Grants:APG/Funds Dissemination Committee/Additional Information and Analysis/Interviews/Samuel Klein
Note: These notes were captured from an email from SJ instead of through a phone interview
Empowerment and capacity of the community; Bridgespan v. Barry v. community roles
1. Thorough integration with the community. The outreach/engagement process seems very apart from the community. That's tough if the goal is to have continuous feedback. One of my takeaways from the strategy process was that its greatest successes were where it tapped into existing community groups and needs, and let them get to work.
I recommend making the community /central to the process of reviewing and organizing feedback, not the target of an 'outreach for feedback' effort. For instance: ask for community clerks whose role is to organize the input / feedback / review from the Advisory Group to everyone else, and vice-versa. Throwing away the fourth wall makes a big difference to both quality and quantity of participation.
2. Facilitation of discussion online. It seems that current discussions are meant to be facilitated directly by Bridgespan staff. That seems like the hardest possible way to do it :-) Certainly possible, but avoids tapping into community expertise in doing that.
I assume collaborative editing of the [feedback] process is welcome... Consider having community facilitators (like the community reviewers suggested above), and making them responsible for aspects of gathering feedback.
3a. How will the advisory group function - as advisors to your work with Barry, or vice-versa? That determines who is setting the agenda and milestones. As I see it, the easiest solution from the perspective of short-term planning would be for the advisors to advise *you*. Since you have a job with a fixed deadline, and technically you report to Barry.
However this makes empowering the community to take ownership and responsibility for the committee and its work hard. The easiest solution from the perspective of building an effective decision-making body may be for you to advise the advisory group, and for them to be expected to embrace the deadline for a report to Barry.
In our Board discussion with Sue, we supported her initial framing in which Barry was the staff lead on the project (and explicitly the liaison with consultants); but felt that was too much detail to include in a resolution. We tried not to over specify who would make the recommendation to the Board; Sue as ED was asked only to lead (organize) the process to make sure it happened.
3b. Similarly, to what degree is the committee itself expected to be community-run and driven? If it is meant to be mostly or entirely community run, as was the initial concept, then capacity building will be a large part of the first years. More than building the right technical balance of power or membership, I think this needs to be about becoming skilful in public at something that we currently do rarely and in private groups.
The notion of "lacking individual expertise or capacity" can be something of a red herring. Our community is full of quite experienced and talented people. The GAC, as I see it, did not lack theoretical capacity and expertise. But it proved difficult for its members to be effective in that new context, without a crisp clear structure to fit into. (and without a clear sense of their duties).
4. Contingencies. Whatever the answer to 3), what happens if the group expected to have a recommendation by June isn't on track in the weeks before that is due? This is a problem both consultants and community members deal with on a regular basis. Any work that we expect to hold a community-led body accountable for in the future, we should expect a similar group to plan and implement.
There is a hand-off needed, since the impetus for this came from the WMF ED and board -- but I see that as a central bottleneck which should be tackled and worked through from the very start.
The key question is who is responsible for developing and presenting the June recommendation? If the Advisory Group are responsible, then perhaps the contingency is to remind them of this, and to apply peer pressure, with increasing frequency. If they are late, then people will know that those 7 people even with support and facilitation took (say) 3 days longer than required to publish a recommendation.
If someone on a payroll is responsible, then perhaps the contingency is for that person/group to try to get the AG to produce a rec; then to try to get them to produce a majority opinion; then to craft a recommendation by hand from whatever partial recommendation is available. They are less likely to be late -- but more likely to synthesize part of the final recommendation themselves to avoid a delay.
As a historical example: in the Strategy process, there was intended to be a final strategy task force that synthesized all of the other task forces' work into the final draft recommendation. This never happened; the consultants and staff carried out that step of the process themselves -- pressured by a looming deadline.
I recommend making the Advisory Group directly responsible; but I recognize the implied difficulties.
Fail safes are important. But I think they should be positioned as fail safes that the committee itself chooses and implements.
Compare this to the failsafe of 'asking the ED to arrange an external audit' to 'having the Board directly arrange an external audit, in case the ED/CFO team is not functioning well'. I would not want to see the latter defined as a standard failsafe; it would focus on the wrong contingency and imply distrust of our own team.
It could /eventually/ make sense to have a slender manual "in case of total catastrophe": covering how to recover from a staff mutiny, or major embezzlement, or sudden bankruptcy, or or or... but only once there were good guidelines for the exec team to transparently and reflectively manage themselves.
Review and reflect often, in public
I am increasingly concerned about the way this is framed as an English-language discussion and committee; We need to natively support German, French and Spanish simply to capture the needs and active discussions in our most active communities. The hallmark of language-neutrality is that key discussions can take place in any of a number of languages.
- Define a set of core languages. I proposed 4; make sure to have more than 1.
- Define a set of language-ambassadors and translators for a set of secondary languages. Set high clear expectations of them, and honor them by supporting the essential nature of their work:
- Make time in schedules for translation in two directions and local-language discussions
- Have core-language writers copyedit major discussions and summaries, to ensure their language is clear and easy to translate
- Define what it means to participate as a language-community in the FDC debates. One thing it should mean is maintaining a discussion page in your language -- and summarizing it regularly for translation into one of the core languages.
- Don't target 'leaders' for their 'representative input'. Our communities don't generally have leaders or representatives as such. Target facilitators who can coordinate this sort of participation.