Wikimedia Foundation elections/2017/Funds Dissemination Committee/Questions/Submitted/1
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What professional qualifications do you bring? Edit
As a former elected chair of the FDC for three consecutive terms, I understand that diversity of experience is really useful for the work. However, seeing a strong pack of candidates, of whom a vast majority has lots of experience from within the movement, including budgeting, being a board member, etc., I'm really interested in learning in more detail what kinds of actual external professional experience can you bring to the table (I mean specifically experience from work in finance, accounting, as well as professional budget or project evaluation outside wiki world - typically done on NGOs advisory board level or by the staff)? Additionally, could you comment a little bit more about your learnt skills and formal education (definitely not as a must, but I have to admit that I'd really value a degree in management/business administration or finance or economics for this position as an added bonus, or a relevant postgraduate degree such as an MBA, DBA, CPA, etc.). If you don't have any of such experience or skills, that's ok - I'm requesting factual detail, rather than a rationale why it is "not so important", I know it is not the only thing that is needed :)
In the past years, I’ve worked as a project manager for a consulting firm. In that role, I was in charge of designing, negotiating and evaluating projects with private and public companies (including universities, government, mining companies and retail stores). Then I worked as Executive Director of Wikimedia Argentina for two years, where I was in charge of the administration of the organization, the grantmaking process, the accountability, the design and evaluation of its programs.
Since 2014, I’ve worked as Chief of the Admission and Academic Registration Office of the University of Chile, the main public educational organization in the country. Part of my day-to-day job is managing the budget associated with the admission processes, interacting with the Ministry of Education and the different areas of the University. Also, I’m in charge of the design and execution of the annual budget for the admission process, which is roughly the size of a medium-size affiliate. In general, through my years of professional experience, I’ve been focused in the administration and management of budgets and programs in private companies, public institutions and NGOs.
As my academic background, I’m an Industrial Civil Engineer of the University of Chile with a specialization in Management, and I have a Master’s degree in Public Management and Public Policies. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 04:28, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
As described in my candidacy statement, my relevant external professional experience is having worked in roles at Europeana, the National Library of Australia, and Creative Commons Australia in which I have been involved in the complete lifecycle of annual-planning and grant-application: strategy, application, implementation, reporting. Prior to these organisations I worked at the Dictionary of Sydney and Austlii - both small, digital-focused non-profits organisation, which exist through competitive academic-grant funding.
My formal qualifications are not to do with finances or management, but they are to do with Wikimedia... My undergraduate thesis, for which I won the University medal, (B. International Studies (Honours class I, UNSW) is on the Historiography of Wikipedia - here is the abstract, and a summary of its chapters. For my Masters (LLM Intellectual Propery Law; QUT/WIPO), I wrote my thesis on The copyright in faithful reproductions of Public Domain art, which I adapted into a submission into the Australian Law Reform Commission inquiry at the time into the modernisation of the Australian Copyright Act. You can read the full text of that submission/thesis here (and it is archived as "submission 136: submissions to 'issues paper: from individuals'").
External Professional Experience: As a consultant of Bangladesh National Museum, I advice in evaluation process of various programs and involve with financial part. I have been working with Bangladesh Open Source Network as a Treasurer Role for last 10 years. In addition, I have served as a volunteer finance coordinator for the Open Knowledge Bangladesh for last 5 years. I have valuable experience in budgeting and financial analysis. I manage the distribution of funds to support projects around our activities and to individuals organizing volunteer activities in Bangladesh. As a consultant I headed several grants from Bangladesh Ministry of Culture, Ministry of ICT and governmental and also from industry. Other organizations like Mozilla Bangladesh, Open Knowledge Bangladesh I have experience to do financial related work. Being a Coordinator I involved several International conference financial part arranged by Ministry of ICT.
Skills and formal education: I’m a finance graduate & I completed my BBA & MBA major in Finance. Also I completed few financial courses that help me gather skills. As adjunct faculty I took class in finance subject. I worked in various non-profit national level organization and most of this organization I led the finance part. From the beginning of my career I worked with leading private bank and financial Institute. I have experience in the financial sector and have served on a couple of finance committees.
Professional experience - professionally, I'm a fundraiser for nonprofits (and previously, a campaign manager for a political party). I manage a team with a headcount of 6 and am responsible for, roughly speaking, £15 million of income and £1.5 million of expenditure. Particularly relevant to the work of the FDC: my work involves a lot of planning, and a lot of evaluation - including a lot of multi-stakeholder evaluation where, say, we have been working on a project with a number of teams inside the organisation and one or more agencies outside it. It involves taking decisions about resourcing and prioritising a portfolio of products at different levels of maturity, which also describes the work of a number of affiliates fairly well. And it involves working in a values-driven way not a purely commercial way.
Education - Since you asked about education, I have a B.A. in Economics from Cambridge University. I also hold Diplomas in direct marketing and in musical performance. So I have pieces of paper to prove my competence at discussing post-neoclassical endogenous growth theory, developing marketing plans, and performing Beethoven violin sonatas.
I already touch on my most relevant external experience in my responses to candidate questions, but happy to recap with a broader snapshot of my career.
I did a post-graduate masters degree in political communications in 2008-2009 before going to work for a UK Member of Parliament for a year and a half. This was an advisory and policy response role, and I learned a lot in my time there working to critically solve problems, manage correspondence and support campaigns. It was a great grounding in how to work within a complex legislative system, read long policy and strategy documents, figure out what is meaningful and apply it to what I am trying to achieve.
I found I really missed fundraising, something I’d done while an undergraduate and postgraduate student, and so eventually made the choice to move into it as a career track. I worked at a University for a year, then moved to become the Fundraising Manager for Wikimedia UK between 2012 – 2015, before returning to the University sector and my current role managing grant applications.
To be really specific, I have experience in developing and managing budgets and reporting within a management accounting framework (WMUK), scrutinising company returns and charitable annual reports (current role), and developing and reporting on project plans and budgets for large, complex research proposals for national and international charitable foundations (current role).
Professional experience - professionally I'm an auditor and financial adviser with over twenty years experience in non-profit (quango's and national government), and financial business consulting with one of the former big professional services firms. Education - I graduated in Economics and Business Administration (ME and MBA) at the University of Maastricht in 1992. I followed a two year post doctoral course in Operational Auditing. I am a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).
Professional experience - I earn my living as a risk management professional in banking, and my field combines finances, law, statistics, IT and management. For almost 10 years I worked in risk HQ in a commercial banking group, being responsible for compliance, reporting, IT and occasional modelling. Now, I am a model validator and a model management expert working for Polish Financial Supervisory Authority. It means that I evaluate major Polish banks and promote high regulatory standards in a fast evolving and expanding subfield - sometimes acting as a specialized visiting inspector. Besides my work, I've been serving on Wikimedia Poland board for ca. 5 years, and I am a member of a supervisory board of a smaller foundation promoting distributed computing.
Skills and formal education: my profession requires a proper general background and a frequent specialist training. I have finished my MA studies in quantitative methods in economics and IT (a field sometimes called MORSE: Mathematics, Operational Research, Statistics and Econometrics) at Warsaw School of Economics. Because of a highly versatile system offered (and being a Wikipedian at heart and in practice) I also got a strong background in economics (my minor), finances, management and languages. :) I also took my opportunity and visited a MBA School at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles - Anderson) as an exchange student and I was told to consider myself as an alumn, however I still feel too CEE to do that. :) Moreover, already working, I utilized my good scores and free public education in Poland and I did 5 years of MA studies in psychology and PhD studies in economics, which involved my research on Wikimedians and Wikimedia. The final theses needed to subdue to my work and Wikimedia responsibilities, but I am slowly making my progress here. :)
Summing up: I like to learn and I deal with maths and regulation on a daily basis.
Professional experience: three years ago I've co-founded a start-up company; in this time I have worked on a wide range of stuff related to the management of a small company.
Education: I'm a mathematician. I've earned my bachelor degree at the University of Milan and my master degree at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa (quoting from the Wikipedia article - where you can find the references - "considered to be the best university in Italy", and with a "6% admission rate"), where I have also been a PhD candidate. My specialization is in hyperbolic geometry, but during my education I've also taken some courses related to economy and finance.
No response yet.
Organisational support of smaller affiliates Edit
It has been rather difficult in recent years to justify programs that, for example, support smaller affiliates in neighbouring countries, since the results of this organisational or financial support don't necessarily translate into numbers which benefit the supporting affiliate in terms of being able to report them back to the FDC. Hence the question: How important is the support of smaller affiliates by APG-chapters to you? Do you think that in the future we should focus more on sharing organisation knowledge to support the growth of smaller affiliates and should this also be reflected in upcoming APG proposals?
Just to offer one concrete example here: Fiscal sponsorships are sometimes required to organise projects like Wikimedia CEE Spring or events like the 2017 European GLAMwiki Coordinators meeting - yet there's hardly any incentive for chapters to actually help out in the current system, as outlined in Wikimedia Austria's 2016 impact report (section Challenge – grantmaking needs an administrative backbone).
As one of the founders of the Iberocoop initiative, one of the first frameworks for international cooperation, I truly believe that it is important to work between affiliates much closer than what we are doing now. No matter that we may belong to different organizations, we are all working towards a common goal, so supporting each other is not only logical, but needed. There are a lot of synergies that we need to take advantage of, especially for smaller chapters where the support of larger ones are vital to make them more effective, as you mentioned.
