Grants:APG/FDC recommendations/2016-2017 round 2

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Funds Dissemination Committee recommendation to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees for 2016-2017 round 2 applications.

» Certification from the Executive Director to the WMF Board
» WMF Board decision

The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) met in Warsaw, Poland, on 12–14 May 2017. It assessed the Annual Plan Grant (APG) proposals and related documents, submitted in round 2 of the 2016–2017 APG program, to provide recommendations on funding allocations to the WMF Board of Trustees. The FDC recommendations for each application appear below.

Funding recommendations[edit]

The individual recommendations are given below. Each funding recommendation is in the requested currency, with indicative amounts in US dollars for comparison purposes only. Calculations and references to these grants should always be in the requested currency, and not in the illustrative US dollars.

Applicant Amount requested Amount recommended Indicative recommendation
in USD (approx)
Percentage of request
recommended
Change in allocation
from last year
Centre for Internet and Society INR 12,000,000 INR 12,000,000 USD 180,000 100% +14%
Wikimedia Armenia AMD 151,207,564 AMD 151,207,564 USD 302,000 100% +72%
Wikimedia Foundation
Wikimédia France EUR 686,000 EUR 343,000 USD 363,000 50% -40%
Wikimedia Norge NOK 1,850,000 NOK 1,850,000 USD 220,000 100% +15%
Total ~ USD 1,430,000 ~ USD 1,065,000

The overall funds available for movement entities through the APG program (FDC and Simple APG) in the year 2016–17 is USD 5,675,000. Some USD 3,230,000 was allocated in round 1, leaving USD 2,445,000 available. USD 1,430,000 was requested in this round, and USD 1,065,000 has been recommended. The remaining USD 1,380,000 may be used for other grants programs, and what is not used by the end of the year will be returned to the WMF's reserves. The FDC makes recommendations in different currencies, so these total amounts in US dollars are approximations based on the exchange rates used at the time of proposal submission in each respective round.

Organisation-specific remarks[edit]

The Centre for Internet and Society[edit]

Amount requested: INR 12,000,000 (proposal)
Recommended allocation: INR 12,000,000

The FDC recommends approving the funding request of The Centre for Internet and Society.

The CIS proposal is closely-aligned with the Wikimedia vision for a strategically important and potentially high-impact region. The organisation is clearly focused on increasing the number of new editors and readers of Wikimedia projects in four Indic languages through four programs – content enrichment, GLAM, skill-building, and institutional partnerships.

The organisation has demonstrated the capacity to support a range of languages within India through its focus on four language areas, combined across three thematic areas including work in other languages. The plan is targeted towards Indic language Wikimedia projects, focusing on the Kannada, Marathi, Odia and Telugu languages.

Portfolio strengths include: the flagship Train-the-Trainers program, which is showing good results; the gender gap reduction program, which has now been integrated across all activities; and a tailormade approach to each of the four focus languages instead of a "one-size-fits-all" model. Among the concerns, the Global Engagement Initiatives vertical looks more like a menu of ideas than a structured plan. It is unclear what this is trying to achieve or which of these items will be implemented.

The FDC recognises that CIS operates in a culturally diverse and logistically difficult area for programming, and CIS is doing this work well. It is appreciated that CIS seeks community opinion and responds to voiced concerns.

CIS is an effective organisation that consistently meets its targets and knows how to achieve them year after year, which is important for an organisation that has been through the FDC process for several rounds. Its grantee-defined 'footprint tracker' metric is informative. The value of bytes deleted metric shows a commitment to quality, but it may be difficult to interpret.

The budget that CIS has presented is cost-effective. The FDC appreciates the effort to significantly reduce the staffing costs despite the increased headcount. While the proposal that CIS has presented is comprehensive, its structure is hard to understand. We recommend that CIS simplify the structure of annual plans, using no more than two systems of classification and showing how these are linked to each other.

Wikimedia Armenia[edit]

Amount requested: AMD 151,207,564 (proposal)
Recommended allocation: AMD 151,207,564

The FDC recommends approving Wikimedia Armenia's funding request.

Wikimedia Armenia has been growing and delivering in innovative ways and they have been responsive to the prior recommendations of the FDC. The new staffing plan (in particular hiring the new ED) is ambitious, is a large change for the organisation, and has some risk, but if it is implemented well it has the ability to significantly advance the organization and its impact.

The FDC appreciates that Wikimedia Armenia did a good job explaining programs and activities, including the context and rationale behind them. The connections between Wikipedia and education were thoughtful and there was a clear vision of how to incorporate Wikipedia into their society in a way that has a significantly increased depth compared to activities in other countries.

