Grants talk:PEG/Thomas de Souza Buckup - WM Movement/Flow Funding Pilot Project

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GAC member status for this application[edit]

No objection[edit]

  • I am volunteer of this project and I would not comment to avoid any conflict of interests. --Ilario (talk) 20:30, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Poró poró! I am a volunteer of this project and am already quite happy with it. I did comment on it before it was presented to the GAC, but I might comment again here if any good ideas or discussions come up. --Solstag (talk) 21:50, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Also a volunteer for this pilot project -- Thuvack (talk) 01:09, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
  • Ok, Mayur (talkEmail) 09:09, 5 October 2012 (UTC)


  • Béria Lima msg 18:01, 12 September 2012 (UTC) Per this. And following my above question: If I signed for this (don't think so but if happened), please strike my name.
  • Hi Beria! Please see that the diff you point to has been answered with careful consideration, hopefully clarifying the issue. --Solstag (talk) 01:30, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
  • Tony (talk) 00:48, 13 September 2012 (UTC)
  • The concept and idea are good, the composition is also good, however funding projects in your own country/community creates some concern, that one day we may see chapters/communities fielding their own Flow Funders to get a hand at easily dispensable money. -- Namayan (talk) 07:25, 10 October 2012 (UTC)

Waiting for more details[edit]


I don't know what I should think about it. IMHO it is a new idea, not a grant application. Maybe I have not grasped it. --Packa (talk) 07:24, 10 October 2012 (UTC)


I like the idea very much and think it has great potential :-) Just several questions:

  • Do the Flow Founders are to be allowed to allocate money globally, somehow competing with each other or they are to operate on selected teritories/Wikimedia projects? (For example one for Spanish projects, one for German etc..) ?
  • Taxation problem: If the WMF money are donated to chapters or other formal entities - there is no problem with taxation of individuals - money are accounted and spent by legal entity. In case of direct support of individuals the money sent to them are about to be these persons extra income. This may lead to less effective way of spending money by WMF - i.e. substantial part of money will be spent for taxes. For example - in Poland - the personal income tax is from 18 to 40% of income (depending on the level of overal yearly income), but there are countries with much higher taxation level. If the same money will be sent to Polish Wikimedia Chapter the tax is 0 if money are spent to the statutory goals of the chapter. I guess the similar situation are in many other countries...
  • Overlap with local chapters microgrant systems - microgrants systems provided by several chapters are somehow similar approach - I mean a group of people decide about allocation of small amounts of money to the individual editors of Wikimedia projects. Do you think that Flow Founders should somehow compete with these systems or rather avoid to operate in countries that have developed microgrant systems and concentrate on these countries which have no established chapters or chapters not providing microgrants?
  • For the future - how do you think Flow Founders are about to be choosen? By voting? By a special committee? By a selected WMF officer responsible for project?

Polimerek (talk) 22:52, 5 September 2012 (UTC)

