Talk:Knowledge Equity Fund

Latest comment: 4 months ago by NGunasena (WMF) in topic Re: Community call after round 2

Recipient criteria edit

  • 3. What is the selection process for receiving grants for the Equity Fund? [...] Recipients will have to meet specific criteria, such as [...]
  • 1. Who will be administering the Equity Fund? 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

Are the full and exact criteria created by the Equity Fund Committee public? Are the Tides Advocacy additional criteria public too? Thank you! MarioGom (talk) 15:37, 9 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

The first round of grantees were evaluated by the Equity Fund Committee under the following criteria, laid out in the FAQ:
  • Being a recognized nonprofit,
  • Aligning with one of the five focus areas of the fund.
  • Having a proven track record of impact, such as previous projects or programs that will provide an indication of how this grant will go.
  • Maintaining a sustainable financial model that is not dependent on a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation for their continued existence

We do foresee that these criteria will continue to evolve, especially in the next round of funding. We will be opening up the Equity Fund Committee to more community participation based on the valuable feedback we’ve heard throughout this process, and that will inform the criteria of additional grantees as well. Tides Advocacy will evaluate grantees for financial and legal compliance specifically; for example, to ensure their nonprofit status and details so that they are eligible for a grant. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 22:40, 17 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

NGunasena (WMF): Thank you for your response. MarioGom (talk) 13:19, 18 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

Questions to WMF about process edit

Questions have been asked about the Tides Advocacy Fund ever since news of it first transpired in December 2020, half a year after the money was first transferred to Tides Advocacy. The fund had remained unannounced—essentially been kept secret—until the publication of the 2020 Auditors' Report and associated FAQ. For history, see the related Wikimedia-l thread.

The WMF repeatedly said in response to questions that it had not yet worked out details and promised to make information about the KEF available at a later date. It missed every date it set itself. The Meta page for the KEF did not appear until June of this year, a full year after the decision to divert this money was taken.

About the process (please correct me if I got anything wrong):

  1. None of the discussions around who would be represented on the Equity Fund Committee were public or transparent. Is this correct?
  2. None of the Committee's discussions around grantee selection were public or transparent. Is this correct?
  3. Who initiated contact between the WMF/Equity Fund Committee and each of the grantees?
    a. In which cases, if any, was it the grantee who first contacted the WMF with an application for a grant?
    b. In which cases, if any, was it the WMF or Equity Fund Committee who first contacted the grantee with a view to offering them a grant?
  4. There was precious little information about this Fund publicised prior to this first round of grantees; at least not enough, it seems, for organisations all over the world to apply for a grant. The impression is that people had some or most of the grantees already in mind when the decision was first made to set this fund up. What part of this, if any, is incorrect?
  5. There is no public information at present about whether there were any other grant applicants that were turned down. Is this correct? Were there any?
  6. The current Wikimedia-l discussion contains further comments (e.g. more than half of the money from this global fund going to US organisations), along with some WMF replies. Is there anything you'd like to add to what was said there?
  7. Lastly, what if anything is wrong with the following characterisation of what happened here?
    The WMF told the public throughout 2019/2020 that money was urgently needed to protect Wikipedia's independence. It took far more money than it could spend. Rather than investing all of the surplus in its Endowment or letting it be added to its net assets, a small group of people at the WMF secretly decided to divert about $5 million of this money to finance social justice causes they personally favoured. In the process, they created a complete mismatch between what donors thought their money was for, and what it actually ended up being used for. --Andreas JN466 13:21, 11 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
It's not necessarily bad to divert WMF funds to "social justice causes", as long as it's done transparently. The WMF could just have put out an announcement "we have too much cash and need to get rid of it quickly for $reasons, but we don't have the means to oversee the money properly outside of the fields WMF is most familiar with, so we'll just donate 5 M$ to an experienced non-profit in the field; please contact us informally at $address if you meet $criteria". For instance the EFF or some legal clinics we regularly work with could have had the means to appropriately and transparently spend the money on such matters, while the WMF clearly is unable to at the moment. Nemo 07:58, 13 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
I agree, but we mustn't forget that transparency should begin with the fundraising messages used to bring that money in. Otherwise they're plain conning people. --Andreas JN466 10:49, 13 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
Answers to your questions below:
  1. As we kicked off this pilot program, we created an Equity Fund Committee based on the initial skills around legal expertise, communications and grants administration needed to create a grantmaking fund, and invited two community members to join us. We did this quickly in order to create the fund and start making grants, but even with that we did run into considerable delays given the lack of dedicated staff for the Equity Fund. For the second round of funding, we will be opening this up to additional community members to get involved in future rounds of funding. We will be sharing more information later this fall on how to get involved.
  2. For this first round of funding, decisions about the grantees were made by the Equity Fund Committee during our weekly meetings. The Equity Fund is different from the grants programs run by the Community Resources team, which are done through an open call and a participatory process. Decisions for the Equity Fund will continue to be made by the Equity Fund Committee, and we will be looking to expand community participation on the Committee.
  3. In all cases, the Equity Fund Committee learned about an organization and then reached out to them to learn more and find out if they would be a good candidate for a grant. For the first round of this pilot program, we did not do an open call for applications and ask organizations to submit for a grant.
  4. When the Equity Fund was first created, it was to fill a need to more directly address racial inequities that are impacting our movement but not directly related to our movement (such as the lack of citations about underrepresented populations, etc.) When the Fund was first created, we did not have any organizations in mind to fund. That is why, as you noted, we did miss our initial timelines of providing more information. The Equity Fund Committee took more time than we anticipated to define the scope of the fund, criteria for potential grants and our ideas for impact. Once we had those areas defined, we began looking through recognized networks of organizations working on racial equity issues for organizations that may fit our criteria and be impactful partners in the knowledge movement.
  5. We did not approach any organizations and then turn them down in this first round. We looked for organizations that fit the criteria of the Equity Fund, and after our ensuing conversation with the organizations, we moved forward with each of them as our first six grantees.
  6. We’ve chimed in on some of the Wiki-l discussions. We are still going through the responses, and will be replying to those on this talk page as well.
  7. This was not secretly done by a small group looking to fund organizations they have a connection with. We had made a clear commitment to racial justice in a statement from WMF leadership in June 2020, and this fund is an execution of the specific commitments made in that statement. The goals of this Fund are expressly to benefit free knowledge and further our vision.NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 22:46, 17 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
Thanks, Nadee. I do appreciate your answering.
  • To summarise, statements #1 and #2 above were correct. As for #3, there was no call for applications – you selected and contacted all the grant recipients yourselves. As for #4, you did not have any organisations in mind, only the general type of organisation you wanted to fund. #5, there were no other candidates turned down. #6, more info to come here on this page.
  • As for #7, I would argue that this initiative was secret inasmuch as you did not make public that nearly $5 million would be diverted for non-WMF ends until months later, when the auditors referred to the matter in their report. Please make such information public in a more timely manner in future.
  • I did not say that you sought to fund organisations you had "a connection with": I said you sought "to finance social justice causes" you "personally favoured". That is, surely, true!!!
  • Moreover, WMF leadership is by definition a "small group", and when you say "our vision", this seems very much to be the vision of your group, rather than the vision of the donor community, based on the fundraising messages they were shown. Please make your fundraising banners, which continue to imply that money is urgently needed "to protect Wikipedia's independence", more consistent with your actual spending practices and ambitions. If these are good causes, people will go for them, if you tell them about them. Regards, --Andreas JN466 10:11, 19 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
  • @NGunasena (WMF): Re secrecy, I'd really like to assume good faith, but this is a situation where not only was the whole thing not announced, but it really looks like it was systematically hidden. The public distribution of the entire WMF's annual plan was delayed for half the year, until three days after the required audit report. We could have found out relatively promptly from there otherwise. Was this a coincidence? --Yair rand (talk) 20:41, 19 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
@Yair rand, I know that to folks outside the Foundation, this can really feel like intentional secrecy, as you point out. I appreciate you asking about it, and your willingness to assume good faith. Unfortunately, what happened last December was the result of a lack of coordination on the side of the Wikimedia Foundation. I know that we were extremely delayed in publishing our annual plan and did it later than we've ever done before, which was for several reasons around capacity and also planning during the pandemic. We were in a yellow budget scenario, which meant departments were adjusting their long term plans, and the Foundation leadership was constantly re-assessing what we should move forward with. So, the APP was delayed in coming together and being finalized.
The plan was always to publish the annual plan and then the audit report. Our communication about the annual plan also included a specific call-out about the creation of the Equity Fund. However, teams within the Foundation didn't coordinate as well as we should have and the publishing of the audit report before the Annual plan took some of us by surprise. It wasn't a coincidence, but it could have been handled much better.
Know that things have also been getting better - we already have plans in the works to solicit recommendations about the next round of grantees (coming soon!) and as evidenced in this last year's annual plan, we’re being more timely and transparent in both sharing our plans AND talking to communities about them. --NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 23:05, 23 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
NGunasena (WMF), why do you say "what happened last December"? According to the auditors, the $8.723M were transferred to Tides Advocacy "during the year ended June 30, 2020". In other words, at least five months passed during which no one at the Foundation thought it would be right to publicise the fact that millions of dollars had been diverted to non-WMF ends, without any community consultation whatsoever, bypassing all the established grants processes. The way it looks to an outsider is almost as though this small group considered these funds to be their pocket money, to spend as they wish, without accountability to anyone – certainly without accountability to donors, who are led to believe that the WMF is "struggling to have enough money to keep Wikipedia up and running," – that's how Trevor Noah put it – uncontradicted – in his April 2021 interview of Katherine Maher.
Also, could I ask you again about the Q4 tuning sessions? When will they be published? Regards, --Andreas JN466 07:03, 24 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

