CIS-A2K/India Program Announcement and FAQ - 30 July 2012

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This is an announcement and FAQ relating to changes in the India Program of the Wikimedia Foundation. Please feel free to add questions to the FAQ or leave comments on the Talk page.
Announcement regarding changes to the India Program

I would like to thank Hisham for his efforts in support of Wikimedia in India. He has been a great partner to the Wikimedia Foundation team and has worked tirelessly to build the India Program. He has worked in a challenging environment trying to do work in the Wikimedia movement that hasn’t been done before. While there have been ups and downs, our work in India has broken new ground for the movement and taught us all valuable lessons that we are applying in India and around the world. There is an unprecedented level of activity happening in India with promising programs that position the movement for continued growth.

Hisham also leaves behind an India Program that is working effectively with community members on a number of positive initiatives including community growth partnerships in several Indic languages, support for a new Malayalam education program, a GLAM partnership at the Crafts Museum, new wikiclubs at the British Council, ongoing efforts to leverage social media, and a dramatic increase in blog coverage of the India community’s work. There are also exciting developments on mobile that will be announced soon. This work will continue.

Hisham’s departure coincides with another change in the India Program. We are pleased to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation has approved a grant to the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore to expand their Access to Knowledge programme to support the achievement of the Wikimedia mission in India. CIS is a leading organization in India working on Internet policy. They are part of the broad free and open community. CIS is a long time friend of Wikimedia, our community in Bangalore, and the Wikimedia India chapter.

CIS has committed to sustaining and building upon the work of the India Program. They plan to hire the existing program consultants as staff and will conduct a search for a new programme director. The program team will be based in Delhi. CIS will be sharing their program plans shortly and will want to incorporate community feedback.

The grant will be for two years in duration to complete the original first stage of the catalyst strategy. The first year’s grant will be for a total of INR 11,000,000 subject to final budget approvals. The second year will be for a similar amount plus inflation subject to a budget review in May 2013. The grant will be renewable via the Wikimedia Grants program (or the FDC, if CIS were to become an affiliated organization and meet eligibility).

This is a shift in how the Wikimedia Foundation seeks to support work in India. Rather than hire consultants or open an office of our own, we think it is preferable to work with an established institution that can bring valuable relationships and capabilities to support our movement. CIS will be a partner to the Wikimedia Foundation, but will operate autonomously in accordance with the terms of the grant agreement.

CIS will hire a programme director for the work. The recruitment process will draw on the best practices Wikimedia used in Brazil and incorporate active community participation in the process. They will share more info on this soon.

Finally, I'd like to wish Hisham all the best in his future endeavours. He has taken us through a critical first stage of our work in India and set us up for significant progress during the next stage. He will be missed and I hope he will stay a part of the Wikimedia community in India.

Best regards, --Barry Newstead (WMF) (talk) 10:44, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Contents

Why is Hisham leaving?[edit]

Hisham has decided to leave to pursue other career opportunities that align with his career aspirations and personal circumstances. We wish him well in his future endeavours, and we are thankful to him for helping build the India Program with our community and partners in the region.

When is Hisham leaving?[edit]

Hisham will stay on for a period of time, likely 2-3 months, to support the transition process and ensure the team continues to function effectively.

What’s happening with the India Program after Hisham’s departure?[edit]

We are pleased to announce that the Wikimedia Foundation has approved a grant to the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore to expand their Access to Knowledge programme that will support the achievement of the Wikimedia mission in India. CIS is a long time friend of Wikimedia, our community in Bangalore, and the Wikimedia India chapter.

CIS has committed to sustaining and building upon the work of the India Program. They plan to hire the existing program consultants as staff and will conduct a search for a new programme director. The program team will be based in Delhi. CIS will be sharing their program plans shortly and will want to incorporate community feedback.

This is a shift in how the Wikimedia Foundation seeks to support work in India. Rather than hire consultants or open an office of our own, we think it is preferable to work with an established institution that can bring valuable relationships and capabilities to support our movement. CIS will be a partner to the Wikimedia Foundation, but will operate autonomously in accordance with the terms of the grant agreement.