However, that cooperative work is not for free. It takes money, it takes time from the volunteers, time from the staff members, etc., and that should be considered somehow. In my opinion, one of the advantages of the FDC (or at least, the way I have seen from it in the past) is that there is space for considerations besides rough numbers. I would love to see more affiliates including in their grant proposal and reports the participation in activities of support for fellow organizations or inter-affiliates group to understand all the effort given by the volunteers, board and staff. Of course, that cooperation shouldn’t interfere with the own objectives and projects of the chapters, but I don’t think this has been ever the case. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 04:29, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
It is a little-known, and perhaps even less-used, clause of the fiscal sponsorship system that the sponsoring affiliate is allowed to add a "management fee" (either a fixed amount or a %) to cover the staff-time costs of administering the grant. On the one hand it could be argued that this is not a good use of the movement's money, but I think it is a perfectly acceptable to acknowledge the genuine costs (staff time, as well as financial risk!) that administering a grant requires. Especially if a Chapter is operating multiple grants on behalf of their region - as is the case you identified in the "Challenge – grantmaking needs an administrative backbone" section of your Impact Report - I would be happy to see that Chapter asking for a (modest and justifiable) processing fee. By combining several of these it might even be possible to have 'self-funding' staff resources dedicated to providing that service effeciently: a 'centre of excellence in Wikimedia fiscal sponsorship' for their region, if you will.I think it's interesting that you've mentioned the European GLAMwiki Coordinators meeting in your examples - as I was the one who coordinated that event, and obtained a WMF grant to provide a few scholarships for non-APG affiliates' representatives. Wikimedia Netherlands was the fiscal sponsor in this case and, generously, performed this task without charging a "management fee" (although it was offered to them). In my report on that grant I noted that:
So I feel your pain about applying for, managing, and reporting on grant agreements!
"the combined value of the staff time...to administer the grant application (not including the scholarship-distribution or reporting time) was certainly more than the value of the grant itself. These political, procedural and legal difficulties the Wikimedia movement has in sending money to itself need to be resolved."
As for the question of supporting smaller affiliates in general: If/when one affiliate has the capacity do to this - I think it's fantastic. Just because an activity is outside the physical jurisdiction of one affiliate does not mean that it, if requested, shouldn't be able and encouraged to assist. Inter-affiliate activities are good for our movement health in a variety of ways (on-wiki content creation, organisational development, and international understanding in a general sense) and should be encouraged. Equally, the sponsoring/supporting affiliate should feel comfortable and allowed to report on the results of that program - even if they were not the lead organisation - indicating the level of support they provided. Affiliates' metrics reporting results should not be seen as a zero-sum game.
Moreover - when two or more affiliates indicate on their annual plans that they are co-sponsoring an activity (such as many European Chapters now do with the FKAGEU) that massively increases the likelihood of that project's success. I've semi-jokingly said before: if a chapter presents an APG application with programs overtly stating that they're repeating a successful program run by another chapter, they should get double-points in the FDC deliberations!
I think before supporting smaller affiliates by APG-chapters more important for the FDC to assess organisation's management, capacity and leadership. It's really important for both party. To develop more active affiliates, its need to help smaller and newer chapter to work following rule & policy. After got the recognition by AffCom most of new affiliate not get proper guideline to get funding. After got funding they clearly don’t know how they can report back to the FDC. So I support this part to help them. If I am on the FDC, I’ll try to support projects that really help and create scope to learn.
Hi Braveheart - yes, I noticed that feedback when I had a look at WMAT's proposal last Autumn, and agree it's an issue; in a few cases some of the bigger affiliates have heard the message that the WMF and FDC want them to focus on their measurable impact, and have responded by saying no to otherwise reasonable requests for help that don't help their metrics.
So, to address the point narrowly: currently "sharing learning in the movement" forms part of the APG staff assessment, and I would like it clarified that this includes things like logistical support and fiscal sponsorships as well as (e.g.) publishing learning patterns and running sessions at conferences.
More broadly, I think there are two bigger issues. Firstly let's recognise that the numbers are not the full picture - particularly not the numbers we have available to us now. Yes, ideally, we would have good metrics to track the whole range of things that are included in the impact of a Wikimedia affiliate - but that is a complicated set of metrics (as I set out here) and it is a huge learning process to actually develop the right measures. While that learning is happening, I think it's more important for the FDC to assess an organisation's management, leadership, capacity and direction and the narrative about its impact than to compare crude numbers.
Secondly - I have long believed the movement (particularly the WMF and the bigger chapters) needs to do more active work to support and develop affiliates, particularly smaller and newer ones. Currently, there is a serious lack of support for a new affiliate after recognition by AffCom, and the gap is partially filled by regional collaborations and other informal initiatives. So if I am on the FDC, I will be particularly keen to support projects that help in this area.
My perspective here is informed by work I did for Wikimedia UK to support Wikimedia Ireland and Wiki Cyrmu, plus other chapter volunteers or staff members.
I personally took pleasure in offering advice or support to ‘colleagues’ within the movement, whether staff or volunteers. As the fifth member of staff to be employed by Wikimedia UK (when it was still very early in its lifetime as a staffed entity) huge parts of my induction, training and handover and what I continued to learn were delivered by volunteers and staff members in more established chapters. So I very much saw this type of activity as ‘paying it forward’ and believe that a legitimate role for established groups is to support nascent ones (The Land has already made the point about how hard it is for new groups to affiliate and I agree).
WMUK did represent this to the best of its ability, whether through the narrative portions of reports and grant applications, metrics around editathons, outreach work or staff roles to directly support such activity. I think the point was well made in the APG report you link to, and I think the solution is to have a larger conversation about the value of the role affiliates play in supporting non-affiliates, evidencing the cost impact, and including that in grant applications. I would be sympathetic to such ‘acts-of-solidarity’ activities.
The FDC operates to guidelines given by the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. The FDC evaluates grant request with the strategic framework set forth by the BoT. It might be the case that the new strategy embraces building a global movement. In such a new framework I can imagine an existing chapter kick starting an affiliate organization in another country. However that is not within the current set of metrics. That being said, I'm not a fan of fiscal sponsorship. You asked about sharing organisation knowledge to support the growth of smaller affiliates. That is the primary aim and focus of the annual Wikimedia Conference and especially the preceding learning days.
I think the situation is complicated here. On the one hand, chapters are asked to achieve a commensurate impact, be focused and reduce overhead. Foreign help is often beyond standard metrics.
On the other hand, everyone should be aware that fiscal sponsorship takes a lot of hassle from the WMF, and makes many activities cheaper, safer or simply possible. AFAIR, the WMF and the FDC have a long tradition of appreciation for regional platforms like Iberocoop or CEE, direct help or mutual co-operation between chapters. In the past, the FDC recognized WMNO-WMAM cooperation or the effort of establishing Wili Loves Earth franchise.
Perhaps this appreciation should be voiced more clearly and we should discuss the difficulties and costs more openly and encourage each other. My home chapter - Wikimedia Poland - has a long tradition of help and activity dedicated to the region: fiscal sponsorships for Wikimedia Ukraine and cross-border grants, special travel grants (e.g. for Wikimania) for foreign Wikimedians, CEE Spring, Carpathians international GLAM project etc. funded by Polish taxpayers and donors and operated by Polish chapter. We do it, even though we are not the highest earning country and it doesn't affect our most basic everyday impact, as we are fortunate to have a tax deduction scheme and we feel we have our duties towards the Movement. Moreover, we invest in our partners, whom we can learn from and cooperate with (like the CEE Spring). A strong network of partners is our success.
It is a long-term and sometimes difficult task, but pretty rewarding one when you see success stories. Sometimes we see additional encouragement, e.g. from other affiliates and the WMF. Maybe this positive feedback should be voiced more often (and this seems to be a general issue in Wikimedia). I'll try to encourage a proper talk on upcoming meetings like Wikimania and WMCEE conference in Warsaw this September!
P.S. I know there are many people and orgs willing to help other chapters to professionalize, flourish or just recover. Even among this candidates, I know some of them and their activities first hand. When I saw an urging need and had an idea of a training for midsize chapters' board members, @Chris Keating was one of the few people I went to and this team pulled it through! @Liam has a record of cooperation with the chapters (including mine!) and I spent many hours with @Lorenzo and few others working to turn WCA into something useful, a platform of help offered by chapters to chapters.
Your general point is about the risk of not being recognized for the good work done for the movement, and being therefore penalized in terms of funds allocation. In front of the FDC and of the global community, this can be addressed by telling about the work you are doing, and why is important and valuable for the movement. What should be stressed here is that while we have movement-wide metrics like "articles created", they do not tell the whole story. There are a lot of activities and a lot of impact that are not captured by that; but this doesn't mean that they are not worthy, or that people don't care! You just need a way to present them - and if you think it is key, you can even define one of your grantee-defined metrics to capture this.
More specifically, contributing to the global movement is something we value, and is taken into consideration by the FDC. One of the great parts of being a global movement is that we can learn from each other, and provide help when needed: we should really take advantage of this.
In your example you write about fiscal sponsorships. Watched with an outside point of view, the fiscal sponsorship is quite a strange provision: the fiscal sponsor agrees to take most of the burden of managing the money, but leaves the project management (including deciding how the money is spent) to the actual grantee. It creates a misalignment in responsibilities, and yes, there is no reason why the sponsor should accept this. However, it's happening, and it is possible because we feel part of the same movement and we are willing to help other chapters and other volunteers. It is not a decision made for self interest.
To compensate for the administrative overhead, fiscal sponsors have the option to include a management fee in the grant. In practice, this is not so common, but it has been done - and it is especially relevant for an organization that is sponsoring many grants. Clearly, this is a way to compensate the costs, and it will not result in a profit for the sponsor. In non-Wikimedia grants, usually there are ways to account for "overhead costs" too, but this is highly dependant on the specific grant program.
The FDC is responsible for reviewing and recommending on funds allocations that relevant affiliated applicants request; an important role that is attributed to the FDC is to review and provide recommendations to the WMF Annual Plan. Do you think the WMF annual plan should abide by the same rules and expectations (in terms of presenting metrics, specific objectives, etc.) that other applicants abide to? Why or why not?