Transparency edit

As noted by many people, there's a notable lack of transparency around these grants. All information about the applications/projects, their budgets and their goals need to published, whatever their format is, on Meta-Wiki. The people running those programs should also be encouraged to be active on Meta and interact with the community. Otherwise, we're condemning those projects to failure, as with the previous projects which WMF run under a shroud mystery. No Wikimedia-related initiative can succeed if it doesn't follow Wikimedia values. Nemo 13:59, 11 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

ha, good point. sometimes it really seems persons get carried away when there is too much money on a bank account, this does not exclude persons at the WMF :) we tend to forget that the wikipedia movement is not expert in helping rich people to save time, by providing or finding a paid service - like the serch foundation, or borealisphilanthropy. the wikipedia movement seems to excel in organizing the free time of persons with no money. when the vision is to bring down "... societal or economic barriers .." i would have loved to see this vision and the wikipedia persons strenghts even better combined than with the current proposals. --ThurnerRupert (talk) 22:06, 12 September 2021 (UTC)Reply
I concur. --Piotrus (talk) 08:21, 24 October 2021 (UTC)Reply

Grantee info edit

Given that no public discussion of grantees took place beforehand, it might be useful to compile a little background info on each of the grantees for people unfamiliar with them, beyond the grantees' own websites. If anyone else has spent time researching these orgs, I'd love you to add, expand, correct the below as appropriate. Cheers. --Andreas JN466 14:13, 11 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

The SeRCH Foundation, Inc. edit

InternetLab edit

The Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (IIPSJ) edit

  • $260k grant
  • Founded by Howard University's Prof. Lateef Mtima
  • Mtima was a prominent, frequently quoted academic supporter of Google in the context of the Google Books settlement (and in other contexts) [3]
  • Generally seems to be aligned with Google ... if anyone is aware of any issue where Mtima opposed Google's position, I'd be interested in hearing about it
  • Most recent Form 990 for 2019 shows total revenue of $270k ($75k in year prior) vs. total expenditure of $348k (vs. $34k in year prior) with total year-end assets of $133k (vs. $212k in year prior)
  • Only three officers/employees listed: Mtima (30 hours/week, $0 reportable compensation), Steven Jamar (1 hours/week, $0 reportable compensation), Aisha Williams (0 hours/week, $0 reportable compensation)
  • Main expenses: Management services by non-employees ($130k), IT ($100k), conferences/meetings ($80k)
  • Mtima has no English WP biography at present --Andreas JN466 17:03, 12 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

Media Foundation for West Africa edit

Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism edit

Borealis Racial Equity in Journalism Fund edit

  • $250k grant
  • Minneapolis-based, most recent Form 990 (2019): [4]
    • Total revenue: $26M ($23M year prior)
    • Total expenses: $18M ($28M year prior)
    • Net assets: $26M ($18M year prior)
    • Highest-compensated employee: Margarita Rubalcava, President, $200K
  • Borealis Philanthropy has no Wikipedia article at present. --Andreas JN466 18:57, 23 September 2021 (UTC)Reply

Accountability edit

Can someone (ping User:NGunasena (WMF)) answer the following:

  • How were those entities selected? In particular: was there a transparent application, how was it advertised, and what was the scoring process? Where is the scoring rubric, and can we see the scores for those NGOs compared to the ones that failed?
  • What is the justification for diverting funds away from Wikimedia Community? Are there no longer any areas that could benefit from funds within the Community, i.e. are we so afloat in money that we can afford to help other causes, as there is no longer any use for that money within the Wikimedia Community? --Piotrus (talk) 08:26, 24 October 2021 (UTC)Reply
To your last question: budget constraints and understaffing are still major problems in WMF core areas. MarioGom (talk) 08:54, 30 October 2021 (UTC)Reply

Concerns edit

I remain very concerned by this funding process. The last round of grantees was quite a surprise announcement, and there was no way to follow up on the announcement since the grant details weren't shared - it was basically 'we've given $X of movement funds to this org' and that was about it.

Hopefully lessons have been learnt since the last round - and things have also changed at WMF, since we now have the regional grant committees. So please, make the information about the potential grants available on meta before they take place, and invite community input on the candidates at the review stage, not just the suggestion stage. And please ensure that you involve the WMF's regional committees in the review process. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:28, 21 January 2022 (UTC)Reply

Thanks for the question @Mike Peel. I understand your concerns about the transparency of the Equity Fund grants. I do think it’s important to clarify the role of the Equity Fund and how it differs from other grants from the Wikimedia Foundation.
As you know, the Regional Fund Committees are responsible for review of specific Wikimedia Foundation grants to support applicants that are working directly with community or Wikimedia projects. Regional Fund Committees evaluate applicants for three Fund programs: Wikimedia Community Fund, Wikimedia Alliances Fund and Wikimedia Research and Technology Fund, which in total represent an $11 million budget for community grants. The Regional Fund Committee model was created in order to leverage the expertise and knowledge of community members around the world. We wanted to move decision making closer to the communities that are directly impacted and ensure that we were equitably supporting community groups across the movement.
For other Foundation Funding programs i.e. Wikimedia Strategy Grants, Wikimania and the Knowledge Equity Fund, separate committees are responsible for the process to review. These decision-making structures are different based on the goals and audience of each fund.
The Equity Fund is focused on supporting groups outside of the movement whose work will impact and improve knowledge equity on the Wikimedia projects over the long term. Instead of an open call for applicants like the grants overseen by the Regional Fund Committees, we are asking the movement for recommendations of groups to explore that meet the criteria of the Fund. The community nomination process is key to the Equity Fund - opening up so the movement can reach out to their full networks identifying organizations around the world that work at the intersection of free knowledge and racial justice. All of these suggestions will be posted on Meta so that everyone can see the list of recommended groups and their focus areas.
Because the Equity Fund is focused on grants to groups outside of the movement, decisions around choosing grantees will be made by the Equity Fund Committee instead of direct community vote. We are expanding the Equity Fund Committee to increase community representation in these decisions. We will invite three more representatives from the community who have deep knowledge of racial justice to join the committee (for a total of five), to balance representation from Foundation staff and community. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 16:59, 25 January 2022 (UTC)Reply
@NGunasena (WMF): Thanks for the reply. In terms of those involved in choosing grantees, while acknowledging you have a dedicated committee for this, I would still strongly encourage you to make use of the regional committees in the process. These can bring important perspectives on both the countries that the organisations work in, and those that they are based in, which can only help improve the decisions that can be made. I would also really emphasise the importance of transparency (both in terms of processes and detailed public information being available on meta), since it is movement money that is being spent, and transparency is a really important value of the movement. This can also help bring important perspectives into the decision-making process, even if the community doesn't have a direct vote (which it doesn't have in most WMF funding anyway). Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:19, 25 January 2022 (UTC)Reply
@Mike Peel, thank you for bringing this up and recommending the use of the regional committees! I agree that the members on the regional committees will have some valuable perspectives, including around the regional needs and context that potential Equity Fund grantees may work in. As a start, I would love to invite the regional committees to nominate any potential organizations for our Round 2 of funding. Once we have a full list of recommendations for Round 2, we will be publishing those here on Meta so that we are transparent about the nominees we choose. In addition, members of the Equity Fund Committee will reach out to the relevant regional committees in the next month to see if there are other ways that we can incorporate their perspectives into the grantee process. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 21:51, 7 February 2022 (UTC)Reply
I apologize for my late arrival. NGunasena (WMF) has made clear that reader-contributed donations to Wikipedia are instead being diverted, at least in some part, to a soi-disant Knowledge Equity Fund Committee that "focuses on grants to groups outside of the [Wikipedia] movement". If WMF wishes to do this, there MUST be full disclosure. The many individuals and organizations who donate money to the Wikimedia Foundation are not informed of this use of their contributions. Without full disclosure of this fact, donors are possibly being DEFRAUDED by the WMF. I do not know if this is sufficiently serious to be investigated by the U.S. Fair Trade Commission or another government agency. I am not a lawyer, nor am I making ANY legal threat to WMF whatsoever! I am worried though. Finally, I would be most interested in how the Equity Fund Committee decided which three Wikimedia community members to invite to join the committee. The stated criteria for invitation was possession of a deep knowledge of racial justice rather than, say, a community vote by Wikimedia project contributors, i.e. editors, or Wikipedia community members with prior experience in setting project budgets. Without specific criteria, I posit that, say, me, BlueRasperry, and Chris Troutman have as much of a "deep knowledge of racial justice" as anyone else.--FeralOink (talk) 21:41, 7 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

What do these projects have to do with Wikimedia? edit

I am reading the available information about the last round of grantees and it is not clear to me that they are doing anything that the Wikimedia community would perceive as Wikimedia related. Are they?