What will be the status of the India Program consultants?[edit]

CIS has decided to hire all four existing India Program consultants as staff members of their expanded Access to Knowledge programme.

Will the team work out of Delhi?[edit]

Yes.

By shifting to a grant to CIS, does the Wikimedia Foundation no longer see India as a priority?[edit]

This is not a change in the priority of India, but is a shift in how the Wikimedia Foundation seeks to support work in India. Rather than hire consultants or open an office of our own, we think it is preferable to work with an established institution that can bring valuable relationships and capabilities to support our movement. CIS will be a partner to the Wikimedia Foundation, but will operate autonomously in accordance with the terms of the grant agreement.

Is there any connection between the CIS Grant and Hisham’s departure?[edit]

No, the timing is coincidental. Hisham has been involved in the discussions and planning with CIS and the intent had been for him to join the team at CIS. The reason both are being announced on the same day is because there are implications for CIS to start planning for program work once the grant starts. Hisham will support the transition.

What are the lessons learned since the India Program was started, that the Wikimedia Foundation and/or CIS will apply going forward?[edit]

On the whole, the India Program work has been beneficial. There is an unprecedented level of activity on Wikimedia projects in India today. There has been sustained project growth since we started work in India two years ago. While the programmatic work has had mixed results, we have learned a tremendous amount as a movement in a little over a year of program work. Wikimedia has benefited from the lessons learned in India. Recent work in India builds from the lessons of earlier efforts. Our programs in Brazil and the Arabic language region are stronger because we have applied lessons from India.

The Wikimedia Foundation expected work in India to be complex and challenging given the size and diversity of the country and the fact that we were starting there from scratch. We knew that we would be surprised, and would learn a lot. Here are some of the things we have learned:

  • It is clear that the Foundation's view of the community in India has evolved. We have a much better understanding of the diversity in the community. We have a better appreciation of the community dynamics and how our work interacts with the environment. To be honest, we are somewhat more wary of working in certain areas (probably in a healthy way) and will spend more time working where we can establish strong partnerships and vice versa. When we started the India Program, we had hoped to work closely with the then-new Indian chapter, as well as with the Indian community. Unfortunately, the relationships among the Indian chapter, parts of the English editing community and the Wikimedia Foundation have been more complex than we expected.
  • We have really struggled to work with some parts of the community in India and have learned a lot of lessons about what it takes to have a successful community partnership. It requires deeper engagement with a wider range of community members than we initially understood. It also requires a ton of communication and a real commitment to co-designing programs. We have learned from these early struggles and integrated the lessons into our more recent work in India and our whole approach in Brazil and the Arabic language region. While the India Program team has done this very successfully in their Indic language work, their early struggles to do so in the English language work has created a deficit in trust that has been difficult to recover from. We hope that ongoing efforts will pay off in improving these relationships and CIS is committed to a close partnership.
  • From the beginning, we had hoped to develop a close working relationship with the chapter and sought to agree on a collaboration framework, but these discussions ended without success. The spirit of the engagement was that we would work collaboratively and as the chapter matured (at the time they didn’t even formally exist, not to mention have the governance capabilities to oversee a program team), then there would be opportunities for greater control of India Program resources. Further, the Wikimedia Foundation provided funding to have the chapter accompany San Francisco staff on visits to India and generally support activities before they were ready to apply for a grant. We think the unwillingness to work closely with the India Program on the part of some in the chapter executive committee comes from a resentment of the Wikimedia Foundation playing any active role in India and a sense that we are “on their turf” and have an unfair advantage in terms of resources. It is sad that the relationship has been viewed through a competitive rather than collaborative lens. This was a lost opportunity. We did work closely with members of the chapter executive committee on a number of activities, however and we hope that CIS will have more success working with the next chapter executive committee. The chapter is young and in some ways struggling: it’s experiencing quite a lot of turnover at the Board level and has seen a significant decline in membership. We hope this can be turned around. We think that the best road forward for the chapter, CIS and the India community would be to shift from competitive to partnership. We all share the same mission and are best positioned to succeed if we work together.
  • The India Education Program was clearly a disappointment as we have stated in the past. On the other hand, IEP is one of the very few initiatives anywhere within Wikimedia that was rigorously assessed and learned from. It provided valuable lessons and we are proud of the fact that we did a very public evaluation of the program to really understand what went wrong. The lessons learned are documented, and we’ve adjusted our approach both inside and outside India, based on them.
  • When we started the India Program, we believed it was important that on-the-ground activities be run by people in those geographies, as opposed to being run by Wikimedia Foundation staff in San Francisco. We secured the services of a local team of consultants to develop programs based on local knowledge and provided support from San Francisco. Having CIS run the program funded by a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation will further enhance the capabilities, relationships and local knowledge in the India Program, which we are pleased about.
  • When the India Program was launched, we knew it would require a significant investment of resources to get off the ground: not just money, but also legal, administrative and human resources support. We also knew that communications costs between the WMF and the India Program team would be considerable. This turned out to be true: the dollar costs of the India Program have been reasonable, but the non-financial costs to the Wikimedia Foundation have likely been higher than expected. The transfer of responsibility to CIS will reduce many of those non-financial costs.
  • When the India Program was established, we had not gained much experience overseeing grants to other organizations. We did not have mature processes for soliciting and evaluating grant applications, distributing money in compliance with relevant regulations, and managing reporting on activities. We have significantly grown our ability to effectively distribute funds for programmatic activities, and (in committing to establishing the Funds Dissemination Committee) we have committed to continuing to develop grantmaking as a core institutional competency. That infrastructure, and the expertise that fuels and supports it, makes it possible for us to now make and manage grants for activities such as the India Program, in a way that would not have been possible for us several years ago.

