Talk:WMF 2016-17 Annual Planning Recommendation

Active discussions

Questions addressed to the FDCEdit

What do you think is most important to accomplish with a public, transparent annual planning process?Edit

E.g. is it transparency of planning itself, community feedback on plan, reporting, or something else?

  • One of the first questions asked in the APG application form is "How does your organization know what community members / contributors to online projects need or want? Does your organization conduct needs assessments or consult the contributors and volunteers most involved with its work?". The purpose of this question, as far as I can tell, is to assess whether the applicant has the support of its stakeholder Wikimedia community to fulfil the activities listed in the plan. The theory being - there's no point in funding a WIkimedia organisation that is working contrary to the needs of the community. The crucial caveats to this are a) there is no such thing as "the community" (singular); b) the desires of one stakeholder can conflict with the desires of another; and c) simply 'doing what most people said they wanted' is just mob-rule.
Notwithstanding these caveats, I'd see one of the most important things to accomplish with a public, transparent annual planning process is to restore a sense of collegiality between the WMF, the editing communities, and affiliate organisations. We need to feel like we are all "rowing in the same direction, in the same boat". Currently, the abiding feeling that I have (personal opinion) is that the WMF keeps changing the direction that it is rowing - without telling its own staff, let alone the wider community. This is not only a huge waste of its own tangible resources (money, time, people) but also of its intangible assets (goodwill, volunteer motivation). Wittylama (talk) 14:10, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • As mentioned elsewhere in this talkpage, one of the key purposes of the WMF undergoing the same (or similar) process to APG applicants is to demonstrate leadership and best-practices. The way that the WMF undertakes the APG process should be able to be used as a model that can be adapted by other applicants for their own future APG applications - either as something to aspire to, or alternatively, a minimum acceptable standard. For example, with all the resources it has available to it, if the WMF cannot use the Global Metrics system or cannot break its total budget into reasonable detail then it should not expect APG applicants to do the same. On the other hand, if the WMF choses a particular format for displaying its budget, then it would be very useful to link to the rationale for that style of accounting as a best practice for other affiliates to follow. Wittylama (talk) 14:10, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • Personally, I think that the first two points are the most important. Transparent planning and seeking community feedback are part and parcel of the same thing, and both will help ensure that the WMF and the community are aligned in what they are trying to achieve. I view the reporting aspect as a check that what was planned actually took place, or that changes to the plans were sensible, both of which I would hope would also be community-transparent. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:59, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I think the most important part is the process of actually developing a plan that the WMF intends to follow. I expect that the initial proposal will benefit significantly from being transparent and from receiving community feedback and commentary. It will improve buy-in, and will also identify the processes to which the WMF will hold itself accountable. Risker (talk) 02:43, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
  • The most important issue is keeping the WMF and the community aligned. This is a two-way process, with the WMF effectively showing its work and its activities (transparency) and the community actively contributing to the process (participation). And of course, a better annual plan is one of the main expected outcomes! - Laurentius (talk) 22:24, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

What elements of the annual plan review process are most critical for accomplishing this?Edit

  • I note that the proposal commits to "WMF budget / program owners should be responsive to on-wiki questions". I understand that it would be unfair to enforce a rule that "all questions must be answered" because I can confidently predict that some questions will be daft, and other questions will be repeating the same point regardless of how detailed the first response is. Nevertheless, I believe that one critical element for accomplishing the "sense of collegiality" and the "demonstrated leadership" that I mentioned in my response to the first question is the direct involvement from WMF executive in publicly "owning" the decisions being made. This is an annual plan (and also, to some degree, a strategic plan) discussion and therefore it needs to be led from the top. Of course questions on areas of detailed programatic specificity would need to be answered by the program managers themselves, but this is a time when the leadership needs to be very visibly leading. Wittylama (talk) 14:39, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • First and foremost, I view the requirement that the applying organisations respond to questions on the talk page for their proposal as a fundamental and crucial part of the process. Yes, as Liam notes, sometimes they will be daft and repetitive questions, but more often I find them relevant (if sometimes a bit pointy), and they always reflect a given community viewpoint so they are normally worth answering. However, the requirement to set out plans clearly and transparently in the proposal, and the peer-review process by the FDC, are also very important. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:02, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I expect to see clear, achievable plans that (a) identify, recognize and explain the budgeting for existing programs/products including recognition that they will require continued attention and improvement; (b) include funding models to manage longterm impact of new programs - how they will continue to be supported in the future and how that will impact the "bottom line" or minimal future funding; (c) identify programs or projects that have run their course and will be wound down; and (d) demonstrate a clear sense of prioritization, i.e., what will get priority if all of the requested funding is not granted or available. I want to know, also, about programs or projects for which external funding/grants will be sought, again indicating if they're short-term (will be stopped without requiring continued attention) or will continue to be funded after the grant runs out. I am quite concerned that we've been seeing a lot of short-term planning and product development without recognition that there are longterm implications to developing new products which need support for years to come (or need to be decommissioned), while dropping support for fundamental infrastructure. Risker (talk) 03:57, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

What do you see as the key challenges or strengths of WMF going through the annual plan process outlined in the current recommendation?Edit

  • The combination of "Process without teeth" and "Timing of annual plan...so not much time for adjustment based on recommendations" could combine to greatly undermine the usefulness of the process. If, despite the best will in the world for an inclusive process, it resulted in the exact same annual plan being adopted by the board that was originally published, then it would feel like "consultation theatre".
The two reasons why the FDC process works (in my own, obviously biased, opinion since I'm on the FDC), is 1) because the committee and applicants are extremely well-supported and 2) because its recommendations have "teeth". I believe these are reasons why the quality of the applications have improved every year. Furthermore, I believe the "teeth" of the process come from two two reasons: 1) the fact that the recommendations are taken seriously at the WMF Board level, and 2) because the process is repeated each year meaning that there are genuine consequences if the applicant choses to ignore the recommendations.
Therefore, to help address this risk, I would suggest: 1) the WMF Board make a statement before the process is concluded that they support the process and will take the resulting recommendations "seriously". The Board needs to imbue the process with legitimacy. 2) That the WMF commits to following up in subsequent years with the same (or modified/equivalent) process - in order that it can be accountable to how it responded to this year's recommendations. Wittylama (talk) 14:27, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • One concern I've heard is that the FDC would not be able to effectively review the WMF's annual plan because it's too big and detailed. I respectfully disagree (noting my obvious bias since I'm on the FDC!). I believe that so long as the committee is supported - and this includes having a strong public review/comment phase (c.f. Linus's Law), and a strong alternative to the 'staff review' phase (I've given several options elsewhere on this page) - then the FDC can make an effective review. Notably, the timeline of the process would need to include the ability for the WMF Board to receive the FDC recommendations and act on them accordingly (i.e. request changes be made). Wittylama (talk) 16:09, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
    • Both public and expert support while making a recommendation would be highly benefitial. Other possible solution is splitting the work. If WMF's Annual Plan will be as big and complicated as some imagine, we can e.g. split it on 3 parts for 3 FDC Members each, which could investigage it deeply and present highlights, insights & recommendations to the whole body. aegis maelstrom δ 21:23, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I completely agree with everything that Liam's said here. :-) Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:04, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • As mentioned below, good evaluation of the annual plan would require FDC to better understand current WMF strategy, as well as environment, capabilities and all the other things we refer as a context. Additionally to this general knowledge, I predict many specific needs to come up; scope of activities and patterns of communication in case of WMF are very different from any affiliate and particular items given to evaluation may require more elaboration and transparency to be understood by outsiders like FDC. Therefore I expect some more tightened contact with WMF Board, other responsible bodies and Staff (often providing expertise, e.g. Advancement team, or simply explaining particular items) will be benefitial. aegis maelstrom δ 02:14, 18 December 2015 (UTC)
  • This is not really related to the APG process, rather to planning itself, but I expect that the WMF to look much further in the future than most chapters (as pointed out also by Risker below), because it needs to ensure long term support for the Wikimedia projects. This is probably more part of strategic planning than annual planning, but it's reflected in annual plans too. - Laurentius (talk) 16:44, 18 December 2015 (UTC)

What do you think of the proposed solution for having a staff assessment created through a participatory affiliate process at Wikimedia Conference 2016?Edit

Do you believe it might be useful for you? Do you have other ideas instead?

