Grants:PEG/Grant Advisory Committee/Revamp Discussion

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This page contains an outline of discussion topics for the GAC Revamp. Please feel free to add new sections, subsections, and comments, by starting interpolated comments with #* or multiple asterisks if required for further indenting in response to other comments (#**).

Boundaries between PEG (GAC) vs FDC vs IEG schemes[edit]

Are the lines becoming increasingly blurred between:

  1. Project-based vs operating grants
  2. Individual vs small group vs organisational applications
    • We have tried to clarify the differences between PEG/APG/IEG on the Grants:Start page and on the new About PEG page. Please review and let us know if it needs further clarification. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:44, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. Applicants' track-record vs future plans (relative importance is different between the programs)?

GAC role and value-add[edit]

  1. What is the role of the GAC?
    • provide the WMF with a community-based, (partly) external view on grant requests
    • vetting of grant requests (crowdsourcing the review process)
    • provide legitimation for WMF grant requests
    • help grant requesters by providing helpful comments on how to improve their projects and requests
  2. What is the value-add of the GAC to the community and grantees?
    • the community is being represented in the review / decision process on grant requests
    • grantees get a peer-to-peer review, experiences / knowledge is being shared among volunteers
    • often GAC members have been grant requesters in the past and bring experience from the other perspective or they are becoming grant requesters in the future and thus can make use of their GAC experience in designing better projects
  3. What is the value-add of the GAC to WMF?
    • external view GAC members bring in
    • crowdsourcing of the reviews
    • legitimation of decisions
  4. What is the value-add to GAC members for serving on the committee?
    • learning about projects other do and how they turn out
    • learning about granting schemes in general - improve their know-how in how to properly design, calculate, request and report a project
  5. Does the GAC need more exposure within the broader community?
    • PEG might need, not the committee - it is just a tool
    • the GAC needs exposure whenever new GAC members are being recruted, this is already happening
  6. What is the GAC needed for?
Hi you all, I wrote this in the discussion on the email list, but I prefer to bring this point of view here, because I believe it will help in the process to revamp the GAC.
I think that the issue of a lack of participation has roots that I hope we could find and explore: Maybe if we adress this issue: finding out why people does not participate, then, people willing to do so, will.
I believe that one of the main points towards this, is defining "ourselves" within the context of the Wikimedia enviroment. This is the subject I truly think we need to discuss: Define the role of the GAC.
I also believe there is some confussion about the latter. Some GAC members believe they are "approving" grants, others, that they are giving advise, others, that they are validating the community opinion, others that are guarding the correct use of money, and many other things that build a big etc. This reveals, let me call it -for now- (and give me space here), confussion. This, can be read from the answers shown in the results of the survey.
What is truly the role of the GAC and it's members? and most important... What is the GAC needed for?
Therefore, I think that if the roles of the GAC are defined in a clear way, and we can discuss what is the GAC needed for, then people will know better if they want to belong to the GAC and participate and be active.
If we understand our role as GAC, and as GAC volunteers, then we can adress subjects of participation, motivation, steping in, and out, call for volunteers, and probably any other subject that we do not have clarity on how to answer now.
I hope this issue resonates within other members. Cheers!--3BRBS (talk) 05:06, 2 June 2014 (UTC)
I think that a good way may be to see the GAC member also like an "evangelist". We say always that WMF should increase the participation, but the language is a big barrier, probably having GAC members speaking several languages and helping to setup a good proposal may help afterwards in the approval. Probably a bigger involvement as advisor and evangelist may give to GAC members more satisfaction to be important for the community. --Ilario (talk) 08:52, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
Please see more to Idealab that to the FDC page, and you may understand what I mean. --Ilario (talk) 09:45, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

GAC membership[edit]

  1. Nomination and appointments system ok?
    • Clearly not, given the dysfunctional asymmetry of contributions evident in this table, stark enough even through the distortions of a sample of only two months' duration. GAC is currently unique among volunteer WMF committees in being not a Board of Trustees committee, but merely a staff committee—a status I think is appropriate and could be made to work well. It has a lower profile than the FDC and AffCom, and thus the social rewards for membership and reviewing/advising activity are lower.

      That would be fine if it weren't so socially and personally unrewarding to serve on a committee of 30 of whom all but a few are inactive or tokenists. Rules are obviously not enforced concerning "stepping down" after three months of inactivity (or four, counting the month after being "asked privately whether they're still interested").

