Later today, Wikimedia’s newly established Funds Dissemination Committee (FDC) will be publishing its first-ever recommendations to the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees about how to distribute money to organizations in the Wikimedia movement. This is an important step for the movement, marking a significant devolution of power to the global volunteer community of Wikimedians, in which the FDC will give away as much as $11.2 million in 2012-13. We wanted to take a moment today to reflect on why the Board chose to create the FDC, and what has happened over the past seven and a half months since we made that decision.
First, a little background. The goal of the FDC is to help the Board make decisions about how to effectively allocate movement funds to achieve Wikimedia’s mission, vision, and strategy. Last March in Berlin, we called for its creation.
We did it because we believe that a global body of committed, experienced Wikimedians, supported by a well-designed process and a dedicated staff, will be perceived by the Wikimedia community as fair, transparent and accountable, and will be able to make decisions about where the Wikimedia movement should spend its money to accomplish three important goals:
- Ensure the money is put towards activities aligned with the Wikimedia movement’s strategic objectives;
- Ensure the money is spent effectively, supporting greater impact and enabling us to make faster progress towards our goals;
- Gather and publish information that helps anyone interested to get smarter faster about which programmatic activities are effective, and why.
The FDC process was set into motion following a Board resolution in March 2012, which said that going forward “all funds raised via the Wikimedia project sites will be distributed via the recommendations of the FDC, with the exception of Wikimedia Foundation core operating costs and the operating reserve.”
After an invitation to serve on the inaugural FDC was posted on all the Wikimedia projects, 43 people self-nominated to serve on the inaugural FDC, and of those, the Board selected seven.
They are from seven different countries, and have worked on Wikipedia, Commons, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity, Wiktionary, Wikibooks, and Meta-Wiki. They are or have been editors, patrollers, bureaucrats, administrators, stewards, strategy project contributors, and members of the Ombudsman Commission, the English Wikipedia ArbCom, the Funds Dissemination Advisory Group, the Chapters committee, the Wikimedia Foundation’s Audit committee and the Grant Advisory committee. They have also founded or have been Board members of five chapters: Bangladesh, India, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. Among them all, they speak 13 languages. They were chosen for their experience within and outside of the Wikimedia movement, including familiarity with grantmaking, finance and project management. Both of us (Jan-Bart and Patricio) sat on the committee as non-voting observers on behalf of the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees.
Since the launch of the FDC, they’ve had weekly orientation meetings and continuous communication via Skype, IRC and mailing lists, leading to the committee’s first in-person meeting at the end of October.
On August 1st, a public FDC wiki page was established, upon which fund-seeking Wikimedia organizations were invited to submit their first proposals in public and on the wiki. On October 1 the Wikimedia Foundation and eleven Wikimedia chapters submitted twelve proposals for the first round of funding.
The process allowed everyone in the community the chance to examine and comment on the proposals, alongside the assessments by the FDC supporting staff at WMF and according to pre-defined, public criteria that are the same for each applying organization (the community-written newsletter “Wikipedia Signpost” summarized the criteria and resulting assessments in an overview article).
Why is this important? Because it’s a lot of money. In this fiscal year, the FDC will make recommendations for how to give out as much as $11.2 million. To give that responsibility to a volunteer-driven body is a major step towards increased transparency, accountability, fairness and open collaboration in the Wikimedia movement.
We’d like to thank the people who have spent so much time making this whole process possible: the Wikimedia Foundation staff members who have been supporting the process, and the FDC members themselves. We believe this process shows great promise thus far, and we are excited to be getting the FDC’s recommendations later today.
If you have questions or wish to share feedback, you can do so on the FDC portal. We encourage you to read more about the process, and to get involved with it. All the proposals are open to your questions and feedback: we would welcome your contributions.
Jan-Bart de Vreede, Vice Chair, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees,
Patricio Lorente, Member, Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees