Talk:Community Resources/Grants Strategy Relaunch 2020-2021

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Grants Strategy Relaunch

2020-2021

Talk page feedback

Welcome! This space is for discussion about the Grants Strategy Relaunch. We have provided some questions below to help organize feedback, but you are welcome to start a new section with any open-ended feedback you would like to provide. Responses in any language are welcome. Please review the behavioral guidelines for discussion.

The following Wikimedia Foundation staff members are active on this page:

Questions[edit]

What is your region?[edit]

Please respond with one of the following:

  • Central and Eastern Europe--Strainu (talk) 15:19, 10 March 2021 (UTC)
  • North America –SJ talk  20:08, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
  • (Your response here)

Do you feel the new grants strategy is aligned with the strategic direction of the movement?[edit]

  • Partially, see below--Strainu (talk) 15:19, 10 March 2021 (UTC)
  • Yes, also see below –SJ talk  20:08, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
  • (Your response here)

Are we missing any other major needs or priorities?[edit]

  • I can't think of any--Strainu (talk) 15:19, 10 March 2021 (UTC)
  • Strengthening self-similarity at different scales: Training the movement so that at every scale we have grantmaking and assessment capacity, and local communities are making connections with other knowledge-focused grantors in their regions. This advances equity, robustness to change, and depth of support for minority languages and local needs. It may also help strengthen our partnerships with the ecosystem supporting sources (GLAM + other) and audiences (schools, researchers) of our projects.
  • (Your response here)

What concerns do you have about this proposal? Are there any challenges in this structure that would affect your work as a volunteer?[edit]

  • The distribution principles are well-thought and aligned with the strategic direction, but the deeper we go, they tend to fade away into only minor changes and renaming of the current grant system. The fact that there is a 1:1 relation between the current grant programs and the future ones is concerning.
Despite the declared principles of Equity & Empowerment, I am sad to see further deterioration in the very small grants area. Not only is the $500 entry barrier kept, but the response time is further increased, from "same month" to "1-2 months". The artificial barrier, instituted due to limited Foundation bandwidth, does not make sense in a world of Participatory decision making throughout grants cycle. Instead, the decision making for extra-small grants should be deferred completely to regional committees (within a budget, of course). This would reopen the door for financially-challenged members of the community to experiment and learn without depending on a national or thematic organization which is able to create a larger plan to go over the bar. I specifically have in mind small foto-walks in Moldova, which had budgets of $150-200 and helped cover dozens, if not hundreds of villages in the country. I also have in mind transport grants for smaller conferences, gatherings etc. outside the Wikimedia world, which do not offer travel support.
I also fail to see any specific support for least developed communities. I understand that the potential of these communities is considered low, but without dedicated support chances are they will be unable to move forward from that area.--Strainu (talk) 15:19, 10 March 2021 (UTC)
  • +1 to what Strainu said. In my experience, impactful grants can be well under $200, even in the US and Europe -- and a week's salary can be enormously impactful anywhere in the world. If we are to realize the stated vision, I would hope for 20-100x the current total disbursed in grants to less-developed communities, many of which never apply for or get grants at all. I expect most of this would be 1000s of grants under $200 made each year. The primary bottleneck to this seems to be the lack of available microgrants, the high barrier of engagement, and the 'pull + wait' nature of the grant process. Ideally, we would try some of the following:
    • Push awards + grants: identify good work, give out awards; invite them to get funding for future work.
    • Auto-fundable templates: Identify recurring types of work that should be reimbursable; provide simple forms for such reimbursement. Some of these could be billed directly to a central account (books) or centralized by a global program (WP Library Bundle, or event kits shipped from the store).
    • Comprehensive regional microgrant pools: Building on the successes of past affiliate-run efforts, help affiliates set up regional pools covering every part of the world. This limits WMF overhead by allowing a fixed number of annual grants, and delegates further process to the regional groups. [It also helps build regional experience in grantmaking and assessment]
    • Regional investment quotas: An expected minimum in microgrants used within a region, based on population, knowledgebase, and so on. If this is not reached through 'pull' grants, iterative push grants encouraging neighboring communities to visit + catalyze network building, or encouraging local editors to implement some of our community templates at their schools, town halls, and cultural institutions. This is the only sort of travel grant that I could see being auto-fundable.
    • Other regional delegation: Delegating some of the reporting / review for small grants to regional groups. E.g., the regional pools could directly be responsible for all aspects of running a pool for tiny grants, but also serve as the first point of review + contact for the next tier of grants, which are distributed by the WMF.
    • Sliding-scale paperwork: Currently the reporting + application overhead for small grants is high, for an internal movement grant to known active volunteers. Don't treat all regions the same in this regard; relax the requirements for groups + regions that have already done good work + have not gotten grants before. Perhaps the first grant in a region could, per tradition, be a gift to pass on.
    • SJ talk  20:08, 31 March 2021 (UTC)
  • (Your response here)

