Grants talk:Simple/Applications/Wikimedia Eesti/2018/H1

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WMEE is eligible to apply for a 12-month grant starting 1 January 2018, for a grant up to 65,000 Euro, and with no growth in the current staff. Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 23:30, 26 October 2017 (UTC)

Simple Annual Plan Grant Committee Recommendation[edit]

Committee recommendations
Funding recommendations:

We recommend that Wikimedia Eesti receive funding of approximately 29,000 EUR + 10% contingency for 6 months, or 31,900 EUR including the contingency fee for 6 months. This amount should be adjusted to correspond to the organization’s exact financial needs for the first 6 months of 2018.

We recommend the following:

  1. Wikimedia Eesti should receive funding for 6 months, and can reapply in May (for 6 months of funding starting in July) through a simple renewal process using their existing application.
  2. Wikimedia Eesti should produce a brief interim report by 15 April, reporting on how the organization has been functioning under the interim staffing model for the first three months of the year. This does not need to include financial data or program results, but the report will be needed to make a decision in May.
  3. We encourage Wikimedia Eesti to consider reducing their scope of activities in order to limit strain on staff and the board during this time of transition. We acknowledge the need for Wikimedia Eesti to take advantage of some timely opportunities in areas like GLAM. At the same time, we believe that expansion in any area should be balanced by reducing activities in other areas.
  4. We recommend that Wikimedia Eesti continually assess and recalibrate their approach to staffing during the interim period, to ensure that responsibilities are distributed across program and administrative functions in the best possible way, and would be manageable for the board.

We are providing the following rationale:

  1. We are concerned that Wikimedia Eesti is entering another period of uncertainty and transition, including instability on the board that was caused by two board members leaving in a short period of time.
  2. We admire the perseverance and dedication of the staff and board members, some of whom have been supporting this organization for a very long time, and through many difficulties. Yet, we are very concerned with ongoing and long term problems with board engagement and recruitment, and we do not see a clear path for addressing these concerns in the long term.
  3. We are concerned about the board’s limited capacity to manage the interim staffing model, which includes a team of four people with complex responsibilities.
  4. We recognize that there are important opportunities emerging, for example in the areas of GLAM and photo activities, and that interesting opportunities are continuing, such as work on the miljon+ campaign. We want to provide funding to support these activities during the interim period.
Comments on the next year's plan:

Wikimedia Eesti is an experienced returning applicant. This will be Wikimedia Eesti’s second Annual Plan Grant application through the Simple Annual Plan Grants process. They also have one year of experience in the FDC process before transitioning to Simple Annual Plan Grants, and several years experience with Annual Plan Grants through the Project Grants program. During this period, Wikimedia Eesti has been in a constant state of organizational change.

Despite organizational challenges, Wikimedia Eesti continues to pursue interesting program work that is well-adapted to opportunities in their context. One good example of this is their education program, which is unique in a number of ways (for example, the use of the externally funded e course and the integration of the mijon+ campaign in their education work). While GLAM work continues to be a challenge, it is heartening that Wikimedia Eesti is thinking of ways to address these challenges.

Grants metrics targets set for 2018 may not be realistic (as in, they may be unrealistically high) based on what Wikimedia Eesti has achieved in the past or is achieving in the current year, especially in the areas of participants and pages.