WikiCamps have proven to be a successful and inspiring program, but they are also resource-intensive and the proposed attempt to make them more financially sustainable is encouraged. We recommend that Wikimedia Armenia have clear objectives for each project and metrics to measure their success or areas of improvement. WikiClubs, for example, are a good example of an activity that is both low-cost and develops leadership and community engagement.

It was noted in the WMF staff report that the Chapter has inadequate financial systems and its ability to implement successful programs surpasses its ability to evaluate results. The FDC would like to reiterate these concerns and encourages Wikimedia Armenia to address them as soon as possible.

With this proposal, Wikimedia Armenia is setting high expectations for itself in the future in terms of execution of impactful programs and raising additional funds to support them. The FDC is basing this decision in part on the expectation that Wikimedia Armenia will not request an increase in funding in future years. Future growth should be covered by funding sources other than APG.

Wikimedia Foundation[edit]

Amount requested: n.a. (proposal)
Recommended allocation: n.a.

The FDC appreciates the Wikimedia Foundation providing its Annual Plan for review. Rather than providing detailed feedback on each program, the focus in this review is on common themes that apply throughout the WMF proposal.

The primary FDC recommendations are that:

  • Activities with direct WMF interventions in local communities in the New Reader program or in the work plan of the Partnerships and Global Reach team should either be removed from the annual plan or go through significant revision and community consultation.
  • The WMF should develop a set of metrics and SMART goals they will use and report on for the duration of the new strategic plan.
  • Staffing allocations across different parts of the WMF should be reviewed to ensure that impactful programs have the staffing resources they need.

Working with communities[edit]

The New Reader Program and the work plan of the Partnerships and Global Reach team have expensive activities with direct interventions in local communities that the FDC recommend should either be removed from the annual plan or go through significant revision and community consultation. The FDC believes that these direct intervention activities pose a significant risk to the wellbeing of the Wikimedia movement as well as being a poor use of staff and financial resources. The WMF has not demonstrated an ability to do this type of work well and in some cases has significantly damaged local communities as a consequence. The FDC is concerned that failures from previous attempts in this type of work will be repeated in new ways. The FDC recommends the WMF focus on critical activities where it has a track record of success, such as formative research and facilitation of local communities.

It is important for the WMF to clearly coordinate work with active communities and affiliates, rather than running projects independently. Programs which have already proven highly successful with communities (e.g., Community Capacity & Development work with "emerging communities") are not being expanded, while those that are closely related to past unsuccessful work are given priority (e.g., aspects of the New Readers program).

The FDC notes that the Fundraising team's efforts are showing increased co-ordination with other movement organizations, and encourages further coordination and cooperation. This work would benefit from increased integration with the activities of other WMF departments.

Branding and marketing[edit]

The FDC is concerned that several parts of the WMF plan are focused on marketing and branding projects. Marketing is not a stand-alone activity and it needs to be connected with a community of volunteers that are ready and able to support a community of readers and editors. Moreover, some parts (e.g., brand review and marketing campaigns) appear to be pre-empting the movement strategy.

SMART goals[edit]

Setting clear goals is key to defining what the organization is planning to achieve, providing a baseline for evaluating the results, and adjusting the direction as needed. Although this plan lists goals, objectives and milestones, in most cases these lack targets and overall are not SMART.

The FDC recommends that the WMF have a set of metrics and SMART goals they will use and report on for the duration of the new strategic plan so that year over year comparisons of progress will be possible, and to ensure that the work is continuously impactful.

Annual planning[edit]

The FDC requests that the WMF complete the entire FDC application form for its deliberations in order to have sufficient detail to understand the annual plan and budget. In addition, significantly more background information on each project, clear budget breakdowns, and annual plan narratives for each program would be useful.

Governance[edit]

Last year the FDC recommended that the WMF Board undertake a governance review, given the situation it was in at the time. The FDC understands that this work will be starting soon, and looks forward to reading the results.

Staffing allocations[edit]

Staffing allocation across the different parts of the WMF does not appear to be commensurate with impact. In particular, Community Engagement seems to be understaffed relative to the impact it can, and does, make. It is not clear whether staffing changes are being consistently assessed across the different departments.

Appreciation[edit]

The FDC would like to single out the cross-departmental "Anti-harassment program" for particular praise. Harassment in Wikimedia projects is a well known but poorly understood issue. Addressing this - both culturally and technically - is a key priority set by the WMF Board and the FDC wishes to lend its weight to supporting this prioritisation. The FDC wishes to thank the Community Tech, Research and especially the Support & Safety teams for their work in this area. Not only is tackling the complex issues of online harassment important for the health of the Wikimedia movement, but also for online communities in general. Just as Wikimedia is seen as a beacon for free-culture and fact-based civil discourse, the Wikimedia Foundation is now in a position to become a leader in responding to this critical issue of online harassment.

