Funds Dissemination Committee/Additional Information and Analysis/Interviews/Jimmy Wales

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Board Interview with Jimmy Wales[edit]

Wednesday, May 9th 2012

What types or sizes of funding should go through the FDC?

I think that in terms of sizes of grant requests, it’s still a very open question. I don’t think that the FDC will have or should have capacity to really micromanage lots and lots of grants. I think most of the activities that Chapters do should be managed by the chapters (though they need to present an annual plan). The FDC should, for the most part, approve overall annual plans not individual line items within Chapters budgets. It wouldn’t make sense to go down to the $1000 dollar level, on the other hand the FDC should be able to make comparisons between the chapters to have a dialogue, if they see spending on something that seems inappropriate or too high.

How do you see the FDC evolving to become more effective over time?

A lot of committees work very well on the wiki (like our arbitration committee). I think that is one interesting model to look at in the future. I think we should also visit committees that have not worked so well (e.g., Recruitment – worked not so well initially and improved over time).

Scope of Authority and Relationship with the Board

I see very little authority lying with the FDC. The FDC’s role is strictly advisory. While their decisions, if the outcome of a robust and thoughtful process should be deeply respected, the Board of Trustees has the legal responsibility to manage funds decisions overall for our donors.

How do you see the FDC working with the community?

I think the community should be very involved in the FDC. The FDC should be a body that the broad editing community pays attention to. It is very important that funds dissemination ties to our movement priorities and principles.

How could the FDC drive standards of excellence?

I think we must evaluate the FDC against various movement priorities from the strategic plan. One of my concerns is that a lot of chapter work has not been associated with strong metrics. Things are done because they are fun, interesting, and cool but not because they necessarily have measured impact on the readership, editorship, or quality of Wikipedia. We have questions about where we invest funds and what types of funding have the most impact. For example: one thing that is very popular right now is GLAM work, which I love, but we don’t have a good sense of whether it is really moving the needle on important metrics that we all care about.

What do you feel will be effective membership of the FDC?

We need to look for individuals with relevant professional experience in addition to editing involvement. I think the FDC is an experiment. I think it is still an open question as to whether this is the right approach at all. There is a chance that the whole thing is going to be a disaster. This is a bold move, a risky move, and we ought to be emotionally prepared and calm about the possibility that it won’t work. Experimentation is good.

Engaging the Community

I think there needs to be lots of input from various people. It’s a big task and it’s fraught with difficulty because money is at stake. If we look at the really important people (the editing community) they often don’t pay attention to issues like this, but I think the broad group of editors are exactly the people that need to get involved. We can engage the editor community by reaching out through site notices, emails, and whatever it may be (since many don’t read Meta). Put a notice on people’s watch lists and find ways to contact active editors.

How do we set up safeguards in the process?

Having professional individuals on the FDC is very important. The board, for legal reasons, will have a veto over decision-making. You can’t just divvy up the money in the 12 chapters in Europe and not have it flow to the rest of the world.

We need decision making based on real metrics. At the end of the day, we are a small movement (globally only about 3000 people who are very active). One of the difficulties here is that people have political relationships in the community that they want to protect. People don’t want to make others angry – this leads to poor decision making. To make effective decisions you need professionalism and independence from the people’s work that you are judging.

We have the potential to reevaluate and assess the effectiveness of the FDC over time. The main thing is measurable metrics against movement goals. We should be able to give people less funding if they aren’t able to perform.

Any other comments?

One of the open questions that we don’t have a strong answer to is about how much money should go to the FDC to be distributed. Why that amount and not other amounts? This will need a lot of discussion even at the Board level. Some were thinking $20M and others were thinking $2M a year. This is a big discussion that impacts the power of the Board to make decisions. We should initially allocate some money that will be closer to the minimum than the maximum, given that this is an untested experiment.