We remain optimistic about the future of our projects in India and the role that the CIS team can play in supporting growth. There are promising programs to build on and we have learned a lot about creating effective partnerships in the community.

Within India, we have promising work happening on multiple fronts that CIS will build from. We are working closely with a range of Indic language projects to broaden their editor community and increase participation. We carried out several social media experiments that show early promise in engaging new editors. We conducted extensive analysis of outreach programs and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't work. We have promising partnerships focused on editing with GLAM institutions and we have been telling the story of the Indian community to the wider Indian populace and to the global community. There is a lot to build from.

Is this change an admission of failure of the work to date?[edit]

No. When the Wikimedia Foundation started supporting activities in India, it was the first time that the Wikimedia movement had made any serious investment in that country. We were starting completely from scratch. Since then, we have learned a lot, both about India and the Wikimedia Foundation itself: our core competencies, our capacity, our strengths and weaknesses. The purpose of this change is to iterate our approach to India based on what we’ve learned over the past several years. If the Wikimedia Foundation believed it wasn’t worth pursuing activities in India, we would simply shut down the program. That’s not what we believe.


Why doesn't the Wikimedia Foundation provide this grant to the Wikimedia India chapter instead?[edit]

The Indian chapter is young -- just over a year old. Since, and even before, its founding, the Wikimedia Foundation has worked on a regular basis with it. We provided a grant to help jumpstart chapter activities, and the India Program has collaborated with members of the chapter Executive Committee on a number of activities. The chapter has yet to complete its first grant, is seeing significant turnover in its Executive Committee and a decline in membership. Like most chapters, it needs time to develop into a mature organization with the governance setup in place to manage a staff and larger budget. We are hopeful that they will get there as other chapters have, but it will take time. We believe that, at this point in the chapter’s development, to give it responsibility for a team of staff and a sizable budget would risk stressing and damaging rather than helping it. We would like there to be a change in approach from competitive to cooperative with the Wikimedia Foundation and with other groups in the community. This would serve the chapter well and the community well.