      Four ways to make GAC functional:

      (a) Set in motion the procedure for removing the members whose records show that they make no or little contribution (see the table for a general idea), although a few members' longer-term contributions are underrated by that sample. Parachuting in to make a one-sentence comment or to sign a vote once every few months as token activity and should be disregarded; several members are doing this, and the rules should be explicit about this practice.

      (b) Limit membership to 12 one-year terms, renewable if input is judged sufficient by staff (I'm not in-principle against our ranking each other numerically against a set of criteria in a confidential questionnaire to staff—I throw that in as a loose suggestion only). Open-ended appointments (without time limit) do not help as a motivational factor. It's easy enough to have on-wiki input as a non-member, so leaving GAC doesn't at all preclude input. Good reviewing as a non-member might well be one benchmark for staff to judge fitness for membership.

      (c) Add an activity-status column in the members' list so that each can adjust, if necessary, from "active" to "minimally active" to "inactive", with expected date of return to active status. Explicitly expect that members will review, query, and advise for a average minimum of one to two hours a week (heavens, if that were the case we'd be inundated with GAC input).

      (d) Make a gesture to boost the social prominence of membership by, say, linking to lists of volunteer WMF committees from the sidebar of Meta's main page. It's not the kind of thing I personally need or desire; my purpose in suggesting this is systemic —to help make the GAC function the way it needs to.

      The views of members and staff would be interesting not only on these proposals, but on two further changes mooted elsewhere. The first is the removal of any discouragement for discourse on a mailing list (the current mailing system would suffice, I suppose). There is little sense of collegial discussion and decision-making because of the low emphasis on off-wiki communication—the few of us who do contribute do so as isolated individuals; perhaps this is out of too great an emphasis on on-wiki "transparency"—but it would be easy enough to post a brief summary of any off-wiki discourse on an application talkpage when the time comes. The second is a system of numerical ratings akin to FDC assessments, which might be useful not only for applicants, but in motivating GAC member input. Tony (talk) 05:07, 23 May 2014 (UTC)

    The system is terrible. Some of my requests are the following:
    • limit the membership in time, preferably to one-year term;
    • reduce the number of GAC members to about 8-12;
    • define the roles of the committee;
    • improve the internal communication between the GAC members;
    • coordinate the work of GAC with the FDC;
    • organise at least one in-person meeting of GAC members annually, preferably at the same with the FDC;
    • extend scholarships to GAC members to attend the Chapters meeting and Wikimania in order to reach out to the community.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:10, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
    Strong opposition: see below. --Ilario (talk) 09:19, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  1. Criteria for GAC members?
    Members and intending members who have made or are likely to make PEG funding applications themselves should be asked to consider that membership alone carries no advantage on that count. It's telling to see how many members applied over the a two-month period surveyed in the table. I'm not accusing anyone, and I'm certainly not suggesting that membership should forestall application; as long as everyone is agreed that all that matter are skill-base and motivation to give to the GAC system—the ability to be technically critical and generous in advising and encouraging. Tony (talk) 05:07, 23 May 2014 (UTC)
    Membership criteria should become more stringent. Introducing a selection process similar to the one for the FDC could have positive changes.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:10, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
  2. Should membership be limited in time?
    Yes. Please see my responses to (1). Tony (talk) 05:07, 23 May 2014 (UTC)
  3. Strong opposition: see below. --Ilario (talk) 09:19, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
We're talking about the GAC, a group of volunteers advising both grant seekers and the WMF. For the function we need a diverse pool of advisors, well connected within the local community, with different cultures/backgrounds and experience in the grant making process itself. They can give the best advise. With the increasing professionalisation of local chapters mainly in the developed world (eg. IDC funding) and the focus of the WMF on 'outreach', I would also like to see more advisors of the developping world.
As such I oppose having overly complicated membership requirements and membership limits. I entrust Alex&Asaf to contact unactive members and remove them - we don't need an 'automatic' removal system. MADe (talk) 09:04, 24 May 2014 (UTC)
Yes (please see my requests above).--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 15:11, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
The big problem I see here is to look in the FDC as good example instead of looking in the IEG. The difference is substantial. The FDC has two rounds per year, the evaluation of the FDC is done in general on a budget and not in single projects, the participation in the FDC can be highly motivated but the feedback I have is that it's really time expensive. Honestly the FDC is a bad example.
The big point we must have in mind is that being a GAC member is a volunteering wish, if the participation is paid I agree with the limit and the selection, if it's not paid I have some concern that the GAC can find volunteers inthe near future. If there are some statistics, it's good to see this statistic and to give them a value. We must see that some of the most active members are old members. I have several concerns to put a limitation in time and in number:
  • If a volunteer has time and would continue to contribute, why saying to stop and to exit? If people would donate their time there is no sense to ask them to stop to donate
  • Do you think that they can be substitute by more active members? The statistics may confirm the opposite
  • I think that in this committee the experience is a big value, why the committee has to renounce to this experience?
  • In my opinion more is better, so there is no sense to limit and to replicate the FDC organization, in this case GAC needs experience, different points of view and being multicultural, so more people is better
In my opinion there is a sense to do what IEG is doing. Every round the team is confirmed. There is a virtual meeting where volunteers confirm or not their availability. The members of the committee can consider to exit for a while (Sabbatical year) and to enter again next round.
There is a big obstacle to replicate here the FDC. The submitters may not have experience or may not have a staff, so they submit a request of funding for first time. I see the GAC members more like facilitators than evaluators like FDC members. So the experience has a big value and there is no sense to renounce to this experience. --Ilario (talk) 09:07, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
+1 Alhtough I'd like to see some more structure in GAC - both in membership and application process, however not so strict as in case of FDC which is in fact over-regulated IMHO. I would opt for one year re-evalution of membership in GAC and the EIG aproach seems to be good idea. Polimerek (talk) 10:51, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
I support what Ilario is saying. +1 all along. NLIGuy (talk) 03:59, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

