Wikimedia Conference/Program and Engagement Coordination/Wikimania 2017 report/Conferences in the Wikimedia Movement
About 10 to 12 people attended this session and participated in small group discussions about how we should prioritize the grant funds available for conferences and events. We started the session by looking at the way that demand for conferences has grown in the past few years without growth in the conference grant budget. The purpose of the discussion was to learn what priorities we should consider when choosing conferences to fund, what budget guidelines we might adopt to help minimize event costs. Conversations about why people attend conferences and how individuals, communities and the movement benefit from them were helpful for understanding the needs that are important to individuals and communities that are currently mostly fulfilled by attending conferences. This information is helpful both for planning future events, but also could help us think about new ways to meet those needs (i.e. inspiration, motivation, networking, building trust, meeting peers) outside of conferences and events.
What priorities should we consider when choosing which conferences and events we should fund
- Impact on event participants - will the event help them achieve personal or project goals?
- Impact on the movement - how will the event help the movement achieve its goals? Is the event in line with movement priorities?
- We should prioritize events where participants and organizers make an effort to include people who are not able to attend the event, i.e. real-time participation via livestream and chat, structures to welcome and engage people in projects and discussions that started at the conference.
Must have's and nice to have'
Small groups were asked to consider what resources are essential for a successful conference, and what resources are not as important. Understanding the resources that are most important can help us set budget guidelines that make sure grant funds are spent as effectively as possible. Some items listed may not
- Food - efforts should be made to keep costs reasonable and avoid expensive restaurants
- Venue - this can be provided as an in-kind donation, but it is important that the venue is suitable for the types of trainings, conversations and socializing that is necessary.
- Visas - it is important to choose a place where people can get visas, and have staff or volunteer support dedicated to creating visa support documents
- Financial support for inclusion - this includes childcare, translation, kosher/halal meals and assistive devices or other support for people with accessibility issues.
- Friendly and welcoming atmosphere - this goes beyond Friendly Space Policy to include social activities and access to spaces where it is easy to socialize
Nice to have
- Banners, signs and other 'corporate identity' used to decorate the space that is specific to the event. This is not necessary for a successful event.
- WiFi - Wifi is not always important for conferences and events where participants are focused on problem solving.
- Merchandise or SWAG - T-shirts, custom notepads, pens, stickers and other items can get expensive.
- Option for livestreaming - this would help more people benefit from conferences, but can be expensive to set up.
- Local tourism - It is exciting to visit new places, but group tours should not take away from program time, and the cost of museum visits can be high.
- Programs - "we don't need a program, we just want to talk to people"
What important things happen at conferences
- Conferences can be good points of entry for newer contributors
- Regional events help smaller or newer communities begin new activities and become more active in the global movement
- Conferences are an efficient way to get to know key people on projects
- Conversations happen in person that do not happen online (i.e. conflict resolution, brainstorming)
- Build relationships and trust among Wikimedians
- Team building outside of your local community, i.e. advocacy, thematic projects, peer groups
- Networking and learning about new projects and ideas in a fun way
- Participants feel inspired by new ideas they hear about at conferences
- Participants (particularly those with scholarships) feel motivated to volunteer more actively after a conference as a way to 'give back'
- A sense of inclusion in the movement/community
Questions that came up
- Are conferences the best place for capacity building to happen? How much can you learn in a 2 or 3 hour session? What if smaller groups (10 people or less) could get funding to meet for a weekend to focus on learning a particular skill?
- Livestreaming seems to be very expensive to contract for events, but many different conference organizers want to offer it. Should we investigate adopting a live-stream strategy (or equipment) that can be used by many different conference organizers within our movement.
- Some locations are expensive to travel to, or have restrictive visa policies. Should we think about hosting events in locations where there isn't a local affiliate in order to cut costs and allow more people to attend?
Please add your ideas to the lists that were started in the conference discussion. The purpose of the discussions and this page is to document ideas and get creative how we can best use conference grant funds.