Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Working Groups/Resource Allocation/Recommendations/Nutshell

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We believe that in order to reach our 2030 strategic direction, we need to create an equitable system of resource allocation. We understand equity to be about Opportunities (e.g. access to systems and resources), Power (e.g. ability to make decisions about resources, ability to change culture) and Outcomes. By ‘resources’ we mean finances, but also staff time, capacities, data.

Our working group has been exploring the following aspects of allocating resources within the movement:

  1. Structures for resource allocation
  2. Decision-making and power
  3. Values and Principles (purpose)
  4. Communities that have been left out
  5. User/recipients
  6. Innovation
  7. Leveraging resources (sustainability)
  8. Impact (movement and society)
  9. Accountability

Overview of recommendations[edit]

  1. Set Common Framework of Principles for Resource Allocation. Allocating resources can drive real change within our movement. To ensure that this process supports the strategic direction globally, we propose a set of principles/goals/values to be followed. The goals need to be flexible enough to work in a global and diverse movement and the impact will be evaluated through the lens of the strategic direction. These will apply both to those who allocate and receive resources.
  2. Design participatory decision making for Resource Allocation. Principles is one thing, but the right decision making process is key for driving equity. To achieve knowledge equity we also need to design an equitable decision making process for resource allocation. Movement members/participants will be empowered to take part in the decision making process regarding resource allocation. We will deliberately design a process that ensures the participation of ‘those who have been left out’.
  3. Avoid the pitfalls of privileges / Design for diversity. While we are advocating equitable participation in our movement, we need to be aware of key barriers some people and communities are experiencing. People don’t have the same opportunities for participation. In order to increase diversity of the people who make decisions and to ensure equitable allocation of resources, we need to design for diversity. This means allocating resources to ensure that the people making decisions reflect the equity we want to achieve through our resource allocation framework.
    At the same time, even though we recommend a participatory resource allocation system, we acknowledge that many things can go wrong in attempting to design such a system. Implementers must be mindful of this to avoid the following: amplification of elitism, gatekeeping, corruption, lack of inclusivity.
  4. Distribute existing structures - Regional hubs. The current reality of resource allocation is that one central organisation is empowered to: raise the vast majority of the funds, directly control the allocation of those funds, produce the global priority/plans by itself, undertake most of the program itself, and be accountable only to itself. Instead, it is healthier if the “owner” of the resources, the “doer” of the activities, and the “oversight” for the process are not held by a single agent.
    We want to decentralise by distributing existing structures to other parts of the globe by creating ‘regional hubs’. Resource allocation, reporting and programmatic coordination – responsibilities currently held at the centre – will be devolved to “regional hubs”. This is focused on ensuring equity.
  5. Build Thematic hubs – to provide services to the free knowledge movement long term. To continue our structural decentralisation approach, we propose to create ‘Thematic hubs’. We want to decentralise by supporting the development of specialised entities; and make sure certain needs of the movement are met by proactively creating certain hubs (e.g. for capacity building).
    These specialist organizations, have financial means allocated to them and in return they are responsible for supporting the movement with a service and as such lead the development and work with the allocation of knowledge, with technical development within a specific area and the creation of resources within their given theme. They are independent and often built upon existing organizations and are coordinating their work with the movement. This is focused to ensure the right infrastructure and service for the movement.
  6. Ensure flexible approach to resource allocation in a complex, fast moving and changeable space. In our recommendations we are proposing to create numerous structures and principles. However, Resource allocation for deliverables needs to be flexible and draw on Complexity Theory. The context of the work we’re doing in the movement is highly complex. Via the new strategic direction, we want to engage in new spaces that we are not familiar with (e.g. emerging Wikimedia communities), and spaces where a lot of unpredictable change happens.
    Our approach to allocating resources must be flexible and adaptable. This includes intentional testing, evaluation, iteration, and a strong focus on sharing lessons learned with the movement.
  7. Allocate resources for capacity and sustainability. This is an important ‘side’ principle to hold in mind. We are aware that resources aren’t always allocated directly into programme activity. For a sustainable movement, we also need to consider allocating resources for:
    Growing capacity of the recipient to receive resources (‘absorption capacity’).
    Developing fundraising capacities (resources to generate future resources, sustainability).
  8. Allocate resources to new types of partners/organisations . We will allocate resources to groups outside of Wikimedia contributors and Wikimedia affiliates – so that "anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us".
    The Strategic direction is clear that we must be able to provide ‘essential infrastructure’ to other free-knowledge activities beyond those specifically associated to Wikimedia. This means that we must create a method to allocate resources to non-Wikimedia activities/projects.
  9. Include knowledge consumers. We shall dedicate resources to reader/knowledge consumer experience and engagement, especially for those who are new. This can include ongoing research, well funded global campaigns to make people aware of Wikipedia, and research to continually understand the needs of new and existing knowledge consumers. We will dedicate resources to the broader knowledge ecosystem, going where knowledge consumers are and understand their needs so we can provide a better service to them.

