Hearing Community Voices Through the East African Regional and Thematic Hub (EARTH) Research
Imagine a partnership of digital communities called a “hub,” formed based on a geographical region and pertinent themes for the purpose of sharing knowledge, resources, and responsibilities, and ultimately strengthening each other. This is a part of the vision of Wikimedia’s 2030 strategy, and one we explored in a recent project with Wikimedia Community User Group Tanzania (WCUGT) and other Wikimedia communities in East Africa. The goal was to consult community members on their wishes related to forming a Hub in the East African region, which would connect 11 countries. Between January and March 2023, we worked with WCUGT to disseminate a survey on the proposed regional and thematic Hub to the community, seeking to build the project on a firm foundation of community data.
What Are Regional and Thematic Hubs?
Regional and thematic hubs are organizational units supporting multiple Wikimedia volunteer communities. Regions in this case are geographic areas that share a similar context and culture, and themes are the specific needs the hubs intend to address such as expanding community capacity and building partnerships. Some hubs are enhancements of existing entities, collaborations between affiliates, or new structures formed for a specific purpose. Because the proposed hub in East Africa will consider both regional and thematic elements, it is called the East African Regional and Thematic Hub (EARTH).
Community consultation was an extremely important part of this project—In order for any new program to truly help the communities involved, they need to be able to have a say in how that program works.
The survey included the following key questions:
What are some of the thematic areas that you think a Hub should focus on?
How should an East African Regional and Thematic Hub (EARTH) be structured?
The Wikimedia communities responded by providing their insightful thoughts, concerns, and vision for the future hub. We created a dashboard to display the data, which can be accessed here.
Some key areas the community members identified as being important to them were technical infrastructure, staff support, and creating new initiatives. These data points provide valuable feedback for the Wikimedia Community User Groups as they move to implement the next steps of the project. It has been a privilege to work with the Wikimedia community members as they investigate how to implement EARTH, and we are excited to see the project’s future progress and impact.