  • Remove very inactive members (5) and ask inactive members (5) to confirm their interest. (completed)
  • Limit membership to 1 year terms that can be renewed based on interest and level of engagement.
  • Add activity status column to member list.
  • After 2 months of inactivity, ask member if they are still interested in being on the GAC (and be more diligent about checking contributions).

Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:26, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

GAC capacity building[edit]

  1. What skills are most valuable to the GAC?
  2. What type of training would be helpful for the GAC? (listed in order of survey preference)
    • Grant reviewing
    • Budget evaluation
    • Attitude and tone
    • Strategic planning
  3. What forums are best to conduct trainings?
    • Retreats
    • Conference calls
    Does retreats mean conferences (Wikimania etc.)? If so, I can actually find merit in taking 2-3 hours and reviewing current grants together in events like this - so that we can learn the though process of other GAC members. Since it's not necessary to have all the GAC members in the room anyway, we can do a small "GAC meetup" to discuss and learn from each other. If this does not mean existing conferences, I don't see the point of a special retreat for GAC members... NLIGuy (talk) 04:04, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
  4. What types of resources would be helpful for the GAC?
    • Examples of exemplary proposals
    We are working to curate this. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
    I'm just noting that this (and some of the items below) would also be very immensely useful to actual grantees. NLIGuy (talk) 04:00, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
    I think it could help, but only a little. Applications are so different. --Packa (talk) 14:54, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
    • Examples of how to review proposals
    We are working to provide this. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
    • Proposal templates for main programs w/sample metrics (59% Yes)
    We have created resource pages for the main program areas, including suggested metrics. We are working on sample proposals, budgets, and reports for each. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
    • Annual report of grants funded (77% Yes)
    • Year-end discussion around tips for reviewing and impact of grants (72% Yes)
    • Baseline for understanding purchasing power parity and compensation in the different localities where we fund
    • Criteria for hiring staff, renting offices
    I think this could be helpful. I see the attitude of the Foundation have changed. --Packa (talk) 14:54, 11 June 2014 (UTC)
    • Financial metrics (eg: # of dollars spent per new editory)
    The Program and Evaluation Design team has pulled together a first round of numbers for each main program area here. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
    • Table of ongoing submissions and how long they've been under deliberation
    The Grants table organizes grants by fiscal year and can be sorted by which grants are still under review (open). We can add a submission date column if that's useful. Otherwise, the open submissions are listed with the most recent request first. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:55, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
I don't think that the GAC members must be simple reviewers. As said I think that some submitters may not have experience or may not have a staff. Some chapters for instance start to submit their financial requests to the GAC. So I see the GAC more like an incubator and the members like facilitators. Being the copy of the FDC doesn't make sense because the FDC submitters may have an organization, may have a strategy and a governance, instead who submits a proposal to the GAC may not have a knowledge of strategy or governance and I think that the new role of GAC members may be to facilitate and to incubate these submitters explaining the value of strategy, of governance and of metrics. Instead of budget reviewers, strategic planners, I would see more "community support", "evangelists", "facilitators". Please don't forget the reasons of the decreasing of volunteers in Wikimedia projects. The evaluation of the work of the volunteers is the best approach to lose them, in my opinion we need now more enthusiastic people than can transmit this enthusiasm. --Ilario (talk) 09:26, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
I'm not in favour of physical meet-ups of members: we are fundamentally an online organisation, and there should be no barriers to capacity building via the several modes of online communication available to us. In fact I don't really agree with shipping the FDC to San Francisco twice a year. Conference calls and structured IRC discussions—where onwiki discussion is felt in need of augmentation—should be the norm for high-level decision-making. Tony (talk) 15:22, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
Strongly disagree, see my comments below on this page. Each task and activity needs the right tools, online is only such a tools which works in a lot of situations but not in all. We are on the border here to move from pure only text-based discussions to a more creative and brain-storming level with many people involved which needs the personal contact. If we care for good results we cannot have this discussion happen asynchroniously and leave out all the cultural context we are missing here through the pure text-based communication. --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 08:45, 5 June 2014 (UTC)
I've had audio (in one case video) discussions with three Wikimedians today, one for the first time. It's a good way to collaborate, and there's not enough of it on GAC. I'm mostly concerned about the huge expense and irregularity of physical meet-ups if they were to occur, especially in terms of value for money. An interntional meet-up for some GAC members would equate to hundreds of dollars per edit.

