I wanted to share with you an update on the work that Shiju is doing on Indic languages as part of India Program. A guiding principle for the thinking and efforts of our team is that community building should be the most essential aspect of all the work that we do. In the context of small Indic communities, Shiju has been working to try and identify the various elements that need to come together to foster community building. This update is about the Community Building pilot that was run for the Assamese community. For context, community building means different things to different people and in fact there was a very interesting post that Shiju put out that articulated his thinking on this and, hence, our priorities.
The results of these efforts have been outstanding
number of editors on Assamese Wikipedia has increased to 31 in April 2012 (from 18 in December 2011 and just 10 in November 2011.)
number of Wikiprojects increased to 6 (from a situation where there were no reasonably active ones in December 2011- and including 5 Wikiprojects independently conceptualised and managed by the community)
average monthly edits on Assamese Wikipedia increased to about 5000 in April 2012 from around 3000 in November 2011
There are 5 key factors that are responsible for this remarkable growth
Strong communication. This started with Shiju building personal connections with Assamese editors and then encouraging them to communicate with each other on-wiki, online and in meet--ups and outreach sessions.
Initial push. Shiju visited Assam in January where he spent time in 2 towns with 7 of the most active community members, who also conducted 2 outreach sessions. This visit has proved to be really useful because it helped to energise the community and also helped to establish a personal relationship between Shiju and these editors (and also, amongst the editors themselves.)
Encouraging collaboration. Wikiprojects and outreach are really useful to galvanise a community and helped build personal equations. It's wonderful to see the increase in Wikiprojects and
Building capacity & confidence. In all the work that has been done for the Assamese community, the endeavour has been to build capacity. For instance, support was given to get basic outreach material including FAQs prepared and outreach sessions were guided by Shiju. It's inspiring to see the Assamese community now take things to a whole new level and plan out an ambitious 10th anniversary.
Healthy environment. This is the last - but probably the most essential point - and it is something I want to call out because it is what will help or severely hinder the abilities of individual communities realise their dreams and potential. The reason why the Assamese community is making such wonderful steps forward is because there is
a set of editors with the right level of initiative and motivation
a strong sense of co-operation and good spirit amongst the editors
an extremely welcoming approach to new editors
None of this would have been possible without the efforts of every single Assamese community members. In the early days when Shiju started off, he was interacting with Bishnu, Dipankar, Gitartha, Jyoti & Prabhakar - who helped organise the first meet-ups and outreach sessions. Thanks to their efforts, a list of thank-yous would now be 31 strong! Thank you and congratulations to all of you!
To the Assamese community, I wish you the very best for your 10th anniversary. There are exciting plans including your photo contest and your article contest and the meet-up and the outreach session. I know that you are doing most of the event largely independently (with Noopur providing media assistance for the 10th anniversary and an India Chapter grant supporting you.) This is the true signs of a community that is coming of age. There are tremendous opportunities in outreach to get new editors, initiatives like your article & photo contests to improve content and in proposed projects like offline to make transformational changes in the community.
With regard to the way forward for India Program, the pilot design page on meta has now been updated. The next steps are going to be to see how we can adapt or build on these experiences with other communities, and as we move to other communities, do them in a more scaleable manner.
To all community members - across languages across India - if you did want any help in any aspect of community building, please feel free to reach out to Shiju at shiju(a)wikimedia.org. Please also do add comments or ideas or suggestions you might have to the Community Building Pilot's talk page.