iKnowHow: building a wiki for the voluntary sector (part sixteen) What does Wikipedia think of iKnowHow?
A few weeks ago a colleague of mine at Wikimedia UK drew my attention to the iKnowHow wiki and I thought it was a great idea. I invited the KnowHow team to our offices for a cup of coffee and we discussed the project in a bit more detail. It reinforced to me why the project could be so valuable to the not-for-profit sector.
I've been following Marie Faulkner's blog describing the project's development and it inspired me to write a few lines about why wikis are useful and how they can have a huge impact. There's a whole host of reasons why this project can make a big difference to the sector and why I'd encourage everyone to get involved. In no particular order, here's a few.
You don't need to be an expert to make a contribution – Wikis are collaboration tools accessible to everyone. You don't need to know everything, be a PhD or have been working in the sector for 40 years to have something worthwhile to contribute. Have a think – there will be something you've worked on or been involved with that will be of use to your colleagues in the sector. Share it.
Shared experiences are a powerful resource – We've all got experiences that can help out others. Whether you've dealt with a thorny governance issue, managed a charity's expansion, adjusted to working in the sector after a career elsewhere - your experiences can help others.
What starts slowly grows quickly – When wikis begin they often take quite a while to get going. The truth is that until a wiki becomes useful or well known, it seems like nothing much is happening, but that's not the case – it just takes a while to appear significant and it doesn't happen overnight. In the meantime, add some content, tell your friends and colleagues and eventually the project will take off.
Sharing knowledge leads to individual, organisational and sectoral development – A sense of continuous improvement is important to any person or organisation working to achieve their goals. The only way we learn is if we have resources and people to help us. By collectively creating those resources on a wiki we are pooling more knowledge than we could ever have on our own – and it will all be at our fingertips, for free.
Free support when funding is hard to find – Lack of funding (and cuts) are big issues in the voluntary sector (let's not go there!) but with a collaborative resource like the iKnowHow wiki at the sector's disposal eventually there will be an extensive resource bank that will enable practitioners and workers of all kinds to save time and money – and it's there for everyone, for ever. I think that's wonderful.
Wiki collaboration is a great way to build connections and become more visible – When you contribute on a wiki you become recognised as someone with something to offer a community, such as expertise, enthusiasm, insight or attention to detail. When you contribute regularly you may just find that people contact you for your opinion or suggestions – and, likewise, you find people to contact. It's a great way to network.
If everyone gives a little, we all receive a lot in return – Know How Non Profit's website receives about 80,000 unique visitors per month. If each of us who visited the site spent just ten minutes making a contribution each month iKnowHow would very quickly grow into something special.
There are a whole host of other reasons why contributing to wikis is a great idea. I could go into long and passionate detail about how such collective endeavours (or crowdsourcing, if you prefer) help us to manifest our collective wisdom. I could wax lyrical about how simply being a part of a project like this provides a great sense of satisfaction. I won't – but what I will do is urge you to have a go. You'll soon find these things out for yourself!