Reform and report of Wikimedia Foundation grants process
The Wikimedia Foundation Community Resources team, best known for operating the Wikimedia Foundation grants program, has announced major changes in the sort of projects which it will fund and also published its 2018–19 annual report. In a July email to the Wikimedia-l email list, the WMF representative announced that the rapid grant process for proposals of up to US$2,000 would no longer sponsor travel support, equipment purchases, or Wikimedia meetups. Wiki editing parties, photowalks, promotion campaigns, video campaigns, and "other" are still fundable causes. All submissions must happen between days 1–15 of a month. Lastly, the process reserves certain months only for submissions of certain campaigns, as listed:
Besides the reforms, the grants team presented the newly published Wikimedia Grants annual spending report for fiscal year 2018–19. The WMF sent US$7.4 million to 86 countries in 394 grant proposals. To meet Wikimedia community report demands the WMF also has sorted the various proposals in categories of contemporary interest, as follows: 9% went to individual applicants rather than organizations; 33% of the money went to projects in the Global South (emerging communities, less wealthy economies), and 4% went to projects which address the Wikimedia gender gap. 64% of the money went to Wikimedia affiliate organizations who received it as part of their annual plan grant overseen by the Funds Dissemination Committee or the simple annual plan grants process.
To anyone who evaluates this report, consider and speak out about what information the Wikimedia community needs to encourage good understanding of itself and planning for the future. Examples of data which would be currently hard to access include reports of funding by region (each of North America, South Asia, Europe, South America for example); evaluation of the extent to which projects delivered promised outcomes; relative impact of funding administration versus programming versus infrastructure; and counts of Wikimedia users participating in various projects. The Wikimedia platform is digitally native and produces huge amounts of metrics to interpret how grant-funded interventions change it. Anyone with ideas for what to do with such reports has the standing Wikimedia community invitation to discuss and suggest in all relevant community forums.
Derecognition of Wikimedia India
On 14 July 2019 the Pune Mirror reported news that the Affiliations Committee (AffCom) would revoke official recognition and WMF grant funding eligibility of Wikimedia India (WM India) as a Wikimedia movement affiliate. WM India members have objected to the decision and posted "Wikimedia India's Demand For A Fair And Transparent Hearing" in Wikimedia-l, as well as continued conversation in the India focused wiki mailing list. Right now, there is no particular communication process in place for derecognition of Wikimedia community groups and various social pressures prevent WM India, WMF, and AffCom from speaking openly in the wiki. These transparency challenges led one Wikimedia community member to remark being "surprised that the community has to learn about the de-recognition from the press".
While AffCom has derecognized chapters in the past and each case is somewhat different, this case is more unusual because of Wikimedia India's special place among Wikimedia affiliates. Typical Wikimedia chapters design their own programs at the community level and present them in their region. In India, the WMF has invested much more money operating programs of foreign origin within India, with the role of WM India being to represent the local community in overseeing and approving these projects. WMF programs in India include operating the first Wikimedia Foundation satellite office there from 2010–2012, piloting the Wikipedia:India Education Program there from 2012–2014, operating Wikipedia Zero in India from 2012–2016, for its television video campaign for Wikipedia awareness in Hindi language in 2017, and for its unique sponsorship relationship from 2013–present with the Centre for Internet and Society as an expert organization outside of the Wikimedia community. In these and many other collaboration attempts, culture clashes have been routine. While difficult to summarize, one commonly voiced criticism is that that WMF challenges the autonomy of the regional community by investing more money in WMF-led programs than local-community led programs. There is no organized repository of journalism, documentation, and accounting about WMF investment in India, and perhaps the narrative in the memory of the community there is not published anywhere to be found.
The revocation of WM India's status recognition coincides with several other major Wikimedia projects in India. One is the Wikimedia Foundation's July 2019 India fundraising announcement in which the organization describes plans to seek donations and sponsorship in India. Another is Google's sponsorship of the Wikimedia Foundation to advance the "Supporting Indian Language Wikipedias Program". In remarks to The Signpost a WMF representative shared that the fundraising team and AffCom had taken action on relations with India independently of each other. Also, the collaboration with Google has been ongoing for some years, and the new development is a progression of years of past engagement in the region as reported in various third party media sources.