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Frequently Asked Questions

In response to questions raised by members of the HOT Community, these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) give further insight into HOT’s mission over the next five years. This page will be updated as more questions are asked.

About The Audacious Project

What is the Audacious Project?

The Audacious Project is a collaborative approach to funding big ideas with the potential to create change at a thrilling scale. Housed at TED, The Audacious Project is a collaborative funding initiative that is unlocking social impact on a grand scale. Every year the Audacious Project selects and nurtures a group of big, bold solutions to the world’s most urgent challenges, and with the support of an inspiring group of donors and supporters come together to get them launched. The Audacious Project is not a fund that grants money directly, it matches big social impact ideas with philanthropists.

The Audacious Project started in 2018 and is now in its third round. HOT is one of eight organizations selected by the Audacious Project in 2020. More about the Audacious Project

What is HOT’s vision?

Our vision is to engage one million volunteers to map an area home to one billion people living in poverty and at high risk of disaster in 94 countries. We will reach this scale by pursuing four activities:

First, we will grow our global contributor community by adding regional “hubs” to the existing network of OpenStreetMap communities in each region. Hubs will act as connectors to facilitate exchange of ideas and expertise across countries and provide financial and technical support to OSM communities in 94 countries (20-25 per region).

Second, we’ll make significant investments in technology that enhances mapping contributions on mobile to enable scaling of local contributions to OpenStreetMap.

Third, we’ll invest in map data quality and ethical collection and use of map data.

Fourth, we’ll ensure the data we create has a tangible impact by expanding our national and regional partnerships with humanitarian organizations, governments, and other actors to help them use OpenStreetMap to deliver more effective and efficient aid.

This is a fundamental re-focusing of our priorities toward local map contributions. Remote contributors will continue to make up part of the overall one million contributors, but HOT will devote significant resources towards local communities, with the HOT global team developing tools, training, and providing support that makes it all possible.

Over five years, we will proactively build a map of the world that includes some of the highest-risk places for the very first time. With this open, up-to-date, free, and digital public good, information will be readily available to make better and faster decisions. As a result, missing maps will no longer be a factor in human suffering or loss of life.

Is this a project or is it a restructuring of the organization?

The Audacious Project is not a project per se, but a funding initiative. This can be confusing. HOT is not changing our strategic plan. Funding from Audacious Project donors will help us achieve that plan in a bigger and faster way than we initially imagined. Everything we do over the next five years will be working together as a team towards achieving that plan. Our current fee-for-service mapping and training projects with existing donors will continue as an important part of that plan, since they contribute toward the 1 billion goal and other targets in the plan.

When does this start and how long does it run for?

Audacious Project donors have made a five year commitment to HOT, beginning July 1, 2020 and running through June 30, 2025.

How much funding did HOT receive? Who are the donors?

HOT received a significant investment from several donors including The ELMA Philanthropies, the Skoll Foundation, Pivotal Ventures, Rippleworks, MacKenzie Scott, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Rosamund Zander and Hansjörg Wyss and private donors. This investment is spread over five years, and it will help us achieve our big vision. The Audacious Project supports organizations at various funding levels and sizes, and HOT is one of the smaller projects that is being supported this year. HOT’s mission is not yet fully funded, meaning the total funding amount is not yet confirmed, and HOT still needs to raise additional funds to realize this vision by 2025.

We’ll continue to operate as we always have, in a lean, cost-conscious way to maximize the value to the organizations and communities we serve. HOT will also continue to report openly on our spending via our annual report, public tax filing, and financial statements. These are published annually on HOT’s website. As HOT receives funds, the breakdown on how these will be allocated is available on slide 35 of the “Achieving our Strategic Plan” presentation.

Which countries will the funding support?

Over the next five years, HOT plans to work in 94 countries, which are broken down by region as follows:

  • Asia/Pacific: 25 countries

  • East Africa: 21 countries

  • West Africa: 26 countries

  • Latin America/Caribbean: 22 countries

During the regional hub inception phase, the list of countries a hub will work in will be reviewed and adapted. Before HOT begins supporting mapping work in a country, the hub will confirm which part of that country will be the priority for the project. A preliminary list of the countries where HOT will work will be posted on by July 2020. It is expected that the preliminary list may change slightly over time due to Covid-19, analysis/recommendations by HOT regional staff, donor requirements, or other reasons.