Comments on the current year's focus and achievements:
  • The last 6 months of 2017 were primarily focused on organizational change, and putting into place an interim staffing plan; however, Wikimedia Eesti did focus on some interesting program achievements in the first 6 months of 2017, including the launch of their miljon+ campaign with partners at the University of Tartu.
  • In addition to this, GLAM program staff and volunteers are continuing to pursue partnership opportunities in Estonia. While this has been a difficult road, there are some indications that they are making progress. For example, some institutions may be willing to make significant content donations in the near future. Wikimedia Eesti has put a lot of work into this area in 2017, with a part-time staff person focused entirely on GLAM, and they have included some strategies for addressing their challenges in this area in the 2018 application.
  • Quantitative results in 2017 have been mixed so far. Wikimedia Eesti is on track to exceed their 2017 targets in the areas of participants involved and organizations engaged, but is not currently on track to meet their targets for their other grants metrics. They are on track to exceed their 2016 achievements in participants and new editors but are unlikely to meet their 2016 achievement for pages. This could change if trends are different in the second half of 2017, however.
Other considerations:
  • Wikimedia Eesti’s long time executive director recently left the organization after a period of instability and reporting gaps. Following this, the organization hired a new ED to lead the organization, but in mid-2017 she announced that she would be on maternity leave for one year starting in September 2017. This put the organization back into a state of flux just as they were getting on their feet.
  • As a solution, Wikimedia Eesti’s hired of one of the board members as staff, which along with the sudden departure of another board member, left the board with only two members. Wikimedia Eesti was able to recruit a third person to join the board, and ensured that the organization could continue to operate with 3 board members.
  • The interim staffing model is a non-hierarchical model that includes the temporary replacement of the ED with two new positions: a part-time communications position and a part-time reporting specialist. This meant that the staff during the interim period would consist of four people, including the current GLAM manager and the current education manager (whose role changed during this transition).
  • Beyond these internal challenges, Wikimedia Eesti faces significant challenges in their operating environment, and they are continually assessing them. For example, GLAM institutions in Estonia are sometimes resistant to devoting staff time to new initiatives due to the high pressure staff and institutions are under in this sector. It is sometimes a struggle to encourage online contributors to participate in any offline initiatives. Furthermore, it is difficult to encourage active involvement in nonprofit organizations in Estonia, especially at the board level, which makes recruiting new leadership a major challenge for Wikimedia Eesti.
  • In past years, Wikimedia Eesti focused on restructuring their organization in order to address gaps in their previous financial systems. In 2017, they demonstrated that their financial processes and systems have stabilized and are functioning well. This was verified during the 2017 site visit.
  • Despite the organization’s potential, Wikimedia Eesti has struggled to maintain their organization since expanding their budget and entering the Annual Plan Grants program. Wikimedia Eesti’s dedication to overcoming every obstacle put before them is impressive, but it does not seem like the increase in staffing and budget has led to a stable and functional organization that is achieving commensurate outcomes in the long term.
Comments on the next year's focus:
  • During 2018, we hope to support Wikimedia Eesti’s board and staff in maintaining their program activity while their executive director is on leave. This is a transition period, and so we will not be setting lofty goals in terms of organization development or programmatic achievement. During 2018 we will continue to support staff and the board appropriately during this transition, to the extent that we can help with that.
  • One area that we should still focus actively on during the transition period is board recruitment and development, as the risk of burnout is very high for the long serving board members (and staff). There is a concern that this grant may now be overly reliant on a handful of people, and in the long term that needs to be addressed.

On behalf of the Simple Annual Plan Grants Committee. --Kai (talk) 11:21, 1 December 2017 (Pacific)


I'd like to make a few comments on my own side.

  • This transition has already taken place and so the references to the future changes of this kind may not be exactly accurate.
  • By now the board no longer plays an active role in the day-to-day matters of WMEE. So there isn't much need to be concerned about it (or at least in this way as expressed above). I may explain it further on how has this happened and why that isn't a problem (if needed).
  • As for meeting targets... already from the start of WMEE most activities have been in the 2nd half of the year (and especially so in the education program, where the fall semester has always been the main contributor to the results and that is clearly visible even from the statistics). And there is also this thing going on at a moment, that needs some funds in early 2018.
  • For the planned activities: much of the focus of this budget is actually towards bringing new people into the movement and that directly deals with the concerns expressed above.
  • Programmatic activities planned into the budget are rather minimal, so I would not recommend to reduce them, as this is the main thing that has a direct impact on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects.

The person, who is behind most of the education and GLAM-related work so far in Estonia. Kruusamägi (talk) 22:11, 4 December 2017 (UTC)

WMF decision[edit]

Decision from WMF
Funding decision:

Dear WMEE and committee colleagues,

Thank you for this thoughtful application and recommendation.

We largely share the appreciation and concerns expressed by the committee, yet will not approve the committee’s recommendation for a six-month grant. Instead, we are notifying WMEE that we will no longer consider funding their current staffing model. We will offer WMEE a transitional grant with a duration of two months, until the new board is in place. This is to offer staff some stability during the transition by providing two months of staff and program expenses, and to give staff some time to wrap up their current activities and projects or transition them effectively to other funding models. After this time, we will offer WMEE a grant to cover their minimal operational and legal commitments for the remainder of 2018, but not including staff.

This decision is being made due to lack of confidence in the current and future board to manage this complex grant adequately. The exact reasons for this lack of confidence have been communicated privately to the board of Wikimedia Eesti. This decision was not taken lightly, and was made after many years and months of consultation with the WMEE board and staff in its various incarnations, and through many years of struggle and earnest attempts on all sides to make the current organizational model work.