Are their project proposals public? Will these organizations be reporting their results publicly? Bluerasberry (talk) 00:34, 26 January 2022 (UTC)Reply

@Bluerasberry, the Equity Fund Committee has chosen five focus areas of funding that specifically address how racial injustice impacts access to knowledge.
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. 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.
At the same time, given that racial inequity has been such a pervasive challenge to equal access to knowledge, the Equity Fund is an opportunity to try new approaches. That is why the Equity Fund is designed to support external organizations outside of the Wikimedia movement. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity. 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. (That is the exact focus of one of our focus areas around supporting media and journalism efforts.) So Equity Fund grantees may not be working directly on the Wiki projects like the recipients of community grants, but they are chosen because we believe their work will have an impact on the knowledge equity within the Wikimedia movement and free knowledge as a whole.
For the first round of grantees, we have shared initial descriptions of their projects here (https://medium.com/freely-sharing-the-sum-of-all-knowledge/power-of-knowledge-for-good-ee94e5681a3b). Each grantee will share out their impact annually. For our first round of grantees, we expect that by the last quarter of this calendar year, since the grants were made in September 2021. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 21:50, 7 February 2022 (UTC)Reply
@NGunasena (WMF): Any update on these reports? Bluerasberry (talk) 16:15, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply
Greetings, BlueRasberry! I too am eager to peruse the promised report updates! As of today, it is a full year since NGunasena (WMF) said the information for Round 1 grantees would be available for our review.--FeralOink (talk) 20:30, 7 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

Measuring success of the Equity Fund edit

Inductiveload asked a question through Wikimedia-l that I wanted to address here, about how grantee results are measured and report, when the results are due, if the results will be tied to long-term changes on-wiki or how they will manifest, and what outcomes we are tracking overall. The Equity Fund Committee wanted to make sure to address these questions here so that others can also read and respond. @Inductiveload, thank you for your question about how we plan to track and report out metrics from Equity Fund grantees. As we started the Equity Fund, we looked into how other Foundations and philanthropic institutions around the world are measuring impact when it comes to racial equity. One of the best practices that we’ve seen from other institutions is to work with grantees on the metrics that they plan to track and make sure those metrics align with our own desired impact upfront, instead of creating additional metrics that will require significant new administrative overhead for smaller grantees. In line with this learning, we are centering our measure of impact around the activities that each grant recipient commits to and executes. Put simply, each grantee has specific metrics that they already track as part of their work, that they will be required to share with us for the result of this fund. Because of this, each round involves selecting grantees whose current work and metrics align with our goals for the Equity Fund.

You had also asked about if those outcomes would manifest as on-wiki engagement. The Equity Fund is designed to address the barriers that impede everyone from participating in free knowledge equally. We chose focus areas that are a core part of the free knowledge ecosystem, but that may not directly translate to on-wiki impact immediately. 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. For this focus area, we are looking at grantees who already track metrics such as number of articles produced by media organizations dedicated to communities of color in order to increase the citable resources available to Wikimedians. Each grantee will share out their impact annually. For our first round of grantees, we expect that by the last quarter of this calendar year, since the grants were made in September 2021. --NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 22:01, 7 February 2022 (UTC)Reply

@NGunasena (WMF) sorry for a longer list of questions than planned, but I believe they're all fairly important.
  1. When is the current forecast for data being released - FAQ#7 indicates annual reporting, and we are now around 13 months after the initial grants?
  2. Is this information going to be paired with a set of data for the year prior to the donation, for comparison?
  3. Why were the metric categories not published for each at time of the donations being announced? (along with the previous year's data)
  4. Organisations (charitable and companies both) have a habit of tracking metrics that can make more pleasant reading. How is this being handled? This is particularly the case for two organisations whose primary public activity has heavily shrunk down - without knowing the metrics, I can't see how they are viewing it internally, but depending on what KPIs they use, these may not be significantly noted - but would still be a an indication of wasted funds.
  5. The WMF has a specific mission - and large numbers of editors have questioned that these donations are not within that mission, and certainly the scope expansion does not have Movement sign-off. But, more specifically - how is the WMF demonstrating that each donation is not just proving effective, but more effective to the WMF's mission than spending that sum of money in a different way (e.g. Doubling the size of the Community tech team)? Nosebagbear (talk) 22:28, 12 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
@Nosebagbear, thanks for your questions. You are right that we are behind on our initial milestones about our Round 1 grantees. Our timelines have changed since our initial projection because we do not have any dedicated staff working on the Equity Fund. We had hoped to share more about their work this month; we are currently working on a blog post to share that update on the work the grantees have accomplished over the past year, including some of the work they’ve presented at local Wiki community events, and that will be published in November.
To your other questions, one best practice that we’ve learned from other grantmaking institutions is to center our measure of impact around the activities that each grant recipient commits to and executes, instead of including stringent metrics reporting guidelines as part of the grant. Those can often lead to extra operational costs and take away from the impact of the funds, if it’s being used for gathering and collating data for metrics and reporting instead of focusing on the work that advances the objectives of the Knowledge Equity Fund.
Of course, there’s an important balance to be struck here with making sure the funds are being spent effectively and responsibly. Each of our grantees shared with us an annual report of their overall work over the past year, as part of the conditions for the grant. These reports offer insight into the metrics that each grantee feels is both useful and feasible for assessing their work. We will be making these reports available alongside the blog post that details some of the specific work paid for by the grant. (Again, timeline for that will be November.)
Regarding your final question, it is worth noting that the Equity Fund was introduced as a pilot program. In 2020 the Foundation made a commitment to create this fund because we believe it is important to the overall strategic direction of the movement - and since we know we are not able to achieve this on our own. The Equity Fund allows us to build an ecosystem of knowledge partners who work in different - and complementary - areas of free knowledge to our own work. In order to fulfill the ambitious mission that we share alongside the movement, the Foundation supports a wide variety of efforts that promote free knowledge, including things like funding and other resources for affiliates, support and security for the websites, product improvements, public advocacy, partnerships, the movement strategy process, and editor events. Pilot projects like the Equity Fund are an important ingredient in this mix, as they help us explore additional ways to support free knowledge and widen the ecosystem of organizations that partner with us. I am not sure how to prove a hypothetical, that this funding is more effective than spending it in x place, but to your point it will be important for us to share and discuss the lessons learned from the first round of grantees and how we can move forward. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 22:33, 14 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
@NGunasena (WMF) While you can't prove such a hypotheical well, I don't see how it has been proven that spending money on such stuff is helpful at all. Sure, we can argue that it makes the world a better place, and it does. But we, the Wikimedia Community, have many pressing needs related to us, such as improving Wikimedia Commons (which looks dated and is still not friendly enough to new editors), and zillion others. For the costs of millions dollars spend you could provide every active Wikipedia editor with professional Grammarly accounts; you could probably develop and pay for some form of Grammarly-affiliated spellchecker to be added to English Wikipedia, I can think of tons of ways to spend money that would benefit the community. Instead, we are giving the money away to other worthy causes. Did you forget WE are a worthy cause too? Piotrus (talk) 11:54, 31 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

Current status edit

Replicating this question from Wikimedia-l:

I'm writing to inquire about the status of the Knowledge Equity Fund.

Meta (1) suggests 6 grants were made in September 2021 and that a second more community-focused round of grants would be made in 2022. No details of a second round have been published that I'm aware of; is this still active? Are there any public details of impact or progress reporting from the September 2021 grants ?

