Wikimedia Diversity Conference

People sitting in chairs looking interested

CC BY-SA Christopher Schwarzkopf (WMDE)

The international Wikimedia Diversity Conference was held Nov. 9 – 10, 2013, in Berlin. This event focused on increasing gender and geographic diversity among contributors to Wikimedia projects like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and WikiVoyage. A full report was just posted on the Wikimedia blog today!

Ada Initiative Executive Director Valerie Aurora led a session on how to adapt diversity initiatives that worked in other open tech/culture communities to Wikimedia projects. The slides and notes are available online. You can also watch a short video (uncaptioned, in English) on the talk.

The main points of the talk were: a summary of what worked, a summary of what didn’t work, and suggestions and discussion for concrete steps going forward.

What worked and what didn’t

What we’ve seen work to increase diversity in open tech/culture are the following:

  • Building affinity groups
  • Leveraging conferences
  • Existing community leaders taking action
  • Paying people to do diversity work

What didn’t work were the following:

  • Only volunteers working on diversity
  • Organizing one-off workshops or events
  • Keeping problems secret/being nice to power
  • Preventing safe private spaces
  • Adopting vague and/or unenforceable codes of conduct
  • Flame-style discussion

The slides and notes go into greater detail on each of these points.

Suggestions for concrete steps forward

Here are all of the suggestions we made for taking concrete steps forward, based on what worked in open source software and matching it up with Wikimedia community style:

  • Create invite-only, private, safe spaces for affinity groups
  • Financially support some WikiProjects
  • Document discrimination in permanent, less “neutral” area
  • Develop funding stream to pay people to work on diversity
  • Support existing culture of social justice
  • Fund research into paid work already being done

The suggestions related to this list that the attendees particularly liked (and had often made themselves earlier in the conference) were summarized in the report-out from the gender diversity discussion group:

  • Create invitation-only online social group for women in Wikimedia projects
  • Adopt and enforce Friendly Space policy in online groups
  • Create Wiki Women’s User Group
  • Fund organize repeating, frequent, in-person events for WikiProjects
  • Support event organization: logistics support, policy cookbooks, training for organizers
  • Pay people to support WikiProjects (admin-type work, not editing)
  • Hold international women-only Wikimedia conference
  • More documentation: effectiveness of events, best practices

The Ada Initiative is continuing to work with Wikimedia community members to support their implementation of these ideas in their communities. If you’d like to contribute, please contact us at We hope to have more to report soon!