We know this decision profoundly affects the lives of the current staff of WMEE, who are Ivo, Käbi, Märt, Eva, and Marta. We are profoundly grateful for their excellent work and their contributions to the movement in Estonia. It also affects the volunteers (both board members and non board members) and former staff people who have dedicated themselves to WMEE over these many years, particularly Sven-Erik, Tanel, and Siim, of the current board. We regret that this decision will be painful for so many people who have contributed so much to our movement.

If project leaders or current staff are interested in continuing some of WMEE’s program work under a different funding model, we are eager to find a way to support them and their work. We realize there is a risk that some of this work will not continue.

WMEE will be electing a new board in February 2018, which will include turn over of two of the three board positions. Siim, who only recently joined WMEE’s board, will continue his term, while Tanel and Sven-Erik will end their terms. It is important to the future existence of WMEE as a chapter that the new board has the opportunity to succeed. We believe that putting an unprepared board in the position of managing the organization in its current state is likely to set the organization up for failure, and this is what we are trying to avoid. The new board will have the option to reapply for APG funding for the 2019 calendar year, when they are in a position to reevaluate and remake that commitment, and this may include a request for staff.

We ask the board of WMEE to submit a budget including their minimal operating expenses and obligations for the 2018 year. We also ask the board of WMEE to provide us with the amount required for the first two months of operations and to cover two final months of staffing and program expenses in January and February, so that we may approve the transitional grant promptly.

Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 20:58, 5 January 2018 (UTC)

The board of WMEE accepts the decision of the WMF. We regret putting the chapter, our staff, and all other involved parties in this situation, and take full responsibility for this unfortunate outcome. We will also do all within our power to provide the new board the opportunity to succeed and to facilitate the continuation of our programme work. Daniel Charms (talk) 21:41, 8 January 2018 (UTC)
We are now modifying this decision, since it is already February and a revised budget been completed recently. Given this timeline, we do not think it makes sense to make two separate grants for the first half of 2018. After discussions with the board and staff, we have agreed to make a six-month grant. This will include 2 months of staffing (January and February), after which the organization's programs and operations will be entirely volunteer-supported until July. As part of this grant, we will include severance pay for the current staff.
Once the new board convenes after elections in February, we can start discussions about what to do in the remaining 6 months of 2018. A decision about whether or not to request funds to continue the Executive Director's position will be made by the new board in consultation with WMF. If the position does not continue (either because it is not requested or because it is not funded in the end), notice will be given in June when the ED is expected to return, and appropriate severance will be allocated at that time.
The total amount for the first six months will be 30,0000 EUR, which does not yet include the 10,000 EUR severance pay for the ED position and includes an additional 1,800 EUR contingency. It does include severance pay for the other positions.
Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 22:59, 12 February 2018 (UTC)

Notes from the WMEE staff members[edit]

We agree that due to prior structural problems within the chapter Wikimedia Eesti has somewhat underperformed in recent years, but it has notably changed in 2017. For example: in many previous years the number of contributors in the Estonian Wikipedia was on a slow decline and in 2017 we saw a significant increase in the number of contributors (ca ⅓) and their activity (ca 50%). We have also gained new partners, started new programs, seen the growth of WMEE and raised the knowledge about Wikipedia on an institutional level. As a result WMF decision on our 2018 grant proposal was totally unexpected for the WMEE staff and we were completely surprised by provided recommendations. Especially so, as it came before the annual report was submitted. We do find WMF proposal somewhat hard to accept and would like to point out some not-so-minor details and clear out few loose ends. So:

  • In Europe in general dismissing people is not that simple and definitely not cheap. At the moment we are actually talking about up to 7 people (for instance: do not forget that Kaarel and Marta have taken parental leave and both of them have legal right to return to the job as well as the last assistant Kristiina, who is also currently on parental leave).
  • It would be nearly as expensive as just to take back Marta (+ that money would at least be productively spent). And if Kaarel would decide to return, Marta would lose her job anyway without any legal expenses. But if Marta will return and the position of executive director no longer exists, we might be legally forced to dismiss project leaders instead and offer her the positions. So all of that is a lot more costly and messy than you may think.
  • There are only 4 half-time positions (that equals 2 full-time positions) in WMEE. So the total number of employees is really small and can’t be problematic to lead no matter how this is arranged. And the grant request itself is not bigger or more complex than in several previous years. More the opposite.
  • After years of a mess we finally sorted out all the bookkeeping and it now works flawlessly. Are you really sure that dismissing person, who deals with that and with reporting, is a good idea?
  • If the question is about leadership, then Marta was scheduled to return in June, so the two positions (Eva and Märt) would have vanished with that anyway and we would have continued the previous staffing model, that WMF seemed to like. Does that mean, you do not want to see that to happen?
  • It must be noted, that in 2017 the staff had effectively taken over the leadership in WMEE. There are weekly meetings and clear goals. Everyone are doing their job and coordinating their activities with others. That was also the reason, why the activity (or the lack of it) from the board wasn't that important. It must also be noted, that in previous years it was the board, that was ineffective in its leadership role, and so the better division of responsibilities that we saw due to change of roles had actually improved the workings of WMEE. Also: half of the staff members are former board members.
  • 2018 is the year when the Republic of Estonia turns 100 years old. That gives us a lot additional possibilities for promotion. But now we would need to cut back of programmatic activities and tell our new partners “sorry, but we no longer can’t do x”?
  • Clear focus of this grant request was to guide this organization to actively start engaging new people and build more connections with the existing community. This is something that had been postponed for years. Trying to make a restart now is incredibly dangerous, as this would delay those actions even further, have a big risk of driving away the few active people there are and may severely damage the recently started cooperation projects. If that would happen we may just as well declare WMEE officially dead in 2019. Destroying the existing stability (via forced restart) will definitely set the organization up for failure.

We have started reviewing our strategy and can make few promises from our side:

  • We do accept the fact that leadership hasn’t been as well organized as it should have been. It is also our mistake, that we didn’t take down the nonfunctioning board and replace it with active people. We will not wait longer and will correct that asap. We'll select the new board on 17th of February and have the names ready by the beginning of February.
  • We’ll set up measures to make sure all of the board members would be active and know what is going on in the organization as well as be able to communicate it to WMF. We’ll assemble a diverse team with a clear strategy for the coming year and make regular checks about the progress.

Based on the things we mentioned earlier, we do ask about some corrections to be made:

  • Instead of making 4 new separate grant requests, can we make some corrections in the current one? That should save time for every one of us. We also plan to scrap ca 5000 € worth of planned expenses.
  • We would still carry out all the planned projects and would not cut back on programmatic work as this may threaten our long-term interest significantly.
  • Eva and Märt would continue their work for the WMEE on the board and would be dedicating on ongoing projects we can’t afford to dismiss. Their current positions will be scrapped starting from March as wished in the proposed option.
  • Could the education and GLAM stay as they are? It doesn't make much sense to go for personal grants when the money would still need to go via WMEE and the additional paperwork and expenses are clearly unnecessary.
  • We'll still keep the position of executive director (starting from June). Naturally assuming, that WMF wants to see more leadership in WMEE. So why wait until 2019?
  • We would like to know if it would be ok to pay some compensation to the board members for their working time or based on their responsibility for certain projects. That would help to keep the board active, motivated and liable. Not to mention, that we don't want to leave the growth and development of Estonian Wikipedia and related projects just for the chance, but want to make sure this will be successful. Bigger countries may have their own comprehensive encyclopedias and the Wikipedia may not be that important for them, but not so in Estonia.
Kruusamägi (talk) 17:47, 9 January 2018 (UTC)
Märt Põder (talk) 17:53, 9 January 2018 (UTC)
K2suvi (talk) 17:57, 9 January 2018 (UTC)
Pseudacorus (talk) 18:31, 9 January 2018 (UTC)
Thanks for this calm and well-considered response. We know this is a difficult situation for the staff and we appreciate that you have started this dialogue, in order to highlight some of your most pressing concerns and discuss ways of moving forward.
We have considered many of these points as part of this decision (including the cost to WMEE of letting go your staff, almost half of whom are on paternal leave). We are also concerned about abandoning existing projects and losing the momentum WMEE staff has been building in this program work. We appreciate the additional context you brought to that, including your plans to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the 100 year anniversary, for example. We can consider the specifics of how splitting the grants up would actually work if we decide to go forward with something like that, as there may be solutions to some of the challenges you brought up. For example, I completely agree that we don't want you duplicating efforts by trying to fit your existing plans into a new application format. We also agree with you that the plan for 2018 that you presented is a good one overall, and we think it is targeted in the right way. This decision is not a judgement about the effectiveness of your programs or the quality of your plan. I really liked your plan and I believe that the committee did too.
This decision is about the board of WMEE.
WMF funds organizations that are led by volunteer boards, and some of these organizations may hire staff to provide necessary expertise and availability to volunteer boards and communities in order to increase the organization's capacity to achieve more, especially in resource-intensive areas like GLAM and Education. We acknowledge that there are other ways of running organizations that might make sense, including models where board members are paid (not uncommon in some countries) and models that depend primarily on the leadership of paid staff rather that do not depend on a volunteer board. But we (WMF) do not fund those models through annual plan grants. (I can tell you for sure that paying board members is not an option, as long as you are funded by WMF.) We do not see that a model of active volunteer leadership is what is happening on the WMEE board right now. From our perspective, the idea that paid staff are managing themselves without board input is a huge problem, even if staff feel like it is functional. It is a problem from our perspective as WMEE's funder, since we require adequate oversight of funds and staff from the board in order to be confident in giving WMEE a large grant that includes funds for staff. We generally give grants of this size to organizations that are led by volunteer boards who have demonstrated that they can take responsibility for managing staff, resources, and long term strategy. WMF can't (and shouldn't) be doing this directly on the organization's behalf.
I understand that during the most recent election, the board of WMEE was also struggling to find viable candidates, and yet no remedy was found at that time either. This left the organization too highly dependent on the ED's oversight. This does not fit our definition of a robust organization, regardless of the competence of staff. Unfortunately, when the ED became unavailable for a time, this reality became a stark one. I understand you are committed to recruiting a new board for WMEE in February 2018, and that you hope the new board will be able to manage the organization until Marta is able to return from her leave in June. I do not know what the outcome of this attempt will be. Since the outcome of this is yet uncertain, I don't see how we can offer you a grant on this basis.
So that is why we have made the decision as we have, despite the fact that we share many of the concerns you have brought up here, and despite the fact that we are deeply concerned about WMEE and the future of Wikimedia in Estonia. After reading what I wrote here, what are your ideas and your reactions to my central concerns?
Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 18:21, 10 January 2018 (UTC)
Let me check if I get this right. Currently, all the work in the organization is basically done by the staff. It has repeatedly been recognized above they do a good job which would be nice to continue. There is a lack of good leadership in the community, hence the board has become rather superficial. Now, it is quite clear (not to all members of the board, but well, that's not really surprising) that the current board can't go on, but there is also very little chance of finding new capable leaders in the small community. The staff has expressed its readiness to take over the leadership formally (as they have already done informally), but in years, they have become professionals (with a lot of unique know-how) and can't afford doing the job (current tactical tasks+strategic leadership) for free. And it has been decided that the latter abominable need is a sufficient reason to scrap the actual work (praised above), let the know-how leave the organization (as the people who are let go now will have to find new jobs and will most likely not return if WMF ever decides to turn on the electricity again - after all, uncertain employment is a major deterrent in the job market) and pretty much shut it all down? Sounds reasonable. When bathwater must go, who has time to think of a baby? --Just a Random Passerby (talk) 16:53, 14 January 2018 (UTC)
