Feedback from the Simple APG committee
Questions from Ido
Hi WMEE, thank you for submitting the grant proposal. I have a few questions:
- How do you see effectively managing your 2 staffers? (Also: I'm noting that if you find a budget for a WiR, there will be 3 staffers to manage). I'm concerned about the lack of stability. As many of the items in the plan are assigned to "Staff" or "Staff and board", I would like to understand who exactly does what.
- I understand the fact that a new strategy is in the making. Do you have an outline of your strategic priorities, which you can share here? The reason I'm asking this is: if you have lesser staff and a very busy board, I would like to understand what would you drop from this work plan, what has the least importance in our view.
- The metrics your proposal point to are for H1 2018. Why is that? Could you please point to a new set of metrics?
- How big is your community of volunteers? Do you expect it to grow in H2 2018?
From Chinmayi S K
Hello WMEE ,
Thank you for your proposal.
My questions to you add to the questions Ido here is asking. I am very concerned after looking at your application. The text on the application seems to indicate that you are taking on too many activities without a plan. A lot of activities are unfunded and you dont have dedicated staff/ person to lead them. Could you please elaborate on your plan to achieve these goals without burning out trying to do too many things --Chinmayisk (talk) 21:55, 9 May 2018 (UTC)
Hi WMEE! Thanks for submitting this proposal, despite the turmoils of the last few months, which are probably also the cause for some of the problems with this proposal. I won't repeat my colleagues' questions, but I do share their concerns.
- What does the strike-through text refer to? It's a bit confusing reading one thing, then trashing that and suggesting something else instead.
- Since there's been so much change in your organisation, it would be helpful to have a depiction of your organisational model and the fields of expertise of your board members. Judging by your proposal, it seems like every single board member will be investing quite a lot of time, which begs the question if there are any volunteers who could help with some of the tasks.
- Maybe to refine Ido's question a bit, how many people usually show up to the community meetings in Tallinn and Tartu? Are those events aimed at keeping the core community connected, or are you also using it as a hub for new volunteers?
- Community expansion: Do you have any specific organisations in mind? Are you aiming more for like-minded organisations like OSM and Open Knowledge, or more general organisations that have a strong foundation in Estonian society?
- Public activities
- Considering that you just had to let some employees go, what are your plans for an increase in media activities? Is that realistic considering the overall workload?
- Policymaking - is that something you still want to do on a local level or is this something you're more focusing on on the EU level?
- International activities
- What do you expect to take away with 5 representatives at the Nordic meeting? Are you planning to send volunteers or board members and if you're sending board members, what would their goals for the conference be considering the work they've already committed to back home?
- Questions from Ido
- Yes, we agreed on ten strategic goals for the new board and prioritized them so that we now have two main goals that the board will dedicate itself to. The strategy document is still being finished and in Estonian only, but we listed our ten strategic goals as follows: 1) awareness, 2) trust, 3) inclusion, 4) infrastructure, 5) content, 6) legal framework, 7) usefulness and quality, 8) languages and cultures of Estonia, 9) outreach of Estonia and 10) cooperation. From these strategic goals we formed two categories of actionable plans: 1) public cooperation projects or campaigns for awareness, 2) GLAM, data and education oriented specific cooperation projects. We plan to limit ourselves to up to three large, significant projects during 2018-2019, all belonging to these two prioritized categories. The rest of our activities will be day-to-day processes in support of those goals (social media and blog, volunteer meetings, presentations and conference participation when the opportunity arises, etc.) which are still needed to be able to start making progress on the new strategic plan already from autumn, when people are back from their summer vacations and volunteers are seeking projects to participate in at the beginning of new school year. Before going into full throttle we will also discuss our strategic ideas and get community feedback for our plans during our biggest community meeting of the year, the Wikipedia Summer Days in July, to ensure we are completely on the same page with the community.
- The WiR position will not happen in 2018 as per our plan (it’s marked as dropped). If we do manage to find funding, we’ll look into it further in 2019. We need the two funded positions (GLAM/education project manager and volunteers coordinator) to free the board from the day to day specific requirements of our current cooperation projects and to let us concentrate on directing the organization and setting the priorities so we can achieve our stated main goals. We plan to hire people knowledgeable of our projects and processes, so that they can hit the ground running and the board mostly can limit its activity to general oversight of their monthly goals, todo lists and achievements.
- In autumn (the start of the new university year, and the best time for finding new volunteers) our volunteer meetings usually have 10-15 participants who are willing to take part our projects. Later in the year, we’ve seen the numbers drop somewhat. We’re hoping to use our volunteer coordinator position to make better use of these volunteers: our challenge is not only to make the volunteer numbers grow, but provide them with a list actionable tasks that are simple enough to make them feel competent and able to participate in our projects. Despite some successes with new volunteers in 2017, our experience is that many of them feel our projects are too complicated and demanding for them. As such, we need to divide our projects into smaller actionable parts so that everyone, no matter how experienced in working with Wikimedia projects, will be able to participate in at least some part of the project and be (and feel) helpful.
