The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) met in Berlin over the period May 12 - 14, 2015 in order to assess the five Annual Plan Grant (APG) proposals for 2014-2015 Round 2, and provide recommendations on funds allocations to the WMF Board. The FDC recommendations for each organization are given below. Additionally, the FDC provides some comments on some general themes of discussions that emerged during the review.
Each recommendation is in the requested currency.
The overall funds available for movement entities through the APG process in 2014-2015 year is US$6,000,000. $3,817,956 was allocated in Round 1, leaving $2,182,044 available for Round 2. $1,248,913 was allocated in Round 2, for a total of $5,060,913 allocated in both rounds in 2014-2015. The remaining $939,087 will be returned to the Wikimedia Foundation. (The FDC makes recommendations in different currencies, so these total amounts in US dollars are approximations based on the exchange rates used at the time of proposal submission in each respective round.)
Entity Amount requested Amount recommended Change in allocation from last year Wikimedia Italia €148,950,54 €148,950,54 N/A Wikimedia Norge 2,100,000 NOK 1,230,000 NOK -5% Wikimedia Armenia 58,997,428 AMD 58,997,428 AMD N/A Wikimedia CIS ₹12,908,632 ₹12,000,000 0% Wikimédia France €600,000 €540,000 -10%
One member of the FDC recused himself from the discussion and decision-making related to one allocation due to a perceived or actual conflict of interest, namely:
- Cristian Consonni recused from the discussion of Wikimedia Italia’s proposal.
The Centre for Internet and Society
Amount requested: ₹12,903,632
The FDC recommends that the Centre for Internet and Society receive a grant equal to their 2014-2015 grant, or ₹12,000,000.
We recommend that the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) receive an amount of ₹12,000,000 equal to their 2014-2015 grant. The FDC recognizes CIS as an effective organization that has delivered on content acquisition. The work accomplished through the A2K program has been extensive and has had some impressive impact.
However, some concerns were raised about the potential impact of some of the programs, especially on incubator-stage wikis. CIS is continuing to expand its work to many other language areas, despite the FDC’s previous recommendations.
Since CIS is not a Wikimedia affiliate recognized by the WMF Board, they are a unique organization in the APG process. The FDC recognizes and appreciates the work done by CIS in India, which is a region with high potential for impact.
CIS is an organization with good structures, and a recognized ability to deliver impact in several program areas. The organization is also a movement partner with a proven track record of being able to operate in a complex and culturally diverse environment, and the FDC values this. The FDC appreciates the A2K leadership and expertise offered by CIS as a whole. The FDC would like to highlight the high quality reports and status updates from CIS, as well as their commitment to sharing their learning from their programs in a transparent way. CIS can also improve by submitting reports on time.
However, there are some programs that the FDC feels are less impactful, such as the work on projects in incubator stage. In some cases, CIS is proposing to spend nearly as much on some incubator projects as they are for some larger projects, and the FDC is concerned that projected impact may not always live up to the funding levels. Some concern has been raised as to the quality of articles in these projects such as in the Konkani Wikipedia and Telugu Wikipedia. Some FDC members feel that projects focusing on non-written languages may present serious challenges and may be considered more as literacy projects that are less central to the Wikimedia mission.
CIS provides needs assessments for its programs, which is a useful and good practice. Others can learn from CIS’s work in this area. At the same time, the FDC is concerned about the strategy for choosing which languages and programs to work on, since their methodology for doing the needs assessments is not always clear.
The FDC urges CIS to incorporate the FDC’s recommendations into its current and future plans for the A2K program, or to specifically address these concerns in its proposed plans when not following the FDC’s advice. In particular, last year, the FDC recommended CIS not expand its programs in order to focus on longer-term commitments and results in the areas where it is currently working. However, CIS has included several new language focus areas in the current proposal without providing sufficient reasoning for continuing in this direction, despite these expressed concerns.
The FDC encourages the continuity of work done on Wikimedia projects outside of Wikipedia, such as Wikisource. CIS has shown flexibility in adapting programs according to match the resources available.
Amount requested: 58,997,428 AMD (123,895 USD)
Allocation: 58,997,428 AMD (123,895 USD)
The FDC recommends full funding for Wikimedia Armenia, or 58,997,428 AMD.
The FDC is impressed with Wikimedia Armenia’s work and impact to date, as well as its proposal, and therefore recommends full funding. Wikimedia Armenia has shown its potential to grow effectively, and has established a strong record through previous project grants, where it has shown its ability to budget well, complete programs, and achieve impressive results.