I suppose I'm biased: I make my living by conducting skype-audio and google-doc sessions one-to-one with researchers, sometimes in other countries. We often manage to transform text, develop innovations, assess, via talk/type, without ever meeting physically. I want this kind of interaction to be more normal among Wikimedians. Perhaps we've all become used to username anonymity onwiki ... sometimes with justification, I guess, in the cut and thrust of site politics. But to make grantmaking work, we need to personally interact a little more as real people, around the year as necessary, not in one big retreat once every two years—sometimes one-to-one; occasionally in groups, although that can strain the broadband a little if your ping is high. I look forward to conversations with other members. Tony (talk) 16:13, 12 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

  • Create learning series for GAC members (virtual hangouts on grant reviewing, budget evaluation, strategic planning, etc.).
  • Organize knowledge sharing meet-ups for GAC members attending Wikimedia conferences.
  • Create exemplary proposal, budget, and report templates, with annotations for better reviewing.
  • Provide annual report of grants funded.
  • Facilitate year-end discussion of annual activity, impact, and ideas for process improvement.
  • Revise Grants Table to show more relevant data.
  • Integrate IdeaLab into project incubation and grantmaking process.

Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:52, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Role of GAC members[edit]

  1. How do we motivate GAC members to be more actively involved? ( What would improve the experience?)
  2. How many hours a week on average should be regarded as reasonable activity?
  3. Should reviewing applicants' post-project reports be part of members' role? (95.5% Yes)
    A point on which members and staff might be willing to provide their opinions: the timing of reports is sometimes premature in terms of lessons learned (and impact). It's hard to know what to do about this, since projects vary in the expected timeline of their implementation and impact after formal completion. A few recent reports come to mind; one has just been posted for Minority translate. It says, inter alia:

    "It is too early to bring out how useful this program is. That kind of assessment can be given by the end of 2014."

    So, why don't we ask applicants in their initial application to give an idea of the estimated timing of their impact and lessons learned, if the outcomes are likely to become clear only some time after? The idea would be to give applicants the opportunity to furnish an interim report, perhaps a little shorter than the current one, with one update of impact and/or lessons learned at a later time of their choice (perhaps within a time-window of three to nine months after the first report?).

    I'm wary of imposing more written overheads on those who conduct projects, so it would need to be an option, not mandatory, and only where the programmatic circumstances suggest that it's logical. For the Minority translate project, then, maybe it might have been towards the end of this year. And yes, they should have asked for more money, as the report suggests!

    More broadly, lessons learned is very important in justifying the PEG program. A succinct, periodic summary of the staff's conclusions, advice, etc, drawing together what there is to learn from previous grants, would be just great—yearly? I remember Asaf's points about community involvement, editathons, and the global south at the October metrics meeting: that kind of knowledge accumulated from seeing projects evolve from planning to application to conduct to report is invaluable to the movement. Tony (talk) 16:44, 27 May 2014 (UTC)

    Having thought a little more about this: perhaps more encouragement might be given for a formal tail-end phase for some projects, where perhaps input is less intensive after the main thrust, but implementation could be conducted or at least monitored and reported back to us. The structural model for projects until now has tended towards a defined period of activity, finishing, reporting, and hoping for the best in terms of impact later. There are advantages and disadvantages that we might set out and discuss as part of this revamp. Tony (talk) 14:20, 29 May 2014 (UTC)

