Grants:IdeaLab/ARWP small individual grants pilot

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status: idea
ARWP small individual grants pilot
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Piloting an approach for making small grants to individual contributors by making book purchases for Arabic Wikipedia editors in collaboration with The Wikipedia Library
created on: 23:08, 21 January 2014

Project idea[edit]

A project on Arabic Wikipedia during spring 2014 will test an approach to directly support the needs of individual contributors via microgrants from the Wikimedia Foundation for access to sources.

Problems we're trying to solve[edit]

  1. Individual contributors (editors, photographers, bot-herders, dispute resolvers, etc) are the lifeblood of Wikimedia projects; still, most of WMF's grantmaking dollars go to organizations and fund offline activities. With 75,000 active monthly editors around the world, and WMF's grants going to under 150 individuals per year (4% of all dollars granted), there is room to improve in terms of distributing resources to support more individual contributors across the globe.[1][2]
  2. In some countries, a local chapter can take on the role of distributing funds and meeting other needs of individual contributors, but in many countries there is no chapter or other local organization to provide direct support to the community in their language/locale.
  3. Arabic Wikipedians have identified a need in their community: books and access to other reliable sources for use in article-writing. To date, no one is filling this need.
  4. The Wikipedia Library provides access to sources for Wikipedia editors. To date, the focus has been English Wikipedia, and the Library's resources have not yet been made proactively available to editors in non-English projects

A pilot on Arabic Wikipedia, as a collaboration between WMF grantmaking, Wikipedia Library and Arabic Wikipedians, is an attempt to address these issues


  1. Learn more about the support needs of individuals in the Global South - working with a specific community to better understand the resource needs and challenges of individual contributors in this context.
  2. Test WMF grantmaking systems (financial, legal, communications, administrative) for making many small grants to individuals around the world - pushing the boundaries of existing grantmaking practices to uncover gaps and potential scalability issues and determine the feasibility of international microgrants in our movement.
  3. Raise awareness of WMF grantmaking in communities beyond English and meta-wiki - trying a new approach to communications about grants.
  4. Expand The Wikipedia Library beyond English - experimenting with new ways to give Wikipedians around the world access to sources.


Community consultation[edit]

This pilot began with a community consultation. See the conversation on Arabic Wikipedia

The goals of this phase were to

  • learn what small-scale resources would be of most interest to the Arabic community
  • learn what kind of process would be best in this community’s context for managing and delivering the microgrants
  • identify local Arabic coordinators to lead execution of the pilot in their own community

Possibilities for resources we initially suggested to the community:

  1. Sources - Books, subscriptions to scholarly/reference journals or other materials to be used in editing
  2. Travel - funds to attend local meetings with Wikipedians, bus tickets to travel to the library to conduct research, or to a local monument/nature for taking photos, etc
  3. Training to improve skills used for contributing to Wikipedia - classes in photography, research, scientific writing, public speaking, dispute resolution, etc
  4. Another need identified by the Arabic community

Consultation outcomes[edit]

  • The community was excited by the general idea of WMF working on Arabic Wikipedia.
  • Arabic Wikipedians overwhelmingly requested article research sources (particularly books) as the key need.
  • WMF grantmaking staff suggested to the community that we focus the pilot on this most-requested area, and begin a collaboration with The Wikipedia Library to experiment with a new model for getting editors more source access.
  • An Arabic community member volunteered to help organize the new Arabic Wikipedia Library hub.

Financial and Legal consultation[edit]

We also consulted with WMF's legal and financial teams to learn what the minimum grant requirements could be for making microgrants as frictionless as possible.

Key learnings from these conversations:

  • When making any grants where money is directly sent to a grantee, some minimal bureaucracy is required:
    • a signed grant agreement is required (although in the case of small grants this may be in the form of an email exchange only)
    • grantees must also go through an OFAC check, which requires WMF staff collecting personal information from each grantee
  • WMF is still looking into best alternatives to wire transfers for sending money internationally. Western Union or Paypal may be good options for this.
  • Direct booking of travel or purchasing of things (ie books), on the other hand, do not require this paperwork, and the shipping can be delegated to trusted volunteers.

Given the above findings, we hypothesize that the best experience for a micrograntee, and the most scalable system for distributing funds to many editors may be a via support from a direct purchase, rather than from granting money. To test this theory, the following pilot has been devised.

