Volunteer Supporters Network/Zurich Meeting 2019/Report

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Volunteer Supporters Meeting
17–19 November 2019, Wallisellen, Switzerland


The Volunteer Supporters Meeting in Wallisellen, Switzerland was the third of its kind after previous meetings in Berlin (2017) and Vienna (2018). Hosted by WMCH, 13 experts in community support from 9 European Wikimedia affiliates met from November 17th to 19th. Besides networking and skill sharing they worked on topics like new editor retention, chapter–community relations and strategy within the open framework of Wikimedia’s Volunteer Supporters Network. The participating chapters besides WMCH were WMAT, WMDE, WMES, WMFR, WMHU, WMIT, WMPL und WMRS.


Getting to know your peers in person has proved valuable for enhancing the spirit of global collaboration in the Wikimedia movement as well as for uncomplicated support in the everyday-work of a volunteer supporter.

In order to shape this in a more applicable way the participants agreed on the creation and extension of existing communication channels in favor of others. A new Telegram group replaced the Facebook and Google Hangout groups for volunteer supporters. The Volunteer Supporters mailing list will be used more for the (internal) sharing of larger texts and documents instead of being a mere announcement channel (for the interested public). First and foremost, the regular meetings will take place twice instead of once a year – with a Wikimania in Europe, then attached to it. WMPL offered to host one of the meetings in 2020.

Whereas most of the meeting resulted in public documentation (e.g. on Etherpads), it also included a session with an “everything said here doesn’t leave the room” policy. This was a safe space for sensitive issues and personal advice.

Skill sharing[edit]

The effective sharing of skills was a crucial part of the meeting. This meant numerous introductions to the handling of tools, platforms and the like which can improve a volunteer supporter’s work. The naming of experts in the room encouraged a successful use of these skills in the future – you can approach people you know directly in case of open questions.

The topics and their experts were:

From experience to inspiration[edit]

A data-based evaluation of activities for winning and specifically retaining new editors was prepared by WMAT and then put into the context of individual experiences by all participants. Numbers of new editors reported by Wikimedia affiliates seen in relation to their annual budgets and potential reach revealed WMCAT, WMIL and WMRS as most successful chapters for the last year. New-editor-related activities were grouped into six categories: (1) universities and colleges, (2) individual meetings / workshops, (3) regular meetings of established groups, (4) online onboarding, and (5) photo and writing competitions. When it came to user retention, regular meetings of established groups and writing (not photo) competitions showed the most promising results. Hardly any new users were retained by the reviewed activities at universities and colleges as well as by individual meetings / workshops.

How can chapter–community relations be reflected in a chapter’s internal structure? This was discussed on the basis of WMPL’s new three-year strategy and WMAT’s “expert group” scheme.

The expertise of professional volunteer supporters from Wikimedia affiliates has not been included in the current Wikimedia 2030 strategy process as much as it could have been. In order to change this, a road map for feedback to the final recommendations was developed. This road map shall secure an effective examination of the recommendations and collective feedback by volunteer supporters.