Talk:Draft Guiding principles with regards to funds distribution

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Impact[edit]

Impact. The phrase "Funds should be allocated in ways that support mission work, agnostic with regard to where the money was raised." perhaps needs some thought. Say a body within the Wikimedia movement raises an extra $250,000 from a trust. Does that mean that they should then receive $250,000 less from the general funding pot? If so, what is their incentive to bother making the trust application? The Land 18:43, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree. I think agnostic is not the right word. I think that what comes under Transparency and objectivity is enough. Tomer A. 21:04, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
Actually, I think this theme that we should be able to completely decouple where and how money is raised from where and how it is spent is highly problematic. Donations aren't "free money" in the sense that they come with no strings attached. Quite the opposite: they carry with them expectations by the donors, by the public, and, not exactly rarely, by governments. These need to be taken into account if we want to grow a sustainable funding model. There's also, as you rightly point out, the matter of incentives. It is a fact that people who fundraise will be more enthusiastic about it if they get to participate in the results, not on a individual wealth level, but because they have a say, and maybe more, in how that money is spent. An organization that may keep, let's say, merely 10% of what it raises and must give away the rest to someone else, with little or no control on how that money is being spent, will invariably raise less money than one that may keep 50% or 100%. You cannot feasibly sever fundraising from spending. sebmol ? 12:34, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
Very true. I think one approach that could work is to keep the principle that money should be spent where it will be most useful, but give those that raise they money a significant degree of control over how it is spent. --Tango 17:25, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
I think this issue is worth some serious thought, and I'd like to see it discussed further, because I am not actually sure that it makes sense to give those who raise the money a significant degree of control over how it's spent. I understand the appeal of that line of thinking, but I think it's worth some scrutiny. I also don't agree that this point is covered under Transparency and Objectivity.
Basically: I think that we are all, all of us, raising money for the movement. What Sebastian says about donor expectations (and regulatory requirements and so forth), is true. And yet, as someone said in another thread on the same general topic: our job is to figure out what we think is the work that needs to get done, and then be transparent with donors about our intentions and plans -- our job isn't just to do what people might want or expect. (An example: I had a donor once tell me in total seriousness that he would like to give me money to "fire" all the editors, and hire professional writers. Obviously that's not something we would ever have any interest in doing. And so, I told him that, and he declined to give us money. That was a perfectly okay outcome.)
So I think there are two key issues here. One is, do we want to enact some measure of redistribution of wealth for the purpose of programmatic activities? I think we clearly do. The majority of the money raised by the movement originates in the United States, Germany, the UK and other rich, charitably-inclined countries. And yet, we aspire to spend money on programmatic activities in less-wealthy countries such as India, Brazil, etc. Given that, I think it's clear that one of the things we want to accomplish, is to move money from rich countries to poor countries. So then the second issue becomes, how do we do that well? I have heard the opinion stated that San Francisco ought not to be the sole arbiter of how that money moves around, and I (partly) agree with that. I also think, though, that if anything it would be worse for Berlin to make those decisions, or Paris.[1] It seems clear to me that what's required is a process for funds dissemination that has moral legitimacy. Which means: transparency for donors, compliance with regulatory bodies, some degree of buy-in from the various governing bodies of the organizations that are bringing in the cash, and some degree of buy-in from the organizations that are requesting the money. Sue Gardner 18:00, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
([1] I can expand on this if anyone wants me to.)
Never make an offer you don't want to have to execute ;) - so, would you expand on this, please? Also, why does that decision have to be made by one entity, rather than different ones? What would be inherently wrong if, for example, there were dozens of entities all fundraising in their own jurisdiction, then each deciding themselves what and where part of those proceeds should go (perhaps based on some sort of global needs analysis)? sebmol ? 18:12, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Sebastian, hello :-)
This is a great question, and I do indeed have an answer for you. A wall of text awaits you :-) So. I do think that some entities within the movement have been imagining a world in which funding dissemination happens in a completely atomized fashion -- you know, like e.g., Wikimedia Germany funds a meet-up in Hanoi, Wikimedia France funds a GLAM conference in Jakarta, Wikimedia UK funds a hackathon in Delhi. I think --and have always thought-- that while there are some plusses to that approach, on balance it's a bad idea. Here's why:
First, good funds dissemination is a skill, and it requires both expertise and resources. It takes grant-making institutions years/decades to build up good expertise and good processes. (We can see that in people's feedback on the Wikimedia Foundation's current grant-making processes. They are still developing, and are far from perfect, and that irritates grantees.) Given limited financial and human resources, I am not sure that it makes sense for all our movement entities to aim to be excellent at everything. To me, it makes more sense for each entity to optimize its resources towards developing a core expertise. In the case of the German chapter for example, that core expertise would likely be around the German-language projects and the German community -- not Vietnamese, Hindi, Thai.
Second, I believe that we should aspire to move money around efficiently, so that as little as possible gets lost in the process to lawyers and accountants and audit firms and so forth. If every fundraising entity also disseminates funds, then each entity will need to develop expertise in executing international money transfers, in developing good grant-making procedures, in understanding the regulatory context of every grant-making and grant-receiving country, complying with their own country's grant-making standards and practices, and so forth. Collectively, we would end up spending a lot of money on work that is non-helpfully overlapping and duplicative.
Third, the purpose of grant-making is to create simple and straightforward processes for potential grantees to pitch for money so they can get work done. The Wikimedia movement is not great, even now, at being as porous and permeable as we would like to be. I think it would be kind of dreadful to be a potential grantee, and to need to wander around the Wikimedia movement to try to figure out how to get funding, if every entity were a grantmaker. Imagine thirty grantmaking entities, with thirty different mission statements for their work, thirty application processes, thirty timelines, thirty ways of making decisions. Imagine you are a group in South Korea that wants to fund a project: where would you start? If you took a linear approach (one at a time) it might take you years to get funding. If you took a parallel approach, simultaneously applying to multiple entities, what if you were approved by several? From the grantees' standpoint, I can't see such a system scaling in a satisfactory way.
Fourth, I just think it's deeply problematic for rich countries to make decisions about how poor countries should spend money. Let me tell you a story -- and I will preface it by saying that although I've heard this story several times, I've never spoken about it with anyone from the French or Indonesian chapters, so I may have it wrong. If I do, I'd be happy to be corrected -- and I should say that my purpose in telling it isn't to be critical of anyone. But I do think this story points out a particular risk that we collectively should be aiming to learn from, and not repeat. That said: my understanding is that some time ago, the French chapter wanted to give a grant to Indonesia. My understanding is that after lots of internal French Board discussion, the decision was made to fund a project aimed at improving the Indonesian Wikipedia's coverage of Versailles -- I think because the French chapter's mission requires it to support and promote work that benefits France, or some words roughly to that effect. To the extent that's actually what happened, I think it's a poor outcome that we should aim to avoid. Why? Because presumably there are lots of other activities that could be undertaken in Indonesia that would be more beneficial to the Indonesian projects and editors and readers -- I doubt that anyone in Indonesia would have spontaneously thought "Yeah! We should focus on Versailles!" I personally don't know what activities are best for Indonesia, but I think that Indonesian people are better positioned to figure it out, more so than French people. Point being: the use to which funds are put should be determined by their potential for impact in helping us fulfil the mission, and decision-making should, as much as possible, be divorced from other influences and considerations --- particularly, factors relevant only to the entity where the funds originate. We need to handle funds dissemination in a way that provides maximum impact, and grants receiving countries shouldn't have their funding restricted in ways that aren't useful to them, their readers and editors.
So you might ask yourself, why is San Francisco any better positioned than say, Berlin, to make decisions about where money should go. And the answer is, at the moment I do believe it is better positioned than Berlin. As I said the other day, 40% of our staff is not American, and 70% have lived or worked outside the United States. That's not an accident. I think one excellent thing Asaf has done is to create a truly global grants advisory committee which includes people from e.g. (off the top of my head), Brazil, Russia, Kenya, India, Poland, Australia, Macedonia, Israel and Switzerland. The GAC is not perfect I'm sure. But that is the kind of thing that I think is a starting point towards development of a decision-making body that's got moral legitimacy. So upshot from my perspective: I am not really interested in trying to argue that the Wikimedia Foundation is currently doing a great job of disseminating funds on behalf of the movement: it is clear that we're not, and that's only to be expected: this kind of thing is hard, and developing good programs takes time. But I am very interested in working with other movement entities to develop a decision-making entity that has real moral legitimacy, that everyone can buy into. Easier said than done, but I think that's where we need to go. I am very happy for us to talk about this: I think it's really important. 216.38.130.168 19:23, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Aaaaand, I was logged out, LOL :-) That was all me, above. Sue Gardner 19:24, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Hi Sue. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I think your points have merit, although I would not characterize all of them to be negative. For example, the skills needed to be a well-working grant-making institution are indeed non-trivial and it requires sufficient expertise and resources to make that work. I don't think, however, that any chapter that manages money will be able to avoid learning these skills. Case in point: in March of this year, Wikimedia Deutschland created the Community Projects Budget (CPB, rough description here) which intends to dole out €200,000 to community members for individual projects. We've had something similar in much smaller scale before, but it hasn't really been used. The CPB, however, has been quite a success in terms of demand as we've had over 30 applications the first round and over 60 applications the second round. WMSE has created something similar this year, albeit on a smaller scale. The power of programs like this is that it places the chapter into a position of enabling and empowering community members to realize their project ideas, with the chapter providing funding and some logistical support. That's a role many chapters are aspiring to fulfill. Naturally, those programs are not exactly the same as making grants on a global scale, but there are very similar decision and evaluation patterns involved, which need to be learned and developed. At the same time, in regards to your point about specialization: I have no issues with specialization in itself, far from it. Specialization often yields efficiencies and allows for economies of scale to kick in. I don't think, however, that specialization is something that can or ought to be directed from the outside, as what any organization can and wants to be good at will be mostly determined by that organization anyway. If there's someone outside that organization telling them what they can and cannot do (such as not giving grants to work in foreign countries), that decision is unnecessarily taken way from them.
In regards to the question of duplicating work and thereby being less efficient, you're right that there would be duplication. And duplication does, from the global perspective, come with undeniable costs. Duplication, or, as the techs call it, redundancy, does provide benefits, not the least of which being that there's no single point of failure. If we were to imagine a Wikimedia universe where there's only one source of funding by grants and grants were the primary way in which organizations are funded, dependency on that source will be huge, making any sort of mistakes or even just differences in opinion/priorities/value/etc. on the part of that source have tremendous effect on these organizations. We are already experiencing that situation today with chapters submitting plans to the Foundation and Foundation staff (with rather limited resources) reviewing them. If that, for whatever reason, doesn't work for an organization, there are little alternatives to compensate. This may be acceptable if all it took was some more resources and careful thought on the side of source. But it usually doesn't, as you well know from many other grant-making organizations. The human factor, whether its trough the iron law of oligarchy, path dependance, lack of impartiality, personal preference, internal politics, you name it, always influences how well this all works. No institution of any significant size is free of this, not even the Foundation, and certainly not the Wikimedia projects.
So, yes, in theory I would agree that a centralized funding source would be preferable to reduce duplication, inefficiency, overhead, and waiting times. In practice, however, we have to acknowledge that humans are involved in these processes and humans are flawed by nature, regardless of how good the intentions may be. That's why, in theory, planned economies work magnificiently, yet in practice they've all been catastrophic failures.
I finally also want to address you point regarding "rich countries making decision for poor countries". The problem isn't really rich vs. poor, it's a question of priorities, agendas, and distinction between actual and perceived need. There's no inherent reason why the Foundation, in the long run, would be any more suited at getting these things right than any other organization. Germans, for example, aren't genetically inept at directing foreign aid (which, in a way, is the closest outside equivalent to the topics we're discussing today), just as much as any person of any other nation is not genetically inept at it. There are certain traits that it takes to make good decisions about these things, which can be learned, and there's again no reason why Foundation staff would be any better or worse than people involved at other "movement entities". So I agree with your assertion that the decision on what grants to make to whom should be based on the actual needs of the receiving party, not the misconceptions/perceptions of the giving party. I don't agree, however, that that's an argument for centralization. It's an argument for better decision-making, something any organization can and should strive for.
My main point is similar to why, for example, there are (and should be) dozens of US-based organizations supporting economic development of different kind in foreign countries: becase if there were only one, the likelihood that any particular need will be met would be much smaller. If no organization can be perfectly efficient in how it operates, having many different organizations doing similar things and some form of competition between them will actually lead to a global state that's closer to efficiency than otherwise. I've seen little of these considerations in any of the proposals recently made to address global issues, whether regarding fundraising, programming, technology, or, even more generally, making our vision a reality. And I find that very unfortunate. sebmol ? 21:03, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
I have a lot to say on this subject, and no time to say it all now, so I'll just make one point. This is the first I've heard of the France/Indonesia story, but I don't see it as necessarily a big problem. It is very similar to how the WMF accepted a grant to improve Wikipedia's coverage of public policy. There are loads of topics that it would be far more useful to concentrate on and the WMF didn't accept the grant because it wanted to improve the public policy articles. It accepted the grant because that's the topic it could get the money for and by working on public policy articles lots of infrastructure could be put in place and lessons learnt that would help other topics. The same could easily apply to Indonesia. They may have had to concentrate on Versaille, a relatively unimportant topic, but they could then use the money in such a way that they would be better able to improve other topics later. --Tango 11:33, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