There is also a [ https://twitter.com/echetus/status/1579776106034757633 somewhat-viral Twitter thread] which focuses, alongside some general criticisms of Wikimedia fundraising, on two grants specifically from this fund and the WMF making itself a participant in US 'culture wars'. (2) I wonder if there is any response from the WMF to that?

Thanks, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 11:01, 12 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

Hi @The Land, thanks for reaching out. The short answer is that because the Equity Fund is a pilot initiative for us without any dedicated staff, it has taken us longer than we anticipated to hit some of our milestones. It’s been a learning process. After we announced our Round 1 grantees last September, we heard lots of feedback about how the Equity Fund was being managed and questions about how communities could give input and have more of a voice in these grants. We took that feedback seriously and paused our work while we solicited nominations for other community members to join the Equity Fund Committee. After this process, we added three community members to the Committee for a total of five community members, alongside five Foundation staff. We also promised that we would be sharing an annual update on our Round 1 grantees - we are currently working on a blog post to share that update on the work the grantees have accomplished over the past year, including some of the work they’ve presented at local Wiki community events as well, and introduce our new committee members. Our plan is to have this available by early November.
In addition, we encouraged folks to submit nominations for grantees for future rounds of funding. We received nearly 50 nominations, and we’ve been working through those organizations to better understand how their work impacts free knowledge and complements the work happening across the movement. Our goal is to choose grantees for a second round of grants and to make that process visible. I can share more about the timeline there when I have more details. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 23:08, 12 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Why are you proceeding with a second round of grantees before evaluating the results of the first round? Given that this is a pilot and there have been serious concerns expressed about the ROI and ethics of funding grantees not doing any work that has a direct measurable impact on Wikimedia projects, I would encourage you to stop and consider an evaluation of the program before charging ahead with giving out yet more donor funds. Steven Walling • talk 01:17, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
+1 I strongly support Steven's proposal. --Frank Schulenburg (talk) 02:58, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Thanks @Steven Walling and @Frank Schulenburg. The Equity Fund committee is currently reviewing the reports from the first round of grantees. As part of this review, we discuss the metrics reported by grantees, what activities were done with the grant, how well they went, and any other relevant lessons for improvement. This process will then feed directly into decision making about second round grant awards. We began collecting nominations for the second round earlier this year because it takes time to learn about potential recipients and for them to apply - but award decisions will not be made until review of round one has been completed. We’re also planning to share some of our lessons learned from round one and publishing a summary of the grant reports on Meta in the coming weeks.
When the Equity Fund was created it was with an ambitious goal. We recognize that knowledge equity 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. Our hope is the Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity - this will take time. We are operating well within the funds that were originally invested in this project and ideally we want to grant to each of the themes identified during the pilot. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 17:38, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Hi Nadee, when I said I supported Steven's proposal, I meant specifically "Given that this is a pilot and there have been serious concerns expressed about the ROI and ethics of funding grantees not doing any work that has a direct measurable impact on Wikimedia projects, I would encourage you to stop". I've recently seen enough voices online expressing concern about the fact that they thought they donated to keep Wikipedia's servers running, but ended up having funded some other organization and cause. I think this is a reasonable question and I'm interested in hearing what the Wikimedia Foundation will be doing to ensure that the Knowledge Equity Fund is in line with generally accepted principles of ethical fundraising. --Frank Schulenburg (talk) 03:11, 20 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
@Frank Schulenburg I understand your concerns. All of our revenue goes towards supporting the Wikimedia projects, the larger movement, and executing on our mission of the sum of all knowledge. The work of knowledge equity is aligned with our overall mission, as part of the strategic direction outlined in the movement strategy. The Knowledge Equity Fund is one initiative that we are piloting to make progress on the knowledge equity pillar of the movement strategy. In addition, the funds for the Knowledge Equity Fund were set aside in 2020, and we have not added to it since - so this is not something we are constantly fundraising for. In terms of assessing the progress of the first round, I agree that we need to understand the impact and what worked from our first round of grantees. We will be sharing that within the next month. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 00:34, 25 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
No, you need to shut down this project, return the embezzled funds, and then resign your position. Your work is neither useful to its alleged beneficiaries nor desired by Wikipedia users. 2601:600:817F:A8E0:18F2:B0BC:1E2:E617 23:05, 25 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
+1 to Steven's proposal as well. I would go farther and strongly urge you to immediately shut down this initiative and return any unspent money to the Foundation as a whole; people donated that money to run an encyclopedia, not to fund yet another generic political activism committee. 2601:600:817F:A8E0:2424:1670:3BD4:2BCD 04:31, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Hi Nadee, thanks for replying here. Can I check what the scope of the update on the Round 1 grantees would be? Will there be published impact/progress reports from the grantees? Is there going to be a review of the success of round 1 in some form (published or not)? Those things go somewhat beyond what could be included in a blog post, but I think they're in line with what we'd expect from other kinds of grantmaking activity. Also, has anyone explored the possibility of whether "knowledge equity" funding could be better administered by the regional grants committees, now they are up and running? Thanks, Chris Keating (The Land) (talk) 08:43, 13 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Chris - In addition to a blog post summarizing the work of our round 1 grantees, we will be linking to the annual reports provided by each grantee.
To your question about the regional fund committees - the regional fund committees support the Wikimedia Foundation Funds which support programming on the Wikimedia projects. They do review the proposals of many organizations that have incorporated knowledge equity into their work locally. As I mentioned in my earlier response, we also have community members who are part of the Knowledge Equity Fund committee, who  all come with a knowledge/background on racial equity in their communities. Having their insights as we review the community nominations has been essential as we are learning about how organizations outside of our current ecosystem are approaching racial equity.  One aspect at the end of the pilot would be to assess the long term operations of the fund and regional fund committees would definitely be one pathway to review. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 17:36, 18 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
Thanks. One other thing – according to page 14 of the financial statements,
During the year ended June 30, 2020, the Foundation provided an unconditional grant to Tides Advocacy in the amount of $8.723 million for the Wikimedia Knowledge Equity Fund. This fund will be used to invest in grant-making opportunities to increase the availability of free knowledge and counteract structural inequalities to foster a just and equitable representation of knowledge and people in the Wikimedia movement, and to fund the annual operating expenses of other Wikimedia chapter organizations in service of our mission of free knowledge. The Wikimedia Knowledge Equity Fund is managed and controlled by Tides Advocacy.
(My emphases.) Given that only $4.5 million are said to be for the Knowledge Equity Fund I presume this means that $4.223 million of the money given to Tides Advocacy was earmarked to be given to chapters. Is there any public accounting anywhere – in a Form 990, or an audited financial statement – of what Tides Advocacy has done with this money?
Also, as mentioned elsewhere, there seems to be a problem with the Q4 tuning sessions this year – none have been uploaded to Commons. Would you please have an update? I would like to include this information in a Signpost report. Best, Andreas JN466 08:59, 19 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

I agree that the Knowledge Equity Fund should stop any further grantmaking until a full (and public) review of its first round. If it's true that there's no staff to handle it and that new hiring is mostly frozen, it just makes sense to transfer these funds to existing entities with more experience in the field and closely aligned to the Wikimedia Foundation's free knowledge mission. Examples with ample capacity for good spending, on which Wikimedia projects already rely heavily, are the Internet Archive, CERN for Zenodo, SCOSS for arxiv, Redalyc/AmeliCA, DSpace (for open access) and NLnet (for assorted grantmaking to free software projects, naturally aligned with Wikimedia values and equity). Nemo 14:30, 31 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

Would it not be better to simply transfer these unspent funds, which people donated in the belief they were needed to keep Wikipedia online, independent and subscription-free, back to the Wikimedia Foundation, and to then spend them on Wikipedia? Andreas JN466 19:11, 31 October 2022 (UTC)Reply
The opacity of WMF in this regard bears resemblance to an ongoing criminal conspiracy, but I'm not a lawyer so what do I know? For this reason, I support the immediate abolition of WMF as it clearly does not serve the community in whose name it solicits funds. Chris Troutman (talk) 21:29, 31 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

On 18 October 2022, NGunasena (WMF) informed us as follows:

"We also promised that we would be sharing an annual update on our Round 1 grantees - we are currently working on a blog post to share that update on the work the grantees have accomplished over the past year, including some of the work they’ve presented at local Wiki community events as well, and introduce our new committee members. Our plan is to have this available by early November."

Today is 7 February 2023. Please tell us where this blog post was published?

NGunasena also stated on 18 October 2022 that "we will be linking to the annual reports provided by each grantee" of the Knowledge Equity Fund Round 1. Where can that information be accessed?

