which Wikimedians were invited to further discuss specific initiatives that were prioritized during the Global Conversations and plan the next steps together around implementation. We organized
- two 4-calls on the “Interim Global Council” (January 23/24) (see report),
- two 2-hour calls on “Regional and thematic hubs” (January 30) (see report), and
- five 2-hour calls, each for initiatives or clusters of initiatives:
- “Improve User Experience” (January 22) (see report),
- “Funding for underrepresented communities” (January 29) (see report),
- “High Impact Topics and Content” (February 5) (see report),
- “Skills and Leadership development” (February 6) (see report), and
- “Environmental Sustainability” (February 7) (see report).
Main goal & Main target audience
Main goal of the series of the events was to create an online space for Wikimedians to discuss how to implement the ten recommendations of the Wikimedia 2030 Movement Strategy Process, published in May 2020. In this transition phase -- between drafting the recommendations and implementing them -- the goal was to work as a global community together on prioritizing recommendations and drafting an implementation plan for the upcoming 18 months.
Participation at the events was open to everyone interested in Movement Strategy and invites to participate in these conversations was shared across different groups: online communities, Wikimedia affiliates volunteers and staff, as well as Wikimedia Foundation staff.
Total number of participants
- In total, 420 individual Wikimedians took part in our four Global Conversations events (November 21/22, December 5/6).
- In our follow-up event on “Interim Global Council” we had 152 participants
- “Regional & thematic hubs” conversations had a total of 90 participants
- “Improve User Experience” discussion had 75 participants,
- “Funding for underrepresented communities” had 63 participants,
- “High Impact Topics and Content” had 56 participants,
- “Skills and Leadership development” had 72 participants,
- “Environmental Sustainability” had 32 participants.
Number of organizers
The Transition Support Team, consisting of five staff members (Abbad Diraneyya, Cornelius Kibelka, Ellie McMillan, Kaarel Vaidla, Mehrdad Pourzaki), was responsible for organizing this series of events. An external vendor, Insightpact, specialized in online events design, execution and technical support was part of the organizing team as well with two main contributors for most of the events and two additional members stepping into technical supporting roles.
Language(s) spoken during the event
Main language of the series of events was English. Throughout the series of events, we offered live interpretation into eight different languages (Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Russian, Spanish). Where possible, we offered live interpretation back to English, if the speaker preferred to speak their (supported) native language.
Having consulted with many organizers within the Free and Open movement and beyond, we decided to use Zoom for the Global Conversations and Follow-up discussions. We used Zoom because it is the most stable tool to hold large group meetings and offers the possibility of break out rooms. At the moment, no other tool, free or not free, provides these two key features. Also Zoom offers strong tools and options to enforce the Friendly Space Policy as well as the option to have live interpretation into several languages. Furthermore, Zoom is available across a wide range of operating systems, including mobile phones.
Many community members were already familiar with Zoom and it has been used widely in preparation and prioritization events for these conversations, as well as for other events (CEE Online Meeting 2020, e.g.). Beyond Zoom, online normal event organization tools (Google Calendar/Google Forms) were used. For internal communication as well as for participant communication we provided a Telegram group, as it is a common communication tool among Wikimedia conferences.
Program / Methods used
We used the following methods in our events:
- Mix of plenaries for presenting information and breakout sessions for focused conversations.
- Focused Conversation Method with ORID framework used in the breakout sessions for global conversations that provided the data, got the first reactions and reflections from people, then moved to interpretative conversation and facilitated decisions / agreement in the end. For the reflection phase also written notes used to support deeper reflection and manage time.
- A template based on 5Ws method was used during the follow-up discussions to structure the discussion content.
- Straw polling to get an overall sense of agreement / disagreement regarding the discussion topics
- Simple polling was used to identify the priorities during the event.
- Quadratic voting was used to surface key topics in the Interim Global Council conversations.
- Lightning talk model was used during one global event and “Regional and thematic hubs” conversations to surface ideas and plans from different actors.
CommunicationA multi-pronged approach was used to build momentum around the global events and to generate meaningful interactions.priorities were received from 60 communities and affiliates as a way to build momentum for global discussions. We supported affiliates and communities in organizing these preparation calls, but did not organize any on our own. The idea was to provide affiliates the possibility to tailor these conversations to their audience / public.