Without diminishing the good work of the other WMF teams, the FDC would also like to particularly praise those involved in "Privacy, Security, and Data Management" activities, the "Structured Data" project, the "Community Wishlist" and those working on the new "Movement Strategy". Respectively: while other major websites suffered from highly visible security breaches, leaks and outages over the last year, the Wikimedia Foundation has not - thanks to its good security planning and prevention measures, and prudent data centre management and software maintenance. The Structured Data project is important not only for how it will integrate two powerful projects so that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts, but also for creating a best-practice model obtaining restricted-grant funding. The work with the Community Wishlist is particularly noteworthy, as it directly and responsively addresses the technical improvements that the community itself thinks are most important. And finally, the FDC acknowledges the work done to deliver a new Movement Strategy that is simultaneously widely consultative yet targeted, bold yet inclusive.

Wikimédia France[edit]

Amount requested: 686,000 € (EUR) (proposal)
Recommended allocation: 343,000 € (EUR)

The FDC recommends funding Wikimédia France's proposal with 50% of the requested amount for the following reasons:

  • Wikimédia France has not achieved results commensurate with the amount of funding received, as identified in the past two FDC recommendations.
  • The current proposal does not show sufficient potential for significant, clear, and measurable impact in proportion to the amount of funding requested.
  • There are significant concerns about WMFR's current governance and organisational structure being able to most effectively support and achieve the results sought.

The FDC recognises and thanks Wikimédia France's work in presenting this proposal. WMFR has successfully developed strong innovative and core programs that have resulted in valuable programs and projects to date, and that could lead to making still more significant impact. However, the overall results have not yet met expectations. Wikimédia France has not been achieving results commensurate with the amount of funding received, as identified in both the 2015-16 and 2014-15 FDC recommendations and in the 2016-17 staff assessment, and as is also visible in Wikimédia France's 2015-16 progress report. The targets included in the current proposal are not commensurate with the amount of funding requested. There is also not a direct link between Wikimédia France's staffing and the programs discussed in this proposal.

The FDC encourages Wikimédia France to modify its grantee-defined metrics and make adjustments for the funding period covered by this recommendation. Despite explanations, we do not think that a metric such as the number of press mentions of individual programs will be as useful in assessing the success or value of those programs, compared to other metrics that were used in previous years by Wikimédia France which, in the FDC's opinion, would have been useful to retain.

WMFR's proposal has become even more reliant on requests for increasing the FDC allocation compared to 2015-16, despite only a small increase in WMFR's overall budget. This is despite the FDC recommendation in 2015-16 that they increase their efforts to secure other funding sources.

There are also important concerns about the governance of WMFR, which have the potential to have a significant impact on the ability of Wikimédia France to meet goals and successfully carry out the wide range of programs it has identified in this plan. In the period of February to May 2017 there were four resignations of general assembly-elected members of the Board of Wikimédia France, which is nearly half of the 9 elected positions. The explanation provided raises additional concerns, including the potential impact on recruiting and retaining volunteers as board members. It is difficult to understand how a volunteer board can be "operating normally" when 44% of the elected board members have left, particularly over such a short period of time.

The FDC is also concerned about the recently-revised staffing model of Wikimédia France, where all 9 staff report to a deputy executive director, and the only position reporting to the executive director is the deputy. There is no rationale provided to explain why WMFR requires two executive leaders with so few other employees. It is further noted that there have been 6 resignations from Wikimédia France staff since the 2015-16 proposal; while an explanation has been provided, this level of staffing turnover also raises questions about the ability of the chapter to meet its current goals and to generate the expected impact. These questions would arise in any situation in which staffing turnover and structure raises questions about the organisation's ability to meet the stated goals and impact.

Given these concerns, the Funds Dissemination Committee recommends that Wikimédia France undergo a governance review that includes review of board member orientation and retention processes; board and organizational policies including removal of board members and management of conflicts of interest; and the appropriateness of the staffing model. The FDC believes there is a significant link between the organization's governance and the ability of the organization to produce desired results and to retain and nurture a healthy volunteer community. The FDC recognizes that Wikimédia France is a very important and valued part of the Wikimedia movement. Therefore, the FDC recommends that the Wikimedia Foundation provide the necessary support for such a review, similar to that which it has provided to other movement organisations in the past, and that it work directly with WMFR to determine the best way in which to provide such support.

All of the programs presented in this proposal are supported by dedicated volunteers and staff, and the FDC appreciates the value of their contributions. The committee sincerely hopes that the implementation of these recommendations will enable Wikimédia France to provide the staff and volunteers with the support needed for them to flourish to the maximum extent of their potential, and to get the best possible outcomes from their work.

