Retrospective - 2020 Microgrant Selections, Ethics

By building and providing more infrastructure and central support for local activities. Essentially what we are already doing now, for example by providing this forum, or aerial imagery hosting, instruction and so on. Many of these things have been touched on in other threads.

Any of the above is better than cash handouts and trying to create organisations that don’t have a remote chance of being self-sustaining.


A bit of cash can go a long way in accomplishing things that are hard to accomplish with just infrastructure support, like printing stickers or hosting events. It also gives organisations some autonomy to do the projects they want to do.

Funny that you mention it. I guess we should abolish the OSMF then since it also relies on donations and has zero hope of ever being self-sustaining.


That is not a reasonable definition of self-sustaining in this context.

The problem is that it is -never- just a bit of cash in these scenarios, and you don’t actually have to look further than the microgrants to understand the administrative burden that just putting such a scheme in place puts on all involved.

Idk why not. They’re all OSM-related non-profit groups that want to build communities and open map data.

If you think the adminstration is a burden, then stop bothering the administrators. It might improve the situation.
That said, people willingly burden themselves and others with administrative work so we can make greater achievements together. OSM benefits when we share resources and put money in the hands of people who will use it to make a positive impact on the project.


self-sufficient for purposes of this discussion: not dependent on a single or very small number of financial sponsors, and in particular has arranged for those donors themselves.

Within some (criminal law) limitations as a private person you can move your money around as you please and spend it on what you want, that stops as an organisation, in particular as a non-profit (and even more as one that wants to keep that status).



…and hear me out…

…if we had a more robust way to respond to debates, oh, pictorally

…it would give the community an alternative way to participate in debates instead of long-form sarcastic and irritable replies.

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I won’t add much to the convo, but I believe there’s a misconception from Simon’s side about what money could do in the context of microgrants towards OSM-related groups and activities.
Because exactly, the local chapters/communities/individuals that may request this small temporary funding, has previously done a proven work about helping improving OSM in one way or another (data/services/mappers) before reaching the point of doing that request. And that request doesn’t come light hearted.
For the administrative burden, being done voluntarily, is there any way that could be improved, if there’s any issue? We may be light years behind what Wikimedia is currently, and not necessarily trying to match them, would there be any space in the future for paying more employees or some of the services they use to improve their workflow?

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Why is that criterium important?

Because then you can largely operate independently, and are not beholden to whoever is holding the purse strings. And vice versa, shouldn’t the OSMF exert control over any entities it is completely financing? Particularly in situations in which the OSMF might be liable for actions of that entity?

OSMF is (currently) registered as a Limited company with it’s non profit status self imposed and removable if it wanted to. There is therefore no legal restrictions added to OSMF beyond those of any other Limited company. It is generally free to spend it’s money as it so pleases. (Subject to not participating in illegal activities).

This may of course change if OSMF registers itself elsewhere under a new corporate structure. But for now implying that OSMF faces restrictions as a non profit is wrong. It also does not have to comply with the Charity legislation as it is not a charity.

Also implying OSMF is liable for the actions of other entities to the extent where it would make a microgrant programme too risk to run is also wrong.

Sure, as a company there are some common sense steps that need to be followed but you are over stating this perhaps with the intent of creating fear and uncertainty. I see nothing that would stop a microgrant programme like the one that was previously ran.

I accept that in your view the OSMF should not provide any financial support to local chapters (to which I disagree), but please don’t imply that there are any notable legal risks to this, that it would make OSMF like Wikimedia, or that local groups cannot survive without the handouts.

As you point out correctly the OSMF currently has very little restrictions outside of tax related considerations, but @Friendly_Ghost asked a general question and got a general answer, which also makes total sense considering that the OSMFs current situation is somewhat of a special case. Nonetheless the OSMF members would unlikely to be happy if funds were spent without appropriate controls.

Sure that is wrong, that is why nobody claimed anything remotely like that. I pointed out that it might be an issue when an organisation is completely financed and therefore de facto controlled through the OSMF. Which you can go back and read just a couple of lines further up.

Besides the fact that there is a big difference between saying that local chapters should not be financially dependent on the OSMF, and “not provide any” support, you have always argued for the free lunch.