The “Global Conversations” events (November 21/22, December 5/6) were about bringing the local, regional, and thematic priorities together to identify global ones. For the global events, the approach was divided into:
- a 30-day “save the date,”
- 2 week registration notice plus program, and
- in the lead up to, “week-of” and
- 2-day reminders.
The more general “heads up” notices went out on global mailing lists, such as wikimedia-l and the affiliates mailing list, as well regional ones, the EDs, and affiliate chairpersons lists. Central notice was used in two short spurts in November and December to reach out particularly to active online editors who may not be associated with any affiliates - this was used when the Meta page was up and ready, and to encourage people to register for both sets of Global Events. We succeeded in having a higher than usual participation from online editors and project community members.
3-2 weeks before both sets of global events, mass messaging was used, particularly to target affiliates. The affiliate list was obtained on Meta. Affiliates communicating in Arabic, French, German, Portugese, Russian, and Spanish were manually removed from the list. The message was translated in-house by the Support Team and posted on the respective affiliate and group pages in those languages manually. The rest, communicating in English or smaller languages, were mass messaged. This was to remind people about the global events, ask them to register in advance, and share preparatory materials linking them to the central meta hub for the global events.
Messages were also manually posted on key pages such as the larger Wikipedia village pumps (English, German, Spanish, French, Arabic), Commons, Wikidata, and special groups such as SWAN (Strategic Wikimedians Affiliates Network) and Women in Red.
Targeted outreach was used for regional platforms such as WikiArabia, Central and Eastern Europe, ESEAP, as well as to individuals who had been active in previous phases of movement strategy or during preparation / prioritization events. This outreach was done via email, as well as attending calls, and reaching out to former strategy liaisons to invite friends, colleagues, and community members via popular social media channels, such as Facebook and Telegram.
Finally, everyone was invited to a dedicated Telegram channel for movement strategy for asking small questions, and to triage any issues, and receive updates. As of February 21, 2021, this group has 367 members, and counting.
Feedback survey results
While the overall transition phase of the movement strategy has metrics regarding engagement of the affiliates and communities, the events covered in this report did not have specific participation or satisfaction metrics. Nevertheless, due to the fact that it was organized as a series of events, we conducted feedback surveys for each of the events to understand better how participants experienced them and to be able to adjust, adapt and improve them.
The surveys were conducted using Google Forms (with a privacy statement issued by the WMF Legal Team), and were open for 7 days after each event. You can find the detailed (aggregated, summarized) results for the November (84 respondents, 39%), December (93 respondents, 42%) and January (76 respondents, 57%) conversations on Commons. There weren’t enough answers in the survey for the 2 hour follow up calls (33 respondents), so we didn’t summarize and evaluate them.
Overall, the survey results confirmed most of our conclusions and helped us to improve our events iteratively. Satisfaction rose from event to event: For the November events, 88 % agreed that the events were a good (46%) or very good (42%) atmosphere, followed by 94 % for the December events (54 % good, 40 % very good). 92 % of the respondents said they had experienced good (43%) or very good (49%) at the January events on the Interim Global Council.
Similar improvements in the survey results can be seen across the questions. Especially the improvement on the usefulness of breakout sessions is worth mentioning: In our first set of events (November 21/22), we had short, unfacilitated breakout sessions, and we received a lot of critical feedback after it in the survey. For the next event, we asked experienced community members to facilitate these sessions. Also, we extended the breakout sessions up to 50 min at the January event. All of these immediate improvements were highly appreciated, as you can see in the survey: At the November event 67 % found the breakout sessions useful (40 % agree, 26 % strongly agree). At the December event, 88 % found them useful (49 % agree, 39 % strongly agree); and finally, at the January event, 89 % found them useful (42 % agree, 47 % strongly agree).
What did go well?
We organized a great series of inclusive, multilingual online conversations -- for the first time ever
Despite the fact that Wikimedia is a virtual movement since the beginning, larger online events were never a thing. All larger conversations on Movement Strategy always happened at in-person events, be it the Wikimedia Summit or Wikimania. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to change that, and the Wikimedia Movement to accept and value that.
