In September and October 2013, WMF's Learning and Evaluation team in partnership with WMF grantmakers, conducted an analysis of the Participation Support Program. The goal of this analysis was to better understand the current state of the Participation Support Program, and highlight ideas and areas for continued improvements.
The findings below are from (a) data pulled from all public PSP grantmaking requests from 29 August 2011 through 9 September 2013, and (b)from a participants survey that was conducted in September 2013 (see methodology).
Please leave thoughts or comments on the talk page!
Summary: opportunities and recommendations
- Travel funding provides opportunities to deeply connect participants to the movement and each other.
- Participation Support demonstrates an opportunity to reach a range of new Wikimedia grantees, including women and participants in the Global South.
- Participation Support is a relatively low-barrier entry point into Wikimedia grantmaking.
- The volume of requests and grants made in this program must be increased in order to fully realize its potential; the scale of use is too small with the current scope and setup.
- Program pages should be redesigned for ease-of-use and if possible with a bit of joy, keeping in mind the gaps in communication about processes discussed above.
- Publicizing the program should be a priority; blogs, social media, and on-wiki promotional campaigns to spread awareness of the program could help boost the number of requests.
- Simpler application methods should be investigated in order to keep the process open to a range of applicants. For example, might a forms gadget make applications easy for the less wiki-comfortable, without sacrificing our commitment to public grantmaking? Can we simplify the application and approval process further?
- Endorsements are useful, but under-utilized - in general, the endorsement of applications only happens if the requester knows to explicitly ask. If endorsements are helpful to the committee for decision-making, the process should be simplified and better communicated as a real step in the process.
- Funders must do everything possible to make decisions quickly, in 2 weeks or less.
- Funders need to clarify, and potentially streamline, how decisions are made, to improve transparency and also provide better examples of what types of requests should be funded.
- Advance disbursements and wire-transfer processes could use an update; the intention behind these are useful, but simplification/streamlining of the processes and clearer communications about them could improve functionality.
- Scope expansion for the program should be experimented with, particularly to include Wikimedia events - WMF can start by looking into bringing Wikimania scholarships into a broadened Travel Grants program and could also consider offering infrastructure and funds for various movement groups to administer scholarships.
The Participation Support Program was launched in August 2011 with the goal of funding travel expenses of Wikimedians to participate in events outside of the Wikimedia movement. The program began as a collaboration between the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland. In 2013, Wikimedia Switzerland also joined the collaboration. Some process adjustments and clarifications have been introduced over time, but the program has largely been operated over the past 2 years as it was originally designed. The Participation Support Program is one of four grants programs administered by the Wikimedia Foundation to fund activities supporting the global movement.
- Volume is low, program makes just over 2 grants per month.
In the 24 months that Participation Support has been available, there have been 80 requests for funding and 49 grants have been made (Note: in the bar chart below, the blue covers 10 months of activity, red covers 12 months, and yellow covers just 2 months).
- Most requests are funded, less than 20% are declined.
- Most participants learn about the program either from someone else or because they are looking for it on-wiki.
- The program remains largely invisible or unavailable to meta-wiki outsiders.
Note: the following in italics are quotes from the survey.
- I really only heard about PSP because of staff. If someone hadn't invited me to it, I would never imagined I could just propose attendance at a conference. Maybe more visibility/storytelling about those kinds of opportunities.
- For someone who knows meta and the wiki the process is ok. Not good but not impossible. I imagine for anyone else is impossible. They will never find it. Maybe you are looking to finance people who know meta but sincerely it's a very very tiny cluster. Looking at people who got grants the feeling is that it is not a very wide humanity. Maybe opening it up a bit can help.
- we can give them a chance to write a post on wikimedia blog about the event he participated. By this many other will be informed about this program.
- I just would add some support on communication, previous and after the event, of the grantees participation.
- Applicants and grantees are diverse: 49% of grantees are from the Global South and over 30% are women.
In the past year, 50% of applicants were women. While the requests come from a high number of places, ~38% of all requests are from the United States.
|PSP Requests||PSP Accepted||Acceptance rate|
|Global South (GS)||35||24||69%|
- For most (77%) applicants, this is the first Wikimedia grant request they've submitted.
- Past participants indicate the program is working for them: they would apply again and recommend it to others.
- Experience isn't difficult for wiki-folk, but it is joyless.
- It's never fun to write grant proposals.
- I don't enjoy particularly making requests for funding
- But, I can't really say there is anything I "enjoyed" or "liked best" about the experience.
- It was easy
- It was an efficient process
- It gets the job done
- Its an efficient design for Meta technocratic insiders
- Information about how to apply is not easy for everyone to find and navigate.
- In general, finding things is still painful. Grants pages have been designed to be as clear as possible, still I feel I must have missed something (and usually I have). It's the general problem of finding things in Wikipedia.
