Thank you for submitting your grant request. At face value, your project is very commendable. I have a few questions/concerns as my first impression about your grant request.
- Almost 75% of your grant is to pay organizers. I appreciate the time and effort you will be putting into the project. But this is a volunteer movement, and you will effectively be recruiting volunteers (albeit a specific target). I cant justify in my mind this cost as facilities are laready mentioned separately in the budget.
- Who are the "trainers" that are budgeted for their travel in Capacity building workshop?
- I get the impression that you have not made any transport and refreshmets allowance for the people you will be training during your classes?
- can you give us a target number of people for each event and how you intend to recruit these people.
Thank you for submitting your grant request. From what I can see, AltCity is a new for-profit organization looking for some startup capital. I guess I need some clarification. It appears that you are offering to hold some workshops, for which you and your event coordinator will serve as trainers. It looks like these workshops will be held in your own facility for which you will charge WMF rent for space usage and payment for training services, which encompasses 75 percent of the salary between two people for four months. You are also seeking 100 percent funding for your organization's communication and Internet costs, while you are seeking the same from partners on your Web site. Can you provide some more background about your organization and how your for-profit programs and goals differentiate from the purposes for which you are requesting a grant? Thanks, Cindamuse (talk) 22:06, 29 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the submission. Personally, I like the idea of this project but still need clarification in some things. What is the cooperation of AltCity with the Wikimedia community on the Arabic-language Wikipedia in Lebanon? Do you know some of the Wikimedians in Lebanon and what is their response to this initiative? You also mention that you've already started by conducting activities in July. Can you clarify a bit about the activities that have been started and what are the results and the initial impact from them? Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 11:08, 30 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for your feedback! Sorry for the long response here... just trying to be thorough, and answer all the points brought up above. We combined them all into one response to reduce repetition.
We’ve been doing some light Wikipedia promotions in Lebanon for years, organized a small meetup with Moushira and Barry in Beirut when they were visiting in March, organized an open source/open content Barcamp in Lebanon a few years ago (under a separate organization name) which focused partially on Wikipedia and CC, and did a lot of workshops with young people on proper use of Wikipedia as part of our work running Hibr, a youth/community alternative media outlet in Lebanon. All of that, indeed, has been volunteer work, and we were happy to do it! We would love to do more, and no doubt will.
At the same time, we are a small group working on a big project, and we have critical financial needs that we need to cover... and we have put in substantial time and money to try and get off the ground a project that will HEAVILY benefit Wikipedia, CC, social ventures, social/citizen media efforts, open source efforts, etc in Lebanon and the region. … and we need help doing that. Funding such things is difficult in Lebanon and the region (especially now, during such instable times), we are currently doing a heavy sponsorship drive, and will soon be launching a crowdfunding campaign. By way of quick example, we need to have three redundant electricity and internet connections to make sure those things work consistently in Beirut, and that costs a lot of money.
As to other specific questions that were mentioned in the comments:
• Our small team’s salaries are currently only part-funded through other projects. Our entire team (6-8 members (depending on number of interns at any one moment) have already been putting in significant time and effort into this initiative voluntarily, and will continue to be doing so in the long term. The %s requested is to ensure that two members of the team can dedicate this amount of time (at a minimum! no doubt will be much more) to this project and therefore ensure its long-term success. We also have the commitment of one further volunteer. We anticipate this short-term project just to be a launchpad for a long-term partnership with Wikimedia, where AltCity will become a hub for Wikimedians throughout Lebanon and hopefully the region.
• AltCity is a large (600m2) and multifunctional space. The facilities costs (rent) detailed here only equate to the rent for a very small area within the full AltCity space (the training or event area) for the few hours required to conduct the proposed activities. As we are a community space where dozens of local organizations and individuals hold their events, workshops, and meetings, we need to schedule in these Wikimedia workshops and events into our calendar, and we would therefore be unable to offer those spaces to other organizations at those times. While we hope the whole AltCity space will become a hub for the Wikimedian community in Lebanon, the total rent requested ($400) is only a small fraction of AltCity’s total rent (we’re talking about only a few percentage points here), and does not cover any personnel costs. It even represents only a very small contribution towards other space costs incurred by AltCity (such as electricity, etc).
• The trainers being referred to under Capacity Building Workshops are Dima Saber and Julnar Doueik. This budget is to cover their anticipated travel costs for holding 2 workshops outside Beirut.
• Alternatively, if all workshops take place in Beirut and participants require transportation reimbursement in order to attend, this money could be reallocated to that. The refreshment lines in the budget refer to refreshments for participants (a total of $300 for all workshop participants and another $300 for event participants).