Thank you for the explanation. That makes sense.

Would it be sensible for the OSMF to say to an org that gets a microgrant: “Here is funding. We know you don’t have a diverse source of funding now, so please use some of this to find more funds and improve your situation to become less dependent on a single organisation for financing.” ?

I have always, and unashamedly, argued that the OSMF should be willing to provide more financial support to local groups. I’ve also spent considerable effort in a local group fundraising via other avenues.

As I said right at the start of this, any good local group will have a long long list of ideas they want to implement so should always be on the lookout for money from multiple sources. I see no harm in one of those sources being the OSMF through microgrant programmes or some form of money in kind (e.g. OSMF hosting membership platforms and basic websites for groups).

I respect your opinion that there is a harm in this, but respectfully disagree.

Funding some of the initial costs of incorporation and similar has been on the table and I wouldn’t be against it if that is the real problem, just to date that doesn’t seem to have ever really been an issue.

But I note an issue in this discussion, not just that it has gone substantially off topic with the sub-thread on LC financing, there seems to be a misunderstanding what the Microgrants were. It was a competitive bidding process for fixed upper limit (€5’000) funding out of a fixed size (€50’000) allocation. 12 projects got funded out of a total of 50 submitted.

That would not have been, nor is, a sensible way to provide any kind of regular or startup funding to a local chapter.

There were multiple problems with the process and some of the rules, but the issues that I’ve previously mentioned have the root in the fact that it was a competitive process, if you so want a fight for limited funds. I don’t believe that it made sense both from the administrative burden that it put on the people running the show, nor from the net result for OSM. The projects that made sense could have just as well got funding without all the drama, for example OSMcal.

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Just out of curiosity, how would you have preferred for the projects that would receive funding to be chosen? I wasn’t around at the time so I don’t know all the details, but to me, a competition seems like a decent solution to the more-requests-than-available-money-problem.

You’ve got cause and effect the wrong way around, announcing a pot of gold and a race to it is what caused the “too many requests”. Given the wide range of the projects submitted from paid mapping, over creating marketing materials to software projects, there is not a single answer to your question.

Infrastructure and tooling might be the easiest as you can ask for bids with a much narrower focus or for concrete projects, the discussion there is if there should be a (budgeted) slush fund for things that turn up during the year. Marketing materials on the other hand don’t seem to make any sense being chosen via a bidding process and should simply be something that is budgeted together with the CWG and LCCWG.

The paid mapping ones were lets say “weird” as we ended up with 4 of them being funded even though they were not supposed to be eligible and they got away without even providing marketing value to the OSMF. I suspect that playing the poor man’s HOT is not going to repeat itself any time soon so that is probably moot.


I’m skeptical as to how not using a competition/bidding process would work, in the long term. Sure, one could say that the OSMF board/a working group should instead proactively look for things to fund, but that would be a lot of work for them (or they could use the money to work on their own (as in, the boards or a working groups) initiatives, which should often still be the case but doing that exclusively misses out on a lot of the great creative ideas that come out of a community such as OSM). And, after the first year(s) the community would be aware that there’s money potentially available to realize ideas, so they’d start to request it, and the body that decides how to distribute the funds has to do some sort of selection process (even if it might not be called a “competition”) anyway to decide who gets money.

In an ideal world, there’d be enough money for all good ideas, but that’s sadly not the case with OSM today, so a selection process will always be needed. And, a big upside of a (correctly executed) open competition/bidding war is that there is a significantly smaller risk of “insider advantages” (for example a board member telling the maintainer of a project they also are part of that “hey there’s still money in the budget, you should request some to fix those bugs we’ve not gotten to yet”, which in most organizations such as OSMF is allowed, and also should be) since everyone is aware of the possibility to request funding and under which terms.

You’ll notice that I’ve written “such as OSM” a few times; that’s because I’ve been involved in various capacities in other volunteer organizations, and basically the same questions about what to fund always pop up, just on different scales. As others have pointed out, having a lot of ideas that need funding is a good thing because it shows that the community is not just a board with others coming along for a ride (which, sadly, has been the case in several of the other organizations I’ve been part of).