The FDC recommends that Wikimedia Armenia plan for the long term and take advantage of the experiences shared by other organisations. Specifically, the FDC recommends that the organization review and learn from challenges related to hiring first employees, to take advantage of learning and good practices in the movement during this important stage of its growth.
Wikimedia Armenia has presented a high quality proposal with SMART objectives that is both clear and detailed. The FDC commends the iterative process that Wikimedia Armenia took in developing this proposal, including asking for feedback from WMF staff about its proposal and program objectives.
Wikimedia Armenia has shown a strong leadership capacity and the ability to grow at an appropriate pace over time, building its capacity for effective budgeting and project work through several project grants that have been successfully completed. Wikimedia Armenia’s track record for reporting is very good.
Wikimedia Armenia is requesting a significant growth in its budget that seems reasonable for an organization of this size hiring its first staff member. Furthermore, the proposed budget is clearly centered around programmatic work. At the same time, approximately half of WMAM’s budget is dedicated to Wikicamp, and while it appears to be a successful program with impressive retention rates at the moment, the impact of this program (e.g. retention rates) should be closely monitored alongside the expenses.
Wikimedia Armenia is presenting an ambitious proposal with many well-considered programs that have been adapted to their local context, and also including some new ideas. The Wikicamp program, for example, has shown an impressive retention rate of editors higher than most other types of programs (e.g. edit-a-thons). The FDC also commends the work of Wikimedia Armenia on sister projects beyond Wikipedia. However, the FDC cautions Wikimedia Armenia that such an extensive plan can be challenging for volunteers. In particular, while the volunteers working with Wikimedia Armenia are very active and have shown long-term commitment, they are may be exposed to the risk of burnout.
Wikimedia Armenia plans to hire its first staff members in the upcoming year, and the hiring of first staff members is a challenge for many organizations. The FDC recommends that Wikimedia Armenia reach out for support from WMF during this transition, and look to the experience of other Wikimedia organizations that have already learned from their experiences with hiring their first staff members. The decision to hire two part-time staff members with different expertise (one in administration and one in programs) may reduce the risk of failure, give access to deeper expertise, and offer more opportunities for effective delegation.
Wikimedia Armenia has been able to do effective outreach work and engage the media. This chapter remains a grassroots organization with a strong volunteer base. It is small, flexible, and able to engage with a wide range of volunteers through its projects.
Amount requested: €600,000
The FDC recommends that Wikimédia France receive a grant of €540,000, equal to 90% of its 2014-2015 grant.
The FDC recognizes that Wikimédia France is becoming an increasingly more professional organization. There is a clear strategic plan that spans several years; the plan includes a focus on decreasing reliance on APG funding. Wikimédia France has great potential to expand its role as a movement leader while it builds on its grassroots heritage.
Wikimédia France has requested the same amount of APG funding as Wikimédia France received in 2013-2014 Round 2. On reviewing the current request, the FDC is concerned with the growth in staff as well as the lack of clear and recognizable impact, not adapting programs according to what has been learned, as well as a lack of continuity of targets between this proposal and the last. The FDC urges Wikimédia France to prioritize its programs based on each program's impact potential, and to increase the strategic focus of recognizable, high-impact programs.
Wikimédia France sets a good example of developing clear long-term plans. The chapter has also carefully documented and shared what they have learned from their programs and projects, and has produced thoughtful learning patterns that may be useful to others in the movement. It is open in speaking about failures (although acting upon this knowledge is not always clear).
The organization has encouraged its volunteers to manage programs at several levels over recent years. This correlates with the growth in membership of Wikimédia France, as well as in the development of a network of regional programs and groups. One example that stands out in this context is the supportive involvement of the chapter in the recent WikiCheese project, which proved to be a low cost and thoughtful adaptation of a strategy from outside the Wikimedia movement.
Wikimédia France continues to expand its evaluation processes, although they are yet to consider the application of global metrics for some programs. The application of locally relevant metrics might allow the chapter to better understand their local communities and how to better support them, while the application of global metrics could allow them to put their work in a larger context.
The FDC encourages Wikimédia France to continue its practice of adopting innovative and promising projects from other organizations and adapting these for implementation within their community. This could be considered a best practice for others to follow. Combined with support for volunteer initiatives and the network of trainers, there is good potential for future online impact. The FDC encourages Wikimédia France to continue on this path.
The FDC does have some concerns about Wikimédia France’s proposal.
