[OSGeo-Board] Some whining from the outside

Tyler Mitchell tylermitchell at shaw.ca
Fri Aug 11 15:08:27 PDT 2006

I share many of these same concerns and have also heard, privately,  
through other non-members that they are concerned as well while  
learning what OSGeo is all about.  I'm sure you all feel the pressure  
already about these things!  I feel it too, hence the prototype site  
to try to revive some of the latent enthusiasm.

I know that many non-profit organisations and boards struggle with  
how to feel/show forward motion.  I also know that several of you  
haven't been on a board like this before.  Perhaps there are some  
best practices or coaching you can get from others who have been  
involved before to help direct you.  I think you'll find some clear  
strategies for dealing with some of your struggles.  I can't say I  
know of another board that is as involved as ours is in day-to-day  
affairs and that has weekly meetings.

Seems to me that the two key areas where there are struggles are  
related to:

1) Communication - a lot of Michael's questions are about 'status  
of...' which is all just communication.  Rather than fall into the  
non-profit burden/guilt motivation trap, you need to look at how you  
can delegate those tasks.  Until you've delegated it, everyone  
(including you) will expect it to magically come from you as a group,  
or from the president, secretary, etc.  Similarly, you need to be fed  
with communications from the projects so you can know where things  
are at.  I believe that was the idea of the monthly progress  
reports.  It's all tied together...

2) Commitment - a budget was drafted, priorities noted and now is  
when the rubber must meet the road.  I firmly believe more volunteers  
are ready to get involved but they won't enlist until: communication  
increases, there is a clear vision for the organisation, a useful CMS  
is available to pour content into, etc. etc.  It's all tied  
together.  To make OSGeo palatable to volunteers and sponsors we need  
to see your commitment to carrying forward the growth of the  
organisation by enabling others.  Part of this comes down to putting  
cash against the approved budgeted items and delegating to others to  
make it happen.  The rest of it comes down to seeing that there is a  
vision for wanting to grow and move forward and checking yourself  
against it regularly.

I'm sure this all acutely aware to you, but in case it wasn't, I just  
wanted to echo Michael's concerns from a slightly different perspective.

Hope it helps,

> Some questions and issues currently floating around include:
> - What is the status of our budget?  And what is the state of OSGeo's
> finances?  (How much do we actually have?  Is it "our" money, or is it
> still Autodesk's?)
> - What is the status of getting an Eexecutive Director?  Several weeks
> ago at the F2F some consensus was reached, and some candidate names  
> were
> mentioned, but we have not seen any action on this.
> - What is the status of doing a binary stack?  Again, this was  
> discussed
> at the F2F but I'm not sure what action has been taken.
> - What is the process for approving a move to the new Drupal-based  
> site
> Jo and Tyler are working on?  It appears to be the right move, and
> people are putting time and effort into it as we speak, but I'm not  
> sure
> this has been "blessed" yet.  What needs to be done?
> - It appears that the board only posts minutes to the Wiki, but no  
> real
> summary of what is transpiring (not everyone reads the Wiki updates or
> watches IRC or subscribes to the board list, for example)  This gives
> the appearance of either inactivity or behind-the-curtain activity,
> neither of which are desirable.
> - Did we ever formally announce when the next board will be  
> elected?  At
> least one person has (privately) suggested the current board is not
> optimal anymore.
> - What is the role of Lisa L?  She described herself to me as having
> been hired to help OSGeo; if so, I don't see her as yet being  
> active or
> engaged.  What is the scope of her abilities and responsibilities, and
> how can we take advantage of that resource?  And what, if any,  
> relation
> is there between her role and hiring our own Exec Director?
> Obviously there are a lot of good things going on: our "name" is out
> there now and being recognized; the geodata committee is getting  
> noticed
> in lots of interesting places; we have a number of local groups coming
> together; and the development projects continue doing great  
> development.
> But, I fear we have not made much progress on doing the actual work  
> that
> will bring value to the OSGeo "brand" -- things like creating a  
> central
> portal we can all work under, providing a 24x7 hosting and builds
> service, designing a download site and populating it.
> We are a volunteer organization, which makes it hard to make Big
> Decisions.  The Benevolent Dictator model is easy in that one person
> directs things; if others disagree, they can fork and life goes on.
> OSGeo doesn't use that model, which means that those empowered at the
> top need to be able to act collectively and decisively -- and delegate
> clearly.
> I think that the immediate hiring of an Executive Director would do
> three important things:
>   - show our members that we are moving confidently forward
>   - provide a mechanism for the board's agreed-to high-level goals and
>     wishes to be acted on
>   - provide a mechanism for the foundation's lesser goals and everyday
> needs
>     to be acted on swiftly
> Thank you.
> -mpg
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