Grants talk:APG/Proposals/2012-2013 round1/Wikimedia CH/Staff proposal assessment
Please find below our answers to the staff assessment. From a general perspective, we agree on many points, especially factual evaluation. We think that the proposal overview should list also the total budget, the amount proposed to the FDC is not sufficient. Anyway, we still have concerns about the evaluation of points that are more subjective than objective, especially the points A, B, C, L and M that seem to come with the duties of the FDC.
Answer to the Staff Assessment
It is important to note when considering WMCH’s Community initiative that a significant portion of the initiative's budget is devoted to supporting the development of WMCH and its partner entities rather than solely to providing support to editors and other community members. (A portion of this budget is also dedicated to international programs, mostly focused on offline efforts in Africa.)
- Projects proposed by volunteers are listed thematically and not under the sole Community initiative, in this last part only projects with large impact are listed. The WCA is an import community related project, it cannot be defined only as development of a partner entity. One of the goal of the WCA is to improve the support to communities that are not supported enough for the moment.
WMCH’s international programs may not be strongly linked to its own mission of promoting free knowledge within Switzerland. An argument may be made that some outreach activities are language-driven rather than geography-driven and that the benefits of the content generated may be global. Offline activities may increase reach but are not strongly linked to participation and so are unlikely to have far-reaching effects within Switzerland.
- Our mission is to support the free dissemination of knowledge in Switzerland, that doesn't mean only in and only for Switzerland. The FDC funds come from all over the world and even Swiss donors support the whole movement, not only in Switzerland. A chapter is a local association, from a legal point of view, but this definition should not restrain the activities of the chapter. This type of limitation could be a handicap for volunteers and donors. Luckily, there are members of the Swiss communities with strong and efficient contacts and partners in Africa. If the FDC restrains our capacity to support projects outside Switzerland, we would lose good opportunities to help communities that cannot use the WMF channels.
Context of the entity and community
WMCH is confident of the awareness of the Swiss public around the free knowledge movement: their outreach efforts therefore target like-minded organizations and academic institutions rather than the general public.
- In fact we use our good connections to Swiss media to make use of press releases (and progress reports in the future) in order to do general public outreach of our activities. Our main program of general public targeting is the minor languages communities project, but this project has been postponed to 2013 with 2012 funds. This has been made transparent in the FDC proposal.
WMCH has participated in several successful fundraisers. Since July 2012, they have appointed a qualified Chief Administrative Officer. However, WMCH has not provided a current detailed strategy document, and their track record with the WMF Grants Program is mixed.
- Unfortunately we also had to deal with different modifications to the rules by the WMF for a year and a half. We hope that the FDC system remains as stable as possible over the next year to let us enough time to publish our strategy for the next five years. We have a working group aiming to prepare the strategy plan for our next general assembly. Our track record with the WMF Grants Program consists of only ONE grant of 20'000 CHF. We agree that it wasn't a really good one but it's hard to get the big picture from only one sample.
Feasibility and risks for the annual plan
WMCH’s budget emphasizes programs: staffing makes up about 25% of the total budget and programs about 75%. There are some questions about WMCH’s ability to execute its programs effectively with the staffing plan proposed.
- Almost each project in our 2013 plan is proposed and supported by volunteers. We have been careful to avoid past errors and have not retained interesting projects that aren't yet supported by a group of volunteers already in place. When volunteers need to be recruited, it's only a question of finalizing the list. We also hired and will continue to hire temporary staff linked to specific projects – for example a photographer for the Herbarium project or a planned WiR working at the Swiss Federal Archives in 2013.
WMCH’s plan emphasizes program areas in which it is experienced, like GLAM and content-generation. WMCH has acknowledged difficulty in recruiting volunteers to adequately staff GLAM initiatives, but at the same time is increasing this type of programming without increasing staff. Education is a new area for WMCH, and more information would be required in order to evaluate their preparedness to execute an Education program of this scope successfully. Regarding international programs, there may be concerns regarding the efficiency of WMCH’s direct approach vs. a partnership or microgrants model.
