Cookie tracking notice
Are we allowed to crumble with cookies and anonymous tracking?

We use cookies on our website. Some of them are essential for the operation of the site (so called session cookies), while others help us to improve this site and the user experience (tracking cookies). We use the application Matomo and the external service etracker to analyze your behavior on our website anonymously. Because we value your privacy, we are here with asking your permission to use the following technologies. You can change your settings any time via this link or the menu item in footer menu. For more information visit our Data Policy

Elisabeth von Muench, former moderator of the SuSanA discussion forum, is a dedicated Wikipedia editor. With over nine years of editing experience and nearly 50,000 edits to her name, she ranks among the top 2,000 editors globally for the English Wikipedia. Through volunteer work and paid assignments, she has improved and written numerous Wikipedia articles on WASH, climate change, and SDGs. In this interview with Paresh Chhajed-Picha, Elisabeth explains her motivation, the need for wider participation in editing Wikipedia articles, and the challenges in doing so. 

Article written by

Independent consultant (since 2012). Previously worked at GIZ from 2008 to 2012 (SuSanA secretariat). Skilled in online community management (SuSanA Discussion Forum), knowledge management, project management, teaching, A process engineer by training.

Interested in systems strengthening for WASH, especially for small cities. Formerly associated with CWAS at CEPT University. Adept in the development and use of planning tools, capacity development, knowledge management, and research. 

Share this article on

Reading Time: 10 min.

Please tell us briefly about your past and ongoing work on editing Wikipedia articles.

I first started in 2014, through a project on knowledge management funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and later from WSSCC. The focus was on sanitation topics. In 2020, I turned my attention to topics around the SDGs and then later to topics around climate change as part of a 4-year project funded by Formas, a Swedish agency. Currently with funding from the UK-based REACH Program, I am working on articles related to water security and climate change. My part of this project is administered through the RWSN Secretariat at Skat Foundation. RWSN has been a knowledge broker for the REACH programme since its inception (more information here). 

What got you interested when you began, and what is your motivation to continue? 

In October 2014, I discovered the work of a Canadian doctor, James Heilman, who was improving articles on pit latrines, sanitation, and toilets simply because he felt it was important. As a sanitation specialist, I realised I could more easily contribute to those topics than him. This inspired me to begin Wikipedia editing. My motivation stems from two directions: volunteer editing and paid freelance editing. Most Wikipedia articles get high pageviews which is evidence that people turn to Wikipedia to find answers to their questions. Also, tools like Alexa and ChatGPT also utilise Wikipedia content (even if they don’t always reveal their sources). The information that is given in Wikipedia articles is quite often not the best and also outdated. I want to help make the “sum of all human knowledge“ available for everyone, especially on topics that I care about such as sanitation and climate change. (Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales, is famously quoted as asking us to: “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge”).

How do you decide on articles that need editing? 

This can be based on the needs of my clients (for my paid editing work). The REACH program wanted to see improvements made to Wikipedia articles that touch on climate resilient WASH topics, e.g. the Wikipedia articles on water security, WASH, effects of climate change on the water cycle, effects of climate change, groundwater, climate resilience, water supply and sanitation in Bangladesh. So I spent time on those.

When it comes to purely volunteer work, I generally like to focus on articles that have high pageviews. For example, the main Wikipedia article on climate change gets about 4000 pageviews per day. Most of the articles that I work on get a bit less than that but are usually at least 500 pageviews per day.

Could you list some articles that you’ve worked on. How can people check your work on Wikipedia?

The top-10 articles where I’ve made the most edits include: Sustainability, Sustainable Development Goals, Climate change mitigation, WASH, Effects of climate change, Sanitation, Effects of climate change on human health, Water security, Sewage treatment, Urine-diverting dry toilet. I contributed to significant improvements of these articles, for example by adding new content, improving the logical flow, making them easier to understand (for example by removing jargon or cutting long sentences into two), adding images, adding additional sources. 
Anybody can check my wikipedia profile page to check out my work.