From our perspective, Oop, it is more like there is no bath tub and we can't just keep pouring water into the house and hoping for the best.
From your comments above, I understand you don't like the decision, because it pulls the rug out from under the staff. I don't like that either. But I don't understand what alternative solution you are proposing, if any, that addresses our concern. What is it that you would like to see happen under these circumstances?
Perhaps your last comment about not having "time to think of a baby" was meant in a flippant way, or was placed there for the sake of exploring your metaphor, but I did not like it, because we at WMF have spent a great deal of time and effort thinking through this situation over a number of years. This decision was not come to suddenly, or lightly, or without consideration. Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 17:32, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
Well, the current staff has expressed their readiness to solve the leadership problem by filling the gap, and their capability has been recognized above. Unfortunately, that seems to be not good enough unless they give up their pay or fill the board with self-recognized puppets (self-recognition would be important, lest the current dormancy repeat) - and even the last ones seem to be in short supply. And as the decision is, reputedly, "final", there does not seem to be any will for reconsideration and discussions with those people who have actually done all the work. (Let's remind that most of the talks by WMF have been run with the dormice on the board, over the heads of the human staff - more often than not, they have had to create the picture of what's going on from the contradicting bits and pieces passed on by the dormice.)
Have you considered a comparison that probably is already in everyone's mind: what would have remained of WMF, had the principle "major governance/leadership problems -> shut it all down and come back later" been applied there? Then again, of course, only those who know nothing about WMF believe it measures itself by the same standards it uses to judge the others. I don't think anyone who visits this obscure page here might be naïve enough to indulge in such fantasies.
I do not actually place much importance whether anyone likes my metaphors or not, given that my opinion, as I have already hinted, is absolutely irrelevant, as I'm not even a member of WMEE, and I also have no intention to work for free (I've done my share and that's enough, it already broke me). Still, given the lack of any transparency at all during the decision process, for a bystander's eye, the decision seems to have arrived surprisingly quickly, especially compared to how slow the processes in WMF (in decision-making or elsewhere) usually have been. The lack of even any wish to wait for the yearly reports (whatever the intentions behind it) hands the community the message that compared to the governance issues, the practical work results are of no importance. This kind of communication does not really motivate anyone to return to cooperation with an organization with such judgement criteria. Whether intended or not, that's what has been done. But hey, like I said: my opinion does not matter, I'm just an observer with a little amount of residual fondness for something I once cared about. So, do whatever you folks wish, and remember to enjoy the results. Hugs and kisses for everyone. --Oop talk 19:27, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
Intention of WMF to decline APG is clear enough for us now, however we are left guessing when it comes to expected changes in leadership and organisational structure. The hope expressed by WMF that after forced shutdown, downtime and presumptive restart, WMEE can reapply APG funding in the end of 2018 gives an impression that current structure is not considered problematic. However, the tone of the explanations gives impression that structural changes are urgently needed. What exactly are these changes in organisation structure WMF would like to see?
The inability of the current board to engage in clear communication about aims and progress of WMEE is a problem, but declining APG appears more like a occasional punishment than a well-considered solution to us, especially when WMF unequivocally acknowledges the progress the staff is making.
Although we feel very uncomfortable in the guesswork, for us it seems the changes you want to see might be:
  • WMEE should not have ED, the board should take this role.
  • WMEE can have paid staff, if criterion X is met.
  • WMEE should not have paid staff at all.
    • WMEE should use other grant models than APG.
    • WMEE should use APG for other things than paid staff.
Without clear expression of the expectations (some of the statements above contradict each other) we are left with an impression, that with this forced shutdown you only want to make us exchange the current board and get new people involved in leadership, whoever they might be. But how should we inspire anybody to join WMEE board with the dedication needed if the funding criteria on WMF side are unclear and the funding itself is unstable? Besides that, electing new board is already scheduled in February 2018, which makes us even more puzzled about the use of the shutdown.
Since we are currently negotiating candidates for the new board and they need to know the expected organisational model, clear and detailed input from your part would be extremely helpful.
Märt Põder (talk) 23:32, 16 January 2018 (UTC)
Kruusamägi (talk) 00:16, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
--K2suvi (talk) 07:48, 17 January 2018 (UTC)
I am sorry if the explanation was not clear. I understand your need for more clarity.
We (WMF) can't fund an APG for an organization that doesn't have a board that is able and committed to overseeing that grant in the long term. WMEE doesn't have it now, and we don't know if WMEE will have it in February. This decision is not a punishment of WMEE, or an opinion about who should or shouldn't be on the board. Staff managing themselves without a board and board members being paid are both not possible in APG. We are open to considering alternatives, if you have other ideas about how we can address this problem without disrupting your work.
The model for the new board being elected in February would be a working board with no staff and one APG that covers basic operating expenses. The board would then have time to think about what they want WMEE's staffing model to be in 2019 before they make the next grant application. Planning for 2019 would be their main focus for the year, if program activities are being conducted independently of WMEE as project grants. Is that clear yet?
Is there anything we can do to support you in making involvement at the board level more appealing, besides allowing WMEE to pay its board members?
Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 06:14, 17 January 2018 (UTC)

