I wanted to share an experience with regards to a future FDC.
During two years, I was a member of the "comité de pilotage" (which I
will here translate in "steering committee") of the ANR (National
Research Agency in France).
The ANR distributes every year about 1000 M€ to support research in France.
The ANR programmatic activity is divided in 6 clearly defined themes + 1
unspecific area. Some themes are further divided for more granularity.
For example, I was in the steering committee of CONTINT, which is one of
the four programs of the main theme "information and communication
technologies". My program was about "production and sharing of content
and knowledge (creation, edition, search, interface, use, trust,
reality, social network, futur of the internet), associated services and
Every year, the steering committee of each group define the strategic
goals of the year and list keywords to better refine the description of
what could be covered or not covered.
Then a public call for projects is made. People have 2 months to present
their project. From memory, the projects received by CONTINT were
The projects are peer-reviewed by community members (just as research
articles are reviewed by peers) and annotation/recommandation for
support or not are provided by the peers. There is no administrative
filter at this point.
Then a committee constituted of peers review all the projects and their
annotation/comments and rank them in three groups. C rejected. B why
not. A proposed. Still not administrative filtering at this point.
The steering committee, about 20 people made of community members
(volunteers) and ANR staff review the A and B. Steering committee is
kindly ask to try to keep A projects in A list and B projects in B list.
However, various considerations will make it so that some projects are
pushed up and others pushed down. It may range from "this lab is great,
they need funding to continue a long-going research" to "damned, we did
not fund any robotic project this year even though it is within our
priorities; what would be the best one to push up ?" or "if we push down
this rather costly project, we could fund these three smaller ones". We
may also make recommandation to a project team to rework its budget if
we think it was a little bit too costly compared to the impact expected.
At the end of the session, we have a brand new list of A followed by B.
All projects are ranked. At this point, the budget is only an
approximation, so we usually know that all A will be covered but 0 to a
few Bs may be.
The budget is known slightly later and the exact list of projects funded
How do we make sure what we fund is the best choice ?
Not by administrative decision.
But by two rounds of independent peer-review who can estimate the
quality of the project proposed and the chance for the organisations to
do it well.
And by a further round through which we know that all projects are
interesting and feasible, but will be selected according to strategic
goals defined a year earlier.
There are also "special calls" if there is a budget to support a highly
specific issue. Projects leaders have to decide if their project is
related to a "regular theme", or a "white" or a "special
The idea behind this is also that they have to make the effort to
articulate their needs clearly and show what would be the outcome.
The staff do not really make decisions. The staff is here to make sure
all the process work smoothly, to receive the propositions and make sure
they fit the basic requirements, to recruit peer for the reviews (upon
suggestion made... by steering committee or other peers), to organise
the meetings, to publish the results, and so on. Of course, some of them
do impact the process because of their strong inner knowledge of all the
actors involved. The staff is overall 30 people.
How do we evaluate afterwards that we made the good choice and funded
the right ones ?
First because as in any funding research, there are some deliverables;
Second because once a year, there is a sort of conference where all
funded organizations participate and show their results. If an
organization does not respect the game or repeatedly fail to produce
results, they inevitably fall in the C range at some point in the
I present a simplify process, but that generally is it. I am not saying
either that it is a perfect system, it is not. But according to what I
hear, the system is working fairly well and is not manipulated as much
as other funding system may be ;)
Last, members of the steering committee may only do a 2 years mandate.
No more. There is a due COI agreement to sign and respect as well.
Thanks to the various steps in the process and thanks to the good
(heavy) work provided by the staff, the workload of volunteers is
Note that this is governement money but the government does not review
each proposition. The governement set up a process in which there is
enough trust (through the peer-review system and through the themes and
keyword methodology) to delegate the decision-making. The program is a 3
years-program defined by the board of the organization. The majority of
the board are high level members of the governement (Education, Budget,
Research, Industry etc.). This board does define the program and the
dispatching of the budget between the various themes. But the board does
not make the decision-making with regards to which programs are accepted
On 2/9/12 9:11 AM, Ting Chen wrote:
The Board approves the following letter to be sent to
Dear members of the Wikimedia Movement,
As you are probably aware we have been discussing the the future of
fundraising and fund dissemination for the Wikimedia Movement for almost
6 months now. After discussing fundraising and funds dissemination at
this past meeting, the board has drafted the following statement. It our
intention to discuss these matters in the coming weeks to come to a
final decision mid March.
But first we would like to thank everyone who took part in the
discussion so far and spent their valuable time providing us with their
viewpoints which we have of course taken into account in our decision
making process. We hope that you will continue to participate by giving
feedback on this letter.
The board wants to create a volunteer-driven body to make
recommendations for funding for movement-wide initiatives (Working
title: Funds Dissemination Committee, FDC). The Wikimedia Foundation has
decision-making authority, because it has fiduciary responsibilities to
donors which it legally cannot delegate. The new body will make
recommendations for funds dissemination to the Wikimedia Foundation. We
anticipate a process in which the Wikimedia Foundation will review and
approve all but a small minority of recommendations from the FDC. In the
event that the Wikimedia Foundation does not approve a recommendation
from the FDC, and the FDC and the Wikimedia Foundation aren't
subsequently able to reach agreement, then the FDC can ask the Wikimedia
Foundation Board of Trustees to request the recommendation be reconsidered.
#the FDC will be a diverse body of people from across our movement
(which may include paid staff) with appropriate expertise for this
purpose, whose primary purpose is to disseminate funds to advance the
#the WMF staff will support and facilitate the work of the FDC
#Proposals can range from one time smaller contributions for small
projects from individuals to larger financing for operational costs of
chapters or associations
The board intends to evaluate this process together with the FDC and see
if it is working.
Our thoughts on fundraising are less specific. We have come to the
following two statements which are important
* If and when payment processing is done by chapters, it should be done
primarily for reasons of tax, operational efficiency (including
incentivizing donor cultivation and relations), should not be in
conflict with funds dissemination principles and goals, and should avoid
a perception of entitlement.
* The board is sharpening the criteria for payment processing. Payment
processing is not a natural path to growth for a chapter; and payment
processing will likely be an exception -- most chapters will not do so.
The Wikimedia Board of Trustees
NB: Please note that rather than spend a LOT of time on wording at this
time, the board preferred to amend the above text if necessary when
moving towards a resolution. This letter indicates our intent, and we
may "wordsmith as needed" in our final resolutions.