Wikimédia France applied for the same amount (in absolute terms) as the previous financial round, but it is not clear that this funding will lead to the expected impact. Staff expenses are significant, and there is a 20% increase in budgeted staff costs, but it is not clear how much of that is related to salary changes for existing staff positions and how much is related to new staffing. Similarly, it is not clear how the addition of 0.5 FTE in staffing will contribute to overall impact.
Wikimédia France does not seem to be on track to meet its current targets, which may indicate that the targets in this proposal may be overly optimistic. It is difficult to evaluate the online impact of many of Wikimédia France activities. While past results are more specific, projections are not as clear, and thus the potential for achievement is more difficult to estimate.
While Wikimédia France is clear and open about learning from errors and the past, it has continued some programs in spite of their relative lack of success. The Afripédia project, for example, illustrates the chapter’s willingness to work with partners outside of France, which is commendable, but the results of this project have been disappointing so far.
The FDC suggests that Wikimédia France identify some core activities and evaluate them with consistent metrics over time as part of its long-term strategy. This is in keeping with Wikimédia France’s objective of establishing a multi-year plan. When evaluating the chapter’s year-to-year progress, the FDC noted that the metrics used to evaluate similar objectives were not always consistent, which made it difficult to evaluate whether earlier objectives had been met (e.g. change from measuring editors to measuring members). The proposal did not provide significant rationale for the changes in metrics.
There also appeared to be some lack of continuity in the manner in which this proposal was written. The FDC had found the proposal to be long, detailed, and complex, but still vague in some respects. There also seemed to be some difficulty in explaining how Wikimédia France would bridge the gap between strategic discussion and concrete action. While the general vision level is impressive, it is still not that easy to identify clear, separate projects with their own targets (e.g. what activities fit what axes), or establish continuity with the previous proposal.
Some of the approaches included in the proposal seem overly ambitious. For example, the plan for regionalization places significant expectations on individual volunteers and may not be realistic or sustainable over time. Pilot projects are appropriate to determine how best to share responsibilities, and Wikimédia France has tested similar approaches in the past, but the proposed scale of the program may not be realistic at this time.
Wikimédia France has huge potential as a movement leader, and leading many new initiatives. The chapter can strengthen its activities in some areas that are in line with the movement’s priorities, such as incorporating steps to address the gender gap into its programs, in order to meet that potential.
Amount requested: €148,950,54
The FDC recommends full funding for Wikimedia Italia, or €148,950,54.
This is the first proposal submitted to the FDC by Wikimedia Italia. Wikimedia Italia is a mature and effective chapter that has received financial support through other sources, including payment processing and the cinque per mille funding program, that would not otherwise be available to the movement. Based on the potential impact of the plan, as well as the high quality proposal, history of fiscal responsibility, and responsible reporting processes, the FDC recommends full funding for this proposal.
While the FDC has confidence in Wikimedia Italia’s capacity to do effective programs, the FDC notes that Wikimedia Italia may face significant challenges in meeting its objectives due to the scope of the proposed expansion of its programs and activities. Concerns were also raised about some unclear objectives and perhaps overly ambitious targets and action plans.
Wikimedia Italia has stable and effective leadership, including a strong and active board that has demonstrated effective succession planning, which has enabled its work to continue even during transitions. Wikimedia Italia is a mature organization that has grown its budget in past years by effectively taking advantage of non-APG funding sources available to them, with good program activity levels and success in keeping with their budget.
This proposal includes a significant growth in budget and program activity, including a significant increase in staff expenses that may not correspond to expected impact. There are some concerns about the capacity of Wikimedia Italia to manage such a large increase in its total workload and budget within one year. Use of non-permanent and part-time staff in the past has allowed for greater flexibility and ability to adapt; however, the use of contractors may increase the complexity of human resource management as Wikimedia Italia continues this strategy.
The proposal is generally clear and projects are aligned with movement strategy. There is some lack of clarity in the budget which makes it difficult to assess the relationship between projected expenses and impactful programs. The FDC recognizes that some of this lack of clarity is related to local requirements for categorization of planned expenses as well as the complexity of Wikimedia Italia’s staffing plan (e.g. the categorization of communications expenses and the use of many temporary and part-time staff in addition to permanent staff).
Not all objectives include outcomes, and the proposed targets are low for an organization with budget of this size. We expect Wikimedia Italia to improve this in their next APG proposal. Wikimedia Italia is planning thoughtful adaptations of programs based on context, e.g. Wiki Loves Monuments and other GLAM projects. Successful implementation of such a wide range of programs and activities, some of which will intersect with some Wikimedia Italia volunteers providing support for Wikimania 2016, is likely to be challenging for the chapter and its volunteers.