The Audacious Project and OpenStreetMap

What does this mean for OpenStreetMap (as a project and global community)?

Audacious Project donors are making a powerful statement in the value of open data and open source through their investment, confirming our shared belief that the world’s map should be owned by the world’s people. We see this as a big “win” for the OpenStreetMap ecosystem as a whole by promoting and affirming the value of free and open data. As a part of the OSM community, HOT reaffirms our commitment to the continued success of the OpenStreetMap project.

What does this mean for OSMF?

HOT commits to working more closely with OSMF. This may include HOT community members and staff supporting OSMF working groups, making contributions to OSM core systems and software, and other forms of collaboration that are beneficial to the Foundation and HOT. HOT looks forward to continuing dialogue with the OSMF Board and membership on how we might strengthen our collaboration.

How will HOT support open source, open data and open principles with this grant?

Open source, open data, and open principles have been core to HOT’s culture and thinking from Day 1. This is not only about avoidance of duplication: with open source/data, we are standing on one another’s shoulders and all achieve vastly greater things. All of HOT’s mapping and data collection projects focus on generating or contributing to free and open data sets in OpenStreetMap. All software development undertaken by HOT and our partners is released under open source licenses. Importantly, the process of development is undertaken in an open way: code in the open, contributors from multiple organizations, community review and feedback. Software development and HOT’s community in general operates with a spirit of transparency, participation, and collaboration. And, in 2018, HOT endorsed the Principles for Digital Development to formalize our commitment as part of the international development community.

What does this mean for local OSM communities?

Audacious Project donor investment will enable us to support OpenStreetMap communities in 94 countries. HOT’s Microgrants program will continue, while evolving to provide more holistic support to OpenStreetMap communities at various stages of development. We’re still working on defining the details over the coming months, and welcome input from communities themselves on what is most useful. We anticipate providing not only financial support but also going beyond this to provide technical training and assistance with organizational development where requested by communities.

How will HOT support and uphold OSM community guidance and norms such as import guidelines and organized editing guidelines?

HOT and OSM communities will be mapping quite heavily in OpenStreetMap, often through organized campaigns, in a significant number of countries. We want to ensure this mapping is done responsibly: including that the data produced by our community is of high quality. For this reason, we are making specific, targeted investment in building a new responsible data team, with analysts in all regions in which we’ll work. This team will develop data quality strategy, support the community, and monitor/report on data quality. Presently, HOT is also working on processes and procedures to increase adherence to the organized editing guidelines. The new data team will also serve the entire OpenStreetMap and humanitarian mapping community by developing practical guidance in responsible & ethical data collection, consent, protection, privacy, storage, use, and analysis.

Regionalization and sustainability

How will HOT change?

The Audacious Project will provide funding for our team and OpenStreetMap communities to achieve the big dreams and vision that our community agreed on in 2019 in our Strategic Plan.

Our core values (collaboration, volunteerism, inclusivity, independence, people first, local first, openness & transparency, innovation, and hacktivism) will NOT change.

What WILL change are some of the ways we do our work. Some of the changes we expect are:

We’ll decentralize: more decisions will happen in each region including in regional “hub” offices. We’ll open regional hub offices in four locations in the following regions: East Africa, West Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

We’ll renew our focus on enabling local map contributions through everything we do, investing in mobile-first tools, supporting emerging OpenStreetMap communities in new countries and strengthening those we already work with. This will mean new roles focused on community support, both online and offline. We’ll get the help we need to function and work effectively as a global team, including adding team members to our finance and operations teams, and hiring our first-ever human resources/talent management and monitoring/impact evaluation roles.

How many people will be added to the HOT team?

In year 1 (from July 2020 to June 2021) we’ll hire approximately 47 staff working in regional hubs in East Africa and Asia as well as some on the Global Headquarters (HQ) team. Some of the new full-time roles require skills that our current contract-based staff already have, and will be filled from staff moving over after their current projects end. Other types of roles are new within HOT, so we’ll need to recruit both from the HOT/OSM community and externally.

In year 2 we’ll hire 25 more staff as we open regional hubs in West Africa and Latin America / Caribbean.

In total, Audacious donor funding will support 115 staff. This number is in addition to staff working on projects funded by other HOT donors.

