Wikimedia Foundation elections/2021/Candidates/CandidateQ&A/Question11

What do you think about the Wikimedia Foundation using funds for purposes not related to Wikimedia projects?

Question received from a community member on Meta

Gerard Meijssen (GerardM)

When funds are used that enable us to share more of the sum of all knowledge, I am all for it. We should invest what is comparable to commercial rates and thereby pay for the maintenance of the free and open software we use. We should pay Internet Archive for the functionality we benefit from. We can invest in whatever serves our purpose, not necessarily only our projects.

Dariusz Jemielniak (Pundit)

I think that the big picture is that what is key is alignment with our mission, not just being related to Wikimedia projects. For instance, we were involved in opposing new regulations in copyright, for good reasons (principles of open knowledge), while they were not certain to impact Wikiprojects. We routinely oppose censorship attempts, even if we appear to be specifically exempt. Technically speaking, even organizing Wikimania may be perceived as not immediately directly related to Wikimedia projects, but I think we definitely should have it :) (for clarity, I personally think that Wikimania's purpose is fostering enthusiasm of our volunteers, exchanging ideas, and the relation to Wikiproject is clear to me, but I know that opinions differ). However, I'd say that, given that our resources are scarce, and given that as I write in my statement, we also want to grow in regions less covered, as well as get ready for new tech and social challenges, we need to be really smart and selective about what purposes outside our immediate focus we choose. At this time, I'd be reluctant to start funding projects entirely unrelated to Wikimedia projects. Pundit (talk) 13:09, 9 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Lionel Scheepmans (Lionel Scheepmans)

This question points precisely to something that I discusses in my doctoral dissertation and that revolves around the concept of "mission drift". It is in fact a tendency observed in charities, profit-making associations, and even commercial companies in some cases to adapt their activities, and thus the use of funds, to optimize the collection of new funds, while neglecting the primary mission of the institution (fight against hunger in the world, make a quality soap, etc.).

The primary mission stated in the Declaration of Intent of the Wikimedia Foundation is "to provide the essential infrastructure and organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects [and] to keep useful information from its projects available on the Internet free of charge, in perpetuity. However, we are already talking about the Wikimedia Enterprise project which contradicts this official statement twice. On the one hand, the project is not there to support the development of Wiki projects, but to help the giants of the net to use the information they contain, and on the other hand, it is no longer a question of making this access to information free in perpetuity, but to sell it. This is a real drift that must be fought if we don't want to see the foundation become a subcontractor of the Web giants and the editors of the Wiki projects become voluntary subcontractors of these same companies. I am strongly opposed to this API project as long as it will be designed as a commercial site, paying for some of it and hosted in .com outside the foundation's servers (currently at Amazon it seems).

The funds already spent on the Wikimedia enterprise project and its two employees is a good example of funds being used for purposes not related to Wikimedia projects. This is why my candidacy for the board of trustees is also motivated by this desire to help the foundation not to deviate from its primary mission in building a world where human knowledge would be shared unconditionally and with respect for everyone.

Reda Kerbouche (Reda Kerbouche)

No response yet.

Rosie Stephenson-Goodknight (Rosiestep)

When it comes to spending donor money, funding Wikimedia movement projects must be the priority, and the Wikimedia Foundation must be transparent in its actions. Supporting open knowledge outside our movement, especially in targeted regions such as the “Global South”, or targeted topics, such as “diversity”, is a noble idea. I would want assurance that there is a financial surplus; that in compliance with the donor policy, that donors are aware of how their donations are used; and that the Wikimedia community participates in the nomination/decision process in order to ensure equity in decision-making. It's a fact that the Knowledge Equity Fund has already been established. The community, broadly construed, including Affiliates, as well as the Global Council and Hubs (once established) should play an active role in regards to this topic. --Rosiestep (talk) 18:07, 18 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Mike Peel (Mike Peel)

It depends on what ‘not related to Wikimedia projects’ means. If it means things completely unrelated, with no conceivable connection back to Wikimedia, then Wikimedia funds shouldn’t be used. If it’s related, though, then it can be OK. A random example might be OpenStreetMap - we don’t do maps ourselves, but we use maps from OSM, and OSM is a fellow-traveller community, so using Wikimedia funding to support OSM work may well make sense. Legal work to protect the commons is another related area where there is important work that could be funded since it is connected to Wikimedia (and e.g., spending a bit more money on more power-efficient servers is a similar situation). It all comes back to what the funding priorities are, though, where the Wikimedia projects should always have top priority. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 12:06, 11 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Adam Wight (Adamw)

No response yet.