Recommendations in detail[edit]

A. Set Common Framework of Principles for Resource Allocation[edit]

Draft set of principles

  1. All resources will be allocated through the lens of equity - they will aim to restore equity. We understand equity to be about Opportunities (e.g. access to systems and resources), Power (e.g. ability to make decisions about resources, ability to change culture) and Outcomes.
  2. Anyone who joins the movement agrees to participate in the generation and allocation of resources.
  3. Resource allocation will be allocated to continue to generate movement resources and sustain our movement.
  4. All resources acquired, raised or accessed in the course of working for the movement are movement resources and can be allocated.
  5. Resources will be allocated in alignment with collectively decided global priorities and the Strategic direction.
  6. Resource allocation will allow for regional and local autonomy to implement global priorities.
  7. Our model will take into account the specific contexts of recipients and actors when allocating resources.
  8. All resources recipients will be held accountable against a set of criteria
  9. Impact will be measured through a transparent, adaptive and flexible evaluation framework developed with the participation of stakeholders. This evaluation framework may vary depending on context, goals, geography, access and available resources.
  10. Resource allocation will be spread across and within projects, programs, geographies and other dimensions in order to cultivate a diverse set of opportunities for impact, to support innovative ideas, and to sustain diverse communities. Priority will always be given to those focused on underrepresented groups/knowledge, minorities and/or the Global South.
  11. Resources will be allocated to support not just the creation of free knowledge, but also the consumption and distribution of free knowledge, including by proactively engaging and empowering communities that have been left out of our projects.
  12. Resources will be allocated to preserve the conditions for free knowledge, improve them if we can, and control damages when we can’t, including advocating for policies and defending against actors that imperil open knowledge sharing and creation and preserving endangered knowledge.

Rationale

While the specific principles are up for discussion, our goal is to build an equitable resource allocation system that is designed to generate the largest possible impact on our mission, balance local autonomy with alignment of movement priorities, design to include and serve communities who have been left out of our projects, and create conditions where free knowledge will thrive in the world.

B. Design participatory decision making for Resource Allocation[edit]

Participatory decision making will happen at all levels (connected with the relevant structures for resource allocation). We will have mechanisms ensuring that local knowledge (experience and perspective) within the Movement influences our global planning and resource allocation strategies. Principles which are important for this are: ensuring representation, diversity, as well as transparency and accountability. Resources will be optimized and contextualized and used for their intended purposes. Additional decision making structures will have to be designed, more staff concentrated locally will be needed to execute this.

Rationale

Per our scoping document “our historical structures and processes are currently reinforcing the concentration of power and money in the movement. We are far from an equitable model for resource allocation, and just increasing access to money or grants will not be sufficient.” The logic behind this recommendation clearly outlines the need to include the voices of the regions and communities we hope to serve in decision making regarding resource allocation.

C. Avoid the pitfalls of privileges / Design for diversity[edit]

In order to make resource allocation more equitable for everyone (current and new) we need to give everyone the same opportunities, taking into account those with existing privileges and planning to equitably distribute those privileges to those who lack. We need to pay or otherwise compensate people to participate (to avoid making it a luxury or an option for only those who can) so that their existence is not threatened by working on what others can afford to do as volunteers. We also need to remove the barriers of participation to ensure equity in decision making. It is important to ensure accessibility of information to existing opportunities (documentations, sites, etc.) and including language diversity in the decision making bodies.

At the same time, even though we recommend a participatory resource allocation system, we acknowledge that many things can go wrong in attempting to design such a system. Implementers must be mindful of this to avoid the following: amplification of elitism, gatekeeping, corruption, lack of inclusivity.

The solutions we are exploring (tentative recommendations) are:

  • Payment for ‘necessary services’ to ensure equity in who is able to spend their time being a Wikimedian. We’re thinking about Boards, and other 'functionary' roles (Fund committees, etc.) that require special privilege access to data/tools, and have a 'term' for their role in which they are considered to be on duty (e.g. 2 years), and for which they are personally responsible. We are currently not sure about ‘paid editing’, and leaning towards not supporting that.  Perhaps this will be decided at a local level, e.g. via the Regional Hubs.
  • We are wondering about the angle of allocating resources to increasing diversity on online Wikimedia projects.
  • Making sure there is a system for knowledge exchange and learning (on and offline). This is to help new people so they don’t start from scratch. It also prevents single points of failure.

