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2021:Event design process narrative

From Wikimania

The Event design process narrative is a report about a series of Event Design sprints involving the Wikimania Steering Committee and few active members from the community, kicked off and facilitated by the Wikimedia Foundation and supported by Event Design experts. The goal of the design sprints was to collaboratively explore different formats for a virtual Wikimania experience and to start the process of Wikimania 2021 and to prepare the call for participation.


Our largest international, in-person gathering of the community was cancelled last year due to the pandemic. Travel restrictions are still very much imminent and organizing large, in-person, international events are unlikely in the immediate future. But our community still needs a place to reconnect with old friends, get to know new folks, get inspired by the work of others, and celebrate the movement.

This means we have an opportunity to experiment with the format of Wikimania, spend time to consciously design and consider what virtualization of the event can look like.

In order to help design a virtual Wikimania experience, the Wikimania Steering Committee engaged in a series of Event Design sprints that were kicked off and facilitated by the Wikimedia Foundation and supported by Event Design experts. The goal of our design sprints was to collaboratively explore different formats for a virtual Wikimania experience.

Who was involved?

We needed to take the time to consciously design with a committed team consisting from a variety of diverse perspectives and experiences. In addition to working with the Wikimania Steering Committee, a few active members from the community with diverse backgrounds and that usually are active in the Wikimania space, have also participated in the design efforts.

Event Design Methodology

The design approach utilizes elements of applied design thinking in the context of events.  The event design process is divided into 3 phases: Change, Frame and Design.

1. Defining the change in behavior

By using elements of empathy mapping we analyzed a certain stakeholder in how they would enter and exit a virtual Wikimania by asking questions like; what is their knowledge level and how has this been affected? What are their pain points? What are their obstacles, fears and frustrations? What benefit are they seeking? What are their expectations? And are they satisfied post-event?

During our design sprint we focused on 4 stakeholder groups: community participants, Wikimania Steering Committee, the Wikimedia Foundation, and the technical community.

Below is a short overview from the analysis of a community participant to a virtual Wikimania.

The following top 3 entry behaviours from a Wikimania participant have been prioritized:

  1. Wanting to connect with like minded people and existing Wikimedian friends
  2. Wanting to showcase my work
  3. I have a desire to engage in and discover new endeavors to collaborate on

These map to the following exit behaviours:

  1. I’m proud that I showed something that helped someone else
  2. I found users who inspire me to do more
  3. I found exciting new ways to contribute, collaborate and execute

The design goal, or the envisioned change in behaviour we need to design for has been established. These will serve for event evaluation purposes and will inform the development of metrics. For this particular stakeholder the following envisioned changes have been articulated:

  1. Expanded my network by like minded people
  2. Identified tools and projects to support contribution
  3. Learned new wiki skills and approaches for success

2. Defining the frame

During this phase, design boundaries, or limitations are established and requirements are set. They form the constraints in which the event must deliver it’s intended value. We define the frame by looking at a set of criteria:

  • Commitment: What sacrifice does someone make to attend the event (time spent, compromise, opportunity cost),
  • Return: what does someone expect in return for going to this event?
  • Costs: What are the cost elements for the stakeholder?
  • Jobs to be done: what is the stakeholder trying to get done at/with the event? What are the tasks at hand, or the problems they are trying to solve?
  • Promise: how does this event create value for this stakeholder?

By answering the questions for each bucket, the design principles, requirements and limitations have been established. Design principles are a set of guidelines to support making decisions and serve as pillars for the project. These principles are to ensure we stay true to the values of the movement.

The following design principles were established by the design team for Wikimania: Safe and secure participation, a model for community members to submit sessions, international, multilingual, and diverse participation, community co-creation, assuring community leadership and involvement, A celebration of achievements and the movement, enabling community ownership, inclusive to newcomers, geekspace for experienced editors, space for experimentation and testing, free and open source, sense of belonging, learning.

3. Creating the prototype

During this part of the process, the design team started talking about the actual format of the event itself. The 2 previous steps have been making up the necessary ingredients for the design of the event. They represent the opportunity for prototype thinking, to iterate and reiterate within the frame to reach the ultimate goal: change of behavior in the desired direction. A change in behavior is realized when participants carry what they have learned into their communities. To enable this, we must look at the way people learn, this can be through the experience journey or learning by instruction. Ideally someone learns through a combination of the two, which is great since we can design for both.

From a total of 9 prototypes that were created, we consolidated the efforts and the following 3 formats have emerged:

Wikimania Prototype Sketch 1 - Fluid

“Wikimedia Fluid”

Span of time: TBD

Main features: duration of event is determined by the community, combining analog and digital forms of content delivery, Wikimania radio show digital/analog: interviewing speakers and participants alike, create your own calendar - choose from a variety of planned activities, 5 fixed themed tracks, with 5 slots, + 1 DIY unconference style track,,, submission of sessions, “hallway conversations” function.

Wikimania Prototype Sketch 2 - Around the World

“Around the world”

Span of time: A “sun chaser” format of 24 hours or 7 days.

Main features: A central studio being the center stage for the event, the stage of the event “traveling” around the world and passing the baton to the host of a section of the event (hence traveling the world). Hosts can be a thematic affiliate, chapter, or regional group.

Wikimania Prototype Sketch 3 - Citation Needed

“Citation needed”

Span of time: A “sun chaser” format of 24 hours OR, 1 week, OR 1 month (full moon cycle)

Main features: made by Wikimedians for Wikimedians, a program process where the community can “hack” or “edit” around a (pre-set) program frame, 15 years of Wikimania in 15 mins, an affiliate hosting and curating a track or slot, previous and future Wikimania organizers can fill a slot.

What will happen now?

A lot of preparatory work has been completed by the participants of the event design sprints. This work was mainly tackling the question of the “why” for a (virtual) Wikimania. The outcome of the sprints was a few workable options for a format of a virtual Wikimania.

The Core Organizing team will look into these options and will treat the “how” and “what” of the preparatory work that was done by the design team. It will be up to the Core Organizing Team to either work with one of the prototypes, or combine elements from them all into a workable format for a virtual Wikimania.

What about scholarships?

Since an in-person event scholarship cannot be awarded for a virtual event, there is an opportunity for us to look into repurposing the program to enable participation. The scope of the program would be to promote accessibility by facilitating accessibility in order to fully participate at a virtual event.

The Foundation, in collaboration with the Wikimania Scholarship Committee chair have started with performing a feasibility study on how to best enable event participation. There will be a proposal with a first pass of options for repurposing by the end of February. The Core Organizing Team will help decide on how to best apply these to the goal of enabling participation.

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