However, this series of online events shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for the conversations that should have happened at the cancelled Wikimedia Summit 2020. We used the opportunity to create something entirely new, enabling more people with more diverse perspectives and backgrounds to engage in conversations around Movement Strategy.
Attending conferences is always limited to certain people, for various reasons (time, money, capacity, etc.). Organizing strategy conversations in the online spaces allows much more people to attend and voice their opinions. We never had so many participants from Wikimedia’s emerging communities engaging in Movement Strategy at a single event.
For the first time at a Wikimedia event organized by the Wikimedia Foundation (but also overall, as far as we know), we organized interpretation services into eight different languages. While having interpretation at an in-person is quite expensive due to the technical set-up, organizing it in the online space is much cheaper than we originally thought. Also, we offered live, AI powered closed captioning services, first by otter.ai, later the in-built Zoom feature. Live closed-captioning is great for Wikimedians who have better reading than listening comprehension of English, and it also helps a lot for your own documentation purposes, as the transcript is available afterwards. Where possible, we managed that participants could speak in their native language, and interpreters translated back into English. Participants felt they could better express themselves in their own language.
As inclusive as online events can be, there’s also a downside: Because of timezones, you can’t have everyone in one single event, and you have to keep in mind where the participants are and where your vendors are. This was a challenge, both logistically, as well as in terms of program design. We chose to offer our Global Conversations events always twice, one at 10:00 to 14:00 UTC, mostly aimed for our communities from East Asia to Western Europe/Western Africa, and the other at 17:00 to 21:00 UTC, mostly aimed for our communities from Western Europe/Western Africa to the American West Coast. Limited by capacity and resources on our side as well as the vendor’s, we know there are no perfect times for everyone. Also programmatically, it is a challenge to create “convergence” on strategy, when you have two separate events that might come to different conclusions.
Advantage of a series: Iterating and improving from event to event
A great advantage of not having all conversations in one weekend in-person event only, is that you can learn and improve your event, its organization and the participant experience from one the other. Also, before every event, we had dry runs with our vendor to ensure everyone knew their role for the event, and all processes were tested before. We benefited a lot from organizing these conversations in a series:
- Breakout sessions were not facilitated in our first two events (November 21/22), and received quite some feedback stating a lack of it (see also in the aforementioned section “Feedback survey results”). For the second set (December 5/6), we asked facilitators from the wider community to support us. Atmosphere, conversational quality and outcomes improved a lot.
- The very first event, on November 21, was hosted between 11:00 and 15:00 UTC. After feedback from our fellow East Asian communities, we were able to push it one hour earlier, 10:00 to 14:00 UTC, for the upcoming event. While still not ideal for all, it was the best time frame to have the whole team (with 3 team members in UTC-5 and UTC-3) as well as e.g. Philippine community members (UTC+8) on board. Moving events to a time that is convenient for Americas and Asia was not possible, as our vendor delivering the facilitation and technical support was located in Berlin, Germany (UTC+1).
- When contracting interpreters, we learned quickly to rely on interpreters from the community. While we had also external interpreters, the ones from the community were much appreciated because of their cultural knowledge and ability to contextualize what’s being interpreted.
- We tried our best to brief participants before the event what will be discussed, e.g. by providing reading material. However, for various reasons, not everyone is able to read it before the event. Therefore, we quickly introduced a “reading time” slot within the event itself, e.g., in the breakout session. While of course this takes precious time, it improves the quality of conversations a lot.
- We received feedback that participants did not want to fill out our Google Form evaluation surveys, so we quickly offered the possibility to state their feedback on a separate on-wiki page. While this, of course, doesn’t offer anonymity and it’s not structured feedback, a couple of participants appreciated stating their opinion publicly.
Choosing the right vendor is hard, but it’s worth the effort, to create a great, coherent series of events
The organizing team at the Wikimedia Foundation was a rather small team of five people without the experience of organizing virtual events of such kind and scope before. So it was clear for us that we could not do it alone and were looking for a vendor that would support us in finalizing the event design, facilitate the events, and provide the technical support.
We chose to go through a larger selection and vetting process (see also the team’s presentation in WMF’s quarterly Tuning Session). The reason for a larger process was the complexity and potential iterativeness of the series of events that demanded both a high degree of expertise and flexibility at the same time. In the times of the pandemic also a number of new “online event experts” have emerged claiming to have a lot of experience with virtual events, while actually lacking it. Taking all this time for a substantial process up front was well worth it, because it enabled the team to find vendors that fit the profile.
