2011-12 Fundraising and Funds Dissemination process/Iberocoop joint statement

The purpose of this document is to comment and make important observations on the draft "Recommendations to the Wikimedia Foundation's Board of Trustees" regarding the international Wikimedia movement.

Iberocoop is a regional cooperation network aimed at linking together both the local chapters and working groups looking to establish a chapter in Ibero-America, thus fostering collaboration and experience sharing. Ibero-America comprises a strategic area where the organization of the Wikimedia movement is still a big challenge, as most of it is considered part of the developing world ("Global South"). We believe that an initiative considering not only established chapters but also existing informal working groups will enable us to overcome that challenge and enable us to promote free knowledge everywhere.

Please note that while the following statement was discussed within Iberocoop, only the signing chapters and working groups are responsible for its contents. The names below correspond to those who have taken part in drafting or reviewing this text.

Fundraising and funds dissemination

The discussion on fundraising and funds dissemination is a very important one. We believe that having only the Wikimedia Foundation to fundraise and then hand out grants to those chapters who request is not in the best interests of the Wikimedia movement. Chapters are composed of volunteers, part of the wider Wikimedia community, who promote the projects and free knowledge and protect the trademarks, and as such they should be treated as partners. We are worried about statements that seem to differentiate chapters from the community, as if chapters were not the primary means of organizing the local communities in an official, powerful and truly multicultural organizational model. Chapters are lively organizations with members, internal discussion and both internal and external accountability procedures in place.

The proposed recommendations draft undermines our understanding of the Wikimedia chapters' independence, which is essential for the sustainability of a truly international model. Projects in line with the mission of the Wikimedia movement that are considered priorities by local communities may not be funded by the Wikimedia Foundation. It takes away the option for donors of choosing to make a local donation to promote free knowledge using the channels available in their countries or applying for tax deduction. It will slow the growth of chapters and thus their ability to promote free knowledge in bigger and better ways. We consider Wikimedia chapters as organizations that have demonstrated they can create and execute successful projects and hence they should be empowered. Making them dependant on the Wikimedia Foundation is totally the opposite.

In this sense, we agree with Wikimedia Deutschland's latest statement. We believe it gives serious and comprehensive arguments that explain why it is not only possible but also positive, both for the Foundation, the chapters themselves and the movement as a whole, to enable Wikimedia chapters to take part in official fundraising campaigns.

On developing nations

Regarding developing nations in particular, we acknowledge the Foundation's commitment to strengthen Wikimedia presence in the so-called "Global South" but we don't find the current approach appropriate. It should be noted that changes in the fundraising and funds dissemination model have been argued on global fairness issues, explicitly or implicitly questioning whether highly developed nations are entitled to manage funds that could otherwise be directed to the "Global South". It should be pointed out that no "Global South" Wikimedia chapter has expressed its agreement with such an approach. In our particular case, we consider trans-chapter cooperation and project-funding a more flexible and horizontal model than the one that is currently being pursued. This goes further beyond merely financial matters and has to do with prioritizing local community organization over centralized management and deployment.

More so, it should be noted that the proposed fundraising and funds dissemination policy condemns chapters and any other Wikimedia organization from developing countries to function on the base of contributions originating from the "Global North", for there are issues such as bank usage and currency regulations that make donating from our countries much more difficult. Most people in the world simply don't have an international credit card and sending money abroad for a donation to a legal entity, even though it is an NGO, can be very difficult, if feasible. Only local Wikimedia chapters could complement and adapt donation mechanisms to enable local donors to contribute to the Wikimedia movement. Chapters provide local expertise and attention to donors that cannot be easily replicated.

We are not at all questioning the Foundation's global and central role regarding fundraising and funds dissemination, nor do we think grants to be a bad idea. Certainly, there are Wikimedia chapters, including some of the signing ones, that are not able to fundraise themselves at this moment. A systematic and comprehensive grants program could help them to develop in their early stages and could prop up any financial need they could have. Also, we agree that accountability and transparency are principles that should be strengthened in the whole Wikimedia movement, including Wikimedia chapters and the Foundation. But we do believe that Wikimedia chapters who have proven to be serious and transparent towards the movement shouldn't depend on grants awarded exclusively by a central body, be it a WMF staff department or a dedicated committee, although we find the latter by far preferable. We believe the fundraising and funds dissemination model should be flexible enough to take into account such differences between local regulations and customs, and between local chapters as well, also helping to strengthen trans-chapter cooperation. It's not only a financial issue, but one of decision making and capacity building.

The big picture

But we want to point out, on top of it all, that fundraising and funds dissemination is in some sense just the tip of the iceberg. Over the last months we have seen with great worry a significant shift in the perceived attitude of the Wikimedia Foundation towards the chapters' model, including some particular questioning about the chapters' representativeness and legitimacy within the Wikimedia movement. We believe the current suggestions towards microempowerment are a contradictory and potentially negative development if they ultimately convey or imply overcentralization of resources and movement governance. Informal groups of Wikimedia enthusiasts or interest groups have no reason to be conceived as competing or overlapping with chapters, for they have different goals, range and scope as outlined by the very MR working paper.

There's the perceived risk to diffuse the role chapters have fulfilled to a point where the Foundation is left as the only formal organization with actual decision making capability, whereas chapters are reduced to a general subsidiary status on par with any other supportive organization. What underlies the proposed draft is indeed, to our eyes, a progressive dismissal for the chapters' model, a move we'd like the Board to revisit.

Changes regarding the recognition of further organizational models within the Wikimedia movement ("new models") should not be taken by a Board resolution based exclusively on input from the Movement roles working group, which was produced before the current situation developed and which has never gone through the planned process of discussion and approval by all involved stakeholders. We exhort the Foundation to divert this question from fundraising to avoid the community perceiving WMF has taken a stance against the successful chapters' model. Viable solutions for new models should be found in common agreement, and not appear to dismantle a working model without the necessary support nor any superior, coherent replacement.

Financial considerations aside, Wikimedia chapters have proven to be a powerful tool of the organized community. They have managed not only press relations in their respective geographies, but have also dealt with public and private partners and achieved significant successes even regarding the Wikimedia projects' contents, while at the same time channeling the efforts and actions of the community towards the goals shared by the WMF and the Wikimedia chapters. Whatever proposals are made to diversify Wikimedia organizations, our opinion is that the value of the chapters' model must first be reasserted and carefully preserved in a frank and open exchange between our movement's stakeholders which cannot depend or rely on decisions by WMF alone or by its staff in particular.

Building, ensuring and demonstrating common trust is a cornerstone to the effective resolution of this challenge.

For Wikimedia Argentina, Patricio Lorente (President) & Galileo Vidoni/galio (Vice President)
For Wikimedia Chile, Osmar Valdebenito/B1mbo (President) & Juan David Ruiz/Zuirdj (Vice President)
For Wikimedia España, Jorge Sierra/Lucien leGrey (President) & María Sefidari/Raystorm (Vice President)
For Wikimedia Italia, Frieda Brioschi/Frieda (President) & Cristian Consonni/CristianCantoro (Vice President)
For Wikimedia México, Iván Martínez/Protoplasma Kid (General Coordinator)
For Wikimedia Portugal, Manuel de Sousa (President) & Béria Lima/Beria (Outreach Coordinator / Fiscal Council Secretary)
For Wikimedia Venezuela, Oscar Costero/Oscar . (President) & Carlos Colina/Jewbask (Treasurer)
For the Wikimedia working group in Bolivia, Erlan Vega/Alhen & Justine Duranboger (Coordinators)