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Learning with Wikibase Partners Outside the EU and North America[edit]

Purpose of this document[edit]

This document corresponds with the Wikibase Ecosystem 2023 goal (WMDE Program 14):

Goal (14): Communities outside of Europe and North America benefit from Wikibase, both Suite and Cloud.

Indicator (14a): At least 5 public and open knowledge project representatives outside of Europe and North America contribute to our understanding of Linked Open Data (LOD) needs.

This document’s goal is to summarise key learnings and insights from our work with organisations active outside Europe and North America .


We recognize that in order to cultivate an inclusive, equitable and diverse ecosystem we need an approach that does not simply rely on the facts of geographic location. Still, this lens provided us with a direct and pragmatic route to engage a broader group and understand a greater proportion of their needs. Ultimately, making this attempt with care and caution feels like important work.


So far we have worked closely with five projects outside of Europe and the US in order to understand their needs, their aspirations, and their frustrations; we are endeavoring to support them in ways as meaningful as possible while also seeking better ways in which we can be supportive, especially to organisations that work with underrepresented knowledge.

In this process, we have engaged in detailed discussions, provided feedback on the work of these organisations and on their various funding applications, and provided technical and content consultancy. In this process we have gained invaluable insights. This is a work in progress, but the lessons we’ve learned have led us to rethink our approaches and reflect on our practices.

Impact stats we’re proud of[edit]

  • Five trainers trained, who in turn trained more than forty of their peers to use Wikibase
  • Supported four projects with funding applications
  • Facilitated and participated in more than 20 meetings (including two in-person, plus countless emails and text messages)
  • Made new friends and did valuable learning!

Key learnings and considerations, so far[edit]

Nuanced approaches[edit]

We need nuanced approaches to ensure that our work is not extractive.

  • In particular, in our work with smaller organisations and those working with underrepresented knowledge. This is a very sensitive matter. We need to put a lot of care and effort into being clear about who we are, what we do -- and what we can't do.
  • This necessitates extended research: into the organizations we are conversing with (their aims, scope, capacities); into the kinds of knowledge and communities they are working with; and into how these are situated in the local socio-cultural milieu.


Each case is different. Is it possible to create one set of how-to’s for every partner organisation that works outside of EU & US and/or that works with underrepresented knowledge?

  • It appears that we will have to be working on a case-by-case basis on several occasions. Simply because two organisations are based in the same country, same legal context, and same knowledge domain doesn’t mean they have the same needs and affordances.
  • A key learning thus far is that our findings about LOD needs outside of Europe and North America risks becoming a very broad and even generic document. The needs of projects, groups and institutions that work with underrepresented knowledge may be very diverse. We must be careful not to present any such findings as a generic “how to”, but instead more as a set of nuances, principles, ethical approaches, etc


Perhaps surprisingly, we found that smaller organizations may require more flexibility from our side, both in our internal processes and in our communications.

  • Smaller organisations often have limited resources; they may be run by just a few people, possibly on a volunteer basis as well. They do not always have the resources to provide us with what we need from them in a timely fashion (e.g., requests for proposal feedback, LoS etc). There have been several occasions in which we’ve had to be flexible in our partnership work in order to prioritise cases of organisations with limited resources.
  • Similarly, our internally established communication channels (email, video calls) don’t work equally well for everyone. It was much simpler for some of our partners to text with us, to deal with urgent matters and updates (instead of, for example, writing a lengthy email or arranging for a call) - again, something we realised we need to be flexible at.
  • Accordingly, reliable and transparent communication with Product appears to be crucial in order to be able to meaningfully support partners and provide a timely response to unpredictable events and requests. These have so far been established and maintained very efficiently.


What types of support can we impactfully and realistically provide to our partners?

  • Some of the partners have asked explicitly for support which relates to their lack of resources, for example, technical advice, problem solving support, support to review applications and project plans.
  • Up to that point, and in effective coordination with the product managers, we have been able to provide all support requested. Product managers have set resources aside to deal with these issues, and up to this point this has functioned well. Now we need to consider how to move forward and how we can respond to a possible scale-up of this kind of support.

Definitions of underrepresented knowledge[edit]

Critically reflect on the ways in which we define and approach underrepresented knowledge.

  • Maintaining a purely geographical definition of what constitutes underrepresented or marginalised knowledge may prove to be problematic in that it may end up reproducing colonial power structures.
  • We need to remain conscious of and critically reflect on the ways in which our practices reproduce these structures and divides of power, whether by reinforcing them or by relying on them (such as the divide between Global North and Global South).
  • We have taken these points into consideration in the 2024 strategy design for both Wikibase Cloud and Suite.

