HOT is at the beginning of a transformation. One aspect of this is setting up regional hubs in Asia, East Africa, West Africa, and Latin America/Caribbean. Last week, the first ever Regional Director started working at HOT - Dr. Nama Budhathoki. I wanted to take the opportunity to outline some of the early thinking around what a hub should be, and questions that Nama, myself and others are thinking about. The plans and details of hub implementation will be led by Nama over the coming year - there are no specifics or details to share on that yet. This post is to share thinking, that is evolving quickly - input, ideas, comments are very welcome - please comment on this post or chat with us on Slack. Nama is also joined by a few other hub team members; a Community Manager (Mikko Tamura), Partnerships Manager (Bry Damasco), and Operations/HR Associate (Bea Ocampo).

In this post, you’ll see the use of hOSM, which stands for humanitarian OpenStreetMap. Whereas HOT is often used to describe the work of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team as an organization, hOSM is used to describe the humanitarian OpenStreetMap ecosystem as a whole.

What is the purpose of a hub, and how is thinking around this evolving?

  1. To inspire and mobilise a hOSM movement across Asia. This means:
    1. the hub serves hOSM, not HOT... but how do we realize this? The hub needs to engage with community members in Asia over the next weeks and months - hint: reach out to Nama ( with ideas
    2. How do we measure movement building, and how do we know if we’re doing the right things to encourage it? This will be a long and expansive conversation, but in a nutshell, one of my favourite books New Power ( says “it’s not a movement unless it moves without you” - how do we make sure HOT’s work amplifies and supercharges hOSM, but does not control, claim, or own hOSM or OSM?
    3. We’ve made some simple but important changes to communications - including branding the hub as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap hub, *not* the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap *Team* hub, and changing Nama’s Job Title from Regional *Hub* Director Asia, to Regional Director Asia, reflecting the fact that the Hub is not just a physical space in one country, but a virtual space and concept serving 25 countries across Asia and Oceania.
  2. To power the evolution and growth of hOSM ecosystems in priority countries through contextualised and appropriate support and leadership, which is culture & language-appropriate. This means we need to think broadly; coming up with ways to identify and support the variety of OpenStreetMap individuals and organisations in a country, rather than working exclusively with one actor. In a given country, a thriving ecosystem could be made up of organised OpenStreetMap community/communities, individual contributors, NGOs, government actors, universities, students, national and international organisations all building and / or using OpenStreetMap.
  3. To decentralize: move decision making and resource allocation closer to the communities and partners HOT wants to serve
    1. This is a brand new structure for HOT as an organisation and might be a bit less interesting to OpenStreetMap community members -- but changing HOT’s structure comes with a lot of challenges! To date we have had global functional teams working on things like Partnerships, Community programs and Operations - and now we need to embed those functions in the new Regional Hub structure, and make sure HOT’s global functional teams work closely with and support hub evolution.
    2. Allow the hOSM ecosystem to flourish in different countries by stopping opening long term country offices, and starting to support HOT’s existing country office staff to transition to fully independent local entities in 2021. This will involve providing financial resources, training, support and maintaining a close affiliation, with the goal of enabling agility and independence for strong local hOSM actors.
    So… to move this forward, we’ve picked three guiding questions to focus on over the next month or so… what do you think?
    1. How can the hub be co-designed with the community in Asia? (as a physical and virtual space)
    2. How can the hub provide value across the humanitarian OSM ecosystem in Asia?
    3. How can the hub catalyze a humanitarian OSM movement across Asia?
Location: Upper Sydenham, Forest Hill, London Borough of Lewisham, London, Greater London, England, SE26 4BG, United Kingdom


Comment from mikelmaron on 12 January 2021 at 17:39

Thanks @RebeccaF for opening this public discussion. Very excited to see Nama take this on. A few thoughts…

In this post, you’ll see the use of hOSM, which stands for humanitarian OpenStreetMap

What’s been the consideration for using “hOSM”? I understand the purpose of distinguishing from HOT, but I find the actual contraction awkward. It wouldn’t sound good to say it out loud except as the full “humanitarian OpenStreetMap”. But you’d need to know what it stood for, and that “humanitarian OpenStreetMap” is different from “Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team”.

I don’t have a better term to suggest yet..

And is there a real need to distinguish humanitarian OSM from OSM? Can HOT simply talk about supporting OSM?

I think this gets more fundamentally to how the hubs strategize and help build mapping ecosystems. Is there an important difference to be made when building for sustainability? Is this just about not working with existing and new local companies that support the map? In general, the humanitarian system has been at odds with sustainability because it doesn’t encourage local growth.

Comment from Chetan_Gowda on 12 January 2021 at 18:45

Mapping hub in Asia, sounds exciting. Well written and Congratulations to Dr. Nama. The right person to lead Asian community.

Comment from Theo Armour on 12 January 2021 at 18:45


Thank you for this interesting post.

I am new to all of these OpenStreetMap efforts. I have little idea what all these groups are about, though it all sounds relevant, interesting and needed.

It would be great if in future posts you included the full names of these efforts and relevant links to their web pages as a regular part of such messages so we newbs could get up to speed and be more helpful a bit faster.


Comment from amapanda ᚛ᚐᚋᚐᚅᚇᚐ᚜ 🏳️‍🌈 on 12 January 2021 at 21:12

I think it’s a bad idea to use this name. There’s plenty of OSM actors in the humanitarian space, it’s not all under the HOT umbrella, and “hOSM” could confuse people.

