Annual Report 2021/Story: Developing a Helpdesk for the movement's content partnerships

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In this Story we are focusing on how we have laid the foundation of a new type of service for the Wikimedia movement, a helpdesk. We have worked hard to make sure that the helpdesk we are developing cater to the needs of the movement, gives support do a diverse set of actors, and makes sure that the support given is useful on the platforms.

In order to create a successful Helpdesk, we need to find out what the global community needs. Many issues are the same across the world.

During 2021, Wikimedia Sverige started experimenting with an initiative for a thematic hub for content partnerships. While thematic hubs are not formally implemented within the movement yet, we had the capacity, the funding and the willingness to try out different methods, and see what could work and what would not.

One central part of the initiative is a helpdesk. Many affiliates and volunteers within the movement want to work with partners to make content available on the platforms, but may lack the know-how or the resources. The idea is to make it possible for affiliates and volunteers to request help from the helpdesk, in order to overcome hurdles on their way to successful content partnerships.

As simple as the idea may sound, several challenges arise immediately:

  • How do we know what help is needed?
  • How do we know who to help?
  • How can we channel the help so that the result is useful for the platforms?

In order to answer the first question, we took on the endeavor of a comprehensive needs assessment. Staff interviewed more than 50 people from the movement, representing close to 40 affiliates. The insights from the interviews were summarized, showing that there is a shared understanding among many that more resources, know-how, training and hands-on work together are needed, and that support around collaboration, capacity, tools and learning is requested. These insights will guide the work of the helpdesk in 2022 and beyond.

The needs assessment is, however, only the start of an answer. Resources are scarce, and help needs to be given where it is the most urgent. So, how do we know who to help? For us, it is crucial that the answer to this question is not answered by staff at Wikimedia Sverige, who only knows part of the movement, and with an understanding limited by the context we are working in. So in order for the content partnerships initiative to be able to give support to a diverse set of actors within the movement, we developed a concept for an expert committee, to guide the content partnerships initiative around the order of priority for who to help. During the latter part of 2021, the expert committee was formed, with the goal of launching their work in the first quarter of 2022.

As we are still waiting for the launch of the expert committee, we have not communicated widely about the helpdesk. In order to find a good working model for the expert committee, we wanted, however, to work with a real example. A large Wikimedia affiliate reached out to us with a comprehensive request, and the first work of the expert committee will be to find a good way of responding to that.

The expert committee will define the overarching principles and priorities according to which they will work. One central point from us, however, is that the content made available through the content partnerships initiative should be useful on the platforms: only making hundreds of thousands of files available with no further plan looks good in numbers, but means relatively little for volunteers or readers. As a way of overcoming this problem, we have also initiated conversations with thematic groups within the movement, such as the global Wiki Loves Monuments and Wiki Loves Earth organizers, to see how the work of the content partnerships hub can help them in their work.

All in all, we have been working hard during 2021 to develop the concept of a helpdesk, so that the content partnerships hub can be a service for the entire movement and not only a few. A final point to add to this is that, of course, there is a limit to the scope of the content partnerships hub as well. We could and should not do everything. Other actors need to gain capacities, and others have know-how and experiences we lack. So a central part of the content partnerships hub will also be to engage experts from other parts of the movement, as soon as we see a request that could better be handled by someone else. We also hope that this helpdesk model, if successful, can be a positive example and potential model for other hubs in the movement, where hands-on support in other areas can be provided.