I have done many small outreach workshops in Namibia. Once I could not get sufficient accounts created and Internet access was too slow, another time we lost an entire day to a power outage and the attendees had little use for Wikipedia editing skills. On many other occasions something was wrong with the organisation, the workshop was too short, the computers too few, the venue too hot, et cetera.
This time everything was right. I had four half days instead of two or three, allowing for plenty of technical help, explanation, and revision. I had the right participants – teachers, a translator of indigenous languages, an employee of the local Teachers' Resource Centre and one of a local tourist information, plus some people that explicitly wanted to attend, and that knew about Wikipedia at least in theory. Everyone was informed in advance, thanks to a local community activist who, for a small fee to cover his expenses, phoned after everyone and negotiated time and duration. Internet access was stable and reasonably fast, there were enough computers, and I even got my
accountcreator right back without hassle after it had been removed shortly before.
From previous workshops I know that English Wikipedia is not an ideal place to practice. Although Namibia's national language, English is no Namibian's native tongue, and English Wikipedia's 1001 rules make a basic introduction difficult. Some participants are embarrassed to write in English in public and under supervision, fearing that they might make a mistake. Editing in Otjiherero on the Incubator on the other hand has a lot of advantages: Participants can write about whatever they wish, as there are just a few dozen existant articles. It doesn't matter for now that spelling in this indigenous language is still a matter of academic dispute, and if an article like this is slightly promotional, that's not the end of the world.
And yes, we were reasonably productive, not by the quantity of produced content but by its variety. Participants wrote short articles and categorised them, sent messages to each other, helped an Incubator regular to translate a template. They found and linked pictures on Commons and even started a deletion request there. Alas, before my car left town editing dropped to zero, and no single edit has been performed on Wp/hz ever since. Which is, in a nutshell, the story of all my outreach in Namibia. Operation successful, patient dead: A well-run workshop resulted in exactly zero new editors, zero subsequent edits, zero subsequent picture uploads. What I did get, however, were several SMS messages from attendees, asking to have such an enjoyable workshop again soon!
Wikipedians are a tiny minority
Building on anecdotal evidence, outreach workshops have not been successful anywhere. Some simple number crunching gives you one idea why: English Wikipedia has attracted about 3K very active editors (100+edits/month) and some 30K active editors (5+edits/month), out of 1.5 billion speakers of that language. Per million speakers, this is about 2 very active and 20 active editors. Proportionally, Somalia has more doctors than the world has active Wikipedians. There are more professional chess players in the world than very active Wikipedians. Wikipedia is a hobby of a tiny minority.
Otjiherero has roughly 250K speakers. Applying above statistics to it there might, or might not, be a future very active Wikipedian amidst them, and there should be about five potential active editors speaking Otjiherero. I haven't found them yet. Which is no wonder as, with 5–20 participants per workshop, it would require 2,000 workshops to skim 10% of the speaker base, and thus have a 50% chance of finding one of the five.
I am convinced by now that recruiting Wikipedia editors by offering a workshop nearby is a terribly ineffective measure. We always easily get funding for such initiatives, and we might do them for the publicity. But to increase our editor base there is hardly any method less successful than running workshops.