Who is CIS?[edit]

The Centre for Internet & Society (CIS) was registered as a society in Bangalore in 2008. As an independent, non-profit research organisation, it runs different policy research programmes such as Accessibility, Access to Knowledge, Openness, Internet Governance, and Telecom.

Over the last 4 years our policy research programmes have resulted in outputs such as:

  1. With foreign governments: National Enterprise Architecture and Government Interoperability Framework for Govt. of Iraq; Open Standards Policy for Govt. of Moldova; Free and Open Software Centre of Excellence project plan for Saudi Arabia; eGovernance Strategy Document – Govt. of Tajikistan.
  2. National Government: Policy research for Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, etc., on areas like WIPO Treaties, Copyright Bill, Interoperability Framework in eGovernance, Privacy Bill, NIA Bill, National Policy on Electronics and IT Act.
  3. With multilateral organisations: Accessibility Policy Handbook for Persons with Disabilities with ITU, policy research for negotiators at the WIPO and also the IGF.
  4. International NGOs: Consumers International IP Watchlist reports with Consumers International; Open Government Data Study with Transparency & Accountability Initiative; A Wikipedia reader titled Critical Point of View with the Institute of Network Cultures.

CIS is an accredited NGO at WIPO and has given policy briefs to delegations from various countries. Nirmita Narasimhan won the National Award for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities from the Government of India and she also received the NIVH Excellence Award.

Over the last four years they have been featured approximately 400 times in national and international press such as Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Times of India, Hindustan Times, Hindu, NDTV, CNN-IBN, etc. CIS has published op-eds in the Indian Express, Economic Times and columns in Business Standard and Deccan Herald.

CIS has taught at institutions like TISS, Mumbai, Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, Christ University, Bangalore, Pune University, University of Hyderabad, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi, CEPT, Ahmedabad, and University of Amsterdam. Interns from institutions like Erasmus University of Rotterdam, University of Toronto, Columbia University, Yale University, University of Sydney, National Law School of India University, Bangalore, University of Hyderabad, and Jamia Millia Islamia University have worked with them.

Presently, CIS is a 10 member team along with five distinguished fellows, four fellows and seven interns who work with the team. Their average revenue during the last four years was about Rs. 2.4 crores per annum. They receive core funding from the Kusuma Trust founded by Anurag Dikshit and Soma Pujari, philanthropists of Indian origin, and funding for their various projects/programmes from donors such as Hivos, Privacy International, Ford Foundation, Hans Foundation, ITU and individual donors like Rohini Nilekani.

CIS recently obtained approval from the Indian authorities to receive overseas grants to aid in the fulfillment of their charitable purposes.

In CIS, the Wikimedia Foundation has found a partner that knows our community well and largely shares the same values as Wikimedia. In fact, they have an explicit agenda to advocate for the kinds of freedoms that Wikimedia stands for. There are many connection points between CIS and Wikimedia as we are both members of the free knowledge/free-and-open source community. One connection is that Achal Prabhala has been involved in both organizations. Achal was a founding member of the society when CIS was created. He is also a member of the Wikimedia Foundation Advisory Board, a role that is not involved in governance or management.

CIS hosted Jimmy Wales and Sue Gardner when they visited India in 2009. They supported, financially and with expertise, the formation of the India Chapter and have hosted the Bangalore community meetup since August 2009. They are well managed with a strong Executive Director, a good Board of Trustees, and solid financial management. We have completed two visits to CIS as part of the grant review process and met with their Board of Trustees.

What was the process for selecting CIS as the grantee?[edit]

In January, Sue Gardner, Barry Newstead and Geoff Brigham met to discuss the status of India-related activities in relation to various operational and legal factors. After a review the current status, we decided to look at the possibility of making a grant to an organization in India to set up a program that would enable us to advance our strategic goals for India via a grant rather than our own activities.

Over a period of two months, we spoke with 26 separate organizations about the prospect of them developing a grant concept. Candidates were screened for their alignment with the Wikimedia mission, their experience working in similar areas/communities, their financial management, their FCRA status and their governance. Most were not a good fit.

