Heather Leson's diary

Recent diary entries

Building an inclusive map - OSM and gender discussion

Posted by Heather Leson on 8 March 2018 in English (English)

Today is International Women's Day. It is timely that I share notes from our recent OSM and Gender discussion. About 20 women and allies joined to talk about gender issues in OSM. Some of the topics we touched on were: research on gender in OSM, gender experiences, code of conduct and next steps.

Some quotes on why having an OSM and Gender dialogue matters:

"I believe the map represents the world and the contributors to that map should all be representative. " "Discuss/Learn what to avoid and what to do on regular basis to improve diversity." "I joined because the tone on the mailing lists is not right." "I'm part of Geochicas and we work towards having more participation of women in the community. We encourage women to create and be part of mapping projects lead by them."

Over all, we aim to support a safe and inclusive OSM. This means collaborating with each other and you, the OSM community and the OSM supporters.

What does the data tell us?

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team performed a community survey. Of the 267 people who responded, 27% were women. In addition, HOT microgrants/device grants went to 40-45% women.

The YouthMappers community data - We estimate that about 40% of our 5,000 students are female from annual chapter reports. We also see that 25% of our 113 chapters in 35 countries have more than 50% female participation.

It is complex to give accurate and representative quantity of data on gender balance in OSM. For a community that focuses on tagging information to improve the 'dataset', it is very clear that there low focus on the baseline data in the demographic makeup of the contributor community. There is a misunderstanding on the need to achieve gender equality in OSM. In fact, there are some people are offended and challenged by this. The GeoChicas community is trying to obtain gender representation and relations data via a survey. Other research efforts continue to explore this topic. Participants on the call discussed how to get more data on the community to help support change and more equality.

How does the data differ (tagging, pathways by gender) and is it in the taxonomy?

At State of the Map Brussels 2016, there was a great talk about gender and tagging/mapping in OSM. On the call, we reflected on the progress of this discussion and the need to support efforts to ensure that the data of OSM is more inclusive.

The video of the talk Another good resource on tagging and gender

How the can the community improve on mailing lists - tone, attitudes?

Reflecting on the state of the OSM community, participants cited a sick culture, hostile, not welcoming for women and other genders. There have been frequent examples of this over the years. We cited some personal stories and then moved on to the question about: "how can we improve this?" We agreed that mailing lists need to moderated and that we all need to encourage a healthy experience on any OSM list. Some colleagues suggested that we move discussions to other places where there is moderation and where good etiquette is encouraged and supported. Perhaps we need to encourage moderation training and reminders for each list to support a culture of discussion without attacks. One person suggested that moderators could have a telegram private group in case of not being able to have a private list.

Code of Conduct

OSM has an [etiquette guidance}(, but it is not enforced and sometimes not regarded. Participants of the OSM and Gender dialogue talked about reinforcing this with a Code of Conduct. In our discussion, we highlighted that there have been multiple conversations on the mailing list about this idea both 'for' and 'against'. Colleagues from Public Lab shared their code of conduct as an example. Here is more about Public Lab's code. There are many examples of community management tactics plus codes across open communities. here is a list of resources

It is very clear that there are ongoing issues in terms of tone and inclusive in OSM. Even though it was not a question posed by the HOT survey, a participant reported back that people cited it as an issue. "some participants mentioned they uncomfortable on mailing lists and OSMF mailing list."

Another participant mentioned: "There isn't a baseline of acceptable and non-acceptable speech. All the things that a code of conduct needs to describe."

Next Steps

  1. Help wanted - can someone help lead an OSM and Gender discussion in a West coast Americas and Asia-friendly timezone? Just contact Heather or Kate to let us know. Or, leave a comment below.
  2. We will keep in touch in various places, including the Diversity-talk mailing list. Join us.
  3. Be an ally and help support positive interactions on all OSM community spaces.
  4. Join working groups and mailing lists. Encourage each other to support a positive OSM.
  5. Encourage all genders to map and consider how women and other genders can be represented by the big and wonderful OSM (the map and the global community).
  6. Help the GeoChicas community survey outreach (Twitter handle: @GeochicasOSM - Telegram Channel @Geochicasosm - Feel free to join, is mostly Spanish speaking women, but you are more than welcome to share your opinions with us!) Gender representation and relations survey: German: Spanish: French: English: Portuguese:

On a final note, Kate and I wrote an article for the Open Organization Workbook about OSM and the community. In the piece, we reflected on some ideas on how OSM could be more inclusive. These OSM and Gender discussions build on this - we can all improve OSM and support each other.

Thanks to all the participants in the discussion. And, to all the allies in this ongoing conversation. Happy International Women's Day.

