Welcome to the first grantees of the Knowledge Equity Fund: $4.5 million for equity.
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Welcome to the first grantees of the Knowledge Equity Fund

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By Lisa Seitz-Gruwell

photo by Rasheedhrasheed
This article was originally published in Diff on September 8, 2021. The author is Chief Advancement Officer, Wikimedia Foundation.

On September 8, the Wikimedia Foundation announced the first round of grantees for the Knowledge Equity Fund, a pilot program created by the Wikimedia Foundation in June 2020 to address the barriers to free knowledge experienced by Black, Indigenous, and communities of color around the world. The Equity Fund is a new approach to support external organizations that are working at the intersection of racial equity and free knowledge in ways to increase access to knowledge for all.

In order to achieve the movement’s vision of a world in which all people can freely participate in the sum of all knowledge, we must work towards knowledge equity, one of the two core pillars of the movement’s strategic direction. Knowledge equity is about welcoming the knowledge and communities that have been excluded by historical structures of power and privilege, structures that are often directly connected to systems of racial oppression.

However, the work of addressing racial injustice is not something that our movement alone can solve. Our projects can only do so much when, for example, academic and mass media representation of marginalized communities remains insufficient, which in turn limits citations and primary sources for us to build from. The Equity Fund will help us to build a robust ecosystem of free knowledge partners working to address the barriers to knowledge equity.

The Equity Fund complements existing grants programs such as the new grants funding strategy. With this new strategy, Wikimedia Community Funds are available for individual volunteers and affiliates within our movement in a variety of areas. The Wikimedia Foundation also provides grants for external organizations that have a direct tie to our movement and are working to support underrepresented communities under the Wikimedia Alliances Fund. The Equity Fund will target organizations that are working towards racial equity but who are not yet working directly with the free knowledge movement.

In order to identify grantee organizations, we assembled a Committee of Wikimedia Foundation staff and community members to manage the fund. Over the past several months, the Committee has been meeting weekly to define the scope of the Equity Fund, ensure that the work will be representative of the global nature of our movement, and discuss and select potential grantees for our first round of funding. Each grantee was required to align to one or more of five areas of focus that were identified as areas that are most beneficial to the larger ecosystem of open knowledge.

Today, we are announcing the inaugural round of grants from the Equity Fund. We have chosen six grantees across the Middle East, Africa, and North and South America that focus on issues of access, education, and equity within the regions they support. Each grantee supports an established organization with a track record of success in their field. Each is also new to the Wikimedia movement, and we are excited by the prospects of closer collaboration with groups throughout the free knowledge movement.

These grantees are:

Our work does not end with the selection of these grantees. We will be doing check-ins with each grantee over the course of the next 12 months to see how their work is progressing. Each grantee is expected to share their impact annually through a read-out of activities completed throughout the year. This will vary based on each grantee – for some, it may be producing original research and written materials; for others, it may be training journalists on addressing issues of racial equity and producing media focused on communities that have been underrepresented in traditional media sources.

Moving forward, the Equity Fund will provide one more round of grants in the Wikimedia Foundation’s fiscal year, likely in early 2022. Our plan is to identify, evaluate, and select these grantees among ideas from the Wikimedia movement, and we welcome recommendations through this form. (If you have already submitted suggestions, thank you!) We will be exploring options for new grantees over the next six months.

We will also be looking at the gaps we have in terms of capacity, awareness and skills on the Equity Fund Committee, and opening it up to additional community members to get involved working with the Committee on choosing future grantees. Our goal is to create a fund that is more participatory and more inclusive of the communities that we wish to impact with this work. We will be sharing more about ways to get involved with the Committee as we approach our next round of funding.

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Knowledge equity "around the world" actually means 3/6 of the grantees are American focused on American issues and a complete ignorance of the Indian subcontinent. This is obviously because America is the most important and worst country in the world. Also pretty much everyone in the Indian subcontinent is brown anyways right?? So they must all love each other and are basically the same why would there ever be equity gaps between different communities over there that need to be remediated? After all skin colour appears to be the overriding factor, given that in America it is the number one separator between communities it follows that the rest of the world also has that exact same issue. I hope the WMF in the future switches to spending all of their money on America, after all, how else are they supposed to get street cred at their San Francisco parties? United States Minor Outlying Islands United States Minor Outlying Islands United States Minor Outlying Islands United States Minor Outlying Islands Chess (talk) (please use {{reply to|Chess}} on reply) 03:26, 27 September 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I do understand what you are trying to say and I do agree as an Indian, but it sounds (reads?) like you are ranting instead of calmly explaining your point (but then again your mood is understandable given that it's been years). Tube·of·Light 04:01, 27 September 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Non-transparent process

The way this fund came about was highly irregular. $5 million were diverted to non-WMF ends at some point during the 2019/2020 financial year. This decision was taken without community involvement, bypassed all the usual grants processes, and only became public months later, when the audited financial statements were published. See discussion on Meta for further details (including a little more info on the grantees): meta:Talk:Knowledge_Equity_Fund. --Andreas JN466 20:29, 27 September 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Draft RfC

I don't mind being the person to start a WP:VP RfC about this. Below is my short draft, please let me know if anyone has any remarks/comments, I'll review them before starting the RfC in a few more days (maybe I got some of my facts wrong, which would be good to catch before RfC starts...). Ping editors involved in the discussion here and on meta: @Llywrch, Jayen466, Pundit, Yair rand, Nemo bis, and ThurnerRupert:. --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 09:20, 27 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks, User:Piotrus. I've made some copyedits below, in particular integrating what transpired in the WMF responses in the Meta discussion (i.e. that none of the grantees applied, so there were none that were rejected, etc., as outlined in this reply on Meta). I will also ping User:Theklan who I believe might also be interested in this topic. Best, --Andreas JN466 17:30, 27 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Draft 1:
Recently the Signpost published an article (Welcome to the first grantees of the Knowledge Equity Fund) about the WMF's pilot program, the meta:Knowledge Equity Fund, in which the WMF disbursed some funds (~1M USD total) to several grantee NGOs. This was done with what I and some others ([2]) believe may be insufficient transparency and oversight, coupled with mission creep, i.e. 1) there was no open competition for the funds; 2) their recipients were chosen based on unclear criteria in a non-public discussion by WMF staffers - no scoring criteria were published; and 3) the chosen recipients are both unlikely and in fact not required at all to produce any tangible benefits for our community - there is no indication that any of the grantees will produce content usable on Wikimedia projects (be it Wikipedia articles, images or other media, code, or whatever). Please note that I am speaking as someone who in the past and even now is still pro-WMF in general, but from where I am sitting this looks like a few WMF staffers and two arbitrarily chosen volunteers constituting the Equity Fund Committee decided to give away over a million dollars (with at least three more earmarked for further rounds) that people donated to Wikimedia to a few random organizations with zero oversight involved. This is a far cry from any best practices I can imagine (it seems extremely unprofessional and even corruption-prone) and should lead to both tightening the oversight on how WMF money is spent to avoid any malpractices, as well as cutting down on mission creep (WMF goal is to make the world better through improving Wikimedia projects, not by becoming some sort of disbursement fund for random other NGOs). --Piotr Konieczny aka Prokonsul Piotrus| reply here 09:20, 27 October 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]


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