  4. Communication between GAC members, and between them and staff, is on-wiki with very occasional email messages. Should there be other modes too?
  5. When should inactive members be asked to leave the GAC?
I think that the current approach and that of the FDC is highly demotivating. Probably some workshops and the team building may help a lot, but if the membership is temporary there is no sense. Personally I received feedbacks from some FDC members and they say that the participation in this committee get them tired, even if the workload is concentrated twice per year. I would see in the GAC more a team than an office where people have to write their timesheet of work. Please don't forget that people in the GAC are volunteers! --Ilario (talk) 09:30, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
The current approach, which is to have a written procedure for querying inactivity and then removal, would be fine if it were applied. The laissez-faire approach we have at the moment in practice is "highly demotivating" only to those who do the work—alongside many members who do almost nothing. I can do without the dilution. Tony (talk) 03:54, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

  • Include new reports in GAC Roundup; provide links to relevant reports in GAC roundup for new submissions.
  • Check-in with grantees post-grant term on impact, where relevant.

Please see GAC Membership for more suggested next steps re: GAC Roles. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:02, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Feedback structure[edit]

  1. Should GAC members be organized around a particular interest or program? (54.5% No)
    We're so short of activity now, I don't see how this is workable. Tony (talk) 08:32, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  2. Should there be scoring rubric for applications? Numeric? Just based on broad strategic priorities? (50% Yes/No)
    • Considering the split response on this issue, it makes sense to test this out for a few rounds of grants. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
      • Sounds like a sensible move, Alex. What do other members think? Tony (talk) 08:21, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
      • I think that it's a good idea to try out, the scale should be very simple to understand, both for grantees and for GAC members. NLIGuy (talk) 04:08, 9 June 2014 (UTC)
  3. Should feedback be discussed internally (on a mailing list?) before posting publically? With summary of opinion (50% Yes/No). With individual comments (59% no).
    • Considering the split response on this issue, it makes sense to test this out for a few rounds of grants. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
      • Also sounds like a good thing to trial. One issue for members, in terms of personal management: do you all auto-filter your GAC mails into a dedicated mailbox? It would help if some members want to engage in exchanges about particular issues or applications, rather than thinking that members as a whole don't like the clutter. Tony (talk) 08:21, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  4. Should grant requests be reviewed in rounds with a timeline for giving feedback?
    GAC's continuous timeframe is a significant benefit over the FDC (which needs to calibrate, coordinate and prioritise its expenditure on big-ticket allocations more carefully (all at once, well, in two rounds) in relation to its total budget). But I'd like to see a more explicit and centrally organised timeframe for each application ... possibly in a table of applications and reports, date launched, date due, from which we can link back and forth to review? I'd also like an easy way to know which reports are overdue, from exactly the time they fall due. This should ideally be automated. Tony (talk) 08:25, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  5. What type/amount of explanation is necessary when WMF "overrules" the GAC?
    Brief. Tony (talk) 08:25, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

  • Test anonymous, simple scoring rubric and internal discussion with public summary for 5 rounds of grants. GAC members will still be able to comment publically.

Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:07, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Application layout and structure of GAC applications[edit]

  1. The structure and format; are all questions and sections useful?
    • We have a revised application template that we will be sharing with the GAC and beta testing in the next few weeks. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
    • I think that there should be more an "incubative" phase, where the idea may be helped to grow and also to recruit volunteers. Afterwards the submitter can decide when the maturity is sufficient to move from a draft to a final version. --Ilario (talk) 09:48, 3 June 2014 (UTC).
    • Great idea, Ilario . IEG has been using IdeaLab to incubate project ideas and we would like to begin integrating it into the PEG process. More info soon... Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:04, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
      • In which case, Alex, might it be possible to include early-stage openings of incubations at the IdeaLab in our email elerts? Tony (talk) 13:16, 4 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

Please see GAC capacity building. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:11, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Application-supporting textual infrastructure[edit]

  1. Could the experience of GAC members and applicants be improved by (i) examples of good responses to the questions; (ii) more explicit instructions to applicants (to pre-empt what we find ourselves repeatedly asking on talkpages); (iii) more guidelines concerning level of detail for budget items?
  2. Guidelines on conflict of interest
  3. Why not use another software (i.e. salesforce or other CRM) to keep track of grants' data - a wiki may not be an optimal solution, however fun it is.
    • WMF does use a database for grants administration. However, the process of submitting and reviewing grants needs to be done on-wiki for maximum participation and transparency. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:10, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
      My suggestion was to also have GAC members use a CRM software between ourselves. But I guess double bookkeeping is not a good thing ;-) I'm just worried about the meta as a system to preserve knowledge and experience. NLIGuy (talk) 04:12, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

