Grants:APG/Staff proposal assessment form

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The staff proposal assessment is one of the inputs into the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) proposal review process, and is reviewed by the FDC in preparation for and during the in-person deliberations each round. The purpose of the staff proposal assessment is to offer the FDC an overview of the expert opinions of the FDC staff team about this annual plan grant proposal. Members of the FDC review each proposal in its entirety, including relevant background documents, inputs from WMF grants officers, the learning and evaluation team, and finance staff. They also analyze the detailed discussions surrounding each proposal that include questions and comments from community members. FDC staff do not participate in the actual decision-making process of the FDC; their primary role is to identify key strengths and concerns for the FDC to consider while making funding recommendations. This staff proposal assessment, which was refined after the first two years of the FDC process, consists of three parts: (1) Overview, including a financial summary and a summary of strengths and concerns; (2) Staff proposal assessment narrative, including a nuanced analysis of the programs, context, and the feasibility of each plan; (3) Staff proposal assessment rubric, assessing each proposal across three dimensions by identifying areas of strength and concern. Read more about the methodology behind the Staff proposal assessment rubric on this page.

Staff proposal assessments do not represent the views on any one staff person, since all FDC staff (unless one of them recuses for some reason) work together to complete each staff proposal assessment, and may consult with other key WMF staff and other experts as needed. While assessments will not be changed after they are published except to correct significant factual errors, organizations are welcome to share responses on the discussion page of each staff proposal assessment if they would like to provide the FDC with additional information or perspectives on the assessments.

Overview for all assessments[edit]

This year’s proposals are being assessed in the context of some preliminary impact data for grants and programs over the last two years, and our current and future approach is being guided by this analysis. In particular, we have been rigorous with our assessments of the Wikimedia organizations with the largest budgets and requests in this round, as we expect them to be delivering outcomes to scale. In a context where six of the largest (in budget and staff) Wikimedia organizations get nearly 60% of all funds (approximately about $8M) allocated by our community-led review committees (annual plan grants, project and event grants and individual engagement grants together), we believe it is our shared responsibility to be accountable for the impact of these funds. Five of these organizations are in the current round of review by the FDC: WMDE, WMUK, WMCH, WMNL and WMSE; WMFR will be in the April 2015 round of FDC review.

There are a few overarching themes we noticed in this year’s proposals that we wanted to call out. Please note that any examples used are meant to be illustrative, not exhaustive!

Proactive versus responsive strategies and community engagement[edit]

Strategy is about trade-offs and priorities: what do you choose to do with a certain set of resources, whether people, money or ideas? Wikimedia organizations, primarily built of, by, and for volunteers, often make decisions that respond immediately and always to all volunteer needs and interests. Such an approach can help volunteers feel appreciated and recognized, and give volunteers the resources to enjoy their own specific interests. At the same time, this approach can feel ad hoc for the organization overall, and may leave the organization without clear aggregate outcomes it can point towards that justify its work. For the significant level of resources (grant funding, donations, volunteer time, in-kind donations) being utilized by each organization, therefore, it is important to have clarity on the balance between such a responsive strategy and a proactive one, in which an organization charts a specific course of action focused on some critical outcomes that have value (perhaps for both locally and globally), and engages volunteers to support those activities in a way that increases their enjoyment and motivation. These are not easy choices, and there are no simple answers to this challenge.

However, it seems critical to recognize that our incredibly passionate communities of volunteers appear less motivated by money (or its lack) than by peer appreciation, recognition and by having the tools needed to contribute more effectively and enjoyably. How do we design our ‘proactive’ strategies to include elements of enjoyment and interest for volunteers, while also driving specific and substantial outcomes around content or contributor growth? Organizations like WMEE and WMAT have organized well-designed and integrated offline and online initiatives specifically geared towards challenging identified content gaps, and have succeeded in achieving online outcomes toward a key movement goal, and at the same time increasing the joy and sense of achievement of volunteers.

Finally, we believe that it is important to design programmatic approaches based on opportunities for scale and opportunities to address key content or contributor gaps, as well as volunteer-led interests. We appreciate that some organizations are working to deeply understand their communities to support them appropriately (like WMNL with its needs assessments, WMSE in its advocacy work and WMIL in its work to map its volunteer community). We hope this will lead to a much more directed and substantial set of outcomes.

Policy awareness, advocacy and collaboration[edit]

A separate but related theme we see evolving across the movement is work on policy change at the local or national level (for instance, with changing copyright laws or influencing education policies to include Wikipedia as a pedagogical tool) or regional and global levels (for instance, increasing awareness of free and open content and protocols to enable it). This is an important way in which Wikimedia organizations can support an enabling environment for free knowledge, and this work demands greater and more effective alliances with external partners (such as sub-national, national or regional organizations interested in free knowledge) and across the movement (such as a group of European Wikimedia chapters working in Brussels).

Not only at the level of policy, but at the level of specific programmatic activity, we are encouraged to see far greater cooperation and collaboration planned, and we believe this is one more way in which we can sustainably scale our efforts and our outcomes.

Measures and metrics[edit]

All Wikimedia organizations in this round are working to improve their measures of success and to find ways to offer reliable metrics that demonstrate impact. We know this is not easy; we recognize the effort it takes, and appreciate those organizations that have made particular effort to advance their own understanding and articulation (including WMDE, WMUK, WMSE, WMEE). At the same time, we want to point out that it has been difficult for us while reading these proposals to be able to point to clear evidence of achievement in many cases: we all (including WMF) have a lot more to do in order to claim with some confidence, the evidence of significant positive outcomes for the levels of resources being used.

This challenge is particularly understandable when some of the most critical work done by Wikimedia organizations is on partnerships for content or policy change; the progress and outcomes of relationship building are not easily ‘measured’. However, we do need to set some targets, and, at the very least, establish specific milestones to monitor progress, in order to be able to assess and demonstrate our collective efforts and justify the significant resources spent on this work. We know organizations like WMDE, WMSE and others are seriously working on this, as are we at WMF. Global metrics are a start, but we need to work together to look at more specific ways to tell the layered story of partnerships and their outcomes for the movement. Importantly, for successful implementation, we need to be focused about which kind of partnerships and which partners, have the most potential to lead to impact at scale; in only a few cases did we find clear rationale for why certain partnerships were being pursued and what content gaps were being specifically addressed through partnerships.

Diversification of funds and resources[edit]

We would like to appreciate that organizations are working seriously towards the diversification of their funds and other resources. A number of organizations have been much more successful in the past year at raising funds from outside the movement (including WMEE, WMSE, WMCH, and WMNL) and many have set ambitious targets for 2015 (including WMUK, WMSE, WMDE, and WMEE). Many organizations are moving towards being less dependent on APG funds for their work. As we have said before, it is important that as a movement, we also acknowledge and assess the range of non-monetary or in-kind contributions and resources we mobilize (for example, Amical works rent-free in a shared office, and WMCH is currently working on pro bono communications and marketing support). Overall, the diversification of resources is not only needed in order to maintain the sustainability of each individual organization and the global movement, it is also a significant way in which individuals and organizations in each local or regional context can express greater awareness of and affinity with the Wikimedia mission. In this way, Wikimedia organizations can build leverage in their environments over time.

Software development and ‘technology pools’[edit]

Not all Wikimedia organizations need to be doing the same set of activities or have the same set of approaches: the strength of a plural, diverse, global movement is that individuals and groups can focus on their core competencies and interests, while these complement those of other individuals or groups.

We greatly appreciate the critical success of Wikidata, WMDE’s award-winning software project. Apart from WMDE, we found that a few organizations in this round included elements of software development in their proposals (including WMCH and WMUK). While we do believe that software development for our movement should be driven by multiple actors, not only by WMF, we also ask organizations to ensure that they are prepared for the significant leadership and management skills and capacities it takes to focus on building large-scale technological tools for the movement. This is a competency that can be specifically planned and mentored across a few chapters in service to the rest of the movement. As Erik Möeller, WMF VP of Product & Strategy, put in his expert commentary: “Wikimedia Deutschland has developed a mature engineering department, which puts it in an excellent position to mentor other chapters which are looking to take on software development work”.

Specifically, we find that many groups have successfully used ‘technology pools’ (loaning equipment to volunteers - for example, photo equipment as well as accompanying press accreditation) to support the creation and contribution of high-quality content, often about significant local or regional events or themes. This appears to be a relatively easy, low-cost approach to supporting volunteers that achieves good outcomes. It is, of course, contingent on factors like geographic proximity to the organization, but there may be some innovative approaches - including in-kind support from other groups - that can be adapted as Wikimedia organizations grow their outreach efforts.

Moving beyond Wikipedia to the sister projects[edit]

An interesting development we have been observing over the past few years is exemplified by some of the proposals in this round: the increasing focus of Wikimedia organizations on Wikimedia projects other than Wikipedia. WMNL for instance, has a focus on Wikimedia projects “other than Wikipedia and Commons”, while WMIL and WMRS are specifically interested in supporting more work on Wiktionary.

While this may lead to some useful outcomes, we ask organizations to offer more detailed rationale for these choices, particularly about how well these goals will scale for projects that currently have relatively small communities. We also encourage them to document the progress of their work on these projects. For example, do these projects help us motivate and focus newbie editors more easily because of the type of content, the size of community, and the possible focus on language preservation? Is this a useful strategic choice both locally and globally, and if yes, why? Do contributors see this as an entry-point to Wikipedia or as their home community where they spend the majority of their time? In particular, as we turn our attention to key content and contributor gaps more globally, will this approach support us effectively?

Diversity[edit]

Finally, for the first time in the FDC process, we specifically analyzed annual plan grant proposals on the dimension of ‘diversity’. This may be interpreted differently in each context: for instance, while this is a cross-cutting issue for many communities, we at WMF currently prioritize Global South and gender diversity in our movement. Our specific emphasis on this dimension, which many of our partner organizations also care about, is based on the perspective that this is a critical strategic responsibility for us to share in order to achieve our vision of freely shared knowledge for every single human being. We encourage Wikimedia organizations to think about diversity in multiple ways, both within their own organizational structures and processes (for instance, the gender diversity in their boards and staff) and within their programs (for instance, supporting the acquisition and improvement of geographically diverse content).

We are looking forward to seeing the results from the cross-cutting programmatic focuses some applicants have described in this round on gender and diversity (including WMAR and WMAT) and note that other organizations have put an internal emphasis on diversity in their volunteers and Board (including WMUK). Others have created programs specifically designed to target diverse participation or content gaps related to gender in their work or are working to identify those gaps (including WMNL, WMDE, WMRS, WMSE). While we did not explicitly seek goals and targets against this, it would be worthwhile for those organizations for whom this is a focus, to offer specific measures in the next round and to consider targets around online outcomes as well as offline outcomes.

We look forward to our continued work together, supporting you, and learning with you all.

Anasuya, with Katy and Winifred

Overview[edit]

Overall assessment and eligibility[edit]

Organization {{{name}}}
Eligibility

Summary[edit]

Current (projected) Upcoming (proposed) Proposed change (as a +/- percentage)
FDC or PEG funding
Budget
Staff
Editors Country Wikipedia 1 October 2012 1 October 2013 1 October 2014
All editors COUNTRY LANGUAGE {{{overall2012}}} {{{overall2013}}} {{{overall2014}}}
Active (5+/mo) {{{active2012}}} {{{active2013}}} {{{active2014}}}

Overview of strengths and concerns[edit]

This section summarizes the key strengths and concerns identified by staff, which are explained in the detailed narrative section of this assessment.

Strengths[edit]

Concerns[edit]

Staff proposal assessment narrative[edit]

This section takes an in-depth look at the strategy behind this proposal, this organization's broader context, and the feasibility and risks of this plan.

Context and potential for impact[edit]

This section takes a close look at this organization's context, since there will be unique factors specific to this organization or to its environment that enable this plan to have impact or that make this plan less likely to have impact. Here are some questions we will consider:

Environment[edit]

How does this organization's environment (including its local context and its community) enable this plan to succeed and have impact? Are there risks and opportunities presented by this organization's environment? Are there extraordinary events or other factors that need to be considered as part of this organization's context?

{{{environment}}}

Past performance[edit]

Will this organization's past performance with program implementation enable this plan to succeed? Does it raise any concerns?

{{{performance}}}

Organizational effectiveness[edit]

Will this organization's overall effectiveness enable this plan to succeed? Does it raise any concerns?