Finally, I would like to know if WMF has already finalized a Round 2 of Equity Fund grants prior to assessing Round 1 grants (also referred to as a "pilot project") for this initiative. Thank you for perusing my inquiries. I eagerly await WMF Staff responses.--FeralOink (talk) 20:24, 7 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

Signpost article, Hacker News discussion edit

See en:Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2022-10-31/News_and_notes as well as related discussion on Hacker News: [5] --Andreas JN466 19:13, 31 October 2022 (UTC)Reply

This is racist edit

I'm frankly appalled by the wording used in Knowledge Equity Fund#What we mean by racial equity. I'm not going to pick it apart piece by piece, but the language used here is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, racist. No matter how lavishly couched in euphemisms. Frogging101 (talk) 02:07, 16 November 2022 (UTC)Reply

Don't hold your breath expecting a response. They won't speak up about their embezzlement for favored political causes, why will they address anyone complaining about their open racism? This is an absolute embarrassment for all concerned. 2601:600:817F:A8E0:BC84:406E:F93F:718E 19:40, 30 November 2022 (UTC)Reply

Tides Agreement edit

Please post the agreement with Tides. You will lose nothing by being transparent. Thank you.

I see no logical business reason why a heavily funded non-profit like WMF with its large staff cannot administer its own grants, but perhaps when I see this agreement it will make sense. Second, I see no reason why WMF should align itself with an organization that engages in partisan political advocacy. This is probably a strategic error that politically polarizes Wikipedia. Third, the agreement with Tides creates an appearance of impropriety. You are giving that organization control over who gets WMF grants and likely subsidizing them through fees that they skim off the funds. They can influence the grant process to direct funds to groups they prefer. This is an abdication of responsibility by WMF over funds that have been collected from donors who know nothing of Tides. These funds should instead be used to support Wikipedia and associated projects. In sum, WMF should not create the appearance that it's being used as slush fund to support progressive politics. That's not its mission. Jehochman (talk) 13:37, 23 November 2022 (UTC)Reply

@Jehochman, Bluerasberry, and Yair rand: I have asked much the same question before and received the following terse answer: As a matter of practice, we do not disclose specific terms of contracts with our vendors. This means that all we have to go on are the public Form 990 disclosures that Tides Advocacy makes to the IRS.
Tides Advocacy has now published Form 990 disclosures for both the 2020 and 2021 calendar years: 2020, 2021. These list grants made in the US (see Schedule I for grants within the US: 2020, 2021) and outside of the US (see Schedule F for grants outside the US; there are none related to Wikimedia in Schedule F of the 2020 Form 990; the 2021 pages start here).
What we would hope to find are:
  • Amounts corresponding to the first round of Knowledge Equity Fund grants, totalling $1.36 million (grants within and outside the US).
  • Amounts corresponding to the 2020-2021 Annual Plan Grants (mostly outside the US), for which $4.223 million were sent to Tides Advocacy.
(Tides Advocacy were given $8.723 million in the 2019-2020 financial year: $4.5 million for the Knowledge Equity Fund and $4.223 million to fund 2020-2021 Annual Plan Grants. See [6] and [7])
So the total to be accounted for in Tides Advocacy's Form 990 disclosures for 2020 and 2021 is $1.36 million + $4.223 million = $5.583 million. I propose we use the holiday period to go through the Form 990 disclosures together and sum the Wikimedia-related grants listed there (the pdf files are searchable). The total will be less than $5.583 million. The difference may give us a rough idea of how much Tides Advocacy and any others involved in administering the funds are paid for their services.
We could publish the results in the Signpost. WMF staff are of course welcome to help, correct mistaken assumptions and make additional information available. (Note that we're assuming that Tides Advocacy has not received any Wikimedia-related donations from other donors than the WMF.) Andreas JN466 10:17, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply
Support, routine request which everyone always expected would come and be fulfilled. Bluerasberry (talk) 16:16, 21 December 2022 (UTC)Reply
I have now had a look through both years' Form 990 submissions from Tides Advocacy. Basically, based on a first run-through, I find there is a gap of approximately $400,000 between the $4.223 million Tides Advocacy were given for 2020-2021 Annual Plan Grants to Wikimedia Affiliates and what they appear to have paid out to such affiliates in 2020 and 2021. @Bluerasberry and NGunasena (WMF): I would be grateful if you could check my figures!
Wikimedia-related items (moneys paid to WMF affiliates or Knowledge Equity Fund grant recipients) in Tides Advocacy's 2020 Form 990:
  • $288,400 to Wiki Education Foundation
That is the only such item I can find in the 2020 form. Have I missed anything? Note that Tides Advocacy made no grants at all outside the US in the 2020 calendar year, except for one $10,000 LGBTIQ+-related grant that would appear to be unrelated to Wikimedia.
Wikimedia-related items (moneys paid to WMF affiliates or Knowledge Equity Fund grant recipients) in Tides Advocacy's 2021 Form 990:
  • Knowledge Equity Fund grantees in the US:
    • $250,000 to Borealis (this matches the grant announcement overleaf)
    • $130,000 to Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice (this is half the grant amount announced overleaf)
    • $125,000 to The STEM en Route to Change (SeRCH) Foundation (this is half the grant amount announced overleaf)
  • Knowledge Equity Fund grantees outside the US:
    • $150,000 to Sub-Saharan Africa recipients for "access to online educational resources" (I assume this refers to the Media Foundation for West Africa grant)
    • $350,851 to Middle East and North Africa recipients for "access to online educational resources" (I assume this includes $250,000 for the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism grant announced overleaf and $100,851 for one or more Wikimedia affiliate grants)
    • $100,000 to South American recipients for "access to online educational resources" (I assume this represents half of the $200,000 grant to InternetLabs in Brazil)
  • Wikimedia Affiliate grants in the US:
    • $123,600 to Wiki Education Foundation (a text search for "Wiki" in Tides Advocacy's 2021 Form 990 finds no further matches)
  • Assumed Wikimedia Affiliate grants outside the US:
    • $100,851 to Middle East and North Africa for "access to online educational resources" (I assume this relates to Wikimedia affiliates in the region, see bullet-point referring to this amount above)
    • $2,638,580 to European recipients for "access to online educational resources" (I assume this relates to Wikimedia affiliates in the region, see p. 70 and pp. 71–72 for a breakdown of this amount)
    • $25,000 to South American recipients for "access to online educational resources"
    • $276,611 also to South American recipients for "access to online educational resources"
    • $229,227 to South Asian recipients for "access to online educational resources"
    • $139,950 also to South Asian recipients for "access to online educational resources"
Summing the putative Wikimedia Affiliate grants disbursed in the 2020/2021 financial year (shown in bold above) yields a total of $3,822,219. Remember, Tides Advocacy were given $4,223,000 for 2020–2021 Annual Plan Grants, which I assumed would all have been paid out by the end of the 2021 calendar year.
So there is a gap of about $400,000 which may represent the cost of the Tides Advocacy service (and/or any mistakes I have made or things I have missed). Comments and corrections welcome!
Another aspect is that the $8.723 million total paid to Tides Advocacy sometime before June 30, 2020 was presumably invested before any payments were made (the Knowledge Equity Fund grantees for example were only announced in September 2021), so the question arises who benefited from the investment income. Andreas JN466 13:25, 1 January 2023 (UTC)Reply
10% service fee? Levivich (talk) 20:19, 16 January 2023 (UTC)Reply
That is what I was wondering, too; but it would be an order of magnitude more than what is customary, judging from an online search for "donor-advised fund" and "service fee". Andreas JN466 20:41, 16 January 2023 (UTC)Reply
Almost a full month has passed without any response by WMF regarding the $400,000 gap as detailed by Andreas. It should not be necessary for Andreas to even do this sort of backing out of funds. Rather, WMF should disclose the information freely, as Andreas is making best-guess estimates. Wikimedia is a non-profit organization with complete transparency... we thought. Instead, the reality and possible diversion of funds to WMF Staff's personal crusades (rather than to the Wikipedia projects) no longer seems like a conspiracy theory at all. Andreas is correct, by the way, in assessing the $400,000 gap, if a service fee, as an order of magnitude greater than customary for donor-advised funds.--FeralOink (talk) 19:59, 7 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

Response from Wikimedia Foundation edit

Hello @Jehochman, Bluerasberry, Yair rand, Jayen466, FeralOink, and Levivich: I wanted to follow up with you on the questions about the update of the funds that were given to Tides Advocacy. Tides Advocacy was given $8.723 million in the 2019-2020 financial year: $4.5 million for the Knowledge Equity Fund and $4.223 million to fund 2020-2021 Annual Plan Grants (APG).

The Wikimedia Foundation financial year 2020-2021 was the last year of the Annual Plan Grants program. The grant agreements were held directly with Tides Advocacy and the Wikimedia Annual Plan Grantees were required to submit their proposals on meta.

