Grants talk:APG/Proposals/2013-2014 round1/Wikimedia Israel/Staff proposal assessment

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For the FDC members and the community, below is a letter from WMIL, sent to the FDC staff following the proposal assessment draft:

Dear Katy, Winifred and Anasuya,
Thank you for the effort you made in responding to the WMIL proposal for 2013-14.
We have studied the FDC staff assessment for our 2014 proposal, and were distressed to find misperceptions about WMIL’s strategy, capabilities and overall organizational status.
We gave considerable thought to the development of our explanation about why and how WMIL is in a position to leap forward, and we are frustrated that we received comments about percentages and “ill-conceived plans”. Yes, this budget represents an increase when compared to previous ones, but in the past our budget was modest and directly associated to what we could accomplish without the skilled management we now have. Moreover, the complete lack of reference to the actual programs we intend to carry out and the impact we intend to deliver, makes us wonder how much these recommendations actually reference our plans and strategy.
We are fully aware of our exceptional request relevant to the growth of our chapter. Israel is a very unique chapter which has performed until 2011 without any salaried staff. Having made significant progress, we are really inspired and believe in our ability to carry out our plans.
During our strategic planning in August, it became clear that if we want to have significant growth our senior staffs must work with the community, with the academic world, and with the government. We believe that the foundation and the entire movement have seen our capabilities to date, and we are due the confidence needed to make another giant step forward.
Therefore, we would like you to consider altering the following comments:
==Strategic planning==
“WMIL does not have a strategic plan, which makes it difficult to understand strategic alignment...”
During 2013, WMIL made a first attempt to develop a strategic plan for 2014-2016. Its immediate goals for 2013 are indicated in the grant proposal. However, the board felt it was necessary for our ED to be actively involved in this process, and we are certain that the plan will mature in 2014. We stress again that the proposal contains very clear short-term goals. Therefore, we request that you alter this point.
Hi there, just a point of clarification here: I don't believe our assessment has that text. The assessment reads: "WMIL has a strategic plan in development, but not yet publicly shared. This makes it difficult to understand strategic alignment where strong context is not included in the proposal." KLove (WMF) (talk) 19:03, 15 November 2013 (UTC)
“Establishing WMIL as a leader… is very weakly aligned with any strategic priorities, if at all”
We resent the notion that striving to be a better organization is considered non-strategic. One of the aspects of being a leader is having clear-set goals, effective programs and ways to measure and learn lessons. We feel that WMIL has a good track record of execution of programs, and strives to be a better and more effective organization as well as to set an example for other chapters. For example, the Servrige chapter wrote in its proposal: “Besides continuing on what has worked well we will explore some new projects e.g. the Wikibus as well as trying to import projects that have been successful for other chapters e.g. WikiAir from Wikimedia Israel.” This is one of several examples we can give to emphasize our leading position. Therefore, we request that you remove this point.
One of the FDC’s comments criticizes WMIL for adding staff without “consulting the FDC or FDC staff”. This comment is bizarre considering that throughout the year we received feedback from FDC that the grant is unrestricted (unlike GAC grants) and subject to change, and such changes should be stated and explained on the quarterly and yearly reports.
Another concern raised is that WMIL spends too much (again quoting percentages) on international meetings. When examining actual sums and comparing them to other chapters, you will find that our expenditure is relatively low. We will happily send you a list of our current and next year’s travel expenses to prove that WMIL is one of the most economic chapters, sending representatives only on a base of real strategic needs. To put it in Sue Gardner’s own words: it strikes me that a focus on reducing travel costs would be a net negative not a net plus. I expect travel costs to be a not-insubstantial chunk of the Wikimedia Foundation budget: that seems eminently reasonable to me given the nature of our work”. Again the FDC observations dealing only with numbers and comparing them to percentages of our total budget is a faulty observation.
Specific points:
“current funds allocation has not been very consistent from quarter to quarter”
We’ve never been asked to show our planned spending by quarter, only to report quarterly. The FDC proposal is an annual plan. Indeed, many of WMIL’s major expenses were planned for the end of the year. And some expenditures were planned for the middle of the year, but because of internal issues (since resolved) and frugal spending we could not fulfill some of these plans and had to postpone them for a few months (such as renting office space, which, by the way, turned out to cost much more than anticipated, so we delayed the process for a few months).
“WMIL is requesting… a total budget growth rate of 204%... above the recommended maximum of 20%”
Again, we note that the WMIL’s budget for FY2013 has been very modest because our plans contained many estimates, that we now know are unreasonably low (such as expenditures for an ED’s salary, and office rental costs). Therefore, the growth that seems too rapid when looked at from a perspective of percentages is, in fact, simply evolutionary.
“WMIL has not demonstrated capacity for tracking metrics in the past; given the size and scope of this plan it is unlikely WMIL has capacity to track these metrics”
We resent the notion that WMIL is incapable of measuring its effectiveness. Along with every WM chapters, and even with WMF itself, WMIL only started working on defining and measuring metrics this year. With a skilled team (such as the one we proposed in our documents) and a significant increase to our managerial capabilities, we are certain that measuring our success and learning from our challenges will be an achievable feat in 2014.
We would also like to point out that referring to WMIL as an “organization in transition” is inaccurate. Our ED, who co-authored this proposal, is already fully involved in the running of programs, and the board’s structure has been stable and, as you yourselves wrote, very engaged and active. Therefore, we again stress that WMIL is in a good position to leap forward in regard to capabilities, programs and impact. We are also in the process of increasing the size of our board with experienced external board members from the Israeli hi-tech realm and academia to bring outside perspectives to our work.
Lastly, we would like to correct a factual mistake – WMIL is only requesting support for 4 FTEs, and not 4.5 FTEs. We have a national service volunteer whose compensation will be covered by the Israeli Government.
Hello again, I'd like to provide some clarification on this point. In the FDC staff assessment, we included the number 4.5 staff because even though the national service volunteer's salary will be covered by the government, the staff member will still need to be oriented, managed, assessed just like any other employee. We had a precedent for this, as other organizations like Wikimedia France also have hired volunteer staff whose salaries are covered by others. However, like WMIL, they manage the staff, so in that assessment, we also included these staff as they are under the management of WMFR, just as we have done with WMIL. In our assessment we wrote: "Within a year, WMIL proposes to move from 1.5 staff positions to 4.5 staff positions, including one part time (0.5) national service volunteer." I hope that helps to clarify why we used the number 4.5. Cheers, KLove (WMF) (talk)
In light of the information provided here, we sincerely hope that you will reconsider your evaluation as a whole, and revise it in light of these explanations.
We look forward to your additional feedback.
Sincerely,
Michal Lester, ED
Itzik Edri, Wikimedia Israel Chairman
Ido Ivri, consultant.

Yael Meron • 23:06, 14 November 2013 (UTC)

Thank you for your detailed response to the Staff Assessment. I'll take it into consideration when I evaluate the proposal. I don't think it necessary to have the assessment re-written to address your points. If there inaccurate data then we could correct those details. Sydney Poore/ FloNight (talk) 00:24, 15 November 2013 (UTC)
I'd also like to echo FloNight's thanks here: thank you for providing a detailed response to the FDC staff assessment. Warm regards, KLove (WMF) (talk) 19:04, 15 November 2013 (UTC)