Vinicius Siqueira (Vini 175)

I support funding initiatives that are not related to Wikimedia projects as long as these initiatives contribute to fulfilling the Wikimedia mission, and donors are clearly informed about this potential use of funding. Priority in funding should be given to Wikimedia projects. --Vinicius Siqueira (talk) 17:54, 7 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Yao Eliane Dominique (Yasield)

The Foundation needs to refocus the "debate". I believe that there is a huge need for Wiki projects already. And I don't think that all these needs are being met. So I don't think we should disperse the funds

Douglas Ian Scott (Discott)

Priority should always be given to Wikimeda movement projects however I am supportive of also using funds to support the free knowledge movement generally so long as there is a clear public benefit case for it and there is a decent prospect of impact. Often supporting free knowledge projects generally has a positive supporting impact on Wikimedia projects. If there is no free knowledge/Wikimedia project rational then I would be strongly against it. Even though there are many good causes in this world worth supporting outside of our movement we must keep with the implicate mandate we have from our community, donors and the public to remain focused on free knowledge.--Discott (talk) 16:09, 21 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Pascale Camus-Walter (Waltercolor)

I think there must be a clear budget. A certain proportion of the budget can be allocated to “external purposes” as a Foundation can do. But this amount of money should be planned each year, clearly appearing on the charts and a qualitative and quantitative assessment should be made each year. If the Foundation wants to allocate resources to programs which are not related to Wikimedia projects, then the program and the resources must be planned and the purpose of the program as well as the expectations should be described before the resources are allocated. This will allow us to make an assessment after. What did it bring to the Foundation ? To the movement ? Does it enforce our mission ? --Waltercolor (talk) 10:35, 9 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Iván Martínez (ProtoplasmaKid)

In no situation in life should we generalize. It depends on each case, and what is understood as outside Wikimedia. The movement is not an island, so there may be projects that indirectly benefit the movement, or perhaps there are less well-funded parts of its ecosystem that may benefit from the support of donor funds.

As a previous member of committees that have approved funds I have learned that in the vast majority of cases the community does a good job of managing resources on Wikimedia supported projects. The same standard could be used for projects that benefit the mission. More rules can also be established for access to Wikimedia funds such as prioritizing projects that have an equivalent philosophy in terms of free knowledge, participation and inclusion and avoiding using the funds in projects that are far from our philosophy, and that have even been shown to be inequitable, discriminatory, etc.

Victoria Doronina (Victoria)

Considering that the money are needed for the development of Wikimedia movement, especially in the Global South, I don’t think WF has any money to spare for any other causes irrespective of their worth. There’s an NGO or 100 for any cause, and WF cause is exclusively Wikimedia movement support.

But maybe I’m missing something. It would be great to have examples of the projects WF is (considering) spending our money on.

Lorenzo Losa (Laurentius)

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to support and empower the communities of the Wikimedia projects and the projects themselves. Among the many worthy goals that one can set, we choose to pursue this one. We should devote virtually all the resources of the Wikimedia Foundation to it.

There are, of course, many things that we should do beyond just operating the Wikimedia projects. For instance, we may depend on some piece of software, and it may therefore make sense to use some resources to develop it. There are many legal issues that are relevant to our projects, especially on copyright, intermediary liability and privacy, and therefore we should take a position on some topics of public policy. While doing this, however, we should always keep in mind our core mission.

The Wikimedia Foundation looks relatively big and well-resourced (in terms of money, people, etc.), and it is tempting to use some of them for other purposes. However, the truth is that the Wikimedia Foundation is not so big, and the resources are very limited. If we scatter them in too many different places, we will end up achieving nothing - and the Wikimedia projects will be the first to pay the price.

Raavi Mohanty (Raavimohantydelhi)

There are a plethora of opportunities, what is interesting is that with each new technological innovation the opportunities increase. Since the lockdown people have realized the importance and reach of technology. We can now reach in places and target segments we never would have thought of even ten years ago. IT revolution gives us an opportunity to revolutionize global education. Access to knowledge will no longer be a monopoly of the rich, especially in the developed countries. We can ensure that every person on the planet can have access to the free flow of ideas and information. And all the projects under the umbrella of the WMF have a major role to play in this.

The effects of Global warming and its effect on the planet have taken a turn for the worse. It is a grim reality that has become more tangible in the past five years, even the most ardent cynics can no longer deny the effects of global warming and its effect on the species of flora and fauna. Wikispecies needs to do a lot more in highlighting the rapid annihilation of species. More awareness campaigns need to be run in collaboration with scientists and environment-related NGOs and prominent citizens. Even small acts by individuals can go a long way in protecting the environment.

