[Osmf-talk] Conflict of Interest

Mike Collinson mike at ayeltd.biz
Wed Jul 29 16:44:22 UTC 2009

At 05:43 PM 29/07/2009, Gervase Markham wrote:
>On 29/07/09 16:32, Frederik Ramm wrote:
>> I wish to stress this again: A conflict of interest is not a weakness of
>> character or something that only evil people suffer from. A conflict of
>> interest is a dilemma situation that causes stress for the individual
>> and the organisation involved; and whereever such a conflict can be
>> avoided. that is a good thing to do.
>But the logical conclusion of your position is that the more deeply 
>involved in OSM someone becomes, the less likely they are to be suitable 
>for a place on the board. 


I believe these genuine concerns can be dealt with by being transparent and by having and improving a system for dealing with ad hoc conflicts as and when they occur rather than disenfranchising a class of OSMF members.

Personally, I am very comfortable with "commercial" members on the board.  They have the luxury of being in "mapping" mode all day.  They can provide a continuity, focus, and reliability that folks like me can lack.   When my work gets demanding, I don't have sympathetic partners who realise that OpenStreetMap is important above all other things  :-(  .  Further, while the individual contributor remains OpenStreetMap's most important asset, having a healthy active engaged commercial community with representatives on the board is good thing if done right. We can all collaborate towards OpenStreetMap's goals in different ways.

As a board member and an independent board member, I believe that I and all board members irrespectively have a moral and legal duty to ensure that the board collectively acts in what it thinks is the best interest of its members and for the mission statement of OSMF, and not for personal interests and biases.  So we watch ourselves and we watch each other - any board does that.  We spend time to discuss issues from as many angles as we can to filter out any bias.  Declaring possible self-interest and potentially withdrawing from a discussion or vote is also important.  I have a poor memory for detail, but I believe that has happened several times for what, in my personal opinion were trivial matters. So I think we have a system there to deal with these concerns and that it works.

That is not to say it cannot be improved.  In the last year, our timely publication of minutes has vastly improved, we have implemented formal declarations of board members interests [1] and made clearer that board members should declare interest during meetings.  For the future, Etienne has suggested we look at a more formal process [2] that deals with purely financial interest.  ... and ?


PS Thanks Frederik for kicking off important discussions on osmf-talk, glad to see it is being used.

[1]  http://foundation.openstreetmap.org/officers-board/board-member-bios/ 
[2]  http://worldvista.org/WorldVistA/Conflict_of_Interest_Policy_20090613.pdf/view

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