Funds Dissemination Committee/Nominations/Q&A

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Questions for candidates to the Funds Dissemination Committee

Contents

Questions to candidates[edit]

Please ask your questions here.

Questions to all candidates[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

Thank you all for your candidacies, for which I'm sure the movement is grateful. I'd be pleased to read your succinct and focused opinions on the following three concerns.

  1. Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?
  2. Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?
  3. To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:
  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?

Thanks for your time and skill in responding! Tony (talk) 09:16, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

  • Post-comment. I'm astonished at the assumption by several candidates that it's fine for the opening round that the key documents can remain unsatisfactory in a number of ways (i.e., we'll just fix it as we go). Tony (talk) 14:21, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "Post-post-comment" Please see Talk:FDC portal/Proposals/2012-2013 round1/Example/Proposal form. I'm sure we can make some progress on your concerns. BTW, please re-read your last comment to Tango, so you are up on what I mentioned on that page. All the best. Smallbones (talk) 20:26, 6 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

Thank you all for putting yourselves forward, and thank you Tony1 for your questions, especially Question 1, which is also a concern of mine.

  1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?
  2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?
  3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?
  4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
  5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
  6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

Thank you so much for putting yourself forward for this important work :-)

  1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?
  2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)
  3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?
  4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

Thansk for putting up your candidacy. The FDC can play a critical role in how the movement will function over the coming years. Because of that, two questions that don't really have a 'correct' answer. Please try to give a somewhat short (non-native friendly) answer:

  1. When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)
  2. When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

Questions to specific candidates[edit]

Candidate responses[edit]

Responses by RexRowan[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

1.Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

Yes. I think for these guys, they have the responsibility of training the less efficient chapters. A well formed structure, if practical, is worth replicating.

2.Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

Conflict of interest? Our only interest should be for the betterment of Wikipedia, everything else can be talked through and give way to our main goal.

3.To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:

  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
We will investigate till all requirements are satisfied. On top of that, I would like to see a person that is responsible for standard checks. If the efficiency is not fulfilled, the credibility of these entities will be deducted and damaged, and the follow on grants may be withdrawn.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

As I have said in the beginning, well established structures are worth replicating. I propose to establish a funded training team to duplicate successful templates with the new chapters until they are ready.

2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

No. Excellence should be supported.

3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

No. All for one and one for all, that's my philosophy.

4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

They should make an effort to ensure their idea more ready for the criteria. But overall, I will listen and discuss with both sides first before I make a decision.

5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Fact is fact, this is not a gossip magazine.

6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

No. Yes.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

I would mention all my concerns and then that's where good leadership comes in.

2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)

I personally will set up an investigation team and make my decisions base on both the forms and the intelligence reports. Obviously good quality reports show good amount of efforts has been put in, but it can be deceiving if their primary target is to access fund instead of producing results. These entities need to be filtered out.

3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

Good result is self evident. Besides, we now have surveys at the bottom of the articles to get feedback. If all the major work we put in don't show a definite sign of positivity, then I do not believe people would have been stupid enough to donate money into a black hole. Do not under estimate the power of public observation.

4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

Bad leadership, that's always the reason of the failure of any enterprise.

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

1. When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)

I choose to stay respectfully neutral. A judge with a good intuition is good but he/she also needs to hear from the jury and look at the primary and secondary evidences provided from formal and informal sources. I would apply abduction reasoning in situations like this.
   'Summum ius, summa iniuria'
       Law applied to its extreme is the greatest injustice
       Book I, section 10, 33. - Cicero


2. When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

I would consult some other trusted advisers and random selected people to verify the truth in it. If it's true then I will grant the request to achieve efficiency. But it must be lawful and morally justifiable by the local jurisdiction and culture.


Regards, RexRowan (talk) 12:05, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Tango[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. Yes, there is a danger that the WMF and current large chapters will continue to get a large share of the movement's revenues. As I said in my candidate statement, if I get appointed the FDC I intend to do what I can to avoid that happening. I think avoiding that will require proactive encouragement of the smaller chapters (and other affiliated entities in the future) to come up with ambitious plans.
  2. We'll have to wait and see how well the relationship between the FDC staff and the rest of the WMF works. I had a long conversion with Anasuya Sengupta (who will lead the FDC staff) at Wikimania and that is one of the things we discussed at length. It is clear that Anasuya understands the importance of maintaining an appropriate separation. I am a little concerned that Anasuya has been given responsibilies at the WMF in addition to working with the FDC (she also works with the GAC). It was my understanding that the FDC staff would be completely separate from the rest of the WMF and were housed at the WMF simply for logistical efficiency. Having people working on the FDC and other areas of the WMF could cause problems (I believe the GAC is funded out of the WMF's application to the FDC, so there is an obvious conflict there). If appointed to the FDC, I would see monitoring the FDC staff to be a key part of my role and would step in if I saw any poorly managed conflicts of interest. It is important to remember that the FDC staff don't make the decisions, they just support the FDC - as long as the FDC are alert to possible issues, the staff shouldn't be able to unduely influence them. (At one point in the planning process, the FDC staff were responsible for assessing eligibility of entities, which would have been problematic, but that has now moved to the WMF legal team.)
  3. It is difficult to judge the forms until they have been used. I doubt a one-size-fits-all approach will really work, so entities will need to customise the forms to fit their application. If I'm on the FDC and I find that the information I need isn't in the applications, then I'll just ask for it. I doubt many applications will be able to be approved without any follow-up questions.

--Tango (talk) 11:18, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

  1. Response to post-comment: They are just forms. If they don't work, the FDC can get the information it needs some other way, like asking questions. --Tango (talk) 15:19, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
    The very reason(s) grant application bodies do not rely on back-and-forth communication with applicants are (1) the potential for unfairness through the provision—accidental or otherwise—of more or better assistance to some applicants than others, (2) the likelihood that unwritten rules will grow to be more important that the written; and (3) the messy, time-consuming communication that will need to be pursued to compensate for proper instructions on the forms. There are already hidden rules/tricks of how to fill out the forms in a way that does convey how strongly the case for meeting each of the 12 assessment criteria; instead, these should be explicit in the questions applicants response to. What an advantage an applicant has when the forms are in a mess and the applicant has the assistance of an expert who knows how to put a strong case. But just where the case(s) should be made are a mystery at the moment. Tony (talk) 15:39, 2 August 2012 (UTC)
    I like unwritten rules. They exist for as long as they are useful and then go away when they aren't. Written rules have a tendency to stick around to be argued over. I think you are putting far too much stock in this "12 assessment criteria" thing. If I'm on the FDC, I certainly won't be making my decisions by going through a list of 12 criteria. I'll be exercising my judgement. That judgement will be informed by the FDC staff's report based on the 12 criteria, but if someone hasn't understood the form properly and filled it out a little wrong so the staff's report doesn't quite say what it should, it really isn't going to be the end of the world. I'll have plenty of other sources of information. Obviously, it is more efficient if we have everything from the start, which is why the forms will be improved as we discover problems with them through use, but I can see plenty of things our time can be better spent on than trying to guess what problems are going to come up and get the forms perfect from the start. --Tango (talk) 00:46, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
    Not just more efficient, but fairer. And clearly the Board of Trustees thinks the matters covered in those assessment criteria are important. I'm wondering whether the FDC is any more than a smoke-screen for arm's-distance decision-making: on one side there are the staff; on the other the board. Is it worth the huge expense of flying FDC members to San Franscisco three times a year? What exactly will they add in terms of decision-making if the information provided by applicants is so coarse-grained? And how can "bundled" specific projects be assessed without more information than is required? Very odd. Tony (talk) 08:44, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
    As I've said repeatedly, I do not intend to base my decisions on just the analysis by the FDC staff. I will make sure that I have the information I need to make the best decisions I can. --Tango (talk) 11:19, 3 August 2012 (UTC)
    It's whether sufficient information is provided by applicants at the start, or there has to be an involved, convoluted discourse around each application after it's posted on-wiki. Tony (talk) 13:03, 11 August 2012 (UTC)
    I'm confident in my ability to ask applicants clear questions that will get me the information I need without a convoluted discourse. I doubt any form that didn't take months to fill in could cover every possible piece of information I might need. You don't know what questions to ask until you've started considering the application, so the form has to just cover the questions that are going to applicable to almost every application. Other grant giving bodies do have forms that cover everything so they don't need to ask follow-up questions, but as I understand it those forms usually do take months to fill in. A simple form with follow-up questions will take up much less time for applicants, and we really need to avoid the FDC becoming a drain on people's time. --Tango (talk) 13:32, 11 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I would like to see the Wikimedia Chapters Association (WCA) take the lead in helping new chapters develop. The kind of things the FDC will focus on and will be qualified to help chapters with aren't necessarily the things new chapters should be worrying about. The amounts of money they will be dealing with are small enough that money shouldn't really be a consideration in what they do (establishing a strong base of volunteers is far more important). The FDC's role starts when a chapter is getting to the stage where it does have the capacity to spend significant amounts of money effectively. The FDC's role does start before the first application is made - the FDC can help the chapter realise that it now has that capacity and that it should be considering an application. It can also help with developing that application (the last thing the FDC wants is to have to reject applications that could have been far better with a little guidance). I don't think the FDC has a significant role with very new and very small chapters, though - that role belongs to the WCA who (I hope) will be able to do it much better. --Tango (talk) 22:31, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
  2. If we're in the position of having more good proposals than we can afford to fund, then I would weight smaller applications higher than larger ones. I would much rather reject one small part of a large application than reject an entire small application. Supporting the small applications helps to encourage that smaller applicant and will help them be a much greater contributor to our mission in the future. They are also likely to be able to do more with the money, since larger applicants will have already picked all the "low hanging fruit" - this is the w:law of diminishing returns.
  3. I think the movement should recognise the hard work and skill that the fundraising chapters contribute in their fundraising efforts, but that recognition shouldn't come in the form of more money for them to spend. The movement should spend its money wherever it can do the most good. There are significant advantages to fundraising that make it more than worthwhile for the fundraising chapters - the relationships they can build up with their donors can lead to much greater things, for example. --Tango (talk) 22:31, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
  4. The opinion of the editing community and the metrics assessed by the FDC staff are both things that would inform my decisions, but my decisions would be based on my own judgement. I would not blindly do what the community wants. Nor would I blindly follow the results of a box-ticking exercise. I'll vote according to what I think is best for the movement, and nothing else. --Tango (talk) 22:31, 28 July 2012 (UTC)
  5. See the previous answer.
  6. I would like to see (and did argue for in the discussions) the timetable rearranged so that the fundraising target can be set according to how much we actually want to spend (that is logistically challenging, but I think we could do it). The way things are currently set up, there is change that we will either raise too much or too little. Both are very bad things for a non-profit movement to do. We certainly shouldn't spend money on bad projects just because we have it, but we should try and avoid asking donors for money we don't actually need. If we do have money left over, it should be kept for next year, but I'd hate to see that happen.

--Tango (talk) 22:31, 28 July 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. The key to getting the information you need is to ask the right questions. I think the FDC can get enough information to make good decisions, as long as it is careful to ask the right questions. It doesn't need intricate details on every aspect of an applicant's plans, since it doesn't make recommendations about individual line items it just recommends a budget and the applicant may end up changing their plans for what to do with that budget anyway. In the unlikely event that it really can't get the information it needs, then my preferred course of action would depend on the details of the situation. If the applicant hasn't made an effort to provide the information (or, even worse, has been deliberately evasive) then that would count strongly against them. If the information is just not available, then the FDC needs to make the best decision it can with the information it has. Depending on the amount of money involved, it may be appropriate to take a risk and approve the budget anyway (there are always risks involved in making grants and we can't use our funds effectively if we shy away from them). If the information is available, but the applicant just needs more time, then I would rather miss a deadline by a week or two than make the wrong decision. The FDC shouldn't miss deadlines without a good reason, but we shouldn't follow procedure at the expense of doing the right thing. If the FDC's budget isn't oversubscribed, then it can make recommendations on the other applicants and then make a late recommendation for the delayed one. If the budget is oversubscribed, then it is a little more difficult - we can't risk causing other applicants cashflow problems by delaying payment - but I think something could be arranged in most situations.
  2. I agree with the premise, but I don't think it applies to us. This is an internal funds dissemination process, which means the top priority of everyone involved is furthering our cause as best we can. External grants bodies often have different priorities - they may need to justify themselves, or have impressive projects to show off, etc.. We don't have that problem. --Tango (talk) 22:13, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
  3. In this case, I disagree with the premise. I think we should be able to define clear measures for success for almost all our work. The important thing is to be clear about what the actual goals of a project are. For example, the WMF has recently been doing some experimental work relating to editor retention. It may appear that the goal of that work is to increase editor numbers, but it isn't. The goal of that work is to find out what ideas to increase editor numbers work and what ideas don't. If, after a year, the project has produced a long list of ideas that we now know don't work, then it has been a success. It doesn't actually matter what has happened to editor numbers, because that wasn't the point. So, the SMART target for that project may be something like "To have determined, by the end of the year, whether 10 distinct ideas for increasing editor retention have potential based on reliable statistical evidence." --Tango (talk) 22:13, 8 August 2012 (UTC)
  4. "Biggest risk" is slightly ambiguous, since it isn't clear whether the likelihood of something happening should be taken into account. Based on second question, I'm going to assume you mean the risk with the greatest possible harm, regardless of likelihood, ie. the worst case scenario. I think the worst case scenario would be the FDC making its recommendations and then the WMF board rejecting them (either wholly or largely). I would consider that the whole idea of an FDC had failed. If the WMF board can't rely on the FDC's recommendations, then what is the point? I can see a few situations in which that might happen. The WMF board may feel that the FDC's processes have not worked and therefore its recommendations are unreliable or illegitimate. The WMF board may feel that following the recommendations would put the WMF at legal risk. Or, the WMF board may simply disagree with the FDC's judgement. The first two should be avoided by careful monitoring throughout the process - if it looks like one of those outcomes is likely, then something should be done about it before we get to that stage. The final one is more difficult. The WMF board has a duty to do what it thinks will best further the WMF's mission. It has to weigh up the harm from following sub-optimal recommendations against the harm from the internal problems rejecting the recommendations would cause ("harm" should be interpreted to include failing to get a benefit). If its conclusion is that the harm from following the recommendations is greater than the harm from not following them, then I would interpret that a the WMF board concluding that the FDC was, in hindsight, a bad idea. --Tango (talk) 22:13, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

  1. There is no short answer. You have to judge every situation on its own merits. You need to consider materiality, plausibility, motivation, proportionality, etc.. (Sorry for the long words - it is probably easier for non-native speakers to look them up than for me to give imprecise definitions.)
  2. One thing to be careful of is that countries don't have a simple monolithic culture that everyone in that country is an expert on. Especially early on, chapters often have very little non-profit experience so they won't necessarily know their local non-profit culture very well. The same can be true of the culture of the GLAM sector, education sector, etc.. Therefore, if something seems truly ridiculous and a waste of money but the applicant insists it is necessary in their culture, then I would need to be convinced that they are right. That could mean presenting evidence of the culture, or simply convincing me that they have the necessary expertise to make that assessment. --Tango (talk) 11:19, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Interview questions[edit]

I'm answering the interview questions here rather than have my answers reported second-hand. Any questions not included below should be answered in either my nomination statement or the responses above.

2. Are you prepared to accept the WMF Board of Trustees' resolutions on the FDC, even if you might disagree with the decisions? (The FDC is not intended as a forum for debating the Board's resolutions.)

The FDC will need to take a certain amount of ownership of its procedures and processes, so it will need to be a forum for debating those. The overall purpose and scope of the FDC has been decided by the WMF board and I agree the FDC isn't a forum for debating that (although there are plenty of other fora in which it can, and should, be debated - this is a process of discovery and experimentation and the results of it need to be widely debated). The FDC will be quite busy, so it will be important for it to stay on-topic as much a possible.

5. How do you describe your style of interaction on teams and in groups?

I'm not really sure what a "style of interaction" is - different forms of interaction are needed in different contexts and for different purposes. As a rule, I tend to ask a lot of questions in order to get the information I need in order to either make decisions or shape arguments. I challenge illogical reasoning (or simply a lack of reasoning).

6. How do you think the FDC should work together to develop a joint recommendation for the Board of Trustees?

The FDC will need to come up with a way of working that works for it. I find these things are best left to happen organically.

8. What are your suggestions for assessing the performance of the FDC?

There are really two things we need to assess. The performance of the FDC itself individually and collectively and the performance of the process.

To assess the performance of individual FDC members, I think the "360 degree review" approach (ie. getting reviews from other FDC members, WMF board members, FDC staff, applicants, etc.) should work quite well. It is probably difficult to come up with useful metrics for individuals (other than whether they turn up to meetings often enough), since the work is all done as a group, but you can review perceptions, which can be very informative (and are very important in their own right for a body like the FDC that needs buy-in from many different parties).

To assess the performance of the FDC collectively, a similar 360 degree review would be useful, but could also be supplemented with more quantifiable metrics. Adherence to deadlines, acceptance of recommendations by the WMF board, satisfaction of applicants, etc.

To assess the process, I think an open discussion on meta after a year is the best approach. The main question is going to be whether people are satisfied with it, what they think could be improved, or whether they have a better idea entirely for how to do the job. I think the best way to handle that is an open discussion. Any attempt to structure that kind of discussion runs the risk of unintentionally shaping it and artificially directing it in a particular way.

9. Do you have the time available to fulfill your commitment to the FDC?

It is always difficult with a new committee to know just how much time it will actually take. We don't even know how many applications there will be, yet! Based on my rough, prudent estimates of how much time it will take, I should have enough. If it turns out I've underestimated how much time it will take (or overestimated my available time - life has an annoying habit of being unpredictable!) then I'll discuss the situation with my colleagues and work out the best course of action.

Responses by Coren[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I think that's the biggest danger with the way things are currently set up: I understand and agree with the need for having a proven track record with managing grant money; but the way things are currently set up, there is an inherent bias that the smaller organizations – especially outside the "Western" sphere – will find hard to overcome. I believe it's our ethical responsibility to ensure that the less agile entities have all the support they need to be eligible, not just our attention once they are.

    I think it's important that the FDC not only advises on distribution to eligible entities, but also keeps an eye on the process that selects which entities are eligible and makes sure that no group is excluded that should not have been. Our primary duty would be to split the pie, but it's just as important to advise the Board if someone wasn't allowed to ask for a piece that should have been.

  2. That's not something that worries me very much. In theory, at least, there isn't that much of a conflict of interest to begin with: the FDC mandate does not include deciding the budgetary envelope, and that is pretty much the only way in which the Foundation would have had a real stake; otherwise, the staff does not have any decision authority so it's the importance of the committee's independence that matters.

    That said, I have concerns about possible workload problems that might lead to cutting corners, but only experience will tell how realistic this is.

