In the month of June 2023, the researchers at the Deoband Community Wikimedia (DCW) focused on the local development of the small and mid-sized Wikimedia affiliates where DCW belongs as well. The recommendations include ideas about legal framework maintenance, research engagement, focused communication, impactful social media presence, and engagement with productive activities. The strategic development of an organization, in our case of the Wikimedia affiliates, depends on several aspects of the organizational structure. This could vary on a case-by-case basis but researchers at the DCW have argued for how important it is to consider these different organizational aspects when leading a Wikimedia affiliate, whether a thematic one or a non-thematic one.
Legal Framework Maintenance
Being in the legal framework and in compliance with it is more than being a potential helper. This helps in forming collaborations with local institutions, universities, engage with GLAM, and carry out educational outreach activities without any complications. DCW’s strategic researcher Namrah Shareef considers this as a high level priority. She says, “If this is done, one can engage in cross dialogue at an institution where the otherwise reply would have been ‘who do you happen to be’? and why should we even have a conversation with you?” Maintaining a legal framework does not only help with that but it helps with gaining access to a plenty of locally available educational fundings. At the DCW, we have felt this need during our Bhopal Photo Event that happened in October 2022, and put this as a priority task for the first-half of 2023.
On 19 February 2023, we got a rented accommodation to help us reduce certain expenses related to offline activities, and it of course has been helpful. Spending hefty amounts in getting a space at a hotel for few hours in order for doing a very little workshop is beyond our comprehension. The researchers at DCW suggest for otherwise. Having a rented accommodation brings ease. More than enough activities can be hosted in that space throughout the month, or a year, at possibly a lower cost than what was supposed to be surfed at a hotel space. Such spaces could be used for legal registration paperwork as well. Once you are done with that, our recommendation for you is to begin thinking of a name. Imagine of such a name that does not limit to Wikimedia activities but transcends beyond everything and is open. The reason for us not having a legal structure yet has pretty much similar reasons. Once our semi-annual budget plan for 2023 was approved, we connected with the Affiliations Committee and several other departments at the Wikimedia Foundation and shared our doubts related to some possible issues: legal name, grants, affiliation, and type of a non-profit; it took us several months, and we are still striving for a better name. DCW is hopeful to have this work done by the end of July 2023.
DCW researchers believe that productiveness in any initiative is a way forward in order to keep more people engaged. The format and design of these programs should be such that the targeted audience feels that their work is valued. Namrah Shareef interviewed Netha Hussain, a celebrated Wikimedian, who has been contributing since 2010. I also helped her interview Sandeep Kaur, a certified trainer of the Reading Wikipedia in the Classroom program, who is closely associated with the Punjabi Wikimedians User Group. These conversations were based on DCW’s previous strategic recommendations, and helped us further our idea of a productive program. Sandeep is a teacher and has helped start a Wiki Club at her institution. She believes that having such clubs in educational institutions is often helpful. These programs vary subjectively in their structures but can assist you in retaining volunteers for a longer time.
Identifying and bridging knowledge gaps on the encyclopedic platforms is a beneficial and productive activity. Wikimedia organizers from all over the globe engage themselves in content and photography related contests and help bridging several gaps. This has been identified as a best practice for retaining contributors for a longer time. At the DCW, we initiated DCW-K Editathon in collaboration with Kashmiri Wikimedians User Group, aiming at enriching Kashmiri Wikipedia with the thematic knowledge that comes under the purview of DCW’s vision and theme.
DCW initiated its Conversation Hour long ago, and had its sixth edition on 17 June 2023. This conversation hour aimed at learning how strategic brand equity building and public relation activities could help Wikimedia communities and affiliates in amplifying the impact of their projects. Namrah suggests that, “if this organizational aspect is taken into consideration and the affiliate leaders engage in focused communications that do not deviate from the vision, they can firmly make their affiliate stand high”. Social media platforms could do a better job if used “impactfully”. Namrah argues that, “impactful social media presence helps us bring more questions”. For instance, DCW has tried to make some engagement on LinkedIn and we have received queries stating what the initiative is and how contributions can be made to it.
Research Engagement is an important aspect that helps any initiative grow. At the DCW, we have considered this fact since we formulated the idea of finding a strategic trajectory for our own foundational development. If you are struggling with this, please engage in research work and keep this an ever going activity. According to Namrah, “this engagement helps you know your challenges, possible solutions, best practices, roadblocks, making of the “pipelines”, and helps you strengthen your vision and goals.” Engage in research works as much as you can!