- I think we could redesign the pages to make them more user friendly and engaging
- Pro forms to fill in. Better indication of what is required. Clearer statement of what the rules are. Timely response.
- Articulating goals and rationale helps proposers to focus.
- I really liked explaining why I should be a part of the program and why I should be given a grant, more often than not, because it kept me going back to my contributions to Wikimedia.
- Creating the application helped me clarify my thoughts about my project. Reading the applications submitted by colleagues for the same event was a great way to "meet' them. I also read many other applications (past/pending) and learned a lot about Wikipedia related outreach all around the globe - fascinating!
- I guess the most interesting part is explaining my reasons and vision for participating in the event I'm requesting for.
- It was an excuse to create an executive summary of the project, which made me feel proud of the work done by the collaborative efforts of the team.
- It helped us focus the work we did (at the conference) too.
- Non-wiki forms or simpler templates could help with the process.
- I think it'd be nice to have something more automated like you guys made for the IEG or whatever. Even if it's template oriented.
- I found difficult understanding how to write the budget. I misunderstood an indication (the word used was not consistent and I was not familiar with the abbreviation). I added the hint on the application description and I hope it will make it easier for people next time. Please use consistently the same words: it is easier for foreigners.
- Submitting via the wiki was not intuitive for me as a newer contributor.
- I think it's good enough for the technology we have. Flow will make the whole thing easier & nicer. :)
- Use a form rather than a template for the report wiki page
- Create simple online application forms.
- Pro forms to fill in.
- The information around selection criteria is not always clear.
- Maybe be more clearer about the selection criteria, the amounts that can be requested and how it affects the application and more details about how the disbursement happens.
- There is no clear indication of how much money can be allocated to a request.
- I was disappointed I didn't get funding because I didn't understand that it wasn't available for WMF contractors.
- Examples could help applicants understand best practices.
- From the outside it is difficult to understand what is a good candidate for support and what is not. A more clear description with examples would have saved time.
- Surface more examples of the kinds of activities people are being funded to attend, to improve prospective applicants' mental models of the program and get them excited.
Note: Endorsements are a part of the application process during which other community members advocate for a certain grant request.
- Over 2/3 of participation requests receive endorsements.
- Applicants often request endorsements; otherwise many participants don't know that endorsements exist or how to get involved.
- Knowing people who can help is useful.
- I appreciated the endorsements I received and the feedback people gave me. I was of course happy to get the grant but people who endorse also help me formulate it in the best way.
- Average time between submission and decision is under 2 weeks, and most feel this timing is acceptable.
The average time has increased by one day in the recent year, so we should keep an eye on this going forward.
- More clarity is needed around why, how, and when decisions are made.
- I am not sure how/why my application got funded - just that it did. It would be useful to how applications are chosen.
- Define a schedule for decision making.
- I think application process try to look as neutral as possible but the reality is that wins who knows the game (who can make a fairly good application).
- well, who knows how to write a good proposal wins. this is the problem of all application system.
- Please, don't focus on neutrality, focus on people! make sure you have lots of applications so you can select and select the people the jury likes the most rather than the applications you like the most.
- It seems that who applies matters. Not so much the merits of the request, but the user making it.
- Sometimes, I've felt that Wikimedia does not consider volunteers who work on roles like events or spreading words and encouraging audiences to be a part of Wikimedia while considering the grant request. I'm not much of an editor, but otherwise I've been an active Wikipedian when it came to volunteering, events and spreading word about Wikimedia activities.
- Grants Admin Winifred is awesome.
- The administrators were supportive, always encouraging to ask for any clarifications if needed.
- I liked the constant communication after the request had been approved.
- My grant administrator was extremely helpful throughout the process
- Good feedback, especially the first time I made a request. Timely responses.
- I haven't taken part in the event yet, but the processing of my application so far was smooth.
- The interaction about the application is great. Makes you think your application is appreciated.
- Timing of decision and funding is inconsistent across proposals.
- I liked it because my proposal was read in a timely manner.
- I received the money on time.
- Quick turnaround time on requests
- There was a delay but I received a message to explain it. It was ok.
- We had some unfortunate asynchronities, but things happen and it did not change the overall experience
- Took well over a month
- Please review faster
- Advance disbursements are useful and could be improved.
- Even though the instructions for advance disbursement were followed, the money wasn't received until after the event, so there was stress and an impact (eg, barely buying food because it couldn't be afforded) because of it.
- It is important to advance the money if requested, otherwise people may not be able to make the event despite the request being approved.
- Wire transfer fees are problematic, and methods of funds transfers could be improved.
- The reimbursement was given by wire transfer, so my bank charged me to receive it.
- Tax cuts shortened the money i received, meaning i lost money by participating. i requested further reimbursement and was reimbursed, which went just fine.