O FDC tem como responsabilidade revisar e recomendar a alocação de fundos aos quais organizações afiliadas podem requerer; um papel importante que também está designado ao FDC é revisar e enviar recomendações sobre o Plano Anual da WMF. Você acha que o plano anual da WMF deveria seguir as mesmas regras e expectativas (no sentido de apresentar métricas, objetivos específicos etc.) aos quais outros requerentes devem submeter-se? (Just in case my question is not clear in English, and someone is available for improving the version in English based on the version in Portuguese)
It’s impossible to ignore the particular situation of the Wikimedia Foundation within our movement, for good or for bad. It is erroneous to compare it to any other affiliate, given its size, relevance and prominence. However, one thing I believe that the WMF and the affiliates share is the need for them to be accountable to the movement. Not only terms of financial responsibility, but also in the way their activities are in line with our values and goals. In that sense, I think it is important for the WMF to participate in some form in the evaluation made by the FDC and to demonstrate its capacity to explain and evaluate its impact. Considering its size and complexity, we can’t expect them to have the same level of detail than a small affiliate or use the same metrics. Neither we can’t expect the FDC volunteer members to be able to evaluate it in the same way they do now with a chapter or a thematic organization. But we need to find a balance between what they can provide and what we as members of the movement expect.
I was part of the FDC when it published in November 2015 its recommendation asking the WMF to participate in the next FDC round and also in the evaluation of that proposal in May 2016. I thought in that moment that, no matter the problems and discrepancies that may arise, the FDC shouldn’t be considered as a burden but as an opportunity to improve the capacity to evaluate and demonstrate impact, to receive recommendations for improvement and to question ourselves about the way we are doing our work. I still think the same today, especially for the WMF. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 04:32, 2 June 2017 (UTC) (@Joalpe:, se entendió perfecto. Espero que mi respuesta también se entienda :)
In accepting that recommendation, the WMF did indeed submit a proposal in May 2016. While we acknowledged the awkward timing this required, I was part of the FDC committee which responded to that application with this:
"the FDC laments that the Wikimedia Foundation’s own planning process does not meet the minimum standards of transparency and planning detail that it requires of affiliates applying for its own Annual Plan Grant (APG) process. The FDC is appalled by the closed way that the WMF has undertaken both strategic and annual planning, and the WMF’s approach to budget transparency (or lack thereof). ...the FDC recommends that the WMF submit its 2016-17 annual plan to the second round of the 2015-2016 Annual Plan Grant process. It should participate in both the community review and FDC review processes that all APG applicants go through, and seek detailed responses from the FDC on its annual plan".
The following year, in May 2017 - just one month ago, the WMF submitted their latest annual plan. In the FDC's response we wrote:
"...the WMF didn’t provide the FDC a detailed budget, as is expected from any other affiliate applied to APG (even privately, as had been offered by the FDC). Moreover, the lack of detailed information about each program costs made it hard for the FDC to review and evaluate the programs. ...due to the structure of the plan, the inputs (e.g., resources) are often unclear and the outputs of many programs do not have targets. Furthermore, it is often hard to understand what is operational and what is programmatic, especially in the technology section....Frequently there were no metrics and therefore no baselines for this year against which achievements can be measured. Risks were well articulated, however they are not linked to programs, nor are they actionable."
I post these three comments here to demonstrate that I have a consistent, public and strong record of asking the the WMF to meet the standards that its sets for its much smaller affiliate organisations.
"Although this plan lists goals, objectives and milestones, in most cases these lack targets and overall are not SMART. The FDC recommends that the WMF have a set of metrics and SMART goals they will use and report on for the duration of the new strategic plan so that year over year comparisons of progress will be possible, and to ensure that the work is continuously impactful...The FDC requests that the WMF complete the entire FDC application form for its deliberations in order to have sufficient detail to understand the annual plan and budget."
Even as far back as 2012 (note: before I was on the committee), the FDC said that the WMF “should be a role model” with regards “measures of success and SMART milestones, as well as systems to measure and evaluate impact of all programs”.
The WMF's response to the FDC's most recent recommendation is to say that the WMF:
- "...programs do not directly produce impact in the metrics used for other organizations"
- "movement strategy will help us generate stronger predictive metrics for future Annual Plans", and
- "[is] engaging in work that is strategic and by nature speculative".
That is: that the WMF can't and won't use the same metrics that it requires its grant recipients use, and won't start creating alternatives - even for its currently active programs - until some time in the future. Personally I do not care if the WMF uses the same metrics. But I do find it galling that after literally years of being asked for the same thing, nothing has changed. Perhaps the FDC process is not the best way to achieve this outcome, and I am happy to admit that our reviewing process could be improved, but, at least until the Strategy process creates new systems for mutual-accountability in our movement, the FDC process it the best we've got. And I would like to continue pushing for this change as one of its elected members!
I’m not sure WMF uses the same metrics or not. But FDC play a good role in this matter as FDC follow the best process. At least I think Before any good strategy process FDC working way is good. As I follow, FDC reviewing process is good now and I would like to continue work on this process and try to help FDC as its elected members!
Yes, I think the WMF should aim to lead the way in terms of the quality of its planning, its goals, and the specific measures used to support them. I would note that there is on the whole a good culture of evaluation and continuous improvement at WMF, including some very rigorous evaluation through A/B testing, which I really value. However, on the whole the WMF seems less than systematic about goal-setting and measuring.
This is a shame. First, it means that the WMF is achieving less than it could. Second, it means the WMF is open to accusations of hypocrisy, which is unhealthy. Third, I believe "how to measure the impact of the Wikimedia movement" is a big question we have scarcely begun to address, and the more WMF invests in time and effort to address it, the more effective the whole movement will become.
This is an interesting one for me, and I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, as a member of staff of WMUK who worked through the annual plan process several times, and as a volunteer in a movement that values transparency, it can be tempting to ask ‘Why does the WMF not have to undergo the same level of scrutiny?’. On the other hand, the WMF does publish a lot of data, metrics and reports that underpin its performance, has observable staff meetings and has responded to FDC feedback (indeed, submitting its annual plan was a positive response to FDC criticism).
The WMF, as a 501(c)(3) organisation, is in the position of being ‘Trustee’ for directly donated funds. Its role changed in 2013 when it moved to meeting that legal fiduciary duty to donors by granting funding to other entities within the movement to deliver their own potentially separate goals and aims, rather than trying to deliver on behalf of a global movement. It has its own governance and staffing structures, goals and aims. My suspicion is it would not be tenable to retain its 501(c)(3) status if its annual plan and budget were subject to approval outside this.
The WMF is therefore somewhat caught between trying to act ‘on behalf of all of us’ and on behalf of itself. In this scenario, I think continuing the moves made for the FDC to act as a critical friend is appropriate, but I doubt it will ever be entirely subjected to the same ‘rules and expectations’ as affiliates. Like all of you though, I would value more detail and more dialogue between the WMF and FDC and support the requests FDC has made to this effect in the past.
As per my candidate statement: I belief 90% of the time of the FDC should be spent on reviewing the WMF Annual Plan because 90% of the financial resources are spent by the WMF itself. I prefer a long and elaborate Annual Plan of the WMF, say 50 to 100 A4 pages. A 5 to 10 A4 page paper would suffice for most affiliates for their integral grant application (plan and finances) and their integral annual report (including financial report). Proportionality is the key.
"The FDC recommends that the WMF have a set of metrics and SMART goals they will use and report on for the duration of the new strategic plan so that year over year comparisons of progress will be possible, and to ensure that the work is continuously impactful. (...) The FDC requests that the WMF complete the entire FDC application form for its deliberations in order to have sufficient detail to understand the annual plan and budget. In addition, significantly more background information on each project, clear budget breakdowns, and annual plan narratives for each program would be useful."
This lack of detail is a revolving issue, I made a similar remark myself back in 2014. Personally, I would love more information, benchmarks and SMART goals from the WMF and better integration of the Foundation with its own platform of mutual learning and feedback. Furthermore, it would improve comparison of efficacy and impact of particular WMF activities each other and with affiliates. WMF is a global movement, with local groups delivering services, Wikidata developed in Germany etc., which could be utilized more with transferring old programmes or setting up new ones in other locations - or vice versa with experienced WMF staff providing more support to the local entities.
More data from WMF is demanding both for the FDC, and the WMF. I think the Foundation is large enough to dedicate a person for improving controlling/audit/reporting as it would make decisions more informed and mitigate some risks. General scheme and functions of FDC (e.g. should it be able to transfer funds between WMF and affiliates? should it care for affiliates' funds raised independently?) need to be coined by the Board, sides involved and in the strategy process, in its next phase: Movement structure, roles.
Metrics and objectives are not required for their own sake, but because without them you can't understand what is happening, and whether a program is working and impactful or it is not. They are needed both for the community, to be able to review the annual plan, but also for the organization itself, in order to understand its own impact and improve.
Since the WMF has 300 employees and a 70+ M$ budget, it has both the capabilities and the need to present a clear and well-designed plan, and therefore the expectations are actually higher than with smaller affiliates.
This does not mean that the WMF plan should go to the same level of detail of a small chapter: that would result in a plan of a thousand pages, which is unmanageble both for the writer and the reviewer; but should be detailed and clear enough to enable the reader to understand what's going on. Even looking at affiliates, Wikimedia Sweden budget is more than ten times bigger than Amical's one, but its proposal is less than three times longer. In the same way, some adaptations to the proposal format may be useful to increase clarity (e.g., this year some tables have been split), but we have also seen changes that reduce the information provided (for instance, in the staff and contractors section).
