Ponència a wikimania 2009 revisada
[modifica] The "Associació d'amics de la viquipèdia". An initiative to promote and support Wikimedia projects in Catalan speaking territories.
- Joan Ramon Gomà i Ayats.
- J. Gustavo Góngora.
[modifica] A bit of history. The birth of the "Associació".
The associations are born due to the will of people to create them. Therefore, we can say that our association was born in a Wikipedia meeting held in Barcelona in the premises of the National Library of Catalonia on the 19th of July, 2008.
There need became evident for a legal entity to give support to a lot of initiatives we were already carrying on. Two non mutually excluding possibilities were considered: creating an association, and becoming a Wikimedia Local Chapter.
The main advantages of creating an association were that activities can be done by the association and responsibilities are limited to the association's assets; by reaching the status of public interest association, some tax reductions can be obtained for donors, depending on the country; the association is eligible to apply for aids and grants to finance the projects. The only disadvantages were those coming from the bureaucratic obligations required to create and maintain a legal entity.
As for becoming a Wikimedia Local Chapter, the identified advantages were the possibility to use the logos and trademarks to be identified with the projects, as well as the coordination with other Local Chapters in a same territory. The disadvantages were the risk of investing in promoting Wikimedia trademarks while the right to use them has to be renewed yearly, as well as the bureaucratic obligations of being a Chapter.
We decided to go step by step and split the problem, to start by creating an association and later, if a chapter is agreed upon, dissolve or transform it.
[modifica] The territory
The region where we operate spreads over four countries, but this has to be put into context.
We are a relatively small community. We live in a particular geographic region in Europe. The concept of ancient countries in the European Union is more or less diluted and we expect that sooner or later it will be even more diluted. Therefore, differences among these countries are smaller than inside some other single countries. We share the same currency, there are no borders to travel from one part to the other and the legal systems are very similar. We share a common language whereas countries like Switzerland don't. Geographical distances (both in km and in travel costs) to travel from one side to the other of our region are much smaller than in single countries like Spain or France.
[modifica] The "Associació d'amics de la viquipèdia".
The goal of the "Associació d’amics de la viquipèdia" is to support and promote Wikimedia projects, but our priority are the contents of Catalan projects and contents regarding the Catalan language and culture in any language. We try to gather people from all the territories where Catalan is spoken in a single organization. Our view is to give legal, logistic, media and financial support to people willing to perform activities in favor of the projects. We see ourselves more as a place where people with ideas and initiatives can find tools to develop their ideas than as a centralized organization with a strategy and an objective.
[modifica] Structure characteristics and creation process.
Associations are born with the will of people to create them. We can say that our association was born in a Wikipedia meeting held in Barcelona (in the premises of the National Library of Catalonia, one of the private institutions created by those pioneers I already mentioned). But in our countries, if you want the economic responsibilities to be limited to the fees paid, the association has to be a registered association. We have our headquarters in Andorra but we are registered also in France and in three registering bodies in Spain (one for each of the autonomous communities where we are active). In fact, as I am writing this, this process is not finished yet.
[modifica] Current activities.
To start with, we gave coverage to activities already carried by members:
- There are two projects related to promote Wikipedia at school: In the Balearic Islands and in Catalonia.
- Also at the university: At Barcelona University (Pharmaceutics department) and Perpignan University (Catalan department).
- We are supporting the organization and financing of the first Catalan Wikipedian Congress, to be held in Figueres.
- We have reached agreements with a few institutions to release material. Note the agreement with the "Arxiu de Tradicions de l’Alger", a small city on the island of Sardinia (Italy) where Catalan is spoken and where there are real treasures of the Catalan culture of ancient ages.
- Some of our members also have promoted projects on TV: Andorra TV, and Catalonia TV (that can be watched in almost all the Catalan speaking territories, not only Catalonia).
[modifica] Ideas of projects for the future.
Only to explain three:
- In the Catalan countries there are many people coming from all around the world. Only in Barcelona more than 200 languages are spoken. Thousands of volunteers are offering what we call "linguistic partners". They volunteer to meet during a few hours a week to talk in Catalan, therewith helping the the people we call "new Catalans" to learn our language. Right now we are in contact with an organization devoted to linguistic exchange. Catalan people teach Catalan and foreign people teach their languages. We are studying the possibility of using Wikipedia. We help them in learning editing tools, select articles in Catalan about Catalan culture and articles in other languages missing in Catalan Wikipedia. As a practice in the courses they translate articles from Catalan to their native languages and from other languages to Catalan. Later experienced wikipedians review the articles and correct any mistake, so they feel more motivated because their effort in learning a new language is useful for the community and they get feedback for free.
- The other one, more than an idea, is a project. We are trying to convince the "classic" pro Catalan culture movement to join the free knowledge project. They have years or centuries' experience and some of them have infrastructures. They have libraries with invaluable materials and thousands of volunteers. Some of them have joined our association already and we are holding meetings on a regular basis to analyze the best way to integrate some of their activities in Wikipedia. We will use the trip to Wikimania to visit some of the fifteen Catalan "Casals" in Argentina, at least the Buenos Aires one (founded in 1886), and try to go in this direction.
- Just to explain another one, we plan to use the physical infrastructure of our partners and the mechanisms set to identify Wikipedia authors in order to accept them as members of our association to offer a new service: to certify the identity of authors requesting it. This can be used by authors in writing their curriculum, obtaining an added value from their contributions to Wikimedia projects. Also, this will provide a tool to enforce authors' rights against infringements.
[modifica] Ideas to cooperate with Nation based local chapters.
Apart from having a group of people enthusiastic about working in favor of free knowledge (which is the most important), we have the advantage that there is a wide and deep network of associations related to Catalan culture around the world and that they are linked and organized. This network is more intense where we have a community of Catalan speaking people. Most of them are members of the "Institut Ramon Muntaner" and some members of the "Institut Ramon Muntaner" are also members of the "Associació d'amics de la Viquipèdia." We are actively working to convince those associations to join the Wikimedia projects cause. We can propose, jointly with Wikimedia IT/FR/ES, cooperation agreements to these associations to release contents.
We also have the advantage that in Andorra and in some autonomous communities in Spain there are aids and grants specifically for organizations promoting Catalan culture abroad. There are also some grants in the European Union to develop projects in cooperation with organizations from several countries; we could manage to apply for some of these projects.
We think we can work together with WM-FR, WM-IT and. if it is created in the future, with WM-ES: some members of our association could affiliate to Wikimedia FT/IT/ES. We could agree to a special membership fee for members associated to one or more entities.
Our activities in each territory could be advertised also in their websites, and vice versa.
We can keep each other informed of the activities in this area.
We are organizing a Wiquipedia congress to be held in Figueres next October. Members of those chapters and others are invited.