Dear Winifred Olliff,

Thank you for explanations and for working on this! I have also decided to share in to this conversation as member of audit committee of Estonian chapter, as well as former ED of the chapter.

Firstly, I would like to stress the fact that employees of Wikimedia Eesti are not only working under oversight of the board, but actually the whole chapter, part of which is audit committee. Staff members provide weekly and rather detailed activity reports to all chapter members as part of our weekly newsletter and if there are questions, concerns or endorsements of certain activities, these are communicated in internal list. Audit committee has viewing access to bank accounts, as well as document registry and is responsible for financial monitoring of the chapter. That means that even if there are some issues with board oversight, Wikimedia Eesti continues to be robust organization, with other structures in place to ensure good use of funds and use of human resources.

Secondly, I would like to notify that in addition to external auditing, auditing committee of the chapter itself will carry out a yearly internal audit of financial (project) year 2017 and in current situation we will be also carrying out an audit of the functioning of the board in year 2017 and will present the results as part of general assembly. Hopefully, this will be an important input for the new board.

Thirdly, I am highly concerned with the notion of introducing once again a working board to the chapter. As part of WMF site visit in 2015, Wikimedia Eesti was notified that working board is not an option for the chapter of its size and since then there has been a sincere effort in restructuring the board to a governance board. All the internal processes and structures have been built keeping in mind the model of governance board and paid staff members. These internal processes have aided Wikimedia Eesti to overcome its backlog in reporting, as well as accounting issues, has reduced micromanagement of the staff by the board, which means that in 2017 Wikimedia Eesti has finally been able to concentrate on the actual work related to Wikimedia content and outreach. Exiting programs, such as Million+ and conference held as part of official Estonian EU Council presidency agenda (which is actually quite notable accomplishment) are just some of the examples. I believe that current inactivity of the board is an unintentional result of the restructuring process, as with the motion we have reached the other end of the pendulum. Decision to move back to working board does not seem like a constructive one, as it will push the chapter back to vortex of functional disability. Currently I believe that not the whole chapter needs a restart, but it is rather the board of the chapter. And as to the board I am unsure that demanding it to be a working board is in accordance with the size of the chapter and would make participation in the board more appealing to possible candidates. If you ask, what could make participation in the board more appealing, would be to leave it as a governance board.

Fourthly, I personally feel really uncomfortable to see what is currently happening with funding of the chapter. Partly, because it is frustrating to see countless working hours I have invested in chapter as an ED to build structures that seem to function at the moment to be just washed away. Partly, because I feel that current decision relates to my failures as an ED in supporting the board in transition, but even more for my failures in complying with WMF reporting criteria during my work period, which has significantly worsened the track record of the chapter. I somewhat feel (and I understand that there are other, more notable reasons) that the chapter is tarnished because of my failures and I believe it is unfair towards the work of current employees and even the board to cut the funding because of that.

As a fifth point, I would like to point out that it was hard for the board of WMEE to avoid the situation regarding parental leaves, as when hiring a new ED they had to pick the best candidate and deciding not to do so because of foreseen parental leave would be discriminating and illegal according to Estonian laws. Current staffing and board situation is partly an aftermath of that decision made in the framework of Estonian law and should only be seen as an interim plan to keep the good work going until the ED returns.

My suggestion would be:

  1. Work on separate program grants as a plan B to keep the good work in Estonia going (during another transition period);
  2. Put further decisions regarding sAPG on hold until the general assembly of the chapter in February to see what audits say and what will be the board structure and personnel (as well as their track record and competences) after that assembly;
  3. Give the new board 3-4 months to work in with an option to return to sAPG with ED (i.e. old working model of the chapter) already in the second half of the year, if everything goes well (continuous communication with WMF during that period goes without saying);
  4. Provide support for the chapter to maintain administrative staffing support until the end of April (2017 chapter activity and financial reports due), which will help us prevent another backlog in reporting and provide the board time to learn all the systems with staff support (both useful, if they stay governance board or become working board);
  5. If things do not work out with the board, go forth as you have suggested and possibly (if at all) return to sAPG for 2019.

I am just thinking out loud here and I do not know if my suggestions make sense. I am just feeling that WMF decision does not right for the chapter at the moment and so am providing reasons why I feel so, as well as suggesting alternatives that come to my mind. I hope that this is useful at least to some extent and we can build a plan that supports the chapter better than current one seems to do. I am also thankful to you Winifred, as well as other members of community engagement team for the time you have taken over the years in supporting the Estonian chapter! It is well appreciated!