Where will HOT’s regional offices or “hubs” be located?

  • Asia/Pacific: Manila, Philippines

  • East Africa: Nairobi, Kenya

  • West Africa: To be determined

  • Latin America/Caribbean: To be determined

How were the hub locations selected?

Priority cities in each region were assessed by evaluating candidate cities against 18 criteria. These criteria include but are not limited to:

  • Regional travel accessibility (incl. visas, flights, etc.)

  • Talent pool (OSM, working language, existing HOT presence, educational indicators)

  • Other NGO/INGO presence and regional offices

  • Ease of establishing, doing business & transparency indicators

  • Internet connectivity

  • Safety & security, security for NGO/INGO workers

  • Cost of living

  • The HOT management team also consulted with a representative sample of staff in each region to understand their perspectives, questions, concerns and willingness to relocate or work remotely.


  • Easy transport links for priority countries within the region

  • Significant number of other INGO offices for the region, general INGO openness e.g. HQ of Asia Development Bank, WHO

  • Secure working context

  • Ease of visas/entry for non-nationals

  • HOT registered as a legal entity in the Philippines


  • Easy transport links for priority countries within the region & ease of work for East Africa Community nationals

  • Significant number of other INGO offices for the region, and general INGO openness. E.g. UNON, UN Habitat, OCHA/HDX, GPSDD

  • Strong technology start up community

Why wasn’t an existing HOT location selected for the East Africa Hub?

In the case of East Africa, for Nairobi, in particular, the ease of access (air transport hub for the region), potential for regional partnerships and existing NGO & tech start-up communities presented the greatest potential for achieving HOT’s goals in the region, including:

  • Support the growth and capacity of mapping communities in target countries

  • Provide online and in-person training to mapping communities and regional partners

  • Develop regional partnerships and broker requests with governments and NGOs

  • Administer Microgrants to develop and support mapping communities

What is the timeline for the opening of the new hubs?

We plan to open the Asia/Pacific hub in Manila in November 2020 and the East Africa hub in Nairobi in January 2021. The West Africa and Latin America hubs will be opened in the course of 2021. We will update this FAQ when exact dates are available.

What will be the structure of the people working in the hub?

We have an initial draft of positions, but are still working out some details around responsibilities and structure. We expect a team of approximately 13 staff working in each hub.

How will new staff affect current structures?

A major priority is to maintain and improve the great culture that we’ve built within HOT. Like we’ve always done, we’ll need to help new staff adapt to our culture and working style. We do expect teams will change and grow. In addition to the new regional office locations, you’ll see a more robust operations team both for HOT’s Global HQ and in the regions.

Why is the plan to create hubs rather than reinforcing a decentralized multilingual global team to support the countries/communities?

We see hubs as physical (and virtual) centers of collaboration which will complement, not replace, the already-existing multilingual global team of staff and members. This does not mean that all HOT staff will be required to work out of a physical hub - we’ll continue to emphasize remote and flexible work arrangements where it makes sense to do so. Physical hub locations, however, do offer the advantage of being able to decentralize decision making to teams in the region, as opposed to all program implementation being led by HQ. Hubs will not simply be office locations where staff work, but rather points where convening, training, and partner connections happen. In their role as physical gathering points, hubs will be open to, and serve the entire OSM community in a region. We look forward to hearing ideas from the OSM community on how these locations can support their activities.

What happens after Year 5?

Both HOT’s staffing structure and funding streams will scale up rapidly in Year 1 and continue scaling into Year 2, then stabilize over the five years. Our goal is that HOT’s costs will not continue to grow indefinitely. HOT will become increasingly financially sustainable over time (as it also is, currently), as costs stabilize and revenue generating activities increase. We will continue generating our own revenue through fee-for-service mapping and training projects led both by global and regional offices. There is flexibility in the size and shape of regional hubs after Year 5 and there are several pathways for hub financial sustainability.

How will Covid-19 affect these plans?

Predicting the longer term impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is difficult for any organization. This funding will bring additional financial security to HOT over the coming five years. Additionally, the global nature of the Covid-19 pandemic reinforces the importance of HOT taking on an ambitious global initiative. HOT’s mission, to work towards a world where everyone is counted, data is accessible and used, and anyone can engage and contribute to the map, has never been more relevant.

For more detail, read the following slides: