Knowledge Equity Fund/Frequently asked questions

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GeneralEdit

1. What is the Equity Fund?Edit

The Equity Fund is a new US$4.5M fund created by the Wikimedia Foundation to provide grants to organizations external to the Wikimedia movement whose work increases the availability of free knowledge by counteracting structural inequalities relating to racial equity around the world.

The Equity Fund is a pilot initiative that came out of the commitments the Foundation’s leadership team made in June 2020, in the wake of global protests against racial injustice. Our goal was to create a grant-making fund with an explicit focus on addressing barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous and communities of color around the world. This is part of our commitment to advancing knowledge equity, one of two key pillars of our 2030 strategic direction of becoming the essential infrastructure of free knowledge.

2. Who will make decisions about who receives grants from the Equity Fund?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation has created an Equity Fund Committee that will identify potential grant recipients for the Equity Fund. This committee will be made up of both Wikimedia Foundation employees and members from the community. For this initial launch of the Equity Fund, we started with staff members that are able to contribute the time and expertise needed for the introduction of the Fund, including staff from partnerships, fundraising and legal teams.

The current Equity Fund Committee is comprised of:

  • Kassia Echavarri-Queen, Director of Community Investment
  • Kelly Foster, Community member
  • Nadee Gunasena, Executive Communications Manager
  • Emna Mizouni, Community member
  • Tony Sebro, Deputy General Counsel
  • Felix Nartey, Senior Program Officer, Campaigns
  • Jorge Vargas, Senior Manager, Regional Partnerships
  • Lisa Gruwell, Chief Advancement Officer (advisor)
  • Janeen Uzzell, Chief Operating Officer (advisor)

The Equity Fund Committee will share regular updates about grant recipients on Meta, including the terms of each grant and updates on their progress. For our first round of funding, the Equity Fund Committee of staff and community members will make the initial decisions around funding in order to move this pilot forward.

Our goal is to use the learnings from this pilot to create a process that is more participatory and inclusive. We will be looking at the gaps we have in terms of capacity, awareness and skills, and opening this up to additional community members to get involved in future rounds of funding. We are also relying on community members to recommend organizations for future funding from the Equity Fund.

3. How did the Equity Fund come about?Edit

In June 2020, as we saw countries around the world stand up against racial injustice, the Wikimedia Foundation made an explicit commitment to advance racial justice within our own work, as a part of our movement’s larger commitment to knowledge equity. We wanted to do more than issue a statement without any follow-through. We knew that racial equity was inextricably tied to our focus on knowledge equity, and we wanted to identify ways in which we could serve our movement and drive sustainable impact in improving free knowledge. We created the Equity Fund to focus on addressing barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous and communities of color around the world.

At the same time, we recognize this is work that we as a movement cannot do alone. Our projects can only do so much when, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities remains insufficient, which in turn limits citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity.

4. Can community members join the Equity Fund Committee?Edit

Yes. Currently there are two community members who are part of the Equity Fund Committee, and we will be looking to add more community members for future rounds of funding. We will be looking at the gaps we have in terms of capacity, awareness and skills, and opening this up to additional community members to get involved in future rounds of funding. We are also relying on community members to recommend organizations for future funding from the Equity Fund.

5. Are community members who serve on the Equity Fund Committee compensated?Edit

Yes, we are providing a flat stipend to the community members who participate on the Equity Fund Committee to compensate them for potential costs associated with their participation including meals, internet, and childcare.

6. What is the focus of the Equity Fund and how does it relate to our mission?Edit

We decided to focus on racial equity because it is a pervasive problem that is inextricably linked to the work of knowledge equity. Many of the barriers that prevent people from accessing and contributing to free knowledge are rooted in systems of racial oppression. Due to Colonization and slavery, knowledge from Black and Indigenous communities and communities of color has been systematically excluded and erased from the historical canon.

