At the State of the Map and HOT Summit conferences this year, we discussed ways to increase diversity and promote inclusion in OpenStreetMap (OSM). These discussions have evolved in format over the past few years; this year focusing on practical actions individuals can take to improve diversity. Read these ideas from 40 people attending State of the Map, to see how you can help.

By diversity, we mean broad representation across demographic characteristics of participants, including gender, racial, ethnic, geographic, socio-economic, age, sexual orientation/intersectionalism, and other dimensions of difference. We are concerned not only with the presence and participation of our diverse community, but also with the quality of the experience being inclusive.

Support diverse applications for talks and scholarships

  • Many conference organisers and program committees would like to select diverse talks and scholars, but do not receive much diversity in applications. For future conferences, we should reach out proactively, directly to underrepresented groups to encourage them to apply for talks or scholarships, rather than expect them to apply. Also, session organizers should reflect on the gender and representation balance as they make selections for which formats and visibility (talks versus posters, for instance). Furthermore, session or track committees should strive for diverse representation on the committee itself.
  • Volunteer to help/mentor others to write a talk or scholarship application. If someone is not comfortable delivering a talk alone, suggest doing it together. Similarly, if you are asked to give a talk, can you consider who else could do it for you to share the space. Be sure to take care about power relations, and give appropriate acknowledgements.
  • Advocate for newer or smaller projects so people are able to find or learn about them, making them more likely to be selected for conference talks (encourage people to submit to WeeklyOSM and diaries).
  • If you are presenting about a topic for a specific region of the world, be sure to include someone from that region. OSM is diverse, but must infuse inclusion in all that we share. “Build with” should be our method.

Encourage participation in more languages

  • Include stickers / flags for the conference badges for different languages. Many people find it difficult and tiring communicating in English all day, but might not realise there are lots of people around them who are keen to talk with them in another language.
  • Talk more slowly in presentations so someone speaking a second language can understand, and avoid using slang and cultural references that may not be universally understood.
  • Give the benefit of the doubt regarding language translation and discussions not being in someone’s first language; never assume people mean badly when sharing their opinions.
  • Consider funding to add subtitles to videos that are being streamed online, auto subtitle services, or take live notes, which could be translated.
  • Consider pairing volunteer translators with participants to “whisper translate.” Be an ally for those speaking a different language. Ask how we can improve and share. Support people attending a conference for the first time
  • Acknowledge that for many people it’s their first time at a conference. Organise newcomer sessions or a preconference event, or simply approach someone who’s standing alone at a coffee or lunch break. Additionally, you could ask on registration if this is someone’s first conference, and if it is, assign them a buddy who’s more familiar with OSM conferences to help them to integrate.
  • Consider speed mentoring sessions for youth attending the conference.
  • Have a “meeting bingo” session at a networking session early on in the conference.
  • Direct people to introduce themselves to a neighbour they haven’t met before in breaks between talks.

Participate in a conference organising committee and overall OSM

  • Communications & social media on the conference should explicitly focus on diversity of audiences and inclusivity.
  • Host State of the Map and HOT Summit in different locations to enable more underrepresented groups to attend. This will have a direct impact on the quality of OpenStreetMap; data and quality of our map is differing because we’re lacking contributors and a fully representative community.
  • Consider the visa situation before agreeing on conference location and how that will affect attendance.
  • Many talks presented at SOTM are incredibly technical; consider ways to bring in more people without very technical backgrounds.
  • Ensure dedicated seats for women and other underrepresented groups in leadership positions. Support different communication and engagement methods to be more inclusive. Governance models, policies, terms of references for working groups/boards and practices should codify inclusion
  • Suggest diversity committees to focus on diversity across every aspect of a conference, particularly ensuring inclusive language around speaking and scholarship applications. This group should ensure that diverse applications for talks/posters make it through to the conference program. They could also consider what other activities we could do to improve inclusion such as ensuring conference food does not include common allergens, and supports attendees with a range of dietary requirements.
  • Consider how we evaluate what is a successful conference: should we change the things people are recognised on?
  • Encourage surveys with diversity questions to better baseline diversity and attendees opinions within the conference.
  • Publish data on who applied for talks, and who was accepted to receive talks, including gender / location (see below).

HOT Summit 2019: how did we do for diversity?

As mentioned, one suggestion from the diversity discussion was understanding how to baseline diversity levels in OSM, and how these are changing. In looking through the data we collected on diversity for the HOT Summit, my biggest learning is we have not systematically captured data at key points of the conference process in order to be able to concretely measure how we are doing. The data points below, which are based on the questions included in the call for speakers, serve as a baseline against which we can track our performance going forward: * 35% of speaker applications self-identified as from an underrepresented group, 49% of total talks were from speakers who self-identified as from an underrepresented group * 41% of speakers selected were female * 35% of speakers selected came from outside North America & Europe

Get more involved in Diversity with… * State of the Map Working Group * HOT Summit Working Group & Community Working Group: * GeoChicas Telegram group: * OSM Diversity list: * YouthMappers and the LetGirlsMap campaign (

Location: -13.514, -71.975

Comment from Sawan Shariar on 19 October 2019 at 11:36

Thank you, Rebecca.

Comment from quicky on 4 November 2019 at 13:10

Very interesting !

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