[foundation-board] re. problems with OKFn

Jo Walsh metazool at gmail.com
Tue Nov 16 12:10:18 UTC 2010

On 15/11/2010 23:01, Paola Di Maio wrote:
> - Jo suggested my proposal would make a great project for OKFN, and got
> me on a call call with Johnny (minutes circulated). In this call
> Jonathan said that this project would fit very well OKFn,
> that is a position to get funding for it, that they were
> just going to met a deadline shortly

The contents of http://okfnpad.org/sldig have changed since we had that 
Skype call. However, I do not recall *any suggestion at all* that OKF 
would seek funding for a project proposal, or any discussion of a 
deadline. I don't know what you're referring to here. Paola decided not 
to make a project proposal to OKF, having reservations about the extent 
to which the Foundation is run openly.

> - I was asked by Jo and Jonathan,, in  various correspondence and on
> public list, to become an organisational consultant for OKFn, various
> analyses of processes were posted to list,
> - She entered my name on the wiki as 'invited organisational consultant[

Jonny had no part in this. I invited Paola to share her reflections with 
the coord group, which was just being set up, in my position as Chair; I 
found Paola's suggestions about project documentation, building lists of 
operational tasks, setting a positive example around transparency of 
management, to be helpful, in the context of my own concerns. It seems 
clear that the invitation was a mistake on my part, overstepping the 
position as Coord group chair. When I realised this, I stood down as 
Coord chair and stopped asking Paola for feedback on my concerns.

However: I still feel that that there is a tension between the 
"distributed, networked organisation" origins and ideals of OKF on the 
one hand, and paid project work undertaken directly without clearly 
documenting what is happening for the wider OKF community and beyond on 
the other hand.
Given we are in this situation, it makes sense to find simple ways to 
remain open about the work that is being done (publishing detail about 
budgets, team members, deliverables, timescales) in ways that will make 
it easier for people within and outwith OKF to see what is being done.

> - When it became obvious that OKFn is continuing its poor organisational
> practices deliberately
 > (unless you intend to
 > rectify the situation, is good to be given the chance to do the right 

I've pointed out, and am doing so again, several ways in which OKF has 
been addressing the call for more public documentation of process and 
management. These all look like good-faith steps to improve - the 
process has to take time...

- Updating the governance documentation on the website
- Catching up on publishing archive of board meeting minutes
- Hiring a project manager for CKAN and setting up a public developer list
- Recruiting a "projects coordinator" to be responsible for documenting 
and reporting on paid project work for the Foundation
- Committing to publishing quarterly accounts summaries
- Drafting a "transparency clause" so that for new paid projects, we are 
not in a situation where funders would be surprised by full disclosure 
of what OKF is receiving

> -  Jo that OKFn had money to pay for project work and consulting work,
> and also mentioned that in fact that you are paid to do (some ) of your
> work

Jordan gives a lot of time for free to review and draft contracts for 
OKF. In addition, he is receiving 200 euros/day - a massively discounted 
personal rate - for a few days over the first few months of LOD2, for 
interim project management while it's being set up.

> and that Mark had been paid to write a report on various issues
> that we discussed (therefore his report is not independent, and some of
> his conclusions incorrect and misleading).

Mark was hired to do this by Rufus directly, not by OKF. This also 
emerges from Mark's research interests. His report is intended to help a 
projects coordinator get going. I'm not sure how it could be made 
'independent'. Paola, you made some criticisms which I forwarded to the 
okfn-governance list: 
and I invited you and others to discuss in more detail there. But the 
problem is that people feel under attack - small changes don't seem to 
be enough, and the accusations get bigger. It seems important to focus 
on incremental improvements to the situation, to practical things we can 

> - I advised Jo that both her work and my work done for OKFn throughout
> the summer should also be paid

I asked about this on the coord and board lists, when I realised that I 
was spending a day and a half per week taking on tasks that a projects 
coordinator should reasonably be doing. I didn't get any kind of 
positive response - I was told that I was taking on responsibilities 
which weren't envisaged as the work of the Coord group chair.
So I stopped working on these tasks and stood down as Coord group chair.

> -  Later in the summer  was confirmed that the project outline I
> proposed  was now a part of OKFn deliverable for LOD2
This just isn't the case. Paola discussed a directory of open government 
data resources idea in a Skype chat with Jonny and I. This didn't result 
in any kind of project proposal to OKF.

One of the LOD2 work packages is about a "GovData.EU" resource, 
aggregating data from different European portals:
http://lod2.eu/WorkPackage/wp9.html This has been in the works for at 
least a year, more like two. I don't think it's reasonable to say that 
this is Paola's project idea. Many people have been thinking about open 
government data registries in the wider continuum of open data interest.

> - In  Graz I met Soren to discuss the details of the LOD deliverable ,
> who confirmed that the project was not public so it could be discussed,
> and that we would have to decide how to go about it,

At this time the contract with the European Commission had not yet been 
signed. The details of the LOD2 proposal and work packages were 
published at http://lod2.eu/ very quickly after the contract was signed.

> - Jo told me that she is currently no longer involved in the deliverable
> and that despite all the work done throughout the summer OKFn does not
> intend to collaborate with me on this nor to compensate me for the
> 'organisational consulting' work done

I was grateful for Paola's support in informal discussions; neither of 
us had an expectation of being paid for the effort. When it got to the 
point where there was a) considerable effort, b) lack of results, c) 
negative response to request for financial support to keep doing it,
I stopped engaging with OKF coordination.

Since when things seem to have blown up out of proportion...

> - that you have used my proposal to get funding and then left me out of it

Perhaps it would be helpful to see a timeline. LOD2 proposal was 
submitted when I was still living in Spain - at least 18 months ago - 
and got initial notice that it would be funded at least 6 months ago.

> - that you can operate secretly because being a foundation you dont have
> to be accountable
> ie, nobody can come and check what you are doing with the money you get,

 From http://okfn.org/board/meetings/2010-08-12/
* Agreed to publish the balance sheet regularly (Quarterly). Should not 
identify individuals

That this hasn't been done yet reflects lack of time, not lack of will.

I would really like to see the situation improve. But it's increasingly 
difficult to discuss it constructively, where valid criticisms are being 
thrown in with untruths (the suggestions that OKF's work in LOD2 has 
'stolen' a project idea, or that OKF offered to help find funding for 
the idea).

I remain on the OKF board of directors and try to press for more public 
discussion and up-front transparency of project documentation by 
default. But it's increasingly hard to do so where I'm associated with 
these unjust accusations of fraud and abuse. :(

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