The OSM Foundation Board spent most of last Saturday together at our second “screen to screen” meeting of the year. We are motivated to put in this effort by the mission of OpenStreetMap and the faith entrusted in us by the membership to steward the core resources in the Foundation that makes the map free to all.
We want to share about why we on the Board are putting so much effort where we are, and what you’ll see coming soon.
The screen to screen is the recurring opportunity to step back and assess the current state and direction of the OSMF and our work on the Board. We talked a good deal about a fresh approach and accelerating the strategic planning process. We delved into work underway on top priority items like the EU relocation, technical staff growth, potential future needs like an ED role, and local community support. We looked at the current financial picture and the resources needed in the near term, and recommitted to the fundraising plan to raise 500K GBP to meet our budget plans for this year.
We reviewed how far along we’ve come since setting the 2023 agenda at the March screen to screen. This is critical accountability. The answer is mixed. A lot is in fact moving, but there is a good amount falling behind as well. This can all be tracked in our public action items gitlab. We resolved to address effectiveness in 3 ways. First, strong prioritization on what tasks need doing – we admit that we must triage. Second, team work. Pairing up with another Board member on a task means sharing the burden and keeping each other on pace. And it’s more fun to work together. Third, clearly communicate limits. Life happens. If a meeting will be missed, or a commitment needs to be taken on by someone else, the minimum expectation is communicating to the Board.
We’ll update the Board Rules of Order to capture this point.
We then switched to the Strategic Planning Process. The strategic plan will be a comprehensive document to guide and align all the day to day work and decision making in the OSM Foundation. We recognized that to this point translating strategic planning to an online, global community is hard and could have worked better. Through feedback from the Board and wise guidance from our facilitator Allen Gunn, we are reorienting the planning to process to clearly communicate general goals rather than discussion of every potential tactic, and explain more clearly the motivation for each section of the plan. We also agreed that the plan should be a living document, so that it can easily respond to developments as they emerge in the years ahead. We are accelerating the process of drafting, consulting on, and finalizing the plan to conclude in the next 2 months. Expect to see details on this soon.
There are a handful of key specific tactics we discussed at the screen to screen for strategic growth. Extending team coverage and accelerating infrastructure robustness by bringing on an additional system administrator to our team. Unlocking mapper needs and development innovation by engaging a paid role to project manage coding projects on OSM.org. Flexibly meet diverse mapper rendering needs by standing up vector tile infrastructure. Investing in the extensive OSM software ecosystem that powers OSMF infrastructure and use of OSM data through engineering community development and grants. And investigating the scope and suitability of an Executive Director role for the OSMF to support the strategy set by the Board.
To meet growing needs, we need resources, and we spent time examining OSMF finances. In recent years the OSMF has grown its obligations to meet the growing demands to create and use OSM data. Our financial management strategy for this year is to break even, retaining our reserves for a rainy day. And in the years ahead, as we look at areas of strategic growth, we want to have funds to grow carefully and considerately to sustain growth with very targetted staff, infrastructure and community investments. We do not plan to commit to growing obligations without confidence that we have the funds necessary to sustain them.
Historically the OSMF has dedicated the most resources to our technical infrastructure, and we have added dedicated staff support with our Senior Site Reliability Engineer and iD Maintainer. This has resulted in more stable and robust systems, and more accessible mapping tooling. The budget for the year, supporting infrastructure investments, staff, operational overhead, and reserves 681,000 GBP. The gap from our regular income from corporate and individual memberships is 521,000 GBP. We reaffirmed this as our target for the fundraising campaign. and “membership” https://join.osmfoundation.org/
The map is free to all and free to edit, but it is not free to make. OSM is powered by donations in the form of membership, gifts, and sponsorship. At the screen to screen, we reviewed the excellent conversations we had about the fundraising campaign at SotM US, SotM France and SotM Baltics a few weeks ago. Our approach to fundraising is to draw on a diversity of sources. This typically means signing up corporate members and soliciting funds from them, and asking for donations from the OSM community and the broad internet of people who support a free and open map. This year we are doing both again, while also researching other opportunities in public funding and private philanthropy. We are gearing up to make requests from individuals and organizations in July. We’ll need your help – whether as a donor yourself or an ambassador promoting the campaign to your community.
We welcome your thoughts!