Strategy, program design, and program implementation[edit]

This section takes a close look at this organization's plans for its programs, including its past performance with program implementation. In this section, we may also identify specific programs that seem to have particularly high or low potential for impact. Here are some questions we will consider:

Strategy[edit]

Does this organization have a high-quality strategic plan in place, and are programs well-aligned with this strategic plan? Is this organization proposing significant changes to its strategy, or are the strategic plan and annual plan consistent with past strategies? Is this organization's strategy and are this organization's programs aligned with the Strategic Priorities of Increasing participation, Improving quality, or Increasing reach?


Program design[edit]

Do proposed programs have specific, measurable, time-bound objectives with clear targets, and are program activities and results logically linked?

{{{design}}}

Specific programs[edit]

Based on proposed plans and past work, which programs may have the highest potential for impact corresponding to the amount of funding requested, and which programs may not have impact corresponding to the funds requested?

{{{programs}}}

Budget[edit]

Is this plan and budget focused on the programs with the highest potential for online impact?

{{{budget}}}

Feasibility and risks[edit]

How likely is it that this organization can implement this plan successfully if funded? Is this plan likely to achieve impact corresponding to the funds requested?

Feasibility[edit]

What enables this plan?


Risks[edit]

What are the risks?


Summary of expert opinions and community commentary[edit]

This section will summarize any expert opinions or community commentary offered through the APG proposal process, or through additional interviews and research.


Staff proposal assessment framework[edit]

This framework assesses annual plan grant proposals across the three dimensions of (1) Program design and strategic alignment, (2) Organizational capacity and effectiveness, and (3) Budgeting by identifying strengths and concerns in each of these areas.

In each assessment, an organization’s context is taken into account and so criteria may be applied differently in different contexts. For example, a smaller organization with less experience will not be expected to have a formal learning and evaluation program that a larger more experienced organization might have, and so what may constitute a major strength for a smaller organization in the same category may not constitute a major strength for a larger organization. With this approach, the criteria listed here are not weighted equally, and so an “overall assessment” cannot be determined simply by adding up the numbers of strengths and concerns identified for each dimension. Also note that the scale here is not linear and so we do not assign any numerical values to the assessments given for each criterion. More information about each criterion is shared in the assessment. We believe a framework like this is helpful, as it ensures that each proposal is assessed consistently, even as they are applied with contextual nuance.

The dimension “Program design and strategic alignment” addresses many high-level elements, focusing on how likely programs are to achieve progress toward some of the Wikimedia movement's strategic priorities. Programs need to show clear links between strategic priorities and program objectives, program objectives and targets, and targets and program activities. In addition, programs should focus on areas that will impact participation, reach, and quality on the Wikimedia projects, with an emphasis on approaches and programs that increase diversity.

Meanwhile, the dimension “Organizational capacity and effectiveness” looks at the ability of an organization to achieve its plan based on both past experience (as an indicator of future success) and current practice. An effective organization both learns from past experience and contributes to movement learning in the process. This dimension also includes effective and stable leadership that models good practices, and a rational approach to growth that is supported by the organization’s strategy and context.

Finally, we analyze the organization’s past experience with and current plan for budgeting. Here, we look at how the organization has performed against its plans and budgets in the past.

To complete the assessment, we assess each of the criteria in each category according to the following scale, which is not necessarily linear:

  • ' Major strength
  • Strength
  • Neither a strength nor a concern
  • Concern
  • Major concern
Criterion Assessment Description
Program design and strategic alignment
P1. Strategy and alignment
P2. Targets and logic models
P3. Needs assessments
P4. Potential for impact at scale
P5. Evaluation methods
P6. New ideas and approaches, or thoughtful adaptations
P7. Diversity {{{P7}}} {{{P7 description}}}
Organizational capacity and effectiveness
O1. Past results
O2. Stability and leadership
O3. Learning
O4. Improving movement practices
O5. Community engagement
O6. Capacity
Budget
B1. Past budgeting and spending
B2. Proposed budget is realistic
B3. Budget is focused on programmatic impact

This staff proposal assessment is the work of FDC staff and is submitted by:

Staff proposal assessment rubric description[edit]

This rubric assesses annual plan grant proposals across the three dimensions of (1) Program design and strategic alignment, (2) Organizational capacity and effectiveness, and (3) Budgeting by identifying strengths and concerns in each of these areas.

