What does HOT have in common with the hip hop clothing company, FUBU? Well, not a lot actually. But, what FUBU stands for is ‘For Us, By Us’ and it was with this slogan in my head that I started my journey home from the HOT Summit and board meeting in Ottawa in September.
What did I learn in Ottawa? That HOT is pretty amazing right now. 45,000 volunteers (since 2010) and 61 staff make 20 distinct projects happen in 7 different countries (and that’s without counting our support for local OSM communities or disaster activations). If you have been involved in any of them, you should feel proud. I do.
But, HOT is also at a stage in its evolution where we have to think seriously about how it changes. The two-day HOT board meeting in Ottawa felt like an important start to that conversation. I’d like to share my highlights with you here and invite you to join the discussion.
We agreed that there are many things HOT is doing right, as an organisation and a community. But, we must not be complacent. HOT’s growth, in terms of reputation, project portfolio, income, staffing, community and tools is happening fast and needs to be strategic. Where should our focus be if we want to have the most impact, affecting positive change in people’s lives and supporting other organisations to do the same?
We must not stand still. In 2010, HOT was a radical idea in the heads of a few people that has since changed the way humanitarian organisations operate. That shouldn’t stop – we should keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. This could mean embedding HOT within NGOs, agencies and government departments; embracing artificial intelligence and machine learning as part of our crowd sourced approach; developing a flexible, new model for a community-led NGO… Basically, we should keep innovating.
We will address those things that are holding us back. This includes investing more in our community, developing a clear technology vision and roadmap, developing robust and transparent monitoring and evaluation frameworks, removing barriers to participation, and growing core funding to make the above possible.
HOT’s collaborations and partnerships are key. The impact we have will be greater if those relationships are strong and well-chosen. This applies across the board, from international NGOs, to civil society groups, to companies, to the OpenStreetMap Foundation*. Our community overlaps with so many others and we must make the best of the opportunities these overlaps presents us with, whilst managing the risks that come with them.
You will notice that there are more questions here than answers. These questions are for you as much as anyone else. The reason FUBU got stuck in my head is because I realised that we need to take these important decisions together. We are stronger if we hear many opinions, if we test our assumptions, if we listen to constructive criticism and take on board the ideas of a diverse range of people. Whether that is through communications channels, working groups, local events, we would love to hear more from you. And, if you feel it is hard to be heard, it’s important that we know that, too. Community was at the heart of the conversation at the board meeting and was central to the HOT Summit – let’s keep it there.
Additionally, if you have any thoughts on any of the above, I invite you to respond. If you think there’s something else we should be talking about, tell us. The HOT board is elected from the community to represent the community. If you want to talk to us, you can find us in the normal places (slack channel, mailing lists etc) or you can email us directly at board at hotosm dot org. We look forward to continuing the conversation.
*if you haven't already joined the OpenStreetMap Foundation, you should. It's worth every penny.