Please see GAC capacity building. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:12, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Rules for applications[edit]

  1. Do GAC members mind retrospective applications?
    To me, retrospective applications undermine the GAC process—primarily because they put pressure on us to approve, and because our critical role of advising, encouraging, and helping to make programmatic improvements is pre-empted. If it were up to me, I'd take a hard line on it; to do otherwise sends signals that you can come cap in hand after the fact. Tony (talk) 15:03, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
    I think that in most situations retrospective applications should probably be auto-denied in a majority of circumstances, and in a minority of circumstances approved by WMF grant staff in circumstances where the grant is deemed genuinely necessary as well as unavoidably retrospective. I don't think that retrospective requests should be at all regularly submitted to the GAC for consideration - even as one of the members of the committee who is probably more comfortable being critical than most, I'm generally uncomfortable suggesting turning down retrospective grants that involve expenses already incurred by volunteers unless it's clear that doing so won't stick good faith volunteers with said expenses. Kevin (talk) 01:08, 21 June 2014 (UTC)
  2. Should we include a "Grantee Track Record" for each organization applying?
    This has been a significant difference between PEG and the FDC, but that difference seems to be blurring—more applications for what amount to operating grants by FDC-ineligible entities seem to be coming our way; this suggests that the higher the monetary request, the more the track-record might count. But it's not as simple as that: track-record has already counted for something at GAC, if there is a track-record (particularly lateness in delivering, or failure to deliver, an acceptable report for previous funding); but absence of a track-record for smaller grant bids has not been a bar to success here, and I think this should continue to be the case.

    If people agreed to codify this correlation between size of bid and the weighting of track-record, one would have to think carefully about how to express it in the rules/instructions. Tony (talk) 15:03, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

    I primarily agree with Tony, and hope that most GAC members voting on applications will also dig in to the track record of the applicant independently. That said, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if any really severe gaps in an applicants' track record such as significant missing reports or malfeasance in handling a prior grant were explicitly pointed out by WMF grant staff when they deem the gaps important enough to do so. Kevin (talk) 01:08, 21 June 2014 (UTC)


