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News — 17 September, 2018

HOT board meeting in Dar Es Salaam

HOT straddles a line between a community organisation and a humanitarian NGO and the balance between the two is not always easy to maintain. However, we believe that it is important to try and achieve this, remaining true to the open, transparent and participatory nature of the community that HOT evolved from whilst delivering value through humanitarian action and development. This feedback from the in-person HOT board meeting in August outlines some of the ways we want to evolve HOT to enable these powerful twin aims.

Before reporting back on board activities, I’d like first to say that the HOT Summit and FOSS4G in Dar es Salaam were incredible events! The quality of the conversation, the content and the company was so high and I’d like to thank everybody who attended and, especially, those who worked so hard to make it possible… Really felt like a milestone in HOT’s development; bringing together such a diverse range of people and communities. Looking forward to seeing what collaborations emerge!

Every year, around the HOT Summit, there is a HOT board meeting where we get to meet in-person. These meetings not only help to build relationships between the board members and HOT staff, but also provide the time and space for us to discuss, in more depth, key topics relating to the state of HOT and the future of the organisation. A full day of presentation and discussion is hard to encapsulate in a blog post, so here I am going to outline the key decisions that were taken (if you’d like to see the full minutes, they are available, here)…

HOT community strategy input

The Strategy Working Group was formed for the first time this year to provide community input into HOT’s strategic planning process. The engagement from HOT members so far has been amazing, with lively and informed contributions across multiple meetings. Issues have been raised and ideas generated across a wide variety of themes and these have been documented. The period of community input was set initially to finish at around the time of the HOT Summit, but members felt that there was still more potential in community consultations, so we have extended that period.

More detail to come, but, in brief, a proposal from the Strategy Working Group was approved that extends the consultation period until the end of November. The discussions so far will form the basis of a collaborative document, accessible to all members, enabling you to comment, criticise, compliment and suggest. During this consultation, volunteers from the working group will help to moderate and edit the this document in order to represent as much as possible the opinion and perspective of the community. In December, the community strategy document will be folded in to the existing document written earlier in the year by the HOT board and staff and presented back to members by Tyler.

Open HOT board meetings

If you read the board meeting notes, you will know that this has been on the table for a few months now, but it is now signed off by the board. The aim of opening the board meetings to the membership is both to increase transparency around HOT’s decision-making process, and to increase the engagement between the board and the membership. This was done very effectively by the OpenStreetMap Foundation board this year (and big thanks to them for their support in helping us learn from their experiences).

Again, more details to come, but, essentially, all monthly board meeting will open for member observation on Mumble. The agenda will be published in advance and the minutes will continue to be published afterwards. Members will not be able to comment during board meeting proceedings as we already struggle to get through the agenda in the time we have! However, five minutes will be reserved at the end of each meeting for member questions.

The only deviation from this open model will be when there are agenda items that are deemed as sensitive and need private consideration. The decision on whether an item is closed will happen prior to the meeting and the item will be indicated on the agenda.

The above process is our first attempt at how to do this, so if we see a way to improve, we will try and adapt!

Advisory council

Again, not a new idea, but one that has re-emerged in recent discussions within the board.

HOT is now a >$2m organisation, operating in eight different countries with an ever-greater humanitarian, operational ambition and an increasingly diverse set of activities, partners and communities. As the HOT board, we have a responsibility for ensuring the development and success of HOT in achieving its mission. We also have a legal and financial responsibility for the organisation. Lastly, we have a mandate to represent the HOT community, through the membership. As HOT grows in all of these areas, the job of the board increases in complexity.

In its current incarnation, the board is very strong in some of these necessary areas and more representative and diverse than ever. However, there are aspects of our role where we acknowledge that we have a deficit of skill and experience. During the board meeting in Dar, we mapped these out and prioritised which were most critical and least covered by the current board. Top of the list were financial and legal.

A proposal was made several years ago to recruit an advisory council for HOT and we have now taken the decision to take this initiative forward by recruiting advisors in these two positions. How this works exactly is yet to be decided, but we will be working on defining the profile of person we need in these two roles to support decision-making at board level.

Your engagement

HOT straddles a line between a community organisation and a humanitarian NGO and the balance between the two is not always easy to maintain. However, we believe that it is important to try and achieve this, remaining true to the open, transparent and participatory nature of the community that HOT evolved from whilst delivering value through humanitarian action and development.

Opening the board meetings to members and further investing in the HOT strategy community consultations are both attempts to bring these two sides of HOT together, but we know they are not the only answers.

As a member, if you have an opinion on how we can do any of this better, we want to hear it. All of the board members are on the mailing list or you can contact us directly.

We look forward to seeing you at the next board meeting and working with you all to continue to make HOT an impactful, innovative and inclusive organisation.