Should rich Wikimedians tell poor ones what to do?[edit]

This seems to be one of the big questions we need to settle. I've intentionally asked the question in a heavily loaded way and now I'm going to give the "wrong" answer: yes, they should. Obviously, that shouldn't be taken too far - all chapters are autonomous and that should be protected. However, I don't think that we can demand that chapters hand over money they've raised with no control at all over how it gets spent. This discussion started with a letter from the WMF board resulting from their realisation that they have a moral and legal duty to maintain some degree of control over funds they raise and funds that are raised using their resources (ie. wikipedia.org). The boards of chapters have the same moral and legal duties. If donors have given to a chapter, then they have trusted the trustees of that chapter with the money. If those trustees give the money away without being able to be sure it is going to spent in a way they agree with, then they have breached that trust.

The other argument has already been mentioned: motivation. Wikimedians are human and, while we wouldn't be here if we weren't altruistic, that only goes so far. People are obviously going to work harder on the fundraising if they get something out of it. People join boards because they think they can make good decisions about what should be done. If you don't let them make those decisions, you've going to reduce their interest in doing the job. (I know it's often staff that do a lot of the hard work of fundraising in the larger chapters, and increasingly so, but it's the board that chooses to pay people to work on fundraising, so the board's views are still very important.)

--Tango 19:20, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

The governance problem[edit]

Underpinning the painful wrangling around the fund raiser was the hard requirement on the WMF to demonstrate appropriate governance over how donated monies are spent. The principle of ensuring the charitable funds we jointly hold are used for charitable purposes is one we all believe in.

If centralization of funds were the only way to guarantee appropriate governance then there would be no debate, but when we consider that some chapters have local legislative needs and tax advantages to keeping and disbursing money themselves, it makes little sense to arbitrarily force funds to channel through the WMF or any other global central administrative body which would then be obliged to produce detailed accounts of those particular funding flows, take management/legal responsibility for demonstrating the money was spent as intended and explain why the processes applied were necessary when they may not be as effective or efficient as the local chapter alternative. In practice, for all these reasons, we do not centralize everything and we never will, so the governance issue is not going to be solved easily.