More specifically, in answering to our last recommendations the WMF pointed out that «[...] the Foundation's programs do not directly produce impact in the metrics used for other organizations. These are namely the metrics of participants, newly registered, and content pages». This is generally true, but it is neither unique (see #Organisational_support_of_smaller_affiliates on this same page for an example from a chapter) nor problematic: metrics should be designed to fit the choosen goals. If participants and content pages are not good metrics for the WMF, then the WMF should develop other metrics, either for the whole organization or for specific programs.
In his answer, Liam has already explained much of the history, and why the last plan and the current situation should improve. We were part of the same Committee that made those recommendations (together with Osmar and Michał, among this round's candidates), and I support that. One missing historical note however is that initially the FDC was planned to review and allocate funds to the WMF, although only for "non-core" activities, and it dropped out of the process two years later, returning to it only last year following our recommendation. - Laurentius (talk) 11:55, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
As this is an international Enterprise, I expect from those who work with the community at least two or three languages to communicate with. English only is for me clear disqualifier. How do you expect this multi-language community to deal with grant proposals, that are written in slightly bad English, but good in an other language? How will you make sure, that good English will not be a prerequisite for getting funds?
¡Me encantaría poder hablar mi propia lengua aquí y en otros espacios, pudiendo desarrollar mejor mis ideas y demorar la mitad del tiempo del que ocupo hoy escribiendo esto! However, it is not as simple as just writing in our language and expecting the rest to use a translate tool, especially when it is important for transparency to communicate to the broadest possible audience. English is, still, the closest we have to a lingua franca in our movement and should be used in general communications like those made in the APG process.
That doesn’t mean that we should close the door for other languages to be used in the process. While the main application and reports should be in English, other documents that can be helpful for insight might be in their native language - so in case a particular FDC member wants more details, can use a translating tool or ask for a particular translation if still in trouble. We shouldn’t add another burden for applicants to translate everything!
Also, we agree that we shouldn’t expect applications to be extremely long or in perfect English. They should as simple, brief and concise as possible. It is not only helpful for the applicants but also for the community that wants to understand the annual plans and also for the FDC members to understand better the proposals (yes! We also get tired reading never-ending proposals! :) And we should work to have more translations in different languages explaining the APG process in case anyone is interested to apply or participate in its discussions (currently, Grants:APG and Grants:APG/Funds Dissemination Committee are available in 5-6 languages, we should have more!) --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 22:07, 2 June 2017 (UTC) Translation of the first part: I would love to speak my own language here and other spaces, being able to develop more my ideas and reduce to a half the time I’m spending writing this!
To your specific question, I am able to work in three languages (English as a native speaker, plus French and Italian). As Chris mentioned in his reply - it's actually more likely that native speakers of English would produce less comprehensible applications because they (we!) are more likely to write without thinking about the need to translate. But, in my opinion, it is the combination of bureaucratese + Silicon Valley jargon which is most damaging to cross-cultural communication in our movement. On a related note, I do wish that Tom Morris would keep his "WMFers say the darndest things" page up to date! :)
As I’m familiar with six languages and my English language is not too good! But definitely, language is important. Always I follow a quote: ‘If anyone not good in English definitely he/she is good in another language. So if anyone not good in English that doesn’t mean he/she is not good communicator’. Personally, I’m really interested in helping them who are non english based. As most of our active member not too good in English, If elected I’m planning to invest a more time on various language specific people who have a good proposal but in slightly bad English. I’ll use my personal capacity to help them.
Je pense que je vais faire mal sur cette question. Je parle francais un peu, mais pour tous les autres langues étrangères, j'utilise le Google Translate. :)
I have never actually seen a WMF grant request written in anything apart from English. On the few occasions something is unclearly written, it's usually possible to ask for clarification in good time. To be honest, the WMF's written English is often worse that that of any affiliates, because WMF sometimes uses incomprehensible corporate-speak.
So I don't forsee much of a problem dealing with the actual text of the applications. I think I would have more of a potential disadvantage doing things like site visits, where knowing the relevant affiliate's language means an FDC member can engage with more people and pick up more nuances of communication.
This is a problem I encounter at work when we are developing applications for foundations who may use English but primarily prefer to communicate in another language – such as Japanese, which I can neither read nor speak - so I can share your frustration!
Our work-around has been to work with native speakers on accurate translation, not just a direct word-for-word translation but really putting in the time in to make sure they understand the spirit of what we are trying to do and making sure that cuts through. What I’ve found is that, when putting together a proposed programme of work, actually a typo or a slight mistranslation is less important than a robust budget, clear timeline and clear sense of what your work will achieve.
Generally, I’ve found that, where these things are missing, language isn’t the main problem. I do appreciate your perspective – it’s frustrating to think you might have an additional hoop to jump through and that a native speaker/reader wound better understand a proposal. However, I don’t think a native speaker reading an application necessarily makes it more fundable.
If elected, I will always start with the fundamentals first, elegance of language second, and expect FDC to work with non-native speaking applicants where the fundamentals are unclear because of language. I hope you’d consider supporting my candidacy on that basis.
As far as I know WMDE employs someone who is a near native in American English - having lived in America for a couple of decades - who compiles these reports. That is a luxury not every affiliate can afford. When I was on the board of Wikimedia Nederland, we used to hire the services of a professional translator for grant application and for annual and financial report for translating those reports from Dutch to English. Proper investment of donors money, we believed. Consider that a best practice. Restricting the size of grant applicatons and reports helps also in controlling translation costs as most translator are paid per word.
Language barrier is a major problem for Wikimedia: great ideas remain closed in particular communities and the wheel is reinvented every day; considerable amount of great Wikimedians feel unable to participate and contribute on an international level, non-English speaking entities try to find resources and deliver extra reporting in English which is taxing, and then they may be misunderstood because a fault of translation and limited understanding of their untranslated documents. It's missed opportunities and extra costs and I know it first hand: in Wikimedia Poland we translate our documents ourselves, as much as we can without hurting our activities.
Certainly, you should be able to run an event or a small organization while not knowing English and Wikimedia Foundation is trying to help: AFAIK programme officers speak a number of languages, and a few foreign language speaking community advocates are hired. Also affiliates often help each other in languages other than English. Nevertheless mind it, FDC is tailored for grants over 100k USD where scrutiny, diversity and global review are most needed. It is a group where community members from: Australia, Argentina, Canada, France/Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Poland, UK and USA work together to provide their insight, evaluation and advise for the submissions from Norway to Armenia. Finding nine proper, diverse Wikimedians ready to work in the same language other than English seems to be impossible now - so English stays, at least for now.
Of course, I believe that knowing other languages is a plus, as it usually means knowing other cultures, enables you to do own research etc., but there are many other traits I value as well (a strong lore of a less represented region or income bandwith, finances, Wikimedia activities etc. etc.). For affiliates, progress in automatic translation, standardization (of metrics, budget etc.) and resources for professional translation are an answer for now. And believe me, "slightly bad English" is usually much more understandable than a jargon/slang sometimes used by natives.
P.S. Polish is my native language, my English is fluent, and German is rusted. Es tut mir Leid; obwohl ich relativ gutes Deutsch gelernt habe, als ich in der Schule und an der Uni war, habe ich die Sprache seit vielen Jahren eigentlich nicht geübt - zu wenig Zeit und Möglichkeiten. Ich hoffe immer noch wiederzulernen... :) On my university I studied also Swedish (passed EU A1 level) and some Japanese as well. :)
I understand the point. Next week I will be at a meeting were English is banned and most people don't speak my language - although we mostly understand each other anyway :-)
The quality of the language must not take part in the evaluation of a grant. Indeed, we have seen a few proposal that were quite bad from this point of view, and that didn't influence significantly the outcome, I believe. Most of the people who will review them are not native speaker either, and often don't care too much, as long as it is understandable. i In the specific case of APG proposal, there is also the option to pay for a professional translation. Some chapters do that, and, if translating to English is felt as a burden by the organization, it is a good idea. Technically, it may be also possible to present a grant request in a different language, but I would not recommend that. - Laurentius (talk) 12:12, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
Accountability of non-APG chapters / Beyond Grantees Edit
We have several chapters in the movement that do not run their (bi)annual plan via the FDC, despite receiving funds from fundraising or taxpayers in their country by using trademarks owned by the WMF. Do you think that these chapters should also submit their annual plans to the FDC for feedback, in order to hold everyone in the movement to the same standards? Braveheart (talk) 14:22, 1 June 2017 (UTC)
There is a diverse and growing group of Wikimedia Organizations that are entirely or largely independent of APG funding, including WMF and WMDE, chapters with in-country tax support, smaller affiliates and those who do not choose to depend on this type of funding. At the recent WMCON, a few members of this group met informally with members of the FDC to discuss ways to support shared learning, transparency and accountability into the future, regardless of funding relationships. What role do you see for the FDC and its members in this conversation, as it continues? Thanks!
As I mentioned in the question regarding the WMF participation in the FDC, the FDC shouldn’t be considered as a burden but as an opportunity to improve the capacity to evaluate and demonstrate impact. I think that it is not only good for the potential affiliates that can join, but for the rest of the community. It could be easier to share good practices, understand what is going well or bad on those chapters, promote their most important activities, etc. It is not that it doesn’t happen right now, but the APG process could help to do it more publicly and in a more structured way.