Wikimedia Italia is developing an evaluation framework, in line with a detailed strategic plan. Reports are consistent and demonstrate learning. The FDC encourages the chapter to continue to document learning, and to expand this regular self-evaluation to include measurements of progress in meeting its targets, in line with its plans to implement a more detailed evaluation framework through this proposal.
The FDC notes the inclusion of a plan to “lobby” Italian politicians with respect to issues related to freedom of panorama and related copyright issues. On reviewing the plan, and seeking clarification with WMF staff, the FDC feels that most of the planned activities are more accurately described as advocacy and encourages Wikimedia Italia to continue its engagement with the WMF to ensure necessary compliance. The FDC identified this program as a significant strength of Wikimedia Italia’s proposal as it is aimed at expanding freely accessible media that will be made available both within and outside of the Wikimedia movement.
The FDC appreciates Wikimedia Italia’s focus on GLAM work with libraries, Wikimedia Italia’s flagship program, which takes advantage of local opportunities and Wikimedia Italia’s strength in building partnerships through local networks. Wikimedia Italia is planning programs and activities focused on valuable projects beyond Italian Wikipedia, like Wikisource and OpenStreetMap. Wikimedia Italia is planning to support the work of OTRS volunteers, which may provide direct benefits to Italian language projects, and may also serve as a good model for other chapters or language groups. Wikimania is a significant event that may leverage visibility during the coming year, presenting more opportunities for Wikimedia Italia.
Amount requested: 2,100,000 NOK
Allocation: 1,230,000 NOK
The FDC recommends that Wikimedia Norge receive a grant of 1,230,000 NOK, equal to 95% of its 2014-2015 grant.
The FDC is very concerned with the proposed rate of growth of Wikimedia Norge’s budget and annual plan grant request. This is Wikimedia Norge’s third year participating in the APG process, and this year’s proposal does not seem to have addressed some of the FDC’s recommendations from the previous years.
At the same time, the FDC recognizes Wikimedia Norge’s potential to leverage GLAM partnerships that could benefit the Wikimedia movement.
The FDC recognizes that Wikimedia Norge has a stable, effective, and diverse board and staff. The dedication and intentions of staff and board are clearly illustrated in the activities of the chapter.
The Women’s Editing Relay was an appropriately adapted activity to Wikimedia Norge’s local context that also attracted positive media attention. Wikimedia Norge has set an appropriately ambitious goal of 40% female participation in its activities. Wikimedia Norge has achieved a 42% female board as a result of its strategic work to increase gender diversity within the chapter.
Wikimedia Norge’s GLAM program is effective and has demonstrated good outcomes. Wikimedia Norge has established strong links with other organizations and collaborative agreements in Scandinavia, including links with Wikimedia Sverige and reputable GLAM partners. Wikimedia Norge is a valid, recognized and respected organization in Scandinavia. There is good impact potential for direct online impact through Wikimedia Norge’s implementation of The Wikipedia Library as part of the global pilot. Wikimedia Norge has plans to continue learning about its environment and context actively in order to improve its programs, including plans to assess content gaps in relevant areas, which will be key to explaining the rationale behind its programs in future years.
The FDC has concerns around staff leading programs that are led by volunteers in other contexts, and is concerned that decisions on what programs to pursue may be driven by staff rather than volunteers. The FDC is concerned that Wikimedia Norge did not reach targets over multiple years and has insufficient reflection and analysis on impact and lessons learned in its reports. Some programs lack clear objectives and are missing logical links between activities and impact. The strategy behind Wikimedia Norge’s programs is not always clear.
The FDC urges Wikimedia Norge to incorporate the FDC’s recommendations into its current and future plans, or to specifically address these concerns in its proposed plans where it is not taking the FDC’s advice into account. Overall, the FDC feels that the funds requested are not in proportion to the likely outcomes or impact of this plan. It is possible that, given the size of the communities that Wikimedia Norge serves, increased funds for staff may not be the most effective way to grow volunteer engagement. The concerns expressed last year by the FDC that their ambitious plan relies on staff instead of a growing volunteer community have not been addressed, and the FDC is concerned that rapid staff growth is diverting funds from programs.
The FDC is seeing an overall improvement in the quality of the proposals over time, and a higher level of expertise and professionalism. This is a significant improvement from early days of the APG process.
The FDC would like to highlight the importance of large and engaged volunteer base as a foundation for effective programs. This has been a strength of some organizations in this round, and all organizations should consider this key point, especially if they are proposing growth in staff, budget, and program activity.
