Witten by volunteer Joy Agyepong and Strategy Liaison Rupika Sharma
On the 3rd of August, 2019 a strategy salon was organized at held at the Goethe Institute in Accra, Ghanna. This was the first Movement Strategy salon organized by Open Foundation West Africa in Ghana. The Salon sought to address two thematic areas, Capacity Building and Community Health, to exchange ideas and identify strategies to achieve the Strategic direction of Wikimedia by 2030.
Open Foundation West Africa is a registered not for profit organization in Ghana with a mission to extend the reach of the Open Movement Activities in West Africa, through open education and education programs, digitizing open resources, preserving cultural and heritage items for educational purposes and promoting contents about the West African region and existent countries. OFWA is also an affiliate group with a usergroup status for the past two years now serving various platforms and community with its open activities.
Their first affiliate Strategy Salon dubbed the “Wiki Strategy Salon” which constituted an attendance of 35 participants from a mix of long time experienced Wikim(p)edians, representation from WMUG and the OFWA partner organization Goethe Institute, Accra in Ghana. These participants were selected based on different categories – OFWA User group members, other Wikimedians, aligned groups and Partners for diversity in views and opinions from the community to ensure a wide range of voices were considered for discussing about the shared future the community envisions by 2030.
During the Pre-salon preparation period, there were several meetings with Strategy Liaison Rupika Sharma who guided us through the toolkits and resources to use for the salon. There was a need to strategically share the resources acquired with selected members and partners at least two weeks ahead of time.
Salon program:From Panel Discussions to Wiki Cafe
The salon started with an introductory session led by the Administrative Executive of OFWA User group, Joy Agyepong, who welcomed the participants with the orientation of Movement Strategy 2018-20 process and set the stage for the gathered Wikimedians and the partners to participate in the discussions. This was followed by a video presentation from Strategy liaison Rupika Sharma from the Wikimedia Foundation where she garnered crucial notes for members to better understand the essence of the Movement Strategy by 2030.
There were a series of activities planned for the salon, including, a panel discussion, Wiki Cafe and a cluster session. The panel included the longtime, experienced community members, leaders and organizers who initiated the discussions to help the participants understand the importance of the representation of community voice for arriving at a shared vision of the future of West Africa by 2030. Some of the key members of the panel were: Administrative Executive, Joy Agyepong, representative and Library director, Goethe Institute, Meli Mansu, President of Wiki Hub, Kumasi, Maxbeg Beganim, and community member, Mohammed Sadat who is an experienced Wikimedian.
The panel helped tune the minds of community members to the crucial arguments and problems coupled with reflections on the local context of the West African communities and their projects. This started a discussion about various approaches and strategies to engage more people to be part of the community, discover creative ways of engaging community members, deliberate on advocacies that can be used in changing the negative perception that people have about Wikipedia. The panel discussion ended with an analysis and debate on the impending challenges of the community projects with possible solutions and the role of partnership plays within the movement.
During the Wiki Cafe, participants were allocated into two groups: Group 1 and Group 2 on a rotational basis. Group 1 discussed the theme; Community Health, which focused on the following topics; Inclusion and Participation, Promotions, Retention of Community Members, Africa in context, Structures of Power and Privilege, Measuring Growth, and Balancing Workload and Personal Health.
Some of the key discussion points were around Inclusion and Participation. The participants felt that there should be a clear way for community participation in the Foundation activities. There should also be trainings organized on digital literacy for scaling the movement in West Africa.
Discussion on ‘Promotion’ highlighted the need to adapt certain methods for raising awareness about Wikimedia and its projects. Some of the suggested recommendations were using Wikimedia’s merchandise, sharing the Wikimedia posts on social media, involving influencers and celebrities to talk about Wikipedia and partner with schools and education institutions to organize master classes on editing for encouraging contributions on Wikipedia. For ‘Retention of Community Members’, the suggestions were made about providing the community members support by giving them a sense of belonging, defining a growth plan for members to impart others and newbies, take up leadership roles while the foundation provide them with the necessary support.
Introspecting the African Context
The discussion in the cafe also had a focussed debate about what free knowledge means in the ‘African context’ and what the programmatic challenges are faced by the local communities there. Participants were of the view that the WMF should be informed about Ghana’s peculiar situation which is similar to other countries where a lot of the content is sourced orally and there is a need for an alternative source of referencing to document their indegenous knowledge. With authentication of oral sources, comparison of information sourced should be done as a means of verification.
Talking about Structure of power and privilege’, participants emphasized the need for volunteers to be assisted with the necessary resources and logistics in order to make their work easy.
Extensively, in terms of ‘measuring Growth’, much emphasis was laid on the need task members to contribute or edit a number of stories within a time period, celebrate and reward every milestone achieved, and welcome and encourage feedback from members.
Balancing ‘Workload and Personal Health‘ looked at ways of making volunteering fun example by including sightseeing during road trips, awarding prizes, certificate etc, and providing the various hubs with the needed logistics to be able to function effectively and efficiently.
Group 2 under the theme Capacity Building, centered their discussion under the following topics – the Core issue, Defining Knowledge as a Service and Equity, Getting Schools Involved, and Mentorship.
Stressing the Core issue facing the community, gender gap came up as the topmost issue. There are not many stories about women compared to men. Another concern that followed was the high cost of internet which makes it difficult for one to volunteer and the need for the Foundation to intervene and support logistically and resourcefully. The lack of partners also was mentioned as another major challenge the Foundation is facing.
Participants also discussed the need to involve experienced editors and get some ideas from them, equip leaders with the prerequisite knowledge and skills, debunking myths and showcasing Wikipedia as a trusted source. They also looked at collaborating with schools to organize trainings, communicate the vision of Wikipedia to them and the need for members to also contribute and lastly, to provide new and existing members with enabling environment to work.
At the end of the strategy salon, members of the community were able to address the themes taking into consideration the distinctiveness of the African continent.
Post Salon plans:
As a follow-up to the Salon, members were poised to work on some of their ideas by ensuring Capacity Building at a community level with the newbies. It was agreed unanimously that such salons should be held often to share strategies on how support can be provided for the growth of the community at large and ensure new developments within the movement.
For more information about the salon, refer to its meta report page.