  • I think some kind of review that equates to the staff assessment concept would be useful, yes. The proposal states " 'Staff assessment' to be collaboratively developed by a group of affiliates at WMCon 2016". However, it is not clear how this group would be selected or whether there would be any specific time allocated to this task during the WMCon schedule. I think some expansion on those points would clarify this particular proposal's viability. Wittylama (talk) 22:02, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
Sure. I can spell out this nascent idea a bit. The idea is to hold a session at WMCon with the outcome of the session being a staff assessment type document, overview and critique of WMF's proposed plan. The timing might work out well--WMCON will be more than 3 weeks after WMF's v1 plan will be published, and a few weeks prior to the deliberations. The session would not be limited to chapter EDs (but could certainly include them!) and could be open to anyone attending WMCon, with the possibility of having remote participation more broadly for others to join. Some significant preparation would be required for both the facilitators and the potential participants. What do you think of that? KLove (WMF) (talk) 21:48, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
I think having a session at WMCon from the WMF executive to do a presentation of the plan and then a recorded Q&A session is a worthwhile thing to do regardless of anything else. The timing of WMCon is quite convenient - as you say - so NOT using the occasion to obtain feedback in some format would be a waste. However I suspect that an open-session (especially if there's remote participation) would result in a collection of disparate comments rather than a piece of structured feedback akin to a "staff report". These are still valuable (and could be added to the talkpage on Meta afterwards for posterity). But if the aim is to use WMcon to make a coherent document then "a session" during the event is not going to be sufficient to discuss the issues, come to consensus, and then also to write about it. Wittylama (talk) 13:15, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
Wittylama, yes, we must seek out multiple ways to provide feedback. You might be right that it would be quite difficult to create something well structured with deep analysis at WMCon, and it would probably be quite challenging to reach consensus. Instead, we might be more likely to end up with a list of thoughts and feedback. Which, as you say, would be important to capture somehow, given the opportunity and timeline. KLove (WMF) (talk) 04:40, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
As for alternative ideas, here's three that could be used independently or in combination with the WMCon suggestion and/or each other:
  1. Ask the Chapter ED's group. This is somewhat similar to the way WMDE was asked to give the "staff assessment" in 2013-14 but instead by asking that small community of people who are from a diverse background but also have a the world's best expertise in the area of "writing annual plans in context of the Wiki-verse"! Of course, they might not have the time to do this, but I think this might also have the specific side-effect of improving the quality of their own applications in the future because they have a broader insight into the APG process. It would be up to them the level of detail and effort they wanted to invest in this, whether they wished to make their report public/private and whether they wished have their staff involved in some capacity.
  2. Ask WMF staff anonymously. The WMF staff normally responsible for making the staff assessments, or in-fact a much larger group of staff, would be very well placed to give very insightful feedback on their own organisation's annual plan. The trick, obviously, would be to create a way whereby the staff could provide their feedback in a way that was sufficiently private so that they felt they could give their honest opinion. People like User:Wolliff (in particular), User:Asaf (WMF), User:Siko_(WMF) are already specifically employed to give capacity development and grantwriting advice to Wikimedian groups, so it would be crazy for the WMF not to utilise that organisational-memory to its fullest. [Note: even if this anonymous system were created, the staff self-assessments would still probably not be made fully public - because even anonymous comments could still be against the principle of staff not disparaging the organisation.]
  3. External professional review. Although the nature of Wikimedia is unique, it could still be very useful asking an audit company with expertise in USA-based volunteer--centric charities for their review of the organisation's plan. Especially in the context of the WMF starting to think about an Endowment, having some professional published advice on how the organisation fares. This is similar to the Guidestar summary of the WMF but specific for this year's annual plan.