Some applicants are attributing content growth in Wikimedia projects to their programs. It is difficult to know how growth is directly related to each organization’s programs, whether growth is coincidental or whether the program is acting as an indirect catalyst for the editing communities. The FDC considers this carefully wherever these metrics are included.
In many cases, the FDC found it hard to follow the actual allocation of human resources to program activities. Staffing costs may seem high in proportion to program-related costs when the area of work by staff is not clearly defined. It is more understandable for applicants with smaller budgets (particularly when they are creating their first staff positions) to see a growth in their staff costs, but similar growth may become more concerning for established applicants that should be able to allocate the use of staff time to programs more precisely.
One of the challenges faced both by the applicants and by the FDC is the lack of consistent standards for similar expenses and activities across proposals. To some extent, this is driven by local requirements and fiscal years that may not match the APG funding period. There is significant variation in how applicants include similar programs and activities in their proposals (e.g. Wiki Loves Earth, GLAM). These differences make it difficult to consistently assess the past or potential impact of current and proposed programs.
The FDC notes the importance of having rigorous financial systems in place, including controls and practices that meet standards. The FDC expects organizations to meet these standards before applying for an Annual Plan Grant, and to continue to meet these standards as long as they participate in the APG process. Chapters and affiliates that are considering an application for an APG are strongly urged to work with WMF well in advance of considering an application, to determine how best to implement such systems.
As we conclude the third year of the APG process, the FDC emphasizes that its comments in the recommendations should be taken into account in strategic and annual planning, year over year. In cases where organizations choose not to follow the advice of the FDC, clear rationale should be provided in the proposal.
The FDC deliberations process
Five proposals for this round were submitted on April 1, 2015. In preparation for their deliberations, the FDC reviewed the community commentary on each proposal as well as the responses from applicants on the discussion pages of the proposal forms and the staff proposal assessments. The FDC received a number of additional inputs, including staff assessments and analysis on impact and finances from FDC staff. This round, the FDC reviewed the past performance of each organization based on the 2013-14 impact reports as well as the data grantees shared through their quarterly progress reports in 2014. Before the face-to-face meeting, the FDC held a call in late March to discuss each member’s initial assessment of all proposals. Prior to the meeting, the FDC members shared an initial allocation in dollars for each proposal, as a point for beginning their discussions.
At the in-person deliberations, FDC staff presented an overview of their findings and summarized financial and programmatic themes. After these brief presentations, the FDC followed up with points of clarification and questions, before delving into discussions of each proposal in significant depth. Strengths, concerns, and general themes were recorded for all proposals, to assist later in writing the recommendation text. At the end of these initial discussions, FDC members prepared an individual and anonymous second allocation for each organization. Prior to beginning the next round of discussions about each proposal, the spread of member allocations was shown, with some basic analysis of the spread to understand the range of agreement or disagreement among the allocated amounts. From there, and following more extensive discussion, the group attained consensus for each allocation using the Gradients of Agreement tool.
As always, members who had perceived or possible conflicts of interest with a proposal did not receive information about nor did they participate in relevant discussions and deliberations or receive specific inputs related to those applications.
The committee next prepared a brief written summary of its analysis of each proposal, including significant factors and observations made during the decision-making process.
About the FDC
The Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) for the Wikimedia movement is a committee of community members that makes recommendations to the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) about how to allocate funds to movement organizations. The FDC was established in 2012. Now in its third iteration, the committee comprises nine volunteer members:
- Chair: Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit)
- Vice-Chair: Delphine Ménard (notafish)
- Secretary: Matanya Moses
- Ali Haidar Khan (Tonmoy)
- Anne Clin (Risker)
- Cristian Consonni (CristianCantoro)
- Dumisani Ndubane (Thuvack)
- Osmar Valdebenito (B1mbo)
- Sydney Poore (FloNight)
This round, the two WMF Board representatives on the FDC - María Sefidari and Frieda Brioschi - observed the deliberations. The Ombudsperson to the APG process, Susana Morais, as specified in her role description, did not participate in deliberations.
The FDC was supported by WMF staff throughout the deliberations. These staff included: Katy Love, Winifred Olliff, Sati Houston, Marti Johnson, and Garfield Byrd. WMF staff present at the deliberations offered analysis, helped facilitate, took notes, and responded to any additional queries by the FDC, but did not participate in deliberations about specific proposals.
The FDC would like to thank Wikimedia Deutschland for hosting the deliberations this round. The committee appreciates the support of the staff of WMDE who helped make the meeting possible.