Wikimedia Norge[edit]

Amount requested: NOK 1,850,000 (proposal)
Recommended allocation: NOK 1,850,000

The FDC recommends approving Wikimedia Norge's funding request.

The FDC appreciates how clearly WMNO has responded over the last year to the specific concerns mentioned in our previous grant recommendation, both in this application and the progress report. WMNO has acknowledged these points and adjusted its work as a direct result by consolidating staff positions and, most importantly, proactively engaging with the existing local community at all levels of its program design and implementation.

The FDC appreciates that WMNO's Community Liaison work is showing success in terms of ensuring the Chapter's responsiveness to community needs. The FDC thinks that there is still work to be done to improve the impact of WMNO's work and that the increased investment in Community Liaison activities is an effective way of directing funds toward impactful activities.

The FDC feels that WMNO's Grantee defined metrics - diversity and community hours - are very relevant to its local circumstances and most of its proposed programs, and they are measurable. This represents a significant improvement on previous years.

Work to build a community on Northern Sami language projects (and increasing the content about Sami culture on other Wikimedia language projects) is consistent with local requests, the WMNO strategic plan, and the wider Wikimedia trend towards supporting local minority/traditional languages. This project has interesting potential for future external funding support. We appreciate the iterative three-phase program schedule, with a focus that goes beyond Wikipedia, and the effort to learn from other Wikimedia affiliates also working with minority/traditional language groups.

Nevertheless, the FDC is sceptical about the likelihood of success in building the Northern Sami Wikipedia which currently has no very active editors. The Norwegian community has highlighted the importance of the Northern Sami project, but it is not clear whether they intend to contribute to it. In order to clearly determine whether the project is viable and sustainable in the longer term, the FDC recommends that WMNO performs a project assessment after phase 1. If the results are not what WMNO is expecting, the FDC recommends that WMNO re-assesses whether to continue this project.

Process[edit]

Five proposals for this round were submitted on 1 April 2017. In preparation for their deliberations, the FDC reviewed the community commentary on each proposal as well as the responses from applicants on the discussion pages of the proposal forms and the staff proposal assessments. The FDC received a number of additional inputs, including staff assessments and analysis on impact and finances from FDC staff. This round, the FDC reviewed the past performance of each organization based on the 2014–15 impact reports and 2015-2016 progress reports. Before the face-to-face meeting, the FDC held a call on the 30th April to discuss each member's initial assessment of all proposals. After the call, but prior to the meeting, the FDC members shared an initial allocation in dollars for each proposal (excluding the WMF), as a point for beginning their discussions.

At the in-person deliberations, FDC staff presented an overview of their findings and summarized financial and programmatic themes. After these brief presentations, the FDC followed up with points of clarification and questions, before delving into discussions of each proposal in significant depth. Strengths, concerns, and general themes were recorded for all proposals, to assist later in writing the recommendation text. At the end of these initial discussions, FDC members prepared an individual and anonymous second allocation for each organization. Prior to beginning the next round of discussions about each proposal, the spread of member allocations was shown, with some basic analysis of the spread to understand the range of agreement or disagreement among the allocated amounts. From there, and following more extensive discussion, the group attained consensus for each allocation using the gradients of agreement tool. The committee next prepared a brief written summary of its analysis of each proposal, including significant factors and observations made during the decision-making process.

The text regarding the Wikimedia Foundation was written solely by FDC members, without the involvement of WMF staff.

About the FDC[edit]

The FDC at the November 2016 deliberations meeting.

The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) for the Wikimedia movement is a committee of community members that makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) about how to allocate funds to movement organisations. The FDC was established in 2012. Now in its fifth iteration, the committee comprises nine volunteer members:

This round, no FDC member had perceived or possible conflicts of interest and there were no recusals.

The WMF Board representatives to the FDC this round are Dariusz Jemielniak and Christophe Henner. At least one WMF Board representative was present at all points throughout the deliberations; Christophe Henner arrived on Saturday and was not present for any discussions relating to WMFR, while Dariusz Jemielniak was present on Friday and left on Saturday before all decisions were made. Itzik Edri was not present on Sunday for final review and drafting of the recommendations. The Ombudsperson to the APG process is Kirill Lokshin, who was not present for any part of the deliberations.

The FDC was supported by WMF staff throughout the deliberations. These staff included: Delphine Ménard, Winifred Olliff, Morgan Jue, and Chris Schilling. WMF staff present at the deliberations offered analysis, helped facilitate, took notes, and responded to any additional queries by the FDC, but did not participate in deliberations about specific proposals. Delphine Ménard was not present for a portion of the discussions related to WMFR. Not all staff were present for all portions of the deliberations.