Polimerek, thanks for your comments. Please find below my answers below:
  • Flow funders' work is usually not restricted by territory. Nonetheless, it is expected that flow funders identify and support mostly projects local to where they live.
  • The taxation aspect of eah donation will be evaluated by the WMF. We will measure and monitor the amount of money spend on taxes on a case by case basis throughout the Pilot Project.
  • I think flow funders should complement and not compete with GAC and microgrants programs. Flow funders in countries which have established chapters or chapters providing microgrants should be understood as an supplementary effort to reach innovative projects. And during the pilot project we will "assess the demand from fund-seekers not served in the current option set".
  • The selection of flow funders after the pilot project should be addressed carefully in collaboration with the WMF staff, GAC members and the Wikimedia movement volunteers. But in my opinion, I believe almost any active editor has the potential to become a flow funder. A simple screening (like the GAC process) could take place first so that flow funders could be entrusted with decision making power to spend a minimum amount (i.e. US$5). The amount could then increase over time according to the several aspects, including the commitment of each flow funder to report on his/her funding decisions. TSB (talk) 07:36, 8 September 2012 (UTC)
I don't think so, that transfering US$5 to anybody from WMF account does make sense - costs of transfer is probably higher, so 2000 USD for start seems for me a much better idea :-) Anyway - I am still a bit affraid of having clashes between local chapters and flow founders. 2000 USD is amount of money which exeeds the yearly budget of some small chapters - so there might be a situation when a local flow founder has more money than the chapter and also have different idea what to do. It might end up in blocking natural activity of the chapter, which in fact might be replaced by single person having kind of "dictatorship" possition. On the other hand - take into consideration Germany - Germany has strong and reach chapter which has its own ideas whom and how to support. Some of the projects are accepted and some not. Then, suddenly there is a single person - a flow founder - who can give money for projects rejected by WMDE. Maybe it is for good, but it may end up in strong clash between flow founder and local chapter. In extreme POV, some people from chapters may have a feeling that flow founders are a kind of "WMF spyies" performing "divide et impera" policy of the Foundation. Disclaimer: I do not believe that WMF has indeed "divide et impera" attitude towards chapters or local Wikimedia communities - so treat this concern as kind of "devil's advocate" POV. Polimerek (talk) 13:23, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Polimerek, you are right. If the pilot project succeeds, we should certainly consider the transfer costs before deciding on a minimum amount per flow funder. And the more flow funders exist in the same place, the lesser the risk of any sort of "dictatorship" - that is another reason why I believe most Wikimedia editors should be able to become flow funders in the future. TSB (talk) 16:17, 10 September 2012 (UTC)
Hi there. TSB, I am missing more pre-thought about work with local chapters? I don't see any reference at all to chapters in your proposal, and I find this a bit too bad. I like the idea of flow funders very much, I do believe it is an interesting grassroot approach to finding and funding good projects, but I would like to see a piece of it that refers to working with chapters on designated territories to prevent the avocado diaboli position Polimerek points out. Do you mind giving it some thought and maybe integrating it in the proposal? Thanks. notafish }<';> 08:50, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

Hi Delphine. It is great to know that you liked the flow funding idea. You are right that in the pilot project there is no specific reference to chapters. Considering that many chapter members can be very helpful and insightful, I just added a reference to them in the part that says "Community feedback on initiatives’ outcomes". Additionally, flow funders can be expected to assist volunteers to develop their projects to find more structured sources of support, like chapter programs for example. I hope this covers at least a little of your concern. TSB (talk) 09:47, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Pork Barrel[edit]

I see that it is well thought of and the composition is diverse which is good. The idea has a lot of potentials, though I understand it's away of devolving the grant making process entrusted to the GAC, but wouldn't it be an overlap of functions? In essence, I find this like a pork barrel, is that correct? -- Namayan (talk) 09:51, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

Namayan, thank you. I agree with you that the composition of flow funders is very diverse and that this is a good thing. Flow funding should complement the FDC, GAC and microgrants processes by allowing flow funders to identify, support and report on projects that are probably not served in the current option set. For example, imagine a project lead by a volunteer that is spending all of his/her time to make the project happen. He/she would possibly be spotted and supported by a flow funder, who would then be responsible to report back on the project to the Wikimedia movement.
I wouldn't call the flow funding process a pork barrel, but if you meant it as a discretionary and meaningful allocation of fund, then we are on the same page. TSB (talk) 07:36, 8 September 2012 (UTC)


Since I have already had a conversation with Thomas regarding this initiative and signed my name as a potential flow funder, it seems reasonable for me to refrain from participation to evaluate this grant application. The page I'm referring to contains some discussion that may be useful for further analysis and evaluation. Best regards.--Kiril Simeonovski (talk) 14:11, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

Comment from KTC[edit]

I'm really not sure about this.

It is certainly an innovative idea and we are talking about a pilot, but I am not convinced giving individuals sole discretion on who and how much to give out is such a good idea. The advantage of committee review of proposals by for example GAC or local chapter microgrants are that potential issues are more likely to be picked up, and different recipients can be prioritised. I would rather a simple process where invididuals are invited to propose other individuals, groups and projects as deserving of funds and then such suggestions to be reviewed by others before the money is disseminated. KTC (talk) 21:43, 7 September 2012 (UTC)

KTC, thanks for sharing your concerns. I agree with you that committees play a very important role in the funding processes within the Wikimedia movement (FDC, GAC, chapters). You are right when you write that we are talking about a pilot to test a potentially innovative idea. I hope we can learn from this pilot to strengthen all of our processes. TSB (talk) 07:36, 8 September 2012 (UTC)

E-mail to the interested[edit]