WM-UK is in the middle of massive improvements to governance, the (new) requirements on us from the Charity Commission make us hard-core fully accountable and our current strategy of adopting the well established PQASSO standard for external quality assessment would make us a highly credible charity in Europe in terms of compliance, reporting and rigorous operational control. My personal expectation is that by the end of 2012 we will be in a strong position to help other chapters as a case study of how to report and control local operations and how to coach our unpaid volunteers to run an effective charitable board. I know that with experience of being a charity for some years, WM-DE already helps other chapters (including the UK Face-smile.svg) with understanding how to efficiently control budgets, employ staff and run an office.

We do have inter-chapter coordinating groups but these have more of a role of discussion rather than action. Inter-chapter peer review is a good idea being bounced about, this looks hopeful as a way to share best practice but we have few examples of this working, yet.

Maturing international organizations often find it helpful to share a central process knowledge base (and often major issues and contingency plans). Sharing guiding principles are helpful as a means for later local assessment and I suggest we look carefully at the results of any chapter's external assessments, particularly when external standards are applied, in order to share best practice widely and recognize case studies of excellence wherever they arise. Luckily we (the WMF and all chapters) have the technical means to share knowledge and experience but we should recognize we have yet to become mature enough to say we are effective communicators (it's not just a matter of more emails!) and consequently we cannot expect to solve the governance problem at this moment, and though we have aspirations, we have yet to agree a credible plan to address the problem in, say, the next 12 months. Maturing takes time, patience and requires the capability to learn from experience, there are few genuine short-cuts. -- 10:06, 5 November 2011 (UTC)

Fund dissemination and the Global South[edit]

I was reading some of the comments in the guiding principles for fund distribution (http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Talk:Draft_Guiding_principles_with_regards_to_funds_distribution) and wanted to bring a couple of things up that I think need a broader discussion.

1. Focus on Global south- I might be wrong here, but my understanding was that Global south was supposed to be the focus for WMF, did it at some point transfer to a focus for the entire movement? Did chapters agree to support that area? Speaking from my close proximity to the Indian operations, I know the route that was taken to focus here involved creating a separate entity and conducting activities through it rather than the chapter, most without the involvement of the chapter. Depending on the outlook, it could be argued that the chapter is being made redundant or the support that would have gone to the chapter is being divided in two. This might or might not be the case for Brazil and MENA region. Do the affluent chapters agree to support this goal? It is not in any of their stated purpose to support the global south especially if the route involves replacing a chapter.

I don't think that "supporting the Global South" needs to be in a chapter's bylaws/stated purpose for them to do it. As a matter of fact, as long as we're not "Solving a hunger/water/war/{insert whatever world famous problem here} problem in the Global South" but "fostering free knowledge in the Global South", I guess all chapters have the stated purpose that works for this goal. So much for that part.
There are many questions in your question, i'll take out two. 1) Separate entities: synergetic or inclusive. Frankly, I don't know at this stage. We lack perspective and hindsight on focus countries (with or without a chapter) to see how this goes. I have always pretty interested how this will play out and how a "Wikimedia Foundation Office" and a "Local Chapter" can work together and how they manage to coexist in a number of fileds (fundraising, grants, activities etc.). I am looking forward for a report after one year of "an office in India", for example, to see what works and what does not. I think we still have tons to learn in how to best implement this coexistence.
2) Did chapters agree to support Global South? Well, the official line is "the strategy plan is a movement wide document". I can live with that. What I have more problems living with, however, is how it's being implemented right now. There is this vision of a "fixed pie", ie. there is only so much money in the world for Wikimedia, and if we spend it in country X, then we won't be able to spend it in country Z." This seems to be coupled with the idea that growth should be stalled in some "Global North" countries to help the Global South activities grow. I don't subscribe to this point of view. Call me an optimist, I think there is quite enough money in the world that could go to Wikimedia to be effective in the Global South *and* in the Global North. And I don't think that money put towards activities in the Global North really hinder what we can do in the Global South, on the contrary. Pilot projects in the US, Germany et al. are great steps towards opening doors to new ways of fostering free knowledge, even in the Global South.
More over, I see another question arising. Is free knowledge in Germany less valuable than free knowlege in India? I don't think so. As a matter of fact, I think that any knowledge anywhere is worth whatever resources we can afford. We lack perspective on Global South programs to see what the investment there actually brings in in terms of fulfilling the other parts of the strategic plan (increase the numbers of contributors etc.). And at the same time, we have some insight about how funds (and a loooot of volunteer time) invested in the Global North actually brings to address these issues (the recent Wiki Loves Monuments stats are a good example of that). I don't think keeping chapter's growth down on purpose with the idea that this will allow more stuff to happen in the Global South is a good overall strategy though. If I stop eating, it does not solve World Hunger.
I do think a good balance can be found, but it will take time and effort to gather the necessary data and amend the strategies to go forward.
Delphine (4 Nov, 11:29:56) notafish }<';>

2. Efficient movement of money - If we agree on the point above, the next logical point becomes about the movement of money from more affluent countries to the Global south. Speaking of chapters that fundraise directly, this can happen in two ways, one is transferring money to San Francisco from say a European chapter then have that money go to a Global south chapter or Wikimedians. The other alternative is chapters making grants directly.