Rationale

  • To ensure diversity we need to plan for it. If you don't design ways to include people you wish to make decisions for, you only continue to maintain people with current privileges: the status quo prevails.
  • Current decision making bodies are solely based volunteerism that does not work for the regions/communities we wish to include in decision making (because the lack the social security to volunteer their time).
  • Things can go wrong when we build for participation, and we need to be very mindful of that too.

D. Distribute existing structures[edit]

(1) Existing movement organizational structures are distributed across the world, especially to those which are in global south countries.

A certain percentage of all movement resources will be allocated to global south countries. This percentage should be refined and researched in a later process but has a minimum value of 50%. This percentage of movement resources allocated to be spent in global south countries specifically includes all staff paid through, oversight bodies, and senior management in the global Wikimedia movement.

The goal of this can be reached by investing in the creation of new movement capacity and/or the reallocation of existing structures, but is deliberately intended to be resources to be allocated in and by people and projects in global south countries. That is - the decision making process, people, and authority over the resources will be located in the target areas; not merely allocated by the centre at the target areas.

(2) Resource allocation, reporting and programmatic coordination - responsibilities currently held at the centre - will be devolved to “regional hubs”.

Regional hubs will receive an equitable share of the totality of movement resources that will collectively represent the large majority of total resources in the movement. The distribution will be done through a mixed set of central, regional and local distribution mechanisms that closely follow agreed upon Resource allocation principles.

The role of the centre will be to ensure oversight, accountability, strategic coordination, communication, and dispute resolution among the regional hubs. The centre, in consultation with the movement in general (especially the regional hubs) will be responsible for re-allocating resources among regions. The centre would still serve functions which are currently served centrally only if they cannot be legally or effectively distributed to regional hubs or devolved to specialist organisations.

Regional hubs have responsibility, accountability, and full agency over, the resource allocation for organisations in their geographical ‘jurisdiction’.  By implication - local groups (whether formally or informally structured) are not required to work with, report to, or apply to the ‘centre’. The regional hubs, by contrast, must be mutually-accountable to the centre and the regional hubs must communicate among each other.

Rationale

  • The current reality of resource allocation is that one central organisation in a global and diverse movement is empowered to: raise the vast majority of the funds, directly control the allocation of those funds, produce the global priority/plans by itself, undertake most of the program itself, and be accountable only to itself. Instead, it is healthier if the “owner” of the resources, the “doer” of the activities, and the “oversight” for the process are not held by a single agent.
  • “All resources are movement resources”. If we take the WHOLE of Wikimedia available resources (all the resources spent in the "name" of Wikimedia) they need to be allocated throughout the world.

E. Build Thematic hubs – to provide services to the free knowledge movement long term[edit]

Specialist organizations, called Thematic hubs, are created as a new type of organizational structure of the free knowledge movement. They have financial means allocated to them and in return they are responsible for supporting the movement with a service and as such lead the development and work with the allocation of knowledge, with technical development within a specific area and the creation of resources within their given theme. They are independent and often built upon existing organizations and are coordinating their work with the Wikimedia Foundation, other Thematic hubs, Regional hubs, Wikimedia affiliates, other free knowledge organizations, partners and volunteers within their agreed upon thematic area.

We want to decentralise by supporting the development of specialised entities; and make sure certain needs of the movement are met by proactively creating certain hubs (eg. for capacity building).

Rationale

  • There is currently no organization within the Wikimedia movement that is clearly tasked with developing capacity within a thematic area and allocating said capacity to all organizations in the free knowledge movement. As such we are not fulfilling our role as a service, nor infrastructure.
  • There is not enough sharing of knowledge and expertise within the movement. The lack of coordination prevents efficient resource allocation and prioritization within a given area.
  • The knowledge allocation provided by the Thematic hubs in a given thematic area increases the ability of other free knowledge organizations to ‘focus’ and to support the movement with much needed knowledge resources. This in turn supports smaller entities to grow faster, as they do not have to start from scratch and reinvent the wheel, and the ecosystem of free knowledge movement will therefore become more equitable.
  • Thematic hubs need to be resourced themselves and since they are generators and maintainers of resources, they will need to be sustained.

F. Ensure flexible approach to resource allocation in a complex, fast moving and changeable space[edit]

We are proposing to create numerous structures and principles. However, Resource allocation for deliverables needs to be flexible and draw on Complexity Theory. The context of the work we’re doing in the movement is highly complex. Via the new strategic direction, we want to engage in new spaces that we are not familiar with (e.g. emerging Wikimedia communities), and spaces where a lot of unpredictable change happens.

