[Osmf-talk] 13k OSMF members by end of 2010?

Nick Black nick at blacksworld.net
Tue Aug 4 09:51:34 UTC 2009

On 4 Aug 2009, at 09:35, Frederik Ramm wrote:

> Hi,
>    Nick has written on his Foundation 2010 page
> (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Foundation/2010_Planning#Growing_the_OSM-F_Membership 
> )
> that
> "In order to be a healthy, democratic organisation, the OSM-F needs to
> grow its membership. By the end of 2010 the Foundation should aim to
> have 13,000 members throughout the world."
> Frankly, the thought frightens me. I'm all for growth but 6500% in the
> scope of 15 months (that's more than 30% growth per month) sounds
> everything other than "healthy" to me.

Another way to look at is 2% of the total OSM membership at the end of  
2010 (650,000).  I'm not denying that this is an ambitious target, but  
so is mapping the world.  Or that each of the 140 members in the OSM-F  
recruit 10 more members who recruit 10 more members.

> Nick argues that
> "In order to be a healthy, democratic organisation, the OSM-F needs to
> grow its membership."
> There may be some truth to this, but such growth has to be healthy and
> has to go along with establishing proper democratic structures. The
> members are the ones who constitute the Foundation and they need to be
> able to have a certain degree of control about what is done in their  
> name.

Of course they do.  In every post I've written now, and before, that's  
exactly what I've argued.

> I'll use a far-fetched example to make my point.

Frederik, that's the problem.  This is a far fetched example with no  
base in reality.  Why would the Foundation Board "give the job to  
their friends".  Is that what you think of us?  What evidence of  
nepotism do you currently see in the Board to back this up?

Secondly, the example of getting 20% of the org is totally self- 
defeating, because I can just as easily buy the Foundation votes with  
people off the street and "take over".

> Let's assume that OSMF
> decides to create a well-paid director post and then hires someone who
> happens to be not really suitable for the job but a good friend of  
> four
> of the seven board members, thus getting a majority of votes. Which is
> bad, and cronyism, but these things happen in large organisations. The
> Companies Act says that members making up 10% of the vote (i.e.,  
> roughly
> 20 members if we're 200) can call for an extraordinary general  
> meeting,
> in which if course the employment contract can be cancelled and the
> board fired if there's a majority of votes.
> Now do the same thing in an organisation of 13,000 members. It *can*  
> be
> done but that needs healthy and grown democratic structures, like for
> example a watchdog that has (read-only) access to all board business  
> and
> has the right to communicate with the membership at large through the
> usual channels. Call be paranoid but I *have* been a member of an
> organisation where members were so apathic they couldn't be bothered  
> to
> read anything more than the monthly membership email issued by the
> board, and the board did exactly what I wrote above.

We would have to grow these structures in just the same way that we  
have grown other things in the OSM-F - like working groups - which  
have been born out of a solid need and have worked really well.

> I'm not prepared to agree to anything more than a doubling of  
> membership
> figures every year

What is the base for this?

> unless there is a very clear plan in place that
> details how these members will be enabled to do their job in deciding
> what OSMF should do, and controlling that the board really does what
> they want. Otherwise these members are not members but just donors.

You clearly have some good ideas around this, Frederik.  Could you  
share more ideas about how we can manage the growth of the Foundation  
to make sure that the democratic structures work properly and that the  
Foundation serves its members?

> Frankly, my impression is that Nick has started out with his ambitions
> plans of hiring lots of paid staff and then needed to present a  
> credible
> source of funding, which led him to make up these membership figures.
> Growing 6500% in 15 months is not about strengthening democracy, it is
> about sourcing funds - and in my eyes it comes close to sacrificing
> democracy.

I generally start with the end in mind.  I try to think out into the  
misty future and then work back.  In coming up with these figures, I  
thought, what will a Foundation need to be like to support a 650,000  
member organisation - because that is how big OSM is looking like  
being by the end of 2010.  I want to make sure that the Foundation is  
able to cope.  That we can continue to provide servers, legal council,  
support outreach and put on conferences.

BTW - you can see how I got to the numbers here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/a/osmfoundation.org/ccc?key=0Am9rYN3dvcGwdEgzLWlNM1V4T2RYVVZ6X0lGOF9DRHc&hl=en_GB

(You have to be logged into a Google account to view, but it does not  
have to be an OSM-F account.  If you don't have a g account I'll mail  
you a file)

> Yes, we should grow, but in a healthy fashion.

The fact is that OSM is growing and that is a great thing.  Its the  
OSM-F's role to support that growth - any OSM-F Board member who was  
not planning to support a 650,000 person organisation would not be  
doing their job properly.

> Bye
> Frederik
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Nick Black
nick at blacksworld.net

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