From January to April 2019, Afek Ben Chahed, Wikimedian from Tunisia, accompanied us in organizing the Wikimedia Summit 2019, a conference where all Wikimedia organizations and groups gathered to discuss the ongoing Wikimedia Movement Strategy Process. Afek joined us as a so-called “Visiting Wikimedian”, which is an annual program where Wikimedia Deutschland invites Wikimedians from other Wikimedia organizations to work and learn with us to be able to apply these learnings later back home.
Cornelius, Program Coordiantor of the Wikimedia Summit, interviewed Afek on her stay in Berlin.
Cornelius: Afek, can you tell us why did you apply for the Visiting Wikimedian program back then?
Afek: My main purpose to apply was to take the opportunity to learn from Wikimedia Deutschland’s event team how to organize a conference, and to be honest such a perfect conference.
I had already been to the Wikimedia Conference 2018 as a representative of my user group. The conference back then was also organized by Wikimedia Deutschland. I was so impressed to see all the logistics of such a conference with all its details (like the photobox, the candy table).
So I was curious to understand how a team organizes such a conference. I got an email from a Wikimedian friend of my suggesting to apply. So I read about the program and I applied immediately.
On October 2, 2018, I got the message: “Dear Afek, we are pleased to inform you that we would like to work with you”… And It was the best birthday gift I have ever had!
C: It was your first time living outside of Tunisia. How was that for you?
A: At first, that was quite hard. Not only because it’s far away from home, but also because of the weather and the German language. But later, I adapted to it, it was great to stay in Berlin, a city which gives you so much freedom.
Working at Wikimedia Deutschland’s by itself was exciting for me, and it was really fascinating for me to know how all of those teams are working on different projects. I had a desk in the Event team office, between Daniela and Michelle, so I had always close contact to them, and could ask them in case I had any questions.
C: What kind of tasks did you have as a Visiting Wikimedian?
A: Oh, the tasks varied a lot, but of course it was mostly about supporting Daniela and Michelle in organizing the whole logistical part of the Wikimedia Summit. E.g, I redesigned and updated the conference guide, an important source of information for the participants.
From time to time I also supported Cornelius, who organized the program for the Wikimedia Summit. As for previous Wikimedia Conferences, Cornelius wanted to present the Summit’s participants on social media – the so-called “#wmsummitfaces”. So I helped him to collect quotes and photos from the participants. And it was really a great thing to help him doing that, it is a good way to know the participants, know the way that they think about different topics related to the Wikimedia movement, and help them to know who is coming to the conference.
But by far the biggest task was the so-called “Dinner Snack” evening on Friday. On this evening, it was planned that all participants gathered in Wikimedia Deutschland’s office for socializing, but as well for the self organized thematic, regional, language-specific meetups. In the beginning, I was quite scared of this task, because it sounded quite big! Eileen, another WMDE colleague, joined me in organizing this evening. I learned from this task how to lead a meeting, how to write meeting minutes, how to organise a dinner for 220 participants, how to make a plan for self-organized meetups, how to decorate a place with limited resources , how to set up everything on time, and especially how to give good vibes to the guests!
C: If you look back at these three months that you stayed at Wikimedia Deutschland, what was your highlight?
A: Oh, there are many things to name. To work in an office, with many friendly colleagues, it’s such a great experience! Also my direct Summit colleagues – Daniela, Michelle, Cornelius – were always there to support, explain and answer my questions.
The most important thing that I learned was definitely to think about every little detail, and to consider every little comment. For event management and planning, you need to be a perfectionist. The “production schedule” – a tool that previous Visiting Wikimedian Vira already wrote about – helps a lot in organizing an event, the way that everyone involved in the team knows what task has to be done, in which place and at which time. It is the best way to succeed in an event.
C: As you are now back in Tunisia: How will you apply what you have learned?
A: The user group I am part of – Wikimedia TN User Group – will organize the French-speaking Wikimedia conference called “Wikiconvention Francophone” in 2020. This will be the perfect opportunity to apply what I have learned during my stay at Wikimedia Deutschland.
C: What would you tell the next Visiting Wikimedian?
A: Bring a good jacket! Berlin is super-cold in Winter!
Besides that: To live in another country and do meaningful work related to Wikimedia was definitely the best experience of my life.
Originally published on the Wikimedia Deutschland blog on 12 September 2019.