Pilot: The Arabic Wikipedia Library[edit]


This microgrants pilot for individual contributors on Arabic Wikipedia will run during the first 6 months of 2014.

A central Arabic Wikipedia Library hub will be used for the project to:

  • Book requests:
    • requesting books
    • tracking approvals
    • reporting outcomes
  • Journal access:
    • identifying Arabic-language journals in demand
    • facilitating signup processes for journal access
    • managing distribution of journal account access codes
  • Resource exchange:
    • facilitate sharing and exchange of materials between editors


Book requests[edit]

  • WMF sets up account with Neelwafurat and Amazon that allows us to pay for books using a WMF credit card.
  • Editor goes to Neelwafurat or Amazon and finds the link to the book they want to buy, making sure that shipping is available to their country from this bookseller.
  • Editor posts on the Wikipedia Library page with link to the book they’re requesting, and the reason for the request (such as a link to the article(s) they want the source for).
  • Library coordinator checks the request, making sure it meets the basic criteria.
  • Library coordinator contacts the user to get their shipping address, logs into the Neelwafurat account, finds the book and ships it to the user.
  • Editor confirms on the Library page when the book arrives, and posts links to articles they improved thanks to the book.

Journal access[edit]

Page components

Available accounts; Eligibility requirements; Usage expectations; Citation examples; Requested accounts; Signup

  • Editor sees what is available
  • Editor selects a source to sign-up for, gives their username and what they want to use the access for. Editor emails designated coordinator at special:emailuser link, with their username in the subject, if needed.
  • Local account coordinator checks their eligibility, marks Approved Approved onwiki, within 1 week
    If email is needed, local coordinators will collect them. List of emails of approved accounts will be shared with global coordinators through a spreadsheet. Global coordinators will share emails with the resource donor
    If email is not needed, local coordinator adds approved accounts to meta. Global coordinator will distribute codes from meta

If it’s an English language source, we use a quota system apportioning accounts locally based on number of active editors. If it’s a non-english source, all accounts will be distributed to local wikis, and an English editor would have to go to the local wiki to signup.

Resource exchange[edit]

  • TBD


  • At least 2 Arabic Wikipedia volunteers will act as Arabic account coordinators.
  • Account coordinators will be supported by TWL Coordinator Ocaasi
  • WMF grantmaking owns and funds the book accounts, reconciling financials and spot-checking purchases.

Request eligibility[edit]

  • book is a reliable source
  • editor is active
  • editor has made at least 200 edits to Wikipedia
  • editor’s prior requests were put to good use (ie, they submitted a short report)
  • maximum per request (without shipping): $200

Request format[edit]

Initial request:

  • Wikipedia Username
  • Link to book(s) being requested
  • Total cost
  • What articles will you create/improve using each book?


On-wiki, status is added to the initial request
  • Request approved? (coordinator updates this)
  • Request purchased? (coordinator adds date, update $ amount if needed)
  • Request received? (user updates this)
  • Books used to improve Wikipedia? (user updates this)
Shared Google Spreadsheet
  • Accessible only to TWL coordinators and WMF staff, private and locked
  • Username, address, link to request, amount, purchase date, purchasing service


Editors receiving books will:

  • report on the outcome of their purchase with 1 sentence linking to articles created/improved (w/in 3 months)

Account coordinators will:

  • Identify to WMF and sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Safeguard access to the book accounts (only coordinators and WMF staff should have access to these)

WMF grants admin will:

  • Reconcile book purchases each month, comparing the on-wiki record with WMF’s credit card statements for each purchasing account.

Activities & timeline[edit]

Planning - January 15-31
  • investigating background context
  • putting grantmaking resources in place (budget, financial and legal processes, etc)
  • drafting initial plan on meta
  • preparing communications in English & Arabic
Community consultation - February
  • posting a conversation-starter on the Arabic Wikipedia's Midan (Village Pump)
  • ongoing discussion with the ARWP community to assess needs: determine the type of microgrants they'd like to use and requirements for distributing these resources
Library setup - March
  • bringing the community inputs back to WMF grantmaking, legal, and finance to setup the pilot systems
  • create Library pages on ARWP
  • setup account coordinator roles, workflows, and onboarding page
  • recruiting and training account coordinators
  • finalizing financial setup
Launch - AprilJune
  • promote TWL book requests on Arabic Wikipedia
  • pilot book requests for 3 months
Measurement - July September
  • assess outcomes, learning, and impact
  • report out on recommendations and next steps


$7,000 (to come from WMF’s grantmaking budget)

Impact plan[edit]

Target audience[edit]

Individual contributors to Arabic Wikipedia (+sister projects, if there is sufficient need)

Fit with strategy[edit]

Relevant links to goals from this year's annual plan around GS and individual grants?