Is there any other feedback you would like to give us?[edit]

  • I wasn't involved in the previous feedback rounds, so maybe this has been discussed there, but have you considered offloading part of the administrative burden (not the decision making, but the actual money sending/report checking) from the WMF to other entities?--Strainu (talk) 15:19, 10 March 2021 (UTC)
  • (Your response here)
  • (Your response here)

Additional feedback[edit]

Public feedback, questions, or comments on the Grants Strategy Relaunch are welcome here. Please feel free to start a new section below. I JethroBT (WMF) (talk) 20:11, 8 January 2021 (UTC)

Hello! I don't have a great deal of feedback yet, but I did want to note that the process you're following so far looks very sensible and I welcome the relatively high level of involvement so far. I will be interested to see the proposed solutions (which I imagine will get rather more feedback from people :) ) Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 19:05, 14 January 2021 (UTC)
It is good if you think about the Grants and how they can be improved. I think there should be a possibility to get funding also for little amounts. At the old grants as far I understood the pages the program with the lowest possible amounts were the Microgrants and there it was possible to get funding of 500$ or more. This amount is much to high. In Germany there it is possible to get funding also for little amounts. This is something what is important for equity that this is also possible in countrys without a chapter or with a chapter with a lower budget. I think the funding of Wikimedia Germany is good. This could be a example of how the community can get support. I think there is not a big strategy needed. The criteria to get a funding should be that Free Knowledge and the Wikimedia Projects benefit from it directly. So I think there should be not too much time and money invested into the strategy. It is important to get support in different languages and there should be a clear explanation how the effects of the grants are measured. How the efficient use of money can be documented without too much time for the volunteers and for the staff is a interesting and important question. I think that if you want to support many volunteers then it is important to have efficient administration processes so that you can spend the most time on supporting the volunteers. --Hogü-456 (talk) 22:22, 5 March 2021 (UTC)
Hi there, Hogü-456, and thanks for your feedback on grant minimum, language support, and accountability. To respond to your feedback on grant minimums, our team is thinking about this question around minimum funding amounts. In terms of funding from our own grant programs, there are always going to be certain administrative needs around sending and receiving funds that must be fulfilled due to our obligations as a nonprofit in the United States, regardless how much funding is needed. For example, these requirements include things like confirming the nonprofit status of an organization and obtaining valid proof of identification for the grant recipient. These requirements, however, place some burdens on both grantees (who need to prepare this information and materials) and our team (to track and process proposals), and so it will be important for us to balance the need to support programmatic budgets of different levels with the minimum amount of work and time needed to process those requests. However, as you've noted, some affiliate organizations we fund already maintain effective microgrant programs, and can responsively support these kind of local needs. For affiliates interested in supporting similar programs in their region, we too want to make those funding opportunities more available. We are interested in supporting them to develop structures and capacity to prepare and maintain such grant programs. I also appreciate that you've encouraged us to think about situations where there is no affiliate present, which is a case we will need to consider in supporting a more equitable approach to funding. Thanks, I JethroBT (WMF) (talk) 23:05, 10 March 2021 (UTC)

Hello Jethro! As $100 is a week's salary or more in parts of the world, I would like us to have an official page summarizing how to get costs under $500 covered or reimbursed -- a page that is always there, even as the details of how this is managed change, or vary by geography.