  1. Posting grants is now English only. Maybe could make the process easier for non English speakers, this is especially important in the less developed parts of the world (eg. French or Portuguese parts of Africa)
    • We accept grants in any language. We have tried to make this more clear on the new About PEG page and Proposal Guidelines.
      • Siko (WMF staff, IEG) has proposed updated wording on this issue in their guidelines to applicants. I wonder whether this might be considered by staff and GAC members (this is a tweaked version I've counter-proposed at IEG talk: "You're welcome to submit a proposal in any language. If you're planning to submit in a language other than English, we encourage submission as early as possible to ensure time for translation. If you have questions about this, please contact us to discuss." One potential issue is whether the essential exchanges between GAC members and applicants on application talkpages should be translated, where the application itself has had to be translated. What do GAC members and staff think? Tony (talk) 08:42, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
        • Thanks, Tony. We have updated the language to be in line with IEG here.
        • Strong support. We can manage a non-English grant request (if we have some extra time). It will help us to reach out MADe (talk) 16:22, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
      • Do we have any example of approving any grant proposal, which is not written in English?
      • My native language is Bengali. Soon i am going to apply for a grant and i will write the proposal in Bengali and then translate it to English. Lets see how it works. --Nasir Khan Saikat (talk) 20:24, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  2. WM has an extensive network of chapters. I would like to collaborate with them in the grants process (the earlier mentioned Africans could contact a Wikimedia organisation that shares their language or that is reasonably closeby). This could filter out the first grants, give more responsibility to the chapters, and create more credibility to the grant requests.
    • We are currently improving the IdeaLab, which is an incubator for people to share ideas and to collaboratively develop them into plans and grant proposals. So far it has been used mostly for IEG projects, but we are hoping to utilize it as well. The idea is for there to be a seamless transition from IdeaLab into the grant proposal process. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
      • I do not think involving the whole chapter in this is a good idea. But of course we can try to encougate the chapter members/board members to join the GAC. And at the time to selecting the GAC members we can prefer those who are good at English but it is not their native language. --Nasir Khan Saikat (talk) 20:24, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  3. The projects and grants are now somewhat hidden and separated from their communities. Why don't we ask friends and colleagues of the applicants to show their support for a certain project? People could "crowdsource" a project with their time. This would promote our grants as well.
    • We are revising the current application template and will be asking for demostrated support from the potential grantee's community. This is not exactly the same as "crowdsourcing", but will ensure grantees have gathered input from their community and discussed the project before applying for a grant. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
      • I agree with Alex, at least we ask them to discuss about the project with their local chapter/community first. --Nasir Khan Saikat (talk) 20:24, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
  4. The existence of the FDC (and the fact that groups that receive FDC funding cannot receive PEG funding in most circumstances) has drastically decreased the number of grants the GAC has to handle. In theory, this means we have more free GAC bandwidth than we did previously (although WMF grant staff time might represent a bottleneck still.) Historically the GAC has mostly handled chapter grants and most grants fell in to one of a few categories - now that many chapters don't go through the GAC, should we attempt outreach to encourage more individual established Wikimedians to apply for grants for novel ideas?
    • Sounds good, but it would be useful to include a clear, simple differentiation between IEG and GAC suitability in the revamped information to applicants. Tony (talk) 05:35, 21 May 2014 (UTC)
    • Yes, definitely. We are brainstorming ways to more proactively reach out to potential grantees, especially in relation to our strategic priorites of closing the gender gap and working more in the Global South. We should discuss ideas and ways GAC members could support this process in more detail. In terms of individual grants, IEG is focused on supporting projects with online impact (e.g. new software, tools, etc.) rather than offline projects and events. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 22 May 2014 (UTC)
      • Thanks for the clarification about the differences. Specially the IEG is focused on supporting projects with online impact is a very important point which is not mentioned anywhere in the IEG page. Last year i spend a lot of time to prepare a project mainly focused on offline activities and did not get the grant. I believe it is very important to stat that project but financial support is necessary. So if i knew this information earlier i would not invest my time on this. --Nasir Khan Saikat (talk) 20:24, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
The linguistic barriers are a big problem. The submitters should have a good knowledge of English language, being able to dispute and to defend their proposal and also being highly motivated. Some of these asptects are important (like the motivation), but why they have to know the English language if a lot of this projects are not done in English? Probably the GAC members can also help to put them in communication with the other GAC members. --Ilario (talk) 12:10, 3 June 2014 (UTC)

Suggested next steps[edit]

  • Highlight that applications are accepted in any language on the PEG pages.
  • Commit to facilitating grant discussions in the language potential grantees submit their proposal in.
  • Clarify differences between the grantmaking programs.
  • Discuss proactive grantmaking strategy.

Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 22:15, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

WMF View[edit]

I've been largely staying out of this discussion, although I have enjoyed seeing the questions and answers. One query I do have, is to ask how the Foundation staff who work closely with the GAC (from my view, Anasuya, Asaf, and Alex) view the operations of the committee. Are your views largely the same as what came out in the survey? Are you generally satisfied with the work of the GAC? As important stakeholders within the process, I think we'd benefit from hearing your thoughts on this process. Craig Franklin (talk) 09:49, 3 June 2014 (UTC).

"Staying out" sounds as though it has been intentional. Tony (talk) 15:04, 3 June 2014 (UTC)
Or maybe they're waiting for someone to ask. We'll never know unless we do, and it could safe us all a lot of time and effort. Craig Franklin (talk) 10:48, 4 June 2014 (UTC).
Hi, Craig Franklin. Our approach is to let the GAC provide as much input as possible on the main discussion topics before weighing in. However, we will be posting our comments in the next couple of days. Thanks, Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 16:13, 4 June 2014 (UTC)
Excellent, thanks Alex. I am very interested to hear what you have to say. Craig Franklin (talk) 08:32, 5 June 2014 (UTC).

Response from WMF[edit]

First, we are very grateful to the GAC for volunteering their time to evaluate grants. Your input is a valuable resource for both potential grantess and the WMF grants team. We think the GAC engagement model is a unique and fitting way of grantmaking for our movement.