Heather and Kate

Location: Jamhuri, Nairobi, KILIMANI, Kenya

OSM and Gender - Invitation to Online Discussion

Posted by Heather Leson on 18 February 2018 in English (English)

How can we improve the gender balance in participation and in map content? There are some amazing leaders and best practices across the global OSM community.

Before the holidays, we had a vibrant conversation on the OMSF mailing list about gender in OSM. Some great examples of inclusive participation include GeoChicas, YouthMappers, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. It would be great to hear from women and other genders that are often rare voices. With such a large community, we know that there are more people doing great activities to improve engagement.

Kate Chapman and I would like to invite OSM to join us for an online discussion about OSM and Gender. Given that women and other genders are a often a smaller group in OSM, we ask that this conversation start with us. Then, we will be sure to include the wider community.

Some of the potential topics could be: opportunities and challenges to be more inclusive, program ideas to support diversity in OSM. We will define the agenda and next steps in the call. Then, we will report back via OSM diary entries.

Here is a Doodle to be filled out by Thursday, February 22nd at 1700 CET.

Once we collect the best times, I will announce by Friday Feb. 23rd. The first meeting will be held in the Europe, Africa and Americas Time zone.


The second meeting will be hosted in a timezone friendly for Asia (morning) and Western North/South America. (evening) The call will be hosted on mumble

The OSMF community cited some resources which reflect participation inquiries. Other resources are most welcome. Just add them into the comments.

Thanks and looking forward,

Location: Le Bouchet, Châtelaine, Vernier, Geneva, 1203, Switzerland

Thank you, now on with the next steps

Posted by Heather Leson on 10 December 2017 in English (English)

Thank you to all the OSMF members, fellow candidates, board, and outgoing board members. It has been a privilege to consider your priorities for OSMF via questions, notes, and conversations.

We are the community, the map, and the project. The lovely people who make OSM part of their daily flows count on all of us at OSMF to meet the full mandate and the full potential. This means considering, then building on how we might balance the growing, changing needs of the open, global, diverse community.

Over the past few weeks, the questions on the wiki and the conversations on this mailing list have pointed to some potential actions. Converting those requests and ideas into productive working documents for consultation is the next step. There are many people on this list and in the wider community that will contribute if there are healthy spaces and a clear ask. It is up to us in the membership, in the working groups, and on the board to make this possible.

Thank you again,


Seeking your support for OSMF Board Membership

Posted by Heather Leson on 13 November 2017 in English (English)

The OpenStreetMap community inspires me. Every day OpenStreetMap changes someone’s life. Whether it be helping some navigate their daily tasks or giving someone the chance to edit an open map, the ways OSM contributes is as diverse as the global community. Since I started as a supporter in 2010, my contributions and engagement have also grown.

Meeting OSMers in person on four continents plus via the various online channels provides me with incentive to run for a board position with OSMF. Extensive experience in community building and governance in open source communities are two strengths I offer to bring to this role. I’ve been involved in open source and open data communities for well over a decade including Open Knowledge, Ushahidi, and Mozilla. My board governance experience includes four years with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) and one year with PeaceGeeks. As part of the Governance Working Group at HOT, I recently led a team to deliver a revised Code of Conduct. The diverse nature of OSM and growing global nature are reasons that I aim to participate as part of this board.

If elected, my goals, in collaboration with fellow board members, will be two-fold: community building and governance. OSM has had an amazing impact on the world of open source and beyond. The impact of OSM on each of our lives, communities and, even, businesses is a story that is often understated. Community-building comes in many forms including localization of leadership, and organizational development. There are many global open source communities and models of governance. The goal would be to open up the discussion to determine how might the OSM community have more engagement across the globe in our governance and in working groups. Community-building is an essential ingredient in building good governance and expanding support. In my experience and research, this type of change is something that Boards make in concert with the various governance bodies and community members.

OSM is evolving and we need to create welcome, open mechanisms for engagement of more diverse skills and types of participation. Weekly OSM does an incredible job trying to bridge the OSM story. The voice of OSM and ways that we communicate across the world is beyond mailing lists. Other open source communities are investing in community development with tools to curate social media, mailing lists, and blogs. Much like OSM invests in tools and infrastructure, we should also invest in ourselves through community building. It means being open to more participation from people with diverse skills who want to support OSM in other ways beyond editing and building technology. Looking to other open source projects this is a natural evolution done with consultation and vision. This includes developing a volunteer network of community managers and using technology to bridge the global audiences of active participants. This is a shift of mindset to expand the type of community leadership in OSM. There is so much talent in the wide OSM community and in our supporting network of those who use OSM daily. There are OSM researchers, videographers, educators, and, even, journalists. What if we created pathways to encourage more diversity in skills and contributions?

