[Osmf-talk] Balancing the presence of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team at the OSM Foundation in 2017

nicolas chavent nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Thu Nov 30 01:34:06 UTC 2017

Frederik and dear all,

Thanks Frederik and all for the many emails that triggered my first email:
it's informative for all and beneficial for the vote
Thanks Frederik to help me develop my views in a foreign language which
causes inaccuracies that frustrate me and that can also cause possible
misunderstandings for which I apologize in advance.

This email is longer than I initially thought, thanks for those who will
read it all.
Below is a summary of the key elements at play in this OSMF Election

   - Firstly, I do not hold the OSMF to be "HOT dominated" yet,
   Shall the number of "hotties" grow at its Board, then this may well be
   the case, hence my position about HOT at the election.

   - Clarification about OSMF:
   - I think the OSMF role is important in the OSM ecosystem and treasure
      its support/not control light and agile modus operandi. Consequently
      in any talk/training I give in France, Haiti and Western/Central Africa
      about OSM features the OSM governance and the OSMF role
      - By no means, I as well as the folks I am active with within OSM
      collectives and associations (Projet EOF, LLG) in Africa and Haiti
      are ignoring the OSMF. Time and energy have been invested to allow
      the affirmation of active mappers organized in formal/informal
      leading a continued OSM activity the (voluntary) OSM way in poor and
      hard to operate contexts. Now is the time both at OSMF and in that
      area of the world to work jointly the articulation between the
entities and
      progress towards localization. I intend to to engage in Local
      Chapters-related WG and shall a need emerge for this work to be
      conducted at the OSMF Board, I'll take into this into consideration
      running in the future.

   - CoI at OSMF:
   - I trust your words about fairness of treatments for all OSM orgs
      within the limits of the current CoI practises enforced at the OSMF
      (stressed by Paul Norman in his manifesto). More significantly, there are
      flaws in any CoI policies and processes since influence work outside
      of the discussion/voting times which are only one moment of any decision
      making cycle can't be 100% prevented. Hence my position about HOT at the
      - Like all, I know that CoI are hard. I had direct experience from my
      time at the HOT US Inc Board (2010-2014) where I directly
witnessed issues.
      - HOT US Inc history of Board elections re-run (like the last one May
      2017), tells that compliance with CoI of partners organizations can
      be challenging.
      And because CoI are hard, when a Board lacks transparency, it's hard
      to talk CoI-matters through staying close to the facts, hence a risk
      to ban them from memberships discussions by enforcing Code Of Conduct (
      CoC) procedures.
      *This happens in HOT Us Inc. And shall not happen at the OSMF.*
      - Sometimes partner organizations CoI policies can be inspiring. *MSF*
      set limits for its employees serving as Board Officers in partners
      organizations (one MSF employee at a Board).
      A general rule *one organization = one representative at the OSMF
      Board* can be derived to form a base to elaborate collectively from.

   - OSMF & HOT Us Inc dispute over Trademark'
      - Heather Lesson shall clarify in the Election wiki her position on
      the OSMF Trademark as well her role in the HOT US Inc & OSMF
      Trademark discussion
      - This Trademark topic was kept at the HOT US Inc Board level only
      and its membership left without any official communication until this
      - This topic is illustrative of how information between Board and
      Member is managed in HOT US Inc, to say it abruptly the Board works as a
      black box to its member with Code Of Conduct used to silent/prevent any
      questions which questioning the reality of Freedom of Speech.
      Shall a Board Officer of the HOT Us Inc or a member had disclosed
      such an information in the membership list, it would have come
under a Code
      Of Conduct complaint procedure and would have exposed himself to
      being removed from the Board.
      *I hope HOT US Inc will succeed to fix its lack of internal democracy
      one day but I do not want to see this enforced in OSMF*

Thanks for reading the above elements so far. They also read below in
Frederik's email text in a more developed manner; additional bits relate to
HOT US Inc centrality and ability to mobilize and are less directly
relevant to my views to feature in this summary.

On Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 4:46 PM, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> wrote:

> Nicolas,

Let me first clarify that my email/diary note did not imply that the OSMF
is currently under HOT US Inc control. It stressed a fact: HOT US Inc has
two reps at the OSMF Board and this gives more influence to this
organization than any other of the OSM ecosystem.
Shall the number of hotties grow, this influence will grow and OSMF might
have to face the question of control and not influence.
This is why I feel it's important to stress this for the OSMF membership to
inform its vote.

> On 29.11.2017 15:49, nicolas chavent wrote:
> > Since 2015, HOT US Inc, is the only organization of the OpenStreetMap
> > ecosystem represented at the OSMF Board with two Directors: Kate Chapman
> > (co-founder / former Board member / former Executive Director; elected
> > at the OSMF Board in 2013) and Mikel Maron (co-founder / former
> > President / actual Chairman of the members; elected at the OSMF Board in
> > 2015).

> The board is acutely aware of this situation, and if you look really
> close then at least two further board members have some sort of HOT
> connection, namely:
> 1. myself; my company has in the past done contracting for HOT, and
> while this business relationship ended in 2015, at least from the
> outside you can never tell what ties remain from such activity, and
> 2. Ilya (now retiring), who works for a company that has recently
> announced a partnership with HOT
> (https://medium.com/@Dimitryophoto/maps-me-and-humanitarian-openstreetmap-
> team-partner-to-crowdsource-data-for-humanitarian-response-13a5057b94e6).

Thanks for making things clearer to the OSMF membership on OSMF Board
Officers having had business relations with HOT US Inc outside membership

There haven't been any board decisions which would directly affect HOT,
> and I certainly haven't seen anything in my time on the board where I
> thought that HOT was given an unfair advantage.
> The board doesn't have a written conflict of interest policy, but all of
> us on the board are aware that we do have a duty to handle such
> potential conflicts professionally. The UK Companies Act (the law that
> governs company governance) also has strict rules about such conflicts.
> At the very least, people with a potential conflict of interest would
> have to excuse themselves from any voting on the issue.
> One of the things we currently have on the table is writing down some
> rules about conflicts of interest to make this clearer to everyone
> involved - HOT affiliation is only one of many potential areas in which
> board members could be affected by a conflict of interest.

I trust your words about current status of CoI state of things at the Board
during your time of presence whereby HOT US Inc did not get any unfair
It looks from reading Paul Norman manifesto that things are not fully
satisfactory [1] though but I reckon that this goes for all types of CoI
More significantly, there are flaws in any CoI policies and processes since
there is no CoI rules that would prevent influence work outside of the
discussion/voting times which are only one moment of tany decision making
And this is why any over-representation of organizations whose members
shared a common perspective has an impact and is hard to mitigate

CoI are hard as we all know and as I experienced from my time at the HOT US
Inc Board where I served as Officer 2010-2014.
CoI are also hard to manage indirectly when it comes to comply with CoI
policies of partnering organizations whose members are Board offices. This
forced HOT US Inc to re-organize election when Board officers had to step
And because CoI are hard, when a Board lacks transparency, it's hard to
talk them through staying close to the facts, hence a risk to ban them from
memberships discussions. This happens in HOT Us Inc. And shall not take
place at the OSMF.

Sometimes such partner organizations CoI policies can be inspiring. Among
the community and governance aspects discussed on this list since the
beginning of the 2017 OSMF election time, it has been suggested to have a
look at organizational practices of other collective bodies of all kinds to
improve our governance.
*MSF* and its Conflict Of Interest (CoI) policy can be of interest here. It
set limits for its employees serving as Board Officers in partners
organizations (one MSF employee at a Board).
A general rule along the lines *one organizaion = one representant at the
OSMF Board* could form a base to elaborate collectively from.

