Dorothy Howard and Richard Knipel
The Wikimedia Conference is an annual conference focused on Wikimedia movement affiliates that has for since 2009 usually taken place at Berlin, hosted by Wikimedia Deutschland. Each of Wikimedia’s 41 Official Chapters were invited to send 2 representatives, while User Groups were invited to send 1 representative. The conference was also attended by many others from the Wikimedia Foundation including the Wikimedia Foundation community, grants, and legal teams, the Board of Trustees, and even Executive Director Lila Tretikov.
As representatives of Wikimedia NYC, our main goals were to better understand the structures of the movement which Wikimedia NYC is a part, get ideas for programs and initiatives, and better understand the roles of the Wikimedia Foundation, Affiliated groups, and groups like the Affiliations Committee and FDC (Funds Dissemination Committee) that compose some of the administration we work with regularly as a Wikimedia Chapter.
Richard Knipel attending a session at the Wikimedia Conference.
Short List of Themes from the Conference
Building a Sustainable Volunteer Network
Much of the conference focused on process and roles and responsibilities for chapter governance and engagement. Some chapters have paid staff and an unpaid Board of Trustees, and must negotiate the roles and responsibilities of paid staff vs. volunteers.
While Wikimedia NYC does not have this particular problem, this conversation could be helpful for us as we consider how to scale our WMNYC initiatives to prevent volunteer burnout. One suggestion was to assign clear roles to volunteers to help with the division of labor. Another idea was to focus on training institutional staff how to engage with Wikipedia and to look for resources on their own to lighten the load of chapter volunteers.
At this conference, we discussed with various stakeholders, the possibility of Wikimedia NYC applying for funds for paid staff as part of the WMF grants programs. The Wikimedia Foundation seems open to this idea, especially as it pertains to a short-term, 6-12 month part-time position that would focus on administrative support and documentation for Wikimedia NYC. If members of Wikimedia NYC are interested in applying for WMF funds for a part-time paid staff position, or in determining what such a position would look like, please get in touch.
A new group that goes by The Volunteer Supporters Network, also gave a very interesting presentation at this conference. This group is specifically engaged in building and sharing resources for Wikimedia volunteer support.
Globally, chapters are actively participating in many forms of advocacy. This is an area that Wikimedia NYC could take on if there is interest in the Chapter. Potential avenues for advocacy include engaging in advocacy about Freedom of Panorama or in Orphan works policies which prevent information from reaching the public domain.
At a session on advocacy was given by the Free Knowledge Advocacy Group EU, which has focused on EU copyright reform, and enacting legislative change for free knowledge. Issue areas include: Copyright, Censorship,Access to Knowledge, Intermediaries, and Privacy.
If members of Wikimedia NYC are interested in doing more advocacy work, we might consider such things as putting out public statements in support of specific policy measures, helping with community education on copyright and some if its nuances for such things as freedom of panorama and orphan works, or even forming an advocacy committee that might try to engage in some more explicit lobbying in Washington D.C. or our elected officials.
Sister-Chapters and Grant Review Process
There was much discussion of improving the relationship between Wikimedia chapters and affiliated groups, and for finding ways for affiliated groups to work together.
Two groups that we explicitly discussed working with are Wikimedia India and Wikimedia Venezuela (and also larger South Asian and Ibero-American cooperation), though there are some 41 Wikimedia Chapters globally and many other Usergroups and affiliated groups, that are part of this network.
Board of Trustees Elections
The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees elections for this year overlapped with the conference. Board members attended this conference and made themselves available at several sessions for engagement with community members.
Wikimedia Cascadia and regional U.S. Development
Wikimedia Cascadia, a new Usergroup as of September, 2014 sent a representative to the Wikimedia Conference for the first time. They are hoping to apply for funds to have a part-time administrator.
During the conference, a regional meeting was held for attendees operating in the United States, which included members of Wikimedia DC, Wikimedia Cascadia, Wikimedia LGBT, and a few others. There is also an established usergroup for New England, and ones starting up for Piedmont-North Carolina and potentially for the South Midland. These groups will continue to discuss shared goals and initiatives.
This conference provided a much-needed opportunity for groups to get to know other Wikimedia affiliate groups and organizers at the human level.
We strongly encourage members of Wikimedia NYC to express their interest in attending next year’s conference to the Board or WMNYC President in Spring of next year. The location of next year’s conference is most likely again Berlin, though details like dates aren’t set yet.
More information about the Wikimedia Conference and Program can be found at: https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Conference_2015
Please feel free to get in touch with us if you have additional questions!