• Each capacity-building workshop will reach 15-20 trainees. We intend to train 30-60 participants through this project.
• Each awareness-raising event will reach 15-20 attendees. In total, we anticipate having 45-60 attendees. We will recruit participants through 1) direct invitations to target civil society organizations (focusing on women’s issues in this stage) and 2) indirect outreach via our very active social media channels, email newsletter, partners, and website.
• AltCity is a social enterprise founded in July 2011. It is designed to be a community space serving the media, tech, and entrepreneurial community in Lebanon. We do indeed aim to eventually cover AltCity’s core/administrative costs through revenue generated from our facilities and services but we will always provide non-profit services to civil society activists and community organizations. One main non-profit service that we offer - and that we anticipate will always be dependent on external funding and partnerships - is media-related trainings for civil society. We see this project falling under this category. We also classify ourselves as a social-impact and community-engagement maximizing enterprise, not a profit-maximizing enterprise.
• In terms of communication and internet costs, what we requested is to cover 100% of this specific project’s costs. Other partners may contribute towards similar costs for different projects. $80/month for communications is equivalent to approximately one third of AltCity’s monthly telephone costs. $30/month for internet is equivalent to approximately only 7.5% of our monthly internet budget. (Internet and telecoms in Lebanon are amongst the most expensive in the world, and are still pretty crappy. Hence our need to have multiple connections, so our members, team, and contributors can have access to a somewhat decent connection.
• We are already part of the emerging Wikimedia community in Lebanon. It is currently very small with only a handful of committed individuals. We know these few active individuals well, and the ones we have spoken with are excited to work with us on Wikipedia activities. We are also in communication with other Arabic-language Wikimedians in the region, who are also excited about this initiative. We discussed collaborating with them when holding Twitter discussions about Wikipedia Arabic. We’ve hosted a few discussions about improving Arabic content online, on Twitter, and other platforms … and we are looking forward to bridging those activities to the Wikipedia effort. Some Wikipedians also contribute anonymously, due to tense situations (as some people from our team have done in the past), and part of our strategy/design of our space and initiative is to support content contributors who want to be anonymous, as well.
• We conducted a workshop for 6 Iraqi senior editors and journalists on alternative media & open license resources including using and contributing content to Arabic Wikipedia on July 17th. They were very hesitant/disinterested at first, but we had great sessions with them, and some of them are working on ways to have us do follow up workshops with them online, or by conducting training activities in Iraq.
Revisiting the project budget!
Thank you all for your comments and insights! We are now working on revising the budget based on your suggestions. Also meeting up with a couple Wikipedians in Lebs early next week and we'll upload the revised budget soon!
- Don't stress over any of this, Dima. We sincerely appreciate your request. At this point, we're all just trying to get a better idea and/or clarification of what you're looking for. Your response and the input of your team has been very helpful and appreciated. We look forward to learning more about AltCity and your future plans in Lebanon. Cindamuse (talk) 01:36, 4 August 2012 (UTC)
Great project, but in need of a twist
I really like the proposal within this project, even if, as I will detail below, the idea that such activities be so tightly integrated to a for-profit operation is more a problem than a solution.
As this is not a suspense thriller, I will start by offering my suggestion for adaptation: rewrite this proposal as a request from individual volunteers to host workshops etc, and treat AltCity as just one possible venue for it, to be compared in price and features to other venues you can think of.
Here are the reasons why that is more suitable and more productive for all involved:
0) One of the main objectives of the WMF Grants Program is to promote activities that are reproducible. Framing your request as directly connected to one organization makes it harder for other volunteers and partners to organize something similar at other times and other places. It would be much better if AltCity was only involved as a host for the event, in a way that it's structure could be easily replaced.
1) AltCity is a for profit corporation and, as such, it is not eligible to receive grants. The rules are very clear about that, so if you go forward with this you will be requesting an exception to the rules, and that is going to be way more complex and time consuming for you, and everyone.
2) You budget for having paid staff before evaluating the possibility of mobilizing volunteers for those tasks. That goes against the standards of the Wikimedia Movement and should be reviewed, which you might be doing already.
3) It seems to me that one of the points of social enterprises is that they get positive pressure from competing in the marketplace. That means having AltCity compete against other places for hosting Wikimedia related events will be beneficial to your corporate culture, and more meaningful in terms of contributing to your success as a social enterprise.
I hope you will consider these points, and we can make this and future activities viable. I am happy to learn about AltCity and the purpose it serves in Lebanon, but at the same time I think that if this process reveals other venues better suited to engage Wikimedians, then you have learned a valuable lesson to rethink your strategy about that.