Now I have always been a proponent of the decentralized model when it comes to funding. Ideally, a perfect fund dissemination system will have redundancies and contingencies in place. My biggest concern is, a scenario with one funding czar in one funding organization making decision for activities in the entire movement, this is very possible and likely in the centralized model.

Decentralization can also provide a diverse area of expertise and focus that a single centralized model can not. The most obvious suggestion here would be to increase the individual grant making program chapters have and add a focus for the Global south. There are local laws of course, that restrict how much money can be sent out, but I am wondering if its possible to do this from the money intended to be transferred back to WMF after the fundraiser, would this be an efficient way? If that money is supposed to go to the global south in the form of grants, is it more efficient for chapters to do it directly in a decentralized model or transfer to a centralized entity first, involving a lot of overhead and then go to Global South grants?

I am personally against a decentralized grant system (ie. ten different chapters and the foundation give to India to develop program X, Y or Z), except in some very clear circumstances. My take is too many cooks spoil the broth and having micro, mini, or big grants coming to one place from different sources is just not practical and definitely not synergetic. I wish the Foundation could take on a really coordinating role where it makes sense. However, I can imagine some exceptions to that, such as cultural or linguistic links between a funding chapter and a "Global South project". I would for example understand if Wikimedia Spain "invested" in Latin America on Spanish-speaking programs. There we have to see who is the best placed to do this on a case by case basis. It might even be that the Foundation actually funds "Global South" programs through "Global North" chapters for exactly that reason (the best placed resources to "help" are not at Foundation level, for example).
To answer your question very clearly, I do believe that a central model of distributing funds in countries where there are no chapters to do so is more efficient in the long run than having many different sources of funds, the central entity might shift with the circumstances to best take advantage of the specificities of recipient "Global South" areas.
Cheers, Delphine PS. And yes, I am aware of the kittens. (4 Nov, 11:29:56)

Regards Theo (4 November, 00:37:23 GMT)

