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Potential misappropriation of grant funds edit

Hi! Over a month ago, I raised an issue about a grant that was apparently awarded in clear violation of the published criteria, because the team members had been repeatedly flagged for issues that bore directly on their fitness as trainers. It took until January 5 for me to get any response from WMF staff, and I have yet to receive any substantive response. I have wider concerns about how grantees are assessed as potential trainers for projects like Wikidata. I don't want us to be in the position where grant money is effectively being spent only make extra work for project volunteers while tarnishing the reputation of the foundation. This seems like an important issue, and I don't understand why I am finding it so difficult to get a response from the WMF. A week ago, I contacted Lisa Seitz-Gruwell and Megan Hernandez about this lack of response, but I did not hear back from either of them. Can you help? Bovlb (talk) 00:19, 28 January 2024 (UTC)Reply

Hi @Bovlb,
Thanks for reaching out. Yael here, Vice President of Community Growth, which includes the Community Resources function. I report to Lisa Gruwell, who you mentioned. (Megan is the VP of Fundraising and has less insight into grantmaking).
You posted your original comment on December 20th, and my colleague Yop replied on January 5th. As I noted in a comment tagging you on 9 January, WMF was closed for the end of year holidays, so the 4 business day response time seems reasonable. You kindly agreed in your reply to me that this made sense. I did not see that you had since moved your comment to the Rapids Fund page, as requested by Yop, and appreciate you doing that.
I will respond there, and link to the comment I made with regards to the same complaint that was raised about this grant on BilledMammal's recent RfC around process improvements to grantmaking. In short, you'll see that we agree that this is a concern, and we have committed to a few changes going forward in the short-term as well as are reviewing some longer-term ways to address your core concerns.
Feel free to tag me in future comments if you're not getting a response on Community Resources issues. Thanks, Yael RWeissburg (WMF) (talk) 22:44, 29 January 2024 (UTC)Reply
@RWeissburg (WMF) Thanks for following up. Just to clarify, when I said above that " It took until January 5 for me to get any response from WMF staff, and I have yet to receive any substantive response", I do now appreciate that the WMF offices had an undocumented closure during the initial period of non-response. It nevertheless remains the case that many WMF staff that I have contacted about this issue have made no response whatsoever and I don't feel that I have yet received a substantive response to my core concerns. As I said elsewhere, my core concerns are:
  • What does the WMF do to ensure that grants are not simply funding disruption and making extra work for volunteers?
  • How did we come to approve grants that did not meet the criteria?
  • How can we improve the grant review process going forward?
  • How are people accredited as "Wikidata trainers"?
As you noted elsewhere, this is not the first time such concerns have been raised. Bovlb (talk) 16:29, 5 February 2024 (UTC)Reply
@LMixter (WMF), @KFrancis (WMF): On December 20th, I reported that it appeared that a grant had been issued in violation of the relevant conditions. My investigations indicate that this problem may also affect other grants. Since then, despite contacting numerous WMF staff members, I have been unable to get a substantive response regarding this potential misappropriation of funds. Is the Compliance team the appropriate people to contact about this? Thanks, Bovlb (talk) 18:53, 9 February 2024 (UTC)Reply
Hi again, @Bovlb. As I noted previously, I responded in more detail here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Village_pump_(WMF)/Archive_6#Grants_to_organizations_intending_to_be_active_on_the_English_Wikipedia_(Community_Response) RWeissburg (WMF) (talk) 20:10, 9 February 2024 (UTC)Reply
Is Maryana Iskander on a two month leave of absence? Bovlb (talk) 15:55, 5 April 2024 (UTC)Reply
@NTymkiv (WMF) Can you help us out here? Bovlb (talk) 15:57, 5 April 2024 (UTC)Reply
@Bovlb Hello, happy to help with what I can: Maryana is not on a two month leave of absence. As she is the CEO of the Wikimedia Foundation, her talk page on Meta is used for bringing all kinds of issues, and if there is a more relevant person to answer a specific question -- that person is answering. And Yael is the most relevant person at the Foundation to talk about this with, as the Community Resources function is in her portfolio. On the issue of competence -- I do agree that it is needed, and moreover more people agree with that. We had a month long feedback round to have that as a requirement for affiliates, stating that they should ...have demonstrated competence to execute its stated plans (there is more on the talk page). That conversation is concentrated more on policy going forward, and might not resolve all issues, as grants are also given to individuals, but if it is implemented, I would hope that grants will be given while taking into account basic competence to do what the grant application promises (using the proposed or some other framework, allowing to prevent preventable mistakes from happening). I can talk about this more, if you would like to -- I was not privy to all conversations on topic, so I might be answering a wrong question, sorry about that! Also, if I may, if you would like to continue a communication with Yael, using the ping feature would likely help to draw her attention --NTymkiv (WMF) (talk) 17:13, 5 April 2024 (UTC)Reply
Hi @NTymkiv (WMF), @RWeissburg (WMF), is there any list of grants and projects that the foundation has invested? I think we will benefit from having such a list with grants, user who requested, the type of project it is, and the amount requested. This way we can come up with good monitoring method where community can also participate. Also, we can better assess the competence of requesting party, and the project's impact on the wikis. BRP ever 23:59, 17 April 2024 (UTC)Reply
Hi @BRPever - given the large number of funding requests each year, the list of grants and projects that were funded, considered, and / or not funded lives under each regional designation. I realize this makes it a little tricky to find, but, for example, you can see the work supported in the Central & Eastern Europe and Central Asia here: Grants:Regions/CEE and Central Asia (scroll down and expand each category). To find the same information for other regions, scroll to the top, click on the specific region, and scroll down.
The community participates in the decision-making process through the Regional Funds Committees, which are comprised of volunteer community members. All proposals are also posted on Meta and available for community feedback. Hope that helps. Feel free to ping me if you have other questions. RWeissburg (WMF) (talk) 16:26, 18 April 2024 (UTC)Reply

February 2024 Update edit

Dear Maryana, thanks for your update and the insights proposed there. I have read it, gone to the relevant discussions and still have the same feelings: we have been discussing the same things for eight years, but still nothing relevant is happening, and every year we are further from our goal, as all the world is moving while we are still discussing. There are no ideas, no path, no roadmap. No strategy, no vision, no pulse. Everything are small patches here and there, instead of solving the big picture. Even the page you suggest says The underlying "Hypotheses" for each KR will be updated on the relevant project/team's wiki pages throughout the year to be updated throughout the year as lessons are learned., which is a clear message about the main issue: we don't solve things, we create hypotheses with lessons learned. I know that solving everything is impossible. But solving something, and then the next thing, and going on with the next one would be way better than simply discussing and learning lessons. That's not what the world needs from us. We made a roadmap eight years ago, but we are still in the starting point. Sincerely. Theklan (talk) 17:43, 4 March 2024 (UTC)Reply

Dear @Theklan,
Thanks for writing to me here, I know you have expressed similar views elsewhere and are talking to the product and tech team directly about the specifics. As I said in my letter, we share the need for urgency and focus in making tangible and practical improvements to our platform -- even if we can't get to everything that everyone wants to see fast enough. A few examples of what has been worked on recently: Edit Check, Discussion Tools, Dark mode, Patrolling on Android, Watchlist on iOS, Automoderator, Community Configuration, the Wikimedia Commons Upload Wizard, resolving over 600 volunteer-reported issues in Phabricator in the last 6 months. Soliciting prototypes directly from volunteers for informing typography decision making. Changes enabling a better backbone for PageTriage, and working closely with volunteer developers to ensure future sustainability. I also feel we have been even clearer about the central role the Foundation must play in enabling the product and technical infrastructure of our projects. I understand this may not satisfy all of your concerns but I am certain things are heading more in the right direction. MIskander-WMF (talk) 16:34, 11 March 2024 (UTC)Reply
Thanks Maryana for your answer. I'm not talking here about my concerns. I'm talking about not fulfilling the strategic direction, and even going in the oposite direction. Thanks again. Theklan (talk) 19:20, 11 March 2024 (UTC)Reply