Thank you for your kind attention! --Misosoof (talk) 18:27, 29 January 2018 (UTC)

Thank you, Misosoof. Your perspective is certainly valued. I appreciate you clearly laying out what you see as an acceptable alternative solution, and sharing your concerns about some of the points that have been brought up here.
This decision is not related to past reporting gaps or your performance as ED, nor is it related to the performance of any particular staff person or board member (current or former). I would like to clarify a few points, related to what you wrote:
  1. I understand how much work went into the restructuring process, and I agree it is lamentable that it could be "washed away". What you may or may not know is that we (WMF) had significant concerns about this interim staffing model being a "step backward from the transition to a governance board" when it was first suggested, which is why Marta drafted a detailed plan along with the board that clearly outlines changes to their roles and responsibilities during this period. It was not just a matter of watching the "pendulum" continue to swing in the direction of governance, but a very deliberate decision to move in another direction and shift roles for the interim period. So we had a roadmap for the interim period and still failed.
  2. At the time we set up the interim staffing model, we also thought this solution through with consideration for Marta, and in the context of local laws and regulations. Of course situations where a staff person needs to go on leave cannot be helped. We hope all organizations are taking care of their staff in the long term and are following good practices in this area, in addition to following local laws and regulations. Part of what this means, is that the organization is robust enough to function without any one particular staff person leaving for a time (or permanently, for that matter). An organization should not be overly dependent on a single staff person (or volunteer) to function. As you know better than anyone, an ED (without a supportive board as the backbone of the organization) is not enough to keep an organization working in the long term.
  3. On your point about finally getting to focus more on programs rather than restructuring, you are right to point to some of the accomplishments of 2017, as current staff have already done. I am also sorry to see the organization move away from a place where it is poised to achieve results, but it is a house built on sand.
A solution where staff can continue beyond February will not be possible, because a time period would be needed for us to assess the competence of the new board before we fund any staff that are reporting directly to them. Administrative and program staff will still be functional until the end of February, so 2017's reports would need to be prepared during that time or they would need to be prepared by the board. After all, the report for the 2017 grant is due today. While a formal financial statement for 2017 will be due in April, we can consider waiving the requirement for an audit under the circumstances. (I will need to double check that with the finance team before confirming that we can.)
We could consider an option for the new board to reapply for funding for the ED position starting in July, as you suggest. I do not know if this mitigates most of the concerns brought up by the staff here. After all, this would mean that WMEE could keep Marta when she returned from leave (and also devote funds to her salary rather than her severance), but still wouldn't have any program or administrative staff working for her. One big challenge I see here is assessing whether or not we (WMF) have confidence in the new board to oversee her, and doing this in the very brief amount of time we will have to do this. Still, if this is an idea also preferred by WMEE's current board and staff we are willing to discuss it further, especially if we all believe this possibility will make board service more appealing to potential candidates for the new board.
Thanks again for offering your insights here. I am grateful for your comments and also your years of service to WMEE.
Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 00:58, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Dear Winifred et al,

As far as I understand the problem here is mainly with the board and how it functions, and the fact that it has been difficult to find willing volunteer board members in Estonia who would do this for free. If that's the case, I'd like to propose a possible solution. I don't know if it is possible legally, but what if you had some board members who are not from Estonia, but from neighbouring countries – on an interim basis until a number of Estonian volunteers can be found? I'm sure there are people in bigger Wikimedia communities in Finland, Sweden, Norway, etc. who would be willing to take on these responsibilities to help with this difficult situation. Jon Harald Søby (talk) 11:26, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

A healthy dose of Estonian optimism (TM) seems to be in order to curb the overwhelming enthusiasm. According to Estonian NGO law, foreigners can be members of the board and in fact, board members do not even have to be members of the organization itself (there's ample precedent) - but they have to be elected by the organization's general assembly. There are no appointed members. So, if you want to run for the WMEE board, you're welcome, but you have to be prepared to propose a plan for further development, step up on their assembly, answer all kinds of questions by some rather confused people (not all the members are English-speakers), and perhaps compete with the natives. --Oop (in the capacity of an unconcerned legal expert) 12:26, 30 January 2018 (UTC)

Shouldn't this application link to the updated budget as significant changes were made based on WMF feedback? Kruusamägi (talk) 22:48, 16 February 2018 (UTC)

Reallocation of 2018 H1 underspend to 2018 H2[edit]

Hello, colleagues! You reported 10,194 Euro unspent (includes contingency fund), and that will now be allocated to your H2 grant: 2520 Euro to be moved to the H2 contingency and the remainder to be reallocated to the same line items in your new grant from whence the underspend is derived. Best, Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 17:40, 26 November 2018 (UTC)