OpenStreetMap governance is centralized with the Board, Working Groups, and Chapters. How might we adjust our structures and/or engagement tactics to reflect the global nature of this beloved project? What types of community activities beyond SotM can we add to support the global connections? At State of the Map Asia 2017, I was in awe listening to all the country reports of leaders. We had many conversations about learning from other open source organizations to support OSM’s journey. It is with these questions that I seek to support the existing community and reflect with you on how we might continue to diversify and grow OSM.

I look forward to your questions and comments. To that end, I can be reached here, on the Talk list or via my personal email = heatherleson AT gmail DOT com.

Thanks for reading,


Location: La Servette, Petit-Saconnex et Servette, Geneva, 1202, Switzerland

Declaration of Conflicts

Posted by Heather Leson on 19 March 2015 in English (English)

As a Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Board Member Candidate, I wish to state my potential conflicts of interest:

Employer is Qatar Computing Research Institute:

My full time job is in research on Humanitarian and social innovation software. Our open source software often uses HOT-driven OSM data. (e.g. MicroMappers and hopefully UAviators via OAM) As a research institute, we do not receive remuneration for HOT nor do we receive profit from these projects.

Professional Affiliations:

Boards and Advisories:

*Board: PeaceGeeks (member of Digital Humanitarian Network) *Advisor: School of Data *Advisor: Jump2Spot *Organizer: International Conference of CrisisMappers *More advisory roles:

If there are any situations of conflict of interest, I will respectfully step out of the discussion and/or vote.

Thank you,


Evolving HOT

Posted by Heather Leson on 25 February 2015 in English (English)

What can we do? This drives us every day to support HOT's mandate and mission. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team is a respected, global community within the larger OpenStreetMap family. For the past 2 years, I have proudly donated my time, network and skills to help HOT grow organizationally as your Board Member. I respectfully ask for a HOT nomination from the membership and community support to continue this mandate.

My previous election posts can be found on my personal blog. These were shared on the HOT mailing list with the wider community.

Summary of Achievements in the 2014-2015 term

Board Secretary

Organizational Development

  • Executive Director support: reviewed, wrote and edited key strategic and organizational process documents.
  • Board Retreat: Recruited Allen Gunn of Aspiration to facilitate the HOT Board Retreat. Curated the HOT Board Retreat Planning
  • Board primer: to better define Board responsibilities, I created the Board Primer
  • Actively participated in the HOT Strategy Planning
  • Actively supported the Membership Chair on Elections

Community Support

  • Supported the Community Working Sprint to better define the engagement opportunities
  • Wrote and gained support for the HOT Resolution process to better help us manage HOT topics.
  • Attended and co-lead a number of HOT Community Working Group meetings. These need some help to move forward.
  • Blogged and shared communications on various HOT Projects and Events
  • Hosted a HOT workshop at the IEEE Humanitarian Tech Conference (Canada) and OKFestival 2014 (Germany)
  • Hosted a HOT Birds of a Feather event at State of the Map US 2014


  • Wrote the HOT Terms of Reference for Fundraising
  • Edited many grant applications
  • Assisted in the community sprint for the Hewitt grant

Getting HOT to the next level

Every organization and especially open source organizations have an evolution. We aim to grow organically while building the healthy parts to support all the moving parts. HOT (the community and the organization) have made tremendous progress. In the coming year, it is key to keep up the momentum. The successful growth of the working groups and membership leadership gives way to a positive, sustainable future. HOT's Board counts on the organizational staff, Executive Director, consultants, membership and community. HOT is a well-established and sought after partner for projects. We have grown with staff and consultancies to support these amazing opportunities. Our funders continue to support HOT's evolution by funding strategic projects like OAM and Activation training. This, in turn, supports the whole HOT and OSM community.

This year I ask for your support to continue as your Board Member on the mandate of strategic planning, fundraising and organizational development.

As an active Digital Humanitarian and HFOSS leader, you can count on me to champion HOT as your Board Member and fellow community member. I will continue to advocate for HOT at events, online and for our community growth. You can learn more about me on my blog (TextonTechs) []

Be a HOT Board Member

To my fellow Hotties, HOT needs strong Board Members. I would encourage you to review the Board Primer, the HOT Strategy and all the Board Minutes. Please ask your current board and former Board Members for guidance. Together we can continue to support the amazing work of mappers, humanitarians and those citizens who want to learn.

I highly recommend that these skills be part of your personal toolkit to support HOT's future.

  • Strong network, partnership relationships, fundraising capabilities
  • Finance or legal background
  • Strategic and management experience
  • Language skills (Do you speak Arabic, Mandarin or another language?)

Thank you again for your support and here's to a great year.

Location: Al Dafna (60), Doha, 22050, Qatar