In each assessment, an organization’s context is taken into account and so criteria may be applied differently in different contexts. For example, a smaller organization with less experience will not be expected to have a formal learning and evaluation program that a larger more experienced organization might have, and so what may constitute a major strength for a smaller organization in the same category may not constitute a major strength for a larger organization. With this approach, the criteria listed here are not weighted equally, and so an “overall assessment” cannot be determined simply by adding up the numbers of strengths and concerns identified for each dimension. Also note that the scale here is not linear and so we will not assign any numerical values to the assessments given for each criterion. More information about each criterion is shared in the assessment. We still believe a rubric like this is helpful, as it ensures that staff analysis of each proposal is based on the same criteria, even as they are applied in a nuanced way.

The dimension “Program design and strategic alignment” addresses many high-level elements, focusing on how likely programs are to achieve progress toward some of the Wikimedia movement's strategic priorities. Programs need to show clear links between strategic priorities and program objectives, program objectives and targets, and targets and program activities. In addition, programs should focus on areas that will impact participation, reach, and quality on the Wikimedia projects, with an emphasis on approaches and programs that increase diversity.

Meanwhile, the dimension “Organizational capacity and effectiveness” looks at the ability of an organization to achieve its plan based on both past experience (as an indicator of future success) and current practice. An effective organization both learns from past experience and contributes to movement learning in the process. This dimension also includes effective and stable leadership that models good practices, and a rational approach to growth that is supported by the organization’s strategy and context.

Finally, we analyze the organization’s past experience with and current plan for budgeting. Here, we look at how the organization has performed against its plans and budgets in the past.

To complete the assessment, we assess each of the criterion in each category according to the following scale, which is not necessarily linear:

  • Major strength
  • Strength
  • Neither a strength nor a concern
  • Concern
  • Major concern
Criterion Description
Program design and strategic alignment
P1. Strategy and alignment Programs objectives are strongly aligned with the Wikimedia strategic priorities of increasing reach, improving quality, or increasing participation. The organization has a strategic plan in place.
P2. Targets and logic models Programs have specific, measurable, time-bound objectives with clear targets, and programs present clear links between planned activities and desired results.
P3. Needs assessments Program objectives are based on needs assessed in consultation with stakeholders, including the communities and volunteers that are working together with this organization to achieve its program objectives.
P4. Potential for impact at scale Programs could lead to significant impact on the Wikimedia strategic priorities of increasing reach, improving quality, or increasing participation, at scale and corresponding to the amount of funds requested.
P5. Evaluation methods Programs include a plan for measuring results and ensuring learning, and employ effective evaluation tools and systems.
P6. New ideas and approaches, or thoughtful adaptations Programs will test new ideas and approaches or will thoughtfully adapt ideas and approaches that may work in this organization’s context.
P7. Diversity Programs will expand the participation in and reach of the Wikimedia movement, especially in parts of the world or among groups that are not currently well-served.
Organizational capacity and effectiveness
O1. Past results This organization has had success with similar programs or approaches in the past, and has effectively measured and documented the results of its past work.
O2. Stability and leadership Stable, effective leadership and good governance will enable this plan to succeed. Any leadership transitions are managed effectively.
O3. Learning from the past This organization is addressing risks and challenges effectively, is learning from and documenting past experiences, and is applying learning to improve its current and planned programs.
O4. Improving movement practices This organization effectively shares learning about its work with the broader movement and beyond.
O5. Community engagement This organization effectively engages key communities and volunteers in the planning and implementation of its work.
O6. Capacity This organization has the resources and ability (for example, expertise, staff, experience managing funds) to do the plan proposed.
Budget
B1. Past budgeting and spending This organization has a history of budgeting realistically and managing funds effectively in the past.
B2. Proposed budget is realistic This proposal includes a budget that is comprehensive and clear, and that corresponds to the activities proposed.
B3. Budget is focused on programmatic impact Based on past performance and current plans, funds are allocated to programs and activities with corresponding potential for programmatic impact.