- Originally all of the metrics were meant for all of 2018, since we were told to basically reuse our full-year application but split it into H1 and H2. In the Google Docs "Metrics Reporting for Simple APG" we’ll bring out metrics for each quarter of 2018 and the overall goals for 2018.
- Questions from Chinmayi S K
- First of all, our new strategic plan aims to separate activities in the background and activities directly needed for our strategic goals. Although some of the activities our community takes are optional in this sense and depend on community initiative, they help our community and motivate people to be part of it. We need both types of activities. Also, the experience gained through some of the activities will help us indirectly with our prioritized goals.
- From the very beginning of our chapter in 2010 we have always taken on a lot of activities. That is how we usually operate. Back in 2010, there were only two active members (Ivo Kruusamägi and Teele Vaalma). Now we have four on the board and the same number of very active members outside of it. If you look at our last midpoint report, you’ll see we did get quite a bit of stuff done in 3 months, despite having to dedicate a lot of our allotted Wikimedia time to the process of enacting the changes requested by WMF without losing sight of our long-term plans. This application is what we see as doable assuming we won’t be able to dedicate that much time to the project, but will be able to fund the positions we are requesting (notice a fair amount of the points have been scaled down from “doing something” to “evaluating the feasibility of doing something in the future”). A more optimistic scenario would actually include more activities than we’re currently proposing. A situation in which we do not get the funding for the requested positions would see us having to drop new projects to some degree and concentrate on our current partners and our main strategic goals only (see the answers to Ido).
- Yes, you’re right that a fair amount of the activities are unfunded. We see this as a positive, not a negative - while we would like to also have more larger, funded projects, we’re a small organization and being able to improve knowledge without spending money is a very important part of ensuring our long-term goals are attainable. At the same time, many of the on-paper unfunded activities are still somewhat “funded” by being under the supervision of the proposed (paid) project coordinator position and/or the proposed (paid) volunteer coordinator position. The biggest projects here (education and GLAM) both fall under these positions (with the exception of finno-ugric cooperation, which is mainly the project of a board member - Käbi Suvi - with strong links to finno-ugric organizations, and who while unpaid, is certainly dedicated). Other tasks are either more general (of course both staff and board help organize community events, ideally with the help of the community itself) or easier to coordinate (like local competitions, where the task of the board and staff is to organize and promote the competition, and most of the rest depends on the community members who actually participate in the competition and the help of a volunteer jury when necessary).
- We feel it’s somewhat unfair to doubt our dedication when our previously employed people stayed with the organization despite no longer receiving payment for their work; in fact, we consider our dedicated community as our greatest resource. That said, we do agree some people burning out is always a risk, which is why we have a board of four (rather than the minimum of three required by law) and will try to increase that number in the future, and why we want to create a paid volunteer coordinator position to increase the amount of volunteers and help them be and feel useful. Having volunteers who are already familiar with our operation would also make it easier to find new board members and hire replacements for our paid positions if needed, for example because of the aforementioned burning out issues.
On the paid position topic, we’d like to specify that from now on we’re planning to stick to contracts with fixed end dates that we can decide to renew (or not) after a period of time, since the need to let all our people go this year led to very large expenses that make a significant part of our financial spending for 2018.
- Questions from Philip
- The strike-through text and the green vs red sections are the differences between our original 2018 plan and this one. We are reusing the old application so that you would not need to dig into some totally new text, as we were suggested to do by WMF.
- The current board includes:
- Eva Lepik (head): functions of treasurer, copyright policy, copy editor, semiotician and literary scholar
- Märt Põder: takes care of communication, academic background in philosophy, education, informatics, long time activist in Internet Society, Open Knowledge, Friends of Earth, Pirate Party etc
- Käbi Suvi: office duties, specialises on finno-ugric topics & linguistics
- Nicolás Tamargo: our human resource manager overseeing the two new positions (if accepted), open data (and especially Wikidata), background in web development and librarianship
After the election of the new board at the end of February 2018 we have started moving towards a leadership model where the board sets up strategic goals and prioritizes them, delegating a large part of the executive tasks to some of our experienced volunteers and partner organizations. We are in the middle of this move, focusing on community building and delegating more day-to-day tasks to volunteers when possible. If the two positions we requested are accepted, we will be able to move a lot of the project coordination work to the new project coordinator and a lot of the volunteer coordination work to the volunteer coordinator, freeing the board for oversight tasks plus more “high-level” tasks like setting the strategic goals of the chapter, establishing shared goals/cooperation with partner organizations and building awareness of our policy goals.
- Our community meetings vary a lot in their nature, as do the participation numbers, but they’re usually between 5 for the smallest meetings and 20 or 30 for the largest. Some meetings are for organizational volunteers, others for wikipedians. Some are more focused, some are more general. We’re already using some of them as a new volunteer hub, and that’s likely to grow with the volunteer coordinator position, but others are meant to keep the community together (like our Summer Days) or just to improve the content of the Wikimedia projects in Estonia (like our wiki-editathons).
- As for organizations, we have quite a few of them in mind. The list of organizations that are interested in working with us is already long enough that some will have to wait in line, and they go from science popularization groups to art museums and the National Library. You can see some examples of the work we’ve been doing in our last midpoint report.
- Getting some time in national media isn't that difficult for us. In fact, we’ve done that several times already in the first 3 months of the year (see the last midpoint report). For the social media side, we’re already documenting our activities (for example with photography), and making them available in social media is not a very big increase in the amount of work. We’re planning to be quite active on our blog, but that is helped by moving our chapter’s monthly newsletter (previously weekly newsletter sent through a private mailing list) to the blog as well to make our activities more visible. An additional benefit of this move is that it should also make it easier for possible future volunteers to understand what we do.
- Our focus on policymaking depends of where the need is the greatest and we work on building public awareness by posting to our blog and national media, as well as participating in policy meetings and working groups that are relevant for our principles. For example, the current copyright reform in the EU is something that demands our presence in 2018: we’ve been involved with it already (including having a board member present at the European Copyright Action Days in Brussels this March) and plan to keep being involved. We’ve been involved at the local level in the past and we remain so when a chance comes up: in 2017 for example we worked to convince several Estonian organizations to sign the Public Domain Manifesto. Similarly we are involved in promoting Open Data and free content licenses, for which we cooperate with Open Knowledge and share some resources, goals and responsibilities in preparing policy papers, presentations and co-hosting events like Open Data Day.
- Regarding the Nordic Meeting: we see this as a very important area of cooperation, and we’re hoping to be there in full force. We plan to send both board members and our volunteers, and are hoping to find out more about how our relatively small chapters can work together to improve free knowledge in the area. Some specific ideas we have in mind include finno-ugric cooperation (with both Finnish and Sami wikimedians) and cooperation about matters concerning the Estonian diaspora (especially relevant to Sweden historically, but without forgetting the modern emigration to Finland as well). In 2017 it was agreed that all Nordic countries should try to send five representatives, and we’re hoping to stick to the agreed number. We are also actively participating in the organization of this event, and are hoping to bring it to Estonia for the following year.
-- The Wikimedia Eesti board (Eva, Käbi, Märt, Nicolás) + Ivo Kruusamägi
Questions about your staffing plan
Hello, WMEE colleagues:
Thank you for the effort you have put into creating this plan. I know that it was not easy for your all-volunteer team.
I do urge you to respond to the questions and concerns brought forth by the committee members here. I also have a few questions, mostly about staffing, and I am adding them here because I believe that clarity on some of these points will be important to making a good decision about this request.
It is not clear to me what your plans are for the ED position. I see in the budget document that her severance pay has been removed, but this is not otherwise addressed in the application document or staffing plan. I think I understand that the model you are presenting here (two part-time staff positions) is intended to be a temporary model while the ED is on maternity leave. Yet, it is not clear if and when you are expecting the ED to return. Do you have information that indicates she is not likely to return during the 2018 H2 grant period? Is that why this is not addressed here? Is the decision about whether or not the ED will return something you plan to address in the 2019 application? (You may also send me a private Email communication if this is something you would rather not discuss on Meta.)
I think the questions asked here about the board's role in managing staff (in particular, who will be responsible for what and how) and about your backup plans in the event that you don't receive funding for the staff are very important, and so I will await your answers above.
- Just noting here that I got some answers from the board about this and have shared them with the committee :) Winifred Olliff (WMF Program Officer) talk 20:58, 17 May 2018 (UTC)
Simple APG committee recommendation
Wikimedia Eesti is a returning applicant requesting 25,451 EUR for 6 months (which already includes a 10% contingency), including two staffing positions (1 at 0.25 FTE and 1 at 0.75 FTE). We recommend funding Wikimedia Eesti with a total of 25,451 EUR for 6 months.
We still have serious concerns about Wikimedia Eesti’s readiness to manage multiple staff people, and yet we recognize that this plan directs staff resources toward the organization’s top priorities. The committee considered only funding one staff position, but recognizes the importance of and need for care and attention to WMEE’s volunteer community at this time. WMEE will be required to limit employment contracts to a temporary basis, so this new model may be tested and will be limited to requesting 6 month grants until further notice.
We do not doubt the commitment of WMEE’s board, nor their program expertise. We also recognize that WMEE board members bring relevant expertise from their staff experience, and also from past work and other sectors, to their management roles at WMEE. Nevertheless, there has not been adequate time to test the stability of the new board, and we have concerns about them rehiring staff before we know more about how the board is working.
We encourage WMEE to make a clear plan that delineates board and staff responsibilities, as it is not clear from reading this plan what exactly board members and staff members will be doing, or who on the board will be filling which roles, including board members overburdening themselves with work long-term, leaving little to no room outside of the operational tasks.
We believe the reduced scope of WMEE’s program plan makes sense, given the significant changes to the staffing model. We thank the new board and the WMEE community for the efforts to manage the organization during this difficult transition period.
|Strengths identified by the committee:
See recommendations above.
|Concerns identified by the committee:
See recommendations above.