Wikipedia Article Example

Please share your experiences and insights on collaborating for editing articles. Also tell us if you have been able to collaborate with editors from the global south.

One of the first lessons of Wikipedia editing is its emphasis on collaboration and consensus-building. As summarised in Wikipedia policy, "Consensus is Wikipedia's fundamental method of decision making and is marked by addressing editors' legitimate concerns through a process of compromise while following Wikipedia policies." We build consensus primarily by using "talk pages" - discussion tabs on each article available for everyone to see. You’d be amazed to see how much time is sometimes spent discussing the wording of just one single sentence! For example, see the talk page for "climate apocalypse".

I haven't collaborated that much with editors from the Global South on the English Wikipedia, although I've come across some from Nigeria, Rwanda, Kenya, Bangladesh, and India for example. Bear in mind I only work on the English Wikipedia - there may be many Global South editors for local language versions. Overall though, English Wikipedia editors lack diversity - about 80% are Global Northern men. Volunteer-based editing leads to a situation where Global South editors tend to have less spare time than Northern counterparts. Women in the Global South have even less free time than men.

To overcome limited volunteer editing, I advocate paid editing - integrating it into jobs in communications or knowledge management. Seeking science communication project grants (like mine, see here) is another option, though not easy.

How do you approach maintaining neutrality, especially when working on topics related to sensitive or controversial issues?

The topics that I work on are usually not overly controversial, e.g. sanitation, water supply, climate change adaptation. Other topics are far more controversial, just think about topics such as Covid vaccinations, transgender sexuality, Israeli–Palestinian conflict, etc. I take my hat off to Wikipedians who successfully work on those! But in general, we try to base everything that we add on reliable, published sources. Ideally secondary sources (like systematic reviews) or those from reputable sources such as the IPCC assessment reports. Wikipedia does not publish original thought. All material in Wikipedia must be attributable to a reliable, published source. 

Would you suggest WASH professionals and researchers (especially those early in their careers and from the Global South) edit Wikipedia articles? 

Yes, please! We need all hands on deck for this mammoth task. It could also help you to promote your own publications better. My advice: if you can, make your publications in the open access format CC BY SA. This way, you, or anyone else, could copy sentences straight from your publication to a Wikipedia article where it fits because such a publication would be “compatibly licenced”. On the contrary, if you use a different copyright format, e.g. CC ND NC then it cannot be used directly but has to be paraphrased which could introduce errors.

For example, if you have a look at this Wikipedia article: Water supply and sanitation in Bangladesh you can see from the reference list at the bottom that I have drawn on a couple of  publications from the REACH program for content (here and here). The publications were compatibly licenced and content from them was useful to add more data, examples and even images to this Wikipedia article. You could also help by uploading your own photos to Wikipedia articles. Many Wikipedia articles have either not enough photos, or too many photos from the Global North, not enough from the Global South! 

If you need help getting started, just e-mail me (

How can it be systemically promoted, especially amongst the youth?

Perhaps lecturers could start to build some Wikipedia editing into their university courses as assignments. I know a professor in Sweden, Olle Terenius, who has integrated Wikipedia editing into some of his course assignments.

Thank you so much Elisabeth for your time and for what you do to make knowledge accessible. You truly exemplify the dedication and passion of Wikipedia’s top editors. The Wikipedia editing community has many similarities with the SuSanA community: They are both a "community of practice" which works through the dedication and passion of people around the world, as well as through a lot of volunteer hours and a willingness to share and disseminate information and knowledge.And we can all take encouragement to work towards making all knowledge accessible. We hope more young professionals and researchers get involved in addressing gaps in Wikipedia articles and donors support such efforts by dedicated funding and including it in other grants. 



Share this page on

Share your experience in an own blog article

Do you have valuable insights or a unique perspective on WASH? We welcome article submissions from experts, researchers, practitioners, and anyone passionate about the field.

Make an impact and reach our global audience by contributing your article. Whether it's an innovative project, best practices, or personal stories, we value diverse perspectives. Join us in advancing the conversation and driving positive change in sustainable sanitation.

To submit your article or learn more about the process, contact us at