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Debates on Meta sparking along—grants, new entities, and conflicts of interest

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By Jan eissfeldt and Tony1

Upcoming changes to the WMF grant schemes

As part of its new focus on core responsibilities, the Wikimedia Foundation is reforming its grant schemes so that they are more accessible to individual volunteers. The community is invited to look at proposals for a new scheme—for now called Individual engagement grants (IEGs)—which is due to kick off on January 15.

In 2012, the WMF reformed the financial structure that underpins the funding of programs across the movement. At the heart of this was the establishment of a community-based committee, the FDC, to make recommendations to the WMF board on grant applications by eligible organizations for movement funds. Individuals and smaller organizations could rely on two other schemes: the GAC-backed Wikimedia grant program and participation grants.

However, no comparable program is yet in place to empower individual and small groups of volunteers to tackle large and time-consuming structural issues. The fellowship program, which funded projects like the wub's redesign of the English Wikipedia's help pages, has been wound down to free technical and organizational WMF resource for core tasks like developing the visual editor.

While the foundation is encouraging chapters to engage in funding efforts modeled on the fellowship scheme, it recognizes that there will be a gap, given the WMF refocus. According to the drafts published on Meta by Siko, who has led the fellowship program and is now responsible for grants to individuals, the new pilot scheme aims to provide a solution. In the first round, seven IEG grants of US$5k–30k each are on offer, in a unique framework:

Funding Support Duration Submissions Scale
Wikimedia Grant Expenses (travel, venue, outreach materials, logo gear, etc) Money, proposal planning and reporting coaching Single event, generally Rolling
Participation support Expenses (travel) Money Single event Rolling
Individual engagement grant Time and expenses (project materials, travel, outside services, logo gear, etc) Money, planning and assessment coaching, progress check-ins 6–12 months Semiannual RfPs, new cohort every 6 months 7 grants for pilot (budgeted at US$5k–30k per grant), 10–20 in round 2

In selecting grantees, the WMF will rely on community input from both individual members of the community and a subcommittee of the already-established GAC volunteer committee, which advises the WMF on the Wikimedia grants scheme. The proposal for the new grant scheme also involves working with chapters, where they exist, to find the best institutional support for programs that are funded.

The community is invited to propose changes to the draft framework and to address open questions. According to the plan, a call for applicants is expected to be published by January 15.

Trademarks and identities: Wikimedia thematic organizations debate reloaded

On Meta, the community is once again debating the two new offline participation models—user groups (open membership groups designed to be easy to form) and thematic organizations (incorporated non-profits representing the Wikimedia movement and supporting work on a specific theme within or across countries). While the WMF board approved a broad framework for what these new community-run entities could aim to achieve in principle by March 2012, the latest debate on how to make it all work in practical terms has centered around whether new entities should be allowed to call themselves Wikimedia (X), and the potential implications of such a move.

The roots of the discussion go back at least to the movement roles working group, established in October 2010 to review and reform which Wikimedia entities are supposed to do what in serving the online projects properly. The investigation concluded that no established model at the time was properly equipped to empower communities like volunteers working on our Catalan language projects (an example of the concept of the thematic organization in these debates) and user groups such as Wikipedia's oldest meetup in Munich (an example of the user group).

The WMF legal team—conscious that volunteer organizations outside the US have faced legal complaints through being confused with the foundation (example)—is now proposing four general principles. These principles, to be implemented by the volunteer-run AffCom as the body that guides recognition-seeking entities through the application process, are designed to guide the naming decisions of entities seeking WMF board recognition:

AffCom, traditionally dominated by chapter functionaries and currently seeking new members through its co-option process, is required to look at applications case-by-case in implementing the guidelines of and making recommendations to the WMF board.

Community reviewing new Wikimedia guidelines for COI

WMF General Counsel, Geoff Brigham
In a consultation process on Meta that will last until January 15, the community will be discussing WMF proposals for a new guideline on conflicts of interests concerning Wikimedia resources. The draft covers COI issues for both volunteers and organizations across the movement.

The document is a framework that sets out minimum standards to be upheld by everyone who is requesting movement resources, such as grants made possible through donations and the receipt of trademark permissions like the use of the Wikipedia ball, emblems that have achieved good public standing on the back of years of work by Wikipedia communities. In commenting on the general context of the draft, Geoff Brigham, the WMF's general counsel, told the Signpost that the timing of these guidelines is highly appropriate:

The document outlines five basic guidelines:

The document provides five practical examples, and assumes that people involved in handling movement resources can set higher standards as they see fit in their field of activity. Volunteers can rely on the guidelines in engaging in debates like the Gibraltar controversy last September.

However, open questions such as how to handle potential COIs of decision-makers are still to be addressed; and the practicalities of how to apply the guidelines in more decentralised financial decision-making processes such as the newly approved flow-funding pilot project are still to be thought through. Community input is welcome until January 15 on the draft's talk page. The WMF board is not expected to vote on the outcome before its meeting in February 2013.

Brief notes

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Cite4wiki "on e-death's door"? Come, come. The Signpost would do well to resist the urge to overdramatize. It was a trivial bug, and I have been able to fix it, and all is well. Ijon (talk) 01:09, 28 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]

The story states: "AffCom, traditionally dominated by chapter functionaries (...)". I'd like to point out that this might give a somewhat wrong impression. At least at this point it is not true (I know for sure at least four members are not on any chapter board at this point) although it happened to be true in the last appointment round beginning 2012. Before then, it was a small majority of functionaries and begin 2010 even a minority. It is true though that most members have experience in one of the Wikimedia organizations - be it the Wikimedia Foundation or one of the chapters. The can be as current or former board member, or in another way (active volunteer). effeietsanders 23:54, 28 December 2012 (UTC)[reply]

  • Is it just me, or has the WMF stopped acting in good faith when it comes to the creation of chapters and chapter-like groups? I know that they can't get along with some of the larger regional chapters, but the latest proposals on their end seem to focus on making group formation more confusing for everyone (in the name of making things less confusing, ironically), and trying to create a great deal of distance between chapters and the foundation. If the WMF wants to get rid of chapter groups, they should come out and say it, instead of using a long, drawn out, campaign of passive-aggressive behavior to make people feel unwelcome. Sven Manguard Wha? 17:51, 1 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]
    Yes, it's just you. WMF is interested in the creation of chapters and chapter-like groups, and is actively supporting the creation, or work towards the creation, of such groups. Such groups will tell you that, as will AffCom. WMF also gets along just fine with "the larger regional chapters", AFAIK.
    So, if instead of vague suspicions you'd like to propose improvements, by all means do so (but please consider doing so in appropriate talk pages, on Meta, rather than here. Ijon (talk) 07:00, 4 January 2013 (UTC)[reply]


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