Every year, hundreds of Wikimedians descend upon a single city for an annual international conference: Wikimania. Its hackathon and presentation days are filled with workshops and discussions around Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) projects, the open source MediaWiki software, and free knowledge/content. The forum provides excellent opportunities for socialization and idea dissemination between Wikimedia groups from around the world.
It is imperative that a diverse, representative group is enabled to attend the conference, representing a variety of cultures, languages, and projects. To that end, the Wikimedia Foundation and some Wikimedia chapters offer a limited number of scholarships with the goal of making Wikimania a productive conference by enabling the attendance of a diverse group of participants in the Wikimedia movement.
As the movement continues to grow and expand around the world, it is unfortunately impossible to fund the hundreds of thousands of volunteers who have contributed, but each year we strive to support a select few who we think will both greatly benefit from the conference and contribute to the conference. A “Scholarship Review Committee” — entirely consisting of community volunteers — reviews a large number of scholarship applicants (over a thousand this time), scoring applicants on their activity in the Wikimedia projects and other compatible movements as well as their potential for future contributions in the Wikimedia movement. WMF looks at the recommendations of the committee and accounts for the diversity of the pool of candidates in order to support a diverse group of representatives from countries around the world, allocating more scholarships to global south regions, editors in smaller language projects, and women.
This year, we are pleased to announce that scholarships have been awarded to 130 individuals from 57 countries! We were able to sponsor so many people with the help of Wikimédia France, who also contributed directly to the general funds for scholarships. These representatives contribute to a variety of projects and will bring both old and fresh experiences into the conference. Scholarships this year were awarded by region in an effort to ensure that we would have good representation from different countries. Partial scholarships were distributed based on the applicants’ indication of whether or not they could pay, and funds were distributed via partial scholarships where possible in order for the most people to attend. So for example, though North Americans make up 13% of the total scholarship recipients, they represent only 5% of the total anticipated funding because about 65% of those spots were only partial scholarships.
As always, the field was incredibly competitive, with 1113 applicants from 118 countries. The overall acceptance rate of applicants for the WMF scholarships was 12%, with Europe as the lowest at 8%. Note that the low acceptance from Europe was intentional, as a series of Chapter-funded scholarships for Europeans are about to be announced which will boost the participation numbers from this region.
While we are excited about the input our 130 scholars will provide this year to the conference, we wish that all the other excellent contributors who applied would be able to attend. The scholarships are in no way a direct reflection on one’s value in the community -it is a result of a very competitive process, where many deserving community members are unable to be funded for this year. We greatly value the participation of all in the Wikimedia projects and sincerely hope that all applicants will continue to participate in both local and worldwide conversations online outside of this event!
Jessie Wild, Liaison with the Scholarship Review Committee