Overall, we interviewed 15 different vendors, 6 of them submitted a proposal, and 3 of them were interviewed in a second round. In the end, we had the luxury of three great proposals, and we’re sure that all of them would have worked out for us. We chose to work with Irene Laochaisri and her company Insightpact, based on her conceptual flexibility, her background and experiences with online facilitation, as well as her skill to not only follow textbook facilitation practices, but to think quickly on her feet that was essential in this complex process.
The procurement process at the Wikimedia Foundation is lengthy and thorough, especially when contracting a new vendor. Four weeks is the average time that we have experienced from the contract request to final signing of the contract by all parties. In this case, the timeline was approximately six weeks. The factors included a new vendor and international company. In future events, it is advised to give 6+ weeks of lead time before the contract will begin to ensure that work can begin during the projected timeline.
When hiring facilitators who have not worked with Wikimedia before, you need to decide how much onboarding you need to do to orient them to the Wikimedia spaces, history, and culture. We did a lot of onboarding regarding Movement Strategy, because the events were exactly about that, but we could have provided more cultural onboarding. In hindsight, we should have also provided more guidance about the (expected) participants of the events and thus helping facilitators to tailor (better) their facilitation style.
Zoom works great for the kind of events we organized, even though it’s not free or open
Having talked with many organizers within the Free and Open movement and beyond, we decided to use Zoom. We used Zoom because it is the most stable tool to hold large group meetings, offers the possibility of breakout rooms, as well as interpretation services. At the moment, no other tool, free or not free, provides these three key features. Also, many community members are already familiar with Zoom and it has been used widely in preparation and prioritization events for these conversations, as well as for other events (CEE Online Meeting 2020, e.g.). Not to forget, that Zoom is available across a wide range of operating systems and platforms, including mobile phones, and across all our events roughly 17 % of all participants attended via a mobile device.
From what we know, Zoom is not unsafe to use and the company has been working on fixing security issues since early 2020. Unless you're discussing state or corporate secrets, or disclosing personal health information to a patient, Zoom works fine. Given the nature of these events, combined with the features the tool provides, we thought it was a low risk to take to use Zoom. There is no tool that provides hundred percent security.
At the events itself, our vendor provided us a technical facilitator. This was essential to be able to use all features, like assigning people to breakout rooms, coordinate interpretation channels, but also manage technical glitches.
A downside of Zoom is that the interpretation and live closed-captioning features are not available in breakout rooms. Both our vendor and us, learned from these events, that it would have been reasonable and manageable to set up parallel Zoom meetings as breakout rooms, instead of using the in-built breakout room feature.
Existing Friendly Space Policy processes work also in the online space, but need to be adapted and developed
We wanted to ensure that our series of online events are a friendly space for everyone. Overall, despite some minor issues, we managed to ensure this throughout all our events.
There are some ways of working regarding ensuring a Friendly Space within the Wikimedia Movement that we brought also to our events. We used the adapted Friendly Space Policy for the (virtual) Celtic Knot 2020, and asked all participants within the registration form to (formally) agree on it. At each of our events, our main facilitator Irene read out loud and showed the first paragraph of the policy, and then spotlighted the dedicated Friendly Space Policy contacts. We made clear that the policy applies to related spaces, mainly our Telegram group, as well.
Having dedicated Friendly Space Policy contacts was essential, as they could focus especially on this topic, and could “float around” between the breakout sessions to ensure (and enforce) the policy. Within Zoom, there is the feature to make specific participants “co-hosts”, which allows them to kick/ban people. To quickly clarify doubts about potential violations or similar, the organizing team had a separate Telegram group.
Beyond the previously mentioned Friendly Space Policy set-up, we enabled the waiting room feature as well as the option for banned people not to be able to join again. Also, we decided to disable the private chat function among participants, because this would be a space we couldn’t control. Thus, participants could only message the host and co-hosts.
Overall, we are all still learning how to ensure a friendly space in online events. There are still not enough processes within the Movement, and we think, we still need to improve on that. E.g., providing more guidance for conference organizers on how to manage “critical incidents” would be helpful. Also finding consensus among event organizers how to react to certain situations (e.g. someone drinking alcohol during an online event) would be helpful.