  • How can we frame this so such a page fits into the Community Resources framework? For starters, it could point to local microgrant pools, how to start one, and which commonly requested things you can get for free.
  • Where there are obstacles: is it worth discussing the specific challenges you mention (a receiving non-profit, proof of ID, tracking and processing) to see which can be simplified or relaxed or delegated?
  • If it is significantly easier to give out small prizes than grants, we might consider a steady flow of regional prizes for excellent work of different kinds, as directly in line with the broader goal here. –SJ talk  22:50, 31 March 2021 (UTC)

Classification of grant budgets[edit]

Thanks for starting this feedback process, and the changes look promising. I would like to highlight a problem with the current classification of the grant programs, particularly rapid and project grants. While the limit for rapid grants is $2,000, and anything above that goes into project grants. But since the budget range for project grants is quite wide, I feel there is no equity in the process for projects having budgets at the edges. In project grants, there are often proposals which have budgets around $5,000 and also $95,000 - both are pushed into the same process. Though a project with $5,000 might get funded, relatively easily, it is being through the same rigor as it is for a $95,000 proposal - application, time periods, committee reviews etc. It also the question of time period, projects which are only a little over $2,000 will have to wait for 6 months or an year, which I feel is not fair. I couldn't particularly see anything that addresses this in the current strategy, I might have missed something though. What I am trying to suggest is look at how the budgets are classified, and a process for projects which have budget are only a little over the rapid grant limit. KCVelaga (talk) 05:09, 22 March 2021 (UTC)

@KCVelaga: Hi Krishna, and thanks for these questions about the evaluation procedures around grants based on their budget. In terms of how we will evaluate proposals or ask applicants to describe projects, it seems likely to me that we will be looking at the overall scope of a project on a number of different factors. While applicants will naturally be asked about how much funding they need, the amount is not going to be the only factor that will determine the overall scope of the proposal. Funding amount sometimes implies a certain scope of work, but not always, and it is a rough indicator at best. While we do not have a finalized list of questions, a few things we could potentially ask about is if the project will support one program or multiple programs, if the work is local/national/international, if staff is needed, etc. We would ask these things before we get into the substance of the proposal (e.g. goals, activities, expected outcomes, etc.) Using this kind of approach, I think we will avoid cases where people who requested funding a few dollars above some threshold are having to go through a longer process than someone who goes under some arbitrary threshold. If a longer process is needed, it would be because the overall scope, complexity, or risks of the project merits a more substantive review process. I JethroBT (WMF) (talk) 17:01, 22 March 2021 (UTC)

Not sending receipts is a very bad idea[edit]

Being a long time Wikimedia volunteer involved in multiple grants proposals in different ways, I personally think that this is a very bad idea to not ask for receipts. In an ideal world, this might be a very progressive idea, but we live in a world where people can very well exploit this decision. Without receipts, it is not at all difficult to submit a false report. I would like to request you to reconsider this decision. -- Bodhisattwa (talk) 03:30, 9 April 2021 (UTC)

  • In my volunteer capacity, I agree with this observation. What problem it is trying to solve? I can understand when you deal with too many bills, or when it is a large event of several months a few bills may be unavailable or get lost. We have an option of marking those expenses as "bill not available/bill lost". But, why terminate the entire process? There are several other issues including country-specific auditing requirement. Before I go into details as of now, I'd like to better understand the planned process. One needs a to submit an expense statement (spreadsheet/Wikitable)>> No scanned bills submission required>> Report submitted — is it the process? Please clarify. Regards. -- টিটো দত্ত (কথা) 12:06, 9 April 2021 (UTC)

Transparency of actual spending[edit]

This is more of a question than feedback. If submitting the receipts of the spendings are not required, what will be the mechanism for ensuring the transparency of the actual spending amounts? How the grant report spending declaration will be justified? - Shabab Mustafa (talk) 12:26, 9 April 2021 (UTC)

In light of developments involving our language community and an individual, now indeffed from bnwiki(source), who we conclude has misused the grant process, I am also interested in the answer to this question and a response to the concerns in the section above this one. (@I JethroBT (WMF): in particular, as someone who's aware of those developments.) Mahir256 (talk) 12:37, 9 April 2021 (UTC)