rrbaker's Diary

Recent diary entries

2019 HOT Board Candidate Statement

Posted by rrbaker on 18 June 2019 in English (English). Last updated on 8 July 2019.

Edit: Responses to forum questions are following my statement

Hello HOT members,

Thanks very much for taking the time to click through, read, and consider my candidate statement for a position on the HOT Board of Directors.

My name is Rob Baker and I’m currently the Director of Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, located at Harvard University in Cambridge, MA, USA. Prior to joining the team here, I was located in Washington, DC for seven years where I worked as Lead Technologist for USAID’s Global Development Lab; the World Bank’s Innovation Lab, where I ran a team on open data; a White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, where my team and I installed the agency’s first CDO and created open data policy; and was COO of Ushahidi, having started with them as a volunteer in 2010 following the Haiti earthquake.

It was in 2010 when I got involved with OSM and when HOT launched. I contributed to mapping parties in Haiti and in Indonesia, working to help train local communities on not only the practice but the value of being seen on the map. In the years since, I was proud to represent HOT at several public events and continue to champion everything from the old Field Papers to Missing Maps.

I hope that I can use my diverse, humanitarian experience to be an active advocate for HOT. My background as a technologist and coder means I understand and, more importantly, help translate technical processes, especially for non-technical audiences. I understand what it’s like working with larger institutions and bureaucracies, what constraints they have and how to navigate those policies. And my entire career is in non-profits and development work, so how our iNGO, governmental ministries, and CSOs operate in these contexts. While I have not been able to directly contribute to HOT for some time, I know this is a meaningful way I can be more involved.

So how would I like to be involved and what do I see as priority issues for HOT? In addition to doing what I think are the core tasks of helping grow and foster the HOT community and find new partnerships:

  • I’d like to continue the efforts of the board to promote and foster diversity and gender inclusivity among our community of contributors and users. The current board and the community have made tremendous progress here but we all have to continue to make this a priority, making sure it’s not only addressed but operationalize. This means ongoing dialogue with the community to make sure voices are heard and proactively running our own analytics to identify and address gaps.

  • To promote more data consistency and quality. Conversations about standardizing our approach are not the most exciting and can feel very prescriptive but they’re also the means by which we overcome more barriers to adoption, where companies, governments, and organizations feel confident about HOT’s contributions and OSM at large, and users are more satisfied that their contributions are truly making a noticeable difference.

  • To help highlight use cases of HOT, providing the context required by organizations to understand the costs and challenges involved but more so the many benefits that come with seeing this work in the context of a humanitarian response or contributing to resilience building. I think growing the community is always important, but I’d sooner direct more attention to improving and refining HOT’s narrative so that our current community feels valued and new and current partners clearly see the reasons to remain involved and invested.

  • Help further issues related to code of conduct, ethics, and duty of care. This is something my team and I research, and such a critical part of all humanitarian response. I think it provides an opportunity for HOT on a couple fronts, where there is an opportunity to make sure we are doing the best we can four our members and community, and where HOT has made so much progress on this front, serving as a model to other organizations.

Thank you for taking the time to read all this, for your consideration, and for everything you do to make HOT and OSM great.

Best regards,


Forum questions and responses

What do you see as the biggest challenge that HOT as an organization needs to overcome over the next year? …and as a follow up: What actions can HOT take to meet these challenges?

Getting into some specific challenges:

  • Onboarding I think is a crucial area of improvement; HOT’s volunteer intake is up but what more can we do about retention. Appointing onboarding stewards to identify and spend 10-15 minutes with new volunteers to explain the ropes and point them in a new direction would save them hours of hunting through the docs and listservs themselves.
  • Data quality is an issue I’d like to address. We have so many new contributions but ensuring areas are up to the standards if not the requirements of organizations big and small is necessary to not only making sure it’s valuable but that volunteers are valued for their contributions.
  • Evaluating communications channels is something we could also work on, running random sample polls among the active community to understand what they want to use or use because they must. With a global community, it helps to have people using the tools they enjoy most.

As others have mentioned, the HOT Voting Member and Board model is something that is much-discussed. Adaptations have not recently been made to the model. What governance-related experience do you have that might aid this discussion?

I very much support the recent decision to form an Advisory board. As it’s been noted, HOT has had excellent growth, and that new capacity would only benefit from a broader diversity of skill, especially in what is already identified: the need for more legal and financial assistance. I would look forward to welcoming and working with the Advisory Board, pro-actively and consistently leveraging their guidance.

I currently Sit on the advisory board of N Square DC and other boards in the past, including ones in which I was a member of the Advisory Board, so I’m not only aware of the format but of how to make this work best for all parties.

One reason the board exists is to fulfill a critical function of governance, fiscal and legal oversight, strategic guidance and risk management. What experience can you speak to, to help Voting Members understand how you might approach these challenges?

I’ve been in positions in companies in the past, such as Ushahidi, where we were beholden to a Board ourselves. Their input was invaluable, and they knew when – rarely but admittedly – we were glossing over certain subjects that were not 100% of what we wanted. And they knew the gaps, too. They knew this because they didn’t wait for just our quarterly reports, instead they engaged with the community.

From what I’ve seen and read, I think HOT leadership has absolutely lived up to the tenets of the organization and OSM itself: transparency, accountability, community. If elected, I’m committed to making sure I also fulfill this by checking in on working groups, team/projects leaders, and keeping a close eye on the lists so I can come to meetings prepared with multiple perspectives.

Location: East Cambridge, Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, 02141-9998, United States