Various specialized projects can be set up, for example, wiki sciences, wiki history, wiki culture, wiki arts, etc. WMF has the reach and resources to induce the scientific and historical communities to share their ideas research with a larger audience, and with sound mechanics of peer reviews, that will ensure the authenticity of their research. Concomitantly make groups focusing a specific section of social groups that focus on educating underprivileged children, this would be different from a group focusing on school-going children from affluent families (as their needs would be entirely different). There could be groups on adult education, that would use different methods for education than others. The use of technological innovations like Augmented Reality and AI should be increased.

WMF can provide a knowledge platform for all sections of society and anyone who wants to access it and learn for free. Raavimohantydelhi (talk)

Ashwin Baindur (AshLin)

WMF gets its funding from public donations and grants and these are made specifically to the Foundation for the purpose of keeping all the projects up and running without advertisements or sponsorships. This involves an implicit trust that the funds would be used for Wikimedia projects only, and not for other purposes.

On the other hand, with the rate of change in technology, circumstances, and situation in the world, it would be short-sighted and pedantic to insist that only internal Wikimedia initiatives be funded. The Movement should retain its ability to fund initiatives not directly linked to Wikimedia projects and activities. This should be done with adequate safeguards regarding procedure, mandatory consultation with Community, and monetary limits in absolute or relative terms, and so on. Such proposals if agreed to, should be funded after due diligence, community consensus, legal scrutiny, with a formal agreement, continuous monitoring, and stage-wide release of funding.

Such funding initiatives of external unrelated projects should remain the prerogative of both Foundation and Community jointly, not just WMF alone. This is important in the backdrop of news of a multi-million dollar fund created by the WMF for the purpose of funding external unrelated projects. Recent events require us to err on the side of caution, when going beyond the accepted normal of routine activities, especially in cases of funding, and Community consensus is important in this context.

There are presently many unmet needs of the many language and project communities in their pursuit of making knowledge universally available which would benefit from WMF funding. These naturally should have priority over external unrelated projects. Among these, we need to support initiatives which help a community transition to digital presence and Open Knowledge in general, and hopefully make them ready to participate in and get the benefits of Wikimedia movement. A hypothetical example would be a small language community which has no orthography and which can be encouraged so that in time, with development of written form of language, they can participate in Wikimedia projects as well.

But the WMF needs to go beyond this as well. The reasons why the WMF must fund external projects arises from the fact that there are many deserving organisations and initiatives which are working for the same broader cause that the Wikimedia Movement is pursuing, that of promoting Open Knowledge. These could be organisations involved in technology such as OpenStreetMap, WikiCite-related external initiatives, organisations involved in advocacy, or research, and so on. These organisations are involved in the same cause, while not part of the Wikimedia movement, have the same aims; however, unlike the WMF, they have huge challenges in procuring altruistic funding, and their continued functioning depends upon such funding. It makes a larger sense for the WMF to to support such organisations, and grow the larger movement.

This is an issue which I would monitor very closely to ensure that we are on the correct path, should I be elected Board of Trustees member.

AshLin (talk) 11:25, 13 July 2021 (UTC)[reply]

Pavan Santhosh Surampudi (Pavan santhosh.s)

No response yet.

Ravishankar Ayyakkannu (Ravidreams)

This is a sweeping statement and open-ended question. What one would consider as an expense not related to the Wikimedia projects may be viewed as supporting our mission. Therefore, to answer this question, I need more context and exact details of any such expense in the past or proposed to be allocated in the future.

One of our movement strategy priorities is to innovate in free knowledge. Innovation requires liberal funding and the freedom to experiment which may not show results immediately. We cannot afford to be risk-averse and stagnate.

We should also not forget that as a recognized leader in the free knowledge movement other organizations and communities may expect us to lead and support in certain avenues. We should not miss the full picture and isolate ourselves in such cases. The scope, context, and exact budget will determine my support or opposition for any spending.

Farah Jack Mustaklem (Fjmustak)

Everything is related to Wikimedia projects in some way. The essence of Wikimedia projects is the dissemination of free knowledge, and funding any initiative in that realm is relevant to the mission of the Foundation. Digital rights is another area that I believe the Foundation should involved in, as digital knowledge without digital rights is incomplete. --Fjmustak (talk) 00:35, 1 August 2021 (UTC)[reply]