Personally, I don’t agree with Ad’s proposal. FDC and AffCom have very different roles and responsabilities. While AffCom is focused on the development of affiliates and their capacity to represent locally our movement, FDC is devoted to improve the capacity for impact of our affiliates and its accountability. Considering this, it is natural for the FDC to support also those entities that are not currently asking for funds but still represent our movement in their local spaces. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 22:47, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
This is an issue of movement accountability that is close to my heart. The two Chapters who are most specifically relevant to the issue you mention are Poland and Italy - and by coincidence they are two of the countries that have had the most strong representation of their nationality on the FDC over the years! Equally, I know that they have both expressed interest in joining the FDC process in some form, in order to obtain structured feedback and to demonstrate their sense of accountability towards the movement as a whole. A third good example is Wikimedia Indonesia which has previously received large grants from external philanthropic sources - but this year has joined the SimpleAPG process. I mention these examples by way of say that I do not believe anyone is trying to hide from being accountable - it's just that different groups have grown in different ways (and in different legislative/fundraising environments) resulting in a large mismatch between our various movement entities' movement-accountability processes.
Currently the FDC is, effectively, the only body in the movement which provides a formal accountability-checking service. This is not what it was designed to do, it only does this for APG Affiliates, and it is not necessarily the correct group to do this job. But that's the way it is. The Affiliations committee has only recently started to ensure that the very minimum standards of Affiliate accountability are complied with (with their one-and-only tool: de-affiliation), and the FDC reviews some of our largest entities in the movement. The issue is one of fairness.
Is it fair that a Chapter receiving no money directly from the Wikimedia Foundation should nevertheless be forced to submit to a review by the FDC? Or the same question in reverse: is it fair that a Chapter trading on our Wikimedia brand does NOT have to be more formally accountable than the minimum standard, merely because they have local independent funding? There is no easy answer to this moral dilemma - and I am going to push within the final 'implementation' phase of the Strategy process (whether or not I am elected to the FDC) for this practical question to be answered.
Moreover, I believe that our matrix of "rights" and "obligations" in movement accountability is currently set-up in reverse order (at least as I see it). The obligations are set at a high/strict level to be able to account for the most organisationally-complex of our movement affiliates - but that forces our smaller affiliates to use process that are unnecessarily difficult and burdensome for them. In reverse, we confer rights based on the needs and capacity of the smallest affiliates which stymies the larger organisations who have more experience. For example: Amical must produce complex documentation because that's what WM-DE needs to do; and WM-DE is not allowed to sell t-shirts because Amical doesn't have that capacity. This should be reversed: we should have a scale of commensurate rights and obligations that both grow together.
FDC mainly play a role to discuss grant applications and disseminate fund. Its may not FDC work but to improve management, accountability, governance, volunteer capacity I think both parties may share the experience. As my thought, the feedback system may help to the chapter that provided by FDC. If the total grantmaking function develops by chapter and FDC, that really good sign for the community. But I don't support to increase the extra administrative for the affiliates. If the chapters may share the experience willingly and get FDC feedback its help total community. Also, many other affiliates may take help from this expertise. FDC now effectively doing formal accountability-checking service that helps for APG Affiliates. So, If its happening its may help both grow together and help others.
I'd certainly recommend chapters with APG-scale budgets who aren't in the APG process to take part in the reviews voluntarily. As a trustee of one of the APG chapters, I found the feedback we got from the FDC very helpful.
There are of course also issues around accountability, fairness, and support. The way things have evolved in the Wikimedia movement, any affiliate taking part in the grants programme has quite heavy scrutiny from the WMF and broader community (perhaps via the FDC) - this is generally healthy for those affiliates and is even healthier for the movement. If you're an affiliate with the same sized budget but are not taking part in the grants programme then there is far less scrutiny; AffCom will only act to close down the affiliate if it appears totally inactive. Hopefully the affiliate's own membership, and the communities of the projects they work with, still provide a good level of scrutiny - but I am still worried that somewhere, somewhen things could go very wrong and no-one would notice until it was too late.
Of course, it isn't for the FDC to settle these issues. But logically, to my mind, the answer would be to separate the function of assessing and improving governance, management and volunteer capacity, from the grantmaking function.
Using FDC to approve funding outside its own grantmaking would feel like ‘mission creep’ and might not be appropriate where affiliates have their own legal obligations as charities or foundations. However, I can see the value of offering feedback rather than approval. I agree strongly that fundraising using movement trademarks or ‘brand’ has to be held to a high standard and that Affcom is the correct body for this. Ideally it could work in concert with the FDC with its experience of reviewing large scale programmes and budgets to do so.
I’m glad to hear those conversations happened at WMCON. They chime with my belief per my reply to Braveheart about ‘solidarity building’ activities being important. Sometimes chapters are better at helping other chapters with specific issues like tax efficiency, accounting, fundraising, or legal questions because, for example, they are subject to the same sets of laws (EU law) or cultural context when it comes to raising funding.
In the initial version of my candidate statement I said,
I would like FDC recommendations to explicitly encourage work to increase funding from government sources, charities and ‘offline’ individuals. I believe this would open up new partnerships and go hand in hand with developing robust governance and accounting practice, strengthening in-country organisations and thematic groups as voices within our movement.
So I’m glad you’ve given me the chance to say it again! Given the FDC makes unrestricted grants, it can’t exactly encourage specific activities with specific funding. But it could emphasise the value of such activities as a legitimate part of a chapter’s annual plan applications and reporting, looking seriously at roles such as Nicola’s and networks such as the chapters association in terms of additional resourcing needs.
The role of the FDC is to discuss Annual Plan grant applications, it dessiminate funds received by the WMF. So the FDC will continue to discuss Annual Plan grant applications of affiliates and the Annual Plan of the WMF. Next to the FDC is another very important committee in our movement, the Affiliations Committee. The AffCom could, and in my opinion should, not only review applications to become affiliate, but also annually review compliance with accountability and other standards applicable to those affiliates. I didn't say to increase the administrative burden for the affiliates, but that AffCom actually reads their plans and reports, give feedback, and make recommendations to the BoT of the WMF. When on the FDC I will push for a recommendation to the BoT of the WMF to revise the AffCom charter in that way.
As a vice-president of a "self-funded" Wikimedia Poland and a FDC member I know this issue from many viewpoints; I will synthetize and start with rationale - what are we trying to achieve with FDC?
- If this is "a proper allocation" or "cutting costs" then the FDC is pointless here as it would not be able to change the total allocation. WMIT and WMPL raise their money with tax deduction schemes, unavailable for the WMF. The WMF does not send them these money and cannot alocate them in any other way. What is more, in case of WMPL (and probably WMIT) it would be illegal to transfer these money from the chapter to the WMF. In case of chapters raising their money with own local fundraiser and fees (like WMDE), I don't expect the WMF to be able to fill this gap and raise these funds by itself in any short or medium term. The WMF could try to separate these communities from the trademark, but it would be a major decision with grim consequences for everyone far beyond these budgets.
- If this is "a brand protection" and "brand risk mitigation" then I need to point out that:
- this risk is hardly funding dependent as tremendous damages can be done regardless how the entity is funded: by FDC, simple APG, direct grants, locally, or when it is a loose group not funded at all;
- this task is generally mitigated by AffCom (which admitedly may have to few capabilities to monitor it carefully enough) and other parts of the Foundation and reporting (see reports, including e.g. WMPL reports).
- If this is a platform of mutual learning to provide feedback, right incentives and a path of healthy growth then it can be worth all the effort from the affiliates, the WMF and the FDC.
I have personally witnessed a substantial improvement of many chapters' proposals, strategic thinking, benchmarks etc. and I attribute it, at least partially, to the FDC. Independently funded, big enough chapters could receive much support (through an independent review, benchmarks comparison, encouragement to improve their reporting/planning/strategy/... practices etc.). It could be benefitial for the rest of the Movement as well, as more detailed reports would share more benchmarks, how-tos etc.
One major drawback is an increased burden, especially for the non-native English communities (meaning the vast majority), so we need to ensure that the benefits (etc. improved governance, insight, co-operation with partners etc., maybe even some extra funds) are bigger than costs for the reporting entity. Mind it, 1. we want their success 2. these entities have many moral obligations, their donors, members, readers, central values etc. included, and they need to prioritize. Finally, we need to mitigate a risk of wrong incentives and moral hazard: if we were to fund the affiliates regardless of their fundraising and enforced the same requeirements no matter if they raise 0%, 50% or 100% by themselves, we would be sending them a clear signal to drop their efforts and switch to the WMF only. Thus, a visible recognition for the local fundraisers needs to be shown.
Considering pros and cons, I want my chapter to converge to the FDC platform, to make an institutional learning and advance the organization. It will be a great commitment, effort of the board and staff, probably extra costs and it may slow down some other activities but long term it should make the WMPL impact (which is IMVHO very good already) even bigger. Our staff was told about this plans and we got a cautious but positive feedback. I just returned from the Wikimedia Polska conference, where WMPL members (during a panel about mutual expectations of the donors, volunteers, staff and the WMF) were informed that such a need was recognized. So albeit slowly, as it is very resources-consuming, my home WMPL is steering at this direction and I recommend it to others, including Wikimedia Foundation.
Sidenote: there are many ways of being accountable to the Movement: empower your volunteers, stay true to your values, listen to the recipients and donors, be efficient and responsible, manage risks, create and promote new solutions (in case of WMPL: Wikiexpeditions, microgrants, photo uploaders...), support partners (e.g. travel grants for foreign Wikimedians), explain yourself (e.g. conferences, reports), co-operate (Carpathians, CEE Spring, WMCEE, expeditions, FKAEU...).
I can talk from my own experience, because I'm chairing of one of those chapters. Wikimedia Italia is larger than most FDC applicants but it is not receiving Wikimedia grants, and has no plan to do so in the near future.
I would be happy to see the annual plan of Wikimedia Italia submitted to the FDC for review (without asking money), and it is a discussion we are having. Clearly, this is a cost, because you have to write a proposal and two reports, answer questions etc., but overall I think it's both good for the movement and for the chapter.
The FDC process is not only a way to distribute money, but it is also a process in which the activities and the plans of individual organizations are shown and discussed, hopefully leading to improvements. The goal of the committee must not be only to efficiently allocate funds, but to support the development of the organizations and help them to learn and improve.
