Here we are on the cusp of 2020. OSMF has elected a new board. Congratulations. But, now we have an all male, all northern/western board for a global open map, open source, and open data community & project.
Over the past years, I have stated quietly (posts, events, face-to-face conversations) that there is a power imbalance. Change happens in governance, I thought, so I ran and lead on both the HOT and OSMF boards to try to address some of this. Passive responses to the issues of gender imbalance, inclusion and diversity of governance have received the following types of responses:
- It is up to the ‘community.’
- It is up to the working groups.
- Prove that there are issues. I don’t see any issues.
Leading up to this last election, I talked with many people to ask them to run. Women would not do so due to toxic environment, power imbalances, reputation targeting, and emotionally draining conversations. This was also the same case cited by leaders from the global majority (sometimes called the global south). People from Asia and Africa told me - the culture of governance in OSM/OSMF is not professional and would not be productive. Simply put - communication is hard in OSM and we need to recognize this.
The gender diversity of the membership a few years ago is about 10 - 12% (I reviewed and hand coded/searched this data from the Membership working group.) Kate Chapman and I wrote about OSM community to cite these gap and outline the ‘community of communities.’  We tried on the volunteer board to talk about this in the sea of all the other priorities. With allies on the diversity mailing list, we’ve hosted sessions about experiences and needs at State of the Map.
What is an open organization?
Being “open” is more than the code or the data. It is about the community around it.
“While every organization is different—and therefore every example of an open organization is unique—we believe these five characteristics serve as the basic conditions for openness in most contexts:
So here are my recommendations to shift OSMF:
- Codify it - The Articles of Association need to state that women and global regional members are on the board.
- Codify it - The Working Groups need to have women and global regional members.
- Hire- a community manager to do a proper community strategy and implement it.  If you don’t want OSMF to hire staff, ask one of the companies to ‘second’ / hire one for us.
- Research - procure a research team (pay) to do an inclusive and through assessment on gender, inclusion, and diversity. This person reports to the diversity mailing list and local chapters.
- Change the OSM sign up to have optional gender identification when people sign up. Or, reverse engineer and allow us to self-identify. For a data project, we are surely not data driven on community engagement.
We can no longer wait for a volunteer board and overworked working groups. This continues to be bigger than the current membership and community. It is a large, beautiful open project that needs to be a leader in a global space. It needs to be inclusive as a map, as a project, in its governance, and in its community.
Thank you to all those who champion for OSM to be a better place.