Some concerns about this recommendation
I have some concerns about this recommendation. Some of these are not "fatal" problems. Some are not even problems. For example, the working group members "envision a movement where we prioritize resources in order to increase diversity", and I'm sure that the existing WMF grants team has been doing that since the first grant was made. Some of these just need some clarity, so that we can know what the problem is.
However, one of the problems might be a fatal problem, and it appears to be un-recognized.
Let's start with the easy ones. I think that all of these are solvable problems:
- The recommendation that begins "The Wikimedia movement needs a decentralized administrative structure for resource allocation" ends with "Communication channels need to be more fluid".
- The phrase "more fluid" needs some explanation. In particular, if it actually means that the grantmakers should not be so bothered about things like how much money got spent or what it got spent on, or whether the financial reports are filed on time, or that once I'm started on my project, I can go back and demand that my budget be doubled because I low-balled the costs in my application, then that recommendation needs to change. Some "rigid" limits exist because they are important. }Alternatively, if it means "I should get to apply for a grant any time I feel like it, and get my grant money soon after applying for it", then the grantmakers are unlikely to agree that such a process will meet any of the other goals. You cannot say, at the start of the year, "Half of this money goes to editing events, and the rest is for GLAM", let people apply for grants whenever they feel like it, issue the money as soon as you have a well-formed request, and end up with the money going where you decided it ought to go. Your grant applicants will not coordinate among themselves to make sure that half the requests are for editing events and half for GLAM. Also, that's a first-come, first-served approach, and what it means is that lots of grants are made in July and August, and nobody gets anything in May or June.
- "For example, the actual grants system prevents the realization of initiatives that are not in line with major campaigns (eg in August only events for Wiki Loves Monuments can be financed by some grants)."
- If your project can't be realized because you didn't plan it until after July 31st, and it can't wait 31 days until the start of the next open funding period, then your planning has problems. From the grantmaker's side, if you want to fund the best and most mission-oriented WLM projects, then you need to see them side-by-side. Processing them all at once is what allows you to say "Here are 20 proposals: Let's be sure that at least half the money is going to under-served regions".
- "funds and other resources should be available to stakeholders to cover the organizational costs"
- This is unclear. Does this mean "please pay more of my affiliate's overhead" or "please pay for the direct costs of organizing the event (e.g., renting the room where the editing event will happen)"?
- "awarding scholarships not based exclusively on edit counts, that excludes other participants who are event organizers and help the growth of their own communities. Also a system of alternating the participants, to avoid having the same people at the events."
- This has been done for years. This recommendation does not represent any change.
- "Wikimedia funding needs to be dynamic enough in a changing system to adequately support technological adjustments to existing platforms or develop new projects."
- What this means is unclear. Does it mean that someone should be able to get money right away ("dynamic"), as soon as they think of a software change they want to be paid to make ("technological adjustments")? (If so, then I recommend phab:T89970 to anyone who is looking for a project.) Does it mean that the WMF's Product and Technology devs should be systematically under-scheduled, so that they can deal with small projects as they come up? Or does it mean that we should be funding upgrades to the laptops used by affiliate office staff on short notice?
Now for the big problem, which is that the identified risks are also wrong:
The main risk of de-centralized grantmaking is not that a grantee might "misuse" the money. The main risk of de-centralized grantmaking is that the inherent lack of coordination (i.e., central organization) means that the overall funding doesn't meet overall needs.
The main risk, to give a simple example, is that the lack of coordination will result in unbalanced funding globally. So imagine that everyone agrees that it would be best to have some money go to multiple subject areas (e.g., GLAM, editor recruitment, photo contests, software development, etc.) in multiple places (e.g., Asia, Africa, etc.). Every region will support its local things, and every region will do some things that are valuable to the whole world. But in practice, the risk is that all (or most) of these independent regional outfits will "accidentally" put most of their funding in the same subject area. This is what happens when there is nobody keeping track of the global picture.
To give an example, imagine that the European region decides that WMSE should be supported in developing its Center of Expertise for GLAM-related software, so they'll fund that as their biggest, global-benefit project. And the Asia region will decide that, to preserve their regional heritage, the most important thing they could do is to fund a huge GLAM project. And the North American group will decide that, of the multiple major proposals they received, the best proposal is to fund some GLAM-related software. And so forth, and at the end of the year, everyone will realize that why de-centralized grantmaking resulted in money getting spread to different continents (exactly like a central grantmaking organization can already do, merely by deciding that X% of funds are reserved for projects in each region...), they have not managed to coordinate their grant work with each other, and the result has been that there is much more money going to GLAM work than expected globally, and nobody is doing much (or anything) with editor recruitment, working with schools, etc.
There are good reasons to prefer a regional system. But there are significant benefits to a central system, too, including making sure that the funding is distributed according to the overall goals, and that the same basic standards (like "no more money until you tell us what happened to the previous money") apply to everyone. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:59, 10 October 2019 (UTC)