Over the past several years, we have seen groups across the movement work towards knowledge equity with new user groups, projects and initiatives that have a specific focus on content and communities that have been traditionally underrepresented. These focused efforts have had tremendous success in inviting in new communities, new people and new knowledge. For example, Wiki Women in Red and Wikigap have been extremely successful in narrowing the gender gap on multiple language Wikipedias and creating content about notable women left out of history.

We wanted to learn from these successful projects and be intentional and specific about the communities and areas where the Equity Fund is designed to make an impact. The Equity Fund is the first targeted effort from the Foundation focused on racial equity.

7. How do you define “racial justice/ racial equity”?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation defines racial equity as shifting away from US and Eurocentricity, White-male-imperialist-patriarchal supremacy, superiority, power and privilege to create an environment that is inclusive and reflects the experiences of communities of color worldwide. These modes of privilege mentioned above function as setting the dominant social, political, legal, policy-oriented, and cultural norms around the world.

Racial equity means acknowledging explicit and implicit affirmative actions for White people and groups with privilege related to skin color are created systemically through institutional power, dominance, and control.

Racial equity aims to promote consistent and sustained repair for non-White, non-US and Eurocentric communities and communities that continue to experience harm due to racism and colorism.

Lastly, racial equity includes authentic and intersectional, racial, ethnic and/or color demographic representation that promotes sustained and consistent participation of people from oppressed communities based on skin color.

8. What is the geographic scope of Equity Fund grants?Edit

Racial injustice is not just a US problem; Indigenous communities and communities of color across the globe have been marginalized and excluded from history both locally and globally. Our goal is to invest in organizations around the world that qualify for support. We will be intentional about identifying organizations that are working to address the racial inequities preventing equitable access and participation in free knowledge in different parts of the world.

9. How will the Equity Fund work with existing grants programmes?Edit

The Equity Fund has a very specific scope for funding, and will work with organizations that are not eligible for our traditional community grants. We want to focus on organizations that are working towards racial equity in one of the five focus areas of the Equity Fund (below), and can benefit our movement with their work but may not be directly tied to our movement.

  1. Supporting scholarship & advocacy focused on free knowledge and racial equity
  2. Supporting media and journalism efforts focused on people of color around the world, in order to expand reliable media sources covering these communities
  3. Addressing unequal internet access
  4. Improving digital literacy skills that impede access to knowledge
  5. Investing in non-traditional records of knowledge (i.e. oral histories)

10. How is this different from grants available to external organizations under the new Grants Relaunch?Edit

With the new Grants strategy, community grants are also available for external organizations that have a direct tie to our movement in underrepresented communities. The Equity Fund will target organizations that are working towards racial equity in one of the five focus areas of the Equity Fund) and can benefit our movement with their work but who are not directly tied to our movement.

11. Where did the funding for the Equity Fund come from?Edit

At the end of the Wikimedia Foundation’s 2019-2020 fiscal year, we had a budget underrun, due mainly to the cancellation of many in person events due to COVID and a strong fundraising year. This gave us an opportunity to set aside funds for the year ahead (our current 2020-2021 fiscal year), and to fund the Equity Fund as a new pilot program based on the commitments the Foundation’s leadership team made in June 2020, in the wake of global protests against racial injustice.

12. How does the Equity Fund impact grants available for communities?Edit

The Equity Fund is a new fund in addition to the existing grants and funds available for community support. It is not a redistribution of funding away from Wikimedia volunteer communities; instead, this is a separate fund to create a new pathway to support knowledge equity. The Equity Fund will not impact the grants that will be available to the community as part of the Community Resources Strategy Relaunch.  

13. When did the Board approve the Equity Fund?Edit

The Foundation’s Board of Trustees discussed and approved the Equity Fund as part of the Foundation’s FY2020-21 Annual Plan in September 2020 (minutes).

14. Is the Equity Fund part of the $8.7 million given to Tides Advocacy?Edit

Yes. At the end of the Foundation’s 2019-2020 fiscal year, $8.7 million was used to set up a grantmaking fund at Tides Advocacy to fund two areas: 1) Funding Annual Plan Grants (APG) to the affiliates and 2) creating this $4.5 million Equity Fund.

