[Wikimedia-l] Comments on compliance and the FDC Round 2 decisions

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Thu May 9 19:49:44 UTC 2013

I have one general appeal to all new global Wikimedia bodies, including FDC:

Wikimedia movement structure is becoming more complex and it will
become just more and more complex. That's very good, as it signals
that proper steps have been made regarding our organizational growth.

Presently, we are experiencing problems of increasing complexity. In
relation to grants, the structure has been moved from communication
with one person to communication with a body, which is still in the
process of formation. I suppose that it will be just more complex in
the future: FDC will likely create sub-committees at appropriate time
and interested groups will have just one more level of communication.

Making that process acceptable and non-frustrating means that the
whole structure has to function much more precise, much more clear,
with much more responsibility. Otherwise, we'll finish into deadend of
unclear and frustrating relations.

I want to say that there will be just more and more situations where a
person in the position of power (which could be a WMF employee while
handling application of one chapter) doesn't see something as a big
deal, as it could be reasonably treated as nothing important from the
position of that person, creates at the other side a lot of troubles.

That could be solved by increased empathy: put yourself in the
position of someone who asks for grant and think what could they feel
if something is worded in some way, or if no options would be given at
appropriate point of time. That means that passive decision-making
process is not enough; the active approach is necessary; and that
makes difference between good and productive relations on one side,
and bureaucratic, unclear and frustrating relations on the other one.

On Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 5:04 AM, Asaf Bartov <abartov at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Hello, everyone.
> 0. Meta
> 0.1. I do not respect the choice by Deryck -- an experienced Wikimedian --
> to voice his (understandable) frustration in a letter full of wikidrama,
> and to follow it with a direct accusation of our team of "foul play"[0].  I
> think this should not go uncommented on.  All of us deserve civility and
> courteous discussions.
> 0.2 I am starting this separate thread to address some of the legitimate
> questions asked on that other thread.
> 0.2 Please note I speak in my capacity as head of the Wikimedia Grants
> Program, since grants compliance has been a large issue in Deryck's
> narrative, but I do not speak for the (all-volunteer) FDC nor for the FDC
> staff, who can speak for themselves (though some are on vacation, so it may
> take a while).
> 0.3. This is a long e-mail, but I would like to believe I am both concise
> and direct.  I just have a number of different issues to respond to.  I
> have also tried to be systematic, so you can skip sections you don't care
> about.
> 1. Clarifications about "Eligibility"
> 1.1. WMHK _was eligible_ to apply for funding in FDC round 2, was informed
> of this publicly, and proceeded to apply.  FDC eligibility is determined at
> a specific point in time, and the eligibility table is not changed after
> that point in time.
> The effort was not "futile from the start", because at the time eligibility
> was determined, it was not clear that WMHK is in fact non-compliant, and
> the Finance team determined eligibility according to strictly
> formal/technical rules -- the grant reports _were_ submitted, just before
> the deadline, so WMHK was considered eligible.
> 1.2. After applying, WMHK has _fallen out of compliance_ with grant
> requirements, when it emerged (and it was not known in advance) that WMHK
> has in fact unilaterally re-purposed left-over funds from an old grant (a
> fact only revealed at our insistence to account for all funds[1], one day
> before the proposals were due) without consulting or even informing WMF.
>  Some of the questions we have asked about those funds[2] have not been
> answered to this day.  We require compliance in all existing grants before
> additional funding is sent out (though funding _can_ be _approved_ while
> some compliance issues are pending).
> I would like to stress that this is not a minor point of slight tardiness
> or some missing receipt -- this is actual mismanagement of funds (though
> not necessarily mis-use of funds, and NO ONE IS SUGGESTING BAD FAITH here
> -- we do not think WMHK has done anything illicit or ethically improper!),
> and _does indeed_ reflect on WMHK's ability to handle large grants.
> 1.3. It is WMF grantmaking staff's duty, within the FDC Framework, to
> provide a factual assessment of applying entities track record with
> previous grants.  This we have done, and anyone may see our assessments[3]
> and compare them to the facts on Meta, in the grant and grant report pages
> and their respective talk pages.
> WMHK was repeatedly encouraged to address this non-compliance, with
> specific reference[2] to the FDC staff assessment deadline.  We would have
> _liked_ to be able to report WMHK has addressed this issue and is in
> compliance!
> 1.4. It is my understanding, from reading the FDC recommendation (and
> without any "inside information" -- I was not part of the deliberations),
> that the FDC has reviewed the WMHK application with all due care, and that
> the proposal was _not_ rejected out of hand on ground of ineligibility, but
> rather on ground of
> "[concerns] about WMHK’s internal governance, financial management
> capacity, and capacity of its volunteers to manage a plan of this size.
> WMHK’s proposal and past activities do not sufficiently demonstrate a
> record of, or potential for, high impact. It recommends that WMHK addresses
> these issues before undertaking a plan of this extent."[4].
> I think it is understood (and proper) that an entity's track record --
> including not only compliance but also impact, community engagement and
> more -- is taken into account in evaluating an FDC application, alongside
> the merits of the program itself.
> The FDC did note WMHK's falling out of compliance, and did -- I think
> confusingly -- term it "ineligibility" in its recommendations; I think
> "eligibility" should only be used in the limited sense described in 1.1
> above.  They do correctly note that entities are expected to _remain in
> compliance_ after attaining eligibility.  This would have meant, in this
> case where a non-trivial compliance gap was discovered after eligibility
> was determined, taking urgent action to resolve the gap and supply the
> missing information.  WMHK did not do so, despite repeated public
> requests[2] and several e-mail reminders.
> It seems to me that had the FDC been presented with a compelling program
> plan from WMHK, and had WMHK had a stronger record of success with its
> previous program, the FDC would not have hesitated to recommend at least
> partial funding for WMHK, and if the compliance gap were to be closed
> reasonably soon, WMF would have been able to send WMHK that funding.  But
> again, as far as I can tell, non-compliance was not the only weakness in
> WMHK's application.
> I trust the FDC can, if need be, further clarify their primary grounds for
> recommending not to fund WMHK's plan.
> 1.5. In summary, I must protest against the narrative of Deryck's letter,
> wherein WMHK's proposal was rejected by malevolent WMF staff with a secret
> anti-WMHK agenda via "convenient" discoveries of trivial non-compliance
> issues, whereas it would otherwise have been guaranteed to receive full
> funding, and there was no possibility for the FDC to legitimately judge the
> proposal to be weak.  The facts about WMHK's proposal, in all the different
> aspects the FDC cares about, are different, and almost entirely public.
> 2. I would like to address the theory that not enough information is
> available on either the Wikimedia Grants Program or the FDC process.
> 2.1. I am not convinced it is so.  I would like to note, quite simply, that
> merely having information _available_ does not equal people _consuming_
> that information.  If, as I think is the case, the problem is that existing
> information is not sufficiently read or understood, we need to figure out
> ways to communicate it better, or to create stronger incentives for reading
> the information, but it is not at all clear that we need _more_ information.
> 2.2. Specifically, I know the FDC staff has diligently sought to have
> dialogue with the proposing entities, and specifically attempted to close
> information gaps and misconceptions some applicants have had.  FDC staff
> can probably speak to this more directly if need be, but from the public
> staff assessment, it is clear that with WMCZ, at least, this communication
> did not change their minds.  That's WMCZ's choice, of course, but it does
> mean lacking information was not the issue here.
> 3. Post-FDC follow-up
> 3.1. I would like to clarify that any entity that has not had a successful
> FDC application in the current fiscal year -- that is, including entities
> that have applied and were not funded -- is eligible for funding via the
> Wikimedia Grants Program, according to that program's standard process.
>  WMHK and WMCZ, therefore, are welcome to address their current
> non-compliance and to then apply for additional funding for program work,
> assuming it does not require full-time staff.
> 3.2. I will spell out (all this is in the program descriptions on Meta)
> that the Wikimedia Grants Program _can and does_ support part-time staff or
> _temporary_ full-time staff, _in the context of specific projects_.  I can
> assert I have explained this in person to some members of WMCZ (at CEE 2012
> in Belgrade) and WMHK (when I visited in late 2012).
> 4. Grants for growth
> 4.1. Nemo asserts: "It's very clear (to me) that the WMF grants system is
> not designed to make Wikimedia entities grow, but only to reinforce those
> which are already strong enough, keeping them at the same level they're
> at."  -- this is incorrect:
> 4.2. The Grants system (i.e. including the Foundation's different
> grantmaking programs[5]) is designed to promote impactful work towards the
> Wikimedia Mission.  That is the ultimate goal.  Helping _impactful_
> Wikimedia groups (chapters, thematic organizations, user groups) grow
> _does_ serve the mission, and therefore _is_ supported by the Grants system:
> 4.3. Despite Tomasz's comments, the Wikimedia Grants Program has seen some
> chapters seek and obtain progressively larger grants, and has specifically
> seen the coordinated "professionalization" of at least two chapters (WMAR
> and WMRS) via its grants.
> Admittedly, the _final_ grant in each of these paths would _today_ only be
> given by the FDC, as the FDC process was determined to be the appropriate
> way to fund investments such as long term leases and non-temporary
> full-time staff, but the _path_ towards that goes through successful and
> _impactful_ spending of Wikimedia Grants Program funds.  The Grants Program
> did indeed decline to fund several proposals that included staffing plans,
> and anyone is welcome to review those declined grants[6] and read my
> assessment and concerns on the talk pages.  You are welcome to ask
> questions about them as well.
> Helping impactful groups _grow_ is most definitely something I personally,
> as head of one of the Foundations grants programs, have done.
> 4.4. I encourage any group that would like to discuss a possible path to
> hiring staff through WMF grants to discuss this with me (I'm happy to have
> the discussion in public on Meta, but will defer to each group's
> preference), as WMRS has done, and we can work out a plan to achieve this,
> given certain milestones.
> 5. Summary
> I hope this helps our colleagues understand the context in which the FDC
> recommendations were made, and I am sorry I was forced to dwell on points
> of weakness, but it seems to me our public process and this public
> discussion have left no other choice.  Like everyone else, I'd much rather
> celebrate successes. :)
>     Asaf
> [0] http://lists.wikimedia.org/pipermail/wikimedia-l/2013-April/125536.html
> [1]
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=Grants_talk%3AWM_HK%2FEducation_Toolkits_For_Liberal_Studies%2FReport&diff=5285395&oldid=5237667
> [2]
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants_talk:WM_HK/Education_Toolkits_For_Liberal_Studies/Report
> [3] The assessment for WMHK's proposal is here:
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FDC_portal/Proposals/2012-2013_round2/Wikimedia_Hong_Kong/Staff_proposal_assessment
> [4]
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FDC_portal/FDC_recommendations/2012-2013_round2
> [5] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:Start
> [6]
> https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants:Index/Requests#Grant_submissions_not_approved
> --
>     Asaf Bartov
>     Wikimedia Foundation <http://www.wikimediafoundation.org>
> Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the
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