Our approach to allocating resources must be flexible and adaptable. This includes intentional testing, evaluation, iteration, and a strong focus on sharing lessons learned with the movement.

As we develop programme ideas, we must also invest in research on programme impact and improvement. Complexity theory offers a framework for how to design projects in a changeable, complex space, and this should guide how we fund these projects. This recommendation will become very important as an approach at the implementation level. It’s about starting now, iteration, risks and experimentation.

This calls for a change of mindset of people deciding on resource allocation, focusing on taking fast - but not stupid - risks, supporting quick, innovative, iterative new projects, rather than ‘tried and tested’ approaches.

Rationale

We believe that our movement works in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous setting (climate change, shrinking civil society spaces, even positive/negative technological advancements that we can’t predict at this point etc) that require dynamic approaches and the willingness to explore alternative solutions.  This approach reduces opportunity costs and encourage proactiveness to harness innovation. It feeds diversity of ideas and new approaches.

  • Research from Angelika Arutyunova told us to ‘Budget for risks’. Currently we don’t take enough risks.
  • Research from ICSC told us that ‘light, transparent and flexible models and processes seem to be highly desirable in organisational environments which are usually overburdened by internal and external challenges. It is recommended to invest in digital tools (and capacities) to help with such an ambition.’

G. Allocate resources for capacity and sustainability[edit]

We are aware that resources aren’t always allocated directly into programme activity. For a sustainable movement, we also need to consider allocating resources for:

  • growing capacity of the recipient to receive resources (‘absorption capacity’)
  • developing fundraising capacities (resources to generate future resources, sustainability)

We want to help local groups, entities, and even individuals receive resources more effectively. This could go further, into helping local groups and entities operate sustainably. We can achieve this by growing capacity of resource recipients. Receiving funds can be hard and we need to invest in their absorption capacity to support this.

This must be prioritised for new and emerging groups/people, especially in the Global South. We don’t want to prioritise growing capacities of established entities, and with doing so entrenching inequity.

Rationale

In terms of absorption capacity: Local structures often do not have the required capacity to handle resources, even if they are able to deliver programme activities with the resources. We allocate small amounts of money to small or emerging groups, expecting them to grow their own capacity to receive larger resources in the future. Instead, there should be help provided to help them develop capacity to receive larger, more ambitious, resources.

In terms of fundraising capacities: growing fundraising capacities, sharing donor data will empower local entities, and potentially also grow revenues.  It prevents “putting all our eggs in the same basket”, diversifying revenues. It also allows cooperation and engagement with people who have already shown their appreciation for the Wikimedia projects.

H. Allocate resources to new types of partners/organisations [edit]

We will allocate resources to groups outside of Wikimedia contributors and Wikimedia affiliates - so that “anyone who shares our vision will be able to join us.'' Strategic direction is clear that we must be able to provide ‘essential infrastructure’ to other free-knowledge activities beyond those specifically associated to Wikimedia. This means that we must create a method to allocate resources to non-Wikimedia activities/projects.

We will allocate resources to developing support for effective partnership development - technical tools, documentation, capacity building for partnership leads.

To be decided - whether and how would we prioritise allocating resources to external partners (this would presumably include consideration on how closely do the partners share our values).

Rationale

  • We are meant to be supporting the whole knowledge ecosystem. This means providing a service to support partner organisations who work towards our vision - e.g. funding their work or funding development of tools that can be used by them.
  • We need to support places ‘outside of Wikimedia projects’ that hold knowledge and that people are accessing.

I. Include knowledge consumers[edit]

We shall dedicate resources to reader/knowledge consumer experience and engagement, especially for those who are new. This can include ongoing research, well funded global campaigns to make people aware of Wikipedia, and research to continually understand the needs of new and existing knowledge consumers.  We will dedicate resources to the broader knowledge ecosystem, going where knowledge consumers are and understand their needs so we can provide a better service to them.

Rationale

We have to bring the knowledge consumer experience into the equation, especially the newer ones. Currently, it is an afterthought. Knowledge is created and we don’t consider what service is needed.

Knowledge consumer experience relies on the quality of content, intermediating software and other possible services we provide. In the past, we have utilized our position providing a constant inflow of readers, creators and activists. Technological and cultural changes may block us from reaching new audiences and keeping existing ones. If we understand knowledge as a service, we need to understand the needs of the people we serve so we can accommodate them. That will allow as to build a better, more targeted product, and succeed in our mission.