[Osmf-talk] Our governance and our identity

martin at noblecourt.eu martin at noblecourt.eu
Tue Dec 18 23:45:43 UTC 2018

Dear OSMF members,

Following our now traditional yearly turmoil, and after catching up with 
most of the messages sent over the past week, here is what I take as 
potential usable/actionable points (sorry long message again):

1) There was a recurring question about external organization's such as 
HOT or others in the OSMF board. I won't discuss the option to put 
formal limitations that seems quite complex to me for reasons already 
explained here (define affiliation for volunteer-based member 
organizations, "cultural influence", mass effect, etc.) however I'm 
surprised the advisory board and its possibilities to channels both the 
local chapter feedback (on which as I already explained I see lying the 
most democratic way to govern OSM) but also organize the discussion with 
private sector only appeared very late in the discussion. What would our 
new board members suggest to use more this interesting instance, and 
also more transparently (we only had feedback on its discussion very 
incidentally here via the organized editing chat) ?

2) Regarding the specific question of HOT's position towards the wider 
humanitarian OSM sector, there is indeed a heavy past of conflicts, 
rivalries but also, let's not forget it, political differences on how we 
see this sector. I find interesting the idea of an OSMF humanitarian 
working group, although I'm always cautious to add new instances (given 
the lack of time by many actors including me to get involved in the 
already existing ones). If I may mention it as an employee of a 
humanitarian mapping organization working on OSM (partly though, OSM is 
- unfortunately in my opinion :-) - a minor part of our projects), there 
is already an instance providing this coordination that many 
humanitarian OSM-comitted organizations have joined (including 
specialists such as CartONG but also MapAction, 510.global, on top of 
the "big names" MSF and Red Cross...), it is the Missing Maps project.
Although it might not be visible from the outside there are indeed 
(civil) debates there on the vision of OSM humanitarian mapping, the 
economic model around it and the role of its various stakeholders. We 
certainly don't agree on everything but it is not true to say HOT 
doesn't acknowledge there are other actors in this game. We might 
however have reached a stage where too many humanitarian 
organization/initiatives are interested in OSM to only coordinate via 
this "early adopters'" (within the sector of formal NGOs I mean) club, 
thus this OSMF working might be useful for it.

3) Linked to this, HOT has been the main organization facilitating 
(publicly) coordinated OSM efforts of humanitarian and development 
organizations so far, which is why most external actors turn to it when 
wanting to get involved. I would be very happy to see the OSMF the 
explore the path for potential synergies with HOT but also other actors 
of the field (whether they are technical or "standard NGOs" but also 
local communities/chapters-to-be) since to my knowledge very little has 
been done in that direction so far - the OSMF has very little notoriety 
in many places.
For instance I think there would be a great potential in a "mentoring" 
system for new groups/chapters by more experienced groups/chapters, this 
already happens a bit organically but the OSMF could 
encourage/facilitate it (please note that I'm not talking North/South 
traditional neo-colonialist aid vision but horizontal peer exchanges 
based on experience sharing). Generally speaking local OSM communities 
are always extremely interested to get connected to other groups, but 
they often don't know how (and this mailing list is certainly not 
enough). Facilitating contacts between hobby mappers could be a way to 
reduce the influence of organizations and the private sector in the 
global structuring of OSM... Augustin's idea to help more actors have 
their own Tasking Manager (and update/maintain it!) is also relevant and 
in the same line of idea I think.

4) The question of communication style/issues is tricky and I myself 
have difficulties to form an opinion on it - apart that I regret the 
tone sometimes adopted by actors on both sides. I would be interested to 
see people not heavily involved in the debate give their opinion and 
maybe work through a solution (CoC or other) since they are also 
suffering from the sometimes intimating tone here. Maybe something for 
the board to push with participation from "average" members? (why not 
via a mix of volunteers and random draw?)

5) Very happy to see Joost and Tobias elected. I hope you and your board 
colleagues will help us as a diverse community of hobby and professional 
mappers, from the Global North and South, humanitarians or not, to work 
toward concrete improvements and not only yearly heated debates :-) ( = 
let us not forget the silent majority here ;-) )
Also, a little regret regarding gender diversity of the board that can 
certainly be improved more - a goal for the future !

Best regards.


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