For the movement and the global community, this is a way to build transparency and accountability; and for the chapter, to get feedback and to prove transparency and accountability. It is important in good times, but it is important in bad times too: if I'm doing something terribly wrong, I want to have someone able to tell that to me!
I would encourage FDC-sized affiliates that are not part of any Annual Plan Grant process (i.e., currently Wikimedia Italy and Wikimedia Poland, maybe Wikimedia Germany and others in the future) to go through the FDC process voluntarily. The FDC was not planned to do this job, but currently it's the only body that can do it. Clearly, here we are talking about medium or large affiliates: requirements should be proportionate to the size and the experience of the organization.
This point is part of a larger discussion on movement accountability, and I see many open questions, including how accountability requirements should be framed for different kinds of affiliates, whether the FDC is the body who is better positioned to do this in the long run, how to increase the cooperation between the FDC and the AffComm (since also the latter is working on similar topics), how not to put an unfair burden on some chapters, etc. I hope this will be a topic for Phase 2 of the movement strategy discussion - but I also hope that we will not wait for it to talk about this! - Laurentius (talk) 12:45, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
Movement Strategy Edit
The current participatory process of creating a movement strategy will define and articulate the direction and strategy of the movement for the foreseeable future. The FDC has been a mechanism to oversee the disbursement of APG funds to individual affiliates in accordance with the current values and priorities of the movement. These might shift with the new movement strategy, in particular if it will orient itself towards more global power equity, inclusion, strategic partnerships and technological advances. How could the fund disbursement processes be reformed in accordance with a changing movement? What might this mean for APG and FDC? Thanks !
Even though we don’t know yet the final result of the Strategy Process, I don’t think there will be a radical change in the structure of our movement. I don’t think our affiliates or the role of the Wikimedia Foundation or the FDC itself will dramatically change from one day to another. But there will be changes that the FDC, as any other part of this movement, will have to face. New priorities and goals will be established and new metrics will be included. We may see new organizations being part of the FDC (or maybe less).
But I think the FDC could be a good space to support the affiliates to move towards that change. To adapt their practices and objectives in the new direction set by the Strategy. That transition won’t be automatic and we will have some problems, but it could be done if we all have a clear and common vision for our movement. --Osmar Valdebenito, B1mbo (talk) 23:03, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
I would not want to pre-empt the outcome of that strategic planning process, but this question is highly related to my response to your earlier "Accountability" question - specifically regarding 'fairness' for movement-accountability between affiliates. The current situation is not ideal, because the process is not applied consistently to all parts of our movement, but it's a good start :) Once we have a "finalised" strategy for the movement THAT is the time, and not before, for all parts of the movement including WMF, Chapters, FDC etc. etc. to come together and agree - for the good of the movement - how to redistribute our pieces of the Wikimedia puzzle to implement that strategy (to paraphrase Schiste). This WILL require some people losing parts of power that they currently have, but it's important that all parts of the movement go in to that discussion with an open mind - not a mindset of 'defending my territory'. I would like to believe that the FDC can play a productive role in that process and change, in whatever way is necessary (including being disbanded/replaced, if that is what is required) to suit the needs of the new strategy.
After the Board of Trustees has finalized the strategy process then FDC may shift the way they review grant applications. It's happening when finalizing the directives. After that FDC may follow the new direction. Also, the current Application may do not dictate which programs should be in the Annual Plan. But in future, FDC may think about this process and that followed by finalized the strategy. But at this time the process is not applied so the current situation is not ideal. As whole movement strategy process may not be applied consistently. But this initiative is good. When the strategy finalized that time I hope FDC play an interactive role in processing the work.
I've set out in some of my other answers, and in my statement, that I think we ought to do much better as a movement at supporting and developing affiliates at all levels. The question for the movement ought to be "How can we build the most impactful, diverse, brilliant affiliates?"; the question that the APG process exists to answer is "How can we share out the cash in an equitable way without huge arguments?" which to be honest is pretty different, and the APG process is only a partial answer anyway.
However, while I very much enjoy thinking about the future, I do also want to stress that this election is for the FDC that actually exists not for some hypothetical future movement body with a similar-ish role. I don't actually think the FDC should have any particularly special role in developing ideas about future movement structures, it's not what it is constituted to do. While I know some individual FDC members will have really insightful points to make on the subject, so will plenty of people who aren't on the FDC.
As other candidates say, it's hard to answer a hypothetical, so I guess I’m responding to the broader question of ‘How would you support the FDC in changing its approach should movement strategy change, and what do you think the challenges would be?’
Two good things to remember here. The first is that the FDC has already demonstrated it is an adaptable entity, given its relative youth as a body and the changes to its processes to date. The second is that this isn’t a new problem - frequently large grant-making bodies review their strategy and then their grantmaking changes to tactically deliver that.
Some examples where this has been done well (in my view) were the changes in approach at the Ford Foundation and the Lloyds Register Foundation. So I think if required the FDC could look to examples like this and emulate key features including a) allowing a long lead-in to changes b) highly publicising them and making efforts to be transparent through multi-channel engagement c) having a clear process for ‘calls’ for new areas of priority for grant making and d) increasing the consultative nature of developing proposals to ensure accessibility.
What would this mean for FDC and APG? Certainly, sensitivity in any transition period to ensure affiliates don’t feel uncertain about the next 12 months of activities, potentially having to look at the annual timescales and how these dovetail with introducing new priorities. Most of all continuing to show flexibility and responsiveness to meet the considerable variation in the needs of affiliate applicants.
Formally, not at all. The FDC will continue to review grant applications vis à vis the existing strategic framework and metrics set forth by the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. Or, the FDC will shift the way they review grant applications right after the Board of Trustees has finalized the strategy process with new directives and has instructed the FDC to follow this new direction. Please be aware that the current cycles of the strategy process focuses on the impact of programs the movement as a whole pursues and does not focus on fundraising, fund disbursement, governance, management or administration of the movement. The dialogue about how the new strategic goals might best be achieved has not been started, and will probably not start before September 2017.The current Application does not dictate which programs should be in the Annual Plan. Therefore it is allowed to compose an Annual plan in programs around the five themes mentioned in the current cycle of the strategy process, but that is not a requirement.
The number of potential outcomes of the strategic process and potential solutions for the FDC is tremendous.
Personally, I appreciate the FDC as the place:
- of mutual learning and comparing benchmarks (and I would encourage utilizing it more often);
- where particular submissions are evaluated;
- where the results of particular programmes are synthetized, rationale of particular benchmarks and metrics is assessed, insights and guidelines are made.
I can imagine many changes: increasing the acitivity and scope of AffCom, transferring some duties to the affiliates e.g. creating regional committees performing some tasks of AffCom/funds coms and WMF staff, or a system of mutual audits/checks by affiliates, increasing the scope of the FDC (e.g. with a closer work with the affiliates, perhaps towards audit; with more time to create general guidelines and strategic recommendations), spliting the proposals evaluation and directions/goals evaluation into two bodies etc.
Regardless of the final outcome, I think I am well prepared for the probable scenarios and duties (discussing technology, running numbers, auditting, advisory, no change at all etc.) and happy to serve.
With the ongoing strategy process, the idea is to have the global community working together to build a shared strategy, and then each entity and group adapting it to its own context. It is therefore likely that there will be changes in the FDC, maybe in the way in which evaluates proposals, maybe in the way it works, maybe in the relationships with other parts of the movement, or maybe even with a complete overhauling or by replacing it with something completely different. However, it's too early to foresee what these changes will be. - Laurentius (talk) 13:01, 2 June 2017 (UTC)
How can the FDC improve the communication with grantees? Edit
In the past two years, many things changed for the better regarding the quality of conversations we have around grant making. However, I think there is still room for improvement in the communication between the committee and the grantees, in order build trust and to avoid misunderstandings and misconceptions. Particularly the texts of the FDC recommendations - by design a very important feedback source for the grantees - repeatedly lead to confusion and irritation, although I know the FDC spends a lot of time and effort on them.
What you touch on here is an issue which goes to the heart of the FDC's dual-role. We perform a formal role of reviewing specific grant applications, but we also have a de-facto role in being part of conversations about mutual-accountability in the movement. However - we only have one place, every six months, to express both of those roles. As others have indicated in their responses - the difficulty of being a representative, accountable, and visible, group is compounded by the fact that we do are individual-volunteers who are not involved in site-visits to the affiliates, and we do not we have any official role/invitation to Wikimania (or regional gatherings like CEE Conference, Iberoconf etc.) When members of the FDC are at those events, it is because of their other roles in the movement. FDC used to attend WMconf as a group to deliberate officially, but now only a couple go as representatives.
In my term on the FDC these last two years, I have tried a couple of methods of communication beyond the formal text from the deliberations. I produced some "Tips and thoughts from FDC members" where I gave some, personal, opinions on what I thought would help improve applications. These received a couple of comments, but didn't seem to be particularly useful to applicants. I also proposed to have conference calls with applicants in the month before their application was due - for the available FDC members to talk with the applicants about the format (not the specific content) of their application. Only one applicant was interested in this proposal. The particular concern that both of these ideas raised was a fear of individual volunteers in the FDC giving contradictory advice - contradictory to each other, and contradictory to the WMF Grants staff. Especially since the FDC members are volunteers on very different timezones/personal-availabilities, and the staff are the ones who go on site-visits, I was advised to stop these 'extracurricular activities' and leave communication with affiliates to the staff.
