OpenStreetMap

What HOT’s Board Needs: A Top 5 List

Posted by TylerOSM on 10 September 2021 in English (English).

HOT members - welcome to the 2021 election cycle! If you’ve been considering running for a board seat, or simply my informal take on things, read on!

This year, we have several unique factors at play:

  • HOT has just entered (as of July) its second year of implementation of Audacious Project implementation, working toward a goal of engaging 1 million contributors to map an area home to 1 billion people across 94 countries.
  • The organization has gone through a period of rapid change in the past 12 months, opening two regional hubs, adding roughly 45 staff members, doubling our annual budget, and putting the organizational foundations in place to dramatically scale up community support. We’ll continue to scale from 2021-22.
  • The environment around us has also changed dramatically, opening up new possibilities with recent technical advances and forcing us to re-think ways of working under Covid-related movement restrictions.
  • Lots more has been happening: see our Annual Report (I’ll write more on where we stand and where we’re heading next month).
  • Amidst all of this, five of seven board seats are up for grabs.

I’ve been reflecting on this. As someone who works to serve and expand the open mapping / OpenStreetMap movement every day, what would position HOT in the best way to support the movement? Given the changes and uncertainty, what specific skills would add the most value? What specifically do we need coming out of this year’s Board of Directors election cycle?

I’ve come up with a rough grouping of skills and experiences that have the potential to add significant value as part of HOT’s Board of Directors. HOT has an incredible diversity of lived experiences in our membership, though, so if you don’t see your particular experience here, it doesn’t mean it wouldn’t benefit HOT.

In no particular order, here’s my top five archetypes:

The serial entrepreneur or tech trend-setter

This year, through user-centered design, we’ll be making major decisions on tools that get more data into OSM (for example, mobile) and making tools that make data more useful and impactful coming out of OSM. So - what’s happening outside the OpenStreetMap world that we can learn from? Have you launched or scaled a successful or failed tech startup? Worked in one? Are you leading open source software projects? Geospatial projects? Digital transformation and digital strategy? Have you grown and scaled teams or projects in a serious way? HOT needs you!

The regional tour guide

By early 2022, we’ll have regional operations in four regions. Everything we do will revolve around partnering with OSM communities, tech startups, governments, and NGOs in each region. This is where lived experience and working with a variety of people in data-related roles really counts - if you find yourself frequently talking with donors, government officials and NGOs in multiple countries in your region, HOT could deeply benefit from your ideas, knowledge about ways of working, insight into decision makers and key players, and relationships!

As HOT grows, there are many interesting legal questions to consider from intellectual property to employment law to humanitarian law issues to data ethics and privacy. IN particular, this year will see the rollout of a new responsible data function. Even if you’re not an attorney, if you’ve worked for one, served as a paralegal, or done research on any of these issues, your expertise is incredibly valuable.

The financier (not the cake)

Funding is great, but what we really could use here is your expertise and advice. Our fantastic Finance Committee chair Rob Baker is wrapping up his term. If you’ve managed large departmental or organizational budgets, HOT needs you! If you manage investments personally or professionally and can help us make decisions on how best to invest donations, HOT needs you! If you’ve worked on an audit for another NGO, that’s certainly useful. If you’re a chartered accountant or certified financial planner or investment manager, that’s great, and I’d also encourage you to consider what skills or experience you have even outside your day job that might be relevant.

The humanitarian disruptor

Some have reckoned Covid is the great disruptor of traditional humanitarian structures. Certainly, it has brought into clear focus the need for the open mapping movement: decentralized, not reliant on cross-border deployments, locally-led, accountability to affected populations. If you are working on these topics in the humanitarian space, what can HOT share, and what can HOT learn? What partnership opportunities do you see? How should this impact technology design? HOT could benefit from your advice.