Comment from pedrito1414 on 13 January 2021 at 10:35

I also think the name is an important point… More than one person I have spoken to has pointed out the incongruence between the ‘h’ in hOSM (and the ‘H’ in HOT) and the scope and objectives of the Audacious project and the hubs…. However, I also think that using ‘OSM’ alone to frame Audacious doesn’t communicate the purpose well as there is a strong angle that is related to local / community development and humanitarian work.

Rory, just to make sure I understand your perspective… Is it that ‘hOSM’ and humanitarian OpenStreetMap is too close to HOT and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and therefore confusing?

Just for context… HOT is purposefully evolving into an NGO that is community-centric (and less introspective) and we felt that way too many things were being labelled ‘HOT’ (HOT communities, HOT edits, HOT Summit) when they weren’t necessarily about HOT - in fact, we didn’t just feel it, various people told us this was a problem. I think the hOSM term came about as a short hand to help us de-occupy some of these spaces and has stuck to some extent. Not that it couldn’t be unstuck if better ideas came along, of course!

Comment from CourtneyMClark on 13 January 2021 at 22:10

I’m still working out my thoughts about the specific term “hOSM”, but it does feel incongruous to me that the term is being used with the positive intent of not associating all things that have to do with humanitarian work + OSM with HOT (which I think is an important goal to pursue), and yet, to my understanding, the term was created and is being used almost solely by HOT staff so far. To me, it seems to have sprung up overnight without any community input. I could be wrong about its origins, and please let me know if I am.

However, if the term was created by and is being primarily pushed by HOT staff, then the introduction of “hOSM” seems to me to be more of HOT’s reaction to criticism that HOT in the past has taken undue credit for humanitarian-related OSM work than something that is driven and requested by any broader community(ies). Hope this makes sense!

Comment from pedrito1414 on 14 January 2021 at 16:34

@Courtney, you’re absolutely right about the phrase coming from HOT staff… We initially coined it as a shorthand to differentiate internally between what HOT is and what HOT wants to support and promote. Tyler used it to illustrate this point in relation to the humanitarian OpenStreetMap Summit (was HOT Summit) and the intent to de-occupy the humanitarian OSM space. I think from there, we have just continued to use it as we know what we mean by it. I’d argue that no-one is really pushing it as such, but we are using it without having discussed what the implications / perceptions are for the groups of people HOT wants to work with / support, which is an oversight on our side and should be addressed.

I think where it really matters most is when applied to things like the hubs, where we want people to engage with, collaborate on, be a part of, contribute to, benefit from a community resource that prioritises OSM for [local] social good. We will have to call them something and, for me personally, ‘OSM’ alone doesn’t cover or communicate the mandate that HOT has or the scope, objectives or priority contexts of the Audacious project. I totally understand that if the OSMF was the entity supporting the launch of these hubs, it might make total sense to call them OSM Hubs, because the OSMF has a much broader mandate.

We’ll definitely take this constructive criticism on board and put some energy into the thinking behind this… Interested to know if people have thoughts about the other questions posed by Rebecca in the diary entry…?

Comment from DigiDemoDills on 15 January 2021 at 09:44

My impression is that “hOSM” is a temporary stand-in among HOT staff while we try to figure what term or phrase to use next instead of “HOT.” While “hOSM” has been discussed a lot internally and in community meetings, I don’t use it in external communications because it’s jargony and unclear to people who aren’t already in on the conversation.

I use “humanitarian mapping” instead because, while it doesn’t capture OpenStreetMap, the meaning is more clear to people who aren’t actively reading OSM diaries and joining community conversations.

I think that an ideal term would capture that the goal is to grow the use and coverage of OSM for: 1. humanitarian action and disaster response 2. development planning 3. whatever local communities want to use it for

And until we find a term that captures that, I understand the perspective that OSM is the common denomicator between HOT and the communities we work with.

Comment from janabau on 15 January 2021 at 11:59

I had not picked up on the fact they are called hOSM Hubs, not HOT Hubs, that is indeed more inviting for the community… glad I read your post @RebeccaF. Good luck with supporting & growing hOSM ecosystem in Asia and curious to hear/read a report on the progress down the road.

Comment from mikelmaron on 15 January 2021 at 13:46

Getting away from the label, and back to Rebecca’s questions..

I think the most important first step to codesign is to understand the communities in the places. Research and document the history of communities in each country in the region, with people involved. Who are the people which have worked and organized? Who is doing a lot of mapping and technical work? What are the organizations, companies, and agencies which have been present? What projects have been implemented? What are the opportunities and what are the challenges?

Recognize communities are not amorphous, but made of individuals and organizations with complex relationships, sometimes cooperating, sometimes competing.

Then ask and listen — what do they need? What are they worried about as risks? Given Covid and distance anyway, may take a series of dialogues both directly with individual, and more publicly.

Then write what you’re hearing and reflections often to get feedback. Be visible in the and available in the development.

I think Allan Mustard had done a good job since becoming OSMF chair, of having as many conversations as possible, and doing his thinking in the open. I’d love to see Nama and the other hub leads take similar approaches.

Comment from amapanda ᚛ᚐᚋᚐᚅᚇᚐ᚜ 🏳️‍🌈 on 20 January 2021 at 08:41

w.r.t. “hOSM” etc: To prevent miscommunications and misinterpretations, I’ll just say that the OSMF Board (mostly me now) & the HOT Board are working constructively on this issue right now. The situation is actively changing day-by-day. I am confident that things will work out well. 🙂

Comment from RebeccaF on 12 February 2021 at 13:39

Thanks to all the folks who shared perspectives on this - very useful. added another post with more on regional hub thinking above :)

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