However, we are concerned with the low levels of GAC member participation and the frustrating effect it has on our grantees and quality of grants. Based on our discussions with individual GAC members, the survey, and discussion here, we think the following actions could help address this issue:

  • Clarify the GAC value-add and role, ensuring GAC members feel they are providing valuable input and are appreciated.
  • Create a culture of positive feedback and mentorship.
  • Ensure a diverse GAC, representing different communities and skill sets.
  • Revise policies around GAC membership.
  • Maintain high levels of transparency and flexibility, but test different models for providing feedback to grantees, including a more structured review process and off-wiki discussion.
  • Provide a robust set of resources (we have started working on this with our Program Resources) pages and trainings for both potential grantess and GAC members to increase the quality of proposals and review.
  • Acknowledge that while we strive to make grant decisions in harmony with general GAC opinion, we recognize that sometimes the WMF grants team decides against this (stated) opinion. We think this is healthy. There are a number of reasons some proposals do not receive full scrutiny from GAC members (e.g. grant complexity, lack of experience or comparison basis, lack of time, personal issues, relationships with the potential grantee, etc.). We accept that it's sometimes our role to ask the hardest questions. It should also be accepted that on occasion we turn down a proposal that the GAC was happy with or accept one that the GAC did not support.

Thank you for asking for our thoughts. We will add "next steps" to the discussion items above and update the GAC on how we propose to move forward with the revamp process. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 19:16, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

Comment on these discussions in general[edit]

I consider these discussions to be useful and important but I think we are missing a major thing. As has been commented several times the discussion is not moving forward in the way it should and not all GAC members participate. The reason for this might be that this discussion is happening on several forums (this page, talk page, mails) and has split up into many different topics discussed at the same time.

I am doing a lot of different work, both within and outside the Wikiversum. For me strong structures are crucial, otherwise I could not cope with the amount of work on my plate. Therefor the weekly GAC Round-Ups (which didn't happen for a while, I think) are important - I have organised my GAC around those and do the other work in between without caring for the GAC, simply because I have no time to come back to Meta every other day just to check if something is going on. The same for this discussion - I want to have this but I cannot afford to come back every day and read kilobytes of discussions in several parallel threads happening and expect to have proper input to all of them. And I assume I am not the only one thinking like this.

So, a solution, because I (and I guess everyone else here) want to have this discussion going - and more importantly: Have it come to an end and a result some time soon. From my point of view what we should do is to collect the open issues in an agenda - something that can be collaboratively designed on a wiki page without a lot of discussion - and then we need a meeting. Be it a Hangout, Skype Meeting, real meeting - I don't care. Just make it a real meeting, with a clear agenda, a set timeframe, bring everyone together and talk through the issues and agree on solutions. I don't see this happening here. For me it is much easier to free some time for a two day trip to some GAC retreat to deal with these things than to read all these mails and discussions on a daily basis in the course of weeks... --Manuel Schneider(bla) (+/-) 08:40, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

Hi Manuel Schneider. Thanks for your feedback. We agree that a "real meeting" is the best next step. In the latest GAC roundup, I have sent a Doodle survey for people to mark their availability. After we've settled on a date, I'll send an agenda. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 23:39, 9 June 2014 (UTC)

"Restart" the GAC?[edit]

I served in Chapcom in 2008-2009 when it was close to implode because of inactivity, even if there were many applicants. It has since relaunched itself as AffCom and managed to be turned into a functional unit receiving respect from the community and Board (perhaps in many parts thanks to Bence). I have now also for two years also been a member of FDC. There the members have been highly active, but it is extemly timeconsuming for a volounteer, and while plesant and ef~fective with a biyearly IRL meeting, this also puts demands on the participant. (flight and jetlag is not only fun when your physiqe is ailing, like for me 65+). I am now considering to join GAC after I have left the FDC, and my reflections when I read above and considering myself

  • Keep it low key/low activity. Make a semioffical IRL meeting at Wikimania, where people being members kan meet IRL, but only to have informal discussions.
  • Many inactive is unattractive, and make me hesitate to join. There should be a formal acceptance, and a procedure like for IEG: Every round the team is confirmed. There is a virtual meeting where volunteers confirm or not their availability. The members of the committee can consider to exit for a while (Sabbatical year) and to enter again next round. And while exiting once is OK, a second one should require special circumstances, and a third automatic withdrawal from
  • limit the numbers and also put up som basic requirements. 7 is on the low side, 9 is OK, 11 is maximum (30 is just stupid). Appoint a chair, (vice chair?) and secretary, not to increase bearocracy or "power" but to make the group seen to be more professional and visible
  • put up all this and other that are being discssued above on an appropriate meta page. Then send a mail to Wikimedia-i telling it will restart, and ask all, existing and potential new members, to signal their interset to participate. Create an interim group to take care of this transition consisting of 2-3 persons, like tony, Ilaro, craig.

Anders Wennersten (talk) 09:10, 5 June 2014 (UTC)