Over the years, we (WMF staff, FDC) have discussed this idea and haven't come up with a good solution for who might have the programmatic/technical insight to do this, what a reasonable cost would be, and most importantly, what the movement + WMF would get out of such an engagement. Guidestar is an interesting organization doing important work, though I'm not convinced they would be able to provide useful insights into WMF's plan that would help to improve it. I keep coming back to the question: what we would all get out of this audit, and how would that insight help the FDC and/or the WMF board make comments/decisions about the plan? What problems does the audit solve? KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:11, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
What I would be looking for in such an audit is a means of addressing the single most common critique of FDC (or equivalent wikimedian group) reviewing the WMF plans - that the committee doesn't have the expertise to review something of that scale. I would not be expecting an external organisation to understand the nature of OpenSource software, or the nature of our community. But I WOULD expect that external organisation to have professional expertise in reviewing budgets for USA-Based non-profit organisations. They would be able to give advice on whether salaries are appropriate (given the local context), capital-expenditure is appropriate (the 'cost of new furniture' question that was raised during the last annual plan), fundraising-expenses as a proportion of fundraising-total is appropriate... These are the kind of "context is key" questions that the FDC deals with when reviewing the applications from Affiliates so I think it's fair that we should also have some kind of external professional review of the WMF in the context of the US-Charity sector. This would also be useful, I assume, as a data-point for planning the endowment. Wittylama (talk) 13:15, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
Personally, I would prefer some combination of these options - there's no reason why multiple groups stakeholders couldn't be formally requested to provide their own feedback. Wittylama (talk) 22:02, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I think this is a fantastic idea! We tried before to have WMDE assess part of WMF's plans, which was mostly successful, and it would be good to see this expanded to an inclusive process involving all Wikimedia organisations. I'm less keen on just asking chapter ED's, since I think that's too narrow a group of people - it risks excluding affiliate board members and other Wikimedia staff members. External review is definitely worth thinking about - this could either be done by professional auditors or 'fellow traveller' organisations. Asking the WMF staff anonymously would also be good, but this may make staff uncomfortable even when it's done anonymously. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:08, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • The staff assessment clearly cannot be done by the WMF itself (there is a clear COI. Even if the result is impartial, it would easily attract critics) (it could be anonymous... but still, it would put the staff in an uncomfortable position). Having other affiliates to do it seems a good choice.
Strengths:
  • the affiliates would understand better the process, which in turn may end up in improvements in their own annual plans;
  • it creates a sense of reciprocity / peer review.
Challenges:
  • since different group of people would make the assessment, it's difficult to get the same criteria used.
The last point can be mitigated by having shared procedures among the people who will do the assessments. In the future, it might even evolve in having some affiliates helping with non-WMF applicants' evaluation. - Laurentius (talk) 22:43, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
  • On the Wikimedia Conference in particular, as Liam says, given the timing it would be great to have a session on the WMF annual plan (with presentation & questions). To get a "staff assessment", however, that would probably not be enough; maybe some more time (half a day) for a smaller group? - Laurentius (talk) 22:43, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
    • Yes, staff input would be very benefitial to understand the annual plan and how it would be implemented in details (and, afterwards, how we could evaluate the implementation, what benchmarks could be set upfront and check if we have a closed learning loop - ie identifying some learning patterns and implementing these learnings in WMF to improve). Side note: during the meeting FDC recognized the fact that this process means more work for WMF Staff and was sympathetic, however FDC underlined that the exercise of assessment is not a chore for its own sake but, hopefully, it should allow WMF staff, their oversight and other stakeholders to take their time, take a second look and reevaluate, possibly to make us all more efficient and better goal-oriented. I think it is the intention we had in minds (and, probably, it applies to all stakeholders). aegis maelstrom δ 01:37, 18 December 2015 (UTC)