  3. I think it's clear from the outset that those are all drafts; and I'd guess it's unlikely they will end the two year trial period resembling the current format. Part of the point of the initial period is to find the right way to do the work, and tweak process and workflow until we hit a stride. At least as much effort should be spent analysing and tweaking the process and method itself as is spent on the actual dissemination – before the number of EE becomes so large that keeping up makes it impractical or impossible. — Coren (talk) / (en-wiki) 13:27, 25 July 2012 (UTC)
  • A brief comment on the post-comment: I din't think that it's fine that they are unsatisfactory so much as that it's inevitable that they will need refinement once we start using them in real situations. My experience is that no amount of planning survives contact with reality. — Coren (talk) / (en-wiki) 15:04, 2 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I think that the GAC has a much better role there than the FDC does. The restricted grants they receive through that committee is arguably the best way for new entities to "show their mettle", as it were, and with that experience match the FDC criteria. That said, I think that the less mature entities do need a helping hand; I would tend to be more forgiving of a less solid application from a newer organism than I would be from one that has been in operation for many years, and would do my best to guide them towards the information they need to polish their application.
  2. Absolutely not. Not only would this feel retributive (which is nonsensical), but it also goes against our objectives. Evaluation on how much a chapter receives is based on how well that money is managed and spent, not on the dollar amount. If the chapter presents a solid plan, and has shown financial responsibility, it would be counter-productive to penalize them for their past successes.
  3. No. The chapters that raise the most money are also the ones in the better position to fund themselves, and so are not subject to extra consideration. This does not mean that they will be penalized: pretty much by definition, the bigger fund-raising chapters will also be the ones with the more mature and well-tuned organizational structure, and are the most likely to present solid fiscal planning and ambitious projects.
  4. It really would depend on which (and how many) criteria the proposal matches poorly. A well-received and innovative project that aligns less well with the global targets would still score decently and remain under consideration; a project that has a poor chance of success or that has poor financial planning might not. Community support certainly factors in the decision (since it greatly affects the probability of success and the magnitude of the positive impact), but would not allow an ill-conceived or ill-planned project to proceed.

    That said, I would expect that many of the more audacious or experimental ideas that are well supported by the community but (for one reason or another) do not align well with the FDC's criteria may well fare better under the GAC, which is less risk-adverse but maintains a more conditional oversight.

  5. Honestly, I think that's a rather unlikely scenario: to match perfectly with the criteria, a project would have to align with the WMF global targets, have a good chance of success, and provide innovation of value to the entire movement – I'm not clear how a project that does all of that could be so wildly unpopular as to raise that issue. And I certainly consider the disfavour of the community as a serious obstacle to the plausibility of the project to be successful, which would factor in the evaluation.
  6. Part of the allocation from the FDC goes to the GAC; and I'm of the opinion that much of the budgetary envelope that remains after the FDC does distribution, is best allocated there (where it can then serve the objective of getting new entities off the ground better, as I've mentioned in answer 1). If we find ourselves so much under budget that the leftovers returning to the foundation are significant, I'd certainly note that in our report the the board; there may be cause to relax the eligibility requirements so that more meritorious projects might get funded. — Coren (talk) / (en-wiki) 16:00, 29 July 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I think it is important that, in the first year at least, we tend to err on the side of continuity: it would be disastrous if an entity found itself without critical funding because we had not anticipated flaws in the process, or were unable to correct them in time. Since the FDC role is advisory, that's not a fatal problem: our recommendations to the board should (indeed, must) include a disclosure of what information may have been missing or unclear, so that their own decision is done with full understanding of the situation.

    It's just as important, of course, that we then take corrective measures so that the next round is not so handicapped: whether this means revising weaknesses in our processes or improving the pre-assessment communication with EEs.

  2. I don't think there is anything wrong with the premise; this is a phenomenon I've seen countless times both in charitable work and in academia.

    I think the solution is deceptively simple: make sure that the FDC members understand what we do. Lining up the numbers on a form is a requirement for fiscal responsibility and maintaining the trust of donors; but the key is being able to assess the "street value" of the proposals. Meeting milestones and goalposts is part of the picture, of course, as is having clear objectives and good communication. But in the end, it's out in the field and by the community that effectiveness is judged.

  3. Interestingly enough, this answer is pretty much the counterpart to the previous question's and demands pretty much the same answer: we need to understand what we do.

    The projects with longer-term outlooks or that are more speculative simply need to be measured against a different kind of metric. Provided that the proposal is strong and makes sense for what we do, the right measures at first are "Are we doing what we set out to do", and "Are we increasing our understanding of its impact". As the project matures over the months or years, the answers to those questions will tell us if we should proceed and what new metrics are useful for the next round ("The Foo Outreach Program seems to have an effect on Bar editor retention - how do we now measure this to tune it").

  4. That it bogs down in process and either becomes a pointless obstacle for the EEs, or an exercise in rubber stamping forms that brings no actual thought to the process. It's dangerously trivial to become a "safe" committee that takes no risk, and spends the money correctly as opposed to thoughtfully evaluating where it is best spent. — Coren (talk) / (en-wiki) 02:31, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Smallbones[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

Thanks for the questions. I agree with much of what Tango and Coren have said.

  1. The greatest danger is indeed having entities get funded simply because they were previously funded, having charismatic or popular folks create their own little well-funded empires, simply because they are well-known and know how to work the system. I don't know how we could change the system to prevent this, or if any system can stop this all by itself. It likely comes down the commitment of the individuals on the FDC to make sure that this doesn't happen. And I'm very glad to see Tango and Coren expressing this commitment. The FDC must reach out and make sure that all members of the Wikimedia community have equal access to these funds, and even take some risks so that newer or under-represented members actually get funds and can show what they can do. There are a couple of forces that work in the opposite direction: the FDC should make sure that entities are not penalized for being successful, e.g. if a chapter has grown large by coming up with programs that effectively implement the movement's goals, then we should not withdraw funds simply because they've gotten big. Also, the FDC is likely to run into some multi-year programs, even though it recommends funding on a year-by-year basis. The FDC will have to discipline itself to give these programs time to work. If a multi-year program falls on its face in the first year, the FDC might be right in demanding to see how improvements can be made AND continuing funding at the planned levels. All-in-all, however, the FDC must actively counteract the biases toward bigness and "established interests" that are built into any system like this.
  2. The Board and the community are the next "lines of defense" to prevent overstaffing or overfunding of staff, that might be caused by staff influencing the FDC. Be sure that the FDC will have to watch and carefully evaluate the material that they get from the staff - that's just part of the job. The Board should also see this potential conflict of interest. But perhaps the most careful watchers will be members of the community. It might not be very pretty, but the FDC is likely to get a few comments like "How come those guys at the WMF get so much ... and we can only get ..." It will have to pay attention to those comments very carefully.
  3. Yes, the forms need some work. In particular the application needs to let the applicant know the 12 things that they will be judged on. Maybe it doesn't need to be exactly on the same piece of paper, but it does need to be stressed. The evaluation sheet stunned me at my first (recent) reading. It almost looks like you just add up the numbers and you get the results of, say, a preliminary ranking. Actually it doesn't say that, but it certainly gives that impression. Just adding up the numbers would clearly not be a good idea. For example, on the measures of effectiveness, I'd say that anybody who gets the lowest possible ranking would probably have had to answer something like "I just don't know how you could possibly measure the outcomes." To me this would be saying "I don't think this is going to have any effect on the real world" which, if true, is a complete deal-breaker. On the other hand if somebody is starting a new, risky program and answers "this is going to be very difficult to measure" I might give extra points for honesty, and it would be the FDC's job to help suggest some measures. Three years later, the same program gives the same answer, and it's a deal breaker. By that time, they better know how they are affecting the real world. Smallbones (talk) 20:34, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. GAC is the answer here, not only for chapters but also for Thematic Groups and User Groups. But not just GAC, larger chapters, etc. can and already do have there own "small requests committees" and these will be important. It might seem like "competing small requests committees" would be inefficient but I anticipate that it will be helpful. If GAC has a blind-spot an applicant can go to another group and vice versa. The FDC will be involved in funding GAC and these small request committees, but not the small requests themselves. Thus it will have an overview of the process, but at a step or two removed.
  2. I agree with Tango about "low hanging fruit" and diminishing returns. Growth of a successful chapter or other group is likely to be exponential at first, then level off. The FDC should try to fund the exponential growth as long as it lasts, and not overfund during the leveling-off phase. It should always fund the "best" groups, but best being viewed as the ones with the highest or best expected outcomes. This suggests that many small groups will get funding, but the larger groups that continue to grow will also get funding. Another argument for funding smaller groups is diversification - if the FDC concentrates its funding in a few large groups and one of them falls on its face, it will have a big effect on the movement, but if it funds many smaller groups and several of them fall flat, but others do extremely well - the movement can continue to do well overall. Diversity and diversification work together. Finally, according to the Strategic Plan, the WMF is committed to developing the movement in the global south, where many of the smaller groups are or will be.
  3. It has to be understood that all funds coming from the annual on-line fundraiser are due mainly to the movement as a whole and are controlled by the WMF. Off-line fund raising is to be encouraged and will let the groups be more independent of the WMF and the FDC, which would be very good. It will strengthen and diversify funding for the entire movement. The FDC should help the groups start off-line fund raising by funding these programs to get them off the ground. Lowering the funds from the WMF after the off-line fundraising becomes successful (other than the start-up fund-raising funding) would be penalizing success and would be a terrible idea. That said, successful off-line fund raising by one group is not going to raise or lower funding of another group.
  4. I'm not entirely sure how you are using the term "metrics" here. If you are referring to the form Tony1 asked about, I have to say it's just a tool for roughly summarizing judgements and I'd prefer they didn't use numbers on it at all (perhaps letters instead!), so that nobody would be tempted to add, average, divide or do any meaningless mathematical operation on them. If you a referring to "measures of success" then I have to strongly defend their use, but note that different groups, and different projects in the groups' overall budget will have different measures and it will be very difficult to compare across groups. The reason to have measures of success or effectiveness is first and foremost to have the planners think in real world concrete terms what success will look like. Soft and fuzzy won't work here. The second use is to actually judge the success of individual project by the measures suggested by the planners (cross comparisons won't be that useful at first). The third use would be to suggest similar measures to other groups proposing similar projects, so that the other groups know what success might look like. After every group is doing similar projects (because they have been successful), then comparisons might be made - though the growth in that type of project might have leveled off by then. Community opinions on different types of project are definitely needed and important - we need to go after these in a systematic way. We need to look for the underlying support, though, rather than any measures that are temporary, due to politicking, or appear only in small groups.
  5. See above - same question, opposite side of the coin
  6. The FDC is not required to spend all the money in the envelope and whatever remains will be put in the Reserve Fund. (This is what I remember from discussions, but couldn't find it in the documents right now). There's no point in funding organizations (or projects of organizations) that the FDC expects to fail, or that may succeed in its own terms, but fail to contribute to the strategic goals of the movement. That said, from discussions it seems that folks involved want to fund as many groups with as much money as possible, so I expect only "rounding errors" and a few GAC funds will be put in the Reserve Fund (say 2-3% of the total envelope). There is good reason to fund as many groups with as much money as possible. There may be something like a 5 year window of opportunity for the movement to grow into some areas of the global south. In other areas a well there may be activities that we can't start or continue, unless we start working on them now.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

1. In almost all cases, the FDC is just going to have to make the decision as best it can - making decisions without full information is the most common thing in life. So just do it, accept the consequences, and prepare better for next time around. (BTW thanks for the warning!)

2. The FDC will receive requests from many different types of organizations including large chapters with paid staff and smaller entities just getting off the ground who might only have a few volunteer members who write fluently in English. I would demand good concise requests when the staff is paid (especially if the WMF is paying for them!). Concise is the key word. Too many grant applications are bloated, putting in everything anybody might possibly want. A professional should just put in the key points and take some risk by boldly stating what the application is all about, rather than piling on nonsense that allows them to back off from anything they've written. Short and direct is all that's needed.

For other groups, the FDC will have to help develop the skills needed to make a short and direct application.

Sue's invitation to poke around and be expansive reminds me of an opportunity I didn't take earlier. There was some material about the FDC becoming a "Center of Excellence," which is what we should aim for, but some pre-conditions must be met. I poked a bit and Sue thought I was poking fun at the phrase (which can seem ostentatious). I wasn't poking fun at all, more like kicking the tires and seeing what bounces back. To become a center of excellence the FDC will need to practice true leadership, it will need to have the full confidence of the Board and others, so that it can take some risks - which leaders always will - at the right moment of course. That wasn't the message that bounced back to me when I kicked around this phrase. I think the Board is perhaps a bit scared - how do they know that the FDC is ready to do even the basics?

Sue's question is about what will happen a few years down the road. But first this year. What does the FDC have to do this year? To get the confidence of the Board and the community in general, it will have to demonstrate competence, doing the basic job, keeping our noses to the grindstone, making what might seem to be a bit of a mess into a routine job, where we take care of all the details and make sure its done right. And staying away from controversy. At the end of the year I want folks to say something like "They're quite competent. I'm glad somebody knows how to take care of that. Must be rather boring!"

Only when the FDC has shown the overall community its basic competence can it begin to show leadership, take some risks and become a center of excellence. I see the FDC as a clearinghouse for ideas and information even more so than for money. It will need to reach out to the community in a systematic way to find out what the community wants to spend money on, what chapters and other groups want to accomplish, then sort through all this information and make sense of it in terms of the Strategic Plan and directives from the Board. At that point the FDC can spread this information on our goals and opportunities throughout the movement, suggesting ideas for projects to groups, as well as being humble enough to listen to new ideas and accept projects that it had no inkling of before the request.

There is some risk in this. The FDC may not draw the right conclusions from the community input and suggest projects and ideas that would have been great last year rather than next year. This type of outreach might be viewed by some as favoritism (clear guidelines would have to be in place so that the FDC sends out the same information to everybody). But if the FDC, which will see and evaluate most of the big projects in the movement, doesn't disseminate this information to the community, who will?

I haven't answered Sue's question directly, but I hope you see that the situation described in her question has no place in my vision for the FDC. Rather, if you don't have the type of outreach I've suggested, it's likely that the process will descend, as it does with many organizations, into that situation.

3. People often misuse numbers, and some are occasionally hypnotized by them. Nevertheless, appropriate use of numbers and quantitative descriptions of reality are tools that the FDC must use, particularly in describing the expected outcomes of a project. The key question will always be "How do you define success?" and an answer to that question that does not include some numbers would very likely be inadequate. Let me take a fictional project off the top of my head. Say some folks want some money to create YouTube videos from Wikipedia articles. If they define success as "We'll make some cool videos and post them on YouTube," I'd have no idea what they want to do. But if they say "We'll take material from a dozen articles, and at least 50 photos on Commons, make at least 4 videos that are 2 minutes or longer, and plan to get 50,000 or more views," then at least I'd have some idea what they are trying to do, and would have some chance at a reasonable evaluation if the project were funded. Note that the exact numbers would not be the determining factor in the evaluation. If the numbers turned out to be 10 articles, 40 photos, 3 videos, 1 minute 38 seconds, and 60,000 views then I might very well judge it to be successful in what it intended to do. Indeed, if folks don't give us goals that they don't meet, I'd suspect that they are being too conservative or not aiming high enough. Non-quantitative goals would be just as, or more, important. Are they documenting editors in the global south, the work of museums and the GLAM project, or garage bands? Why? Note that this project would be experimental, with the likely goal being that the technique of making YouTube videos from Wikipedia articles goes viral. Even so, having some numbers is crucial to the planning of the project - it may well be the fourth video that causes the technique to go viral. "Going viral" is not an outcome that anybody can guarantee or even really plan for, but the use of numerical goals can increase the chance of success and the chance that the FDC can properly evaluate the project.

Please excuse the silly example above. Something that might be quite common on many experimental projects is a goal like "get the word out." If they define success as "We plan to talk to a bunch of cool people in many countries and let everybody know about X" then they have not planned very well and the FDC could not judge whether they succeeded or not. But if they say "We plan to hold at least 4 meetings at universities in each of 3 countries, establish our own website getting at least 100,000 page views, generate publicity by getting articles in at least 3 national-level publications, and hold an international conference attended by 300 people, with at least 20 being trained as official ambassadors of the project," then it would seem to be well planned and could be evaluated. Of course more than half of those goals could go unfulfilled and the project could still be judged a success if, e.g. Bill Clinton spent 10 minutes of his 15 minute interview on "60-minutes" heartily endorsing the project.

Numerical comparisons across projects could be much more difficult, but let me give an example where it MIGHT work. The US and the UK might both propose projects to to increase the number of active editors by 5,000 -10,000 in their countries among the general population. The US proposes to spend $20 per new active editor, and the UK proposes to spend $10 per new active editor. In the first year, I don't think I would want to compare across projects, except, perhaps, if they were being run by the same people with the same methods, etc. The types of outcomes would likely be too different to directly compare in advance. But if they both succeeded in the first year in getting 5,000 new active editors, and the results didn't appear qualitatively different, I'd have to ask for the 2nd year plan why the WMF should spend twice as much to get a new US editor as a new UK editor. Likely, the FDC would insist that the US organizers study the UK plan and see why the UK was so much more efficient.

But comparing across projects, say where the goal is to recruit new Chinese editors, or new Tunisian, Zimbabwean, or academic editors, would be comparing apples to oranges and shouldn't be done. Coming up with some sort of overall numeric "Strategic goals indicator," (say by taking the square root of the number of women involved adding the expected number of photographs generated plus .1 times the number of page views from Nepal) would, of course, be shear nonsense.

4. In terms of design of the FDC, the worst outcome would be that the process becomes politicized. The worst outcome regarding decisions taken by the FDC would be a large grant that is misappropriated or grossly misused. This information would of course be public and could result in news coverage - perhaps even international news coverage - that seriously undermines the entire movement. To a certain extent, something like this (however small) is almost inevitable over the next decade or two. Wikipedia, however good its intentions, is not immune to this general type of event - consider some of the publicity concerning BLPs, WikiLeaks, pornography, and even some personell changes. So really the worst possible outcome would be that something like this happens and we are not prepared for it. The best response IMHO would be complete openness together with information on the overall track record of the FDC and track records of Wikipedia and the movement as a whole.

Smallbones (talk) 19:15, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

^ see the questions ^

1. The old Russian phrase "Veriat no proveriat" - "Trust but verify" - since this is Wikipedia we must take "Assume good faith" very seriously. Since this is about money we have to take verification very seriously.

