Funds Dissemination Committee/Draft FDC Proposal for the Board/Sue's thoughts on core expenditures

By core and non-core, I don't intend to mean important versus less-important, and I definitely don't mean overhead versus programmatic. "Core" means spending that supports the global projects -- so, it would include things like Ops, Legal, PR, and so forth. Basically, the costs of operating/maintaining a large website, and supporting its growth. Core isn't intended to mean bare-bones, keep the lights on, absolutely-essential spending -- this isn't intended to be an exercise in what we would do if we were strapped for cash and needed to cut back. Rather, it's intended to describe whatever proportion of our spending goes on continued, permanently-required operations. "Non-core" will mean any programmatic activities that aren't required on a permanent basis to support the site(s), such as our outreach work in India, editor engagement projects, mobile development, multimedia development. I expect both numbers would change over time: they wouldn't be expected to stay flat.

I'm doing this because as we go into funding conversations with chapters, I am imagining we will work towards a world where we set priorities as a movement, together. I am expecting that the movement's first priority would want to be core Wikimedia site funding -- the servers, the bandwidth, the legal defense of the projects, and so forth. Then, I am expecting, there will be discussions about what the movement's top priorities are, once those core activities are funded.

A couple of things that are probably worth noting:

  • "Non-core" isn't intended to imply lack of importance. A lot of our Global South investments will presumably be non-core: that doesn't mean they aren't critical to the project's continued success: they obviously are.
  • I think breaking things down in this way will be helpful for us internally as well as with the funds-dissemination conversations, because it will help us distinguish between time-based investments such as India, and permanent operations such as governance costs. That'll help us with planning in general.
  • I would expect that spending that benefits the entire world would tend to be core, and spending that benefits a particular geography or language would tend to be non-core. There will likely be exceptions to that, but I am guessing that'll be one useful rule of thumb.
  • It won't always be obvious what goes where -- and to a certain extent, it doesn't matter -- or at least, it won't be worth getting too fussed up about. I want us to be fairly cautious about how granular we get on this: there are benefits to breaking down our costs this way, but I don't want to create a whole lot of new administrative work in terms of estimating, tracking and reporting."


There is definitely a risk that we all could spend a lot of time on the definition of core versus non-core, as well as understanding what fits where and allocating/estimating/tracking/reporting it over time. I don't think that would be a particularly good use of people's time and energy, because I think it's highly unlikely that we could achieve anything near consensus, even if we invested a lot of energy into this. Because i) reasonable people have very different views: I think on the Board itself we have quite a wide range of views, and certainly there is a wide range of views inside the staff. Also, I would say that ii) the entire FDC is intended to iterate over time, and we may find ourselves thinking very differently about core versus non-core in several years, than we do today. We may end up finding the entire concept not useful, or we may decide we need to radically overhaul the definition. Therefore, I think it's probably best for us to aim for a working short-term definition that is clear and understandable, even if it's imperfect and not fully satisfying. We can live with it for a year or two, and then rethink once we have more experience with the concept. I think the alternative is that we would spend a lot of time on this issue, while there are many other questions that are wide open and need to be resolved at least provisionally, before the FDC can begin to function.