Grants talk:PEG/WM AM/CEE Meeting 2016/Report

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Hi David and Lilit . Thanks so much for this great report and all your efforts on the project. We are happy to approve this report. We also have a few follow-up questions and look forward to your responses:

  1. This year you invited people from outside of the CEE community to attend the event and contribute to the conference committee for planning the program. Can you share some of your observations on the benefits and drawback to doing this?
  2. Before the grant was approved, we talked about ways to include local community members in the event and doing outreach to the students at the international school. Our goal was to ensure that people participating in the conference had the necessary skills and experience to both contribute to most sessions, and to limit time spent doing outreach out of consciousness of the cost of international events. Did you find that holding short events with local editors and the students from the school were valuable for one or either group?
  3. Do you have any notes or guidelines you share with session facilitators as preparation? We would like to share this kind of prep material with other groups hosting conferences.
  4. Do you have suggestions for how other program planning teams can work together without in-person meetings? For example, ow did you divide tasks and organize the program planning work? Are there spreadsheet templates, communication tools (like comments on share docs, or a messaging app) that you found helpful?
  5. It is helpful to hear about the challenges you had with paying a hotel deposit, and the subsequent bad service you experienced. I would like to find ways to avoid this kind of challenge in the future by possibly making some changes to how we fund conference grants. If you have other pain points relating to payments and managing the budget, please share them with me.
  6. In the final weeks before the event there were still some questions about booking travel for some delegates. We discussed creating a travel policy for conference grant scholarships. Do you have suggestions for guidelines to include in a travel policy?

I heard many good things about the conference program and the venue, and am pleased to hear that you were able to get such great support from partner organization. Congratulations on this achievement. I was also very impressed by the work of the organizing team - I appreciate the hard, thoughtful work you all put managing the logistics for the event, planning a strong program, and working closely with me to manage the grant. Please share my gratitude with the core organizing team. Regarding the remaining funds, it would be better to return the unspent portion of this grant to WMF unless there is an annual plan grant (or grant payment) that you are requesting in the next two months. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like clarification on any of the comments above. Thank you again for your hard work on this conference, we continue to be impressed by the quality of work you and the broader CEE community do. --KHarold (WMF) (talk) 19:24, 30 January 2017 (UTC)

Hello Kacie, thanks for the approval and for all the support you gave us so far. I'm very much inspired that our work helped to broaden the CEE community and supported community members in their needs. It was also important for us to form new partnerships and increase our reach. I'll share your gratitude with the other team. I'm sure they will be happy. We've got an annual plan grant installment very soon and we're already agreed to allocate the remaining funds. Thanks for your questions too, below you can find the answers:
  1. There were only a few participants who were outside of the CEE region. Most of them, especially program committee members, participated in the meeting to share their knowledge on the particular topic and/or get new ideas from the CEE community. They mostly had their presentations/talks and helped the meeting in the capacity building. The other part were from the communities who are interested in the work CEE community does as a whole. The latter came to the meeting on their own so there was no obstacle to refuse their participation because we're happy to spread community experience.
  2. Involving the local Armenian community members in the conference was very effective for us. We've got lots of applications from our community members who wanted to participate in it, but unfortunately, we could invite only about half of them. The conference helped our community to have a broader vision of the wiki movement as a whole. For most of them, it was the first international conference because they are unable to travel to other conferences/meetings abroad due to financial or other issues. So the meeting helped them, on one hand, increase their knowledge on wiki related topics, get new ideas of projects, understand the movement, on the other hand, it made possible for them to communicate with different Wikimedians from all over the world, which was extremely important for us. All Armenian participants were encouraged to write a report on their personal experience during the meeting and the reports we got are really impressive. Regarding the school students, things went not so well. We were late because of the group photo and most of them left the conference hall. But anyway we had the opportunity to meet some of them, every student met its locals and the latter talked to them about wiki movement and editing. But we also had the chance to talk to them when they introduced their school to us, again using the same groups as mentioned above.
  3. Unfortunately, our preparation work is not well documented in English. The reason of that is the lack of community members who are able/want to do it in English. There was, of course, a language barrier and lack of time from the side of WM AM staff. We contacted the facilitators via mail, so all the preparation materials and advises are there which is hard to share. The work of the program committee, on the other hand, is well documented because of their distant work and English communication. But again they are working google docs which have no sense to share.
  4. I guess this is a very community-depended question in a sense that Armenian experience would never work for other communities because of the number of community members, their experience, profession and other characteristics are very important. It's also connected to the work type, what kind of work they want to do and how they want to do. We used GoogleDocs for timeline and task dividing, we wrote, of course, mainly in Armenian, we could also use simple messenger app to communicate faster. For the meetings, we might also use hangouts because not of the members could be available to come to the office. There are however some lessons we learned most of them we shared in the grant report. In any case, we are happy to help other communities in organizing similar events.
  5. Yeah, the experience with the hotel was the most painful one. The reason was the fact that we still did not have the money to pay for the deposit and also we were not sure regarding the grant approval. And it seems my colleagues from other chapters who organize similar events also experienced this situation. There might be ways to avoid this by starting planning and writing the grant proposal much earlier or/and find hotels which would agree on paying the deposit later but anyway the risk of refusal from the side of the hotel is very high. I'd suggest in this kind of situation, when the approval of the grant proposal is very high, allow the chapter to pay the deposit from their own budget and then take that money from the grant.
  6. This is another problem we encountered when organizing the conference. We did not approve travel plans/directions which included different locations/airports other than on the usual way to/from Armenia. This would make travel costs more than expected increasing our travel costs which were already very high. It was also a question of the priorities. We book and buy tickets for participants, first of all, to take part in the conference. Seeing around and traveling is OK for us unless it is not the most important thing in coming to Armenia. I'm not quite sure how you can involve it in the travel policy but avoiding booking/purchasing tickets which include locations other than needed to come to the hosting country would be a good idea.
All the best--David Saroyan (talk) 14:50, 31 January 2017 (UTC)
Hi David , thank you so much for such quick and thorough responses to my questions. It is really helpful to get your thoughts on how this event was useful for the Armenian community, and for the broader CEE community. I find the parts about how your teams communicated in different ways based on common language particularly interesting. I will certainly direct future conference grantees to your comments here so that they can learn from your experiences. Thank you again for all of your hard work on this project and the reporting. --KHarold (WMF) (talk) 23:33, 31 January 2017 (UTC)
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