For all its difficulties, I do like the fact that the FDC deliberations about the WMF's annual plan are designed in a way that our recommendations go to the WMF staff (who can then revise the plan taking account of this feedback), and then to the WMF Board - not just directly from the FDC to the WMF Board. This makes the FDC process one of 'giving advice' and not one of punishment/approval. This is how grants among affiliates of the same movement ought work - a process of discussion until both parties are happy, not 'submit and hope'. I don't know how this method could be adapted for the APG - especially not without making the process much longer! - but it does have its advantages.
Yes, I know what you mean. For instance, Wikimedia UK's bid one year was criticised for having targets that were too low and unambitious. After exceeding those targets, we raised them for next year. Then in the next bid, we were criticised for having targets that were too high and unachievable. Did this help us improve what we were doing? No. Did the FDC actually have an idea of what the right level of targets ought to be? No. (I do also agree that many things have changed for the better, but in my view this area does need a review.)
My two main thoughts:
First, communication outside of the formal grant application is really important. From the grant-seeker side of the table, it is much easier to get a sense of what FDC members and FDC staff really think and really want to see, from interactive discussions: in-person meetings, calls, site visits, conference sessions, and the like. I have a strong hunch that as a grantmaker these conversations are very valuable as well. So I would like to see a continued increase in the amount of interactive discussion here. This could even be extended to interactive discussion about the bid itself- questions have their place, and are useful for background, but could we include actual conversation in the lead-up to the allocation meetings?
Secondly, I think the FDC needs to review how it writes it statements. Currently I believe the entire text is a consensus document, like the allocations - so the whole text, and the dollar amount, are all the result of one discussion/negotiation among the FDC. Indeed, I have heard of circumstances where individual members of the FDC only agree with the dollar allocation on condition that their particular concern is included in the text. This tends to be unhelpful because it means that when the text says something, we don't know whether it is the view of the whole committee, or just a strongly-held view from one individual.
I would propose amending the format so that only views supported by most of the FDC are included in the main text, but that minority views on the FDC can also be reflected. "The FDC liked your work with GLAMs. However, two members strongly felt that your targets for GLAM Wikidata items were significantly too low." Wouldn't that be more more useful feedback?
As a career grant-writer who works with potential and actual grantees, good feedback prior to application, and after application, whether successful or unsuccessful, is crucial to getting the best fit.
As other answers reflect, I think one of the complications here is that written recommendations reflect a summary of discussions and therefore a range of views. I think the idea of presenting majority/minority views is interesting. This could be even better if specific concerns of particular FDC members are raised in advance of submission, giving applicants a chance to address them directly. Directly acknowledging that there are grounds for concern or gaps/weaknesses in a proposal and how you’re addressing often makes for a stronger application, and would perhaps avoid some of the conflicting aspect of written opinions. It’s also worth noting that providing direct feedback in a very public forum is a challenge, and so written feedback will always need to be supplemented with conversations pre and post application decisions to unpick the nuance of recommendations.
I think we should look also at what more can be done to improve the accessibility of the process and FDC members themselves within it. While I think staff must continue to be the ones who directly meet with and feedback to grantees, I think sessions like the one at WMCON where FDC members are listening to grantees are helpful and I would like to see that continue. I think if we haven’t yet found the format that affiliates want in terms of being receptive to concerns and questions we should trial more. One option I’ve seen work well in the UK and US foundation grantmaking sector is trustee visits to grant funded projects to observe and understand the impact of funding. There are cost implications in this, but it could be aligned by geographical proximity of FDC members, and I often find these trips are extremely revealing.
Hi Claudia. By accident I hit today on this translatable page. First of all thanks to all translators. On the election page I had read the following timeline:
- 28 May 2017: Deadline for candidate submissions and Identification verification
- 29 May – 2 June 2017: Questions and discussion between candidates and community
- 3–11 June: Voting
- 12–14 June: Vote-checking
- 15 June: Goal for announcement of results
There was a Q&A time. It was a short time. The Q&A time has an end. That enables translators to translate the page once and before voting begins. Your question came after the Q&A time. The timeline communicated to me to watch out for questions in that time frame, and answer them. Communication is a two way process, including communication with grantees. You raised two closed questions. Answering strictly for myself. Answer to question one: Yes. Answer to question two: Yes.
I agree we can do better, however it requires some rethinking of FDC and even more work from the volunteers on the committee, affiliates and WMF staff.
What we need is a farther transition from a "review situation" (like in traditional grant review or paper review) to a "consulting/audit situation". At the moment the FDC copies much of a traditional grant scheme: the deadline is given, affiliate writes a submission, some questions may be asked, decision and formal rationale is announced. However, one thing must be underlined: fortunately, the FDC aims to be more than a traditional grant process - it aims to be easier, with many questions asked, open partial reviews and good faith involved, and tries to serve as a practice exchange platform, with direct, public reviews for everyone to learn.
Unfortunately, it remains mostly a grant reviewing body meeting officially for two sessions a year: it does not visit affiliates, isn't necessarily invited to the conferences, and has a limited contact with the applicants. This is partially mitigated by our efforts; to speak from my own experience: 1.5 year ago Liam invited me to the meeting with WMF Advancement and in Berlin 2016 I booked a meeting of us and Lorenzo with WMDE about their status and Wikidata, somewhat repeated by the FDC this year. I also made a presentation explaining the FDC on the WMCEE 2016 conference and I don't run away from questions and discussions, even though often I am not entitled to provide some details and sometimes even Chatham House rule is too much this soon. As I noted before, I consider building trust and bridges as a vital part of the FDC duty, and I am trying hard even though my volunteer capabilities are limited. I am sure my FDC colleagues and staff dedicate towards communication possibly much effort and heart as well.
I understand it can be not enough: we are volunteers - questions can be late, understanding and time for own research beyond the submission limited etc. In my professional work audit or inspection takes at least weeks, sometimes months, and requires some site visit. It involves many iterations and meeting where we present our findings, listen to the working and formal responses of the evaluated and particular remarks are discussed. Final text is explained and the opinion of the evaluated side is included. This aims to capture all points of view, provide a just process and possibly good explains for both sides. This process involves professionals, guidelines, clearer regulation and still misconceptions happen.
Reframing the FDC towards "the audit model" is a step I would encourage, even if this means more work for me. This may require a clear mandate, e.g. in the strategy process, part 2.
I agree that there is room for improvement. I will address a few different aspects of this issue, which will result in a quite lengthy answer. First of all, I think it is useful to distinguish communication that happens through the recommendations, before the deliberations, or throughout the year.
- Recommendations: this is the main example you make. I realize that while we spend a lot of effort and a significant part of our deliberation time in crafting the recommendation text, the result is not always what we hope for. In part, this is due to time restrictions - we need to approve the text during the meeting, and we cannot draft it before, because it is based on our discussions. This is not the only problem however, and we should probably rethink the way in which recommendations are written. I was especially pondering on this issue after the last deliberations, because I realized that our thinking about one of the proposals was not really understandable. Recognizing that this is an issue, it is my intention for the next month to try to rewrite our last recommendations in a few different ways to explore different options for the future.
- Before the deliberations: the FDC spends a lot of time to prepare the deliberations, including reading and analyzing reports and proposals and asking questions. This is mostly done on our own, but, as part of the interaction with grantees, we ask questions on the talk page. Unfortunately people tend to ask question relatively late (generally in the second half of the month), which reduces the space for dialog. We should strive to ask questions earlier.
- Throughout the year: keeping in touch with organizations throughout the year would be great - we already read reports and so on, of course, but ideally we should have also direct contacts and talks. However, it is also very time-consuming, and it is unlikely that the FDC as a whole will ever be able to do that systematically: this is mostly the job of the WMF staff supporting the FDC, both through periodic calls and through site visits. In the past FDC members have taken part in some calls and also attended some site visits, but in recent times not any more. I don't know why this changed, and I think we should do that again: not always and not everyone - that would be unrealistic - but someone sometimes, it can be done and it is useful.
In these two years we made or proposed some specific attempts to improve communication, including:
- one year ago we offered to have a chat about the application format. Only one grantee (Wikimedia France) was interested in this, but I believe the call with them has been useful.
- at the last Wikimedia Conference, where most of the FDC was present (by luck: only three people were initially planned, and at the end half of the committee came for reasons not related to the FDC), we planned to hold office hours inviting the grantees. Unfortunately there has been a problem and this was not properly communicated, so nobody came. In the future, I think we should systematically set times to meet with grantees at the Wikimedia Conference or at Wikimania.
- we have also considered having calls with grantees just before or during the deliberations, but we never did, and part of the reason is related to transparency. The FDC process does not include only the grantee and the FDC, but also the Wikimedia community as a whole: and while questions and answers are visible to everyone on the talk page, calls are not.
On a broader level, the FDC process is framed in such a way that the FDC (and the community) evaluates the proposal, but cannot really help in building them - the main feedback it gives is for the following year. It would be great if the community review phase led to a revision and improvement of the annual plan, and not only a dollar allocation and a recommendation. However, there are practical problems, that would result in an increased workload on both sides and longer review times (presumably no grantee would welcome that!). I doubt this could be done now, as it would require an overhaul of the whole FDC process - something that may be considered, but is a much broader question. - Laurentius (talk) 20:32, 3 June 2017 (UTC)
On boldness Edit
Do you think trying new and bold ideas should be encouraged among APG affiliates? And - if the answer is yes - how could the FDC support grantees to be bold? My concern is that we currently rather reinforce the status-quo, ideas which have been tried and tested and the impact of which can be put into reliably projected numbers, whereas risks, uncertain metrics, and disruptive approaches which might not show impact in neat one-year time frames seem to have a potentially rather negative impact on the outcome of a FDC proposal. The multi-year funding is a first step to support a less narrow view on impact and innovation, but what can be done beyond that, especially as most affiliates still operate in one-year cycles?