Theo, thank you for writing this. I'm glad you're raising these questions --- I agree with you that they're important.
I've got thoughts on these issues, but a) most of the questions aren't directed at me, and b) I've already said some stuff on the wiki pages. So I would love to hear what people here think -- either on this list, or on the pages themselves.
Thanks, Sue (4 November, 6:00:41 GMT)
The chaos model of funding flying from countrty to country is a recipe for confusion and fraud. The centralised czar is also a problem as its "not really us". One model I have personally considered is buddying countries which is what Delphine mentions above with the example of maybe Spain and a South American country. This could be done at a country level or a temporary relationship between two museums.
WMUK did a joint article with Indian and British editors about an artefact in a London Museum which had its roots in the collaboration, wars and rebellions between our countries. We learnt stuff that our museum experts didn't know and I hope the reverse was true. Whilst we did this we hopefully exchanged some experience for some enthusiasm. (a win-win)
The problem could be that a rich country sees itself as "in charge" or the other country.. I'm not sure how you avoid that if our values get forgotton. Maybe you need a courtship before a marriage?
Roger Bamkin (4 Nov, 11:48:01)
I made the "Global South/Global North distinction because it was in the question, but for all I know, Argentina may at some point get way more money than Spain and invest in Spain for the mission. I don't think one country should feel in charge of the other, I think we should feel in charge of free knowledge, no matter where ;)
Cheers, Delphine (4 Nov 12:43:33) notafish }<';>
I totally agree with Delphine comments.
And I think a good thing about Iberocoop is that this initiative between chapters with and without resources, is that we are working on common projects for the common mission we all have -free knowledge-.
Each chapter have its own strengths and weakness: it could be money, but also expertise, contacts, volunteers, etc... and it is totally possible that developing chapters can help developed chapters.
Nobody is "in charge" of nobody... because we see and treat each others as equals. Osmar Valdebenito (4 Nov 13:45:16)
what I liked most up to now is the "wiki loves monuments model" or "toolserver model". wmnl or wmde asks for support to other chapters, state clearly how much they need and report back.
there is no language barrier in it, and it is very easy to communicate to donors.
all three components, money, hands to help, and expertise can be handled that way imo. also wikimania is kind of organized that way, the chapters conference, and others.
lovely greetings out of less lovely weather .... rupert (4 Nov, 16:48:15)
Hey Delphine
I generally agree with your outlook on the first point, but I disagree on the second point about movement of money.
Are you saying the current centralized system is more efficient? for example proceeds from the fundraiser by a chapter get processed and collected locally in Euros or other European currencies, which remains fragmented across multiple countries and legal jurisdiction till it gets transferred to San Francisco in US dollars. They incur transfer cost, conversion charges and other taxation to just end up in a single repository in the US. To then be granted again across several jurisdiction, mostly to Europe and the rest of the world incurring similar charges for the second or the third time.
I don't understand what is bad about ten chapters making ten different grants to ten different types of activities across the world. My impression was, all the different cooks would be making their own meals, smaller meals with more variety than a single large cauldron of broth.
What I am really concerned about is this scenario, a chapter or Wikimedian wants to undertake an activity like say WLM, the only source of funding would be the central organization - WMF, not only that, it would be handled by 2-3 staff members at WMF who will be making the final decision. If they turn the project down for whatever reason, which might even be as trivial as the staff member personally disliking the community member, or a poorly translated grant request, there would be no alternative. It would essentially kill any future project that the grant in-charge, or Czar does not approve of. it would surely and certainly start killing off any energetic, creative spark we might have. A large diversified movement like ours should not let that happen. This is where redundancies with multiple chapters might change the scenario.
Sue mentioned the GAC on the talk page as means of avoiding that. I am sure people here have more experience with the GAC than I do, but from my impression, GAC has no real decision-making power. If they actually voted and decided who gets to have a grant, it might be a different scenario. From what I saw, they mostly provide comments and ask questions on the talk page, which, just about anyone can do. It might be a step in the right direction but it should not be considered a solution for inherent problems of centralization.
Regards, Theo (4 Nov 18:01:15)
The real question is: is Global South an outdated vision?
India, Brazil, Mexico and other countries positioned in the "Global South" have more or less the same PIL of European and North American countries. The outlook is that in few years these countries will have more economical power.
In my opinion the division Global South and North doesn't exist anymore and we are speaking with some outdated visions.
So, if someone would say that we need to distribute the funds, my answer will be: we don't need to distribute funds, we need only to train these countries to organize their own fundraising.
Why I disagree with the vision of the grant (and I would invite to all chapters to agree with this position) is that the decision maker of the projects of the local chapter will not be the General Assembly, as stated in the bylaws, but WMF.
What this means? The chapters can lose their state of NGO local association.
Is not WMF thaat can decide which projects must be done by a local chapter... is the General Assembly because the local chapter have to follow the bylaws.
Ilario (4 Nov 19:17:09)
I am not saying the current centralized is more efficient, or less, for that matter. I don't think there is a real current model, to be honest.
What I am saying is that I can't imagine a group of people going to say 10 Wikimedia organisations to get funds for one project, and get funds from those 10 Wikimedia organisations without it being a royal mess. If there is a project that warrants enough funds that 10 organisations might be involved in funding it, then yes, the funding should be centralized.
I don't think that in that particular context, centralising kills anything. I think it actually fosters being organized, knowing where to go to ask for help, reporting to one organisations instead of 10, not having "strings attached" micro grants on bits and pieces of a project because Wikimedia Deutschland likes that part but not that one.
Wiki Loves Monuments is a typical example of something that needs to happen at a local level, however. Even within Europe, the way monuments are listed is so totally different, that knowledge had to come "from the base", and could not really have been imposed from "above". This said, I don't see why funding could not have come from one central place, be it in this case WMNL gathering the money from other chapters to help out groups of "unafilliated volunteers", or even the Wikimedia Foundation for that matter, had they had the necessary experience or resources to help the project along.
What I don't want to see happen is a group turning to 10 different Wikimedia organisations to ask for partial funding, or 10 different organisations supporting 10 uncoordinated projects in one country. I don't think that that is practical nor is it desirable. We are "Wikimedia" and we should act as "Wikimedia", not as "a bunch of cool but totally random working organisations".
Centralisation is not always bad, when it brings proper coordination. What I find is not so great is centralisation without any real involvement of possible interested parties. Frankly, the reasons you mention for "turning down a project" can happen the same way at international or local level (ok, maybe not the translation part ;-)). And my hope is that the people "in charge" or the people "receiving the request" are professional enough to turn to the relevant parties. If a bunch of German people were to need fund for a project in Germany and turn to the Foundation, I do hope the Foundation would turn to Wikimedia Deutschland for advice on how to handle it. I would be doing the reverse should a bunch of Kenyan people ask funds off of Wikimedia Deutschland.
Sue mentioned the GAC on the talk page as means of avoiding that. I am sure people here have more experience with the GAC than I do, but from my impression, GAC has no real decision-making power. If they actually voted and decided who gets to have a grant, it might be a different scenario. From what I saw, they mostly provide comments and ask questions on the talk page, which, just about anyone can do. It might be a step in the right direction but it should not be considered a solution for inherent problems of centralization.
Well, if the GAC[1] members all say "this project is totally cool" and the Foundation then says "nope", or on the contrary, they all say "this project sucks" and the Foundation says "yep" then we might want to ask ourselves the question of whether they actually serve any purpose. And even then, it would have to happen a certain number of times, and without any clear and reasonable explanation, for it to be a problem. I'll assume good faith and take for granted that Asaf (and whoever else might have done that with him) didn't think up the GAC just for the fun of it, but for a real review process of grants that come in, and a way to get a feel of what makes sense and what doesn't. Right now, I find the idea in line with our need of "peer" review processes and I do find it's a step in the right direction.
Delphine (4 Nov 20:08:29)
[1] Grant Advisory Committee for those who like me, were puzzled at first http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grant_Advisory_Committee
Sorry, what's "PIL"? Tom Dalton (4 Nov 19:28:54)
Wikipedia is your friend ;) http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prodotto_Interno_Lordo Gross domestic product, says the wiki :) Delphine (4 Nov 20:10:19)
I generally agree with Delphine, while also acknowledging the point that Theo made. There are risks of having a single point of failure, but there are also some very obvious risks and problems associated with decentralized solutions.
Balance is needed, and hard to achieve. Jimmy Wales (4 Nov, 21:00:25)
All that recall me the world of research. I’m a PhD student in France and I am a bit far from the politics about funding of projects, so please correct me if you have a better insight.
From what I understand, when you are researcher and want to begin a new project, you have to request a grant of a funding agency. In France, you have the choice between National Agency for Research, European funding, self-funding by the team, laboratory, or partners, regional funding, competitiveness centers, etc. One logical procedure would be (I imagine) to speak about the project to local people and depending on a local funding or not, you could request a grant to national agencies or even international agencies; but I know it is very long to write applications to these agencies and you can receive no money at the end (after a long time for the review). So perhaps a result is this one [1] :) On one hand if you cannot get a funding from an agency, you can try another, but the drawback is you have to re-explain each time what is your project.
I am speaking about that because it is a mode of funding which could fulfill our needs, but I’m not sure we can blindly import such a model; mainly because research is focused (ideally) the long trend, and our projects are much much shorter (years vs. days/months).
Perhaps research funding models from other countries (US seems quite different) or applied research could be an interesting comparison for our question.
~ Seb35 [^_^] 00:55, 30 December 2011 (UTC)