Board members sometimes think of their commitment in terms of “time, talent, or treasure” (treasure referring to financial contributions to their organization). HOT is in an extraordinarily fortunate position. We have been entrusted with investments from multiple, forward-thinking donors to support and spread the open mapping movement. We now need the talent, the ideas, the partnerships, the vision and yes, a little bit of time to make it all happen. I expect our Board to continue evolving so a board seat commitment will mean minimizing time spent on administrative matters, since we now have increased staff support, and opening up space to think big, boldly, and strategically together.

Wrapping up, two final thoughts. First, what we need above anything else is your passion for HOT’s mission and dedication to making our vision a reality. Everything else is a plus. Second, as Executive Director, I see my relationship with the Board as one of equals, one of partners, in which we both bring different but complementary abilities to the table. Technically, the ED reports to the Board of Directors, but in reality, we each do very different things. We listen a lot to each other, coach each other, serve as thought partners, sometimes disagree, but always have the best interests of HOT in mind.

I am truly looking forward to working with all five board members with new terms in addition to Felix and Trudy as they continue in their terms. Please comment or get in touch if you’d like to talk more anytime.

-Tyler

Comment from SomeoneElse on 11 September 2021 at 11:57

I’ve read through this a couple of times now, and I still can’t tell if it is serious or meant as a satire. Among lots of other bullshit bingo, you talk about “humanitarian disruptors” and “thought partners” - can this really be meant as a serious article?

Not once do I see a reference to the people that HOT is supposed to serve. You say (of HOT’s directors) “we listen a lot to each other” - how about listening a bit more widely than that?

– Andy (as is usual in diary comments, writing in an entirely personal capacity)

Comment from TylerOSM on 11 September 2021 at 12:40

Hi Andy I’ll let the mystery live on :-)

Great to see the candidate nominations so far!

Comment from Heather Leson on 12 September 2021 at 08:09

Thanks for this reflection, Tyler.

HOT is an incredible project and network within OSM. I think all candidates and board members are aware of this important and valued place.

Having a well-rounded and skilled board is important for any project. Here’s to considering that line between operational and strategic board while being a great partner, member and supporter of the larger OSM and OSMF.

Heather

Comment from mikelmaron on 12 September 2021 at 13:24

Andy

Voting Members of HOT, who are the eligible candidates for the Board, have a lot more exposure to what’s happening in HOT and who is being listened to. While we can quibble about the labels being used here, I take the point to be that there are particular skilled needs on the HOT board.

One question I have for you is who, in the more wide view, do you think HOT needs to listen to more? And how best to enable listening and dialogue?

Mikel

Comment from mikelmaron on 12 September 2021 at 13:27

Tyler, it’s hard enough to find 5 candidates among HOT’s membership, let alone folks with all the needed experience. Do you think it’s time for HOT to evaluate changes to HOT’s governance structure?

Comment from TylerOSM on 13 September 2021 at 01:05

One of the most unique and incredible things about our organization is that our board leadership is made up of individuals deeply committed to the mission. Board members almost always have lived experience directly contributing to advancing the mission in regions we work before joining the board. Personally I am proud to serve an organization whose President is a woman and whose board in the past year has had representation from every major HOT priority region (LAC, West and Eastern Africa, Asia).

Yes, I think we can be happy about this while also evaluating ways to make it even better. There are some big governance questions for the membership to grapple with. HOT now has regional offices. How will those boards and the global board interact? How do we shorten the pipeline for critical skills required of a board and should some board officers (eg Treasurer) be appointed if no elected Board member has the expertise? Our bylaws allow for that possibility already and there are models to look at such as Wikimedia Foundation (part elected part appointed).

My take is this: let’s not lose what’s great about our current structure but yes let’s reimagine what the ideal could look like. We should start with our values, using the opportunity to consider regional structures, autonomy, devolving power and authority, etc. Should a portion of global board seats be allocated so there is one rep per region? Another part of this should be figuring out what skills and experience we have in our membership base already and making sure we have ways to identify, develop, and or attract those with badly needed skills to Board seats. Tyler


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