Grants talk:APG/Proposals/2014-2015 round1/Wikimedia CH/Staff proposal assessment

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Dear Katy, Winifred and Anasuya, thanks a lot for the amazing work of reviewing all the APG proposal. Thanks also for the specific WMCH assessment, which we find to be quite fair - a series of specific comments and corrections can be found below. We however would like to point out that such assessment finds its own limitations as for instance when assuming (wrongly, in our experience) that a chapter has a direct impact on when Wikipedia articles are created. Chapters, in our opinion, do not create articles nor can they reasonably direct volunteers to write them. We merely encourage and support editors to improve content, but at the end of the day the timing and pace remains theirs.

We are grateful that the WMF decided to publish the statistics about the editorship for each country. In our case, however, they may not be complete as we have a substantial number of english-speaking editors -roughly equivalent to the number of our French speakers- who also contribute on :en. Data is also lacking for the Alemannisch, Arpitan and Rumantsch projects, which are admittedly less important from a strictly numerical point of view, but remain representative of the diversity of our communities and could help guide our efforts directed to these.

Please find below our answers to your concerns about our programs or organization.

  • The active editor base from CH in these communities is growing, but this has not yet translated into a growth in the active volunteer community for WMCH’s offline activities.
A series of new offline activities launched during Q1, Q2 and Q3 (e.g. Wiki Loves the European Parliament, Wikipermanences, Wiki4Alps) has shown that our volunteers were willing to engage in external activities, which they weren’t in 2013.
Within the different education project, at least two have been initiated by Wikimedians who were not previously involved in WMCH activities: for instance in Luxembourg, at the Zurich Hochschule, as well as the Teachers’ School Bern project, who got reactivated. For 2015, 100% of the proposed projects in Italian have been proposed by Wikimedians who had not previously received support from WMCH or were involved in WMCH’s offline activities. This year two new and highly active Commons photographers have been recruited thanks to WMCH support. The wikipermanences have been launched in the French part following volunteers request, and are now replicated in the German part by other volunteers who were also not active in previous WMCH activities
  • Lack of significant past impact is a serious concern in light of the funding requested. For instance, in the first two quarters of the year, we see that 18 articles were created with the support of WMCH.
Strongly disagree
Generally speaking, we do not think that chapters are meant to write articles - a highly individual activity that has to come from volunteers on their own free time. There is no 100% sure way to measure how many articles were created by new editors that became Wikimedians subsequent to one of our offline activities (editathons, wikipermanences, etc.), as a lot of them tend to change username afterwards (because they the forgot initial password, figured their first username was a bad choice, etc.). Nevertheless, we do know that for the WWI editathon alone (on June 21), 25 new editors and 8 confirmed Wikipedians participated, that 3 articles were created during this activity, and many more were dramatically improved; but we were only able to track 12 participants (the others chose not to indicate their usernames). The Valdensia project on :fr, which started in 2011, had 800 articles created which have all been modified and improved over the years. Valdensia’s second phase started last summer and 57 articles have already been created.
Similarly, the LabisAlps project was intended to write articles but to get them evaluated by a group of experts, as well as secure the release of new material under cc-by-sa and promote relevant sources to be used by the community. The Portal on :it has generated quite a few new articles over the course of the 2014, and many others have been improved (see sections da scrivere” and da rivedere).
Last but not least, Pictures supported by WMCH (a program that only started in 2012) numbered 1.382 billion views since we started tracking them (this is about 33% more than images supported by WMFR and twice as many as WMDE’s).
We would like to remind the Committee that a lot of projects launched in 2014 will only bear fruit in 2015. For example, we spent a lot of time at the beginning of 2014 to set up education programs that would not start before the following schoolyear (e.g. Wikivillage, Editing contest in Luxemburg, Professional school in Neuchatel, etc.).
Beside the direct impact of WMCH’s activities, other chapters benefit from our actions and have significant impact. The success of the Afripedia project by WMFR is directly dependent of the financial support to Kiwix in the past year.n the same line the amazing results of Wikimini in Sweden wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Wikimedia CH to the development and hosting of the Wikimini infrastructure.
  • The organization has distributed offline Wikipedia to all 17 prisons in German-speaking Switzerland. However, we have yet to see what has come out of the distribution--how many people were able to access Wikipedia and what impact that had.”
All inmates that were offered the option to access Wikipedia requested to do so - a 100% penetration which will benefit these individuals. The practical impact of such a program, besides improving their condition, is hard to measure. We nevertheless successfully demonstrated the feasibility of such Offline distribution project and will encourage other chapters to use it as an example in their own engagement with local stakeholders. We have also started engaging with the authorities to allow these prisoners to directly edit Wikimedia projects. There are obviously significant hurdles to this.
  • While WMCH has meaningful partnerships with GLAM institutions, one of the partnerships has created significant content (130,000 files) that has not yet been uploaded.”
As indicated in our Q3 report, we haven’t pushed for the resolution of this backlog as we are waiting to use the GWToolset. We are also waiting for more information about the deployment of Wikibase in Commons to see if it wouldn’t be more efficient to wait a bit longer for this new feature to kick in. It also worth noticing that the upload of the Herbarium and Amoeba projects is not include in the staff time funded by the Loterie Romande, which only covers the (still ongoing) digitization work (we’re planning to pursue the collaboration and file for a new grant this year to cover the upload; preliminary contacts were positive).
  • WMCH has supplemented its continued growth by using funds from its reserves and has reached unsustainable growth levels. And while WMCH is actively pursuing a strategy of diversifying its funding and securing in-kind donations, it is starting to raise significant external funds.”