CIS had been a partner of interest to the Wikimedia Foundation for a long time given their history with our community, their shared values including a deep commitment to the open Internet, strong leadership, understanding of how Wikimedia works, and strong financial management and governance. We had not approached them at the outset, as they did not have FCRA approval. Once they received the approval, we began discussions.

Who negotiated the grant agreement with CIS on behalf of Wikimedia?[edit]

Barry Newstead led the negotiations with active support from Kelly Kay, Deputy General Counsel and Hisham Mundol. Sue Gardner, Geoff Brigham and Garfield Byrd were kept apprised of the discussions. For CIS, the negotiations were led by Sunil Abraham as Executive Director.

Why did these discussions --with 26 organizations-- happen without the involvement of Indian community members?[edit]

These discussions can be a little sensitive for both parties, since they sometimes touch on issues like organizational strategic direction, organizational capacity, financial health and fundraising strategies. We wanted to be able to have candid, easy conversations on a pretty quick timeline.

What's the effect of this arrangement on Wikimedia’s exposure to legal risks in India --- exposure for the Wikimedia Foundation, and for the CIS team?[edit]

We are excited about the opportunities to benefit from the work of CIS in India, and frankly do not see any risks or exposures of concern associated with the CIS grant agreement. CIS is a third-party grantee. And, of course, CIS is not responsible for the content on Wikipedia or its sister sites nor is CIS assuming to take on a role as any type of legal representative.

What's the thinking behind a two-year grant?[edit]

This is a practical requirement of the deal with CIS. They (or other parties) wouldn't want to go through the difficulty of setting up this process for a one-year grant. The grant does have appropriate safeguards in place to deal with the FDC process and changing conditions. CIS needs to submit budgets that require our approval for each of the two years. These budgets would be included as part of the WMF non-core submission to the FDC annually.

After the two years, CIS would apply for future grants via the Wikimedia Grants Program like other organizations.

Will the CIS grant be reviewed by the FDC?[edit]

The CIS grant is part of the Global Development budget. It will be reviewed by the FDC in that context as part of the combined Wikimedia Foundation non-core budget submission. It is not a stand-alone budget in the same way that other programmatic budgets of the WMF or a chapter are part of the program plan of each entity.

What will happen if the FDC declines to fund the CIS grant as part of the Wikimedia Foundation’s non-core budget submission?[edit]

The FDC has not been set up to make decisions about individual programs of each eligible group, but rather to allocate funds between entities on the basis of the strategic fit of the work, the potential for impact, and the likelihood of successful implementation. If the FDC were to only allocate a percentage of WMF’s non-core budget, then the management team would need to either raise funds from elsewhere to close the gap or make budget adjustments.

Did the grant go through the Wikimedia Grants Program process?[edit]

No, this first one did not. This arrangement is a partnership in addition to a project grant. We will treat the grant funding as part of the WMF Global Development team budget rather than as part of any grants process and maintain the budget within the WMF operating activities, which will be reviewed collectively by the FDC as part of the WMF non-core budget review.

What happens next? When can the Indian community expect to hear from Sunil and CIS? What will be the process for hiring a new lead for the India Program, and when will it begin?[edit]

CIS will be starting work immediately on hiring the team and recruiting a programme director. They will also share their program plan shortly. The grant will start officially on 1 September 2012.

Is CIS going to make decisive instructions on how a community should work?[edit]

Absolutely not. CIS will work with communities on initiatives and will respect the policies and governance of the projects. We hope that they will be bold in certain circumstances, but only in ways that comport with the five pillars and accepted community norms around innovation. Ideally, they will be valued partners with the communities in India and will both be proactive in generating ideas and responsive to the communities they engage with.

Are the members / employees of CIS going to implement/ dictate terms on either the chapter or community strategies including any funding policy on potential grants ?[edit]

CIS will not have any oversight role with either the chapter or the community strategies. Where the chapter and community members desire funding, they will continue to work through the Wikimedia Foundation's Grants Program or where applicable the Funds Dissemination Committee process. CIS's team aims to be a partner with the chapter and the community providing new ideas, capabilities, relationships and operational capacity to help with initiatives that can grow our communities and projects.