What challenges do you see for WMF in using the current APG application form?Edit

What would not be useful to include? Is there any additional information you would want to see instead?
(Staff example: staff foresee that including Global Metrics will be a challenge and not very useful for the FDC's review, given that mostly WMF does not focus on direct programs as affiliates do, so we imagine there may be some other outputs you'd rather see instead.)

  • As per the example, I do agree that the Global Metrics would be irrelevant to many of the WMF's areas of work. However! This is not a unique problem of the WMF as all APG applicants have frequently expressed frustrations at trying to shoehorn their proposals into a pre-determined of quantitative metrics. So... yes, the WMF would indeed have trouble using the APG application form in the area of metrics. But, as the saying goes - "what's good for the goose is good for the gander". If the WMF wishes to force much smaller organisations to use its metrics system, then it should use that same system itself.
It is true that the WMF's activities should not be focused on directly creating articles, or uploading images itself, or adding bytes of text... But then again neither should the APG applicants. The purpose of both the WMF and APG applicants are to facilitate the community to do these kinds of things. So, if the WMF cannot use the Global Metrics system for specific areas of its annual plan then it should explain why the global metrics are not applicable to that program and propose alternative metrics and targets for that program. In so doing, the WMF would need to be aware that its words in explaining why the Global Metrics aren't appropriate for certain areas of its work would be re-used by future APG applicants. Alternatively, if the WMF finds it cannot utilise the Global Metrics itself, then it should remove that obligation from future APG applicants too, and provide an alternative solution. Wittylama (talk) 22:02, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I suspect that the WMF will encounter similar challenges with filling out the form that other Wikimedia organisations have also experienced. So please seek out their opinions and insights into the process. :-) It would be good to revise the proposal form to take into account any challenges that the WMF and other organisations experience when they are filling it in. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:10, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • In general, I do not expect WMF's challenges to be much different than other organizations' challenges. - Laurentius (talk) 22:21, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
  • On Global Metrics: the proposal form currently says "All global metrics are required, but you may list a target of zero if there are metrics you do not expect results for". I think this is appropriate for the WMF too - when Global Metrics are not relevant, there will be zeros. However, if there are so many cases in which they are not useful, maybe they are not so global after all, and they might need rethinking. I agree that there will often be more meaningful metrics (and this is true also for the other applicants), but probably they should not be hardcoded into the APG process, but just be among the additional metrics that organizations are encouraged to define in their application. - Laurentius (talk) 22:21, 17 December 2015 (UTC)

Are there any good practices missing from the list?Edit

  • I'd say that one of the purposes of having the WMF undertake the kind of process that is being proposed is to demonstrate best practices to affiliates (or at the very least, demonstrate the minimum acceptable standard). This is not just about the level of detail provided, but also about the kinds of details and the format of those details. For example, in reading all the different APG applications, the FDC has difficulty gauging whether a proposal is an "efficient" use of money with suitably "ambitious" targets, because each applicant reports their budget and their targets in different formats and in different degrees of detail.
So, a major principle as far as I'm concerned is to provide leadership in answering the question "what kind of information, and what degree of detail is required in an APG application?" If the WMF could point to particular accounting-reporting standards and procedures for balancing transparency and privacy (with regards to salary information) that would be a great help to future APG applicants. Wittylama (talk) 13:45, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • One thing I particularly noted from the WM-Sverige application this year was the use of an externally controlled metric as one of the organisation's measurements (go to that link and search for "Medieakademin" to find the details). This has the particular advantage of being a pre-existing benchmark that the organisation can measure itself against, rather than trying to invent metrics for its own purposes. It would be interesting for the WMF to incorporate externally controlled metrics in some way. Wittylama (talk) 15:32, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • To be honest, I'm not too sure what to make of this section. The statement that "this is missing in current FDC process, due to crunched timelines, for all applicants" seems odd - it's not missing, that's part of what the community discussion enables, and it's what's expected of organisations after the FDC's recommendations are released. "Have a person designated as project owner: ideally, this would be WMF's CFO (?)" Yes, I agree with the first part, but the responsibility should lie with the ED rather than the CFO (since a large part of the annual plan is strategic *not* financial). The other points seem sensible, but I don't get why these are being set out here, rather than recognising that this all flows from participating in the FDC process. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:14, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for your honesty, Mike Peel. The list of good practices here is to inform WMF annual planning in the long run. As you know, we've all long been wrestling with how and whether WMF should to participate in the FDC process and have trialled and experimented in a few different ways. And most of these points are indeed addressed if an organization participates in the FDC process. In this section, we list out what we think some of the good practices for *any* annual planning process should be, independent of the FDC process. Do you see any gaps? Thanks! KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:46, 15 December 2015 (UTC)

