OSMF Strategy 2023

I hope their is at least a psuedo-formal reply on this thread.

1 Like

Thanks everyone for your feedback and opinion.

We have tabled this agenda (Strategic Plan) on next week’s board meeting. Board/Minutes/2023-05 - OpenStreetMap Foundation

Looking forward to a productive and actionable discussion.



I’ve held off on commenting on the plan itself because I haven’t wanted to interrupt the flow of comments. It’s a well-intentioned plan and I don’t really disagree with many of the specifics at all, though there’s a bit of a tendency to address the outcome rather than the underlying cause (particularly re: imports).

But the problem with the plan is that it is far too big.

OSMF is seven volunteer directors, most of whom are mapping enthusiasts rather than experienced charity directors; one part-time admin assistant; and one sysadmin. That’s it. This (just part one of four!) is a strategic plan for an organisation the size of the Wikimedia Foundation, or being kind, the Document Foundation (10 employees plus an executive director).

You, we, are not going to get a fraction of this done in five years. That isn’t a reflection on the competence or good nature of the OSMF board. It’s just a function of the size of the organisation - the number of held-over items in board minutes shows that OSMF is running at capacity even as it stands. The danger is that by trying to do everything, you actually achieve nothing.

OSMF is here to support but not control the project. “Support” means helping the community to do the things that will advance the project but which the community can’t do on its own. Identify a small number of these, and focus on them. I can think of three that in my view would be really obvious top priorities, but what I personally think isn’t the issue here. You need a plan that fits the capabilities of the organisation, and this isn’t it.


Related thread: Steve Coast's proposal for OSMF strategic plan

Yes, it is!

The list is long because it tries to capture the issues that have come up again and again as pain points that should be addressed. Can they all be addressed in the next 5 years? Likely not. Surely the board could simply pick its two favorites and present the community with faits accompli. In fact, it would be much less work. But remember that the choice of priorities can make a significant difference where OSM(F) goes in the next few years. That’s why we would like the community to have the opportunity to be part of the process of process. So when we asked “Which three strategems are very important?” we were really interested in your personal opinion about priorities.

The two weeks we had set for consultation are now over. We will compile a summary of the discussion and feedback we have received in the next view days. Some of you have pointed out some flaws in the way the cluster was organised. So we will put on hold for now the presentation of further clusters and instead look at reworking the document according to your inputs. As Arnalie already said, the board will also have a discussion during the next board meeting how we will proceed with the strategic discussion in general.

Personally, I’m quite happy with the lively feedback. I know that we are asking a lot to go through such a long document and it is good to see that so many of you have taken the time to read and comment.


extending my feedback about the diversity section, with 2 research + my personal notes.

1.) “The Gendered Geography of Contributions to OpenStreetMap: Complexities in Self-Focus Bias”

( May 2019 ) https://dl.acm.org/doi/fullHtml/10.1145/3290605.3300793

Practical Implications

Recruiting Male Contributors as Allies. Existing research has situated male and female OSM editors in a position in which we might expect a misalignment between their interest space. If this were true, a solution to any gender-based content disparity might be easy: attract more female editors. As our results show - this simply is not the case. Instead, our findings reveal that male users are cognizant of at least some of the feminized spaces, and they actively map those facilities. This contradicts the way many prior researchers have been formulating thoughts and discussion of potential improvements to the amount and quality of feminized spaces in OSM [51, 65, 68, 92]. In our dataset, female editors tended to map feminized places to a lesser extent than their male counterparts. As these spaces characterize important facilities for feminine health and nurturing of others, proper representation is necessary. However, our results point out that a straightforward solution like increasing female participation may not ensure increased representation of feminized spaces. We caution that our results should not be interpreted in a way that discourages higher levels of female participation. Rather we need to think critically about ways to increase coverage of under-represented facilities on OSM. One possible approach is the recruitment of male editors as “allies” along with more female participants and informing all editors of the state of the repository. Another solution may be to take the ”SuggestBot” approach [25] and design a content recommendation system that will seek contributors based on location, interests, skills, etc. For example, a local person who is probably aware of nearby childcare centers or maternity clinics may be asked to map those places irrespective of their gender.

2.) "Engaging Men in Women’s Empowerment”

in the research: “Seeing the World Through Maps: An Inclusive and Youth-Oriented Approach” Seeing the World Through Maps: An Inclusive and Youth-Oriented Approach | SpringerLink ( 2022 November )
Keywords : Gender; Equality; Women; Nepal ; Everywhere She Maps ; YouthMappers

“I have learned many things about Gender Equality and Equity. What allures me is “Engaging Men in Women’s Empowerment” which is a new thing to me. When I completed the training, I was fascinated by thinking about the dimension of the idea. If you want to empower women, you need to engage men in this campaign as women and men are essential parts of society.

3.) Personal note:

As a man, it feels good to be acknowledged that we too need to be part of the solution. I very much appreciate the proposed approach: “Engaging Men in Women’s Empowerment”.
This method can likely be used in other areas. It encourages those in privileged positions to help support and boost those with less power. An example of this could be “Encouraging Active Involvement of Westerners in Strengthening the Global South”

Growing up behind the Iron Curtain as an Eastern European, I was part of a peculiar social experiment. As a result, I tend to be more sensitive towards solutions that sound good in theory, but do not work in practice, compared to those from different cultural backgrounds. Because of this, I believe we should avoid zero-sum thinking and solutions, where someone always loses.