- The GLAM projects proposed don't need additional volunteers; temporary staff will be recruited to conduct some projects. Education is in fact not really new to WMCH, several members of WMCH come from the academic world. Educational projects in 2013 are just the concretization of the work done by WMCH volunteers. The idea of newness may come from a lack of sufficient communication of WMCH in the past. To achieve better communication is definitively a major goal for coming months.
Moreover, the scope of WMCH’s proposal seems very broad and may be beyond the capacity of WMCH to execute efficiently and successfully.
- The WMCH board has carefully chosen projects that could be executed. We deliberately removed projects or proposals that weren't clear enough about the workload for volunteers and the association. And we remind you that even if English is used as lingua franca for internal communication inside of WMCH, it remains a foreign language for all of us: therefore the descriptions our volunteers provide about their projects are often quite brief.
Potential for impact against strategic priorities
A The plan addresses the strategic targets of Improve quality and Stabilize infrastructure.
B The initiatives if successful will contribute to the global targets somewhat, but are not very specific.
This point is really important to be developed because Wikimedia CH is a chapter with 4 different languages and has not a clear Wikimedian community to work with. So the global targets and the evaluation should be adapted. In the Swiss context the list of priorities changes a little bit.
The global targets are:
- Stabilize infrastructure
- Increase participation
- Improve quality
- Increase reach
- Encourage innovation
It should be clear that these points have to be adapted to the Swiss context because we operate mainly within our borders. So to evaluate better all these points, it should be important to understand the starting points of the Swiss chapter.
The first point (Stabilize infrastructure) is not a priority in Switzerland because Wikipedia/Wikimedia is well known and appreciated. There is no opposition to "open source" in general. This is an advantage for Switzerland and some projects of WM CH are focused to collaborate with other organizations, mainly to speed up a process that is already advanced compared with other countries. It means that we don't need any "evangelist" urgently. The sub-target "Build internal capacity to better support the movement and achieve its strategic goals" has been developed this year as we have hired a CAO and we plan to have two community managers to support the movement. So we consider that the first point will be sufficiently developed at least in 2013.
The second point (Increase participation) is a big challenge because Wikimedia CH has started earlier than other chapters and had a strange development because the Swiss community is divided into three big and influential Wikipedian communities. In a sense we supported the volunteers of Wikimedia Commons and less the Wikipedian communities because their projects are mainly influenced by "sister chapters" like WM DE, WM FR and WM IT. We're not very fond of the proposal to have projects before and after to aggregate volunteers around them. This means that we have mainly the approach of using the pilot projects to study the reaction of the communities, instead of setting up a big (and expensive) project. The involvement of volunteers as "decision makers" is a strategy to involve them more and to motivate them. The idea of professionalization of volunteers is mainly suggested by this approach. So we are focused to have smaller communities but with very active members, involved in the decisions, and more professional. If we would deeply increase the number of employees, we would risk to cause an internal division and to be even more detached from the Swiss Wikipedian communities.
The third point (Improve quality) is well done in our opinion because we have a lot of projects in partnership with important institutions like universities or like local and national governments. We are discussing future projects for 2014 with them. Probably we haven't been clear in our documentation, but we can supply more documents about that. They are not evident because they are new projects and we agreed with these partners to have most of them as "pilot projects" in order to plan bigger projects in the following years. In these case we often have media embargo, so we cannot display too specific information on public website like meta.
The fourth point (Increase reach) has been one of the strongest strategical point of Wikimedia CH in the past years. For example we support the Kiwix project ever since its creation. 2013 is considered as a period of adjustment for this project, but we have planned to study similar initiatives.
The fifth point (Encourage innovation) has been experienced this year. It's not evident but there are some projects like "microGLAM", "wiki-expeditions" and "Digitization group of expert" which have basically the idea to set some standards to be used and applied easily in other Wikimedian contexts. Even if we are adopting some existing ideas like QR codes, the difference is that we are trying to improve them "Developing standards" and "Developing clear documentation and APIs" (please see the WMF strategic plan page 15).
C There is not a clear indication of potential for significant impact.
The idea to have pilot projects is a criteria to evaluate the impact roughly. After the experience of the TAO project, we're going to evaluate better any risk and to be able to review a project if the results don't match with our expectations. So we agree that there is not a clear indication of potential. Instead of having ambitious but risky projects, we would like to evaluate them from time to time.