Other thoughts/advice you'd care to share here?Edit

  • For the "timeline" section at least (and for the whole document in general of course) can I suggest that as far as possible vocabulary should mirror that which is used in the APG guidelines. So things like "FDC reviews WMF annual plan" and "Board approves WMF annual plan" should instead be verbs like "deliberates" or "provides recommendations" and the board should make a "decision". These are the words taken from the Grants:APG/Calendar after all. (not a major deal, just about consistency). Wittylama (talk) 21:09, 14 December 2015 (UTC)
  • The proposed timeline says "January–March 2016 (proposed): WMF finalizes strategy in consultation with community". This implies that the whole strategy process would take a maximum of three months. Either this means that the strategy is already being finalised in private <cough> knowledge engine </cough> and presented as a fait accompli, or that it will be a public process that is rushed in order to meet the timeline proposed.
This problem is already acknowledged in the document ("The organization does not yet have an up-to-date strategy for building its annual plan") and, at least for the 2016-17 annual plan is probably an unavoidable issue. So, I guess as long as this particular, unavoidable, "timing crunch" is acknowledged upfront and a solution is built-in to the following year's planning process then that's a reasonable mitigation. Wittylama (talk) 13:17, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes, Wittylama, we do foresee that the lack of an updated strategy right now is likely to be a problem. We're also thinking about longterm planning in addition to a solution for this 2016-17 fiscal year. KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:54, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • As mentioned in the open questions on the proposal, having someone from the organisation present to the reviewing group (in this case the WMF executive/CFO, but equally from other applicants during the normal APG process) would be a potentially very valuable part of the process. The idea reminds me a lot of the Australia parliamentary process called Senate Estimates hearings - and is an absolutely crucial part of the democratic process. It allows members of parliament who aren't the government to directly question the senior employees of the government department that is being funded. Wittylama (talk) 14:47, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
I'd love to think this one through in more depth, how we navigate parity amongst all organizations, etc. What would you envision, Liam? KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:54, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I *much* prefer 'Option 1' over the 'Current recommendation'. There are a lot of benefits to the WMF going through the full process, rather than trying to customise the process to make it easier for the WMF to go through. If the WMF wants to take a different approach, then the same should also apply to other Wikimedia organisations. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 20:18, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Want to make sure I'm fully understanding your recommendation, Mike Peel. You're saying you'd prefer for the FDC to make an allocation to the WMF, based on the annual plan, because creating a special process to accommodate the WMF would not be fair to other orgs? Cheers, KLove (WMF) (talk) 22:56, 15 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes - or, if a special process has to be defined, then it shouldn't be solely open to the WMF. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 19:54, 16 December 2015 (UTC)
I see that fairness and consistency between affiliates and WMF is key to you, Mike Peel. I often think about this issue. WMF and movement affiliates have different scopes, of course, and operate with different purposes. Though WMF is not technically at the receiving end (right now) of FDC dollars, I think we all agree that the standards for WMF need to be higher than they are for affiliates. KLove (WMF) (talk) 05:17, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I think that some serious thought needs to be given to sustainability, and that it needs to be directly incorporated into both the strategy and the budget. The WMF is notorious for just mysteriously expecting that donors will cough up the dough for whatever it decides to do, and that's just not reasonable; the WMF cannot continue to grow at the rate it is growing, especially without taking a lot more care of its critical software and contributor infrastructure. There has been a very serious absence of longterm planning - we're way behind the curve on the endowment fund as one example - and the current planning process does not fit well with an organization that is looking three, five, ten, twenty years down the road. The WMF can't keep just draping new extensions onto a MediaWiki core that is untended, unimproved, and increasingly crufty; it's like failing to update the electrical wiring in a house and constantly adding extension cords. Risker (talk) 04:53, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
