2016 End of Year Update

The SSF had its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on October 27th, 2016. It took approximately 3 hours and 10 people participated. At this meeting, I presented a report on the state of the SSF. Please look over that report and feel free to add comments directly to it. I promise to reply.

The AGM confirmed that we’ll be pursuing a number of significant changes within the SSF:

  • we’re launching a new decision making body
  • we’re reorganizing how our membership program works
  • we’re beginning to use online decision-making tools.

Each of these changes is explained below.

Sahana Project Council

The biggest change at the SSF is that we’ve launched a new decision making body that will empower our community’s projects to act both more autonomously and in a more coordinated manner. This decision making body is called the Sahana Project Council (SPC). It is a Project Management Committee of the SSF that is composed of representatives of projects that advance our mission and goals. Each project in the council agrees to adhere to the process and documentation guidelines described in the council’s founding charter. The SPC’s members decide which projects can join the body. Once a project has joined the SPC it can:

  • Receive financial and administrative services from the SSF
  • Represent itself as part of the SSF
  • Decide, along with other projects, how to spend resources in the SPC General Fund
  • Award membership to its participants

All activities of the SPC are overseen by the SSF Board of Directors

There are currently four member-projects of the SPC: Sahana EDEN, Sahana Research & Action, Sahana Operations and Sahana Disaster Response. Each project is equal in the eyes of the Council. This is important because, over the last few years, some people have begun to think that the SSF’s sole responsibility is to advance the Sahana EDEN project. That is not the case. EDEN is currently the SSF’s only codebase under active development but we want to invite more humanitarian open source project to join our organization and engage with our community. If you have a project that you think could benefit from being a part of the SSF, let us know.

If you read our blog you know that the SSF doesn’t just develop software: we also deploy it for disaster risk reduction and management purposes. That’s why we’ve launched Sahana Research & Action (SRA). SRA is led by Nuwan Waidyanatha, a long time community member and disaster management researcher and practitioner who has been using Sahana tools in his research, and deploying them as products throughout Asia for over ten years. I urge you to review the impressive work done by the SRA and reach out to them about opportunities to get involved.

The third council project, Sahana Operations, is led by me, Devin Balkind, the president of the SSF. My goal with this project is to operate the SSF in a transparent, efficient and meritocratic manner that is consistent with the values and methodologies of the open source movement. If you’re interested in helping the SSF with documentation, marketing, communications, fundraising, and other administrative tasks; then this project is for you! Connect with us at operations@sahanafoundation.org if you’re interested.

The goal of our fourth project, Sahana Disaster Response, is to streamline our community’s response process to ensure we use our limited resources efficiently to make a positive impact during disasters. SSF members routinely engage in response work, including with recent examples during 2016 European Migrant Crisis, 2015 Nepal Earthquake and 2013 Philippines Haiyan/Yolanda Typhoons. Personally speaking, I become a member of the Sahana community because of Sahana’s response work during Superstorm Sandy in 2011, so I’m convinced that our responses not only impact the people affect by disasters, but also enable us to grow our community. If you’re interested in getting involved with this project, email us at response@sahanafoundation.org.

And, if you have a project that might be a good fit for the SPC, you should let us know.

2. Membership

The SSF is a membership organization as established in article two of our bylaws. Currently, membership is an honor granted by other members to individuals who contribute in a significant way to the SSF. Benefits of membership included being able to publicize membership status, nominate and vote on who should serve on the SSF Board of Directors and join our members-only listserv.

Now that the SSF has established the Sahana Project Council, we can reorganize membership as a way to mobilize our community to contribute to our official, participating projects.  To do this, we can change how people earn membership.

The proposal currently in front of the board states that new members will have to either volunteer time to an SSF project or make a recurring donation to the SSF of $100/year or more. Existing members will be able to stay members without having to make any additional contributions for one year. If you’re an existing member, please fill out this form to register your intention to renew your membership.

Since we’re asking more from members, we have to provide them with more benefits. New benefits will include:

  • Credit in a new online store where you can buy SSF branded stuff and other interesting items from our global network of humanitarians.
  • Recognition of your support on our website and around the web via an “open badge”.
  • Ability to vote in our members-only online decision-making group and our annual general meeting.
  • Receive a members-only newsletter and invitations to quarterly conference calls with our president. (Yes!)

Of course, the most important benefit of all hasn’t changed: helping advance humanitarian open source projects!

Please let us know what you think of these proposed changes by posting comments or by contacting us through the website. It’ll take a few weeks for the board to pass the resolution needed to change the process, so now is a great time to tell us how you feel about SSF membership.

3. Online Decision-making

The third and final change that’s happening within the SSF is that we’re beginning to use online decision-making tools to supplement our decision making conference calls. The addition of online decision-making tools to our communication processes will enable the Board and the SPC to speed up their decision-making so we can be a more responsive and flexible organization. While this might not seem like a big change: it really is. Having a global network means getting everyone on a conference call is nearly impossible – and that has meant that the SSF’s Board has been making decisions every few months. By using online decision-making tools we can speed that up to every few days. Exciting stuff!

In conclusion, over the last year my focus has been on reorganizing some mechanisms within the SSF. This next year I will focus on mobilizing you – the Sahana community – to participate in humanitarian open source in more productive and rewarding ways. I’m very much looking forward to the next year and I hope you are too!

All the Best.

Devin Balkind, President of the Sahana Software Foundation

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