The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) was a diverse body of people reflecting different aspects of the movement, including its geographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In addition to nine voting members, two additional non-voting seats were reserved for WMF Board of Trustee members, who would serve as liaisons to the Board regarding FDC decisions and the overall evaluation and continual improvement of FDC processes. The FDC was created in 2012 and dissolved by the Board of Trustees in 2022. Review its history.
On March 30, 2012, the WMF Board of Trustees resolved that the Foundation would create a Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC). The sole purpose of the FDC would be to make recommendations to the WMF Board of Trustees for funding activities and initiatives in support of the mission goals of the Wikimedia movement.
The FDC framework and the hard work of the members who served on it across the years have been instrumental in shaping our movement's organizational development as well as our collective mission. Over the past three years, the FDC deliberations were put on pause so that key movement actors, individuals and groups could concentrate on developing our Movement Strategy.
Terms of the current members expired in 2019. The members came to come together to discuss their views on some of the successes of the framework and what were some of their challenges in addressing a growing, diversified and decentralized movement.
To ensure the institutional memory and learnings of the FDC framework are preserved a retrospective was completed with members of the most recent committee.
The lightweight overview of lessons learned was developed based on conversations with Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) members who agreed on the questions to reflect on and participated in the conversations. Thank you to all the Committee members who took the time to be interviewed or contribute to review this document:
Liam Wyatt, Garfield Byrd, Delphine Menard, Anne Risker, Michał Buczyński, Dumisani Ndubane
Did the FDC meet its goal as outlined in the 2014 advisory group recommendations?
The FDC was formed to operate the Annual Plan Grants (APG) participatory grantmaking process that had community legitimacy, was transparent, and equitable. The Board mandated that FDC give recommendations on funding decisions directly for board approval and the FDC was an elected body. The goal of the FDC was that the funds should be distributed transparently to established affiliates that had structured plans and the committee did achieve this goal. There was a participatory process for decision making that had legitimacy and a transparent process for all the community to view. As being a chapter was a criteria for eligibility to apply for an APG, and there was a moratorium on new chapters – the APG program did not support the equitable disbursement of funding in the movement as there was no other path for newer affiliates to receive the same level of access to funding.
The additional goal of review of the Wikimedia Foundation annual planning process was never truly realized. The principle of having the Foundation plans be reviewed by the movement remains important. A viable review process given the Foundation size and scope of operations still needs to be established as having it go through the same application process as chapters never adequately met the needs for review.
Participatory approach to decision making and bringing together a diverse group of perspectives around the table.
Transparent collaborative process to distribute funds to well-established chapters that was accepted by the movement as legitimate and a balance to the Foundation unilateral decision making.
Dedicated and knowledgeable colleagues, e.g. providing good insight about particular regional, cultural, size of economy etc. context it was a good mix of people with different experiences and backgrounds.
The FDC was able to give recommendations to grantees and enforce those often times tough decisions when it was needed.
First attempt to measure and evaluate programmatic impact
FDC members tended to become or be strong leaders in their communities and within the broader movement which led to increased capacity.
The FDC process could nudge and support priorities. It put emphasis on what it valued and it was very useful to keep people off of tangents. Reinforcing a joint narrative from the foundation and community i.e on supporting gender diversity. Chapters were mostly very well intentioned but it is very helpful to give them direction and guidance.
FDC partnering with staff worked really well. The collaboration of staff and FDC committee having community engagement with chapters really was supportive especially those that were at risk or needed to have difficult conversations.
The strict timeline followed by the FDC was appreciated by the community and was supported by the important in person deliberation process.
A place to hold conversations about important topics such as:
healthy and relevant, coherent and well-balanced programmatic portfolio
quality benchmarks and reasonable (realistic but not too low) targets
efficacy vs. effectiveness vs. stability
meaningful inclusion in the particular context
governance: including proper oversight, staff issues and leadership issues
synergies: co-operations within the Movement, partnerships outside and services provided by a funded entity to others
Once recognition for chapters was placed on hold it meant the Annual Plan Grants program was not expanded to new groups. Primarily it meant that older organizations in Europe were able to receive greater amounts of funding through the program and others were not.
FDC focused on application review and accountability. Any additional support was provided by the Program Officers. Capacity building of grantees was a large need that was never sufficiently met.
The level of bureaucracy in the application process, reporting and metrics was overly burdensome. It did not allow for evaluation of projects over time, nor for comparison among applicants, nor for the acknowledgement of local context.
Analysis of applications across regions needed more nuance as the focus on the cost of staff in various regions were dramatically different. Adding one staff in Europe for example could raise the budget exponentially. No clear way to address that dichotomy.
Distance from the Board at times and moments when the Board did not follow FDC recommendations especially in regards to the Foundation.
Advice from FDC regarding decentralization of power and equitable distribution of resources.
A clear set of expectations around what role mature organizations can fulfill e.g.. PR response line, fundraising, technical support to help clarify expectations and potential impact. This builds mutual responsibility, trust, and capacity.
A very clear guideline for applicants regarding the expectation if they should be more or less independent on funds coming from the Foundation or outside fundraising initiatives. This should also be informed by benchmarking in a given context.
Explaining decisions in regards to the amount being funded will always be received easier if people understand the reasoning behind the decisions.
Committee members can become key figures in their community health and therefore the committee should have rotation every 2-3 years. i.e. Committee members of the FDC learned a lot about budget, community programs, and growth paths which had a positive impact on the communities/affiliates they were a part of.
Committee members need to have capacity built – especially in regards to the budget e.g. normal budget expenses and how to evaluate staff as part of programmatic expenses.
Program officer staff members should have their important role acknowledged and be transparent about it. As full time program officers; they had valuable insight to the deliberations. Committee members were able to criticize or question the opinions and PO perspective is essential for more informed decisions.
Ensure there is a process to stop the few extreme cases of inappropriate requests of funds. If you do not it will create mistrust in the process.
Maintain a closer contact with the proposal makers, to discuss things in a close loop, better understand each other and then monitor the execution at least on a basic level
Closer contact with the WMF Board
Fulfilling recommendations for the WMF, including creating internal control/audit and empowerment of the Board.