2. Inter-cultural interactions will, as always, continue to be a challenge. The "Trust" part of "Trust but verify" is most important here. (Sorry if this is too long.) Smallbones (talk) 15:55, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by FloNight (Sydney Poore)[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

1.Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

The Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees is setting the ground work to increase participation of groups beyond the existing large chapters by: 1) The recent introduction of alternative ways that groups can affiliate with the Wikimedia movement through Wikimedia Thematic Organizations and Wikimedia User Groups. These new types of affiliation will give different groups the possibility to be EE in future years. ([see http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Resolution:Affiliations_Committee Resolution expanding types of affiliations]), 2) the creation of the FDC who will evaluate grant applications based on their likelihood of helping the Wikimedia movement achieve its global priorities as outlined in a strategic plan which is focused on reaching under represented people, and 3) encouraging the Wikimedia movement's allocation of WMF staff and volunteer time to assist groups to become eligible to receive funds.
Additionally, my conversations with members of the WMF Board of Trustees, and WMF staff such as Executive Director, Chief of Finance, Chief Global Development Officer (and too many others to name!!) have reassured me that the intention is to expand the reach of Wikimedia movement program funding. In the transitional years the EE for unrestricted program funding through the FDC will be similar to the groups who previously received unrestricted program funds, but in future years the EE should include other groups besides the well established Chapters. This is not "entrenching" the allocation of funds to familiar faces but getting the new FDC off to a safe start until it finds it feet.
The large well established chapters have played an important role in the development of the Wikimedia movement. And from my conversations with a good number of Chapter staff and members of their Board, they are dedicated to working with their local community and the global community to find the best way for them to continue to provide a vital role in the movement. I don't think that we are looking at an either/or situation as this question suggests. Innovative ideas with the potential for excellent outcomes can come from a variety of entities and will be rewarded with program funding, either through GAC or FDC. :-)

2.Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

While in San Fransisco I met with many WMF staff members, and one common theme was that they understand that to be successful in their jobs that they need to in tune with the Wikimedia community. They are a part of the Wikimedia movement! They really understand that employment with the WMF is different from other employment. I don't think that it is possible to bring in new staff and isolate them from the rest of the WMF staff and have them understand the WMF movement culture as well as the current staff do. So, I think that any problems from a perceived conflict of interest is mighty small compared to the the advantage gained by having WMF staff working together on disseminating program funds in the spirit of the Wikimedia movement. The transparency of the ongoing work, and the involvement of FDC member volunteers in evaluating applications, and the hearty evaluation the FDC process are good enough safe guards.

3.To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:

  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
The current forms are a good starting place so the FDC can hit the the ground running. We can modify anything as needed with the feedback that we get.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

Thank you all for putting yourselves forward, and thank you Tony1 for your questions, especially Question 1, which is also a concern of mine. 1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

The goal is to have the FDC collect measures of best practices for the movement so most definitely newly formed groups can benefit from the work of the FDC. The newly formed chapter (or other affiliated groups) will primarily get assistance from GAC (staff and volunteers) as this will be the main place that they get their funding. But most definitely there is a role for them in the FDC process. They can participate in peer review to get and give feedback so they get a better understand of ways to do their work. Peer review is one evaluation tool anticipated to be used by the FDC. Also a group can communicate with FDC members and staff to become better educated about with funding method is the most appropriate for their next funding cycle. A new group that anticipates asking for funding from the FDC in several years would benefit from communication with the FDC at least a year in advance.

2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

Every years funding will need to be evaluated against the best ideas to achieve the Wikimedia movement priorities for that year. If an EE repeatedly has the best way to meet the Wikimedia movement priorities then I would repeatedly give them funding. But this does not mean that every good idea can get funding. So, we might need to give them a funding package that is less than they asked for so that other EE with equally good ideas will also get funds.

3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

No, the money raised by Chapters through the WMF fundraising campaign is Wikimedia movement money and will go to the whole movement as prioritized in the Strategic Plan.

4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Sorry but this is too abstract a question for me to give an answer that you will hold me to. But I'll say that the EE is getting unrestricted funds so if the FDC gives an EE funding that does not cover all proposed programs, the EE can decide which programs to fund. The programming of the EE will be evaluated the next year again, so they would need to prepared to show that they used the money in a way that best served the movement. If they can do that then they will most likely continue to get funding.

5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Same as above.

6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

If there are not enough good projects then the money should not be spent. The FDC's role is to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees who can decide to free the money up for other uses. For example, funding GAC at a higher level might be appropriate under some scenarios. But under no circumstances should the FDC be spending Wikimedia movement money on weak ideas just because money is available.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

Thank you so much for putting yourself forward for this important work :-)

1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

During the first funding cycle especially, the FDC will need to work with EEs to help them transition to the new funding process. Although it is an EE responsibility to provide an application that lays out their plan well, miscommunication about expectation and errors are likely to happen since the process is new to everyone, and we'll need to take them in stride. No guarantees were made about funding, but to help stabilize the situation for groups that have received funds in the prior year, guidelines were established to help with planning. This guideline can also help if the FDC needs to make decisions with flawed or missing information. It will be important that the report to the Board of Trustees reflects if funds are given to EE based on suboptimal information. In future years, I anticipate having a complete application will have greater importance, and it will be taken into consideration as a reflection of the EE ability to use the funds effectively.

2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)

One of the reasons that I recommended the FDC use full time FDC staff working with FDC volunteers is to have trained professionals available to assist EEs. The goal is to develop a system that provides good feedback to the EE during all phases of the process (planning stage through the post application feedback). A hearty process of feedback from FDC staff, peer review, community discussion, and FDC members feedback will offer applicants without highly trained grant writers the opportunity to present their plan well. After FDC members and staff become familiar with the FDC process, the FDC can be a strong resource for EE during the pre-planning stage. Also, since EE will have the opportunity to work with the WMF grant process for several cycles prior to applying to the FDC, they will be exposed to grant funding process, and will be in a better position to write an good application then if they came to the FDC as a recently formed organization. Additionally, the FDC members will be the voice in the system that judges the value of the program to the movement. This is an important aspect of our work, and is the reason that we are using community members to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees instead of solely using paid staff.

3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

An EE needs to have a vision of what they want to accomplish, show how it links to the strategic plan, and community support for their work. The movement is large and there will be different ways of accomplishing our mission. Experimental models that are well articulated and have a good plan for documenting the outcome should be able to compete against safer proposals that are like existing programs with well known objective outcomes. This is especially true as the movement expands globally, and our current norms for funding need to be reevaluated in different cultures.

4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

The worst outcome that I can see short term is that the FDC won't complete the work in the high quality manner that is needed to give the community and EEs confidence in the recommendations. As I stated repeatedly during the planning meeting, my biggest concern is that the FDC will not complete the tasks because members will not do the necessary work in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this has been a problem with existing WMF related committees. The people on the committee with need to meet hard deadlines. The quality of the report sent to the WMF Board of Trustees, and the feedback given to applicants will depend on the committee's ability to work well together during a brief window of time.

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

Thansk for putting up your candidacy. The FDC can play a critical role in how the movement will function over the coming years. Because of that, two questions that don't really have a 'correct' answer. Please try to give a somewhat short (non-native friendly) answer:

1. When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.) In general I'll trust, but our job is to verify the information for accuracy in order to do due diligence to be sure the movement money is being used properly.

2. When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

I can't imagine that I would find any proposal put forward by an EE as ridiculous. It will be interesting to see how different cultures organize themselves to achieve the core movement goals. We'll be using tools that evaluate the EE objectively. Over time I expect these to get better at addressing the programs of EE from around the world as we have more experience using them cross culturally.

Responses by Nicholas (AutoGyro)[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

Thank you, Tony1 for your questions.

1. Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

While the FDC does have an unstated duty to ensure that a wide variety of projects and entities get funded, provided that the projects and goals match those of the Foundation and the global movement, I don't believe that there is a big danger of entrenching inequalities in the global movement. I place grater emphasis on results and outcomes as opposed to whether or not a certain chapter or entity has continually received funding or how large or small it is. As long as an organization continues to produce positive results, they should continue to get funding when they ask. With that said, I would always encourage those who apply for FDC funding to include microgrants a part of their budget, so that they can go on to support smaller entities that may not be eligible for FDC grants but nonetheless do important work that advances the goals of the Foundation, and then, by building a successful history through such microgrant support, those small entities will eventually become eligible for FDC funding. Additionally, non-eligible entities and chapters, at least in the early phases of the FDC, can still apply for non-FDC funding through the current grants process and, again, they too will eventually become eligible for FDC funding. In short, while not everyone will start off on the same footing when it comes to FDC eligibility, with time and with the right push, the number and variety of those eligible for FDC funding will grow.

2. Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

The biggest measure to combat issues arising from conflict of interest is complete openness & transparency in the FDC process. I support open and transparent application process and full disclosure of any perceived conflicts of interest, on the part of both the applicants and the FDC members. Similar to how scientists must disclose conflicts of interest in their publications and presentations, I would expect that all applicants and FDC members disclose their conflicts of interest on a regular basis.

3. To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:

  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
Careful analysis of the application's Reflection on past activities and innovations and Key initiatives and objectives of the upcoming year annual plan should provide sufficient information for addressing points (a) and (b) of your question. Entities with a history of running successful and engaging projects while efficiently utilizing their funds will be able to make that come across in their application through these two sections, which will help the evaluators determine the chances of their future success should they be provided with funding. Given that the assessment rubric is public, all entities requesting funding have an opportunity to review the assessment criteria to ensure that they adequately address each point throughout their application, if an entity feels that a specific point is not adequately addressed in the above mentioned sections of the application, it can include additional information in the Additional context for the upcoming year annual plan section that will help the evaluators better assess the application's merits. Additionally, as the above candidates mentioned, with time, the application will be continually improved to make it simpler for applicants to apply while allowing the evaluators to better assess their potential for success.

Thanks for your questions, and please feel free to ask follow up or additional questions! --AutoGyro (talk) 22:10, 25 July 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

Thank you Sven Manguard for your questions and concerns.

1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

It's important for organizations seeking FDC funding to have a track record of successfully and efficiently using WMF funds in the past. New chapters and organizations can still obtain funding and build their financial and programatic history through GAC until the time they become eligible for FDC funding. In the meantime, I would support and encourage the FDC to advise new chapters and organizations who are interested in future FDC funding on how to best handle programs and finances during their early years so that, when they do apply for FDC funding, their applications are more likely to be successful.

2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

I don't think it's in the best interest of the global movement to block proposals that further the mission and goals of the Foundation simply because the submitting chapter or organization has received large WMF funds in the past. As long as an organization continues to spend funds efficiently and successfully and continues to comply with agreements and guidelines, it should continue to be funded. Denying an organization's application simply because it has a successful track record of utilizing large funds would undermine the review process. With that said, I would always encourage diversity in organizations that apply for FDC funding and, should available funds be limited and the FDC were to choose between funding a large number of small applications or a small number of large applications, I would favor working with the organizations submitting large requests so that they may cut some of their programs to allow smaller organizations to get funding, but I would not vote down an application simply because of the amount requested in the past or present.

3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

Evaluation criteria do not include amount raised during a fundraiser as a qualifier for successful applications, and thus, this would not be a factor. Chapters that don't bring in any fundraising money would be just as eligible for FDC funds as chapters that bring in a lot of fundraising money, provided that both applications are of the same high quality and both organizations meet the eligibility criteria.

4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Process is very important to the integrity and success of any organization. If an idea is so popular with the global community but it clashes with FDC criteria, then the FDC criteria need to be discussed and modified. Going above the agreed-upon criteria in favor of a popular idea would undermine the process and legitimacy of the FDC. It's best in these situations to discuss the validity of the criteria and the possibility of modifying them. In my opinion, criteria in the future may indeed need to be changed or modified, depending on how the first few rounds of funding go. Rules are never set in stone, but there is always an organized method for modifying them. The only constant for me is that the mission and vision of the Foundation and the global movement must always take precedent when changing the rules and guidelines.

5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Same as above.

6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

Mediocre projects should never be funded simply because money is available. Surplus money can always be saved for next year or diverted to other areas, as allowed.

Again, thanks for your questions, and please feel free to ask any follow ups. --AutoGyro (talk) 14:21, 31 July 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

Thanks, Sue, for your questions.

1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

I hope that an effort is made early on, by the FDC members and staff, as well as by the community at-large, to provide information and support to applicants in order to make this premise unlikely. At any rate, unless the information provided was intentionally misleading or intentionally incomplete, I would still make as much effort as possible to make a recommendation on the merits of the application. If I feel that I really needed more information but still felt that the project is worth funding, based on the information provided, I would recommend that the Board fund the project and would also suggest that they communicate with the applicant organization that certain information is needed within a set period of time. If I felt uncomfortable with the information provided, and I did not have time to go back to the applicant organization to ask more questions or request clarifications, I would not make a recommendation on the application. This only applies in the early stages of the FDC process, as we work together to work out the kinks and ensure that everyone understand what is expected of them in the application process. As the process matures, I cannot excuse incomplete applications for any purpose. A lot of money is on the line in this process, and organizations, whether large or small, that feel like they deserve to get funded should put in a demonstrable effort into putting together a great application. I would not hesitate to answer questions from application organizations during the time they are putting together their application, should they ask, to make sure that they put together a strong application.

2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)

I value in an application the section that describes the organization's history and its previous use of funds. Thus, I find it difficult to believe that an organization can continually get grant funding simply because it writes good grant applications without backing those up with good programs. If an organization writes really good grant applications, a part of that grant application must be a demonstration of how it successfully spent previous funds with effective programs and projects. An organization that runs effective programs should be able to demonstrate that in its grant application, and one that does not would not. As I said above, as the FDC process matures, organizations will have precedents for what information they need to provide, and they need to demonstrate an effort in putting together their application, and I will not excuse an organization for putting together a weak application, especially when I've made myself available to them to answer their questions and concerns before they submit it.
I think the question that should be asked here is not whether that organizations would optimize themselves to write better applications at the expense of their program quality, but rather whether larger, more experienced organizations would be able to write better applications and thus have more guarantees of funding at the expensive of less experienced but potentially equally effective and important organizations who may not have the capacity to write applications that are as effective. I think having a support structure for applicant organizations to guide them through the process and answer their questions and concerns before they submit their applications should start everyone off on equal footing, so that both experienced and less experienced organizations can submit equally strong applications.

3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

There are many ways of judging the merits of a project outside of rigid guidelines for measuring success. I am a strong supporter of experimental projects with long term goals, and I support new and out of the box approaches of solving problems. I would even encourage organizations, if they are comfortable, to include at least one experimental project in its application, because experimentations and new ideas are the only way organizations continue to grow and remain relevant. With that said, if an organization expects that it would be difficult to measure the outcomes of a project, it should state so in its application, and it should state what the long term goals of the project are, and what benefits it expects the project would have. In short, the application should have a justification for why it's not easy to measure the success of a project. Making that come across in the application is doable without having to define rigid measurements of success.

4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

There are a few risks. One is that the Board completely rejects all recommendations of the FDC, thereby making the entire process completely irrelevant. I don't believe that is likely, but it is a possibility. Another risk is that if the FDC gains a reputation as a "puppet" of the Board, which also causes it to lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the applicant organizations. Having a diverse and independent FDC, and maintaining openness and transparency in the process, should prevent that from happening. There is a risk, which for me would be the worst, that the process becomes so cumbersome and difficult, that many organizations worthy of funding get discouraged and choose not to apply, and I think this is something that we all must actively work to fight against. We must maintain a positive atmosphere around the process, encourage various types of organizations to apply, and provide all of them with the opportunity to ask for help to make the process as easy for them as possible, while at the same time allowing the FDC to have enough information to make informed decisions.

--AutoGyro (talk) 04:34, 11 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

Thanks, Lodewijk, for your questions.

1. When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)

I believe that we should assume good faith when approaching applications. Applicants who take the time to fill out an application and provide all necessary information should be treated with the consideration that they are submitting something they genuinely assume will help the Wikimedia movement. With that said, if there were some obvious signs that information presented in an application was intentionally misleading, I would not ignore that, but I think that it's important to trust applicants unless there is a big and obvious reason why they should not be trusted. Treating all applications with distrust would discourage people from applying.

2. When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

Cultural differences do exist and it's important to be cognizant of the presence of cultural difference even if we don't understand what those differences are. Applications that have projects with highly culturally significant aspects that may not be apparent to those reading the application should provide a simple explanation of the cultural significance of that project. People from different cultures may respond differently to different methods of engagement, and it's important to keep that in mind when reviewing applications. If I don't understand an aspect of the application, I would ask the applicants a few questions to better understand their project, but I would not dismiss that project just because I don't understand the culture behind it.

--AutoGyro (talk) 19:02, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Mike Peel[edit]

  • Please note that my responses to these questions may be affected by jetlag from returning from San Francisco to Manchester today. I'll try to revise them in the future when I'm somewhat less jetlagged. :-) Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 18:45, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I think that there is such a danger, but I'm not sure how significant or important it is. I expect the FDC to allot funds to the organisations (using this term to include WMF/WM chapters/any other organisations) that are best placed to fulfil Wikimedia's goals. Those that have invested significantly in capacity development in the past will naturally be the most capable organisations to run activities that do this. However, less well resourced organisations that are better strategically placed and are asking for funds that develop their capacity whilst running effective programs will also be highly competitive for funding. I would expect both types of organisations to be able to present competitive, cohesive, logical arguments in their applications. Mike Peel (talk) 17:20, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  2. I've worried about this quite a bit. I do think that a significant COI exists, but I can't see a feasible way around it, and I trust the individuals involved to manage the COI appropriately throughout the application process. I expect the diversity of the members of the FDC itself to provide the most effective counterbalance to this COI. (One option in particular that I've been thinking about is having a combination of WMF+chapters+related organisations hosting the FDC staff. That spreads out the COI such that it becomes much less significant, but it has the important downside of geographically separating the staff members working on the FDC. Having FDC staff in one place greatly increases the efficiency, cohesiveness and effectiveness of the team.) Mike Peel (talk) 17:33, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  3. I've been contributing to the application form, and my contributions have been integrated into the form (the latest version of which is at Template:FDC proposal form v1, so naturally I expect that it will be able to deliver sufficient information to the FDC committee in order for the committee to make a solid decision. Having said that, improving the process is a never-ending process in itself. I haven't looked at the staff report in detail yet, and will reply in more detail to this question once I have. Mike Peel (talk) 17:42, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I note, with sadness, that the FDC process does not include recently formed, or recently developed, chapters. I would have preferred Criteria 3 to have been focused more on the stage of formation and professional organisation of the entity rather than the check boxes of how many grants or fundraising campaigns that the entity has participated in. As it stands, both the GAC and the wider community is in a far better position than the FDC community to support new good ideas coming from chapters. But that's somewhat good, since the wider community should always be the key group that's fostering new good ideas! Mike Peel (talk) 17:59, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  2. No. The funding that an organisation receives should always be focused on fulfilling Wikimedia's mission, based on the proven or expected ability of the organisation, rather than being based on past funding. Mike Peel (talk) 18:30, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  3. There is a significant correlation between chapters that have the ability and capacity to raise money effectively, and those that can spend money most effectively. At the same time, there are significant differences in the ability of locations to raise funds compared to the effectiveness of funds spent in those locations due to geopolitical differences. So there's a balancing act here (as there always is) - and, as ever, it comes down to which organisation is best able to further Wikimedia's goals. In this case, that's going to be a good mix of chapters that can raise money (which should be supported so that they can continue running activities and are able to continue to effectively raise funds), and those that can most effectively spend funds to fulfill the mission (even if they are loss leaders). The balance here is always going to be difficult, and will always be significantly dependent on the individuals making the decision. I hope this somewhat answers your question! Mike Peel (talk) 18:42, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  4. This really depends on the idea. On the whole, I expect and trust the chapters and communities to come up with solid, realistic and achievable goals that can be supported by all. If there's logical evidence supporting them, then even if it goes against the formal FDC criteria I would expect to support them. The community voice would naturally trump the criteria where it is making solid, factual and logical arguments that disagree with the criteria (although I would hope that the community has sufficient input into the criteria to avoid this happening!). The metrics should always be designed to take into account the overall viewpoint, so I would expect that they can be revised as consensus in the community sets out. Mike Peel (talk) 19:06, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  5. I don't know why you chose to ask this question - surely the answer to the previous question answers this one to? If I'm missing something, then please let me know. :-) Mike Peel (talk) 19:07, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  6. This depends entirely on what the best way to spend the money is. If it's best to save it for the next year, then I would expect the FDC to save it rather than spending it. But if it's better to spend it now, then that's what the FDC should do. Whether it's better to save money rather than spend money now is always going to be a tricky judgement, though. So I'd expect the FDC to balance these two viewpoints (and to be duly criticised as a result...) Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:11, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. Do we ever have complete or unflawed information? One of the things that I respect most of us as a movement is that we can always spot flaws in any information that's set out to us, and that we naturally end up balancing the information against any and all other information that we can get our hands on. In general, I would expect the principle of 'assume good faith' to apply here with any information it is aware of. I would expect it to ask critical questions of the organisations that are asking for funding, where that information is incomplete or confusing. If asking these questions delays the decision by a few days, then I don't expect this to be an issue - but if it's delaying by more than a few weeks, then I'd expect a decision to be reached. Mike Peel (talk) 19:23, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  2. OK, as per the invitation, for now I'm going to poke at this question's premise (I expect to be able to write a more lengthly reply when I'm less jet lagged). Do you expect a situation where the chapters will take the approach of simply matching the criteria rather than focusing on the overall goals? I would find such a situation to be very surprising, given how mission-orientated I've always experienced the chapters to be. Mike Peel (talk) 19:27, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  3. I'm a scientist by training. As such, I fully respect both the quantitative evidence of programs that are currently achieving their goals, and simultaneously the projected expectations that may come from speculative activities (also referred to as 'blue skies' activities). The balance between these two is always going to be tricky. I would expect my viewpoint to lie more towards 'blue skies' than 'quantitative', but at the same time that viewpoint is provided that the quantitative aspects are delivering upon their expectations without being put at risk by the blue skies aspects. There could be many hours of debate here! And I look forward to that debate taking place as part of the FDC's development. Mike Peel (talk) 19:38, 7 August 2012 (UTC)
  4. I'm somewhat of a pessimist, so I can envisage many risks. By far the biggest risk in my view, however, is that the community at large does not buy into this process. I would expect the transparency of the FDC to be the most important factor here in making sure that the community has full insight into, and understanding of, the activities of the FDC. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:38, 7 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Ilario[edit]

