Grants:IdeaLab/Reimagining WMF grants

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Reimagining WMF grants
The Wikimedia Foundation is reimagining the grants programs we operate as we prepare to make changes over the next two years. Please help us improve this idea!
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idea creatorSiko (WMF)
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project managerWolliff (WMF)
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community organizerI JethroBT (WMF)
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researcherEGalvez (WMF)
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volunteerVarnentFloNightBenMiyamoto
this project needs...
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created on20:53, 4 August 2015 (UTC)


Project idea[edit]

What is the problem you're trying to solve?[edit]

We have a system for distributing community resources that is at times difficult to explain, understand, maintain or engage with. We now have several years of data and experience that we can use to understand what's working well and what isn't across our system of grants programs, and to make improvements to our offerings as a whole.

What's working well[edit]

There are many great things in our current programs that we want to keep, including:

  1. Community participation. Community participation continues to be important to the review process. The Inspire Campaign and friendly space expectations are beginning to broaden and strengthen participation in some new ways as well.
  2. Systems and processes. Strong systems are now in place for tracking and processing grants. Low-risk grants like Travel and Participation Support and Individual Engagement Grant renewals have quick and simple processes.
  3. Focus on impact. With support from the Learning & Evaluation team, the quality of plans and projects is improving over time, and ideas have been increasingly focused on impact. We're seeing committees like the Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) increasingly base decisions on outcomes and impact.
  4. Commitment to diversity and innovation. Intentionally supporting Global South communities is an important part of our commitment to supporting a diverse range of people, communities and ideas. Grantees around the world have successfully developed new programs like WikiCamps and the Wikipedia Library, and grown or adapted existing programs like GLAM and Education in ways that we could never have imagined!

What isn't working well[edit]

WMF's four grants programs were each created independently, in response to different needs at different points in time. Although there were good reasons at the time for structuring each program this way, today not all of those same reasons exist.

  1. People with ideas don’t know how to get the support they need. It is difficult for people with ideas to know where to get money and support for their ideas. Once they get started, a clear path with support for growing successful programs or technology is often missing.
    • Case study: An applicant doesn't know whether to apply for a Projects and Events Grant or an Individual Engagement Grant for their project, since both grants fund projects.
    • Case study: Someone who has successfully built a tool or program with funding from an Individual Engagement Grant is scrambling to figure out how their project can continue to grow and be supported after the grant ends.
  2. Processes are too complicated and rigid. Each program has different processes for getting money and support, and there are both gaps and overlap between these programs. We need to make a lot of exceptions to ensure everyone gets what they need. Most requests that need an exception get pushed to Project and Events Grant where systems aren't designed to handle them.
    • Case study: A small Wikimedia organization needs a full-time employee and office space, but these can only be funded by making complicated exceptions in a Project and Events Grant. The organization isn't yet ready to propose a full Annual Plan Grant, because the complexity of unrestricted funding would overwhelm the organization's volunteers at a critical time and not support them to focus on impactful programs.
  3. Committees are overwhelmed with current capacity. Committees reviewing the widest range of grants aren't able to give all requests a quality review. The most robust committee processes are time-intensive and won't be able to scale as the number of requests grow.
    • Case study: It is a challenge for the Grants Advisory Committee (GAC) to review so many annual plans right now, and so many of the annual plan requests coming into Project and Event Grants have little or no committee participation.
    • Case study: As more user groups are added each year, we expect the number of Annual Plan Grant requests to grow. We don't have a committee process designed to meet the needs of smaller and less formal affiliates.

What is your solution?[edit]

Imagine grants are a house you walk up to. There are three doors, and you should know immediately which door is for you. Once you get inside, you're given a warm welcome, you know you're in the right room, and you know where the hallway is to get to the next room you want to go to. That's what we want grantmaking to be like.

Design principles[edit]

We will set up three clear grant types according to these principles:

  1. There will be clear entry points and pathways for each grant type.
  2. The level of simplicity for applying and reporting with each option is based on funding amount and level of risk.
  3. The funding amount is tied to demonstrated impact.

Design principles in action:

  1. You can request support based on what you are doing; there will be clear guidelines for different grant options.
  2. Adding a simpler and more accessible annual plan grant option, growth option for project grants, small grants under US$500; consolidating events as one grant type.
  3. Committees members work on grants they are most interested in and qualified to review.

Three types of grants[edit]

Project Grants[edit]
Project grants will promote experimenting with new ideas, and sustaining and scaling ideas that work, through two options. (Small community projects up to $500 can be funded through the microfunds option explained in the Event grants section.)
  • Seed funds to experiment with new ideas.
Case studies: Piloting a new type of GLAM partnership. A grantee doing Wiki Loves Monuments for the first time. Building a new tool.
  • Growth funds to sustain and scale ideas that work.
Case studies: A grantee doing Wiki Loves Monuments again. Adding more features to the successful tool. Expanding a pilot into a program.
Seed Funds Growth Funds
Experiment with new ideas Sustain and scale a project that has
demonstrated significant impact
Up to 6 months and $30,000, with potential to renew Up to 12 months and $100,000, with potential to renew
For individuals, teams, groups, organizations
Funding for project expenses as well as time,
with budget guidelines for different types of projects
Lightweight process for renewals
Quarterly applications, committee divided in working groups by topic

(probably consisting of a mix of current GAC and IEGCom members)