- Be more aware of how people can lose (a lot of) money by taxing when international transfers are made, mainly if we are poor. as a volunteer in Brazil, working with other volunteers who do not have a lot of money, and certainly no money to spare, this can be a huge setback for poor people, who are already not very present in our ranks, to participate and feel safe participating in the participation support program.
- Try providing more feedback for doing this process outside US with regard to to bank accounts
- There is a lot of variability in reporting, and it is unclear what is expected.
- Would have been nice to get a bit more feedback on the request & report
- It's difficult to know what a successful request or successful report looks like, even after researching in Meta. There is a lot of variability. Some reports have a lot of care and thought put on them, and others do not seem to meet minimum standards but are approved anyway.
Purpose and scope
- The current function of sending Wikimedians to non-Wikimedia events is serving a useful purpose.
- It enabled me to go to a fantastic conference, where I did some good work with other open source folks. Was a great and useful trip.
- It helped me get to a conference that I certainly wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.
- The grant gave me an opportunity to contribute to an event I would not have been able to afford to attend otherwise.
- It's helpful to get funding to attend events, that is for sure.
- I was able to participate in an event that otherwise would have been prohibitive to me.
- It allowed a student developer from India to participate in an EU event, to the great benefit of both the event and the student.
- thanks! you do an important thing for our community.
- It empowers people to interact in events.
- Thank you for offering this program!
- Widening the scope to include Wikimedia events or other scholarship setups would add value.
- add Wikimedia events for individual volunteers with exceptional records.. not everyone has a local chapter or the support of their local chapter
- Travel for wikimedians for Wikimedia events is limited and should be expanded and made more equal.
- It would be useful to include a funding opportunity to travel to large Wikipedia conferences. I am located in an area with NO active Wikipedia community (yes, I am trying to grow one!) and sometimes feel isolated.
- Currently only non-Wikimedia events are accepted. But we are also sponsoring participants to Wikimedia events like Hackathons or Wikimania. Why not using just the same process?
- Wikimedia-sponsored events that do not have a scholarship budget of their own; events that the grantees would host and run
- It would be good if event organisers could apply for a lump sum of participation support money that they can distribute independently among participants of the event (e.g., to give out student scholarships). One could also agree on fixed criteria for this that are part of the organiser's application (e.g., "we will share PSP funds evenly among all students who register and give a talk"). This would simplify the procedure for handing out bigger numbers of smaller grants, and would make it easier to approve grants quickly and reliably for trusted events/organisations. One could also keep the money flow as it is now and only have an arrangement that simplifies the grant approval in such cases.
- If you want to finance relevant people you need to look for them. If they come to you on meta either they are active on meta (good but maybe you were looking for wikipedians, people who actually edit the project and don't talk/work only on projects), or they are the usual ones (the same you financed in the past). you can offer scholarships for relevant conferences (for example participants to African studies conferences with a research on technology); you can also allow the conference to select the participants. you would get more variety of people and you will get into new networks in particular in countries where de facto Wikimedia doesn't exist and doesn't do any effort to be there.
- And, here are some more ideas...
- Give t-shirts to the grantees.
- Look at peopel’s work and consider if an international experience (please focus on international travels more than national!) would enhance their work and make them people more capable of understanding the world. Wikipedians don't go out enough.
- professional development might be nice. imagine if a mediawiki developer wanted to learn a certain skill to help with their volunteer efforts, or a wikimedian wanted to take a public speaking class so they could feel more confident when they present at a conference. I think that would be super cool.
- It would be great if Wikimedians who have significant contributions but aren't necessarily giving talks or presentations could be supported too because sometimes participating along can be helpful too.
- I think the focus should move away from impact. Participation requests are never going to have a major impact on the projects. But they can plant seeds and encourage editor retention. I'd focus on sister projects.
- Seed money to help grow the local community would be useful too - funds or swag opportunites to entice editors to drive a few hours to edit-a-thons …
- Training/capacity building for individuals Wikimedia events without their own scholarship
What do you think?
Got feedback or ideas? Please share on the talk page!
The survey was created using Qualtrics and a template including a link to the survey was distributed on 18 September 2013 using Global Message Delivery. To get as broad of a view of the program as possible, anyone who ever edited a page in the Participation Support Program space on meta-wiki received an invite to the survey - 208 users in total. We also emailed the survey link to the 32 grant applicants for whom we had email addresses. The survey questions were primarily focused on eliciting feedback on the Participation Support process and suggestions for how the grantmakers could improve the experience and offerings of this program. Respondents were also asked, but not required to provide, information about related experience and basic demographic information. The survey was closed on 1 October 2013, after two weeks, by which point no new responses had been received for several days. We received 60 responses in total, with most respondents completing about half of the questions. The complete set of data graphs from the analysis can be found here.