Reimbursing participants for data packages or childcare was a successful way to support the participants during the virtual events.
We aimed for an inclusive series of online events, which meant that we also thought about how we could support Wikimedians across the world that might not have the most reliable or affordable internet connection. Also, we wanted to support the attendance of Wikimedians who needed childcare support to fully participate in the discussions.
As a result, “participation support” was offered during registration to the events. People could sign up, if interested, via our registration form and would get the necessary information about what support could be claimed for and in which scope. We offered either the option to buy a data package/boost or a childcare reimbursement. In individual cases, we paid for transport to reach a place with a more reliable internet.
Overall, 154 individuals across all events claimed such participation support, which is a great success to enable more Wikimedians to attend. This approach was especially helpful in engaging more participants from the African continent who have not been widely present during global Wikimedia conversations on other occasions and where data packages are known to be relatively expensive. Even though managing a high number of reimbursements takes a significant administrative effort, it was time well invested to increase the level of inclusivity of the strategy discussions.
Process-wise, however, there is still a lot to improve from our point of view. The challenges that we ran into included reimbursement to participants that did not have access to a bank account or use of Paypal in their country, reimbursing smaller amounts of money to those who just needed a “top up” of data, and getting the claims approved in a timely manner to ensure that the participants were not waiting for an extended period of time for funds.
What did not go well?
Translations for the event page were not accurate
We wanted to provide main texts/resources for our online events in at least a couple of wider used languages. Because of pushed timelines, we decided to hire a “professional” translation company to translate texts into Arabic, French, German, Russian, and Spanish. While they returned quite quickly, the quality of translation was by far not sufficient to use them for our purposes. There were not only incorrect translations, but also a missing cultural adaption (formal vs informal); partially, it felt like a bad machine translation.
Thanks to our language skills within the team, we were able to revise and rework them, which, however, took a lot of time and effort. We know this issue is not new, it is something the Wikimedia Foundation has experienced across different teams and projects. Instead, we provided small grants to a few Wikipedia community members to translate the pages. That encouraged not only a connection to the work, but goodwill within the community now that they had ownership.
We urge to find a better solution for this, like paying community translators, creating standardized Wikimedia vocabulary lists across the movement, and/or develop long-term relationships with professional translators.
Relying on Google products for participation management
There is a lot of skepticism and reasonable criticism in the movement about using Google products for event management: It’s a closed, corporate, proprietary environment. Data is saved on US servers, and the European GDPR rules generally do not apply. We are quite aware of this criticism, but can’t or couldn’t change that being a single team within the wider Wikimedia Foundation. For this series of events, we used Google Forms, Spreadsheets, and of course, Gmail. We made this clear and transparent within the registration form and event page providing the standardized privacy statement issued by the Foundation’s legal team.
Being a small team, it is reasonable to use already existing tools and processes of the Wikimedia Foundation. The Wikimedia Foundation uses Google products, like the GSuite, for most of its operations. Neither could we spend more time on researching free/open products, nor would it have made a lot of sense: Even using a free/open form generator for collecting registrations would not help, as we would nevertheless save the data in Google Spreadsheets. Saving data separately in, let’s say LibreOffice sheets, would have made it incredibly complicated to work with the data as a distributed team on 4 continents.
While we are aware of the downsides of using the Google environment, we’d like to highlight how well and convenient it works within an integrated system across Gmail, Spreadsheets, Slides, Forms, etc. Using separate products would have limited us in our efficiency. We would love to see progress or even a solution for this topic. However, it’s not something we could have done within this short timeline and scope of the project.
Independently from the question of using Google products: Originally, it was planned to leave the participant management on the vendor’s side. We learned quite quickly that this didn’t make much sense, both for privacy as well as for communication and cultural reasons. We know our communities much better than any vendor could do.
Traditional communities not as present as hoped, while great participation from emerging ones
As mentioned several times before, we aimed for an inclusive event with a wide range of diverse participants. Without a doubt, we have achieved this. We had incredible attendance from East Asian communities, like the Indonesian or Bengali one, as well as from the African communities, like the Nigerian or Tanzanian one.
