Wikimedia Blog/Drafts/Reimagining Mentorship with the Wikipedia Cooperative

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This was a draft for a blog post that has since been published at


Reimagining Mentorship with the Wikipedia Cooperative


I JethroBT, Project Manager of the Co-op, at Wikimania 2014.

An editor's initial experience when contributing to Wikipedia can be daunting: Editing can be difficult, there is a ton to read, it is easy to make mistakes right off the bat and feel pushed away when edits are reverted. My name is Jethro and a small team of editors and I are addressing these obstacles by building a mentorship space called the Wikipedia Cooperative, or simply the Co-op. In the Co-op, learners (i.e. editors seeking mentorship) will be able to describe how they want to contribute to Wikipedia and subsequently be matched with mentors who can teach them editing skills tailored to their goals.

We are working under an Individual Engagement Grant and hope to complete a pilot and analysis of our mentorship space by early next year. If successful, we hope to fully open the space and provide tools to allow similar projects to be built in other Wikipedia projects. We recently passed the second month of our grant and I wanted to share our progress with you so far.

We recently brought Dustin York to our team as our graphic designer. York's background designing the WMF's Travel and Participation Support grantmaking pages and other experience such as with UNICEF will be invaluable for us. He has begun exchanging ideas with us with hopes that the design work will be in full swing by September. We intend to make the space friendly and inviting for both learners and mentors alike and are confident that we can create a promising look and feel.

Product/Interaction Designer Dustin York's illustration work for the WMF's Travel & Participation Support grants pages on Meta.

In program development, we’ve organized an editing curriculum that we hope to make available to learners as part of the mentorship. We’ve categorized these skills into three different levels of difficulty as well as by the type of skill (see example). We've also finalized a conceptual design for how learners will be matched with mentors.

Example skills planned to be made available at the Co-op.

In our research, we've finished designing interview protocols and questions for editors who have participated in help spaces on Wikipedia, such as the Teahouse and The Wikipedia Adventure. We have begun reaching out to such editors for interviews - their feedback will help guide our upcoming design decisions.

We have narrowed down the key questions we want answered that will hopefully help us understand the impact and next directions of our project:

  • How well does the Co-op work?
  • What predicts how well the Co-op works for particular learners?
  • What features work best in various existing programs?
  • Why do learners seek out and continue mentorship?

We also completed background research in addition to a preliminary mentor survey to assess how and why editors participate in mentoring. We have published our key findings on our hub on the English Wikipedia.

Lastly, our team was well-represented at Wikimania 2014 in London. We met often, sought out prospective programming candidates and connected with a number of editors and Foundation staff to discuss feedback and ideas for our project.

We plan to begin our pilot in early December and are seeking out editors who are interested in mentoring a small number of learners during this pilot period. If you are interested, please let us know on our project talk page or contact me directly. We believe that mentorship is a positive and personalized way to promote good editing habits for editors in addition to engaging productively with the editing community. It is our hope that our efforts, along with those of the mentors, will create a more approachable atmosphere for users who want to contribute to Wikipedia.

(This article was co-authored by Soni and I JethroBT.)