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Evolving Governance at HOT

Posted by Heather Leson on 31 August 2023 in English.

How do we better organize to support the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team organization, staff, membership, and community? We have been on a journey to open up and consider what is the best way forward for HOT’s Governance. Now that we have the HOT Living Strategy, we have more incentive to imagine how we might evolve. We are taking stock of our governance and investigating how we might be able to encourage more people to engage in the governance of HOT.

The HOT Governance Working Group (GWG) started the process of research and engagement with the HOT membership in January 2023. We’ve documented this process in the GWG meeting minutes. Together we designed a terms of reference to hire support to help us research some initial bylaw adjustments and wider organizational needs and structures.

Our first big research is exploring how we govern with the board and to better support the membership chair. There will be future steps and research to consider the role of the membership and how we collaborate with the Open Mapping Hubs.

The board and membership asked us to consider the following topics: the possibility of appointed board members, board member stipends, and membership chair term. See the current HOT bylaws

Why the proposed changes

The HOT voting members have a wide range of skills, and have brought much insight and change to the organization. Currently, HOT’s board is elected from and by the voting membership. Over the past years, HOT board and organization have identified gaps in key expertise for the board, including legal, finance and large-scale fundraising. This has been documented in various OSM diary posts, the HOT board election discussions, and the Board and GWG meeting minutes.

HOT has evolved with many staff members and open mapping hubs. To sustain growth, we identified these skills as essential. Add to this, the HOT board members advised that their roles and responsibilities lead to stress and burnout. Driven by feedback from current and past board members and the HOT organization, we consider it an opportunity to ask - how can we adjust for our global network and keep the momentum of the Audacious funding?

Some background posts on the experiences, activities and recommendations about the HOT board:

Research Recommendations

Members of the HOT governance working group met frequently with the research team, Natalia Norori and Denisse Albornez, to learn about the desktop research, coordinate interviews and have the two engagement meetings. The research team activities included a desktop review, interviews with members and the wider open source network, a membership survey, and two HOT membership engagement meetings. Then, the preliminary report was shared with the members for further comments and then incorporated into the final report’s recommendations. Overall, the activity garnered many insights and provoked many conversations.

We are sharing the research report and slides beyond the HOT membership to extend the review with the wider HOT community, other OpenStreetMap communities, OpenStreetMap Foundation, and other open organizations. The research team also prepared a bylaw explorer to learn how other open organizations function. The resources:

Next steps and opportunities for research

The Governance Working Group received the final report from Natalia and Denisse and agreed with the recommendations for a membership chair term of 2 years and the potential of some appointed board members.

After talking with legal counsel, we deemed a multi-stage approach was necessary. We will have a ballot proposal on the bylaw about the membership chair term for the upcoming HOT elections and the annual general meeting (September/October 2023). We will also update some of our existing bylaws to match the current HOT elections and board practices and procedures.

The draft bylaw proposals will be discussed within the HOT membership. Here is a quick summary:

  • 3.6 Election of the membership chair for a two-year term
  • 4.3 Election procedures updated
  • 4.4 Election nomination process updated
  • 5.8 Update to board processes
  • 5.10 Update to election ballot validation process

The HOT Governance Working Group, with the membership’s guidance, will continue to research and prepare procedures for the potentially appointed board members. We know from membership input that there is an interest in exploring a hybrid board with a majority of voting members and a few appointed board positions. These types of changes need firm procedures to support the organization. We look forward to learning about other organizations on this path.

The overall report has many research questions and opportunities for HOT and other open communities to consider as we become more global. We’d be happy to talk with researchers who are interested in open governance and would be interested in studying this as part of their academic work. Our goal is to continue to build on the HOT Evolving Governance research.

Thank you!

Thanks to Natalia and Denisse for their thorough and engaged research. Thanks also to Allen Gunn, Tobie Langel, and Silona Bonewald for their guidance. Thanks to the 60+ members and a few guests for giving us input. And, lastly, thanks to the Governance Working Group members and HOT staff who have been helping us throughout this process


Chair, HOT Governance Working Group

Location: 45.009, -75.611


Comment from pedrito1414 on 8 September 2023 at 09:20

Thanks for sharing with such clarity, Heather…. And, for all the work that you and the HOT GWG do!

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