Event Grants[edit]
Event grants will provide funding, travel, and logistical support for events that promote community-building and learning, through three options.
  • Travel support for individuals attending events (maintaining the current Travel and Participation Support program, essentially). These complement grants given by local organizations.
Case studies: Wikimania scholarships. Travel funds to give a talk about MediaWiki at FOSSASIA.
  • Micro funds for organizing community events or other small projects under $500. These complement grants given by local organizations.
Case studies: Pizza and stickers for a local meet-up.
  • Conference support for organizing regional and global movement conferences, usually in partnership with local organizations.
Case studies: Affiliates organizing Iberoconf or a national WikiConference. Wikimedia Conference or Wikimania.
Travel Support Micro Funds Conference Support
For attendees For organizers For organizers
All events Local community events and small projects Movement events
No $ limit up to $500 No $ limit
Funds, merchandise, logistics Funds and merchandise Funds and logistics
Simple process (no committee) Simple process (no committee) Committee review process

(probably consisting of a mix of GAC members and others interested in events)

Rolling applications


Annual Plan Grants[edit]
Annual plan grants will support organizations in developing and sustaining effective programs, through two options.
  • Simpler process - Restricted grants to organizations for programs, operations, and staff, with a faster and simpler way to apply.
Case studies: $40K to support the annual plan of a user group, including two staff working at 50% time on two high-impact programs and a shared office space.
  • Full process - General support grants to organizations for programs, operations, and staff, with a rigorous application process.
Case studies: $400K to support the annual plan of an organization, including three full-time staff working on two programs with exceptionally high impact.
Simpler Process Full Process
Restricted funding for up to $100,000 for 6-12 months Unrestricted funding for up to 12 months
(dollar amount limit under consideration)
Will fund up to 1.0 FTE No staff limit
Rolling applications (for pilot phase, at least) 2 application cycles each year
May apply for additional conference support and project grants May apply for additional conference support and project grants by invitation
Committee process for decisions

(probably consisting of a mix of current GAC members and others interested in annual plans)

Rigorous committee process for decisions (FDC process)
Applicants encouraged to focus on 2-3 programs
All organizations and groups meeting the criteria are eligible, regardless of affiliation type

Ongoing areas of experimentation[edit]

IdeaLab Campaigns: A series of campaigns focused on creating new project ideas around a particular strategic goal. These idea campaigns will feed into Project Grant proposals.
Pilot for Scaling technical projects: To learn about how we can better support strategic technical projects at scale, WMF will pilot a significant investment (likely as a restricted grant) for Wikidata, in partnership with Wikimedia Deutschland. We will closely monitor the results to learn from this partnership, and consider future applications.

Project goals[edit]

We want to support people and communities to efficiently test, sustain, and scale ideas, programs, and technologies that serve the Wikimedia movement, by

  • establishing clearer starting points, ways to develop, and ways to get support.
  • streamlining and simplifying systems to use volunteer and staff time more effectively.
  • responding to community support needs.
  • emphasizing data-driven decision-making and providing proactive guidance.
  • building more systems to increase non-monetary support (e.g. mentorship).

Goals of consulting with the community on this idea:

  • Gather input widely from Wikimedia communities, including committee members and grantees, before action is taken.
  • Make improvements to the idea based on community input.

About this consultation[edit]

Get involved[edit]

Please contribute to this idea! Here are some ways to help:

  1. Share your feedback and improvement suggestions on the discussion page, where lots of questions are waiting for you!
  2. Want to join a committee to pilot simpler-process annual plan grants? Want to join a project grants committee? Want to help in some other way? Join this project as a volunteer using the button in the infobox above!
  3. Endorsements are also welcome. If you like the overall direction of this idea, use the endorse button in the infobox above.
  4. Have questions about this consultation? You can ask them here.

Participants[edit]

  • Initiator Working with the Community Resources team and our volunteers to improve WMF grants as a whole Siko (WMF) (talk) 18:35, 10 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Project manager Keeping the consultation moving forward Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 21:19, 7 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Researcher Support research to help inform the conversation EGalvez (WMF) (talk) 21:24, 7 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Community Organizer Facilitate discussions and feedback processes throughout the consultation. I JethroBT (WMF) (talk) 22:19, 7 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Volunteer Interested in helping with committee work (as available) and pilot project work. Varnent (talk)(COI) 01:42, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Volunteer Interested in being volunteer for a committee in the structure Sydney Poore/FloNight (talk) 18:53, 26 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Volunteer Working to simplify the process so that good ideas get good funding. PoorYorickEnt (talk) 23:38, 13 April 2016 (UTC)

Endorsements[edit]

  • I like the general theme of the idea; I think the division between "first time" experiments and "proven" project is excellent, and so is the effort to make small grants simpler. Alleycat80 (talk) 04:15, 17 August 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this consultation is a good step. Varnent (talk)(COI) 01:41, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Glad to see this moving forward! Jmorgan (WMF) (talk) 21:08, 19 August 2015 (UTC)
  • It's time ! :) Ravi (talk) 11:26, 28 August 2015 (UTC)
  • Great idea to help make it much clearer for those that have great ideas or ambitions to have the opportunity to more easily apply for funding to fulfil those ambitions. Thehelpfulone 23:18, 30 August 2015 (UTC)
  • I liked the idea and want to see it happening! --Rahmanuddin (talk) 10:54, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
  • as per GAC meeting during WM-con Berlin 2015 DerekvG (talk) 16:32, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
  • I fully support this initiative. It will streamline grants and funding within the Wikimedia community Rberchie (talk) 19:01, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
  • These proposed new grant processes sound very easy to follow for a new/ prospective grantee, the three proposed types is also very straight to the point. Flixtey (talk) 19:05, 5 September 2015 (UTC)
  • Overall I think this a great way to move forward. Libcub (talk) 19:21, 8 September 2015 (UTC)