> This state of things provides HOT US Inc with more power of influence
> > over the Foundation than any other organizations which is without
> > precedent in the history of this institution.
> I can see how this might be a concern from the outside but you'll be
> hard pressed to find anything in our past work where you could say "ha,
> the are favouring HOT here". We've been in loose talks with the HOT
> about how to improve communications between them and us - sometimes in
> the past, a lack of information flow has led to undesirable results. At
> one time, HOT even tried to register a trademark that would directly
> conflict with our trademarks - things like that really shouldn't happen
> "among friends".

Let me restate for the sake of clarification that I do not imply that in
2017 the OSMF is currently under HOT US Inc control and prone to favoring
Shall the number of hotties at the Foundation Board grow, there's more
chances for such a situation to happen. That's a risk and I think it's wise
to mitigate it enforcing mechanisms that maximize space at the OSMF Board
to represent the diversity of OSM perspectives, the HOT US Inc experience
being one of them but having to remain one among others.

'HOT Us Inc vs OSMF Trademark'

It has been left untouched by Heather Lesson in the OSMF Election wiki [2]
It would be beneficial for OSMF members to hear about her position about:
1. The OSMF Trademark
2. What had been here role in the HOT US Inc VS OSMF Trademark discussion

The handling of the trademark discussion between the two organizations is
illustrative of how information flows between the HOT US Inc Board and the
membership, or to say it abruptly how the Board works as a black box to its
member and how Code Of Conduct can be used to silent/prevent any CoI
discussions. This questions the reality of Freedom of Speech in this
This topic was kept at the Board level only and the members left without
any official communication... so far. HOT US Inc membership is hearing this
story about a non trivial matter in Nov 2017 and for the first time through
an OSMF Board Officer at the event of an OSMF Board election.
Shall a Board Officer of the HOT Us Inc or a member had disclosed such an
information, it would have come under a Code Of Conduct complaint procedure
and exposes itself to eventually being removed from the Board.
This may look bad, but it's sadly indicative about the low level of
transparency and information sharing between Board/Membership in this
organization. Yet this information is vital for any organization based on
an informed membership fully cognizant of the organization kwnoledge while
participating into vote and actions.
That's the kind of culture that I hope HOT US Inc will succeed to fix one
day and that none wants to see in place at OSMF,

> > Consequently, this
> > diminishes the representation of the OSM diversity at the Board of the
> > Foundation.

Again, on this one, let me restate and clarify that I do not hold the
current OSMF Board to be "HOT-dominated" at this stage.

In France, Haiti, Africa, any of my OSM outreach/trainings feature the OSM
governance, the role of OSMF, the need for local chapter to emerge and ends
up on encouragement to engage with the OSM community, follow OSMF actions
and join.
In Haiti and Africa for all mappers and all OSM collectivesthis is a by
default component of any OSM talk or training which are many and continued.
Fortunately Martin' views (in one reply) about awareness of OSMF in that
area of the world are biased lacking on-the-ground insights. Years of hard
work there grew awareness about OSMF and appetite to participate. This is
surely an asset on which OSMF can build from in its efforts towards

All my engagement in OSM in Haiti and Western/Central Africa is rooted into
facilitating the affirmation of local autonomous OSM communities able to
interact amongst themselves and with the wider OSM community in all forms
of contributions (data, documentation, communication, code...) and play
their role in the OSM project governance to make sure they co-shape the
future of the project; this entails OSMF participation. So Frederik, on
your last point (about me running for the OSMF Board). Now that years of
work succeeded in consolidating a first layers of active OSM collectives in
Haiti and Western/Central Africa part of them incorporated and playing a de
facto OSMF local chapters roles, the next step for me is to be more
directly active in 2017/2018 at the OSMF within the relevant WG to help
facilitate this dialogue and build the mechanisms to make this inclusion
happening over the time at the pace which will be relevant. Shall a Board
position is necessary to make significant progresses on this direction,
I'll consider this after having prior experienced working over time within
OSMF WG, prior running!