Thank you to all for your questions. I will answer gradually as soon I have the opportunity to formulate all answers in a better way. I will try to be concise. Sorry for my English but I think to be one of the few no-native English speakers who are candidate. --Ilario (talk) 10:58, 8 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. No, personally I dislike the look and feel and the sexy presentations. I know in detail the question of chapters and I can assure that there are chapters doing a very good job and chapters that concentrate their efforts in communication but produce small results. As member of the GAC I read of lot of these proposals and I think to be sufficiently "mature" to don't be fascinated by presentations, the same happens in my job when someone would submit me new products giving me gadgets... I cannot speak about the other persons, I think that this is more a personal approach than a diligent intention
  2. The measures will never be sufficient if a person has inner conflicts. Honestly anyone has personal attentions or personal visions and may support much more a project or a plan than another. It think that the members must be evaluated case by case, that the measures themselves don't assure the 100% efficiency but they may be helpful to monitor the quality of the service done by FDC and to reveal if there are some conflicts. Basically the measures are efficient if well applied and if there is a transparency.
  3. I think that I am giving an outdated answer because the page is not valid anymore. Anyway I will try to give a more general answer. I think that all criteria may be helpful and the application form should be as possible helpful to have a clear picture. I will comment to the next person saying that an idea is not sufficient. What is really important is to know what is behind the project and how much is motivated the group. Basically the evaluation cannot be done only on the basis of checklists. I think that the example of application form is complete and can give a good picture. It may be improved a lot, but I think that the first years of the FDC are also years of experimentation of the quality of the new procedures.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^ For some questions you use the word "idea", I would use the word "project". Basically I don't appreciate to approve an idea, I appreciate to approve a project because the idea itself is not sufficient, the idea needs time, work and organization. A good idea may generate a bad project, it means that if I don't agree with the project is doesn't mean that I disagree with the idea. Basically there is a concept and there is a plan to make it practically, probably the concept is good but not how the idea can be realized.

  1. I would not be verbose about this answer because I have participated a lot on this discussion in the chapters meeting but I think that there is no problem. There is the GAC that can follow new chapters and may help these chapters to grow. In my opinion this division is really important because the eligibility and the requirements to have access to the FDC are really strict and requires a lot of additional job that may be real time expensive for smaller chapters
  2. No, there will be no opposition. I think that the projects or the organizations have to be financed considering several aspects. If one organization is able to submit a good plan, it may be financed without problems even if they have received already more funds than others. The rule to limit is, in my opinion, disruptive. Naturally it must be considered to give to all organizations the same possibilities and to access to the FDC without obstacles. What the FDC must assure is the same level of evaluation and the same standard to all organizations without any prerogative, afterwards the plans should be evaluated upon the merits. Personally I have only one concern which is connected with the risk evaluation. The distribution of funds among several organizations may limit the risk, so what may be an obstacle, in my opinion, is to give a lot of funds to a new organization because I don't know how this organization may react if they should face a big workload or an internal conflict.
  3. I am board member of WM CH and founder of WM CH and I supported a lot a statement in our bylaws which allows to give money to other associations if their objectives are complaint with ours. When an association has a mission what is important is that the mission is achieved and not that the mission should be done only by one. So the question to have a "retention criteria" is not my objective. Anyway the question to keep money is considered more in the legal point of view by some countries. But they don't have the obligation to spent the whole funds within the country, but to demonstrate that they are decision makers in the projects, but I think that a diplomatic solution can be found.
  4. I am a person who defines himself "unpopular" because when I start to work in general I find a long list of risks to be managed. But it's my behaviour like it's my behaviour to have always the plan B and sometimes the plan C. I know that in an enthusiastic group someone who finds only problems becomes quickly unpopular, but it's an advantage in other situations like those of commercial companies because they know that risks = costs. Anyway what I would point out is that I don't worry to take unpopular decisions. I would say that I would evaluate the projects with a "longtime" perspective. The popularity of a project is not negative because the strategy of Wikimedia movement has like objective that to increase the participation, but what I would check is to imagine the picture of the project after several months because the enthusiasm has frequently a short-life.
  5. It depends. A project requiring a community involvement should be popular. Basically my answer is that it should be verified if the unpopularity is a risk. In general for me there is no problem to agree on "unpopular" projects, but there are problems to agree on "high-risk" projects (if the risk is not well managed or considered). Essentially a project which promises to have a lot of participants and is based on this assumption, but it reveals to be unpopular, should be corrected not for its unopularity but because this unpopularity is a risk. I would ask to the project's promoter to reconsider it. Anyway no problem to approve an unpopular project with a big potential but without any involvement of the communities, there are some persons who need more time to appreciate. The time and the perseverance may help the project.
  6. Easy answer. Even if the Wikimedia movement is based on the no-profit principles, what is really important to check is that the money is spent "efficiently". What damages more is not keeping money but to squander money. In my opinion there a lot of good projects and a lot of good initiatives, if WMF don't find good projects within the movements, it can finance other external associations or movements with good projects. There are a lot of museums or archives or libraries or artists having good ideas or good cultural property but not money to start their projects or to protect their heritage. In think that in those cases a "charitable" vision may help a lot to spent the money efficiently.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

Hard questions...

  1. In general if I didn't have sufficient informations I would not give my approval, but in the other hand I think that too much severity may block any initiative. A project or a plan is successful if he has not confusion or misunderstandings. A small contradiction reveals a problem and a potential risk. My job, for instance, has a lot of risks and I don't start a dangerous process, like a migration, without a plan. If I have some doubt, I check with other staff's members. It could happen that in case of emergency there are a lot of decisions to take and sometimes big risks, but I didn't do it if I have not sufficient reliance in the staff. I would take the experience from this example: basically the preparation and the evaluation is really important for the success of the project/plan, the reliability of the staff's members much more, anyway I know that the time will be short and that the FDC must decide in a short time-frame but what I would do is to try to have the additional informations. In general I act also personally asking to several persons to receive helpful informations or consulting some experts, anyway I think that the collaboration of the submitter will be essential. I will underline the risks and I will share them with the submitter and with the FDC members, and in case of approval I think that a "formal" statement about these risks would be important in order to give to the submitter the information that they have to take care about them, it will be his problem to demonstrate a big risk management acquiring a good reliability for the next submission. Basically I agree with the Stuart's vision: the organizations in Wikimedia movement can access to big funds, they cannot do it without having in charge any responsibility. Basically the FDC evaluates the plans or the projects and will try to do the best, some errors may be possible, what the organizations should have in mind is that the biggest part of this responsibility is in their shoulders, the success or insuccess or the risks are in their hands. The approval of the project/plan is not the end, it's the start of their action.
  2. Very nice question. As said previously, I think to be sufficiently experienced to focus myself on the content instead of on the presentation. I know that sometimes the "communication's experts" go around saying that the presentation is really important and can be crucial for the success of the approval... but I don't have the same opinion (unfortunately). It may help, but I am not fascinated by the presentation. So I will suggest to the submitters to don't spent time in the presentation but to be focused immediately in the most important questions in order to accelerate the process. I don't know if it may be a problem or an advantage, but I am always concentrated to know "what runs behind". I don't have a solution, in general I suggest to do what is done by auditors: they use their checklists in order to extract the essential informations and to work on the essential data. They fill theirs templates and work on those. It helps a lot to focus the analysis on the right way.
  3. Last answer, but I think the most critical answer. Mainly I would like to use "innovation" together with "experimentation" to be clear that an experimental project makes more sense if it brings also an "innovative" solution. Innovation is always a big deal in terms of risks, but without innovation there is no evolution. So I learnt to manage these changes. It means that, in my personal experience, I use a different approach for innovative/experimental projects and this is what I would suggest. As IT manager I apply a lot the methods of software engineering and specifically the "agile method" and I use it also for other kind of projects (not only software development). It means that the risks for innovative/experimental projects may be reduced, in my opinion, using a system of constant but minimum deliveries and a close interaction with all parties and frequent verifications (the team after each release meets all together and checks if they are satisfied and if the preambles of the projects are changed by the environment and so on). The main risk for this kind of project are the "changes". The frequent check helps to correct the project or to change it following the general changes. So I suggest, for big, innovative (or experimental), long-term projects to agree in general on the project plan but to divide the project in several phases not longer than some months in order to evaluate the project and to decide if it makes sense to finance the remaining phases or if it makes sense to change something. It seems to me a rational solution.
  4. To become unpopular. Who evaluates is always unpopular. I think that the first FDC will have in its shoulders a big responsibility: too much severity will reduce the risks but will create a lot of criticism, too low severity will reduce the efficiency of its role. I think that a collaborative position will help a lot, a big "no" will help none. This risk will increase if the submitters will take the comments to their plans as general comments on their organization. The best way is to give helpful comments limiting the criticism. The worst outcome would be to create much more division between the central organization and the peripheral organizations.
Addendum: After the question 2 and 3 of Sue I realize that probably there is a bigger risk not so evident. The problem is that the FDC may influence the strategies. This is a big risk because the FDC applies the strategies decided elsewhere. I would correct partially my previous answer and I would stress the position that the comments should be addressed correctly in order to keep the independence of the submitter. Basically the FDC should not be so much intrusive but it must know its limits and should be respectful of the other decision makers.

Responses by Attila Albert[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I don’t see this danger so far. Coming from a financially strong and well-organized chapter (Germany), I see deeply felt responsibility and sympathy within our community with chapters that are on earlier stages for historical and/or other reasons. In my view, this should also be one task and responsibility for the FDC: Supporting chapters that don’t have the resources yet, meaning both financial funds, personal and organizational knowledge. This exchange and support has already been in existence on an informal and personal level for several years. I hope the FDC can play a big part in institutionalizing and structuring this process.
  2. It’s certainly not really possible to decide at this stage if the current measure are sufficient, especially when we speak about “perceived conflicts of interest” (which might or might not be real conflicts). I would like to ask for an “assume good faith” approach regarding this new structure, trusting in our ability to learn and improve with the process. Upfront mistrust within one community is probably not the best way to start a great working relationship.
  3. I feel both criteria and dimensions are well selected, the application form provides the needed information (we will see after the first rounds if and which adjustments would be useful). Generally, we are in a way better position that many fund-granting organizations, because we are a movement which is - even though worldwide - not too large in numbers. Simply put: Usually we know who we work with, we don’t give money to complete strangers.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I can see these restrictions, and I support them. Two years (as a maximum) seem to be an appropriate time for a new chapter to build a basic infrastructure in staff, knowledge, infrastructure and experience. As mentioned above (answer 1 to Tony1), there is certainly the obligation - but also the will and interest - to support from “older” chapters.
  2. The FDC has to have a global view, because it works with a global movement. So my opinion is that decisions should be based on needs, abilities, and potential. I don’t see much room for perceived entitlement. I’d like to compare the idea with the american diversity visa program: Global view, flexible (annual) allotment based on specified criteria, but also the option to take out recipients once or for a certain time period, if funds are more needed somewhere else.
  3. I covered the answer partly above. The whole idea of the FDC - in my view - is to better balance out movement-wide needs with national interests. He who has more can give more, it doesn’t mean that there is the entitlement to get more. The FDC will certainly have a view on the reasons for disparities, but very often they might be based on factors outside a chapters influence sphere (like national economy, donation culture, how old the chapter is). There is certainly no fixed rule on how to decide that, but a case-by-case situation.
  4. “Popularity” shouldn’t really be the deciding factor in any major, long-term project, simply because of it’s opinion-based, fluctuating nature (we see the results of such thinking in political life). And the editing community is a very important part in the community, but there are also other, less loudly articulating forces (think - for instance - of programmers, educators or others who don’t participate too much in discussions, but build our projects, too). So I want decisions based on criteria made by people who have the trust of the community, not by popularity.
  5. Same answer. From my side there is no automatic reaction for or against a specific project, because of it’s current popularity. However, these information has to be taken in account when thinking about long-term goals and measurements (criteria). If we see a lasting and global shift in values or needs, we will certainly need to adjust. But that’s the normal evolution every organization goes through.
  6. I strongly support the idea of a foundation that can build a financial stock (given the legal and fiscal possibility) to gain independence from fluctations in donations, economical factors, the current stage of our movement. There may be years of less need, less ideas - and also years when we can and should invest more, because we have stronger projects. Reality doesn’t come in one-year packages, so we should give ourselfs the freedom to think accordingly.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I’d be very relaxed, because this is the normal situation for every decision-maker. We’ll never know all, we all have deadlines to meet. So this is simply the job. Our goal can only be to increase the likelihood of good decisions by doing our research, listen to our community voices, and being able and ready to learn. Progress comes over time.
  2. We had started a national fund-granting program within the german chapter some time ago. My observation was that there was the honest effort to look into the heart of every application (who is it from, what is the core idea, what is the motivation). Nicely polished applications are something that I don’t really expect and see as an advantage, because we work with volunteers who do this in their spare times. As mentioned above, we are in a different situation than many grant-giving organizations. We usually don’t work with complete strangers, mostly we have personal contacts to the people we give money to one way or the other. Unless proven otherwise, I assume the same spirit within the FDC, because we are all not people in a remote ivory tower, but parts of national or local movements like the applicants.
  3. I like solutions like Google’s 20 percent rule (20 percent of work time for experimental projects). I’m not sure at this stage, if we need a fixed split between traditional and experimental projects, but in doubt I would support it. The larger an organization grows, the stronger the tendency to eliminate rooms of “free development”. So on the long run I’d like to have a specifically assigned percentage of grants going to experimental ideas.
  4. Biggest risks: a) Spending too much time and energy for internal processes (just see how much text we produced for building the FDC), therefore wasting potential that could go back into the movement. b) Intercultural misunderstandings in a very diverse gremium. Worst outcome: self-sabotage (we exhaust us with ourselfs). However, I missed the upside aspects in your question. So I’d like to add: I can see the potential to build a model on how to work together across nations and above small-thinking, sharing a great spirit and spreading it back to the national parts of the movement where we came from.

--Attilaalbert (talk) 15:18, 9 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Ali Haidar Khan[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. I see the issue differently. Fund requirements will of course vary from entity to entity depending on factors like purchasing power, location, size of the organization and so on. I am okay with allocating funds based on size and activities of entities if the allocations are made according to the ability of an entity; ability to execute plans that contributes in achieving the strategic goals of our movement efficiently. However, I don’t want to see the FDC as a judges’ panel of a race in which entities are competing against each other to ‘win’ a major allocation of FDC fund. This would be the most undesirable thing for me and I will try to do my level best to tackle & eliminate any such possibilities whenever they arise.
  2. According to me, the FDC resolution of WMF Board of Trustees mitigated this issue to some extent. Funds needed for the operation of WMF falls in a separate division called ‘core activity’. This allocation will be decided by the Board of Trustees. So, I expect that no such issue of conflict of interest would arise from this area. However, foundation would seek FDC for allocation for other movement spending. I have a minor concern here but it is very manageable since the purpose of this allocation is entirely for movement wise distribution for activities that support our mission and we know about these activities very well as they are already functional for a good number of years. However, we can’t rule out the possibility of such conflict arising & I believe FDC members will be very watchful in such cases (including myself if got selected). If appointed in the FDC, I would also make sure that FDC members share their personal concerns/opinions amongst themselves & make collective effort to manage such conflicts.
  3. In my opinion, the current application form will do a fair enough job. However, it can’t be sufficient for eternity given the evolving nature of our movement and the entities involved. So, I prefer to encourage the entities to give additional information formatted in a way that best suits them and according to nature of the information provided. FDC support staff will always be there for help. If I am selected, I will make sure the entities get the message clearly and feel encouraged to provide additional information to present their case. If this is not sufficient, there is always scope for asking questions and seeking additional information.

-- Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 18:20, 10 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. This is a very tricky area to decide on. Initially we had another criterion that said the minimum FDC fund request would have to be $50,000. I spoke against this requirement since it could be a big amount for emerging chapters in developing countries even after two years of operation; so it was revised later on. However, criteria 3 remain and the justification behind this is – an entity needs to learn how to run programs successfully and administer grants. So, this time is needed for acquiring that experience. According to my experience in a small emerging chapter, smaller entities mainly have program based activities during the first few years of their existence. So, it’s not very common that a small chapter would have a regular office and hire regular staff. On the other hand, FDC would be dealing with unrestricted operational grants. So, it is practical for smaller entities to go for program based restricted grants provided by GAC/WMF. Since WMF will have FDC allocations for such program based restricted grants, FDC can ask for special reports about such grants from WMF on a timely basis. WCA also has an important role in nurturing emerging small chapters.
  2. If I am selected as a member of the FDC, my judging priority will be the merit of a proposal in terms of bringing desired result that aligns with the goals of Wikimedia Movement. So, if someone is doing a good job, it has to be supported.
  3. I believe, success doesn’t depend on money in Wikimedia Movement. It is the passion of the volunteers that make events and entities successful. Money is not a growth factor here. Rather, our philosophy should be – an entity gets the required monetary support as it grows. On the other hand, it is not a good idea to allocate fund on the basis of how much fund an entity has raised.
  4. For specific program/purpose, an entity needs to go to the GAC/WMF for program based restricted grants. However, if FDC gets any such fund request for a popular program, it should work on the proposal alongside the applicant so that it matches the FDC criteria. The community preference should be given priority since our movement is driven by our community.
  5. This is a supplementary question of the previous one I guess. The decision criteria is simple – if a program has the merit to bring desired result, it should be funded. And unpopular programs are less likely to bring result. So, if I can judge that a program doesn’t have that merit, I won’t vote for it.
  6. It is not mandatory that FDC distributes all the money that it gets in a specific year even if there are not enough good projects in that year. In such case, the left over money goes to the reserve of WMF.

-- Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 15:29, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. It is likely that, in most of the initial cases, the FDC members will find themselves with incomplete or confusing information. So, there is a need for the FDC members to be proactive in the initial years. As per the current process, the eligible entities would submit the FDC proposal first & then FDC proposal would be made open for public comment. After that, FDC support staff would prepare an objective evaluation of the proposals. I suggest, in the initial years, the FDC starts working with the proposals right after they are submitted by the EEs. It will help the FDC members to get prepared for what is coming and give feedback before they are submitted for final FDC consideration. This will ensure a balance between the information requirement of the FDC and the information provided.
  2. For me, it would be the most undesirable thing to see that the entities are competing against each other for FDC allocation. Yet this is a reality in many grant-making organizations. However, I believe that the virtue of our movement is so unique that it will create a natural barrier against such thing happening. Moreover, the FDC members will come from the movement; they will have long experience of working as a volunteer and have extensive understanding of it. So, a collective effort from all the FDC members will be good enough to tackle such problem. In addition to that, the FDC needs to create examples of funding good programs from the very beginning. Good examples are likely to be followed afterwards. Again, the work of the FDC members does not end with giving funding recommendations. They have to follow how the entities that got funds are doing in terms of achieving desired results rather than waiting for yearend reports. Since the FDC will be a diverse group of people, they should observe the developments and share their views among the group which will increase the possibility of detecting any such problem.
  3. My experience says objective and data-driven approach is not enough to make such funding decisions as the FDC’s. If it were a totally objective decision making process, we could have used a software, - but that’s not possible at all. So, we have to be subjective at the same time to make quality decisions. The FDC will be able to make more quality subjective decisions as it gets more experienced. The experience of the FDC members in the Wikimedia movement will also be a great took in judging such works. Additionally, we can have a resource center for the FDC where history of past grants will be recorded systematically so that we can build the FDC as a learning committee. With the help of this resource center, future FDC members will be able to learn from the experiences of their predecessors. In this purpose, we have to develop a framework so that FDC support staff can compile history of past grant records in a user friendly manner.
  4. In my view, the biggest risk facing the FDC process is that, we may not achieve the desired diversity in the committee that would make it truly representative of the entire movement. In such case, it may not be possible for the FDC to evaluate a proposal from all the relevant perspectives. Since the participation of the volunteers from Asia, Africa and Oceania is still limited, we may not get a good number of qualified candidates from these areas in every FDC election. So, there should be effort to develop and bring candidates from these areas to represent in the FDC.

--Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 17:18, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. When looking into requests, my basic stand will be of trust. However, I will do my analysis and employ judgement from a neutral point of view which I believe is very important in this kind of situation.
  2. I have to deal with a lot of people in my professional life. So I am very aware of cultural differences and I respect that. In my opinion, understanding cultural differences is not that hard if you can accept the differences with an open mind. These differences can also be a great source of learning! So, I will always put an extra effort to understand the significance of such differences and make decision according to that. - Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy) (talk) 18:44, 23 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Pundit[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. Undoubtedly, there is always a risk of entrenching inequalities. My experience, e.g. from evaluating grant proposals for projects improving the quality of language education in small villages in Poland, is that often times there is a need to compare projects which are extremely professionally prepared (by paid staff) with the ones prepared by extremely passionate people (with clear drive to change the world, even if sometimes with no skill to prepare the projects 100% right). I believe that we should make an active effort to promote results of projects, which will activate smaller chapters, and which will not favor professional grant-seekers. In general, I have reservations towards full professionalization and institutionalization of the movement, outside of WMF, and I think we need to take measures to at least to some extent preserve the spontaneity and the activist character of many of the chapters. On the other hand, fully grown chapters are much more self-sustainable. All in all what we want to achieve is enabling the smaller chapters to join the "big boys" in the sense of level of organization, local support, etc. But also, I can't see why larger chapters would not occasionally apply for projects aimed at reaching out to their smaller counterparts, and why we would not promote collaborative efforts across chapters. Such endeavors have been, for instance, promoted within the academic funding sources in EU, with good results. Especially enabling the chapters outside the Western world and also outside the Northern hemisphere is important.
  2. I believe that such separation is necessary and, even though the procedures and structures are still in the making, this principle is clear. FDC staff is organized in a way which should make FDC operations most effective, but should not influence the results of its work. Naturally, FDC and FDC staff should be aware of the possible conflicts of interest and make an effort to avoid them.
  3. My experience with evaluating projects in batches of up to 200 in one competition is that all forms should be structured in the same order as the evaluations are, and also that it is a good idea to phrase the application form in such a way that it would encourage the applicants to make a strong case matching the criteria. For instance, I would explicitly ask How does your plan address our global targets..., and ask about all things we care for. This is not merely for the convenience of the evaluators, but much more importantly it helps the applicants to conceptualize their case and often prepare a better project. Thus, I am against separating the formats of applications and evaluation criteria: applicants should know exactly what the criteria are, and answer specific questions related to them as well, so that they can prepare projects meeting them. In this sense these forms definitely require major revisions, even though at current stage we cannot expect such a high number of projects - it is just a good practice irrespective of it.
Pundit, they're pretty impressive responses—particularly No. 3. Tony (talk) 12:39, 12 August 2012 (UTC)
Thank you. Whether I get involved in the FDC or not, I am more than eager to discuss these solutions. Pundit (talk) 14:21, 12 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. GAC is the starting point. However, I do privately believe that criterion 3 may be overly restrictive. All in all smaller chapters do require more fostering. FDC does have a significant role in disseminating good practices and exposing the interested parties to exemplary applications and implementations, and in consulting the prospective applicants.
  2. I would not. All in all, punishing chapters for having good ideas year after year does not seem fair. I would, however, make sure that our global focus is taken into account, and also that smaller chapters are not disfavored because of the lack of prowess in making grant proposals, rather than the lack of great, possible to implement ideas.
  3. I don't believe that the chapters, which are most effective in fundraising, should be favored in grant applications. In the world outside of FDC decisions, one could consider leaving a fixed percentage of resources gathered with the local chapter, but that is a different story and a separate discussion, in which I don't have a firm opinion anyway. As far as FDC goes, it has to recognize the basic fact that in many countries it is simply impossible to attract donors, tax law also varies a lot, etc. Thus, I am strongly convinced that all funds should be disseminated irrespective of "effectiveness" of a chapter (measured in the bulk amount gathered - not really related only to effectiveness, when culture, GDP, tax law, and everything else is considered).
  4. The community is of particular value in Wikimedia movement, and its opinion should not be treated lightly. Yet, the metrics are created to wide extend to reflect the community's voice and needs. To answer the question one would have to know the specifics: for instance, I can imagine a project ideally meeting some of our goals from the metrics, while irrelevant in some other criteria. In general, my experience is that evaluation metrics often do not reflect the whole plethora of possibilities. Thus, I would be willing to consider a project meeting some outstandingly well, while missing on the others, especially if it had vast communal support. But it all would depend on the project, and ultimately I believe that the metrics and goals are the most important, even if not by the letter.
  5. You mean a project meeting perfectly the WMF targets, adding value to the community, and yet despised by it? I'll be able to tell when I see it, but in general the communal opposition is a factor to account for in the overall evaluation (metrics are not to be blindly followed), but not automatically disqualifying in any way.
  6. It is my understanding that the FDC does not have to spend all the money. Our moral responsibility is to fund good projects, and we should not follow the logic of spending necessity. Of course, there may be other factors (related to taxation and the external legal environment) that I may be unaware of.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. First of all, running out of time can fall at least into two kinds of scenarios: subjective deadlines for paperwork (deadlines we impose on ourselves) or objective deadlines to perform. If time is running out because we set a deadline ourselves, and e.g. some information is missing from an otherwise outstanding project, I believe we should be flexible and ask for more info, while bending the deadline. If the deadline is real, and is related to the fact that some actual work/projects have to start, then it is a tougher call. Yet, it is also more dependent on the circumstances and decisions have to be made on the spot, rather than theorized here in advance. My experience is that there is never full, perfect collection of information with plenty of time left, and decisions have to be made every now and then in a situation, when a decision is better than lack of it.
  2. This question is similar to the one Tony1 asked. I have seen this process happen in several foundations and I have no doubt it will take place here, as long as we do not actively take measures to take it into account. There are many professional grant-writers, and some even offer their services for a fee (dropping catch words here and there, rounding the words, etc.). We do not want to train chapters in superficial skills of applying to FDC, we want them to have great ideas for the movement. The aim of the application is to understand these ideas and also to make sure that they have a high chance of success, applying should not be the purpose in itself. I believe it would be beneficial to work on the application forms in such a way that they help even the inexperienced applicants in expressing their idea, especially in a way which would allow to understand how it meets our goals (it is important not only for the evaluating, but also for the applicants themselves). Therefore I believe the role of FDC is, among others, to be able to discern projects with high potential (in terms of innovative ideas, on a modest budget, with high chance of success; if a grant is given, ideally with a lifespan beyond the grant period), and to make the application process as "professional-proof" as possible (the application questions should make it really easy to express the idea in the terms and format we need).
  3. I don't think the question can be answered in one way (unless you want a declaration of a fixed percentage ;). I share the belief that we want the projects which may be difficult to measure in short term. Often we may ask the grant seekers to propose sensible measures of success and by evaluating these, we know better what we can expect and make a more informed decision. But ultimately, if there is a brilliant project, with clear long-term horizon, possible and realistic high impact, but difficult to measure results, I'd definitely go for it. After all, measuring results is another can of worms (and in many cases a total mumbo-jumbo - we should always remember that even in corporate world e.g. a full and precise measurement of a marketing campaign budget efficiency is still impossible; also often the costs of measurement exceed the possible losses).
  4. The worst outcome is that we fund projects which are not meeting our goals, are unsuccessful, and aggravate the community. Also, another possible bad scenario is that we foster a caste of effective grant seekers, who play both with the applications and the measurement of results. The latter is highly unlikely (simply because there is probably not enough money to make it truly sustainable, and also the chapters are usually formed by passionate activists who would need time to professionalize). Another risk is that FDC gets slightly political (as independent from the Board and making recommendations to it) or slightly dependent (perceived as the Board's excuse for decisions). There are many other risks: bureaucratization of the process, making it a threshold for the true activists who want to change the world and do wonders, but not necessarily fill in tons of papers. All in all, the biggest risk is that the community may perceive the process as superfluous and unwelcome.


Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

^ see the questions ^

  1. My basic stand is definitely the one of trust. If it is extreme to assume that requesters always speak the truth unless there are reasons to doubt it, I may be extreme, but I honestly believe that this is the proper approach (and I'm not the only one here: many grantors use ASG principles, although the level of detailed information and follow-ups may vary).
  2. Your example is vague and difficult to answer. Cultural differences in the area affecting financing are not a black-box, there is knowledge about countries and customs to be acquired, if there is a need to verify some claims. In this sense, I don't expect FDC to encounter any situations where it would have to decide about funding to cover expenses basing on the leap of faith that this is really a requirement in some culture. However, obviously, even confirmed cultural differences cannot be an excuse for unethical spending. For instance, to make it a bit be more specific: we know from research that in some countries bribery is practically non-optional. This does not mean that we should reserve funds in grants for bribes. Our obligations are not only to be culturally sensible, but also to act ethically. Thus, if a good project was submitted from a country where bribery is customary, I would openly inform the applicants that although we understand that they may operate in an environment very different from Western standards and that we respect the fact that it is not their choice or preference, but we cannot and will not cover unethical expenses. Such cases are less black&white when other areas are covered. For instance, to give you a real-life example from my experience, I witnessed a situation where an organization from Russia applying for a grant in the 2000s, prepared a very good project, in which they requested a certain sum for copying textbooks. It was clear that it was the only possibility for their students to have wider access to these books. Also, it was not only customary there and then, but even quite possibly legal (it was not possible to confirm that for certain). Nevertheless, the applicants were immediately informed that copying books would be a copyright infringement and that it cannot be covered by the grant. The applicants were also educated in the basics of copyright law principles, authorship, etc. The incident did not, however, affect their chances of getting the grant, it was just that this budget position was excluded from further proceedings. If I recall correctly, there was also an attempt made to arrange for a bulk order of used books for a couple of organizations from the region to address their need. Pundit (talk) 08:55, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Solstag[edit]

So, it seems I have to answer all those questions here. I won't, because at this point they already repeat themselves and it makes a lot more sense to summarize a few thoughts that answers them altogether.

On the FDC process
It should be more engaging, with provisions to develop an open and committed community of individuals to assist proponents in improving their requests. Right now there is only work to develop a closed community who will evaluate them as immutable statements.
On eligibility and its hazards
The criteria is double-edged. It fails to recognize the best sort of Wikimedian work, which is work that advances by mobilizing resources in the reverse direction of the one praised by it, that is, without monetizing them and from sources other than the WMF. On the other hand, it should not be too hard to quickly go over it if you have been doing work and come up with a more ambitious plan that would require the FDC to fund you.
On the documentation and forms content
They are in good shape, but we should be ready to implement valuable improvements as soon as they are recognized. One point where they fail is by not always requiring links to further public documentation of the works, although they repeatedly suggest it, and by not requesting an evaluation of the decision making processes inside those organizations, particularly the ones shielded from competition. In short, there's enough 'what', but not enough 'how'.
On the documentation and forms procedure
But, more importantly, we also lack clear procedures to achieve the necessary interplay between participation and transparency in filling documentation. This relates to my first point. We might have to work to expand the short period of public comments to the proposals, starting it before the final document is delivered, in order to engage volunteers so that proponents get properly instructed to present all relevant information and respond to criticism by improving proposals, and not amending comments. Only by doing so, judgment can be made as a set of more simple and transparent considerations, and not emerge from what will look as background noise to an outsider.
On confidentiality
It was not brought up in the questions, but we should also struggle not to need the notion of outsider at all, which requires us to keep private communication, even among FDC members, to a minimum. And make sure confidential information, if it really must exist, gets published as soon as the concerns are attenuated and never after a deadline of a few semesters.

Well, I've already written too much, I hope to have addressed the most significant points. About those questions that read like 'what if...', I trust enough of my thinking about each subject, which is what matters given there's no context, can be inferred from the paragraphs above.

Hugs,

--Solstag (talk) 21:51, 13 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Pierre Rudloff[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. Yes, I think there is a risk. But I also think the role of the FDC will be to ensure that all chapters get a chance to develop their project (although it wouldn't offend me if big chapters get more money).
  2. I think we should ensure that there are enough different people (different background and different countries) in the committee, in order to avoid conflict of interest. Moreover, the fact that member of entities requesting funds can't vote on their entities proposal seems sufficient to me.
  3. I think the form is precise enough to judge how the money will be used. Most public administration I've seen don't have that much questions in them.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. I agree with you on this point, the FDC should be able to help new local chapters sooner. The current requirements can not be met in less than two years and I consider this to be too long. I'd prefer to lower the criteria to only one successful fundraising (but I am open to discussion on this).
  2. I don't think a chapter should be limited if they are doing a great job, but it will depend on whether there are other chapters needing this money or not.
  3. No, I don't think that because a chapter raised more money, they should get more money back, this would only create a monopoly for the big chapters. Solidarity should be the rule here.
  4. I would ask the chapters to rearrange the project in order to find a compromise between FDC criteria and community approval.
  5. Same thing as above.
  6. No, we should not use the money just to use it, it is better to wait for better projects next year.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  1. The process can't be perfect the first year and I am quite sure we will have to make some improvements on the way.
  2. That is indeed a problem and I think we should take it seriously by ensuring our selection process focuses on projects themselves and we should be ready to take a risk by giving a chance to a small chapters with a poorly formatted application but a good project.
  3. I think we will need some time before we find the right balance. I also think we should encourage local chapters to work on success measurement tools themselves.
  4. For me the biggest problem would be to fund only big established organizations and not give a chance to the small starting ones.

--Rudloff (talk) 09:40, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Abhijith Jayanthi[edit]

Please find my responses to questions below:

Questions from Tony1[edit]

Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5 M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

This is a great question Tony – as I stated in my pitch, there is a necessity for us to focus not just on the quality of grant application but also to understand and support capacity building. Before the FDC will evaluate the grant applications – I would strongly push for doing an overview assessment and tentatively earmark portions of the fund pool for established/well resourced chapters and upcoming/new chapters keeping in view the overall assessment criteria, which can then be presented to and ratified by the Board of Trustees. We should strive to strike a balance between rewarding performance and encouraging enthusiastic participation. It is important that we provide every grant applicant with equal/fair opportunity to compete. I wish to propose a two prong approach (one for established chapters and another for upcoming/new chapters – keeping in view Criteria 3) as presented below: Applications from Established Chapters will be vetted against the assessment criteria by the FDC while the upcoming/new chapters should be provided with mentoring support. One possible mechanism which I wish to put forward (comments/suggestions are invited) is: One of the FDC members can mentor upcoming chapters – in regard to strategizing and preparing the grant application thus help them build their case and he/she will present the case internally to a 3 – 4 member internal committee of FDC (formed from amongst the members of FDC) who will then vet the application, before making final recommendations to the Board of Trustees. This will ensure that the evaluation is objective and also devoid of any potential conflict of interest. Also, completing the circle of transparency and accountability - FDC member engagement assessments can integrate their contributions in this regard as we move forward.

Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

I am confident that contributing members/accomplished professionals who will be chosen to serve on the FDC come with an objective approach and bring great integrity to their job role. Having said that – there is a necessity for structuring the FDC to support both vision for its formation and perception of grant applicants.

It is important to have both members who have had considerable experience on Wikipedia and also new members (may be limited Wikipedia experience) who have other work experience related to development, non-profit management or private sector. This will encourage new/upcoming chapters/entities to apply rather than perceive this activity to support established chapters alone or as an exercise which will need established lobbies.

To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge
(a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
The Current application form broadly supports the 12 assessment criteria – there is a strong possibility though, that this will not address the capacity assessment. If we consider the previous applications – the established chapters have been successful in rolling out their plans presented in their applications while new/upcoming chapters have had fair but limited success, one possible reasons that I can think of is: Present applications address establishment of metrics for evaluating successful roll out – but there is a need to have mitigation measures documented. Every proposed plan will have a set of challenges, if during the applications process, the applicants are encouraged to think, detail out their opinion about how they will wish to handle such a situation (if and when it arises), I am sure we will have better performance from upcoming/new chapters.
Going forward we can work on putting together a collection of best practices from success stories of established chapters and upcoming chapters for new entities to learn from and empower themselves.
(b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
Though the application and the criteria cover the efficiency with which funds will be deployed – the application form at present is gathering limited information in regard to evaluating/learning their practices in regard to saving costs/ improvising on anticipated benefits which in my view is an important parameter. This should be addressed.