We should also steer clear of reverse discrimination as a tool to disrupt the perceived status quo.

In essence, some form of safeguard is needed to ensure that the OSMF Diversity Statement is not weaponized to exclude other groups. The Diversity Statement should be a framework for inclusion and mutual respect, rather than a tool for exclusion.


(First off, my English is terrible and I’m relying on machine translation, so I hope you’ll take this in the broad sense rather than the fine print.)
Are we done discussing this? :wink:
I don’t want to derail the discussion, so I’d like to add one thing very carefully.

I greatly appreciate and applaud the attention and efforts of the foundation and the moderators towards contributors who speak non-mainstream languages and regions with fewer contributors.
I believe that efforts from the bottom up are as important as interest and efforts from the top.
I believe that without effort from below, it’s hard for the effort from above to shine and be sustained.
However, for various reasons, the will of the foundation does not seem to be conveyed equally to everyone.
And the thoughts of the contributors also don’t seem to converge properly.
(Of course, the language barrier seems to be the biggest obstacle.)
I don’t know what areas have a large number of contributors using mainstream languages, but most areas with few contributors using non-mainstream languages are isolated and edited by themselves and disappear suddenly, and only a few remain with continuous editing.
I’m trying to keep the overall discussion in my own community and the discussion within the community converging, but I’d appreciate it if the foundation would consider this a bit more.
Thank you.

I greatly appreciate and applaud the attention and efforts of the foundation and the moderators towards contributors who speak non-mainstream languages and regions with fewer contributors.

I am pretty sure English is a mainstream language in this sense, but would you mind to clarify which other languages are “mainstream“?
Chinese, Russian, Arab? French, Spanish, Portuguese? German? Italian, Polish, Turkish? Hindi?

I think his meaning is not really related to “language” but rather to all the small communities.


@Richard When we studied the communications channels, it was to celebrate, catalog, and relish their strength and diversity. I have spent my entire career working against the impulse for the kind of white middle class hegemonic thinking that you refer to. |

If you had gone to our presentation, you would know that we were talking about the inherent “noisiness” of online channels which actually obscures diversity and creates its own kind of monoculture. More channels is not necessarily more diverse. More can actually result in less accuracy, fewer voices being heard, and “power users” dominating across many channels. We studied all of this in minute detail.

There is a way to be strategic about the deployment of channels and communications practices so that they bring out the best in the community and amplify its many voices. It’s not immediately obvious to the person who just “uses Slack” in their community, though there are plenty of armchair people who are weighing in our concept without taking the time to be familiar with it. We offered a cross-disciplinary study of technology, communications, culture and language localization. with a few ideas for how to have interesting conversations for this marvelous community. We are experts in this work and it’s interesting to see you so easily dismiss it without even engaging in its detail.

I wonder if the affirmation of “diverse” ideas just doesn’t extend to non mapper areas of expertise and non mapper methodologies and areas of research. It does often seem that way.

1 Like

Thank you for your contributions!

I believe no one questioned your expertise.

However, coming from a Business Intelligence/Corporate background myself, some aspects of OSM were initially challenging to grasp:

  • OSM uses a “Bazaar style” tagging, which is very different from the structured “Cathedral data model” used in corporate settings.
  • OSM operates organically and from the bottom up. This contrasts sharply with the top-down structure of most corporations.

When Richard mentioned, “OSM has always taken an approach of “let a thousand flowers bloom”. Sometimes flowers die - like, slowly and inexorably, many of the mailing lists are doing,” he was pointing to OSM’s unique philosophy. This can be a cultural shock if you’re used to corporate structures. In OSM, there’s no hierarchy of bosses and subordinates. Some processes might seem redundant or inefficient, yet they still function.

Corporate best practices in communication might not always apply here, and they might even backfire, given the community’s nature.

I understand you aim for efficient communication and feel overwhelmed by the numerous channels. Yet, in this environment, efficiency might not be the primary goal. Having multiple channels allows individuals who might be dissatisfied with one to branch out and create mini-communities, protecting themselves from perceived negativity or noise. It’s like the Chesterton Fence analogy; there’s a reason it evolved this way, even if it’s not about efficiency.

We could really use a guide to help those with a corporate background navigate OSM and its unique characteristics. If there had been such a guide 10 years ago to explain the differences, I might have saved myself about 2 years of frustration, and my learning process would have been faster. We need an “OSM Hitchhiker’s Guide” for people from the corporate world because facing the cultural shock was occasionally painful for me.


Thank you for this! It’s a thorough explanation with a lot of context. And it also creates an empathetic space for me to be able to think more constructively about the different cultural and technological forces at play. Instead of instructing me in why I’m wrong, it informs and continues the conversation. I appreciate it.

I am reading a book right now called “Working in Public, the Making and Maintenance of Open Source Software” and it covers similar ideas, and talks about the pro and con. It’s fun to be able to keep learning. :grinning:

I believe that the Welcome Mat exists for that. Could probably use a few updates but fortunately there’s a repo.