> Frankly, I *do* think that it is not right that HOT dominates the
> "humanitarian OSM" sector - I would love to see and hear more from
> groups like Projet EOF, and I find it sad that whenever people think
> "humanitarian" and "OSM" it's HOT who seem to have a monopoly there. But
> this is not HOT's fault; they're good at doing PR, and doing PR is
> certainly necessary for any success in their line of work. In
> humanitarian matters, we don't have a diversity problem at the OSM board
> level, we have a diversity problem *everywhere*, because EOF and other
> groups have such a small profile.

I would not be so pessimistic. As an early believer in OSM in formal
humanitarian system, a co-founder of HOT as an an informal OSM collective
and the US NGO HOT US Inc, having worked extremely hard with limited
resources since 2010 to 2013 through HOT US Inc  to ground OSM in Haiti and
Western/Central Africa and establish the centrality of OSM and Opendata in
humanitarian response and development. The acquired centrality of HOT US
Inc is partly a sign of success.
If the humanitarian OSM sector looks partly dominated by HOT US Inc, not
all of the OSM activity occure through this org. This field has its big
actors from the classic Hum/Dev sector (ARC, MSF, ICRC to name a few...)
with their own agendas. This field is dynamic and new actors are emerging
which are not necessarily under the radars because of a lack of
communication. Asides of those "humanitarian" actors are the emerging local
communities who are OSM and who do not need to rely on our Western
taxonomies (humanitarian/development). In Haiti they still play a role:
mapping, doing outreach and training on OSM, opendata and free geomatics.
Other actors like Projet EOF and Les Libres Geographes (LLG) are active
fostering the growth of OSM in the form of local communities within
Humanitarian and Development contexts but with a compass clearly set on OSM.
Hence why there's hope over time to foster the decentralization of the
Humanitarian/Development OSM. And I am glad to hear what I already knew and
of which I had little doubt: that there are ways to foster this
decentralization of "Humanitarian/Development OSM" with the OSMF.

True that HOT US Inc is good at PR. Firstly it harnessed on the hard work
of all its membres including some of its pioneers who have been left aside
over time. I played an instrumental role since 2008 in the United Nations
to make of OSM and Opendata the paradigm for information management in
disaster response and passed this network to HOT US Inc. Aside of efficient
and high impact field work in Haiti and Western Africa conducted with
adequate or scarce fundings, these pioneers have been instrumental
guiding/supporting openstreetmap responses to crisis like Central African
Republic, Ebola in Western Africa within HOT US Inc. This work contributes
to build and image out of HOT US inc, its identification in the Hum/Dev
field and the OSM community itself and its ability to mobilize the OSM
community mostly in mapping for natural hazards with a diversification of
mapping for development projects like the Malaria campaign.
It contributed to HOT US Inc recognition and inclusion in the humanitarian
system coordination mechanisms
It contributed to HOT US Inc ability to attract mappers in "activations"
and this remote mapping in returns build back the HOT US Inc centrality
It contributed to its success raising funds or getting project work. HOT US
inc first success in fundraising did not come through Heather Lesson action
in that field although she joined the HOT US Inc Board bringing forward
these skills. This is the voluntary work of Pierre Beland/Andrew Buck as
coordinators of the Ebola response and their dedication to guiding and
supporting the OSM response and the overall impact and relevance of this OSM
response that triggered a donation of the Paul Allen Fondation to HOT US
Inc to further support that type of work (USD 200k for a roughly USD 500k
USD yearly budget at that time; compared to the USD 30k raised through its
last crowd-funding campaign).
HOT Us Inc also builds on the users of its services, that's here a platform
effect: are all mappers fully aware that their edits into OSM through the
HOT US INc instance of the Tasking Manager will also be used by HOT US Inc
to claim that volume of users and that volume of edits? And that this
volume of edits build back its centrality.
Cornerstone of this is the organizational story telling which may be
disconnected from the facts (Haiti Matthew) and always masks the flaws of
its internal democracy and interests that can be at play in its Board which
can be detrimental ultimately for the autonomy of the OSM project.
Shall HOT US Inc succeeds in fixing its governance and truly enforcing
transparency for its members and thus informing really their action and
votes, this centralization of the "humanitarian OpenStreetMap" sector would
be less troublesome and its risk of influence over OSMF lower but I'd stay
on my principled position of enforcing some mechanisms so that any
organization perspective can have no more than one representative at the
OSMF Board.