Questions from Sven Mangaurd[edit]

Thank you again for your candidature, and thank you Tony1 for your questions, especially Question 1, which is also a concern of mine.

Answered above

Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

I have answered this question briefly above. Criteria 3 is definitely a challenge, but in my view it does not shut out new chapters – rather I would encourage newly formed chapters to contact established chapters, learn and cultivate the working culture and make support applications and in two years, they will be ready to fly out on their own – apply by themselves. This also will present my belief that as chapters/leaders scale up the ranks from being a new chapter to established chapter and then senior chapters – I would personally expect them to own the vision and encourage and support the programme as a whole going beyond their chapter activities.

Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

This is an interesting question – in my view, as chapters scale up in terms of seniority, I would particularly want to understand their engagement in the overall vision. I would support/encourage chapters to engage with upcoming chapters, play a leadership role and imbibe the vision of outreach and greater participation. The more engaging a senior chapter is with regard to the overall vision – I would support such an application.

In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

As I stated above, any entrant in an organization – as they scale up, the expectations and responsibilities vary. Chapters that raise the most money, will have considerable capacity and experience. My thoughts on this are as follows: We will have to separate fund raising activity and grant dissemination activity and evaluate and reward them separately. Chapters which contribute and raise fund should be entitled to a portion or percentage of fund raised as an incentive for their contribution. The reminder of the fund raised will be pooled in, and then an objective approach for evaluating grant applications should be pursued. This will ensure performance based incentives structure with regard to fund raising and also objective and unbiased evaluation of grant applications.

Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

In my view, rules/criteria are formulated to assist us/members to make our valuation more objective and transparent – but rules should not become a hindrance in supporting genuine innovation. Having said that, rules always address the general necessities but if we do not support exceptions – then there is no room for innovation. If I personally believe in the idea and understand the potential it has, I would strongly recommend along with my objective remarks and if/how it does not meet the criteria, nevertheless why it is important to be supported.

Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Metrics are created in the best interest to assist the FDC in evaluating the application. But, before we approach any grant application – my belief is that our role is to uphold the vision of the community in general and that is our primary objective. I would not support applications which even though meet the criteria do not conform to the belief shared by the editing community – if the reasons for them doing so are just and genuine.

Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

Definitely, success of any initiative does not depend on the scale but on quality. I would strongly encourage to make judicious choices.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

This is a great question – As a member of the FDC, I believe I have two primary responsibilities : Firstly, towards the FDC to help make an objective and informed choice (“decision”) towards the efficient and effective use of its resources, and secondly towards the applicants to ensure a right and equal opportunity is made available to every applicant. That said, as you rightly state, information gap is a reality – Even in the most certain of cases, any decision is a judgment based on the available information, and in that presents the challenge for any FDC member I believe to deliver upon the two above responsibilities. My approach shall be two pronged:

(a) For any assignment I handle, I would personally get involved to gather information (incremental to that shared in the application) to help me put forward an objective assessment or opinion. I do not mind taking initiative to gather the necessary information, from sources made available to me or from the applicant and make an informed recommendation.
(b) In the race against time, if we are hard pressed for some information, I shall seek to consult with my colleagues, experts in the industry who I believe to have had worked in similar (if not same) projects and context, to get their inputs that would help me make a recommendation. However, in such an instance, I shall present my recommendation with full disclosure to the basis / assumptions for my recommendation.

By this approach, I believe I can help FDC to be an informed decision making body.

A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too.

Good question – please refer to my answer to Tony’s Question 1; I shall strive to make my assessment more uniform and objective. I would personally interact with the applicants to understand their belief in their projects/application. For me, intention is more important than action – I would like to go beyond the words presented in the application and understand the enthusiasm of the applicants and write my recommendations.

Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

The other way to address this question (Thank you for asking this, I wanted to present my view on this) is assessing tangible and non tangible successes. This throws light on the importance of how we define success, associated metrics to measure and also necessary steps for feedback and issue mitigation – I would like to see the application forms gather this information from the applicants, coupled with understanding the intention behind any action, I am sure it will help us evaluate better – striking a balance between data driven approach and benefits reaped approach.

What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

My fear (though to term is as worst outcome is not just) is: FDC will turn into a committee of just established wikipedians and that it will become a deterrent pushing the new applicants to slip into a perception that upcoming entities are rarely encouraged – with established chapters and their networks gathering support for grant allocation. I would love to see fresh members and members with experience outside wikisphere to bring balance to FDC and encourage new entities.

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)

When I am looking into a request – It is the entire case that I wish to examine. For me, it is more about what is the idea; how do you plan to implement; are you building/adapting an idea from an other chapter/entity; what is your roll out strategy and mitigation/back up/review methodologies. Having said that – the element of need for evidence is valid for what is the idea question; while the remainder set of questions are more about how the team/entity plan to execute the idea/innovation. For me, more than the idea, team’s enthusiasm and participation/execution plans are important – for entities which showcase/answer these questions will mean they have had lot of brainstorming to do and come up with an action plan and I support such an enterprising idea.

When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

One of my basic principles with regard to any evaluation is to approach it objectively. My approach and analysis will be pragmatic – understanding the complete plan and the strategy. The word culture is a broad representation as I see it and the effective need for any element (which is culturally bound) will definitely come across in various parts of the application and aid our understanding rather than just show up in the budgetary heads.

One aspect of judgment is necessity for culture while the other is requirements of the programme – I would like to strike a balance, which will be my approach to reading any request.

Feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss on my points or share your insights - I'd love to hear them!

Abhijith Jayanthi (talk)

Responses by Anders Wennersten[edit]

I want small alert chapter to get appriopiate financial supprot to get a basic adm staff in place. For chapers having an organsation with many paid staff I want to check thourougly why they can not meet further need of financing from constructive ccoperationn effort in their country. And I want to look for any signs if the big organsations are loosing touch with the real goals we want to achieve, and are too much internal focusing (Tony1, Sven 1,2,3, Sue 2)

I will always have the community and the WMproject in focus, almost all activities should give a positive result for these (Sven 4,5)

The niggest risk I see is corruption either for personal winning or for a preffered organsaiton. When bif money is involved appriopiate checks must be in place.(Sue 4)

Anders Wennersten (talk) 11:28, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Richard Ames / Ariconte[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

1.Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

Yes.

2.Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

The FDC (and the Board) need to keep this concern in mind; at this time I don't believe it is a major problem.

3.To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:

  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
We will need to evaluate what is submitted and work from there.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

Yes, through the GAC and the staff.

2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

No.

3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

No. I am convinced that most contributions are 'earned' by the breath and quality of Wikipedia... ie. not by 'chapters'.

4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

Popularity would influence me somewhat but if the community wants the metrics changed they should petition / lobby the Board.

5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

See answer to 4 above.

6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

No. Yes.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

In a complex enviornment information is usually imperfect -- depending on time available we should attempt to clarify but we need to make decisions and move forward.

2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)

Focus on the predicted results of funded effort then measure the performance. Work with EEs to improve predictability of outcomes.

3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

I think the FDC will have to think about dedicating a part of their 'envelope / funds' to experiments ... as long as the intent is positive and the money is not 'stolen'. We should be able to 'lose' some.

4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

Loss of faith in the donating community! Probably due to a perception of waste and/or becomming too fat.

Regards, Ariconte (talk) 12:05, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)

Trust.

When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

I would seek a second opinion from persons knowlegable about the culture and the ramifications.
Regards, Ariconte (talk) 03:42, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Kiril Simeonovski[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. My opinion is that there is no danger at all if the money goes to the larger chapter. The Funds Dissemination Committee should serve for the all chapters, groups of individuals and interested parties equally. It might be good to encourage the interested groups from smaller countries to plan some events and thereby apply for funds, but definitely it's not good to rule the possibility of any danger from the largest chapters. Donations through the fundraiser come from anywhere and the people who use to donate their money expect to see initiatives in their native countries. Proof for my latter statement is the fact that the countries where the largest chapters are headquartered participate with a large proportion within the total amount of the donations, so it doesn't seem reasonable to implement something to prevent the in-flows to the well-resourced chapters. All the funds should be allocated on the basis of what the groups are willing to do with the money and is it viable to implement it. In addition, it has been proved so many times that the allocation of funds within the well-resourced chapters usually lead to development of new ideas, conceptions and projects that may be overtaken by the smaller chapters with much more ease than using own resources to do something which greatly surpasses the capacity. I'd say that the most dangerous thing to fear of is the wrong allocation of funds to groups with no clear idea what to do and how to mouth the expectations of the interested groups.
  2. I assume that the FDC will be independent from the Wikimedia Foundation in doing its main operational work. If an effective way to do these tasks once will be reached, there won't be a problem to take seriously the possibility of any conflict of interest. More important is for both sides to know their roles in the relations. The latter may lead the build-up of sufficient measures to become self-evident.
  3. The current application form with the assessment line looks good, but it's still early to draw any conclusion without seeing it in practice. I also think that allowing some customization of this form will make more sense, as it will meet the requirements of a wider group of fund-seeking entities. However, there should be a back-up process that will assess the quality and the satisfaction of using the form (e.g. questionnaire with some simple questions).

Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:52, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. The content of the criterion is clear and it sounds good in my opinion. Most of the fund-seeking applications should firstly go to the GAC as it was case for now. But still there might be exceptions for those who come up with a great plan with projects that really reflect the effective work. If I should change something in the criterion, it'd be to mention that some exceptions may be taken into consideration. In the time when the Wikimedia Chapters Association starts representing the chapters in general, my expectations are also directed to this entity as a key to help smaller chapters develop by executing more activities during the year.
  2. Definitely no. I don't know what are the exact factors that make impact on the people in different countries not to donate money, but the economic factors (such as the GDP (PPP) per capita, HDI unemployment rate, average annual income, etc.) obviously have a strong impact on the money that would be raised in a single country. There is really no need to restrict the chapters from countries that did not participate with large proportion in the fundraising on the grounds of having poor economy and poor life-standard in their countries, if they really have a plan that merits consideration to be accepted. I've mentioned that the donors from everywhere expect to see something happen with their money in their native country, but it's up to the chapters to decide what they will do in the period to come. The FDC should equally serve all the chapters and interested groups, and it won't be an equal treatment to encourage the participation for fund-seeking activities of the chapters in those countries that raise more money.
  3. My answer on this can be seen in the previous one. It doesn't matter what is the proportion of the money raised, if there is no clear plan what activities to do. Since you mention the laws that restrict international transfers of money to the NGOs in some countries, it's something that must be accepted with no possibility to make impact on.
  4. The criteria are directly or indirectly accepted by the community, and it's the most simple principle that should be followed when submitting application to the FDC. Those persons wishing to advertise for a change of criteria would be interested how to do it and trying to do for it. Nevertheless, the decision that I should make will not be driven by the community members or the chapters members, and will reflect my own considerations and opinions over the capacity of the plan to make positiveness for the Movement.
  5. I will have the same consideration as in my previous answer. It depends on the opinion that I will have after assessing the plan. There may be a decision that favours one of the two outcomes, but none of them will be driven by the community or chapters.
  6. I think it will be natural to save money for the next year if this really happens. I've already said that it's good to encourage chapters to apply, but impossible to rule them what to do in the year. They should be aware of the need that the expectations of the donors and the other interested groups must be met.

Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:52, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  1. Basic rule in audit is to refrain from making decision or giving opinion if the information or proofs used to draw any conclusion are flawed, misused or insufficient. I cannot simply compare the work of the FDC with the work in an audit company, but it still makes a good starting point for me to start finding more information. My first step will be to find out as much information as possible from the applicants or other related groups on time. It will have to make sense, as the fund-asking entities will have to take the demand seriously. If the new information is flawed again, it makes me considering an opposing vote. But if it's still insufficient, I will simply refrain from making any decision. It will be my fault to use flawed or insufficient information for making a decision, and it, thereby, is completely reasonable for me not to make decision in any case.
  2. For me it's equally important to have a balance between the content of the application and the form in which it's presented to the FDC for review. You mentioned in the previous question that the time may be limited for the membership of the FDC, and it really indicates that nobody will be interested to read something that is hardly understandable and wastes too much time. In fact, if the form is not well preserved, it logically leads to the opinion that the project beyond is not effective either. I personally reckon a basic thing for the applicants to know that the form has a very important role in the whole process. Nonetheless, it doesn't seem to be often case to see something that is spoiled by figurative things that do not have in common with the main goals of the plan. My decision on what is a good project and what not is only possible if I merge these two things and base my decision on a combination of them. Else, it is impossible to support something that doesn't suit within some of the most basic criteria. It may be good to note that the language skills in the form are important factor, though it sounds, as I've already said, a pretty basic thing to know.
  3. Very important thing in the cyclic processes is the feedback from the previous cycle. Since the work in the FDC is somehow a cyclic process, it's important goal to have in mind the measures of the outcomes. Every experimental job has no firm proofs of its relevance, and it, thereby, becomes obvious to try measure the outcome based on the information that are easy to provide. Some rare exceptions may exclude to perform suitable measures if it wastes too much time and resources, but there are always different kind of measures with different points on the scale of relevance. Important note is to match the scale of relevance with the cost scale and make sure that the optimized measure is the one that doesn't cost too expensive and contains sufficient amount of relevance and credible information beyond it.
  4. I cannot appoint a single risk that merits consideration, but many smaller that combined can bring awareness of some things. First of all, it's the selective process of delivering funds to the entities with rich history and large proportion in the fundraising, but not focusing on the matter for which the funds are actually demanded. Furthermore, this includes the discrimination of some entities on the grounds that their countries don't contribute sufficiently to the fundraising or it's hard to believe a project to pass effectively in their country on the grounds of the current infrastructure in the field. A systematic risk that may occur is the coordination of the members of FDC and the ease to provide a decision on time with no larger disagreements among its membership. The decision of the FDC will be by no means driven by the opinions of its members, and should reflect a decision on its own but no way a sum of different opinions. Last of these risks that I'd like to mention is the relation to the Wikimedia Foundation and the avoidance of any conflict of interest that may occur. I've already mentioned in one of my answers above that the conflict of interest cannot occur if and only if both of the sides understand their roles in the process and do not use them to misuse their position and thus produce a conflict of interest.

Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:52, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Beeblebrox[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

Thank you all for your candidacies, for which I'm sure the movement is grateful. I'd be pleased to read your succinct and focused opinions on the following three concerns. 1. Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?

Is there a danger of that? Certainly. It would be all too easy to look soleley at who did the best job filling out the paperwork and just make a "rubber stamp" decision to give the money to them. I am hoping the FDC will operate on a more thoughtful basis than that and will consider other factors, such as the need to diversify particpation in the movement in order to maximize its effectiveness, and encouraging more chapters in the developing world.

2. Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?

Diversity in the FDC itself should help safeguard against that. WMF staffers should refrain entirely from commenting on applications from the WMF itself.

3. To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:

It looks like it would give the FDc a fair idea of the basic suitability of a request, but I would expect more nuanced discussion before any decision is made.
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
I would anticipate this point being the crux of the decision making process, the application again gives a fair idea but more information or discussion with the applicants may be required.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?

It does appear to provide a loophole with the language in the introduction to the criteria pertaining to the " entities that are actively pursuing a compliance plan to the satisfaction of the WMF" however that would still leave the ball in the Foundation's court as far as who was eligible. As the purpose of the FDC is solely to disseminate funds, if an entity did not qualify for funding there is no other help it can give them other than to appeal to the Foundation board for an exemption.

2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?

Short answer: no. If the idea is consistent with the movement's overall goals it does not matter who proposed it, but of course we would not want to play favorites and always give loads of funds to the same chapters. So, it would be a consideration but not the sole consideration.

3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?

The chapters raise funds for the movement as a whole, not just themselves. I would expect that they understand this and support the ideal of spreading what we do into the types of places you mention. Of course we would want to make sure they had whatever they needed to keep doing that fundraising!

4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

"Matches up poorly" is not the same thing as "utterly incompatible" so it could happen but I doubt it will ever be a matter of one thing "trumping" another. I would expect more involved and considerate discussion, and consultation with the WMF board if needed. Keeping the editing community happy is of course but one of the goals here, and must be properly balanced with other concerns. Exactly how that will happen is something I would expect to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?

This is essentially the same question as the last in reverse, so I would say same as my last answer, but in reverse.

6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?

I wouldn't say it has a responsibilty to spend all the money, but I find it unlikely that the FDC would find itself in the happy dillema of having more money than it could responsibly disperse.


Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

1. I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?

Frankly this sounds exactly like situations I have faced numerous times in my RL job. I am currently a member of a local task force made up of businesses and nonprofits trying to get grant money from the federal government for a project in our area. Getting the grants, not actually so hard. Getting funding for the materials and equipment we would need to get started, not so hard. Getting money for research to determine if the project is even needed and if we are taking the right approach, more or less impossible. And of course any small business owner has been in the position of not knowing exactly what the right move is to make their customers, employees, and accountants all happy. So, you do the best you can with what you have got, and you learn from your mistakes. If you are confused you ask somebody to take a second look for you and see what they think. Maybe they will see something you didn't. And when you are out of time and a decision must be made, you make it. paralyzing indecision based on the fear of making a mistake has ruined more than one fine project or business. Everyone makes them, it is how you deal with them after that is more important.


2. A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)

I can't speak to whether this is a problem with WMF grants specifically, but I have certainly seen this effect elsewhere on more than one occaision. If you have some funding and expertise already you can hire professionals who are specifically trained at writing grant proposals to do the paperwork for you. Then you get the grant to fund a new sprinkler system for your public golf course while the new, unfunded group that wanted to open a food bank for underpriveleged orphans gets nothing. That should not and can not be the way things will work with the FDC. I suppose we can't change the world and solve this problem for everyone, but we can make sure it doesn't creep in here and we can create a responsible example for other fund-disseminating bodies to follow. Just as reading a Wikipedia article should be the beginning and not the end of serious research into a subject, reading grant applications should be the beginning and not the end of the decision to provide funding.

3. Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?

Experimentation with what at first sounds crazy is the reason this movement exists at all. Jimbo didn't know when he spun WP off of NuPedia that within a few short years it would become a cultural icon known around the world and nobody would care about NuPedia anymore. As a matter of fact if he had done it with that goal in mind it probably never would have become what it is. I would say that it will be the responsibility of the FDC to determine if an idea is safe, a risk, or an insanely stupid waste of money. Only the last one should be rejected outright. Data and statistics only tell us so much, and it is near impossible to know how anything, ever, will work out until you actually do it. In short, the FDC will need solid data, but only as part of the process of evaluation. It shouldn't be afraid to take chances and should be willing to give ideas time to bear fruit.

4. What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?

That it simply become a rubber stamp for decisions already made in the WMF offices. That would rather defeat the purpose of having put it together in the first place.

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

1. When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)

I would be appalled if anyone on the committee took either of these extreme positions.

