[Osmf-talk] Framework for the foundation's hiring practices

Tobias Knerr osm at tobias-knerr.de
Wed May 6 20:24:33 UTC 2020

Hi all,

the OSMF Board wants to think about a general framework to hire people
to fill in the gaps that volunteers can't fill. We believe that, given
good practices and firm boundaries, hiring people would be worthwhile.
It could ensure the continued stability of the OSM platform (servers,
integral software) among other things, and augment the currently
overworked volunteers and under resourced efforts in the face of
continued growth.

We would like to gather your input on strategies to have the highest
possible positive impact at an acceptable cost, and with as few negative
effects as possible.

We had a brainstorm about this during the screen2screen, and these are
some things we all agree on:

* We strongly prefer not to hire when there are adequate volunteer
options. In particular, we are not going to engage in paid mapping.
* We need to define criteria for when we -can’t- wait for volunteers to
step up.
* We do not want to grow an army of employees. We do not envision 20
employees within 5 years, let alone 200!
* We want to make employees cooperate remotely, and through the same
platforms that volunteer contributors to that project also use.
* We should make sure all employees are treated equitably.
* People with an OSM volunteer background should be preferred (because
it demonstrates qualifications, added trustworthiness, and is the right
thing to do), but we don't agree to which degree.
* We want to avoid paid leadership or decision-making positions
* We want people to work for the community, not for the Board. But we
also do not want employees to have 10,000 bosses - that's a recipe for

Some of the risks we hope the community can help address include the
* Paid work can have a chilling effect on volunteering.
* Paid staff has other incentives than volunteers.
* Paid staff has more power to set direction of the project than a
volunteer, if only because of the amount of time they have.
* Paid staff hired from outside the community may lack an understanding
and appreciation for the way the community works.
* A direct link between organizations providing funding and a job being
done might give those organizations undue power.
* The organization that decides what gets worked on becomes quite
powerful, which risks losing the benefits of do-ocracy.

We know there are many issues with hiring people, but we hope that we
can install meaningful guardrails against the risks. Your input will
help us devise a strategy that makes sure we define the right jobs and
hire the right people for them.

Feel free to share your ideas here or send them to board at osmfoundation.org

(for the OSMF board)

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