[Osmf-talk] OSM Uganda Local Chapter application

nicolas chavent nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Tue Dec 8 21:51:42 UTC 2020

Hi all,

Thanks for the work put into this Local Chapter (LC) discussion: we have
here important materials to consolidate parts of both LC (vision,
processes) and OSMF.

Here are a few contributions to this on-going conversation from the
perspective of someone heavily involved (HOT US Inc until 2013 and
afterwords ProjetEOF and LesLibresGeographes) in Haiti and French-speaking
African countries over the last decade starting and supporting local
grassroot OSM collectives.
I will not get back on how MapUganda relates to the current LC “doctrine”
and processes, this has been well covered. I think that we need to keep
looking at the question phrased by Frederik about possible “issues with
granting local chapter status to a commercial organization with the main
chartered purpose of providing paid services?”.

But first like others, I’d like to highlight the accomplishments that
represent establishing MapUganda in its current shape through 10 years of
work in Ugandan challenging environments.

For the dynamic of the OSM project in Uganda, MapUganda (incorporated as a
local non profit organization) plays an instrumental and dual role as a de
facto LC and a de facto business entity or an economic operator which
provides paid services around OSM and Geomatics to fund its activities. I
see how a formalized LC could complement and diversify the local OSM
ecosystem and contribute fostering this OSM dynamic in Uganda. However, I
think that MapUganda is not the right entity to fulfill this role. Years of
direct experiences related to OSM dynamics involving OSM collectives and
business entities in Haiti and French-speaking Africa makes me think that
approving MapUganda as a LC could eventually weaken MapUganda itself, the
OSM dynamic in this country and elsewhere in Africa while being detrimental
for the OSMF itself in the long run.

There’s nothing against MapUganda as a collective, its members nor the
Ugandese mappers in this position but rather a willingness to contribute
making the best out of the local OSM dynamic resulting from their activity
both for MapUganda, the Ugandan OSM project, OSM in Africa and in countries
of the “global south” as well as for the OSMF itself. The elements behind
this position aren’t new, they inform my actions and those of different
collectives in Haiti and in Francophone African countries. They have been
put forth many times and notably in SotM conferences (mostly SotM, SotM
France and SotM Africa) through talks and many in-person discussions. Long
discussions with Geoffrey and other African mappers on this topic. I also
took the time to speak directly with Geoffrey prior emailing our list to
avoid any misunderstanding about the credit MapUganda and Ugandan OSM
people deserve for their work.

The main reason for not approving MapUganda as a LC has to do with the
“paid services” it is providing as a non-profit organization to secure its
resources and operate. This makes of MapUganda a a de facto business entity
or an “economic” operator (defined generically and minimally by the
provision of paid services) despite its anchorage somewhere in social or
solidarity economy. This shall make us wondering - as invited by Frederik -
if "[We] see no issues with granting local chapter status to a commercial
organization with the main chartered purpose of providing paid services?".
What’s the likely impact on the various parts of the Ugandan nascent OSM
ecosystem? What are the likely effects for local business entities (or
economic operators e.g. providers of paid services)? With poverty and low
number of active mappers limiting the volunteering dynamic from which OSM
originated and continues to thrive in the “global north”, business entities
have therefore an important part to play in Uganda to grow and sustain an
OSM dynamic, support mapping, provide training and offer economic
opportunities for experienced mappers willing to make a living out of the
skills they build in the project. What’s the likely impact of this decision
on how the various parts of the OSM ecosystem interact and how their
interaction eventually supports the growth of the OSM project while
preserving its autonomy and keeping individuals at its core?

We shall first look back at OSMF and LC and remind ourselves of the early
ages of the OSM project when its ecosystem was nascent and review some of
the strengths that lead to its current affirmation.
Frederik’s question brings us with the non written rule or the
jurisprudence behind the practices under which OSMF and LC from “developed”
countries have been functioning resources-wise so far: banning paid
services from their resources. This is true at OSMF. This is equally true
in given LC like OSMFR where this banning of “paid services” from the
actual resources of the association is collectively restated year after
year at its AGM.
This choice in terms of OSMF resources as well as the choice of keeping the
Foundation small (in its resources, staffing, perimeter of actions) has the
benefit to leave the provision of paid services provision in the hands of
“business” entities of all types (freelancers, associations, cooperatives,
NGOs, business firms…) outside of the OSMF which largely remains a
volunteer-based organization.
This allows OSMF neutrality vis a vis business entities.
This limits the room for business logics as well as conflict of interests
in the OSMF which has to handle the influence of business and business
logics without having to operate with business logics.
This efficiently limits the “benefits” members and especially directors can
expect from OSMF.
This also safeguards reasonably the OSMF Board so that professionals or
members of business entities can participate without breaking OSMF
neutrality towards economic operators.
These choices contribute essentially to the autonomy of the OSMF and the
OSM sustainability in the long run allowing for a diversified ecosystem and
free interactions of all actors including business entities of all sorts.
This community discussion about MapUganda LC approval highlights the needs
to revise and consolidate parts of LC and OSMF aspects and processes, these
future discussions shall feature making this “paid services” jurisprudence
a written law as well as defining the essential perimeter of actions of the
OSMF which has been recently enlarged to system administration, software
development, fundraising and human resources not without yielding questions
about possible changes this can brought to the model of the small OSMF
which spearheaded the growth of the project up to now.