We acknowledge that the use of reserves cannot support the continuous growth of our association (nor is it meant to), but as mentioned in our proposal and on its talk page, the size of our organization is likely to remain constant for the foreseeable future, as no further increase in staff is planned beyond 2015. Staff’ duties are also being realigned so as to increase their potential to raise external funds. With the organization of the Hackathon, we also got a deeper insight into the way Swiss funding agencies work, and we are confident that we will be able to use these lessons in the future. We would like to emphasize that the two-year funding scheme would be an incredible asset for us in this matter, as local funding agency are looking for visibility.
  • Offline work has significant potential for impact in terms of reach on a global scale, and WMCH may have the capacity to oversee this technical work. However, we do not see evidence that WMCH is shifting its focus to this work; rather that it is taking it on in addition to existing programs.”
The offline dissemination program is not a new program: as indicated, initial development essentially was led by volunteers, with limited, but recurrent, financial support on our part. This model has shown its limitations. In 2014, the ODP budget was comparable to the GLAM budget, in 2015 the GLAM budget will be significantly lower, while the ODP one will increase substantially.
  • WMCH has a very minimal strategic plan in place; although its proposal is closely related to this plan this is not an adequate level of strategic thinking for an organization of WMCH’s size.”
Strongly disagree
Our strategic plan is roughly modeled after WMFr’s structure (see [1]). We basically developed four ‘’strategic’’ axes whose ‘’tactical’’ implementation (ie the programs) are detailed in the current APG. We chose to present our strategy in a clear, concise manner for ease of understanding what our overarching objectives are, but would be happy to submit a more detailed narrative. We also took care that each and every axis, in its deployment, had the potential to enrich and intersect with one or several others (hence the numbering we used throughout the APG).
  • This plan lacks targets tied to online outcomes and, where present, they may be too low.”
While most of our programs are tied to concrete outcomes, we welcome the FDC’s input as to what acceptable targets would be. This, after all, is meant to be an open discussion.
  • The education program is lacking in details about the role WMCH will play in the classrooms. We urge WMCH to track metrics beyond how many classrooms have education programs, but rather about how many students are able to contribute how many bytes to Wikipedia and sister projects (for instance).”
We would like to clarify the apparent misunderstanding between our target metrics” and tracked metrics” in the Education programs. We of course intend to track bytes, articles and student involvment during the course of the program, but the fundamental goal is to have more and more classrooms using Wikipedia edition as an assignment. Our strategy in the Education field, therefore, is to empower the professors to implement Wikipedia-related assignments by themselves, so as to create a sustainable dynamic that does not require repeated mentoring on our part. WMCH’s involvement, therefore, is to act as a mentor to the professors, not the students (in a teach the teachers” manner). As an example, the professionnal school of Neuchatel is willing to set-up several trans-disciplinary projects using Wikipedia or its sister projects. In this case we will offer a first overall presentation, and then the animation of a suite of training workshops for the local staff.
This increase in youths’ ‘’wiki-literacy’’ appears fundamental to us as it fulfills a general objective of increasing the pool of potential contributors over the long term by using a captive audience. Our bet is that students will take this editing knowledge home and that some of them will keep on contributing outside of school: this should show indirectly in the editing statistics released by the Foundation. We will not systematically track individual students because it is both impractical and irrelevant, with the added limitation that most of them are minors and that acquiring/storing/monitoring such data could be seen as excessively invasive of their privacy with regard to Swiss Law..
  • While WMCH’s community support work is very staff-intensive and may not be scalable, some areas of community support like the technology pool (equipment loans) and press accreditations have shown good results.”
Today our community support program has the appropriate staff size, with 2 FTE covering three language. We decided to sidestep the scaling issue by getting some of our staff funded by partners with whom we can create synergies: as such, 10% of our community liaisons are already covered by such partnerships . We nevertheless think that the process can still be improved and that more volunteers can be supported with the same amount of resources.
  • WMCH’s budget this year is very large at $722,631, and there is not yet evidence of commensurate program impact. APG funding still comprises 69.4% of its total revenues in the planned year.”
WMCH cost structure is obviously hampered by Switzerland’s high living standards and linguistic fragmentation. We therefore need to reach a critical mass so that our staff time is not limited to administrative tasks and staff-intensive programs such as supporting editors : this was the model we had in 2012 and it proved unsatisfactory (including to our then employee). Being able to dispatch core activities among several individuals allows for greater flexibilty and, most importantly, to develop activities that will increase our external revenues (eg through requesting grants, in-kind donations, or developing pay-for-service activities). We believe that we have the right amount of staff for this and are looking forward to a drastically improved financial situation by the end of 2015, lest we get trapped in a catch-22 of sorts whereby external funding is needed to get people, but people are needed to get external funding.
  • Staffing is a significant portion of this large budget and WMCH’s approach to community support is too staff-intensive without yielding significant results. In this way the budget is not focused on impact.”
The current APG request reassigns staff priorities so that we can provide a similar level of community support (and impact) while at the same time diminishing staff implication. Whereas we used to be the drivers of community activities (which were intensive in terms of preparation and presence), we have switched to a volunteer-driven model whereby we mostly provide material support. As noted above, the equipment pool and obtaining press accreditations are fairly light in terms of staff time but show excellent results in terms of impact. This allows us to redeploy our staff to other projects with no added cost. If anything, we’re planning to ‘’expand’’ our impact.

--Charles Andrès (WMCH) 21:58, 11 November 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Response from FDC staff[edit]

Dear Charles, and colleagues at WMCH,

We truly appreciate the time and effort you put into crafting this response. It is quite helpful to have the additional data that you provided, as well as WMCH's agreements and disagreements (and rationale) with our team. We will make sure the FDC considers this in the deliberations.

Again, thank you! Cheers, KLove (WMF) (talk) 23:26, 14 November 2014 (UTC)Reply[reply]