Funds Dissemination Committee/Additional Information and Analysis/Interviews/Risker
Interview date: 5/9/12
- The Wikimedia umbrella covers such a diverse group of people—it makes it hard to develop the “ideal” design and keep everyone engaged in the process
- I’m glad we’re doing this—it’s a bold step for our movement and it will be very beneficial if we can get it right
What is your assessment of current grantmaking processes, like the Grants Advisory Committee?
- I like the Grants Advisory Committee—it’s a streamlined process for getting funds out to people who are going to use them.
- In the long run, more can probably done on follow-up and evaluation. Since they’re small grants, they don’t need massive reports, but we should understand where our money is going.
- The FDC will be looking at much larger grants, so evaluation will be even more critical.
- It would be helpful to see how grant recipients have used those dollars over the past few years. My guess is that some of it would be extraneous, but much of it will be so valuable for the little money we invest in it.
What does “value for money” mean to you?
- Our ultimate goal is sharing knowledge. If we’re only spending $10K per year (or something small like that) on Wiki Loves Monuments events, just think of what we’re getting for that: New images and information, translation into other language. It’s a LOT of new pieces of information.
- Same thing for the GLAM projects, WikiSource, etc. Our community contributes so much for so little investment. The readers are the winners!
- This causes those of us who are independent to look at the chapter budgets and wonder whether that’s the most efficient way to be spending money. Do we really need multiple staff in one country when we are having so much impact in other places without it? Do the staff focus on acquiring/freeing up/supporting users to obtain educational materials for incorporation into the projects?
- And how do we ensure follow-through? I’ve seen examples where chapters committed to projects for the benefit of the Foundation or the movement and then didn’t (or couldn’t) follow through.
- There are LOTS of projects that we could be funding that we aren’t today. How do we ensure that small groups with good ideas get the funding they need? I can think of examples in both software engineering and in global development of projects that would be “nice to have”, but they aren’t core.
- For instance: The Education project has worked to link to university courses to help students work on English Wikipedia. It requires some continued staffing to have a chance to succeed. These projects have a good chance to impact on readership and editor participation. But it is important not to be over-ambitious. The India Education Project tried it with several universities and classes India last year, but they had too many students without enough supervision. We learned from that but shouldn’t give up—we should fix it next time! It is important to remember that we have professors and students conducting “Wikipedia” classes whether or not we help them, so it is to our mutual advantage to have structures to support them.
- The European projects sometimes perceive the English Wikipedia Arbcom as a monolithic and powerful institution. From the early days of English Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales had all of the responsibilities and a lot of power, but he realized he needed to divest it. He created the Arbcom to manage a lot of those responsibilities. It means that English Wikipedia Arbcom has more responsibilities than Arbcoms in other projects. Many other projects have found different ways to address these responsibilities, with or without an Arbcom.
- On English Wikipedia, Arbcom has developed clear rules and responsibilities for editors with advanced permissions (Oversight and Checkuser) and for Arbcom members themselves. With the community, we rewrote the Arbitration policy.
- We keep each other accountable when we don’t pull our weight
What are your reactions to the draft recommendations on Meta?
- I like the idea of the Board retaining rights on approval and appeals, at least at the beginning
- I question whether we need staff to do the evaluation vs. the FDC doing some of that evaluation on their own.
- It really comes down to how many members the committee has and how they are selected.
- I think 5-7 members is too small. 7 will be the bare minimum that you’d be able to manage, and I could see it as big as 11. It’s important to have people who are ready to backfill.
- I’ve learned from the Arbcomm that you’ve got to have flexibility. We have at least five people out right now for various reasons, and you need to be prepared for that.
- I’m not bothered by having an even number—there are ways to address that.
- This group should be diverse and represent the community.
- The first group will need to have staggered tenures so that people aren’t rolling on and off at the same time.
- You need to have 1 or 2 Board members on it. There isn’t a single committee that reports to the Board that doesn’t have a Board member on it.
- A couple of representatives from the chapters, maybe selected through Chapters Committee.
- Need to have people who are not aligned—from other projects within Wikimedia and who are independent. 95% of editors are not connected to chapters.
- They need to understand finances.
- I agree with Kat Walsh—elections tend to attract the same people all the time. They can be very ineffective in getting the best selection of members, because voters tend to select familiar names or people they know. One option would be to invite candidates to self-nominate and then for the Board to present a slate for community consultation before final approval. I think there will need to be some judicious recruiting to ensure you’re getting the right people with the right skills/experience for this.
- Onboarding is such a critical part of this. At first, you will want some experienced professionals who have worked with grantmaking to provide onboarding for this group. It must be required, and training materials must be retained. This should be intensive—a weekend or 3-4 days. Over time, the FDC should train its new folks—perhaps a buddy system.
Scope of grant-making responsibility
- How do we determine what goes into what funding envelope? The Board needs to decide how much money GAC has and how much the FDC has.
- Perhaps the FDC gets phased in so that’s fairly straightforward at the beginning—while they’re still developing their processes. So start with large grants, but over time take on smaller grants so they play a role in fostering innovation from smaller entities or projects.
- The GAC is a great way to allow people to test ideas without having to develop a big full annual plan.
- We have to make sure that we’re learning from these activities—we as a community should be involved in what is learned from funding investments and activities—perhaps at Wikimania.
- I’m confused about who is an eligible entity. For instance, the Foundation might want to apply for funding through the FDC for major projects (i.e., those that will cost more than $50,000 and are non-core or experimental). It will be a great way for the community to give the Foundation some feedback on the value of their work.
- Core vs. non-core: This is a tricky one. It’s really hard for me to understand how best to define what is in vs. out. And there are some things that I think the Foundation should be doing that they aren’t today.
Other process thoughts
- It is important that we build in flexibility to this process. We need to be able to grow and change and be responsive to what we learn along the way.
Any advice for us as we facilitate this process?
- This is a big challenge—even though you’re doing it in public on Meta, some folks don’t feel comfortable engaging on Meta
- You need to be sure documents are appropriately translated
- Make sure that you get a diversity of input, not just chapters or the most active participants