Recommendation # 5: Resources for Capacity Building edit

Q 1 What is your Recommendation? edit

We recommend that Capacity Building be an institutionalized function of the movement sustained until 2030 with a substantial comprehensive annual budget which funds both the centralized and decentralized elements found in the Capacity Building recommendations. An independent unit/organization of the movement, with its own governing body will assure oversight and accountability of funds.

Q 2-1 What assumptions are you making about the future context that led you to make this Recommendation? edit

CB is a long term process and needs to be resourced in the long term. In many cases, it will take years to see results. We will need to measure outcomes and impact in the context of the strategic direction. If resources and approaches are not consistent and sustained in the long term, it will be difficult to make any meaningful progress and impact. This means we need a long term plan for resourcing CB and we need to stick to it.

Secondly, we need to change the way we allocate funds, and trust the people and organizations to spend it in self-determination on the right activities in the right manner. Moving away from paternalistic grant making will go a long way to achieve impact.

We need to employ good practices in allocating monetary resources that we have learned about from other contexts and that we know support capacity building, including:

  1. participatory decision making that involves stakeholders in the funding process;
  2. multiyear general operating support grants for groups and organizations (through a trust-based model that includes close mentorship, coaching, and support systems);
  3. increase the ways individuals can receive monetary support, including long term support for individuals doing long term work;
  4. fund partners (non-Wikimedia entities and people) to participate in capacity building;
  5. offer grants specifically for capacity building that are available in addition to other forms of support, and;
  6. make more funding available to networks and coalitions (see reco # on context CB), not only to individuals and specific organizations.


  • People, organizations, and groups all need resources to do their work. This is one key element of “capacity”. This recommendation will focus on monetary resources (which are one of several types of resources needed to do CB work).
  • We will continue to have a robust global network of Wikimedia Affiliates, which are supported at least in part with income raised on behalf of the global Wikimedia Movement. These affiliates will continue to be broadly focused on organizing work, including bringing in newcomers, engaging readers and contributors, creating enabling environments in their societies for Wikimedia and knowledge equity to flourish, and enabling the creation, contribution, and sharing of relevant content.
  • We will continue to be a multilingual and multicultural movement, and prioritization of languages other than English and perspectives from outside of North America and Western Europe will actually increase as we move toward a vision of knowledge equity.
  • Funding allocations (such as grants) to organizations will continue to exist in some form, but that form may look very different from today depending on the recommendations of the Resource Allocation working group and how these are implemented. All of our recommendations can also be implemented through a decentralized approach to resource allocation.
  • We will continue to have a mix of paid staff and volunteers working on capacity building in different areas of the movement, although our hope is that we will have more clarity about when, why, and how we pay and / or support people when we do, which should enable more equitable participation in these and other efforts. The CB WG addressed the issue of payment in the recommendation: recognizing individuals.

Q 2-2 What is your thinking and logic behind this recommendation? edit

Capacity Building is the foundation for the future of the Wikimedia Movement, building the infrastructure for the infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge.

WMF, and future movement decision making bodies have to assure long term resources for the proposed CB unit / organization, so that all components can be developed, sustained, evaluated and improved over time: develop and ensure access to high quality materials and content, allowing members to take part in a range of f2f, or online activities (local, regional and international) and building organizational and human leadership for the movement. Ensuring resources for capacity building will promote us as the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge.

Q 3-1 What will change because of the Recommendation? edit

Within 1-5 years, significant resources will be allocated specifically to the capacity building Unit according to a long term plan, and stakeholders in this space will finally feel supported and trusted to organize and engage in capacity building work. In some cases, we will start to see immediate results (within 5 years), especially in regions where organizations did not previously exist or struggled to generate engagement or resources. People will be engaged in capacity building joyfully, treating it as a sacred duty, rather than feeling like it is a chore or just one more thing to add to a long list in order to satisfy their funders or their board of directors. We believe that if individual people, groups, and organizations are receiving enough support and the best kinds of support, that they will be able to participate in capacity building efforts for the benefit of the entire movement.

A coherent system for capacity building must be accompanied by a long term plan for resourcing these efforts. If it is, we believe we will be able to see and measure an increase in individual and organizational effectiveness across the movement on a horizon of 5-10 years.

Within 10-20 years this will have a ripple effect throughout the movement, as people and organizations share what they have gained with others. This can be the engine that powers our collective impact in complex and challenging areas like knowledge equity and knowledge as a service.

Q 3-2 Who specifically will be influenced by this recommendation? edit

The Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation makes the most significant decisions about resource allocation in the Wikimedia Movement since they control most of the funding that is generated from fundraising campaigns on Wikipedia around the world, and through major gifts and international partnerships.