However, we were surprised by the lower attendance from more “traditional” communities, like the German or French-speaking communities, institutionalized groups, like CEE (Central and East Europe) or IberoCoop (Latin America). We can only guess why the attendance was so imbalanced: Maybe some of the more established communities are fatigued by and lack faith in global discussions, especially the ones led by Wikimedia Foundation.
Also there is a preference to participate in text formats and on established platforms (like Meta wiki or their respective project) rather than on online calls. The communities that have traditionally not been so active in such global discussions seem to have more energy. Also the support in data packages and childcare facilitates their engagement and made it possible for them to participate in this cycle of movement strategy conversations.
One way to include traditional communities more proactively would be to better advertise live interpretation services for the events. As an example, we noticed that Latin American community members were largely missing in our November and December events. So we advertised more actively that we would hire (again) a Spanish-speaking interpreter, and managed to have many more Spanish-speaking participants.
How do you create convergence when organizing events for different time zones?
As previously mentioned, we decided to organize the events usually twice: Once for the Asian, African, and European communities (on Saturday UTC morning), and once for the European, African and American communities (on Sunday UTC evening). Interestingly, organizing the events for the timezones mentioned creates two quite different “cohorts” of community members: While the Asian and African community members are generally younger, more tech-savvy, and have less knowledge of previous WMF/Community conflicts, the European and American communities are more traditional, and as a result more change resistant.
Therefore, these (not entirely homogeneous) “cohorts” of participants discussed the same topic, but came to different conclusions, or emphasized different aspects of the topics. We don’t yet have a very good solution for gaining alignment between the two sessions, while having all the perspectives well incorporated. We have leaned on the interpretation of the Transition Support Team for now, but having all the participants in the same room at the same time is an inevitable advantage of having one single in person meeting.
In this report, we have tried to cover extensively what we have learned from organizing this virtual event series on Movement Strategy, something that has not been done before on that scale. We hope that our fellow event organizers in the Wikimedia movement can draw as many lessons and conclusions from our report as possible.
Virtual events in the future
As stated before, this series of events was organized to advance the Movement Strategy process towards the implementation phase; a space that was originally planned to be the in-person Wikimedia Summit 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Of course, it is sad not to have been together in Berlin, but organizing this series of events was not only a simple replacement of what should have happened in Berlin, quite the opposite:
- Organizing such conversations in the virtual space allowed it to be much more inclusive, in terms of participants’ geographical and linguistic backgrounds.
- In the previous phase of the Movement Strategy Process, online communities were always underrepresented. The “Global Conversations” format allowed community members to voice their opinions that have not been heard before.
Nevertheless, of course, we hope the COVID-19 pandemic will end, one day, and we expect, at least to some extent, in-person events to resume to be something normal in the Wikimedia Movement. However, we think and hope that the advantage we have brought through this virtual series of events -- including traditionally underrepresented community members that have not been heard before -- is something that should not go away. We expect that also in the future, virtual events like these will be included in the processes to ensure continuous engagement and inclusion.
The Wikimedia Movement will learn to organize and host hybrid events, with virtual and in-person participation. In 2021, both, the Arctic Knot Conference as well as the WikidataCon conferences, will be hybrid events. We expect that this logistical challenge, from an organizers’ perspective, is manageable. However, and we would like to leave you, dear reader of this report, with a question where we don’t see any immediate solution: Traditional conference programs with one-to-many presentations are something that you can easily transfer to a hybrid conference. “Facilitated conversation spaces”, such as the in-person Wikimedia Summit 2019 or the Global Conversations described in this report, are much harder to combine to an hybrid event.
- How do you combine a facilitated conversation with participants in a virtual and in an in-person space?
- How do balance practical or perceived differences among participants? How do you manage a “fear of missing out” feeling among virtual participants?
Presence in in-person will always be a privilege of few. This is a challenge that the Wikimedia Movement will have to find answers for in the upcoming years so that anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us (and stay with us).
Bucket list for virtual events
Besides our more strategic thoughts in the previous section, we would like to leave you with a couple of bullet points that could serve as recommendations to our fellow event organizers. Most of it has been mentioned previously in this report, there are just a couple of other aspects that did not fit in previously and are mentioned below as well:
- Time and dates
- Think about where most of your communities live (for us central European / central African time zone) and where the organizing team is. Make clear where the edges are. For us most people said they would not attend a call after midnight so we made sure no one would need to be awake then.