2. When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.

When dealing with requests from around the world such issues are bound to crop up. How to specifically deal with individual cultural differences is something that would have to be done on a case-by-case basis so it is rather hard to give any sort of concise answer to such a question. A starting point would be determining if the if the request is at least consistent with the purpose and mission of the Wikimedia movement.

Responses by Arjunaraoc[edit]

Thanks to Solstag for coming up with a grouping of questions into themes, which I reused and revised.

On the FDC process
Advisory group has done a good job in coming up with the process. The process needs to be improved continuously after the FDC is formed and starts working. I know from my experience the criticality of continuous improvement for improving the effectiveness.
On eligibility and its hazards
As I understand entities would have used GAC before they become eligible for FDC process. I would expect most applicants to do a good job in meeting the eligibility. As the FDC decision making will be consultative, the team will be able to overcome any biases
On the documentation and forms content
Forms are in good shape. But certain aspects like weightage of different parameters seem to be missing. Some flexibility will be required for first time applicants and applicants with experience. As the risk element varies based on the extent and types of innovation challenges and usually the long term nature of the impact of Wiki projects appropriate metrics based on trends rather than absolute numbers will be more suitable.
On the documentation and forms procedure
I would encourage providing assistance to entities during the proposal development phase if requested and also would like to suggest atleast one opportunity for applicants to interact with FDC members in Wiki/IRC/Conf call formats. I believe that this will help make the process inclusive and will have the maximum buy in from the stakeholders and lead to better decision making by FDC


On risks

FDC has less resources but more demands: This can lead to accusations on the FDC decision making. As FDC has been set up because of the learnings from the past models and by making the process as inclusive and as transparent as possible this risk can be addressed.

The initial FDC is appointed by Board and may not have the weight of an FDC elected by the stakeholders: By providing further details on initial FDC appointment process and involving the key stakeholders like Chapters in informal consultations about any considerations in forming the initial team the risk can be managed. However the initial FDC has the larger responsibility to perform so that its actions are considered fair to all stakeholders.

FDC decisions may be seen as more academic: FDC has to give due weightage to assessing the performance on previous projects and also become effective in improving the process based on the lessons learnt.--Arjunaraoc (talk) 17:36, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Tomer A.[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  • Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?
There are many underlining assumptions in this question (for example that inequalities within the movement currently exist (as oppose to differences based on criteria), that the "big boys-well-resources chapters'" staff are oriented toward writing application, that these chapters cannot rely on alternative resources of funding etc.). I do not necessarily disagree with these assumption but they need to be verified before we use them so loosely. Currently I do not have the information required to test them.
To answer a revised version of your question: I do think that suggested process holds some risk to increase inequalities within the movement. This risk, however, exists in every process and I do not think it is much larger in this case (compared to some alternatives I can think of).
  • Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?
There are never sufficient measures to overcome perceived conflict of interests. Eventually, it will be up to the committee members to identify and handle real COI when they arise.
  1. To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:
  • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
  • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
A written request can never give an accurate picture of what's going to happen. One of the most important tools in making such decisions is information gathered with time (using the same parameters over time). Comparing costs of projects in Africa to costs of projects in Europe make no sense. Unfortunately, the information available at this point of time is sparse (no standard reporting practices). I hope such information will be accumulated with time.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  • Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?
No. I see this as the role of the WCA.
  • Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?
honestly, I don't know. Don't think so but it's hard to tell without a concrete case.
  • In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?
I can see arguments to both sides. However, no matter how much I like the idea of leadership of this committee it is still bound to work under a freamework outlined by the WMF board. The decision of the board implies that the answer is a clear "no" (the fundraising chapters are not entitled to get the most money back).
  • Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
Voting should be based on the metrics. If the metrics are bad, they should be changed.
  • Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
That's a much better question. My beleif is that the metrics are there for evaluation, they should be met as a minimum but the FDC could, with time, define more criteria as long as they are justified, transperent and equal.
  • Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?
NO! YES!

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  • I think it's likely that, particularly in the beginning, the FDC will find itself in the position of needing to make decisions based on partial or flawed information. The process won't be perfect, there will invariably be miscommunications and misunderstandings, and there will be limited time to gather missing information and resolve points of confusion. If you were an FDC member, and you found that i) the information available to you for decision-making was confusing or incomplete and ii) you were running out of time before the FDC needed to make its decisions, how would you handle that situation?
When I was still a Second lieutenant one of my commanding officers told me that a manager is expected to either solve the problems they're facing or report back in an appropriate manner (i.e., giving a consise summary of the problem and the information already gathered, suggesting several options to cope with the problem, and to do so enough time in advance) so a proper action can be taken by his superiors. I took that lesson with me to all the positions I held afterward (both army positions and managerial positions) and it hardly ever failed me.
  • A frequent problem for grant-making organizations is that they find themselves tending to fund organizations that exhibit good grant-seeking behaviours (the ability to fill out forms well, write strong proposals, and communicate clearly and easily in the language of the funder), rather than funding organizations that run effective programs. This can result in organizations optimizing themselves to be appealing to grant-makers, rather than optimizing themselves for doing good programmatic work. What is your view on this problem, and as a member of the FDC, how would you try to ensure that everybody involved in the FDC process maintains a focus on funding good programmatic activities, rather than getting overly focused on the fund-seeking process itself? Please feel free to write an expansive answer, and please feel free to poke at or discuss the question's premise too :-)
there are several faces to this answer. First, I believe that with proper support, the WCA could take much this work to itself and assist chapters (and I hope it'll decide to also assist chapters-to-be) with these applications. I believe this will take much of the work off the FDC. The rest of the work (i.e., other entities which we are not yet familiar with) can be handled with proper staff assigned to the FDC until a critical mass of entities will be formed so they can build organizations similar to the WCA for themselves (e.g., Iberocoop or the language oriented entities organization).
On a second reading of my answer I would like to stress that I do not think that this is the staff's work. I only mean that if the FDC use its staff right, the amount of work sounds manageable.
  • Some of the work the Wikimedia movement does is experimental and long-term-oriented, which means it's not always easy to measure success, or even to define precisely what success would look like, particularly in the short term. The movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement. As a member of the FDC, how would you balance the goal of trying to take a rigorous, objective, data-driven approach to measuring outcomes, against the goal of wanting to fund experimental, exploratory or long-term-oriented work?
There are many underlining assumptions in this question (for example that the movement shouldn't shy away from important work just because it's not easy to measure outcomes, and that it shouldn't spend 99 cents of every dollar on measurement (how about 45 cents?)). I do not necessarily disagree with these assumption but they need to be verified before we use them so loosely.
However, I believe the following statments holds:
  1. A project that does not know what it wants to achieve cannot be approved.
  2. Once a project knows what it wants to achieve, it is possible (even if not always easy) to define possible parameters of success.
  3. The ability to define some possible parameters of success usually has a close correlation with the maturity of the project (and it success)
  4. The parameters of success defined in the beginning of the project should not be a sole determiner of a project's success.
  5. The ability to evluate the success of a project using not only the stated measurement criteria but also with the reults achieved "on the road" is at the essence of the art of management.
  • What in your view is the biggest risk facing the FDC process -- what is the worst outcome you can imagine for it?
Loosing editors.

Tomer A. -- Talk 12:43, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Lodewijk[edit]

  • When looking into requests (in the context of this committee), what is your basic stand? One of trust or distrust? (one extreme would be to trust that requesters always speak the truth unless someone speaks up, with on the other extreme, distrusting everything they claim and requiring tight evidence for every statement.)
The initial standing point is that of trust. With time, everyone earns their own reputation.
Counterquestion: Do you expect anyome to say that their initial point is that of distrust?
  • When considering a request, how will you (personally) handle cultural differences? For example, if you intuitively feel certain parts as ridiculous, while the requesters insist that this is culturally bound to be and they would be unable to work effectively without that part of the budget.
My work experience and education provide me with the tools to handle multiculturalism.

Tomer A. -- Talk 15:05, 20 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses by Polimerek[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. Yes.. I am also bit worry about FDC criteria table and IMHO it should not to be too much restrictive, but on the other hand if the small chapters or other groups of Wikimedia volunteers were received suddenly say - 1 M USD, they would not have been able to effectively consume this money. Reasonable spending big money needs having professional infrastructure anyway... Smaller groups can still develop - either by developing their own ways of collecting money or by applying to smaller grants via GAC.
  2. I don't know at the moment. FDC is just forming - so I hope members of this body should establish internal standards to avoid conflict of interests. IMHO in case of GAC it works in very simple way - if the GAC member has conflict - he/she is excluded from evaluation of the grant.
  3. Indeed Application form and Staff Proposal Assessment does not fit well with each other. I guess Application form should be changed/expanded - in order to let applicant to formulate their proposals in terms of strategic priorities and global targets - not just answering some legal/financial questions. Anyway - from my EU experience - many applicants just put some keywords in their applications to assure that they are in line with "strategic priorities" - so I guess FDC members role is to evaluate facts regarding real activities - not only words and numbers...

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. I just answered this by answering Tony #1 question. The organization which is about to consume big money effectively needs to have a certain level of development. What I don't like in sample letter checklist is the requirement to "Supply a written activity and financial report in English". This is very US-centric. I think WMF should invest some money to be able to communicate at least in 5 most popular globally languages. (English, Chineese, Spanish, Hindi, Arabic) or better top 10 languages. Although I am not quite sure if it possible :-) I am also not quite sure if any non-US organization has ability to check if "it has the necessary controls and monitoring in place to know that the organization, its Board, senior management, key employees and any individuals or groups that it provides funding to are not on any terrorist watchlist, are not engaged in money laundering, and are using all donor funds for charitable, non-political purposes." I personally don't know if I am on "terrorists list" of FBI(?) as I have no access to such a list. Probably not, as they let me in to US for Wikimania this year - but who knows, maybe they let me in and then watched whom I meet in hope to reach my secret boss. Anyway, for sure this point of checklist is formulated in silly way - a bit in a style which you can find in US visa application :-)
  2. Simply no. If this organization proved to effectively use this money it should not be depreciated by the fact it is effective...
  3. Difficult question. I think both things should be balanced. I mean - the organization that are able to effectively collect money should be awarded - otherwise they loose their interest in being effective. On the other hand they should be generous. In ideal world - they would allocate money not forced by WMF but freely - but I know that the world is not so ideal :-). Maybe the good solution would be to let chapters allocate at least part of "WMF tax" money themselves - and if they fail WMF might take control of that money. I know that Wikimedia France and some others chapters are working in that way - they cannot transfer money directly to WMF - but they are obliged by agreement to spend WMF part of money to some international events and projects.
  4. I had occasion to evaluate grants submitted to GAC, which were critized by target Wikipedia community, and finally the project was rejected after very long discussion. For me the project's community voice is very important factor. I hope FDC will use their brains - not just filling and checking forms and counting points - but also evaluating projects from human POV. I don't know if human factor can be put to any metrics - this is rather about feelings and intuition. I hope that the formal metrics of application will be only starting point for FDC decision.
  5. I don't know. Hope that FDC will have the opportunity not to allocate all funds, and I also hope there will always be enough good applications to have opposite problem - which good projects not to support because there are better :-)

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  1. Simply trying to make the best decision based on available information. In fact in decision making process there is always such a situation. There is never enough information and there is never enough time. Nothing new to me.
  2. I partially answered this question in Sven Manguard's answers #3 and #4. I do hope that FDC will not only look on the forms and numbers but also try to evaluate the ideas and factual content of the applications. However the formal metrics makes evaluation process more transparent and objective. If possible, I'd like to apply some of my experience from scientific EU grants evaluation process. The first stage of this process is very formal - the application is evaluated by point system. Then those application which got the highest formal rank are evaluated in more human way - just by discussion in which evaluators communicate in elaborative way what they think about the real impact of the proposals on progress of science and technology.
  3. IMHO it is better if the project is formulated in such a way, that its effect can be objectively measured, but it is not always possible. If I feel intuitively that project has a huge potential impact but it cannot be effectively measured at the moment I can go with it. But, if it is possible to reformulate the project in such a way, that it could be measured it should be done. So, I personally would seek a measurement methods, but also accepted the situation that some of them indeed cannot be measured, still having huge potential.
  4. I think the biggest challenge for FDC is to work in such a way to be generally accepted by international Wikimedia community and in the same time being good for progress of the Wikimedia projects. Hope it is possible to achive it. It does not mean that FDC should always make decision which please the current community POV - but if too many decission is questioned or not understood by community it ends up in decline of the progress, as in fact the community of editors is a blood and core of the Wikmedia movement. Not chapter, neither WMF officers, also not the WMF board :-)

Question from Lodewijk[edit]

  1. I generally trust people as long as something switches on a "red bulb" in my head. I think all Wikimedia movement is based on assumption that people are good and have positive intentions. Anyway, I guess some fact-checking would be necessary when it comes with big money, but this is rather job to be taken during acceptation of needed documents by WMF officers - such as former reports, proves of being registered tax deductible NGO etc. Maybe also some random-check of selected facts would be needed sometimes, but I hope formal requirements are not to be too harsh and too bureaucratic.
  2. I don't think if I may have problems with understanding cultural diversity in terms of grant applications. From my GAC experience I remember two situations where cultural diversity influenced the applications:
    1. First - Indian Wiki-conference, where they put in the budget hiring of 2 cars for a week. The rationale behind it was that some special guests would not come if they were forced to travel from airport or train station by regular taxi. In European/US condition it sounds strange, but after explanation by Indian team it was accepted.
    2. Second - Wikimedia DC applied for extremely expensive legal protection insurance - it was almost 25% of their start-up budget. Again - it was accepted after explanation that in US legal culture this is common as people sue each other more often than in any other countries...
In fact, judging from my GAC experience the hardest part of evaluation is not cultural diversity but rather economic diversity and taking into account the real local price level, which needs often some investigation. If you browse through grant applications to GAC - you see that for example you can organize a conference in Slovakia for mere 600 EUR (see: KAEST) - or buy a public transport pass for the same amount of money to let participants of conference in Austria to feel a bit better (see: WikiCon 2012 :-) 600 EUR is amount of money you can feed family in India for a year, and it was just less than 1% of the Austrian conference budget... I guess it might happen that some projects in countries with high price level and high standard of life will be cut in order to let do much more for the same amount of money in poorer countries.

Responses from Rich Farmbrough[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. While there is certainly a danger of continuing existing inequalities, it is one which will be at the forefront of everyone's mind, therefore will be resisted at every turn. We should, though, bear in mind that the effective use of resources may well involve people and organisations from across the globe on even fairly small projects.
    • Specifically you mention the eligibility criteria, there is an exception for "entities that are actively pursuing a compliance plan to the satisfaction of the WMF". This will enable work to be started or continued in a timely manner where reasonable expectations of compliance are in place. Please note also these are only "round 1" criteria, and doubtless will need revision for subsequent rounds, specifically Criteria 3.
  2. You ask about conflict of interest, the standard approach on conflict of interest is for parties to recuse themselves from decision making where the conflict applies. Given the stated objectives of openness and transparency the onus will be on the committee to ensure that not only is conflict of interest not allowed to affect the process, but that all cases are clearly and unambiguously documented, as are the associated recusals.
  3. You ask about the application process:
    • The application form you mention is now obsolete, however scope was present to indicate the level of compliance with the check-list.
    • The ability to assess the effectiveness of the spend does not wholly inhere to an application, however it is possible to make an application which will give the scrutineers good grounds to believe that essential groundwork has been done to establish this. It seems to me (and this is a theme in the questioning so far) that in common with the majority of such work, questions in clarification and discussion are the best means for establishing this.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. As noted above the eligibility criteria have scope for exceptions, and while I indeed share the view that Criteria 3 is potentially invidious, it is also important to understand that the fund-holder need not necessarily be the implementer of the project.
  2. The duty of the committee is to make effective use of the funds. Therefore applications that favour areas that have received little or no previous funding are likely to have an advantage. However any form of distortion in an attempt to create an artificial balance would stand the risk of being counter-productive by funding less effective proposals. Moreover it is a mistake to assume that the funded bodies will be interested in projects only in their own back-yard.
  3. Insofar as contributions are made to the global movement, accidents of geography give no chapter a prior claim on funds. Chapters are, of course, free to raise additional or substitutional funds for local projects, subject to their own legal and contractual arrangements.
  4. The FDC has a duty to the WMF and ultimately to the donors. The donors wish to support the WMF projects, which are in turn reliant on the community. Should the FDC metrics be significantly at odds with the editing community, the responsibility of the FDC is to draw the attention of the community and the WMF board to the disparity, and work with them to resolve that.
  5. See above.
  6. It is quite clear that sufficient funds should be carried over to provide a working contingency. In addition, there is no need for all money to be spent in a given year, if suitable proposals are not made. However in the medium term the FDC should run a balanced budget, since donations are made to benefit the movement, not sit as idle balances.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  1. In the event that insufficient information - across the board - to make the Round 1 decisions was available, and there was not time before the decisions were due to be announced to resolve the issues, I would delay the decision. Having said that it is incumbent on the committee to make sure that the relevant questions are asked in good time, and upon the potential grantees to answer them.
  2. Making funding requests is of course an art. Nonetheless it does reflect well upon the requesting organisation in that it shows a general competence, the ability to select the right team members to perform an important task, to bring together the basics of a plan and to communicate effectively. Having said that, as part of the dialogue between the grant making organisation and the grantee, both lacunae in apparently polished plans, and hidden depths in apparently back-of-the-envelope requests can be found, often to the benefit of both parties. Indeed this comprises part of the due diligence which is required to turn an application into a viable and eventually implemented plan.
  3. Lack of ongoing measurement is a significant issue with respect to past innovations by various actors both in the volunteer community and paid efforts both by Foundation staff and contractors, and indeed academia. Experimental projects should include measurement of outcome as part of the project, long term innovations should include and element which is handed over on project completion.
  4. The biggest risk facing the FDC is that it becomes mired in process or external faction fighting, and looses track of its key purpose and its legal, moral and ethical responsibilities. The worst outcome is that it loose the trust of both the community, donors and the foundation, and becomes a wedge driving the parties apart. My vision is the contrary, a tightly legal, moral and ethical body, serving as glue between the stakeholders

Question from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

  1. You ask about trust vs. mistrust. As person my basic assumption is of good faith, however my modus operandi, possibly due to the part of my background that is in mathematics, safety critical systems and software security, is to look for anomalies. Similarly, regardless of trust, my background as project manager is to look for low risk methods of delivery.
  2. You ask about cultural differences. It is important that we understand some key matters. Firstly with respect to cultural delivery we need to both respect the culture or cultures that a project is to be developed within and delivered to. Secondly these cultures do not exist in a vacuum, we have access to information on and experts in them. Thirdly that certain WMF/movement values, while rooted in the dominant parts of Western culture, are, nonetheless, not likely to be culturally negotiable - for example our legal restrictions on copyvios, or our position on NPOV. You suggest a specific scenario where the proposed cultural imperative seems ludicrous, I think that this scenario is unlikely, I have had the good fortune to discuss the difficulties of gaining involvement with Wikimedians form many countries, and while I have been surprised on occasion, I have heard little or nothing that would seem unbelievable - if anything the received wisdom that we can replicate the existing successes by providing a kick-start then using a cookie-cutter approach is what seems unbelievable to me. I would expect that different projects and different languages will find their own ways forward, and our task is to facilitate those different routes, indeed this seems to be the model that has worked successfully to date. For this reason an open mind in evaluating and investigating budgets is important.

