Talk:Wikimedia Foundation 2016-17 FDC budget recommendation

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Questions to the FDC and Simple APG Committee[edit]

  • What are your reactions to the staff recommendation?
  • What are the potential weaknesses?
  • How can we improve it?

Thank you for weighing in!

Thoughts from Mike (and comments from Liam! Aegis!!)[edit]

Hi Katy and all! I'm currently feeling cautiously enthustiastic about this recommendation. I'm glad to see the projections for the increased numbers of affiliates, and I really like the move from a fixed budget to a more flexible one. However, I do have a number of concerns with this proposal:

  1. Tying the budget to the WMF's budget presupposes that the impact of the affiliates will grow at the same rate as the WMF's impact does. I'm not convinced that this has been the case in the past, or that it will be the case in the future (even for the next 3 years). This probably needs more thinking about. Perhaps the first step would be to look at comparative numbers for the last three years, WMF budget vs. FDC budget vs. affiliate overall budgets. I would feel a lot happier about setting this for the next 3 years if the WMF had a clear budget plan for the next 3 years! Mike Peel (talk) 23:17, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
    1. Tying them together in some form, PLUS having the WMF go through an equivalent process, has the advantage that the effectiveness of the use of the money can be compared on a level field (more or less), AND that the growth/shrinkage in the movement's overall budget is apportioned with fair[er] weight across the movement. In the future I see it as likely that the affiliates have a larger combined budget than the WMF, which makes adjusting the 'proportions' more sensible than the 'totals'. Wittylama (talk) 17:40, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
      1. True. However hard limit of 10% means that, in case of general budget cuts in WMF (which may be inevitable if general fundraising gets more and more difficult) will mean a squeeze for the Affiliates - especially if more and more of them will ask for the funding. What is more, 10% for all the affiliates marks in a stone a huge disparity between WMF (HQ) and the affiliates working in the local grounds: it would be 90% for the HQ and 10% for the local offices which is very far from the decentralized movement. Making separate deals like with Wikidata and removing the from under this cap may be some workaround, but otherwise this trend s worrying. aegis maelstrom δ 17:35, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
        1. Hi all, Siko and I have been discussing this and agree with you that 2 years is probably a better (and definitely shorter) timeline, so we are amending our recommendation that this be adopted for 2 years instead of 3. KLove (WMF) (talk) 06:06, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
  2. I'm not sure whether combining the budget recommendations of both the FDC and simple-APG will work in practice. What would happen when one committee's recommendation would present problems for the other committee's recommendation? How would we decide which recommendation has priority - particularly given the different timescales that the committees work to? Mike Peel (talk) 23:17, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
    1. I see this as a genuine issue, but not a genuine issue yet. The proposed solution would work as an interim solution but should eventually be altered. I'm not sure what to though, which is why I'm not proposing anything better! Wittylama (talk) 17:40, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
      1. Yes, this is something that will need to be set with some careful thought and consideration. I don't know exactly how this might work yet, but I think we could come up with a workable solution. Once Simple APG has existed for a year, we'll know a lot more about what kinds of requests are likely to come in, and what the pipeline is. KLove (WMF) (talk) 06:27, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
  3. I'm very concerned about "WMF leadership should provide 2-4 clear strategic priorities", that the affiliates would then have to follow. Given the significant weaknesses of the current WMF leadership strategy, why should this become a requirement of affiliates to follow if they have better strategic priorities than the WMF has? Mike Peel (talk) 23:17, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
    1. Step 1 - have the WMF come up with a strategy in the first place... <grin> I DO like the idea that all movement entities should be pulling in the same direction. The WMF should be providing strategic direction for the affiliates to work together to tackle issues on their own areas - different methods/trials/culturally-appropriate solutions. It's kind-of what's been happening in Gender Gap. However, this is a necessarily slow process that requires consensus building and trust between movement entities. I see the idea as having GREAT benefit if it built into a way of creating 'movement wide' priorities on a 1-2 year timescale. But would need to include genuine investment from the WMF to support the affiliates in actually "rolling out" the projects related to the theme. So, say the theme was 'STEM education' - then the WMF would need to invest in the education team to support the incresing number of chapters that would be wanting their advice on how to pivot to that topic. If it was 'localisation/translation' then the language engineering team would need a bunch of new community liaisons all of a sudden. So, I see this as a good proposal - but not in isolation. Wittylama (talk) 17:40, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
    2. I'd like to second Mike's opinion. What is more, we need to remember that local Affiliates are (quite) independent entities, often with own declared missions and goals that they can be held accountable for, operating under local circumstances and with highly limited resources (see the 90% WMF - 10% All Affiliates disparity). IMHO setting by WMF - after a deep discussion with other stakeholders, affiliates included - a few general directions is a good idea. However, we need to remember that (pretty often) particular affiliates may not be able to follow all of them or at least strong some action in these direction, so they will need to prioritize using their own judgement - and on the other hand they might feel they have some strong opportunities or gaps to fill in their local situation. Certainly these general directions need to be a result of some good debate. aegis maelstrom δ 17:46, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
      1. Thanks to all here for sharing your thinking re the strategic priorities point. Katy and I have discussed and we've now changed this from a numbered recommendation to a more general note, based in your input. Like Liam, I do believe that we (staff and committees), as grantmakers, need strategic priorities to help guide shared decisions and act as a common reference point when we make those decisions - this is a common good practice in grantmaking, and the fact that we're still basing our decisions on priorities that are 5 years old remains an issue for the work we're all here to do. That said, I do also hear your point and share your view that those priorities should be developed in such a way that the movement feels they are truly shared (which does require mutual trust), and they do still need to allow room for movement diversity. Hope folks find the adjusted language to be a clarifying improvement. Cheers, Siko (WMF) (talk) 18:02, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
  4. I'm still extremely concerned about the plan to move WMDE funding to a direct grant from the WMF rather than going through the FDC, as I'm not convinced that the result of that arrangement would be sufficiently transparent to the community, which is part of what the FDC proposal enables. If this happens, then WMDE should still be obligated to submit its annual plan through the FDC process in some form. Mike Peel (talk) 23:17, 7 January 2016 (UTC)
    1. I disagree on this point... I would like Wikidata to be treated as a 'contract for service' between the WMF and WM-De. The fact that this would result in less transparency to the community of how the money is spent/allocated is a fault of the current lack of transparency in WMF annual planning activities, not the fault of Wikidata. I think that forcing Wikidata to remain within the FDC envelope to ensure transparency is the right motive but the wrong method. (talk) 17:40, 8 January 2016 (UTC)
      1. I guess I second Liam here - the crux is how transparent and how community overseen such deals are. Out of necessity and in order to not create multiple bodies, I would keep such community oversight/recommendations with FDC + of course a general discussion process. aegis maelstrom δ 17:46, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
    • Not sure if this talk page is "open", but thanks Mike for voicing this concern. Wikidata development has been a positive model, making it more similar to any other software development managed by WMF engineering seems like a recipe for failure at oh so many levels. Nemo 19:03, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
      • @Nemo bis: Since when has a page on-wiki not been "open"? So thanks for your thanks, and please share your views more generally on this page if you want! Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 00:26, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
        1. Thanks, folks, for expressing a few different opinions here. The previous FDC body, which has now changed (as of August 2015), wanted funding for Wikidata to be moved out of their portfolio for a variety of reasons. My understanding is that the current committee, with some notable exceptions, still largely feels this way. I appreciate Michal and Liam's point around transparency. What else is important to you to ensure happens with the Wikidata funding, assuming it moves from FDC to engineering Wittylama, Mike Peel, aegis maelstrom and Laurentius? KLove (WMF) (talk) 01:34, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
  5. I hope that the overall budget recommendation for the FDC can be tied into our review of the overall WMF plan in May, rather than trying to decide upon it before then.

Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 23:17, 7 January 2016 (UTC)

    1. Thanks Mike. As I understand it, the Board will be discussing this issue in late Jan, which is why we wanted to have some thoughts from you in advance. KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:24, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

Thoughts from Laurentius[edit]

General thoughts:

  1. I think the Wikimedia Foundation should take part in the APG process with a full application, including a requested dollar amount (as pointed out also in Talk:WMF 2016-17 Annual Planning Recommendation by me and Mike). This is a basic point that affects many part of this recommendation. I will write the next comments in the scenario in which this does not happen, but that is a suboptimal scenario.
  2. In the short term, the proposal of setting the FDC budget as a fixed percentage of the overall budget makes sense (both in a growth scenario and in a moderate budget reduction scenario). However, this is unlikely a long term solution (a few comments on this are below).
  3. Clarification: are you proposing 10% of WMF's income or 10% of WMF's planned expenses?
    10% of the planned expenses (the budget for 2016-17), Laurentius. KLove (WMF) (talk) 23:33, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
  4. This proposal puts both APG and Simple APG on the same budget; but they are allocated by different people. Do you propose to explicitly divide (in advance) the budget among them? Otherwise, a way of managing conflicts will be needed (in the case the total budget is used. If it is not, there is no problem).
  5. The points about Wikimedia Germany and Wikidata are a bit more specific (being related only to a single organization). In general I have many doubts about transitioning to a direct contract for Wikidata, and I would suggest against that. Note that if the WMF does not take part in the full APG process, this will lead to a reduction in transparency on Wikidata funding and plans. In any case, I think Wikimedia Germany should submit an APG application, even if there was no money allocation involved, as a way to preserve the community review process.

Thinking a couple of years ahead (these are not likely to be issues in the short term, but in 2-3 years they will):

  1. The clear weakness of using a percentage is that it doesn't work well unless the growth of the applications and the growth of the WMF are similar. In the past, WMF's growth has exceeded the total FDC recommended allocation growth, but this may not be true in the future (and I presume that affiliates currently have a greater growth potential than the WMF - even though that should not be supported only by global funds).
  2. Considering also the large number of new affiliates (user groups, but it's likely that some of them will transition to chapters or thematic organizations in the near future), I expect that decisions taken now will have to be revised in 2-3 years, when a significant number of these organizations will (hopefully) reach a much larger level of funding. I have no idea how the situation will evolve.
  3. In general, how the resources are used in our movement is a complex issue, and we (the people in the movement) will have to seriously think about it. Possibly before donations start to shrink (which will happen, at some point).
  4. In the happy scenario in which a lot of organizations apply with great programs (leading to worthy requests that are well above our budget), I would not be comfortable in telling them that their requests have to be cut just because of an arbitrary budget constraint that has been set in early 2016. "There is not enough money overall" is fine, "there are better uses for the money" is fine, but "sorry we've reached the 10%, money will be used for something less valuable, but well, this is what we wrote in the budget" is not.

