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: Grottes et Saint-Gervais, Geneva, Switzerland

Comment from philippec on 17 November 2017 at 06:51

What are your ideas about relieving our day to day headaches such as - Vandalism, maverick mapping - The jungle of notes. ?

Comment from Stereo on 25 November 2017 at 23:14

Hello Heather,

Your manifesto brings up good questions, which you would be expected to answer as a board member. What are your ideas on how we could achieve the goals you would like the OSMF to pursue?

You talk about your growing engagement and contributions, but your mapping is only casual. You’ve only mapped four days this year. Isn’t creating the map an essential experience to have to be a competent board member?

Thank you for your answers and good luck.

Comment from Heather Leson on 26 November 2017 at 17:58

Thanks for these questions.

@Philippec - Regarding the ‘juggle of notes’, if you are referring to email, well, it is the worst protocol. I really like how Public Lab has built tools for community engagement and notemaking. It is less threads and more productive action. This is due to their ethos on community engagement which they built into the organization from the outright.

Regarding vandalism, I honestly trust that the data working group has some thoughts on how to improve on this. I would seek their guidance. As well, Sajjad Anwar told us at SotM Asia about improving tools (scripts) to investigate these. When you say ‘maverick mapping’, can you explain more about what you mean?

@stereo - Today I responded extensively on the wiki about community engagement and ideas for implementation. As with any Board position, it is important to work on the plans with all the fellow board members, working groups, local chapters, and, as OSMF would have it - some very prolific and vocal contributors. To me, we need to talk and listen to those who are not speaking up and those whose voices may be drown out on mailing lists. We need to truly engage outside the lists if we want a full reflection and consultation before implementing anything.

I appreciate yours and others prerogative on my OSM editing contributions. As mentioned on the list today, I do think that there are other competencies that the Board Members lack; we need to be fully balanced. We don’t need a board of expert mappers alone. We need people who can help address some of the issues that people have brought up. Yes, I have much to learn like anyone else. It is my experience that a Board should be strategic focused with diverse skills. A good board member balances and collaborates with the other board members. We don’t always have to agree, but we have to work for the membership and the mission. I posted some of these resources to the wiki election questions - but here are a few resources

Thank you again,


Comment from sakudo on 28 November 2017 at 20:08

I think, philippec is not referring to email by “The jungle of notes”…

Given my modest mapping contributions to OSM, I would understand it differently; and several “data types” come immediately to my mind that all produce some form of notes and “meta-information” (like comments, source indications, fix me hints etc.).

philippec is probably referring to those and is asking what improvements can be made to the mapping process.

Comment from philippec on 28 November 2017 at 20:21

I usually vote with my feet. A foreigner came for one afternoon in the city where I solve the notes. He mapped a bit and left 50 notes of presumable shops he could not distinquish in the dark. The community did not act on this matter. Some people know of a problem and leave notes all over the country and forget about them. They do not even help to solve them. That is why I did quit the notes business. Please have a look in my profile at the notes I created.
That is what notes should be. Notes are so valuable that they should me a prime preoccupation of the board. Maybe a notes management system would help.

Comment from dieterdreist on 5 December 2017 at 12:11

I understand you are not very involved with actual mapping in OpenStreetMap because you have different interests and priorities, that’s fine. But you could have looked it up in the wiki, the “notes” system is the main procedure OSM has developed to enable people to contribute occassionally without the need of creating an OSM user account. It has been around for almost 5 years. Here’s a short summary:

Comment from Heather Leson on 6 December 2017 at 06:33

Thanks for the note on notes. Point taken. I will try to add this and OSM Streak to my weekly routines. There are many things I can improve on. Human.

What would be fun is to link the two tools :) Phiippec, Is there a github link for notes and your product idea?


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