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Chapters ask for big bucks

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By Jan eissfeldt, Tony1, and The ed17
The FDC is the most significant reform of the WMF's finances, and will hand out up to more than $11M this financial year. The community can comment on the 11 applications of the first application round until next Monday.

The volunteer-led Wikimedia Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) and interested community members are looking at Wikimedia organization applications worth about US$10.4 million out of the committee's first full year's operation, in just the inaugural round one of two that have been planned for the year with a planned budget of $11.4M.

The WMF introduced the new finance structure earlier this year, with the FDC at its core, to promote transparent and accountable spending among Wikimedia entities. Fifteen organizations of 19, including the foundation itself, have met the transparency criteria in general, although several chapters encountered problems in satisfying the new requirements for reporting on their past finances and activities—some documentation having been overdue since 2010. Eleven chapters plus the WMF submitted funding proposals.

The largest chapter, Wikimedia Germany, which employs more than 44 people and has some 500 active volunteers and more than 2500 members according to its submission, is requesting the largest amount of funds among the chapters. WMDE is requesting $1.82M (24.3%) to fund parts of its planned $7.475M expenditure over the next fiscal year—a considerable increase on the chapter's current spend of $4.316M. The chapter's funding and expenditure are more complicated than for most: for example, funding for the Toolserver in Amsterdam, which is increasingly important to the running of Wikimedia sites, has been the subject of intense debate. Other projects, such as Wikidata ($2.75M), have been funded by the chapter from third-party donors. Among WMDE's initiatives will be new efforts to make state-owned cultural works freely accessible on movement sites, a greater presence at EU level, and the testing and evaluation of two innovative support tools to help readers and editors to improve balance on Wikipedia articles.

Wikimedia UK has five permanent staff and one intern, 87 active volunteers and at least a further 100 who occasionally participate, and 330 registered members. WMUK is asking the FDC for $919K (67.4%) of its annual budget of $1.365M. The entity's activity plan for the upcoming year provides considerably more detail than most other chapter plans. Among the chapter's initiatives will be support for Europeana uploads, a "train the trainers" program, the development of modular online training, outreach to editors working in the Welsh language, and moves to increase female participation in the movement. The chapter will continue its support of Wikipedian-in-residence positions with partnered GLAM institutions, including digitization efforts and a focus on Scottish museums.

Wikimedia France, with four staff members (soon to be five) and 303 members (20–30 of them "very active"), is requesting $961K (68.8%) of a total budget of $1.397M. Its plans include reaching out to new editors in universities—including PhD students, other students, and academic researchers—with about 15 training workshops, particularly on ecological topics, and a new partnership with the Société Française d’Écologie. The chapter will spearhead the promotion of scientific knowledge about Wikimedia, including the running of a research project on the geolocalisation of Wikipedia articles, involving engineering students from the major engineering college École Centrale de Lille. There will be a number of new GLAM projects, and new French-language outreach efforts, particularly in Africa and in support of minority languages in France. Language projects will include the launch of a francophone newsletter about Wikimedia projects, inspired by the Signpost and the French Regards sur l'Actualité de Wikipédia.

The WMF's own application, for $4.46M (10.6% of its $42.070M budget), involves the organization's non-core spending. For the first time, then, this part of the foundation's spending will be subject to community comment and review. Affected are programs such as the global Education Program ($718K)—of which the US and Canadian components are currently the subject of an RfC—and editor engagement experiments (E3; $1.2M).

Other chapters applying are Wikimedia Argentina, Australia, Switzerland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, and Hungary. All applications can be reviewed by the community until 22 October. The FDC will consider both submissions and comments, and will submit its spending recommendations to the WMF board of trustees by 15 November 2012.

In brief

A 19th-century colour portrait of English mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace, after whom the US Ada Initiative is named.
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Good review of the FDC process of dividing up over $10 million of "OUR MONEY." It bears repeating that the community is requested to review the proposals.

It can be a bit shocking to see a chapter with a few dozen members request funds of something like a million bucks, or seeing that a chapter has 44 staff members. Given the overwhelming volunteer nature of Wikipedia, the first response of many people is likely to be "you want how much?!!!" But, as shown in the article, it is great to see the innovation in the UK and German chapters - things like the Toolserver that we use all the time. It is also great to see the German chapter bringing in outside cash that multiplies the effect of the support they get from the Foundation.

Probably even more important is the support to smaller chapters in the Global South, and the future results we can expect from them. This is not to say that we should just assume that the money from the Foundation in the proposals is all carefully planned. Watching this closely and commenting on potentially wasteful spending will be very important.

BTW, I am writing as an individual, not as a member of the FDC Advisory Group which helped plan the FDC and its procedures. I will say that the FDC AG considered community input and oversight to be a very important part of the process. So I'll just repeat that the community is requested to review the proposals. Smallbones(smalltalk) 21:12, 16 October 2012 (UTC)[reply]

  • I notice that you don't mention the grave censorship and bias concerns many people have about the "partners" you've yoked us with in Saudi Arabia. Tell me again: do we want to partner with people who track down and punish dissidents? Orange Mike | Talk 21:41, 16 October 2012 (UTC)[reply]
    • "you've yoked us with"? Who is you? Certainly not me, and I doubt that the signpost folks did it either. Smallbones(smalltalk) 03:34, 17 October 2012 (UTC)[reply]
      • Orange Mike, you may not know that many WPs have no rules, or weak rules, requiring balance and the provision of reliable sources. That seems to be a more fundamental target for your comments than a Telco (or an ISP). Tony (talk) 04:26, 17 October 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  • This is insane. Tiny and unrepresentative little groups are receiving bushels of money chucked out the side of a helicopter. WMF should be banking the cash and building an endowment fund or spending it on things we need, like expended server capacity or WYSIWYG editing software, not hurling it in bales to every clique capable of envisioning a spending scheme. Carrite (talk) 22:09, 17 October 2012 (UTC)[reply]


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