- Laurentius (talk) 18:49, 8 January 2016 (UTC)

Comments from Ido[edit]

  • It's a technicality, but I think that your recommendation of setting a percentage should refer explicitly to the WMF income, following Laurentius' suggestion. The budget barrier (10%) should be large enough to allow more affiliates to receive S-APG and PEG grants in the coming years. Furthermore, I would suggest some of the (yet) unallocated budget for grants should be devoted to creating specific resources for helping grantees "mature", like having resources around about transitioning from all-volunteer to paid staff, how to effectively manage boards, how to raise non-WMF funding, how to put a strategic plan in place, etc. Many affiliates (even long-time APG grantees) are in need of those.
    Thanks for your thoughts, Alleycat80. On the first point about expenses versus income, Siko & my idea is to tie it to planned expenses. However, we hear you and others that the Board should consider whether or not to tie it to income received, and we have noted this in our recommendation to them. Thanks for helping us think this through! On the second point, the idea about resources is a key one that has come up from many of our grantees, committee members, and staff. We are quite interested in exploring this a bit more. I'm curious to know what kind of resources you might prioritize. We should this conversation elsewhere, too. :) KLove (WMF) (talk) 17:44, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
  • I'm joining my peers above with a warning regarding WMF providing strategic priorities. Yes, having clear strategic goals would help evaluate affiliates (and of course, the WMF) and their impact. However, WMF strategic priorities are probably going to be mostly "overarching directions" for the Movement and the Foundation itself, while every affiliate may have their own strategic challenges - for one organization the most strategic thing may be doubling the editor community, and for another - radically improving community health. Aligning all affiliates to the same strategic priorities has the risk of not recognizing the diversity and different challenges of each organization. In my opinion, having global metrics in place and allowing affiliates to explain what different / additional metrics they are measuring impact (along with some staff guidance and feedback) is proving to be a good de-facto method of impact evaluation.
    Thanks for this note of caution. While it's challenging to align prioritization and resources to the 6 year old strategic plan, Siko & I have heard this concern and our recommendation has been adjusted. KLove (WMF) (talk) 17:44, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
  • Moreover, my recent experience as a member of the Simple APG committee shows that while strategic (=longer term) thinking is important for manufacturing a good annual plan, expecting a new affiliate to have same planning and long-term thinking capacity as "veteran" FDC grantees is a unrealistic.

Cheers, Alleycat80 (talk) 00:03, 9 January 2016 (UTC)

Comments from Aegis[edit]

Firstly, I would like to second comments of Ido, Laurentius and a thread above.

Secondly, I would like to highlight an issue of a possible transfer of Wikidata funding: from a restricted grant situation to a contract situation. If this solution is chosen as preferable, probably it should be followed (as a role model) by other examples, leading to numerous consequences for the FDC process, like:

  • A need of a community advisory/oversight/assistance... which, besides general community consultations would lead to some advisory body - which could be (to avoid redundancy) even FDC itself
  • Greater means devoted to such endavours, with a much bigger diversity of activities and details + skillset required to evaluate.

Of course, we may use the Wikidata solution as a "White Elephant", however if such model is successful, it could be a huge waste.

Certainly, diversification and creating competence centres outside of SF, giving them new duties or off-shoring current activities would be a huge step, which only the Board can take after serious considerations. This situation would mean a significant change from a centralized WMF HQ and a grant culture to a more diverse network with local contracts. Wikimedia Movement stakeholders could compete for particular products/services "contracts" or propose their directions even in stronger way than current grant applications.
On the one hand, we could gain a stronger diversification, possibly higher efficiancy and a better access to global resources, on the other many international management issues with internal tensions, distance and time zone issues, legal and cultural differences. As I am not advocating here any particular solution and it is fully the Board's (difficult) decision, I would just to point out that such a scenario is on the table and within reach in some not so distant future.

Best Regards,
aegis maelstrom δ 18:27, 11 January 2016 (UTC)

Many thanks for all your thoughts on this[edit]

Thank you, Mike Peel, Wittylama, Aegis Maelstrom, Laurentius, Alleycat80 and Nemo bis for taking the time to share your thinking here. KLove (WMF) and have used your comments to made further adjustments to the recommendation today. Next step: we are going to be discussing both the recommendation, as well as what we learned from you in terms of key concerns, with Lila today. I expect this will move to the board after that, as an input to their next round of decision-making on this issue. Thanks again, Siko (WMF) (talk) 18:12, 12 January 2016 (UTC)