I think the point that needs to made, and I think theo is pretty close to it, is that there is always going to need to be somewhat of a balance struck between the two states of "centralised" coordination and funding as well a more "artisanal" level of funding method from chapters. There is no reason why conferences in India, or the Philippines, or Serbia could not be supported by either foundation or chapters. In fact these are projects that chapters would be quite suited to being able to be supported by chapters. They are relatively simple grants for a one off event, the short term success is easily measurable and the long term benefits are again often easy to track (GLAMWIKI in the UK for example, has lead on to a thriving outreach programme with various GLAM's in the UK). Also it allows chapters to support a wide and diverse pool of projects, particularly those who

However, more complicated expensive projects don't just need good leadership by the grant recipient but good oversight by the grantee. Who is responsible for that oversight when it involved 12 chapters? All of whom have a responsibility to their donors with the money they have donated. Donor stewardship is something that we all, both the foundation and every fundraising chapter, share a responsibility to maintain at the highest level. This very reason is why I don't think we want to be encourage or provide a atmosphere that encourages or assists grant forum-shopping.

Fundraising chapter really should have clear and concise requirements and have open process for grant requests, and personally they should generally require similar standards between each other to some degree. In fact one possibility is for the foundations grant awarding committee to assist chapters in this role.

I think that Delphine's point of coordination/support of large international projects by a single entity, be that the foundation, some other wikimedia international development org (prehaps a little too early days for that just yet) or even a chapter. Now for obvious reasons, that being money and resources, the foundation has the most experience when it comes to international grant making. Since it also has, to some extent, the beginnings of an infrastructure in this area it does in many ways make sense for it support the chapters in running large projects.

The foundation could feasibly do this if the projects merited the foundation resources and the big question is what merits the foundations resources? The project would have to be planned to a professional level, highly detailed, described in full. Additionally, foundation resources don't have to mean money, it can be manpower, or even setting out guidelines and frameworks for chapters to build in. Stewardship and developement of the chapters themselves. This could go to the extent of simply helping the chapter set up their own self coordinated international programme that runs in parallel and compliments the foundations own international programme

This brings me to whether chapters, with limited experience and resources all be pooling together to fund large projects? I dont see why not. Since we are drawing parallels with aid agencies, small red cross agencies from LEDC's dont go it alone when there are huge natural disasters within their territories. The more developed nations contribute massively to make these activities happen and work so why not do the same with knowledge.

On the matter of "the global south", I differ somewhat from the traditional Brazil and India focus in that I think we could have huge impacts in sub-saharan Africa, not just by ourselves but through other charities that work in Africa. I think partnership work could be a massive window for us to impact in areas where we just cant get to at this point in time due to a lack of resources etc.

These are just some thoughts really Seddon 20:21, 5 November 2011 (UTC)

Principles need expansion[edit]

These principles don't seem to be particularly robust yet. I've put some comments below in the hope that they are useful, since I'm a bit wary about editing the principles directly at their current stage of development.

