The inaugural Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC), which was formed in September 2012, met for the first time in San Francisco over the period October 28-31 in order to assess the proposals for Round 1 for 2012-2013 and provide recommendations to the WMF Board. The FDC recommendations are given below.
The FDC mandate
The FDC's mandate is to recommend to the WMF Board allocations of Wikimedia movement funds to eligible entities, based on an assessment of the ability of eligible entities to realise movement goals. The FDC allocations are in the form of general funds to support the annual plans of entities, which cover staff and other operational costs as well as program expenses. While this implies trust in each entity that receives FDC support, it also implies great responsibility and accountability from the entities to ensure that the expenditure of movement resources has the highest possible impact. As a result, the FDC primarily assesses the ability of entities to execute their plans responsibly and efficiently (organisational effectiveness), alongside the likely impact of the initiatives and activities of the entities (programmatic effectiveness). The FDC process intends to support entities who, in turn, work on building editorship and readership in their communities, and supporting access and content on the different Wikimedia projects. We hope that over time the FDC will be ensuring that lessons from across different entities and the regions, languages and communities they support will be effectively shared with the global Wikimedia movement.
|Comments and observations|
* One FDC member opposed this allocation.
** One FDC member did not participate in the discussion or decision-making related to this allocation due to a conflict of interest.
We thank the FDC staff members, Anasuya Sengupta, Meera Chary, and Winifred Olliff, and Garfield Byrd (WMF Chief of Finance and Administration) for the excellent work they did in preparing and supporting the FDC. In addition, Sue Gardner, Gayle Young, Geoff Brigham and several others dedicated time to this process, and we appreciate them for their support. In particular, Gayle facilitated a session on team dynamics that was very useful. We thank Jan-Bart de Vreede, one of the WMF board representatives to the FDC, for observing FDC deliberations, and for providing clarifications and aiding the FDC in its deliberations when called upon to do so. We also had the opportunity to interact with a number of WMF board members and understand their expectations first-hand, and we thank them as well. We thank all the entities who participated in Round 1 and responded patiently to requests for clarifications on Meta and by email at short notice. We also thank the community for actively participating in the discussion on Meta, which complemented the work of FDC staff and members.
All of us found the deliberation session to be a stimulating and exhausting experience where we learned to appreciate each others' complementing competencies and work through all proposals. We arrived at the recommendations in a professional manner, thanks to the extensive preparatory work done by all involved. We did our best to assess the proposals and develop recommendations with the goal of furthering the global Wikimedia movement at a sustainable pace of growth.
We recommend that the WMF work with the chapters as appropriate, including to better prepare proposals for future funding. We are confident that entities which were not given their full funding request will certainly be able to improve their performance over the next year and will be able to grow their organisations to a higher maturity level to handle future growth in a sustainable manner.
Comments from the deliberation
Overview of the FDC allocations
The overall funds available for movement entities for 2012-13 is 11.2 million USD, of which 60,000 USD has been assigned by the WMF Board to the Affiliations Committee (AffCom) outside of the FDC process. The FDC is therefore responsible for recommending allocations for the remaining 11.14 million USD. The FDC has a separate operating budget of 276,000 USD, which includes FDC meeting expenses and salaries of FDC staff. The FDC received proposals from 12 movement entities for Round 1 for a total requested amount of 10.4 million USD, from 11 Wikimedia chapters and the Wikimedia Foundation. Three proposals were received after the deadline of 1 October had passed, but the FDC decided that since it was the first time for the process, the late proposals would be accepted and discussed.
Overall, the FDC is recommending an allocation in this round of 8.51 million USD. All seven FDC members approved the full set of recommendations to the Board, with one member stating an opposition to the recommendation for one entity (WMF), and two members abstaining from a single chapter's deliberation, in each case due to conflicts of interest.
The work process
We were well supported by the FDC staff and their prepared material. WMF staff responsible for compliance issues presented an overview of the compliance history of the entities involved. The FDC members had also read the material beforehand, where available. In general (but not always) we followed the following steps when deliberating each entity's proposal:
- The staff presented their staff assessment.
- Garfield presented his financial / compliance perspective.
- The FDC discussed where the entity was in its lifecycle / maturity cycle.
- The FDC discussed strengths of the entity's proposed plan, its alignment to the Wikimedia movement strategy, its strengths in innovation and ability to share learnings with other chapters, and other factors.
- The FDC discussed the entity's ability to execute on the proposed annual plan, with particular attention to increases in staffing and programmatic activities.
- The FDC discussed the potential allocation for each entity, starting with each member stating a recommended allocation. If there was little disagreement amongst members, we came to an agreement quickly. However, if there was significant disagreement, the FDC paused and continued detailed discussion and debate. The conclusions of these debates often involved compromise, where at times not all members were in complete agreement with the ultimately recommended amount. However, in the end all members stated that they "could live with" the final allocation amount for nearly all entities. In the one case where this did not occur, we have noted this above (one FDC member opposed the allocation amount).
The WCA and the role of the FDC
While the FDC process is for general funds supporting the annual plans of movement entities, there was one aspect of the proposals that the FDC discussed in some detail: membership fees to the Wikimedia Chapters Association (WCA). The FDC supports the creation of the WCA, and hopes that it will in turn be able to support the growth and development of chapters across the world. However, since the WCA is not yet a legally incorporated entity, and may apply for FDC funding for start-up staffing and other expenses, we believe it is premature to include WCA membership fees in allocation requests to the FDC. Therefore, where applicable, the FDC has subtracted WCA membership fees – estimated with clarifications from the chapters – from the requested FDC allocation. However, we also believe in the autonomy of the chapters to continue to put aside funding for the WCA as they deem fit, and each chapter is free to fund the WCA from other sources if they should wish to do so.