In the table below you can find the dates that Tides Advocacy disbursed funds to the APG grantees, the amounts in the local currency, the USD exchange rate at the time of disbursement and the link to their proposals on meta. The total amount of funding sent to all APG grantees was $4,085,608.42 the difference is primarily between the $4.223 million is due to currency exchange.

Each organization has reasons for how they report in their form 990. We think the major difference here is that disbursements were done in two installments and split between Tides Advocacy’s financial years.

I hope this clears up all your questions around the APG funds that were held by Tides Advocacy.

Table 1: APG grants
Organization Name: Account Name Payment Amount Recommended Currency Payment Amount Recommended Total Amount Paid (USD) Grant Proposal on Meta Paid Date
Asociación Civil Wikimedia Argentina USD 82,983.00 $276,611.00 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Argentina/Proposal form 9/8/2021
Asociación Civil Wikimedia Argentina USD 193,628.00 3/5/2021
The Centre for Internet and Society INR 4,396,493.00 $199,049.93 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 2/The Centre for Internet and Society/Proposal form - Meta 2/14/2022
The Centre for Internet and Society INR 10,258,483.00 7/26/2021
Udruženje Vikimedija Srbije EUR 17,630.23 $90,666.64 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Serbia/Proposal form 8/17/2021
Udruženje Vikimedija Srbije EUR 69,650.00 1/7/2021
Vereniging Wikimedia Nederland EUR 105,600.00 $372,885.57 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Nederland/Proposal form 9/8/2021
Vereniging Wikimedia Nederland EUR 246,400.00 1/7/2021
Wiki Education Foundation USD 123,600.00 $412,000.00 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wiki Education Foundation/Proposal form - Meta 9/10/2021
Wiki Education Foundation USD 288,400.00 12/22/2020
Wikimedia Česká republika, z. s. CZK 899,641.45 $142,198.83 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Czech Republic/Proposal form 9/8/2021
Wikimedia Česká republika, z. s. CZK 2,099,163.38 1/22/2021
Wikimédia France EUR 127,500.00 $503,426.99 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 2/Wikimédia France/Proposal form - Meta 2/14/2022
Wikimédia France EUR 297,500.00 6/30/2021
Wikimedia Indonesia USD 98,240.10 $327,467.00 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 2/Wikimedia Indonesia/Proposal form 2/16/2022
Wikimedia Indonesia USD 229,226.90 7/1/2021
Wikimedia Israel ILS 332,175.00 $343,298.01 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Israel/Proposal form 8/17/2021
Wikimedia Israel ILS 775,075.00 1/7/2021
Wikimedia Norge NOK 608,730.00 $238,269.16 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 2/Wikimedia Norge/Proposal form 2/14/2022
Wikimedia Norge NOK 1,420,370.00 6/24/2021
Wikimedia Österreich EUR 81,885.00 $334,455.03 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Österreich/Proposal form 9/8/2021
Wikimedia Österreich EUR 191,065.00 1/12/2021
Wikimedia Sverige SEK 911,550.00 $366,411.08 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia Sverige/Proposal form 9/8/2021
Wikimedia Sverige SEK 2,126,950.00 1/14/2021
Wikimedia UK GBP 103,500.00 $478,869.18 Grants:APG/Proposals/2020-2021 round 1/Wikimedia UK/Proposal form 10/19/2021
Wikimedia UK GBP 241,500.00 1/14/2021
TOTAL $4,085,608.42
Table 2: Knowledge Equity Fund Round 1
Organization Name: Account Name Payment Amount Recommended Currency Payment Amount Recommended Total Amount Paid (USD) Paid Date
Borealis Philanthropy USD $250,000.00 $250,000.00 7/2/2021
Fonden ARIJ International USD $250,000.00 $250,000.00 8/6/2021
Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice Inc. USD $130,000.00 $260,000.00 12/13/2022
Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice Inc. USD $130,000.00 8/31/2021
InternetLab USD $100,000.00 $200,000.00 11/1/2022
InternetLab USD $100,000.00 8/17/2021
Media Foundation for West Africa USD $150,000.00 $150,000.00 9/30/2021
The STEM en Route to Change Foundation Inc. USD $125,000.00 $125,000.00 11/1/2021
TOTAL $1,235,000.00

Three of the Knowledge Equity Fund Round 1 grantees were two-year grants based on their project proposals, of which 1 is still pending final disbursement. --KEchavarriqueen (WMF) (talk) 15:07, 17 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

Thank you very much for your detailed response. My question is answered. Thank you. Jehochman (talk) 17:03, 17 February 2023 (UTC)Reply
@KEchavarriqueen (WMF): Thank you for taking the trouble now – this table is good to have. I will review it in detail. Clearly some of these payments will then only appear in Tides Advocacy's 2022 Form 990, due out at the end of this year.
Still, I believe it is worth noting for now that these funds were transferred to Tides Advocacy sometime in the 2019–2020 financial year. However, per the above table they were only paid out to Wikimedia affiliates one or even two years later.
Throughout this time (do correct me if I am wrong), these funds would have added to Tides Advocacy's overall holdings and earned Tides Advocacy an investment income.
This is money the WMF would have earned if it had added these funds to its own investment portfolio (which in the year ending June 2020 earned an income of around 5%, per page 3 and page 11). Or did Tides Advocacy donate income generated from this money – money which it held in trust for the WMF – to the WMF? Andreas JN466 20:28, 18 February 2023 (UTC)Reply
This is sloppy. I apologize. Andreas determined that $8,723,000 was given over by the Wikimedia Foundation to Tides Advocacy, sometime before June 30, 2020. $4.5 million was for the Knowledge Equity Fund (KEF) and $4,223,000 for Annual Plan Grants (APG). 1st Round KEF grantees were announced September 8, 2021.
WMF FY2019-2020 = July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020
WMF FY2020-2021 = July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021
$8.723 million Xfrd by WMF to Tides during WMF FY2019-2020
$4.5 million for the KEF
$4.223 million to fund WMF FY2020-2021 Annual Plan Grants (APG).
8,723,000 = 4,500,000 + 4,223,000
The WMF FY2020-2021 Audit Report indicates that for the WMF fiscal year ending June 30, 2020 (FY2019-2020), the WMF investment portfolio return was 5%. Tides Advocacy was in possession of the $8,723,000 APG and KEF funds for a minimum of four fiscal quarters, i.e. during the entirety of the 2020-2021 fiscal year ending on June 30, 2021 (as well as most of the first quarter of the 2021-2022 fiscal year, from July 1, 2021 to September 8, 2021. Let's round that to September 30, 2021, which works out to five fiscal quarters). The return on assets for that time interval would be equal to $8,723,000 x 0.05 x 1.25 = $545,187.
KEchavarriqueen (WMF), What is the status of this investment income?
The total amount of funding sent to all APG grantees was $4,085,608.42
4,223,000 - 4,085,608 = $137,392 is lost due to currency conversion fluctuations.
137,392 / 4,223,000 = 3.25% is the percentage loss. Why don't you hedge that risk, given the return on investment is merely 5.0%
KQueen, you said 3 of the KEF Round 1 grantees were awarded 2-year grants, one of which is pending final disbursement.
Table: KEF Round 1 ($USD)
Organization / Account Name Payment Amounts Paid Date
Borealis Philanthropy $250,000.00 7/2/2021
Fonden ARIJ International $250,000.00 8/6/2021
Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice Inc. $130,000.00 12/13/2022
Institute for Intellectual Property and Social Justice Inc. $130,000.00 8/31/2021
InternetLab $100,000.00 11/1/2022
InternetLab $100,000.00 8/17/2021
Media Foundation for West Africa $150,000.00 9/30/2021
The STEM en Route to Change Foundation Inc. $125,000.00 11/1/2021
TOTAL $1,235,000.00
I see two KEF grantees, Institute for Intellectual Property & Social Justice and InternetLab, being awarded grants spread over two years. Is SeRCH Foundation the third KEF grantee that is still awaiting their 2nd disbursement? Is the amount to be $125,000?
WMF transferred $4,500,000 to Tides during WMF FY2019-2020 for the entire KEF. All funds except for the final one (as mentioned in my prior inquiry above) have been disbursed as of February 20, 2023. The total amount disbursed to KEF Round 1 grantees to-date is $1,235,000. Let's assume that will be $125,000. Is this the amount remaining in the KEF?
4,500,000 - (1,235,000 + 125,000) = $3,140,000
Tides will hold this sum of $3,140,000 for WMF under the current plan. If there are KEF Rounds 2, 3, and 4, Tides will continue to earn at least a 5% annual return on WMF's money until the KEF is entirely depleted. Has this been considered?
A few closing observations. I read the Borealis Racial Justice in Journalism Fund webpage, a KEF grant recipient of $250,000. I realized that it is one of 9 funds that are part of the Borealis organization, which is a "philanthropic intermediary". So, they take a cut of the money before doling it out as they see fit. I had a look at a Stanford Social Innovation Review article about philanthropic intermediaries; they are very popular. How is it possible to evaluate the effectiveness of this Racial Justice in Journalism grant, given that it is being disbursed to (possibly a multitude of) recipients by middle-man Borealis? Do you have criteria and metrics with which to make an assessment? I was underwhelmed by Borealis's interview of the new Director of their Racial Justice in Journalism Fund (November 4, 2021). Did any members of the WMF KEF grant maker team read this?
I'll stop here. I could keep going, and perhaps WMF has answers for all of these due diligence inquiries. I hope so but I feel uneasy at the lack of transparency that led me to spend several hours on this. I do these sort of inquiries IRL and am well-compensated for it. I'm unemployed at the moment, and would happily structure and organize WMF Foundation non-Wikipedia grant finances and performance metrics if I were an actual WMF staff member, but alas, I am not. I am also uncertain why external organizations are receiving millions of dollars from WMF for racial justice causes rather than using those funds for WMF's cause, which is Wikipedia.--FeralOink (talk) 12:54, 21 February 2023 (UTC)Reply

