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Statement on CIS-A2K's FDC Proposal

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Statement on CIS-A2K's FDC Proposal

Vishnu t

Dear Wikimedians, WMIN EC, FDC Members, FDC Staff and the WMF Board:

*sorry for X posting and for the long e-mail*

This statement is in response to the CIS-A2K's FDC proposal discussions during the months of April to June 2014. For those of you who would like to know the context please see the discussion pages on meta here [1] & [2]. Apologies for putting out this statement at least a couple of weeks late.

It was in September 2012 that CIS was given an opportunity and a responsibility to serve and grow the Wikimedia movement in India through our Access to Knowledge (A2K) program. As many of you know we have left no stone unturned in doing our best to growing the free culture/open knowledge movement in India and in Indian languages. CIS is grateful to the Wikimedia movement from which we have learned immensely as an organization. We are yet again grateful to all you for reposing the trust and responsibility yet again in the A2K program with the FDC Grant [3]. Even more so as our FDC application went through a rigorous community feedback.

Some interesting stats on the CIS-A2K FDC proposal: the entire discussion ran into approximately 75,000 words. Of this CIS-A2K's responses consisted about 28,000 words and 47,000 words were by the community members, WMIN EC members, FDC staff and FDC members. This is probably the longest discussion on any of the FDC proposals so far. 25 Wikimedians (of this about 8 are “new users who have not edited since”); 4 out of 7 WMIN EC members; 4 FDC members; 4 FDC/WMF staff; and 1 WMF Board member took part in the CIS-A2K FDC proposal discussion.

On a candid note, some of the community engagement during the FDC process was painful like walking on fire, but we are glad that we have gone through this process. We thank each and everyone who has engaged with our A2K work and the program proposals that we have put forth for the next year. We have learnt some useful lessons and assure you that we will continue to improve upon our programmatic efficiency, efficacy, accountability and transparency.

We would also like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of the critical points of feedback that we received from all of you and outline the steps that we have taken or plan to take.

1) The Grant proposed is too high within the local context. Especially Salaries and the Administrative costs were considered to be high. (This was echoed by many Wikimedians - Ravi, Dhaval, Hari & Pradeep; WMIN EC members Karthik & Pranav; FDC Staff and FDC members. Some specifically suggested that we consider revising the salaries at least to bring them on par with the existing salaries within CIS.)

We have taken the community's feedback to CIS Board and our Board concurred with the community's feedback and suggested that we take appropriate measures to bring in some sort of parity in salaries for the A2K team, and noted that this will be better in the long run. Accordingly we have revised the CIS-A2K team salaries taking into consideration the following factors a) feedback from the Community and FDC; b) performance of the team member during the last one year (i.e. until March 2014); and c) scope of work for the coming year based on the draft work plans. *We would like to inform that the total revised staff salary budget is less than 35% from what was proposed to the FDC.* The average monthly salary of the A2K team under the FDC grant will be about Rs. 73,000/- per month. Further CIS will also raise some portion of the salary. Please see here [4] for the revised salary structure for the CIS-A2K team which is effective from July 1, 2014. We have also reduced some of the costs against Team travel across the plans. This and the other changes to the budget will soon be shared with the community.


2) Ambitious scaling up of the language specific strategy that CIS-A2K has adopted and the sustainability of the growth. Also the number of proposed plans is too ambitious. (FDC members, Staff along with Ravi and Blue Rasberry).

We have taken this feedback into consideration and decided to limit the language specific plans to 5 (4 existing and 1 new), and will suspend 2 language area plans . Since we started to actively work with the Wikimedia movement (from Sept. 2012), sustainable and qualitative growth of Indic Wikimedia projects has been one of our core concerns. We have already stated the measures that we will proposed to take up towards sustainability of the various initiatives in our response to the questions raised on Meta during the FDC proposal process. We look forward to seeking more ideas from the community on this aspect as we continue to work with them through the next 12 months. CIS-A2K will also cut down some of the proposed stand-alone projects. Based on the community's feedback we will soon share revised plans that will guide our work for the next one year.

3) Focus on policy, advocacy and content donation and acquisition. (FDC members and Pradeep.)