I saw that "16 people showed interest" in this project. Since they might get 2000 dollars from WMF money to spend if this grant got approved, did they got contacted? Can you give us a list of those people (because I took that survey and just spend 10 min trying to remember if I signed up for this or no - and couldn't remember). So it would come as a surprise if next month someone come with 2K dollars and thrown it in my lap. So, did you contact then? Béria Lima msg 05:55, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Beria, you can find here the complete list with the usernames of all 16 volunteers who showed interest to act as flow funders in the pilot project. TSB (talk) 09:24, 17 September 2012 (UTC)


I have the feeling that this is just an outsourcing of the GAC's role. What exactly would the benefits be, given that the GAC is already equipped to take into account a whole of lot strategic and technical matters related to the WMF and the movement; how could the quality of decision-making be accountable when made so disparate? Tony (talk) 13:57, 12 September 2012 (UTC)

Tony, this is not "an outsourcing of the GAC's role", but a complement to all the existing approaches to fund allocation within the Wikimedia Movement. The pilot project aims at testing if a more decentralized and capillary model can help us reach additional new projects run by volunteers everywhere. TSB (talk) 09:24, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
Even if I said to don't have in mind to comment, I would explain why I accepted to follow this project. Let's consider it as "pilot" and don't consider it as a project that can take an independent way. If this pilot had success, it would make sense to discuss how it may work with GAC. I see on it more an opportunity for GAC than an obstacle or a conflict of competence. --Ilario (talk) 20:38, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
TSB, you say, "this is not "an outsourcing of the GAC's role", but a complement to all the existing approaches to fund allocation within the Wikimedia Movement". It looks, moves, and smells like an outsourcing of the GAC's role, and nothing in the state plan suggests otherwise; not does the plan outline how accountability and auditing would not be inferior to direct GAC scrutiny of applications and reportage. Tony (talk) 13:02, 20 September 2012 (UTC)
Hi Tony, I appreciate your concerns and they deserve a full reply.
Let me start by pointing out that the documentation gathered elsewhere where this proposal has been discussed, which you can check in the section 'Related pages' of this talk page, better explains that this proposal comes partially in response to testimony of failure of the movement's resource channels to reach valuable initiatives under certain conditions, and partially as a way of experimenting with an innovative trust process that provides a different decentralization mechanism from that of the GAC, which has proven effective in other contexts, in particular targeting those blind spots identified in our current flows.
Now, adopting your outsourcing metaphor, what you said could, and should, also be said of the FDC, whose mission, overlooking some technical details, can be thought of as outsourcing the GAC's job, of evaluating funding for individual projects, to third-party trustworthy institutions, providing a different decentralization mechanism that better serves some purposes. Thus the present proposal is, in a way, to do the same for trustworthy people, instead of institutions, with the level of resources per capita, and therefore risk and risk management, proportionally scaled down.
This reflects the fact that the GAC was never meant to be, and has never been, the sole distribution channel of Foundation resources. It is, in fact, very important for the movement to diversify its flows so we can have means to comparatively evaluate and evolve them towards the future. Not diversify it in an undisciplined way, but looking for models that deeply resonate with our mode of operation and values, and that hopefully have already been proven to work.
--Solstag (talk) 05:23, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Related pages[edit]

People interested in the context of previous discussions about flowfunding within Wikimedia may want to check these out:

Keep in mind that was all prospective and does not reflect the final stage of the flowfunding pilot, which should be taken instead from the present proposal. Abraço!

--Solstag (talk) 22:00, 19 September 2012 (UTC) Press ENTER to look up in Wiktionary or CTRL+ENTER to look up in Wikipedia

Project identification/limitation[edit]

I have a few suggestions, may be I wasn't able to absorb everything that has already been written:

  1. A grant proposal that has been rejected by the GAC cannot be coursed through the Flow Funding projects anymore.
  2. Chapters projects must not be coursed through Flow Funding system despite needing only small budgets, because chapters should know more how to process or make grant requests and they must not find a short cut to obtain funds right away for small projects.
  3. Flow funders should give importance to funding Wikimedia communities (countries without chapters), to make the grant process simpler for them.
  4. Flow funders shouldn't provide funds in their own countries/communities/their own projects, just to avoid any conflict of interest.
  5. There need to be a central notice board where funding requests using this method could be seen, and who among the Flow funders "sponsored" the funding of a project. -- Namayan (talk) 06:34, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
These are very good points, which go to the heart of my objection: how can accountability for conflict of interest and poor allocations, and reportage, fail to be made diffuse compared with the application and reportage system of the GAC? Tony (talk) 07:47, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the suggestions and comments. I believe we all agree that the flow funding model will only work within the Wikimedia movement context if there is full transparency and accountability. The suggestion of a "central notice board" is very good and similar to what has already been planned ("transactions would be transparent and accessible to the Wikimedia community to appraise and comment"). Regarding the other suggestions, it is worth remembering that one of the pilot project 's goal is to "assess demand from fund-seekers NOT served in the current option set" and flow funders are not expected to fund their "own projects or that of a relative" in order to avoid conflict of interest. I hope it clarifies some of your doubts and worries. TSB (talk) 20:56, 7 October 2012 (UTC)
Hi Namayan, your suggestions come in great alignment with the spirit of flowfunding, as TSB explains above! Except one, that I think went unnoticed to him: flow funders are very expected to provide for projects in their own countries and familiar areas - but not their own projects. Exploring the unique local sensibility and knowledge of trusted volunteers is exactly one of the strong points of flowfunding, one that directly addresses the "NOT served" objective TSB mentions. It also raises accountability, as reviewers of a flowfunder can assume he deeply understood the area beforehand and call him on that, so he can't use ignorance of local issues as an excuse. I hope this makes it more clear what flowfunding is about, it is clear that this is going to work best if we can build it all together! Hugs and appreciation, --Solstag (talk) 01:26, 8 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply. In as much as I believe that local Flow Funders would really be in the best position to determine local projects that need funding, it is here where I see "potential" conflict of interest. I'm not saying that the set-up isn't correct, but this could be abused. I really believe in the best interest of the proponents, however this would create some form of lobbying from a chapter/community to have someone from them become a flow funder and get a hand on easily dispensable funds, because they won't anymore go through the more stringent requirements of the GAC. If this is the case, why not just provide chapters $2,000 and let them determine where it's going to be used, but that doesn't sound right does it? -- Namayan (talk) 09:30, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

Namayan, thanks for all of your interest. You are addressing another very important goal of the pilot project (two out of three, so far), which aims at assessing "potential problems of gaming the system". To reduce the risk of conflicts of interests we will need full transparency and accountability from flow funders and engagemente from the community. Basically, this is what is going to be tested in this very short pilot project. My suggestion is to give it a go and evaluate together the results. What do you think? TSB (talk) 09:55, 8 October 2012 (UTC)

I guess my only reservation is funding in your own community/country, otherwise it could potentially urge chapters to nominate a member to become a Flow Funder, once they see it's the easiest way to get funds. -- Namayan (talk) 12:37, 9 October 2012 (UTC)

Parameters for success[edit]

I think this experiment could be valuable: it does not aim to replace existing models (like this grants process), but to potentially supplement them with additional reach this program might not have. That promise remains to be proven, of course, but it could work, which is why it makes sense to experiment.

Here are some parameters I would like to see added or more explicitly committed to (on the grant page itself), before we approve this:

  • the grant proposal still describes the original, much larger plan. The text and plan need to be adjusted to reflect the smaller scale on which we are willing to experiment. Also, the timeline should be updated.
  • explicit recognition that funds would still be disbursed directly by WMF (the flow funders never handle any money), within the constraints of US law (i.e. we won't be able to fund people or groups on the Treasury Department's Specially Designated Nationals list).
  • once a flow funder identifies a recipient they would like to fund, we'd expect the flow funder to draft a cover letter (WMF will provide a template) with the basic details (who, how much), but also a clear impact statement (from the flow funder's perspective).
  • a clear commitment from TSB to analyze the incoming reports, and to deliver an overall report once all funded activities are over, as well as an interim report six months after the first disbursement of flow funding.
  • The minimal amount for flow funding is $500. I.e., at most, a flow funder could fund four different efforts out of their $2,000 budget.
  • to clarify, the reporting we're expecting is:
    • one report from each funded individual/group/entity from their own perspective.
    • one report from each flow funder on how they spent their budget (i.e. one report, even if four different activities were funded), and what impact was achieved in the different activities.
    • one report from TSB as described above.

If this outline is acceptable, we would be ready to proceed. Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 16:37, 25 October 2012 (UTC)