US defaultism edit

Why does this fund propagate US race science instead of the more nuanced, less problematic ethnicity based approach? Many under-represented groups are arbitrarily excluded from funding while already overrepresented groups such as african identifying americans gain a needless boost. Insular behavior such as this makes wikipedia feel like an ever increasingly hostile platform to non-americans. SpiffyProspectus (talk) 10:08, 31 May 2023 (UTC)Reply

Hello, SpiffyProspectus. I read a similar comment (similar as the one you made above) in the Hacker News/ ycombinator thread that was discussed at great length back in October 2022. You are entirely correct about Wikipedia having an increasingly disproportionate emphasis on what you describe as african identifying americans while disregarding most of the rest of the world including Africans in Africa, the Global South, western Europe, central Asia, and so forth. (I am not complaining about your terminology, as it is difficult to say anything about anyone in the U.S. recently, because we are so polarized and riven by identity politics, historical revisionism, and innumerable grievances.) The reason that one might be come to the conclusion that Wikipedia is a hostile platform to non-Americans is that the Wikimedia administration as well as the Wikimedia Foundation administration have chosen to focus on what are US-centric pet causes that have increasingly less direct relevance to the open knowledge movement and building an encyclopedia. I am getting weary of the non-action of the Wikimedia administrative apparatus (which has grown to 100s of employees, very few of whom work on directly on the project e.g. developers, or ADEQUATELY SUPERVISED country or regional Wikipedia offices.) Your phrasing was quite mild, truly. Andreas, Blue Raspberry, Yair Levine and a few others have been trying to help correct course with more transparency, metrics, accountability, and disclosure for literally years now. Nothing happens.
I am going to try one more time. SJ, there is no reason to keep all the Foundation funds with Tides. Yes, I realize this the Knowledge Equity Fund fiasco is only a small fraction of the total endowment, say, 5% even for the two year projects. The other $95 million should not be subject to the same caliber of management, decision-making, and transparency/disclosure as the Knowledge Equity Fund.
Wikimedia CANNOT continue to allow Tides to have custody and investment control of the WMF Foundation funds. As I have said repeatedly, in multiple conversations, Tides has the authority to invest our money however they want. Not only that, but the terms of the donor-advised fund agreement allows Tides to OVER-RULE WMF if WMF should want to use our money for a purpose that Tides does not consider consistent with its charitable objectives.
Tides is a U.S. (again, US-centric as broached by Spiffy!) liberal social justice philanthropic non-profit whose ideas about charitable giving reflect a particular sort of American socio-economic and political class that aligns with the ideas and beliefs of a lot of Wikimedia staff yet has little or nothing to do with the global scope and objectives of the Wikimedia project.
The WMF has a list of names of people who work at asset management companies, are NOT WMF staff, and are putative "advisors" but they don't do any money management work for the Foundation because Tides has all the money. We don't need all of them and Tides!
This is what we need to do.
  1. get our money back from Tides
  2. deposit our money in a bank or money management company account for 501(c)(3)s--that's us, a non-profit.
  3. we should NOT establish a financial relationship with any institutions with similar risk profiles as Silicon Valley Bank or First Republic, or that are used by venture capital types in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is quite easy to discern which financial institutions are or aren't of that sort, using financial analysis of the accounting variety.
  4. next, we need write up some conservative investment objectives that will yield at least 5% annually with minimal to zero down-side risk. Until we work that out, the money can be kept in a money market fund with our depositary institution.
Someone, and sooner or later, two or three someones, should be full-time Wikimedia staff and do reporting, post quarterly spending (balance sheet, income etc.), investment earnings, make sure that we have a CPA for our annual IRS 990 tax filings, present to the WMF board and to our editors and the public, and of course, respond to disbursement requests from WMF, to fund activities and grants that are suitable for the global Wikimedia project.--FeralOink (talk) 05:04, 1 July 2023 (UTC)Reply
Thanks for this question: we have moved the money out of Tides in early June 2023 and will administer all grants around the Equity Fund from the WMF going forward. You will see more details on our upcoming grantees in the next few weeks on Diff. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 18:36, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply

I agree this is an issue. The WMF seems to believe that a USA entity on its own is able to pick which projects around the world are suitable to counter systemic societal issues on which it has exactly zero experience (like literacy). This, in itself, is a sign of a colonialist attitude. Nemo 09:49, 28 October 2023 (UTC)Reply

Assessing benefit (and whether that benefit is sufficient) edit

Hello @NGunasena (WMF), about 10 months ago I raised several questions querying both the equity fund process and how the benefit of the various recipients was being assessed (both up-front and then checking the grant was being used effectively).

My final question was not just was this money beneficially spent, but was it more beneficially spent for the WMF's mission than spending it internally, to which the key bit of your answer was Pilot projects like the Equity Fund are an important ingredient in this mix, as they help us explore additional ways to support free knowledge and widen the ecosystem of organizations that partner with us. I am not sure how to prove a hypothetical, that this funding is more effective than spending it in x place, but to your point it will be important for us to share and discuss the lessons learned from the first round of grantees and how we can move forward..

Well, this is now the 2nd year of grants, so a pilot has now run (accepting that 2 recipients had 2-year grants). But I'm concerned on several core aspects which should have been adequately completed for the fund to continue to a 2nd year:

  1. I've read 3 of the narrative & fiscal report pairs. One did a reasonable job at proving the merits of the grant, whereas the others just covered what the grant was used for - without giving sufficient knowledge as to whether that grant was actually of significant use for the size of the grant. On the internal side, what review was done to see if the money was ultimately well spent? Could this be posted publicly?
  2. For those that did cover the usefulness, we can now look back at a non-hypothetical equity grant and see if its funds were of more or less use to the WMF's mission than internal spending of that value (or, at least, certain known value/costs, such as the benefit of x additional devs, translators etc - I grant that the benefits of certain proposed WMF expenditure for last year could not be accurately guessed). How did the grants hold up in this vein?
  3. Some significant changes were made to the structure of the process, but I'm intrigued by the lack of community engagement in steps to date. I can see calls scheduled and so on, but I'm not aware of notice to individuals, I can't remember seeing it on front page of meta (but may well have missed it) - was notice of updates/calls/etc pushed out to the list of village pump equivalents?
  4. Is there any indication of why people aren't paying attention - the equity fund gets a lot of chatter in other forums, and I imagine the 2nd list of recipients will encourage more. Is it that no (or almost no) editors genuinely have an interest? Or is it because they're not aware of questions being asked/updates being given? Is it because people care mostly its very existence and the only time views were registered there (in iteration 1 of the recommendations and on this talk page) they were either not responded to, as in the recommendation, or not considered? Or if a mix, what the dominant one/two? Nosebagbear (talk) 12:50, 4 August 2023 (UTC)Reply
Apologies for the delay here @Nosebagbear. I want to check on the response to one of your questions with one of my colleagues who's been out - I will get back to you next week with answers to your questions. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 18:26, 11 August 2023 (UTC)Reply
Hi, thanks for the update, look forward to reading the answers :) Nosebagbear (talk) 19:54, 11 August 2023 (UTC)Reply
I’m very sorry for the delay in posting a response to Nosebagbear’s questions above. Since there have been renewed requests to answer these questions, we wanted to provide an answer on these points:
The first two points are about the relative value of the Equity Fund grants in relation to what else we could have spent the money on. I don’t think it's effective to compare a 250K grant versus a 250K expense in the Foundation’s operational budget; this money was set aside from the 2020 operating budget to address knowledge equity, as one of the two pillars outlined in the strategic direction for the movement. I think the question to ask is if these grants effectively addressed the goal of knowledge equity and how impactful the organizations involved were.
To this question, best practices from grantmaking tell us that measuring impact with long term issues such as racial inequities in free knowledge can be very difficult in a 12 month period. What we asked of each of the organizations was to share how they measure their long term impact as well as share how the funds were used to support their longer term mission. However, we acknowledged in our recent community call that we can improve our reporting moving forward. With the second round of grantees we will have a more standardized format for reporting which links their activities to the outcomes to the goals of the fund.
Points 3 and 4 are about community engagement. We did not have any calls solely about the Equity Fund’s second round. The Equity Fund was named as one of the initiatives supporting equity in the Foundation’s Annual Plan, and we hosted multiple community conversations during the feedback period for the Annual Plan in April 2023, where we encouraged questions and input. We did not receive any questions about the Equity Fund during these consultations. To this point again, we acknowledge that we can do a better job of communications and outreach to the Wikimedia movement as a Committee, and have recently outlined a strategy for more engagement including more frequent community calls.
As part of the committee managing the Equity Fund, we want more engagement. For the second round, we actually received more than 40 nominations from community members and staff through a Google form and Limesurvey that we had running to collect ideas. That’s not a large number given the size of our movement but it was encouraging to see that kind of interest. However, we also recognize that we need to do more to go to where people are having conversations. For this second round, we have proactively reached out to movement affiliates and user groups to connect them with the round two grantees, especially those that may have connections because of their region or their area of focus. We have connected the grantees via email to help them understand more about how to connect with the movement and how their work can contribute to the Wikimedia projects. I think it would also be valuable to have grantees go to regional conferences and participate in other movement events, which they are keen to do. I’m open to ideas about other ways to encourage and get more ideas and engagement. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 16:27, 9 November 2023 (UTC)Reply

English Wikipedia coverage and criticism edit

For folks monitoring this page (@Nosebagbear etc.), see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:BilledMammal/2023_Fundraising_RfC#Wikimedia_Foundation_grants_processes Piotrus (talk) 13:13, 26 August 2023 (UTC)Reply

Upcoming call and open Q&A edit

With the announcement of the Knowledge Equity Fund’s round 2 grantees, we’ve seen a lot of questions and feedback about the Knowledge Equity Fund, how the Committee works and how the work of the grantees will contribute to the projects and to the movement. To help answer these questions, the Knowledge Equity Fund Committee will host a community conversation on Friday, October 6, 2023 at 1400 UTC to hear ideas, concerns and to answer questions. The Committee would also like to hear ideas for how the fund should be used in the upcoming third round of grantmaking.

To register for this conversation, please email us at EquityFund@wikimedia.org You can also send us questions beforehand. The call will be held in English and we will have interpretation in Spanish; if you would like interpretation into other languages please let us know. If you’re not able to attend, we will also share notes and a written list of Q&A after the call. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 14:41, 29 September 2023 (UTC)Reply

Thanks, that was a constructive call. All credit to Nosebagbear, who was nothing if not eloquent and thorough: his questions and comments above were a more caringly-worded version of some of the questions raised in the call. Those questions were responded to with encouragement, but not with an indication that answers already existed online. NGunasena might it be possible to answer his questions above?
If we don't currently have time or capacity to estimate the impact of such grants, one of the suggestions I appreciated from the call was that each grant might be accompanied by matching support for an appropriate community group, or a Wikimedian in residence, endeavoring to make the grantee's work, past and present, more accessible to and interoperable with the wikiverse. –SJ talk  06:14, 8 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
Thanks @Sj - yes, I'll share some answers to Nosebagbear's questions above as well. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 00:28, 11 October 2023 (UTC)Reply

Questions edit

Thank you for your answers to all of the questions. However, while your response to question 7 did provide useful context about the KEF, it didn't address the primary question of whether the Foundation would be willing to conduct a securepoll vote to ensure that the community endorsed a third round of grants before proceeding with it. Are you able to address that question? BilledMammal (talk) 22:15, 11 October 2023 (UTC)Reply

Hi @BilledMammal, thanks for sharing that question on the call. As you've seen, we posted the detailed notes from the call on the Meta page too. We are looking for feedback and deeper engagement on the Equity Fund. I'm not sure that a securepoll vote gets us that deeper engagement, but we'd like to host more community calls, go to other spaces where there are already community conversations happening and be more present onwiki, all to hear that kind of feedback on the Equity Fund and areas of funding. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 18:57, 12 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
I'm glad to hear that you are looking for feedback and deeper engagement; I think those are very important. However, what I'm asking is whether you are willing to ensure that the community endorses a third round, and if they don't if you are willing to cancel it. One option to do that would be a securepoll; another would be an RfC at meta. BilledMammal (talk) 15:22, 13 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
She already answered this above. Because the Equity Fund is focused on grants to groups outside of the movement, decisions around choosing grantees will be made by the Equity Fund Committee instead of direct community vote.
To advocate for changing this position, I think you need to show that there is strong consensus in favor of a different approach. That doesn't exist right now, so far as I can tell from the relatively tiny response to your RFC on English Wikipedia, which hasn't even been closed. Steven Walling • talk 19:42, 14 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
That's a different question to the one I am asking here; I am asking if NGunasena and the rest of the KEF team are willing to confirm that the community approves the entire endeavor, and if it turns out that the community does not cancel it.
Incidentally, I wouldn't classify 56 responses as "tiny". BilledMammal (talk) 01:43, 16 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
@NGunasena (WMF): Sorry NGunasena; I meant to ping you above but I accidentally pinged a different editor. BilledMammal (talk) 10:32, 20 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
Nadee recently posted Knowledge Equity Fund#Follow-up from Knowledge Equity Fund community call some next steps and changes we’re making, based on the community call from two weeks ago. I don't think asking a binary question about the KEF’s third round with a yes/no answer will be as beneficial as taking on some of these changes and feedback, doing more outreach to get more and relevant candidates for the third round, and involving more people in the overall process. We are committed to knowledge equity and to exploring ways to address the racial gaps in knowledge on our projects, and want to do that alongside communities. KEchavarriqueen (WMF) (talk) 18:24, 30 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
So that means that there is no way for contributors to reject the idea of sending to other organizations money raised explicitly for Wikimedia projects? This has the potential to have a serious negative impact on trust and credibility of the fund-raising process and of the whole organization. Many editors (including myself) already stopped donating money in response to the lack of transparency and community consultations (real ones, where the community actually decides) on how this money is spent. Ita140188 (talk) 19:14, 30 October 2023 (UTC)Reply
I don't think asking a binary question about the KEF’s third round with a yes/no answer will be as beneficial as taking on some of these changes and feedback, doing more outreach to get more and relevant candidates for the third round, and involving more people in the overall process. KEchavarriqueen, is there any reason you can't do both? Take on the changes and feedback etc, and then ask the community whether the third round should proceed?
If the changes are sufficient to address community concerns then the community will say "yes"; if they aren't, the community will say "no". Either way, isn't it better that the WMF acts with the community, rather than against it? BilledMammal (talk) 03:46, 31 October 2023 (UTC)Reply

Re: Community call after round 2 edit

most of the work in these grants is under a free license

Are there any links available to such freely licensed works? I couldn't find anything and all the websites seemed to be "all rights reserved". (Some of the PDFs also contained unclickable links. Spelling out the URLs may help.) Nemo 10:06, 28 October 2023 (UTC)Reply

I second @Nemo bis question here. I was trying to find free content associated with these grantees, but I couldn't find it easily. Where is it? - Darwin Ahoy! 12:06, 28 November 2023 (UTC)Reply
@DarwIn and @Nemo bis, I’m really sorry for the late reply. To your question, I wanted to share some of the research from two of our grantees in Round 1 - InternetLab (https://revista.internetlab.org.br/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/AF_revilab.09.v3n2_100223.pdf) and ARIJ's "Meeting the Challenges of Information Disorder in the Global South". Both of those reports are CC-BY-SA 4.0.
I recognize this is not a comprehensive list of all the reports and documents created by our Round 1 grantees. The first round grantees had varying references to licenses in their contracts, but all were educated on the projects and the importance of free licensing. We realized that did not go far enough, and in the second round, we moved to mandating the use of free licenses in the contracts for all grantees. NGunasena (WMF) (talk) 22:57, 8 December 2023 (UTC)Reply
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