  • Stable framework. The solution should provide a model within which each entity can carry out financial planning to ensure that their activities are sustainable.
    • What possibilities should the framework allow for growth and flexibility in spending funds? Should the planning be viewed as fixed, or as a flexible structure to be modified as new information arises? (I'd argue that the latter will lead to more efficient activities than the former).
  • Impact. Funds should be allocated in ways that support mission work, agnostic with regard to where the money was raised.
    • I'm not sure this is completely the case. It's often more efficient to spend money in one location than another - e.g. if spending it in another country rather than the one that the funds were raised in will result in unnecessary costs due to currency conversion and transfer fees, or if one country can do mission work in a cheaper/more effective way than elsewhere, or if talent is available in one country than another. There needs to be something here about efficiency and effectiveness of the mission work here.
  • Transparency and objectivity. Decisions are made with transparent guidelines, and the process is transparent.
    • ... and objective? (seems to be in the starting bit, but not the latter). Does this mean 'objective guidelines' and transparent processes?
  • Decentralized program activities. The solution needs to support the movement commitment to a decentralized method of furthering our mission (Note that this doesn't have to mean decentralized fundraising)
    • Does this mean decentralised in terms of the organisation doing the activities, or the geographical location where those activities are taking place? It's currently a bit ambiguous.
  • Flexibility. The solution might be a "combination of solutions" for different situations.
    • I'm not clear on what this means in practice...
      I'm having my ear bent right now by an academic with respect to a funding partner where recent policies have made them unworkable. They are prepared to offer £5,000 a year to pay for firm deliverables (not overhead costs), the bid can be for up to 5 years but must be planned as no more than £5,000 in any one year. The complexities of bidding have made this more difficult than a bid for more than 10 times the money, particularly as the University in question has to make a commitment to overhead costs, which in practice look to be twice the amount the deliverables are going to cost. Using this case study, I would say flexibility is not to define rules in a bureaucratic way that might hamper the ability for bidders to put a reasonable case. In practice, this may mean that our funding team might have to provide some detailed advice on how to structure a more unusual bid whilst at the same time not compromising their independence for governance purposes. -- 10:47, 18 November 2011 (UTC)
  • Equality. The Wikimedia movement is a partnership of equals. Different entities have different needs and capabilities, and therefore should be treated differently, but any differences in treatment should be justified by the differences in needs and capabilities.
  • Collaborative work. Any process chosen must allow multi-party decision making.
    • This needs elaborating on somewhat, since the implications of this aren't particularly clear...
  • Wisdom of the masses. There is no single expert, decisions should be made by those who show up.
    • ... and if decisions are made by those that are invited to show up? There also needs to be something here about ensuring that those making the decisions represent a broad cross-section of the Wikimedia movement.
  • Internationality. The Wikimedia movement is international by nature, decision making should not be with ethnocentric view.
    • I'm not entirely sure what this means. Local decisions will have to match in with local expectations and norms; is that an ethnocentric view? Or does this only relate to decisions that affect things globally?

There seem to be a few things missing from this - one example is whether past activity performance is something that should be taken into account. I'm sure that there are others that I can't think of right now too. It would be good to be able to think about this a bit longer. Mike Peel 22:49, 15 November 2011 (UTC)

"Geographical agnosticism"[edit]

Hello, I am unhappy with this point:

"Impact. Funds should be allocated in ways that support mission work, agnostic with regard to where the money was raised."

In general I agree that money raised in rich countries should also be used in poor countries. But should there be absolutely no relationship between raising and spending? If in France (mostly) French Wikipedians contribute to French language Wikipedia, making French Wikipedia fans happy, of whom some become French donors, generating a stockpile of euros from France, it would be strange if 100% of that money would be spent outside of France. Certainly, not 100% of that money has to be spent in France, either. Maybe putting a "mostly" or "in general" before the word "agnostic" would be a step to the right direction. --Ziko 13:42, 16 November 2011 (UTC)

who makes decisions[edit]

I took the two points

  • Collaborative work. Any process chosen must allow multi-party decision making.
  • Wisdom of the masses. There is no single expert, decisions should be made by those who show up.
  • Internationality. The Wikimedia movement is international by nature, decision making should not be with ethnocentric view.

and combined them into one:

  • Collaboration. The decision making process is collaborative and open, and respects the diverse and international nature of the Wikimedia movement.

Please feel free to reword. I'm not sure "decisions made by those who show up" quite captures the need for chapters and others to have a say in decision making that is being discussed above. -- phoebe | talk 18:17, 8 December 2011 (UTC)

Different entities have different needs and capabilities[edit]

"Equality. The Wikimedia movement is a partnership of equals. Different entities have different needs and capabilities, and therefore should be treated differently, but any differences in treatment should be justified by the differences in needs and capabilities."

I realize the window for revising/refining these guiding principles is coming to a close, or perhaps has already closed. If it hasn't though, I'd like to ask for this bullet to be rethought or restated. I can't really tell what it means, or what its implications are. But it strikes me, insofar as I'm understanding it, that it might be a bit backwards, in that it seems to suggest fundraising and funds allocation decisions should be made according to "needs and capabilities," whereas I'd think we'd want to make decisions based on their likely impact on our ability to fulfill the mission. In other words, I wonder if this bullet seems to suggest that the *entities* (Foundation, chapters, other types of organizations) are the point, whereas I think the point is really programmatic activity that helps us fulfill the mission. Hope that makes sense. Regardless, I find the bullet confusing, and potentially in conflict with other bullets. Thanks Sue Gardner 19:06, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

Accountability and responsibility[edit]

Hm. I just reread the guiding principles, and it seems obvious to me that we're missing a bullet about accountability and responsibility to donors. Something like this: "Funds need to be disseminated in a way that enables the Wikimedia movement to confidently assure donors that their donations will be safeguarded appropriately, and that spending will be in line with our mission and with the messages used to attract donors."

Maybe this is obvious and unnecessary, since the Board has already affirmed this position in its letter to the chapters. But it strikes me it would probably make sense to reaffirm it in this process, so there's no confusion about. Thanks Sue Gardner 19:11, 9 December 2011 (UTC)

I have added this to the main page, since I think it's just an oversight that it's missing and it clearly needs to be there. Sue Gardner 18:34, 10 December 2011 (UTC)