- Our main audience were volunteers, so we opted, as usual within Wikimedia, for weekends.
- Ask yourself: What is the main purpose of your event, presentation or conversation? Do all participants should have the possibility to speak to each other? If so, and your number of participants is above 100 and people might join via mobile phones, Zoom is the best tool to go. Otherwise, choose free/open options like BigBlueButton or Jitsi. If it’s mainly a presentation (livestream), opt for a tool like Youtube.
- Most videoconferencing tools have limited text chat options, often chats are lost after the event is over. Opt for a parallel messenger tool, like Telegram.
- It is very useful to have a central landing page for your event, where all main information including on how to join your event and a program/schedule is offered. As we have organized such a series of events for the first time, we offered an extensive FAQ on program and tech questions.
- Participants are less committed to online events, than to in-person events, because it is so easy to participate in (or not, because your daylife asks you so). We suggest communicating more often but with shorter messages, including save the dates, 2 week registration notices, a reminder one week before the event, and even a 2-day reminder. There will always be participants complaining about the amount of notifications, either not enough, or too many.
- The Wikimedia Movement has many, many communication channels, for most different audiences and groups of Wikimedians. Think about your target audience for the event and choose wisely which channel(s) you would like to use.
- Depending on your type of event, think about if a registration for it is actually necessary. For our series of events, we ask participants to register because we wanted to offer a non-public way of asking for participation support, and, thus, communicate directly with participants. If your event is less formalized, think about either an on-wiki registration (you can use the wiki mail function to email information) or no registration at all.
- For our registration processes, we chose Google Forms & Spreadsheets (reasoning state above). If you do not work within a Google environment, there are plenty of other options to choose from for registration purposes. Google Forms does not allow sending an automated registration confirmation, which thus requires some manual work on top to confirm participants that they have registered.
- Zoom offers various channels for interpretation services. We strongly recommend having a technical facilitator with extensive Zoom experience on board to manage your interpreters.
- Choose 5-6 languages, contract the interpreters well in advance. Then reach out very directly to those language communities well in advance of the event and make sure they are aware of the support.
- Hire community members doing interpretation, this worked better than we thought. They have cultural knowledge of our community and the terms we use so they make more sense and communicate more effectively.
- It requires some technical set-up, but you can make it possible to interpret someone’s non-English talk back to English. Think about it and make it available if possible, it means a lot to non-native English speakers to express themselves in their own language.
- Live closed captioning
- First, we used the third party service Otter.ai for live closed captioning, which worked great! It allows not only participants with better reading than listening comprehension to participate, but also documents quite well what has been said (which can help you in your reporting efforts).
- In the meantime, Zoom has a built-in live closed captioning service, which is great as well.
- Do not underestimate the time you need to prepare an online event, especially if it's a conversation format. Do not host a conversation format without a dedicated facilitator.
- Facilitation vendors hired for remote events should have a facilitation focus with a technical experience, not technical support with facilitation experience. Their main strength should be facilitation.
- Friendly Space Policy
- Use existing formats and processes of other online events, we used the adapted Friendly Space Policy of the Celtic Knot 2020.
- If you use a registration form, include the friendly space policy into it, and make participants (formally) agree to it.
- In the beginning, read the Friendly Space Policy out loud. Make clear who’s the Friendly Space Policy Officer and show them to the audience.
- Make sure the chain of command, and decision making around friendly space issues are clear in advance of the event.
- Offer a dedicated communication channel for the organizing team to handle friendly space policy doubts and violations.
- Participation support
- We offered “participation support” (as in data packages/boost and child care reimbursements). Promote them before the event so that everyone knows about i.
- Make reimbursements as easy as possible both for community and for internal foundation (or organizing) teams. Especially, if you have an international audience, managing (and transferring) reimbursements can be quite time-consuming.
- Set a limit of what’s a minimum of participation for people being able to claim reimbursement. We set a limit of minimum 30 min. Zoom allows to create a list of participants and their overall attendance in minutes to check that.
Questions & discussions
If you want to talk to the the organizers, ask further questions, feel free to use the talk page. You can also contact the Movement Strategy team via strategy2030wikimedia.org