Last July 25th, Wikimedia Venezuela hosted a Strategy Salon in Caracas. The Library of the Venezuelan Central University received about 30 people in two shifts to discuss about Strategy Wikimedia 2030.
The objective of the gathering was to exchange ideas about Wikipedia in Venezuela, focused on two thematic axes in the framework of the strategic direction of the Wikimedia movement: Capacity Building, and Advocacy. It was moderated by Óscar Costero, president of the Civil Association Wikimedia Venezuela. Óscar is a member of Capacity Building Working Group, so he is very interested about the lack of editors living in the country and its effects on Wikipedia.
The event, held in a morning and afternoon shift, had a very active format. Started with a presentation, one part of the meeting was a round table, followed by a question and answers session. Finally, also personal one-to-one interviews were made. Al together, it was an 8 hour-long session and each of the activities was adapted to the Working Group that was discussed at every time.
The Venezuelan community decided to arrange this Salon as a continuation of a previous one held in 2015. The idea was to repeat the experience but adapted to a new context marked by the Wikipedia blockade in early 2019. This blockade caused that Wikimedia activities in the country decreased by 80% in one year. This situation is worsened by volunteers fleeing the country.
Despite having to renew their community periodically, the assistants to the Salon were positive in their approach to the movement’s future, but also were exigent enough to have high expectations.
The event produced two important conclusions:
1- There are a lot of people interested in helping Wikipedia, but they don’t have the tools to learn editing or they don’t know how to help their local affiliate.
2- Volunteers feel that they don’t have much support. In Venezuela, some activities have been possible thanks to WM-Argentina because they wanted to help improving Capacity Building in the region. But the perceptions of editors and volunteers is that the movement as a whole is not interested in helping the smaller affiliates. Venezuelan Wikimedians want to grow, despite its situation.
Local Wikimedians’ main battles are anonymous editing and dealing with how the lack of anonymity has consequences in real life, with people interested in harassing or signaling those editors because of their edits. This is a situation that, sadly, is becoming more common in other places, where we can see media that have been pointing at editors or the editor community in their news, ignoring the independence of the community or how the encyclopedia works.
As Óscar said, the biggest conclusion is that Venezuelan community wants to keep editing, doing event, improving formation and arranging activities.