Note: One FDC member did not participate in the discussion or decision-making related to the WCA due to a conflict of interest.
Key Themes/Issues of the FDC discussions
During these deliberations, a few key themes and issues emerged, that we hope to continue to engage with and learn from, as the FDC and together with the rest of the movement.
- Organisational size, life cycles and maturity
- Entities in this round were of a wide variety of different sizes (whether in terms of budget and/or staffing), and it was clear that different considerations were needed to think about relatively small entities (with no/part time staff moving to fully staffed; budgets up to 150,000 USD), vs. medium-sized entities (with some staff; budgets up to 1 million USD) and large entities (with significant staff; budgets beyond 1 million USD). The FDC and others in the movement need to explore in greater depth the kind of growth trajectories that are suitable for these differently sized organisations, and what kinds of models of staff/volunteer organisations are most appropriate for high-impact work in our movement.
- Organisations in crisis or transition
- Some entities in this round were in situations of transition or crisis, mainly for internal leadership or governance reasons. The FDC hopes that entities will improve at pro-actively reporting these issues, and engaging with the wider movement in order to get the support they need.
- Leadership and governance issues
- The key driver for organisational and programmatic effectiveness currently seems to be strategic leadership and good governance practices, whether for staffed organisations or primarily volunteer-run entities. The movement needs to learn from the different models of leadership and governance, and share both successes and challenges.
- Understanding impact, outcomes and 'innovation', including how to measure, evaluate and learn
- There is an urgent need for a movement-wide discussion on 'impact' and 'innovation', and what appropriate metrics, benchmarks and learning systems for these might be. Most proposals offered process or output indicators for their initiatives and activities (for e.g., how many meet-ups), without offering commensurate outcome or impact indicators (what the expected conversion rate of participants to active editors might be). However, simply offering these indicators is not enough; the questions are what will truly lead to a significant improvement in our overall community health, our infrastructure and increased/improved online access and content? In addition, what innovative strategies and programs are being developed that others can adapt, adopt or learn from?
- Chapters' role in growing the community: editor recruitment and membership development
- There is arguably more discussion needed within the movement on the chapters' role in growing the community, and the impact of chapters on editor recruitment and membership development in the different languages and communities that they serve.
- Ensuring diversity in our communities, including women
- The FDC was pleased to see some proposals explicitly engage with increasing the diversity of the communities they serve, including programs to recruit more women editors.
FDC process issues
- Whether to evaluate the full annual plan or just the portion funded by the FDC
- Some entities only asked for funding for a portion of their annual plan. In this situation, there was an open question as to whether the FDC should be evaluating the full annual plan or just the portion of the annual plan that the entity has identified as being funded by requested FDC funds. Since the FDC gives general funds, it was considered important to have the holistic picture of the annual plan of the entity, but in the future it may be worthwhile to have an additional section that offers more detail on the FDC request (if appropriate).
- How to interpret and use the special funding guidelines (as outlined by the framework)
- The framework outlined guidelines which presented "minimum" and "maximum" funding boundaries for applying entities. The FDC found these guidelines difficult to interpret and of limited use compared with many other factors (including size / maturity of the entity, etc). However, the FDC believes that it is important to have clarity on appropriate growth rates for organisations, since some projected rates seemed unfeasible and unsustainable. Such guidelines may be modified and used more appropriately in future rounds.
- How to manage complex organizational issues / crises
- A few entities experienced challenging situations which surfaced questions about their ability to execute on annual plans. Going forward, it might be helpful to think about how best to support the entities to resolve these situations (both with respect to FDC funding and otherwise).
- How and when to use bridge funding
- Related to the point above, when entities are experiencing situations that might prevent effective spending of movement resources, the FDC felt bridge funding would be appropriate. Going forward, it might be helpful to have a precedent / protocol for this, particularly in terms of how or whether these entities would be able to apply for additional funds in the same year, either via the Wikimedia Grants Program or through subsequent rounds of the FDC. However, the FDC continues to see this as a solution only in exceptional cases.
- How to think about continuous improvement of the FDC process
- Over time, the goal is greater alignment of FDC proposals/annual plans with high impact strategic goals. There are still open questions as to how the FDC can contribute to this improved alignment through the funds dissemination process.
About the FDC
The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) for the Wikimedia movement is a committee of community members that makes recommendations to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) about how to allocate funds to eligible entities within the movement. The FDC was established through a resolution of the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation, and currently comprises seven members, who were selected by the WMF Board on 15 September 2012:
- Chair: Dariusz Jemielniak
- Vice-Chair: Ali Haidar Khan
- Secretary: Anders Wennersten
- Mike Peel
- Yuri Perohanych
- Sydney Poore
- Arjuna Rao Chavala
The two WMF Board representatives on the FDC are Jan-Bart de Vreede and Patricio Lorente, while the Ombudsperson for the current FDC process is Susana Morais. The FDC will expand to nine members from next year (2013), with two more members added through community elections.
For 2012-13, the FDC has been tasked with the responsibility for recommending allocations of movement funds for entities with proposals in two rounds: Round 1 (with a proposal deadline of 1 October 2012, FDC recommendations deadline of 15 November 2012 and Board decision on 15 December 2012); and Round 2 (with a proposal deadline of 1 March 2013, FDC recommendations deadline of 15 April 2013 and Board decision on 15 May 2013). The proposals for Round 1, community responses and staff proposal assessments, as well as other information on the FDC, are available on the FDC portal. Please also see the Frequently Asked Questions page for more details on the history and process of the FDC.