CIS-A2K program will more pro-actively look at various possibilities of influencing policy in creating an enabling environment for open knowledge and Wikimedia movement in India. We have already put in efforts to create policy level changes in each of the language area and some of them may fructify soon. However, it is important to note that any kind of policy work is difficult to quantify to visibly demonstrate the impact and to appropriately claim attribution of success. We will also put more effort in bringing Indic content in the open. We are incorporating this suggestion in revising the plans.

4) Independent community review of the work done by CIS-A2K. (Ravi and Pradeep)

We see the importance of this suggestion. As stated here <link> CIS-A2K did propose for a Community led review in our last year's plans. However, this could not materialize for various reasons. We have internally discussed on how best we could ensure that this is done. In the coming weeks we will share some ideas for the community's feedback on how we could collectively create a structure that will independently and periodically review the work done by CIS-A2K and other movement entities. We will use this learning in the next one year.

5) Community involvement in the programs and activities catalyzed by CIS-A2K. (Ravi, Hari, Pradeep, some from WMIN EC, FDC members and staff)

We disagree with this aspect of the feedback, especially with regard to the four language areas (Kannada, Konkani, Odia and Telugu). CIS-A2K was privileged to have the active involvement of these language communities and the proposed plans for July 2014 to June 2015 were discussed with the respective language community across various channels. We believe that there is a silent majority across these language communities and also in other language communities that actively engages with CIS-A2K and our work. However, we do recognize the importance of appropriately capturing the community mandate to CIS-A2K publicly (especially on wiki). We are exploring various means of capturing the community's involvement. We also believe it is important for the FDC, WMF and Wikimedia movement in India to find ways of listening to this silent majority of the community members who otherwise choose not to be very vocal on the mailings lits and Meta.

6) Impact of the language specific strategy. (Pradeep, Hari, Ravi, Ansuman, Dhaval, Shyamal, some from WMIN EC and FDC members)

CIS-A2K believes that it's language specific strategy, has been effective in growing the respective Wikimedia projects. We have already brought in a significant traction to each of the four language area projects and associated communities. Though it is too early to assert (as we rolled-out plans based on this strategy a year ago in June 2013) we believe that our language specific strategy is already yielding productive results. Other than the “independent community review” we will explore even more robust methodology/ies to demonstrate the impact of the language strategy. However, we welcome continuous feedback from the community which help us to learn and progress collectively. The community feedback if it is of formative in nature than summative would be a significant value add for us to make swift changes.

7) Natural/Organic v. Artificial/Inorganic growth of Indian language Wikipedias. (Ravi, Pradeep & FDC members)

CIS-A2K does not see the bright line that is being drawn about organic v. inorganic growth within the context of Wikimedia movement (in India). There are many nuances to this debate and it is not productive to pitch these as mutually exclusive approaches. Further, our experience taught us that what is organic (to be done by volunteers) and what is inorganic (could be supported by paid professionals) changes from a language community to language community and their context. There is no one model. We believe it is important to respect this diversity across language communities in India. For instance, some language communities (given their current context) feel that Wikipedia Outreach should be supported by paid professionals whereas some think it should be done by volunteers. While we appreciate the broader philosophy that define each of these approaches, we have been putting every effort to bring the best of both of these approaches in our work. We strongly believe that there is an immense amount of learning for all of us as a movement, if we could collectively explore how to best utilize volunteers and voluntary sector professional energies than to pitch them as mutually exclusive. At the end of the day we all are driven by the same collective vision of growing open knowledge.

We will soon share the revised plans and budget for the next year and look forward to your continuous engagement in our collective dream of further growing the Wikimedia and open knowledge movement in India.

Best wishes,

Vishnu
CIS-A2K
Note: This is being put up on Meta here [1]

[1] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants_talk:APG/Proposals/2013-2014_round2/The_Centre_for_Internet_and_Society/Proposal_form
[2] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Grants_talk:APG/Proposals/2013-2014_round2/The_Centre_for_Internet_and_Society/Staff_proposal_assessment
[3] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/FDC_portal/Board_decisions/2013-2014_round2
[4] http://bit.ly/1sY6XQU



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