Grant recipientsEdit

1. Why is the Equity Fund focused on external organizations? What does that mean?Edit

Knowledge equity is not a goal that we as a movement can achieve alone. Our projects can only do so much if, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities does not improve, as that limits the citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity -- partners that we know will be critical as we work towards becoming the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge.

The Wikimedia Foundation has several existing grant programs in place to support movement groups and affiliates on a variety of work including knowledge equity. The Equity Fund is meant to supplement these existing investments into our movement, with a new method of investing in the ecosystem of free knowledge in order to benefit our movement

2. Can organizations that are part of the movement receive grants from the Equity Fund?Edit

This is a new fund and will be used to support organizations that do not fall into the current grant programs of the Wikimedia Foundation, and whose work will directly impact racial equity in free knowledge. The Equity Fund will not take away from the existing funds available for community affiliates or individuals working on wikiprojects.

3. What is the selection process for receiving grants for the Equity Fund?Edit

The fund was originally launched as a rapid response to the protests for Black lives happening around the world in 2020. We created a pilot program, with a goal of being fast and efficient in providing grants of support. For this first round of funding, the Equity Fund Committee will identify recipients based on an evaluation of their existing programmatic work and how it furthers racial equity in the context of free knowledge.

We are also relying on the movement to recommend organizations that qualify for funding from the Equity Fund and could become impactful partners. If you have a recommendation, please fill out this form (hosted by Google) with details.

Recipients will have to meet specific criteria, such as being a recognized nonprofit, establishing a proven track record of impact, and maintaining a sustainable financial model that is not dependent on a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation. Selected recipients will also be subject to a compliance check by Tides Advocacy to confirm their eligibility to receive charitable grants under US law. As this is a pilot program, we expect this process for selecting recipients will continue to evolve and open up.

4. Can communities participate in selecting recipients of funding from the Equity Fund?Edit

At launch, the Equity Fund Committee - a combination of Wikimedia Foundation employees and community members - will choose the recipients of the Equity Fund. As the fund matures and our capacity for supporting recipients increases, our goal is to create a process that is more participatory and inclusive. We will be opening this up to additional community members to get involved in future rounds of funding

5. How will funds be allocated?Edit

We will be providing grants through multiple rounds of funding. We hope to provide multiple grants in each round, but there is no set amount of money for each round.

6. Have you chosen the first recipients of the Equity Fund?Edit

The Committee is evaluating potential recipients, and will announce the first round of Equity Fund recipients by the end of August.

7. How are you measuring progress and impact from grant recipients?Edit

After analyzing how other Foundations and philanthropic institutions around the world are measuring impact when it comes to racial equity, we are centering our measure of impact around the activities that each grant recipient commits to and executes. We are selecting grantees whose current work and metrics align with our goals for the Equity Fund. We will ensure the metrics will be available publicly  Each recipient will be expected to share their impact annually.

8. If we are funding external organizations, how will that benefit the Wikimedia movement?Edit

We have chosen five focus areas of funding that specifically address how racial injustice impacts access to knowledge. Impact in these five areas will increase the availability of content and/or increase access and participation in free knowledge, which is essential to closing the gaps in knowledge that currently exist on Wikimedia projects. For example, by investing in media and journalism efforts focused on people of color around the world, there will be expanded media sources covering these communities and consequently more citations for contributors to use. The five focus areas include:

  1. Supporting scholarship & advocacy focused on free knowledge and racial equity
  2. Supporting media and journalism efforts focused on people of color around the world, in order to expand reliable media sources covering these communities.
  3. Addressing unequal internet access
  4. Improving digital literacy skills that impede access to knowledge
  5. Investing in non-traditional records of knowledge (i.e. oral histories)

Administration of the fundEdit

1. Who will be administering the Equity Fund?Edit

Tides Advocacy will disburse the Equity Fund grants on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation. The criteria and the process for application and reporting has been created by the Equity Fund Committee, who is also responsible for reviewing and accepting applications and reports, and will submit their grant funding recommendations to Tides Advocacy.