Thanks for weighing in, Risker! Some clarifying questions. By sustainability, Risker, do you mean that WMF's budget should not grow from 2015-16? That's how I read that. And by "behind the curve on the endowment fund" do you mean you would have wanted WMF to start one long ago? And thank you for the use of the word "crufty." Made me smile! KLove (WMF) (talk) 05:21, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
I mean "sustainable" both in the sense of recognizing that we've pretty much topped out on what we can raise from small donors (and large donations usually come with potentially harmful strings attached, as the WMF has discovered with some previous projects), so continuing to grow the budget at a rate of over 20% year over year is not reasonable; and that we need to ensure that our infrastructure continues to remain sound and healthy, that it can continue to sustain us long into the future. Our core infrastructure is our software, our hardware, and our volunteers; these need to be sustained. We need to be planning to replace x number of servers every year and ensuring that the funds are there to do so; we need to be doing that ongoing maintenance to our core software; we need to be constantly seeking to engage new volunteers and ensuring that we retain [most of] those we have now. We have to recognize that all systems including our own are subject to entropy absent continuous maintenance. If I go back to the "house analogy", we know the plumbing will fail, the roof will leak and the furniture will fall apart if we don't take care of them; and that we need to plan ahead to repair, improve and replace or we will find ourselves having to mortgage our future in order to take care of the entirely predictable "crises" that will come to pass. Risker (talk) 05:46, 17 December 2015 (UTC)
  • I would strongly prefer a full FDC process, including a dollar allocation. Looking at some of the points listed in the first of the "Other options considered":
    • Timing of annual plan: FDC recommends in mid-May, WMF fiscal year begins 1 July and org cannot legally operate without a budget. As far as I understand, the timing of the APG process was set for organizations with a July-June fiscal year, and in particular for the WMF. But it doesn't work? Can someone explain why? What would be the ideal timing?
    • Risk that FDC decides to not fund WMF's budget (similar to what all other orgs face, but risk is at a larger scale): all organizations share this risk, and the way to address it to make a good annual plan :-). In general, for an organization, what should be seen as a risk is not "not funding", but "having a bad plan".
    • Circular nature of Board/FDC with annual plan: this is an issue. I do not consider this to be a blocking issue, but it would have to be addressed.
    • WMF needs to ensure it can dedicate staff time (e.g. finance, fundraising) to go through the proposal and reporting processes: the FDC process is expensive (not incredibly expensive, definitely less expensive than most non-Wikimedia grants, but still more expensive than not having a process at all), and we would be happy to make it simpler (without deteriorating its quality), but this is not a WMF-specific issue. Any other organization could say the same: if this was the thought of the WMF, why applying it to other organizations? - Laurentius (talk) 16:38, 18 December 2015 (UTC)

Open questions for longer termEdit

The following is a capture of some ongoing open questions that have come up in past WMF staff, board and FDC discussions:

  • What are the expectations for movement orgs that are not applying to FDC and get funds externally (e.g. WMID, WMPL, WMAU)?
  • What should the role of board versus FDC be in reviewing WMF's plan?
  • What kind of "teeth" does the community review need of WMF's plan, and why?
  • What is the ideal reporting format for WMF and in what cadence?
  • When FDC reviews very large budgets with great complexity (WMF, WMDE, etc), should we consider having the org’s CFO/Controller and a program person walk the FDC through the budget and narrative? (Note: this is a suggestion from Garfield) How else to give FDC insight and appropriate levels of information for the largest orgs, where review has been most challenging?

Thanks for sharing your feedback!Edit

Thanks, Wittylama, Mike Peel, Risker, Laurentius and Aegis Maelstrom, for sharing your feedback! We're now finalizing the recommendation to incorporate many of your thoughts, and I really appreciate the time you spent sharing your thinking on this issue. KLove (WMF) will circle back with you in January to discuss any further questions you have about this recommendation and next steps. Cheers, Siko (WMF) (talk) 23:51, 21 December 2015 (UTC)

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