Measures of success[edit]

  • 50 book requests submitted
  • 40 book requests approved
  • All approved requests successfully reach editors
  • All requests processed within 1 week
  • Staff time & TWL Coordinator time will be tracked, to benchmark per-request time spent at pilot’s end
  • Community satisfaction with outcomes of spending will be measured via survey (were the funds well spent? useful for ARWP?)
  • 40 articles improved or created with assistance of these books


If successful, this pilot can be:

  • Continued on Arabic Wikipedia, via TWL, with funding from WMF
  • Expanded to new languages

If not successful, we'll:

  • have learned a lot about micrograntmaking in our context
  • share these lessons outward via a report and blog post


Co-piloteers are from WMF grantmaking and The Wikipedia Library:

  • Siko Bouterse (Grants to Individuals) - project planning, advising, microgrants process oversight and approvals
  • Haitham Shammaa (Global South Learning & Evaluation) - research, translations, experimental setup, measurement.
  • Ocaasi (The Wikipedia Library Coordinator) - new portal page facilitation, account coordinator onboarding
  • Asaf Bartov (Global South advisor)
  • Janice Tud (Grants admin) - processing funding & reconciliations


Key Milestones[edit]

Learning: Issues we've encountered[edit]


Difficulty getting pre-paid or debit cards for coordinators to use. We initially wanted to give coordinators access to pre-loaded cards so they could spend WMF's funds in a way that was easy for them to use and WMF to track. However, we haven't yet found a card that WMF can purchase in the US for use by coordinators internationally. Working on solutions for this problem delayed the launch of the program for several weeks.


Advance funds are sent to coordinators via Western Union, Paypal or wire transfer (as they prefer), and they either locally-purchase debit cards, or use their own personal credit cards. Coordinators track spending of the advanced funds to demonstrate responsible use, and are disbursed additional funds when the first advance has been used up.


Many requested books turn out to be unavailable for shipping to an editor's country (ex/ Palestine, Jordan, etc). In the first month of the pilot, this prevented about half of the requests from being successfully processed. In the case of Amazon, postal codes are required and many editors in the MENA region do not have postal codes!


Empower the coordinators to test creative solutions to this problem! Those being explored include a) using any websites available to find the book that is shippable (moving beyond Neelwafurat and Amazon), b) suggesting alternative books to the requestor that can be shipped and could still meet their needs, or c) paying for the booked to be shipped 2x (once to the coordinator or another country where shipping is available, and then shipping the book on from there to the requesting editor). This has been resistant to solutions as even searching for alternate purchase sites has mostly not been successful and double-shipping has also been limited by prohibitions on even shipping to the coordinators' countries. We're splitting up the double-shipping assignments to assign shippable items to only the coordinators who can receive them and send them on to their final destination.


Volume of requests is low. In the first month, the Library had only 8 requests. This may be because further promotion is needed, or it may be because people saw many requests not being successfully processed. Or, it may be because most editors don't actually want/need this service. It has likely been discouraging to new signups that almost all requests have been approved but at least half have not been able to be shipped to the requester!


Once we've got a better handle on how to shore up the shipping problem described above, and once Ramadan is over, the team will launch banners to promote the program more widely. If that doesn't increase volume, we'll test other hypotheses related to this issue. We're working on solving the shipping backlog first so that when we do increase volume we have a higher success rate.


Purchasing with a WMF account/email for tracking/oversight is not working due to (+) signs in the addresses.


Replace the plus signs with equivalent unicode characters. If that doesn't work, purchase with a personal account and send receipts to Grants Admin.



June 10 - September 19
  • Number of successful requests: 5
  • Number of unsuccessful requests: 4
  • Number of successful books: 14
  • Number of unsuccessful books: 4
  • Books marked as received (on ARWP): 2
  • Average cost of requests: $42.72
  • Average cost of book: $21.36
  • Average cost of shipping per request: $20.56
  • Average cost of shipping per book: $10.28
  • Average books per request: 2.00
  • Total requests tracked here: 9
  • Total books requested: 18


Blog post link could go here