Anyway, we are building strong partnership with academic entities that are increasing the credibility of our chapter but also of the whole movement. If we succeed to have QRpedia in the major botanic garden of Switzerland, we believe that we can talk o "significant impact".
Ability to execute
D Significant concerns about entity's ability to execute on a plan of this magnitude, given staff and volunteer capacity
Perhaps it's not clear enough that the strengths of volunteers and staff are already counted in each project. We are trying to improve the description of the projects: . We prefer hiring volunteers, through a process of professionalization, or a staff person needed for a given project over hiring permanent staff - at least for the moment. So we can train our permanent staff and see clearer what will be our needs for the future.
We have decided to have this hybrid situation (volunteers + staff) and to hire people (temporary or permanently) out of the volunteers in order to have more continuity and less division within the community because our goal is to increase the participation of volunteers.
Basically the example of a volunteer, who is managing successfully a project with us and having the opportunity with us to build around it a paid position, seems to us a good way to motivate and to train people. This approach may have big risks connected with the continuity of the volunteers work, but there are similar projects coming up within WMF (please see the Flow Funding project).
E Have some record of success with similar initiatives in previous years (e.g., GLAM)
Most of our project are build on successful previous experiment , it's not "some record of success". We have no exotic project with no clear chance of success, some of them are already supported by the government and some other will be soon.
F The leadership is relatively committed and stable
Efficient use of funds
G The budget is reasonable given initiatives proposed.
We also think that the budget is reasonable, but do not understand why the score is a 3 with a comment that come from the illustration of the score 5 in the information table (III)
We also notice that judging our budget reasonable is not consistent with the point D stating concerns about our "entity's ability to execute on a plan of this magnitude, given staff and volunteer capacity".
We do think that our budget is answering to the possible weakness in staff. We would also want to underline that our Budget is more than what we ask to the FDC, and that the request to the FDC represent the basis of our planned activity for 2013.
H Concerns about late reports in the past and possible inefficient use of some movement funds (ex. TAO).
We actually have been really late to publish a report for the parts of the TAO project that have been funded through a WMF grant. Anyway it's quite shocking to see our entity judge like this on the basis of ONE unique WMF grant.
TAO is a really bad project that Wikimedia CH has been able to turn into a somewhat successful project. Even if the primary target (outreach towards the senior) hasn't been a great success, we have gained really good connections to local partners that will help us in the near future to improve our outreach activities. We also learned a lot from this project in terms of management of projects proposed by outsiders. For example we are supporting the idea not to be involved in big projects without having "pilot projects". This will definetely reduce the risks. This is what we have stressed in other points of our proposal. The pilot projects help us to "test" the partners, to make corrections, and to have more realistic projects (even if less ambitious).
Quality of proposed measures of success
I Metrics are specific but not completely aligned with strategic prioirties presented.
The metrics are aligned with the Swiss context and with the weaknesses that we have in the Swiss context. The strategic priorities have been adapted to the Swiss context and, as consequence, we are defining metrics aligned with this adaptation.
J It is fairly clear how WMCH will track these metrics.
K The plan seems fairly feasible with the organization's current resources.
Potential to add knowledge and/or other benefits to the movement
L Initiatives are not necessarily innovative, and therefore may not lead to much replication
Partially we agree with this point because the Swiss context is very peculiar. For instance, at the moment there are hardly other multilingual chapters. We would like to see more of them. Any project of Wikimedia CH may be considered innovative only because it is managed in a multilingual and multicultural environment, so it may be considered as a good incubator to roll it out outside of Switzerland. In the past we have seen frequently that some projects created in some linguistic areas have had really few success outside the leading chapters, even if they were innovative.
The Digitization projects are really innovative and will be supported by an already created international working group aiming to facilitate the knowledge transfer to other movement entities. Much subsequent replication can be expected.
The QRpedia project in botanical gardens includes the development of a QRpedia/Kiwix solution that could offer a great potential for replications.
M WMCH has been open to sharing lessons learnt
Even with a score of 4 in this topic, we acknowledge that our communication about lessons learnt is not sufficient for the moment. This is an important objective in the near future.