Is this BIG change of transpositioning WMF/India going to affect the way the three entities WMF, Chapter and the communities interact or communicate?[edit]

My (Barry) sincere hope is that it improves the way the three groups interact and communicate, though this depends on all actors. CIS is committed to working very transparently and to building upon the strong relationships with the India Program consultants have developed with a number of communities in India and parts of the chapter leadership. The BIG change will actually be in the new leadership to replace Hisham and my hope is that the community does not tolerate treatment of the new programme director in the same manner as Hisham has been treated by some members of the community. If the general spirit is to work together and be constructive as partners seeking the same goal, then all will be great.

What are the anticipated positive and negative effects of this change from a community member's point of perspective?[edit]

The positive effects are that Wikimedia has gained a very competent and dedicated partner in CIS. They bring capabilities and relationships that we simply didn't have yesterday in our movement. This is BIG! As mentioned two questions above, CIS does not change the fundamental nature of the community and the fact that Wikimedia continues to be a movement where no one person, group or entity is the "boss". CIS is comfortable with this ethos having strong connections as part of the FOSS/free knowledge movement. The negatives? We are going to be in a transition period for a few months with a new programme director coming on board. This will have some costs in terms of programme efficiency, as the new director will need to be recruited and oriented to the environment. To mitigate that, the CIS team is going to stay focused on what the India Program is doing now and move quickly to start the search (though not too quickly as it is more important to find the right candidate than the one that arrives quickly).

After the change-over, who are going to directly control the presently employed consultants? CIS or WMF? How are the parameters set? What is their long-term prospectus?[edit]

The presently engaged consultants are expected to transition to CIS either as staff members or consultants (based on individual choice of the consultants) and will be managed by them. CIS will present WMF with a program plan for approval each year and will provide regular public reports on their progress. CIS will be in regular contact with the WMF team in San Francisco to share lessons, benefit from experience elsewhere, make changes to plans as conditions change, and to ensure that the grant agreement is being followed.

Will CIS consult the general community and the chapter through the hiring process of the new program consultant?[edit]

This is covered in the announcement above: "CIS will hire a programme director for the work. The recruitment process will draw on the best practices Wikimedia used in Brazil and incorporate active community participation in the process. They will share more info on this soon."

Will CIS have permissions to use Wikimedia trademarks as a part of its work under the "Access to Knowledge" program?[edit]

CIS has permission to state that the Access to Knowledge programme is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. Other usage of the trademarks in their programme work will require trademark permissions that have not yet been agreed upon. While they will not have blanket approval for using the trademark, permission will not be withheld as there are likely to be activities/events that would benefit from use of the trademark.

Can you please put some more light on non-financial costs to the Wikimedia Foundation have likely been higher than expected being the primary reason for this transition ?[edit]

Non-financial costs really focus on management time required from a range of people including our Legal, Human Resources, Finance and Communications teams. A lot of time has been spent on issues such as legal risks in India as it might relate to the consultants, how to transfer funds effectively and address problems with transferring funds that regularly come up, working on complex contracts with consultants, preparing for possible media inquiries/questions as the Indian government/courts took action against Google and Facebook, ensuring that we have plans in place if there is an effort to protest during visits from Wikimedia Foundation staff, etc. I hope this clarifies things. I would not say that it is the primary reason, but we believe that the CIS grant will reduce some of these costs and allow us to use these resources elsewhere.

What will happen to Wikimedia India Programme Trust [edit]

The Wikimedia India Programme Trust was an independent trust created in India separate from the Wikimedia Foundation. Originally, the intention was for this trust to be a focused vehicle for Wikimedia activities in India, but later realised that several factors such as FCRA restrictions and the timelines for government approvals made this option impractical. The trust was never formally active and is currently being dissolved by its creators. We believe a strong existing non-profit such as CIS is a better solution to facilitate activities in India.