Responses from JP Béland[edit]

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. Is there a danger that the FDC will entrench inequalities within the movement, allowing the lion's share of the $11.5M a year to go to the big boys—well-resourced chapters that already have paid staff to ensure the eligibility criteria are satisfied, and that can afford to prepare sophisticated and strategic applications?
    That danger definetly exists, since the FDC will be looking at proper request and application documents. However, I personally think that it will be the responsability of the Committee to identify those issues and encourage the Chapters and other groups to raise their concerns to the Committee. It will be the FDC's responsability to make sure those concerns are taken into account and, if not internal to the FDC, to make sure a resource get develop in order to help applicants that need assistance to properly submit their application by helping in identifying their key strategy plans or simply in helping them to put it in writing. However, to avoid conflict of interests, it would be better if those helpers are not part of the FDC or if they at least recuse themselves from the discussions and decisions on the applications they helped on. All that being said, only knowing that potential problem exists and keeping it in the back of the mind will alleviate most of the issues.
  2. Are sufficient measures in place to overcome perceived conflict of interest by the FDC staff and related WMF staff in the FDC's processing of applications by the foundation itself?
    I personally think so, but as I said in the above question, the FDC needs to be open to receive all concerns and have the flexibility to adapt to perceived or real conflict of interests. My view on that is that transparency is the best tool at this level.
  3. To what extent will the current application form enable fund-seeking entities to put a case for, and FDC members and staff to judge:
    • (a) How closely each request meets the 12 assessment criteria?
      The application form will definetly help Chapters and groups requesting fund to submit the information we need to properly assess them unbiaised. After each application cycles, it will be the FDC's responsability to analyze and adapt the application form so it suits better what the Committee is looking for in terms of assessment factors.
    • (b) The efficiency with which funds would be spent "on the ground" in terms of the anticipated goals of each funding request?
      Having the group on the ground submitting a mandatory "after action report" will let the Committee analyze how well the funds had been spent on the ground and it will help for future requests (not only from that particular groups, but to compare it to application form and documents will let the Committee identify shortcomes in the application process or what need to be sustain). That being said, looking for a strong operational plan from the applicants will definetly help the Committee in having insurance of how funds will be used. Open discussion with the applicant prior to the grant will also allow the Committee to get clarification and may help the applicant to tighten his plan.

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. Criteria 3 of the eligibility requirements effectively shuts out newly formed chapters from receiving FDC funds because they would not have the opportunity to meet those requirements until some time, possibly as long as two years, after formation. In your opinion, does the FDC have a role in helping new chapters with good ideas, and if so, how would the FDC go about doing that in light of the restrictions Criteria 3 creates?
    Criteria 3 is essential for the FDC to have insurance that fund will be spend in accordance within WMF's vision and that loss will be minimized. It also ensure that WMF will get the most out of each buck. That being said, I don't think personally that newly created Chapter will have the sufficient manpower to undertake large initiatives requiring a grant from the FDC. There are other means for them to get the small funding they need for their current activities. However, if such a large opportunity arise within the region of a newly created small Chapter, it's always possible to coordinate its efforts with a larger Chapter with related goals in order to seek support and assistance.
  2. Would you ever vote not to disseminate funds to a specific chapter, even if the proposal is solid, only because that chapter has received a disproportionate amount of funding that year, or over several years?
    No, I'm always analyzing each request for fund on a case-by-case basis and on a comparison basis with other current applications. The most important thing in my view is that we get the most out of each buck. That being said, dissemination of fund worldwide is important, but will never be the sole factor to reject a grant to a specific proposal, and transparency is the best tool to ensure other Chapters don't think a particular one is favorized.
  3. In your opinion, are the chapters that raise the most money entitled to get the most money back? How do you strike a balance between helping out less effective chapters (in some cases from poorer countries or countries without laws that favor charitable donations) and helping out the big fund raisers that did more to secure the FDCs funding?
    As I stipulate in the previous question, all proposal will be analyzed on a case-by-case basis and by comparison to other current requests. I don't personally think that Chapters who raise more money should be advantaged in this process. By being non-profit organization (and even charitable organization in a lot of cases), Chapters should understand the importance of helping poorer countries. What is really important in my opinion is to see how the grant would be useful and what would be the outcomes. "Less effective chapters" should be encouraged to seek support from larger well-established Chapters since, in my opinion, it's all efforts in a common goal.
  4. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly popular among the editing community but matches up poorly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
    In my opinion, metrics are there as a tool to ensure equality. If the idea is popular for good reasons, the proposal will definetly have a good score when compared to the FDC's criterias and factors of assessment. It's always possible to open a discussion with the community on how the metrics should be adapted. Support from the community should be taken into account when analyzing a proposal, but never be the sole reason for a grant.
  5. Suppose a chapter comes to you looking for funding for a specific idea that is wildly unpopular among the editing community but matches up perfectly with the FDC's criteria. How would you vote on the proposal? Does the community voice ever trump the metrics? If so, what does that mean for the existence of the metrics?
    Same answer as the previous question.
  6. Does the FDC have a responsibility to use all of the money provided to it for distribution in the year it is provided? If there aren't enough good projects, should the money be saved over for next year?
    I'm not complety familiar with the WMF's policies on that and how budget are managed or money spend every fiscal year, but I will definetly get myself familiar with those if I become a member of the FDC. That being said, and that's only my opinion without knowing the policies in place, I don't think all the money should be spend every year and that funds can be saved for the next year, but the FDC should have a percentage of his total budget it has to spend within a given fiscal year which it cannot transfer to the next. When I say "it has to spend", that's obviously in accordance with the process of granting and with the proposals assessed according to the factors and criterias; never can a grant be made just to spend budget.

Responses by Chi Hong Lee Gabriel[edit]

Responses from Moushira Elamrawy[edit]

Responses to Qs Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

  1. There is a general editing rule of assuming good faith :-) Following that path, my short answer to your exact definitions is that I will assume trust, as in trust in good intentions and trust in willingness to make success, but I can't trust the ability to achieve any deliverable without some evidence of possible success, based on past records (65%) and logical planning (35%).
  2. Depends. If we are talking about a new idea of a project, that is not familiar to most community members (in the same country at least) and that has a load of (40%-70%) of the overall budget, then my suggestion will be to cut its expenses down to (10%-15%) of the budget, and adjust it to become a small pilot, and test its success based on project evaluation and lessons learned, before it expands in future rounds.

Responses to Qs Sue Gardner:[edit]

  1. Depending on the weight of the missing information. If anything is likely to put the movement's image, the volunteers, or WMF in legal threat, then I can't risk moving forward and I will make a clear stand about my reasons to FDC and the community. I can't risk anything that has a legal or admin major consequences. Any other issues are workable, if they results are minor or reversible (like being unable to decide accurately on the value of a project for community, or determine the validity of success measuring parameters, having missing info that will result in minor additional or reduced transfer fees, etc.)
  1. There is a great value in communication. If FDC has a clear stand of what is its purpose, and how it offers support, have helpful resources linked to the portal, and provide assistance with planning, then organizations/individuals (regardless of their admin or organizational capacity) will be able to reach out and seek advise on rendering their ideas in the legible way to community and FDC members. FDC should have an understanding of reasonable channels of where to direct applicants for support, (helpful WMF staff or board member, helpful experienced community leader, etc.) in addition to their own support. This way we help the entities with good ideas and less organizational capacity to have a good chance, and set an example. This is how I view the issue, and I will try to stick to positive examples, to support the case to everyone involved in FDC process.
  1. I guess the idea of pilots kind of solves this concern. New ideas should be tested in reality, not just to find out if they work or not, but to realize all the lessons entailed in the details of the execution process, and use it forward for different applications. Depending on the weight, I guess, having (40%-50%) of funds of each proposal directed to new pilots (Pilots, with an (s), not all the eggs in one basket) of different nature, is a decision that could be made, provided the applicant has a proven record of management, has leaders to take care of the pilots, and has another effective programs (nearly safe side programs) for the other 60% of the budget plan. This is only an example that is affected by other factors (such as community engagement or community willingness to test new ideas) which will add a high value to any pilot. Our programmatic activities vary in application depending on different Wikipedia communities and regions, and while we do need to expand a list of successful (or workable) projects, we need to test and run catalysts, in order to find out. Ideally, pilots should have a different reporting methodology that focuses mainly on lessons learned not solely results achieved, and They should be designed with a low/medium budget, a margin of failure, and willingness to positively share lessons with the community.
  2. There is always a risk, but nothing could go drastically wrong, providing rational decisions are being made with enough clarity and transparency. If the overall process is 65% successful, with a good amount of lessons learned for the next round, then that is quite good.

Responses to Qs from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. The recognized models are more open now to include user groups and like-minded organizations. Taking this scheme forward, I find it interesting for local chapters, that are newly formed, and have a dedicated team and some programs ideas and local partners (if those don't exist then otherwise they shouldn't be a chapter at first place), to empower their local Wikipedia volunteers to lead their own projects and apply for funds for programs they design together, and which the chapter is a partner in. This way new chapters learn more about programmatic activities, test new ideas, and expand their network of helpful contacts in their countries, before dedicating much time to organizational or admin work.
  2. Depends on the record of what they actually achieved before and how they communicated their success and failures to the community, but generally, this idea of a disproportionate fund alone isn't reason enough, if not bound with proven records of abusing the funds provided earlier, or missing records of the ability to lead stated programs. A suggestion to reducing requested amount could be made then.
  3. Tricky questions. With big money, comes big responsibilities :) which is one reason why FDC exits. There is a global responsibility towards bigger chapters, at the same time, chapters that are likely to raised less money locally, don't usually need millions to make effective programs work in their countries, and examples could be given for this, in a different thread of conversation.
  4. Give me an example, what is it that the community likes and FDC rejects? Anything that supports making Wikipedia more popular, easier to edit, raise editors retention rates, and expand our Commons repository, etc. is usually a mutual interest of everyone in the movement. If we talking about the community liking the idea to attend Wikimania, so that at some point 30% of global funds, or overall chapters budgets, will be directed to travel expenses to fund Wikimania scholarships,then at that point we should reconsider the idea.
  5. But if the community doesn't support it, then who will lead it, and how will it positively affect the community then, if they dont' participate in it?
  6. I don't think there any logic that can vote for spending the money, just for the sake of spending it. In fact, discussing the opposite assumption of lacking money for good projects, is more interesting in finding ways to secure more funds globally, and how local entities can support Wikimedia activities in alternate ways.

Answers to Qs from Tony1[edit]

  1. I think chapters only started to share their program plans publicly before the fundraising process only in 2011, which doesn't give a very strong privilege of experience over other entities, or other chapters that weren't part of this process. Having this said, I don't think that any chapter, is likely to have a better chance of funding because of the ability to lay out a well formatted program. The big weight is on the value of the programs and demonstrating ability of executing what is planned.
  2. Why should this be a conflict? You better see it differently: FDC staff are supporters, who have to invest time to support the funds dissemination decisions across the movement, and who are doing this as part of their job, hence, provide a good amount of time, and dedication, coordination and support to the process and the volunteers . I think the only clear conflict of interest is between a fund seeking entity that has a board member who is on FDC, for instance. Otherwise, I see no clear conflict.
  3. You mean that the basic form needs to be designed differently in order to support better evaluation? The summary of opinions allows room for discussion and requesting further data, I believe. There is noway a basic form, any basic form, can cover all details of case-based funded projects request.

Thank you all for your questions, hope the answers were not too long :-) Moushira (talk) 14:39, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

Responses from Risker[edit]

Before answering these questions, I will point out that I am responding from the perspective of a candidate for ombudsman, which is a different role than a voting member of the FDC.

Questions from Tony1[edit]

  1. I think this is somewhat of a concern; however, I might suggest it is better worded as "no significant change from the current situation", as there is almost complete overlap between the chapters that have been doing well financially to date and those that will be eligible entities under the FDC. I do see some potential for reviewing "eligible entity" criteria after a cycle or two; I can foresee some reasonable arguments that could be made that would involve requests for specific projects that are likely to cost more than the maximum dollar value for grants, and potentially some "breakaways" from the WMF non-core budget group.
  2. Wikimedians are a pretty varied lot, and there always seems to be a small group who would perceive conflict of interest in just about anything. This is not to belittle the notion, but to point out that these perceptions are unlikely to be completely eradicated no matter what measures are taken. A more realistic question might be "have sufficient steps been taken to mitigate any potential conflicts of interest?", and to that I'd suggest that the steps taken have been reasonable for this particular organization. We do need to remember that, as vibrant as the Wikimedia family of communities is, we operate on a shoestring compared to almost every international charitable organization, and in order to succeed sometimes staff (and even volunteers) will have to wear multiple hats. I suspect that Wikimedians, particularly those not associated with chapters, may have more concerns about conflict of interest within the FDC membership. Realistically, though, it would probably be difficult to find enough candidates with the necessary mix of experience, knowledge, availability and interest to fill all of the seats if anyone affiliated with an eligible entity was eliminated.
  3. I'll note that the current proposal form on the FDC portal seems to be an update from the one referenced in the original question, and will base my response on this form.

    Many of the questions are quite good, and will encourage the entity to analyse their efforts and identify successful and unsuccessful activities. I expect that in the first few cycles, this may be something of a challenge for any group that had not established measureable metrics in advance of their activities, but this is a skill that will be developed over time. As well, publicly identifying their activities (and their level of success) allows the movement to create a form of database that others can draw on to assist in their own future innovations. (Example: Wikimedia XYZ finds a particularly effective manner of educating and recruiting new editors. Wikimedia ZYX learns from that innovations and builds in a similar experimental program into their annual plan.) One thing I've not seen in North American business plans before is the measurement of staff hours in percentages as opposed to full time equivalents (FTEs); that is, seeing a position marked at 50% instead of 0.5 FTE. I wonder if this is something that is drawn from other financial communities. I have more usually seen percentages used to allocate employee time to different activities (e.g. 25% administration, 30% instruction, 45% public relations) regardless of the number of hours worked.

    My expectation is that there will be changes to the form after the first cycle, and likely after the second as well; it is difficult to tell what information is "missing" or unnecessary until several have been filled in and considered. I expect that both eligible entities and the FDC will have recommendations for improvement.

Thanks, Risker: really good responses. Yup, the % expression is strange: it was expressed as FTE, but was changed at quite a late stage. Tony (talk) 01:43, 2 September 2012 (UTC)

Questions from Sven Manguard[edit]

  1. I think the FDC's mandate is fairly clearcut at this time: to assess and make recommendations on the proposals from chapters and other eligible entities that have sufficient experience and structure to be funded on an annual lump-sum basis rather than a proposal–by–proposal basis. The grants program exists for those chapters that don't fall into the FDC's mandate.
  2. As I'm putting myself forward for the ombudsman position, I won't be voting on any applications. However, I can foresee that such a decision might come to the attention of the ombudsman. Dependent on the requested outcome, it may be the ombudsman's role to recommend that such a decision be reviewed by the Board as a whole.
  3. Most of the funds raised throughout the movement come from the annual WMF global fundraiser; for the most part, the chapters' contribution is to assist in creating localized messages, although some chapters have assisted in payment processing. I think the global community, as well as the Board of Trustees, have defined money raised through the WMF global fundraiser as "movement" money rather than "money that Chapter XX has raised". Chapters that successfully raise a significant portion of their budget independent of the fundraiser will be making their FDC requests on a different basis than those that do not.
  4. I will skip this question as it is not pertinent to the ombudsman role. However, it should be noted that the FDC is not intended to be the place where one individual proposal is being reviewed; any such proposal would be part of a larger annual plan.
  5. See 4.
  6. This is difficult to assess, because while we have some knowledge of the funds the FDC will have at its disposal, the number of eligible entities that bring forward an application is not certain. If the sum of the applications received is less than the sum the FDC could dispense, for example, they will have no option but to redirect it to reserves as matters stand.

Questions from Sue Gardner[edit]

  1. While the ombudsman won't be part of the decision–making process, I would expect that the FDC members will be putting in a fair amount of time early on at looking very closely at the first batch of applications pretty much as they come in, and will be quickly asking their questions. In turn, I would hope that applicant entities will do their best to promptly reply to any questions that arise. Especially with the initial round of FDC appointments, I would encourage the Board to specifically seek out members with a history of (a) good time management skills and (b) good decisions made with less–than–optimal information.
  2. From the perspective of the ombudsman's role, process will be a key focus. Nonetheless, I believe it will also be part of the role to identify when process is getting in the way of decisions that support the mission, and recommending ways to prune the process so that programmatic activity remains the focus of the funding decisions.
  3. Longterm projects that are expected to take more than one funding cycle need timelines and checkpoints as their results, in my opinion. Experimental and exploratory projects should probably include criteria that drive whether that particular project continues or is withdrawn. It may be appropriate for proposing entities to establish a hierarchy of experiments and exploratory projects that they are considering, with the understanding that some of these may generate results (and thus continue) while others do not (and thus are replaced by the next exploratory project in the hierarchy). The most important aspect of these latter types of projects is that they be reported on, so that those showing the most promise or success can be incorporated into wider plans, while those that show little positive result (or a negative result) can be set aside in a timely way before others invest in the same experiment or exploratory program.
  4. I think the FDC's biggest risk is that it might become irrelevant if chapters with sufficient independent funding and/or few employee positions decide instead to focus their efforts on the grants request process for funding of individual projects while using their independent funding to support staffing and overhead; alternately, they may seek funding outside of the WMF entirely, going to other foundations. I don't think this is terribly likely for our largest eligible entities, unless they divest themselves of a lot of current functions; however, it might happen for smaller currently–eligible chapters or entities that have a very small staff or have existing non–WMF funding sources (or those that decide to use their grant-proposal skills outside of the WMF). It is possible that chapters or entities that have the potential to become eligible entities but do not want to invest the resources required to apply for FDC funding will elect to use the grant approvals process instead, thus potentially stifling growth or neutering the FDC's emphasis on fiscal stewardship.

Questions from Lodewijk / Effeietsanders[edit]

  1. I think it important to start off from a position of mutual trust, but with an understanding that both sides will need to educate the other. There will be significant knowledge gaps on all sides, even if FDC members have significant experience, because each entity will be drawing up its application based on its local circumstances. For example, what is included in the payroll taxes of different countries can vary quite significantly, and this is not something that can be controlled at the chapter/entity level.
  2. I've answered this somewhat above. One has to be cautious about what one includes under the heading "cultural differences" though. Regardless of the global nature of the movement, there are certain limitations imposed by US law that will limit the use of "movement" money for practices that are sometimes considered "the cost of doing business" in other countries. As well, activities that are perfectly legal for non-profits to undertake in some countries may be violations in the US (in particular, the US has very narrow definitions for political advocacy). It will be important for both sides to identify and understand where these issues may come up, and to determine how best to address them. Some of these issues may fall outside of the scope of the FDC, though, and may require other resources from within the WMF.