Documenting Diversity Conference

This November, Wikimedia Deutschland hosted over 80 Wikimedians in Berlin for the first ever Wikimedia Diversity Conference. For two days, we talked about the need, challenges and solutions for bringing more diversity – in terms of gender, geography, and beyond – to our community and to our content, in order to fulfill our vision of sharing the sum of all human knowledge with the world.

We left with a hopeful sense that there are lots of enthusiastic people concerned about diversity in our movement, and that interesting initiatives aimed at broadening our community are cropping up all over, even while being reminded that we don’t yet have a blueprint for how to accomplish these goals.

Netha Hussain discussed some of the barriers involved in engaging more women to edit in India, where only 3 percent of Wikipedians are female, and she shared outreach methods and support systems that they’ve been using in order to encourage more women’s participation. Regular in-person gatherings for women to edit Wikipedia together were a common theme in several talks. Silvia Stieneker talked about gathering women in a computer school in Berlin for monthly “women edit” meetings, and Emily Temple-Wood discussed holding regular edit-a-thons in American universities to create biographies of women scientists.

Participants gather

In talks ranging beyond Wikipedia’s gender gap, Dumisani Ndubane discussed what’s working and what’s not with efforts to build editor communities in Africa. Gregory Varnum shared strategies for LGBT outreach, and Katie Chan called upon the community to better educate itself about transgender issues both to improve content related to transgender topics and to be more inclusive of transgender participants in our movement. Tim Moritz Hector reviewed a German effort to internationalize the Wikipedia Teahouse to enable more Wikipedia communities to provide better help and support to a wider set of new contributors.

The Ada Initiative’s Valerie Aurora and Alyssa Wright from OpenStreetMap each shared information from other open source communities they’ve participated in, calling upon participants to lend and borrow strategies across communities grappling with similar issues. Many attendees agreed that proactively inviting diverse groups of contributors and then providing social support to encourage participation can be a meaningful way to foster increased diversity in our communities. This theme was explicitly raised in a presentation by Jake Orlowitz and Siko Bouterse, and it reverberated in several other conversations and initiatives discussed throughout the conference.

Session notes

Participants have begun capturing key findings from past initiatives as Learning Patterns. Six new patterns were generated at Diversity Conference and we expect to see more diversity-related learnings in the future. Working groups at the conference also generated nine ideas for new projects in IdeaLab, including a Wikiproject to support the community in dealing with mental health issues and a global user group aimed at closing the gender gap. We hope you’ll help grow these plans for future collaborations into actionable initiatives in the coming weeks and months!

IdeaLab working group

The conference ended with participants creating actions items for four areas of diversity-focused work: women, LGBT, geographic diversity, and technology. We also started a Diversity page on Meta-wiki to better communicate the importance of diversity in the Wikimedia movement and to collectively imagine how we will get to a more diverse future together. Improvements to this new page are welcome.

What still seems missing among these various discrete points of learning and action, though, is a concrete sense that we have an overarching strategy for increasing diversity in our community, and a common set of tools to draw upon. This was the first global Wikimedia gathering specifically focused on diversity. As we continue the conversation, can we begin to weave these various findings, ideas and tools into a strategic plan for the future?

You can watch videos from conference participants on Wikimedia Commons here. Complete conference documentation is available on Meta-wiki. Many thanks to our wonderful hosts at Wikimedia Deutschland in Berlin for a well-organized event, and to all participants for sharing their knowledge and experiences at this conference. We look forward to continuing this conversation in the coming months.

Siko Bouterse, Head of Individual Engagement Grants, Wikimedia Foundation