Housing the Equity Fund in Tides Advocacy allowed the Foundation to set aside the $4.5 million to the fund without being obligated to spend it in one fiscal year. This was critically important so that we could take the time to develop the criteria and process for this pilot program while securing the funding.

2. Will Tides Advocacy be able to decide who will receive grants from the Equity Fund?Edit

The Equity Fund Committee will be in charge of recommending the recipients for the Equity Fund. The role of Tides Advocacy will be to distribute the grant and provide financial and legal compliance as required. They will not select grant recipients.

3. Tides Advocacy is also administering the Annual Plan Grants for fiscal year 20-21. How are these processes different?Edit

At the end of the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 there was a budget underrun at the Foundation due to COVID and a strong fundraising year. This gave us an opportunity to set aside funds for the year ahead Fiscal Year 2020-2021 in order to provide funding certainty for our grants programs in an uncertain time. As a result, the Foundation is working with the Tides Advocacy to administer this year of Annual Plan Grants. We have set up a fund with Tides Advocacy to disburse the APG grants, with Wikimedia staff advising the overall grants disbursement. This changes the structure of the grant to be between grantees and Tides Advocacy instead of between grantees and the Foundation. However, the criteria and the process for submitting application and reporting processes on Meta Wiki and working with the Program Officers remains the same.The Program Officers and the Foundation are responsible for reviewing and accepting applications and reports and will submit their grant funding recommendations to Tides Advocacy.


Additional questionsEdit

1.How can volunteers know if some of the work they are doing around knowledge equity could be eligible for a grant from the Equity Fund?Edit

The Wikimedia Foundation has several existing grant programs in place to support movement groups and affiliates on a variety of work including knowledge equity. The Equity Fund will be used to support organizations that do not fall into the current grant programs of the Wikimedia Foundation. If volunteers have questions about if a partnership or organization they are working with could be eligible for a grant from the Equity Fund, we encourage them to reach out with more information about the program via the recommendation form (hosted by Google) or via email to equityfund@wikimedia.org

2. Is the actual legal agreement with Tides Advocacy going to be made public?Edit

The legal agreement with Tides Advocacy is not public. For questions about their role, please see the earlier section of the FAQ, “Administration of the fund,” where we describe the relationship with Tides.

3. Are there legally-binding reporting requirements, regarding where money in the fund is going?Edit

Every grant recipient from the Equity Fund will be required to share metrics about their progress annually, and we will post these details on Meta. After analyzing how other Foundations and philanthropic institutions around the world are measuring impact when it comes to racial equity, we are centering our measure of impact around the activities that each grant recipient commits to and executes.

4. Does this mean that the Wikimedia Foundation is giving $4.5 million to Tides Advocacy as a recipient of the Equity Fund?Edit

To clarify, this is not a $4.5 million grant to Tides Advocacy for the work they do around racial inequity. Instead, the Equity Fund Committee sets the direction of the fund, identifies grantees and submits them to Tides for review and administration. The Equity Fund Committee is identifying grantees that fit in the five focus areas to address racial inequity and free knowledge, and will benefit the Wikimedia movement.

5. Will the Equity Fund be announced to the public?Edit

We announced the Equity Fund last December in our 2019-2020 fiscal year Audit Report and in the press release that we posted for Wikipedia’s 20th birthday in January. (As part of the press interviews that Wikimedia Foundation spokespeople did around the 20th birthday, we also spoke about the Equity Fund in press interviews, but did not see any press coverage about the Equity Fund.)

Last week, we created this Meta Page to answer the questions we’d heard most about the Equity Fund and provide more detail around the Committee and the goals of the Fund. We hope to share more information about the Equity Fund, including the first grantees who will be receiving a grant from the Equity Fund, via a blog and on Meta next month.