> I'm sure the board would be amenable to having better links with other
> humanitarian groups. It could even be within OSMF's mandate to support
> humanitarian groups that work with OSM. I am not aware of Projet EOF or
> anyone else having contacted the OSMF board about anything, nor am I
> aware of anyone from that community standing for election in the recent
> past.
> I think you might have a misconception about the OSMF board, that might
> lead to a point where you don't even want to talk to them because you
> think they are "HOT dominated" anyway. Please understand that this is
> not the case; even those on our current board who have the closest ties
> to HOT, have never suggested anything that would give HOT an unfair
> advantage. If, say, Projet EOF contacted us about something, they would
> be treated exactly the same as HOT.

As stated that's not how OSMF is perceived and this offer to carry out
joint work to further grounding OSM in Haiti and Western Africa is well

> > With these above risks in minds, given HOT US Inc current influence
> As I said, I understand how things can look from the outside, but unless
> they managed to cloak it really well, I am truly not aware of any
> "current influence" being exerted.
> There's one thing that I have noticed: HOT is good at mobilising people.
> I believe that comes from the general attitude towards mapping work:
> Whereas the average craft mapper simply does whatever they like, the
> average HOT mapper waits until they are "activated" and then go to work
> at full intensity at whatever task currently needs help. This tends to
> translate into a stronger power in democratic processes. If you say
> among craftmappers: "Hey, vote for this candidate on the OSMF board" or
> "hey, vote for this candidate getting an award", many of them will go
> "meh, board", and "meh, award". Do the same among HOT people, and you
> will be able to motivate more of them to actually go and vote for
> "their" candidate, "their" award. It's like a mini activation! But
> again, can you blame them for being enthusiastic about what they do, or
> is it perhaps more the fault of the ordinary craft mapper who says "meh"
> where the "hottie" says "hey"?

This is true, see the bits above

> > For those of you who don't know me and to clarify my affiliations, I am
> > Nicolas Chavent, co-founder of HOT US Inc in 2010 that I served as its
> > Acting Project Manager focusing on its Operations in Haiti and Western
> > Africa until 2013 and still member of this organization, I am also the
> > co-founder of two French associations Projet Espace OpenStreetMap
> > Francophone (Projet EOF) and Les Libres Géographes (LLG).
> Nicolas, it is too late this year, but I'd certainly welcome someone
> with your background to stand for election to the OSMF board. The
> francophone world is much under-represented - not even Paul, our token
> Canadian, is from Quebec ;)
> Thanks for this last paragraph Frederik, I already answered it and will
have this perspective in mind in the coming years,

Thanks for those who read all of this email which went through topics that
can not be dealt with in a couple of lines.
I hope that segments will spark interests and help the OSMF membership
informing its vote.


> Bye
> Frederik
> [1]: http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/pnorman/diary/42816
[2]: http://wiki.openstreetmap

> --
> Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"
> _______________________________________________
> osmf-talk mailing list
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Nicolas Chavent
Les Libres Géographes
Projet OpenStreetMap (OSM)
Projet Espace OSM Francophone (EOF)
Projet GeOrchestra
Mobile (FR): +33 (0)6 52 40 78 20
Mobile (Bénin): +22962 55 85 91
Email: nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Skype: c_nicolas
Twitter: nicolas_chavent
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