Wikimedia Conference/Program and Engagement Coordination/Wikimania 2016 report/Future of the Wikimedia Conference
Future of the Wikimedia Conference
After an introduction of all participants – there were around 12 people sitting in a circle – Nicole introduced the session and explained why she was hosting the session. Asking who had been at the Wikimedia Conference most of the people raised their hands.
First, Nicole explained the goals of the conference: building trust and empathy among Wikimedia organizations and enhancing leadership development. She also elaborated on how the audience of the conference is defined (Chapters, Thematic Organizations, User Groups, WMF and its committees) and highlighted that such a mixture of leaders, learners and experts was really good and valuable.
The challenge, Nicole explained, that the budget the WMF provides for WMCON will have to stay the same for 2017, while many new affiliates are getting recognized over the year, and that the budget does not reflect the movement’s growth. WMF and WMDE were now looking for solutions. In the previous years the eligibility criteria was up to 4 people for chapters/thematic organizations with staff, up to 2 people for chapters without staff and up to 1 person per user groups. Nicole explained that WMDE + WMF had the idea to have stricter reporting requirements, another option could be to accept affiliates when they're approved for at least one year. The later, Nicole said, could only postpone the challenge to 2018. Kacie Harold (WMF) added that there will be many user groups approved in 2016 (around 20).
After elaborating on the challenges, Nicole asked the audience if affiliates should have to be recognized for one year before attending the conference. One participant immediately approved the idea. Other participants voiced their concerns, as e.g. “Wiki Loves Africa” existed for more than 7 years, but wasn’t a formal organization. One participant highlighted how important it was for young user groups to attend the Wikimedia Conference as it would be the best way to learn everything about the Wikimedia movement. Participants were also discussing an idea of a kind of “qualifying” via the regional conferences, however, not every region (so far) has a regional conference where user groups could go before.
Nicole pointed out that restricting reporting requirements wasn’t easy, because it was hard to measure a soft criterion as “activity” to a certain extent. One participant added that having stricter requirements wouldn't solve the problem in a sustainable way and wouldn't exactly measure the activity.
One participant pointed out how important the conference for his/her chapter was, as it was the best way to communicate with other established chapters. Since the 2016 edition, the person said, it became also a really important working platform with WMF staff. For his/her chapter it was important to send more than one representative, as they wanted to have continuity and ensure not to lose links because of board/staff changes.
One participant asked if it wasn’t useful to have the Wikimedia Conference as an on-top at Wikimania. Several participants voiced their concerns as they said there were issues you could not discuss at Wikimania, especially peer-to-peer exchange between affiliate staff members and WMF-affiliates relations. One person said the conference is a place to solve conflicts, while Wikimania was mainly to present showcases. Also, Wikimania already takes 5 days, and it would be too exhausting to add two more days for affiliate-issues.
Kacie asked how to assess activity or need for participation in a way that was lightweight and fair. One participant said that chapters should send up to three people. One person who has recently joined, one who has been part of the movement for a long time.
Kacie voiced the concern that WMF staff had heard that user groups feel that it was unfair that they could send only one person, and asked if it was okay to have such an imbalance. The same participant suggested again that Chapters with staff should send 3, without 2 and user groups 1 person. Furthermore, the person added, organizations should be advised to select representatives more wisely.
In the end, Nicole asked if something should be changed regarding the concept/program of the Wikimedia Conference. Two participants denied the need for changes and said that the last two conferences were great. They pointed out that the program met the needs of the participants and consistence of the audience (WMF, chapters, user groups, committees) should stay the same. Both participants also valued the good documentation of the conference itself and discussed briefly the challenges to follow-up on the conference’ topics. Nicole wrapped-up saying that there was a need for activity requirements which were lightweight and objective, and closed the session.