Learning experiments[edit]

Learning experiment #1 - Train the trainers modules[edit]

Goal: multiply community capacity by increasing the number of trainers and facilitators.


In the “Wikibase for Nigerian Libraries” workshop we tried out a training model that we think has very good potential to expand and build capacity in the Wikibase ecosystem.

With Omorodion Okuonghae (Head of E-library Services at the Samuel Adegboyega University in Nigeria) we designed a series of workshops, both online and on-site, aiming to introduce Wikibase to Librarians in Nigeria. The goal of the six two-hour online workshops (run by Christos and Alan) was to train five librarians so that they could then act as facilitators for a two-day in-person workshop in Yenagoa, Nigeria (with Mohammed in person and Christos online). For more details, see the project description in the next section and the project page.


It took a lot of effort from our side:

  • planning
  • supporting writing applications
  • some costs incurred (Mohammed travel)
  • course design
  • preparing for and delivering the training
  • technical support

However, it led to several positive outcomes:

  • We trained ourselves (Christos and Alan) to be able to deliver the training courses
  • We trained six librarians to confidently communicate entry-level Wikibase knowledge
  • We helped introduce about 40 librarians to Wikibase, using hands-on work and examples
  • We helped create several Wikibases, some of which may lead to actual instances in the participants’ respective institutions
  • We actively practised support and engagement with prospective users
  • We helped raise awareness about Wikibase at library-related institutions (through the participants), wider library communities and associations (through the event promotion), WMF and the Wikimedia movement (through the grant application, reporting and DIFF blog post).

Overall, we think that this experiment was very successful. It did require quite some effort, but we think that through our various learnings, the required effort will diminish in future application of the format, and that the results anyway more than compensate for the effort involved. We think that this is a meaningful format to try out more and practise in the future.

Learning experiment #2: match a trainee with an institution[edit]

Goal: pair an institution that wants to set up a Wikibase instance with an aspiring engineer, wikimedian, practitioner or similar who wants to learn how to use Wikibase.


In our work with the RIWATCH museum in India, we have tasked Bodhi (our partnerships contractor in India) with helping RIWATCH set up their Wikibase instance and learn how to use it. Prior to this, we had already agreed that one of the role’s activities would be to learn how to use Wikibase. Following our discussions with RIWATCH, we learned that although they would be interested in setting up an instance for their ethnographic collection, they had no technical and infrastructural capacity to do so. Thus, we decided that setting up the museum’s instance could represent Bodhi’s learning curve.


We think that this format is meaningful to further evaluate.

  • The core idea is that we pair an inexperienced developer with an organisation interested in setting up a Wikibase instance, ideally with a supporting grant to the developer and for a meaningful period of time (3-6 months?).
  • The developer will learn how to set up a Wikibase instance, performance maintenance work, and ultimately develop the capacities of the institution’s staff both technical and otherwise.
  • The outcomes of this could be: a) a trained engineer in Wikibase -- they may then practice this training as they see fit, e.g., offering engineering support or consultancy to other institutions, etc., b) an institution with a Wikibase instance, and/or c) further capacity building among the institution’s staff. Especially if we could fund this kind of action, we could also think about asking for documentation to be produced during the learning process.


The following are the organisations and projects that we worked closely with in 2023.

My Community[edit]

A Singapore-based organisation that works with participatory community archives of local (oral) histories ( They will be working with Wikibase.


Works with environmental NGOs in Brazil to open environmental data in Brazil.

Open Ghanaian Parliamentary Data[edit]

Aims to use Wikibase to create a free, open data repository with information about Ghanaian parliamentarians from 1957 to the present. The project has now secured funding from WMF.

Promoting Linked Open Data and Wikibase in Nigerian Libraries[edit]

This project aims to do capacity building through workshops to support Linked Open Data and the use of Wikibase among Nigerian libraries. The project has recently secured funding from WMF. We co-created the Wikibase in Nigerian Libraries project, as a prototype for further “train the trainers” learning modules.

Research Institute of World’s Ancient Traditions Cultures and Heritage[edit]

RIWATCH is a community-based research centre based in Arunachal Pradesh, India. We met and discussed the possibility of using Wikibase for some of their collections. We decided to create a first instance for one of their collections (cultural artefacts from Arunachal Pradesh and North East India at large, digital copies of which are already available on Commons). As part of our collaboration, RIWATCH has created their own Wikibase Cloud instance (item list).