Applicants should be able to propose bold ideas, and the FDC should be able to accept and encourage their success. I think bold ideas will be even more likely to be accepted by the FDC when they are identified as such in the plan, and when they are proposed by the more established/stable applicants like those on the new multi-year APG system. Often, proposals for bold activities (especially by smaller affiliates) are made without reference to past similar efforts by others. Therefore it is unclear whether they are aware of 'lessons learned' by others which would help them succeed. We have a lot of 'learning patterns' written now, but limited evidence of people reading them. What I would like to encourage is the overt acknowledgement of others' lessons when an application proposing something bold. This is the equivalent of a scientist publishing new research: they must first do a 'literature survey' to see who has published research in this field before, and identify how their own approach is different.
In WM-Austria's APG proposal this year, each section also included a notice called "elephants in the program". This, I felt, was an excellent way to address the idea that "yes, there are risks, and we acknowledge them upfront". The WMF's applications each year also includes an appendix page which lists the risks the WMF has identified for the major areas in which it works (legal, technical, PR...). Perhaps both of these practices could be adopted by other Affiliates when making their own annual plans? An acknowledgement of the risks by the applicant shows to the FDC that the applicant is aware of those risks, and has tried to address them. The oppose is that the applicant was either unaware of the risks, or that they didn't want to acknowledge them.
A further way to improve the likelihood of the FDC supporting ambitious/bold/risky ideas in an annual plan, is to indicate the contingency planning for that risk. In short: to specify how much of the budget being requested will be allocated to that, and state what would happen if that money was not granted. In more detail: indicating how much money/time/effort would be spent on a bold idea before making a go/no-go decision to continue; and what measurements would be made along the way to judge this. The FDC made a recommendation to WM-Norway about this in this most recent round, with regards their Northern Sami project (last two paragraphs at this link). While we said that the "FDC is sceptical about the likelihood of success" we also acknowledged that the project was consistent with their strategy and local community requests, and that it has a phased approach to determine success. We encouraged them to review after each phase to determine whether to continue. I hope that our intention was understood - to cautiously support a bold project and to allow that Chapter to give it a genuine attempt at success; that they shouldn't feeling bad if is not successful; and that they have the right to continue OR cancel based on feedback along the way.
Yes, I want affiliates to be bold. And yes, I recognise the feeling that the APG process can discourage this because it requires a high level of clarity that is more difficult to achieve with newer, messier projects.
My approach to this whole area is that the movement is still very much in a learning phase, working out what works and what doesn't. I believe many of our best ideas haven't been thought of yet. One of the purposes of the grantmaking programme should be to help incubate and develop potential ideas to see how they work out. I'm not sure how well we do that at present - as I mentioned in another answer, the FDC framework is set up to answer the question "how should we share the money around" not "how can we have the most effective affiliates".
But if I'm on the FDC I will be keen to support bold proposals, where there is little certainty about the outcome, so long as a few criteria are met:
- there is a clear idea of what impact we can achieve, even if what numbers we look at or what the numbers might be is speculative
- the affiliate appears to capacity to execute them and just as importantly to evaluate the project afterwards and share learning
- we have some kind of proof of concept, or a proof/test stage is built into the planned programme
If those criteria are met I would be very happy to spend $20,000 or $50,000 on something that might not work. Even if it doesn't work, it can take us forward.
I would also ideally like to see some kind of acknowledgement of risk and uncertainty in the FDC bid framework. At work, I deal with one product where results are highly certain and a 2% variance between months is a big deal that we have to look at closely - and also another where results are spectacularly uncertain and our projections only exist to for the sake of it. Similarly, with affiliates, it would be good to know which targets are for "banker" programmes that have consistent outcomes, and which are for areas of work where outcomes are more uncertain.
In a nutshell - yes I do. Our movement is relatively young, and affiliates are even younger. As an example, Wikimedia UK has come a long way since it first became a registered charity and appointed staff in 2011, but even after six years maybe a quarter of its programmes and structure aren’t mature, allowing it to continue to experiment with format, audience and delivery to find out what works (and lock it in) and what seems promising but for whatever reason isn’t right to invest in long term. I think this isn’t a bad ratio.
So, how as a committee, could we support other affiliates to feel confident in ‘being bold’? One thing I think is to encourage them to think about that ratio, between what works and they can quantify fairly accurately, and what *might* work and they need proof-of-concept funding. I would worry about an affiliate proposing a right high percentage of its programme that was the latter, but actively encourage some innovation in my feedback and contribution to deliberations.
The next thing, is again to look at best practice both within our movement and without, in terms of representing the impact of unknown programme activities, or models applied in a new context. Applying for ‘pilot funding’ is a skill, and we need to support affiliates to feel confident to provide a narrative explanation of outcomes, a ‘floor figure’ and an ‘exit point’. So, if they don’t achieve the minimum amount of engagement, content, or other deliverables, the FDC is confident they will halt the work and we have limited the exposure of movement funds to experimental programme that doesn’t work.
Finally, we could all learn more about understanding the value of piloting approaches, and funding ‘R&D’ into what is really going to help affiliates take their work to achieve movement goals to the next level. I understand multi-year funding can seem like a good solution for programmes that need a long lead in to show results, and that this offers the advantage of being able to invest in secure staffing to run programmes. I often get around this problem in the way I’ve described, by figuring out what a grantee thinks can be achieved in three years, looking at what that would look like at end of year one, and applying on that basis, but with a clear intention of seeking further allocation if successful. It’s a good balance of reducing risk but building momentum for longer term, deeper forms of work.
Thanks for your questions Claudia. WMAt has boldly submitted multiple times an application for an Annual Plan Grant. WMAT has received an unrestricted grant each time. It is up to the grantee to be bold in spending (and timely evaluate impact and effectiveness of dollars spend). I have been board member of a grantee in this process and I feel your pain. As a future FDC member I welcome risk taking and innovation. And as a future FDC member I welcome two way communication. Please pitch your new plans way before the deadline to submit and use any channel available and try to reach any stakeholder involved. The FDC is a stakeholder, but probably isn't the primary stakeholder for your new plans :). With me on the FDC that would be a different approach than what you have perceived in the past.
Learning and getting better is good and requires innovation. Testing new ideas brings some uncertainty, but standing still creates many risks itself: burn-out of volunteers, drop of enthusiasm among staff, end of the low hanging fruits, becoming obsolete in the fast changing world. We are still a young Movement: not only we did not test all the opportunities but society, GLAM, Internet and technology evolve fast. Using my chapter as an example: ten years ago GLAMs were strongly reluctant to co-operate, now we are selecting them and experimenting with various formulas of volunteer+GLAM engagement (Wikimedian in Residence, Expeditions led by GLAM ethnographs, photo/editing competitions with GLAM etc.).
I agree with Lorenzo: an affiliate (especially of FDC size) should have some room for an experiment, with a portfolio of activities with various risks attached. The same applies to the FDC itself: the WMF is able to fund some riskier activity (especially in a lower cost / smaller sandbox) to test if it may be a successful franchise like Wiki Loves Monuments or a recommendable practice in e.g. fundraising with matching funds or IT development. Some risks may be major for a smaller affiliate but they are pretty minor in terms of the WMF and they should be taken if the outcome has a fair chance of success and is replicable/scalable.
This is a place where planning, metrics and watching results applies. It is fine to take calculated risks and fail if one considered the situation, recognized the bad outcome and came up with conclusions, everything possibly explicitly - we may fail even in proven activities and sometimes the reason is beyond us. It is great to successfully innovate and show others how to do it. Certainly, managing the risks is good and I enjoyed Austrian elephants in the programme, Swedish conditional budget and employment items, and I really waited for the outcomes of pilot programmes like Dutch community health. Trailblazing is a service for the global community and it deserves some appreciation (just mind it, no successes and failures only for a longer period of time will bring a question if it is a matter of systemic bad judgement or implementation).
This issue is also important from the global/FDC perspective. I noticed that medium-size organizations tend to be more daring with innovation (especially aiming to make impact low cost), while the larger ones appreciate stability - which may lead to the FDC recommending increasing funding or encouraging enriching the portfolio with a novel item. Finally, while determining affiliate's apetite for risk its methodology and maturity (not necessarily size!) is crucial: more experienced organizations can be given more resources for daring projects, without an unnecessary risk of hurting them with a too lofty goal.
Innovation is essential! And so is taking risks. They must not be careless, of course, but well-thought risks are needed to grow and adapt.
An healthy organization should have a portfolio of projects at different stages of maturity and with different risks: mature and safe ones, but also some new, diverse, and risky ones. With time, some of the latters will fail and be abandoned; some will stay small but still interesting ones; and some will grow to become great projects.
I understand that the pressure to show an impact may reduce the willingness to experiment: for new projects, the impact is generally less certain. However, accepting that there is less certainty does not mean that one should undertake new projects without considering the potential impact. The logic model should be clear in your mind, and probably you should also have made some estimates to understand whether it can really work or not. I think that the FDC should not ask you to prove that there will an impact for sure, but still should ask what is the logic model, and a rationale for the choice - which are the same questions that an organization (or an individual) should ask to itself.
In the last rounds, we have actually seen a few applications explicitly listing challenges and risks; for instance, Wikimedia Austria did that with the "Elephants in the room", as well as Wikimedia Nederland with the "What could go wrong?" boxes. In particular, the latter contained a "Risk of not meeting targets", ranging from low to high (which exemplifies a choice of a diverse portfolio); and for the community health program it says that the risk is "high - but worth taking. If this does prove to be a functional model, it can be replicated in other communities" (which is an example of high-stakes, high-risk project). This kind of self-evaluation is much appreciated.
Among different grantmaking systems, I actually believe that the FDC allow more experiments than others. Being unrestricted, general support funds, the grantee can make changes in progress, and do not need a specific approval for each project or program. There is freedom to experiment.