Many of the people currently engaged in formal capacity building efforts in one form or another are staff and volunteers associated with Wikimedia Affiliates, and the issue of resourcing capacity building is of critical importance to many affiliates according to their own assessments. They are eager to build capacity in a number of areas and some have done work to map out their priorities, but without long term resourcing, it is difficult to move these forward.

If our recommendations are implemented, we hope and believe that capacity building will finally have an impact on individual contributors on the Wikimedia projects, who should also be able to benefit from this system.

Society at large will benefit if the Wikimedia Movement can use its significant financial resources to build the capacity of a global movement of changemakers. Individuals and organizations will become more effective agents of positive change in their individual societies and can share the capacities they have gained with other aligned movements and groups. Ultimately, this could have a positive impact in pushing back against closing civil society spaces globally and serve as a model to others.

Q 4-1 Could this Recommendation have a negative impact/change? edit

We know that a one size fits all approach to capacity building is not likely to translate well across different contexts and working conditions, and so resources need to be available to support CB in different contexts and different kind of organizations and other ways of gathering. (Balance may be achieved through a well-resourced but strongly linked distributed network, allowing POGs to pool their CB resources within a larger system and still work independently.)

This depends on your view of resource abundance or scarcity within the Wikimedia Movement. If one were to believe that current resources in the movement are scarce, we would need to direct money from other things toward implementing these recommendations, which could potentially have a negative impact in other areas.

Based on previous failures, we believe a major risk is that the Wikimedia Movement will embrace the idea of resourcing capacity building and then proceed to diminish support for capacity building to move resources to other areas (such as technology, or centralized programs run by the WMF). This will greatly diminish the value of the initial investment since we know that capacity building work needs to be resourced in the long term in order for it to be effective.

Based on previous failures, we believe it is possible that the people making decisions about resources will acknowledge that Capacity Building is important, but will fail to resource it adequately because they underestimate the resources that are needed or because they want to prioritize efforts that will yield results in the short term. For example, they may decide to pay for a centralized staff team to support a capacity building system for the movement, but do little to support the staff and volunteers engaged in these global efforts. This one-sided approach is not likely to be effective and its failure may negatively reflect on the idea of “capacity building”.

There is a risk that capacity building efforts will become too insular, resulting in the wasted effort as Wikimedians try to reinvent the wheel and become experts in everything themselves. Partners and other experts may not have adequate incentives to engage or may be put off by resistance to their ideas.

On the contrary, we may also rely too much on partners and external experts who may try to implement capacity building without having enough familiarity with communities and the contexts they are working in. Efforts that do not involve communities and are seen as “top-down interventions” may face resistance and sabotage.

Q 4-2 What could be done to mitigate this risk? edit

We believe that building capacity, even if there is a significant investment up front, will ultimately bring more resources into the Wikimedia Movement through partnerships, time, and actual money. We think it is the only way to make the movement sustainable over time.

We would like to emphasize again that a long term view is essential to implementing our recommendations successfully. A commitment to continuing to resource capacity building in the long term (5-10 year horizon) will mitigate the risk that efforts are abandoned prematurely and gains made are immediately lost, and an acknowledgment that capacity building requires significant resources should include an acknowledgment that all stakeholders need to be adequately resourced in order to engage.

In order for our plan to be successful, we will need to be comfortable engaging expertise from outside of the Wikimedia Movement, and including the perspectives of people already active in our movement to provide context. This will mitigate the risk of our efforts remaining insular and failing to expand our horizons, and will also mitigate the risk of outside efforts plowing forward with a big vision and no acknowledgment of the context we are working in. This means that we need to provide funding and support to external experts where needed and that we need to involve communities in decisions about resourcing capacity building that affect them.

Q 5 How does this Recommendation relate to the current structural reality? Does it keep something, change something, stop something, or add something new? edit

The current structural reality does not include an independent function and organization such as proposed here.

We intend to align our recommendation with the recommendations of the resource allocation working group, which may be proposing significant structural changes to how resources are distributed in the movement. Therefore, our recommendations focus more on good practices for somebody (anybody) to implement when managing resources in this area.

Q 6-1 Does this Recommendation connect or depend on another of your Recommendations? If yes, how? edit

This recommendation is connected to each and every other recommendation since all of these recommendations will require resources.

Q 6-2 Does this Recommendation connect or relate to your Scoping Questions? If yes, how? edit

Yes, this connects to the scoping question...

Q 7 How is this Recommendation connected to other WGs? edit

This recommendation is dependent upon the recommendations of the resource allocation working group.

This is a working draft. Please see notes/work done at the meeting in Singapore here: Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/Blog posts/Capacity Building working group’s meeting in Singapore