Thinking through the triptych made of the OSMF jurisprudence about paid
services, the OSMF trademark and the LC status in the context and MapUganda
and countries of the “global south”, we shall realize that it’s fit for
such territories (at least in Haiti/French-speaking Africa) and allows to
shape the OSM ecosystem in an enabling way for community, OSMF/LC and
business actors logics to interact and grow the OSM project the way it
happens in the “north”.

Haiti provided an example of how bad things can go when one association
(COSMHA - Communauté OSM Haiti mostly based in Port-Au-Prince area) had
been active as a de facto LC and a de facto “economic operator” providing
paid services around OSM. Over time, volunteerism tended to disappear or be
very limited to the extent that the association operated solely under a
business logic for the only benefits of some of its members. In parallel,
tensions grew within the membership resulting into its shrinking and its
control by a few. Entry in the association was made difficult. The internal
democracy was limited. The association through its de facto OSMF chapter
role seeked control over all OSM activities (community, association and
business) in the island. This resulted into violent relations with
individuals and other groups (in Port-Au-Prince, Saint-Marc or
North/North-East) around any community volunteering activities as well as
around economic opportunities. Tensions were such that certain mappers
stopped their OSM activity or left the island in 2013. The overall resulted
into less volunteer community-based activities, a dependence on economic
project for any activity and a shrinking of the number of active local
mappers. COSMHA shrunk over time, in members and activities in parallel
with the scarcity of economic activities, the association being incapable
to keep members and attract new ones. The same pattern with differences
though applied to other Haitian OSM groups. Of course Haiti is specific but
some of the above-laid out dynamics are common in the world of associations
in French-speaking African countries. And we shall have this in minds while
considering to merge business and OSMF LC logics into one single entity. We
shall also think about how LC dynamics can also affect in return the OSMF
and contribute to changes in the proven and successful governance model of
the OSM ecosystem based on a small OSMF and LC.

Now let’s see how the various parts of the OSM ecosystem can interact in a
ways allowing for community animation, increase, business opportunities and
“economic neutrality” of the OSMF fit for poverty context and offering
resources and opportunities to mappers.
- For the safety of local mappers vis a vis population, police, justice,
there’s a need to formalize an OSM entity which can evolve as an OSMF local
group, or some sort of de facto/proto LC prior transitioning to a formal
- Typically LC’s span of activities and need for resources will be higher
so that minimally on top of what OSMF, LC, local groups do in the “global
north”, training and workplaces can happen throughout the territory.
- This higher need for financial resources in support of LC activities in
the “global south” can be met outside of the provision of services by
mobilizing first all other legal sources of income. Second it’s possible
for a LC to benefit indirectly from paid services provided by all the
“economic operators” active in its territory and supportive of the LC
action through partnerships and donations and support actions. All sorts of
community grants can also come to play via programs such as CAFDO, HOT US
Inc, OSMF, ProjetEOF. And a more systematic approach can be worked out
within the LCWG (as well as other fora) to build dedicated support
- Outside of the LC activities, one shall note that local OSM mappers,
members or not members of a LC can benefit from resources, training and job
opportunities resulting from the activities of all “economic operators”
active in the territory the way it’s already happening through MapUganda
and others groups in Uganda.
- Lastly, to keep growing and diversifying the OSM ecosystem and its
“economic actors”, specific entrepreneurship support programs targeted to
OSM, Open Data and Free Geomatics can be continued or initiated within
interested parties of the humanitarian action and development aid sectors ;
some thoughts can be put into such scheme from within the LCWG or the
committee responsible for OSMF community grants shall this program be
continued. This would diversify and grow the business entities of a
country, diminish dependency of the local OSM ecosystem on too few entities
and provide opportunities for local mappers as well as resources for the
LC. This is typically an activity that MapUganda thanks to its maturity can
fulfill and add incubation/mentoring functions to its skill sets and offer
of services

The above show that there are ways to take into account the poverty context
which hampers the efforts of the local OSM communities without taking the
risks of making a business entity the LC of a country. To make the best out
of the OSM dynamic spearheaded by MapUganda and create a “model” fit for
Haiti and Africa as well as other countries of the “global south”, it would
make sense to consider initiating a new LC project for OSM in Uganda from a
new entity which would have banned paid services from its resources and be
supported in this approach by all interested individuals and groups across
OSM and OSMF active in such territories and sensitive to these aspects of
OSMF governance. In such a scheme, MapUganda would continue playing its
dual role for the OSM project in Uganda and transition gradually its de
facto LC activities to the new LC candidate entity.


On Sun, Dec 6, 2020 at 2:41 PM Rory McCann <rory at technomancy.org> wrote:

> FTR, I prefer the idea of LCs being for groups which are basically
> established. Getting LC status shouldn't be the first thing a new group
> gets. There is probably merit in a OSMers helping other OSMers organise and
> build their local communities, which could be a form of "incubator", before
> a group enters a LC contract with OSMF.
> On Sun, 6 Dec 2020, at 00:12, Simon Poole wrote:
> > In the mean time however it seems as if the OSMF is so desperate to get
> > more LCs that there are actually no conditions at all. From
> > organisations that can't support themselves,  to such that  don't
> > actually seem to be operating any kind of real membership scheme.
> Huh? What do you mean?
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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 (Haiti): +509 40 19 46 02
Email: nicolas.chavent at gmail.com
Email: nicolas.chavent at leslibresgeographes.org
Skype: c_nicolas
Twitter: nicolas_chavent
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