Q&A Stage 2 Buenos Aires

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Questions to the BALOC from CC

name of the questioner

    • question 1
    • question 2

Steven Feldman

Great proposal, thanks very much. Lot's of exciting ideas which I welcome. I'd like to focus on the financial stuff (as usual for me)

  • You have asked for a $60k advance from OSGeo, normally we have limited our advance to $40k, can you provide some more detail on why you need a larger advance and the timing of the cash outflows?

The CEC building’s rent (still being negotiated) is US$70.266. We have been asked to give half of it (US$35.133) in advance to book the place. The Law Faculty’s rent is US$16.500 if we finally reach close to 1.150 attendees. They also ask half of it in advance ( US$8.250). If we finally don’t need both spaces, we will be able to pay a lower amount, but we want to book the full 1150 attendees space just in case. So, venue advanced payment totals US$43.383. We are asking for US$60.000 to make sure we have also some cash flow while we get the first tickets sold. We won’t need the full $60.000 right away, just enough to book the venues and secure the dates.

  • Are you also seeking any further guarantees or underwriting from OSGeo?

We have a generously estimated budget with items that can be opt-out if needed, so we don’t expect any financial issues. For example, if we have to escalate the event down we can cut big expenses like the CEC building and make the social events simpler. In case we don’t get enough tickets sold (below 550), we will contact the OSGeo Board to decide how to proceed. We don’t need any written warranty from OSGeo.

  • If you request an advance from OSGeo the norm is that at least 80% of the surplus from your event is returned to OSGeo, your proposal only returns 30% to OSGeo. This is a substantial change which would need to be approved by the Board if recommended by CC, can you explain why such a low %age should be accepted?

We understood that the 80% surplus for OSGeo was the suggested amount for NA and european events. We can adjust the numbers and give a higher percentage of the surplus to OSGeo, although we think that “leaving” part of that surplus on the local organization can help the development and further outreach of the OSGeo community on the region.

  • Your projected surpluses are on the low side, whilst I appreciate your low ticket prices, I wonder whether you can afford to charge a little more and possibly reduce the early bird discount to a consistent 20% (particularly for what you define as International) as a way of increasing your surplus and providing a safety net?

The budget is generously estimated (we are still negotiating some contracts to get a lower price) and we have the “open price ticket” which should give us more margin. The budget is using amounts we consider “safe” to be cut if things go wrong. (Although the minimum attendance described on the budget is 650, we can lower that even more if we remove venue space and non-essential items). We could increase the international price and still do that 20% discount on the early bird. But if we increase the ticket price for regional (especially local) tickets that could impact on our estimates of attendance.Trying to reach a consistent 20% discount could mean we have to lower the normal price for local and regional which could be even worse for the income. We are confident that, while the surplus doesn’t look good, it will get better once we start signing contracts, even if we don’t change ticket prices.

  • I love the low prices that you are proposing and the option to top up pricing for those who can afford more, perhaps you could phrase this in a slightly different way by quoting higher prices and allowing those who need to self declare for a discount with the lowest price being your current rates? This could work well for corporates who may not respond well to a request to top up but could voluntarily exclude from an "in need" discount.

We will be careful on how to phrase this, as we also don’t want locals to think we are thinking less of them. We can add some note for sponsors as you mention.

  • I did not see any explicit mention of video recording or streaming. What are your plans and are they fully costed in your budget?

We plan to record all sessions. The cost is already included in the budget (sent privately). There is no plan for streaming because that will mean increasing the cost too much as we will need to add a much higher bandwidth on the venue along with more technicians on site.

Jonathan Moules

  • I didn't see anything about sustainability (of the eco-friendly variety) in there apart from the venue itself being sustainable. What are your sustainability aims? Thoughts:

The BALOC is committed to set up a Sustainability and Social Responsibility Plan for our conference based on the resources available in our country. On the following questions we will answer part of our currently planned strategy towards this.

  • Will you be sourcing your "conference swag" sustainably (i.e., not from sources that exploit Indiginous People?)

One of our goals is to reduce the swag as much as possible as it generally ends up being waste. We are going to provide reusable water bottles to avoid the usage of one use plastic bottles during the conference and other possible useful objects to use during the conference. About explotation, see next question.

  • Will you be sourcing your Tea/Coffee/Chocolate sustainably (i.e., not from sources that exploit Indiginous People & children?)

Of course as part of this sustainability effort we will check that we don’t buy goods or use services provided by an exploiting company.

  • Will your caterers source food locally by preference?

Most food in the city already comes from horticulture producers in the near rural towns. Buenos Aires province is one of the largest meat and dairy producers in the country. We plan to have as many sources of local, small and family producers and organically produced food as possible.

  • Does your travel grant prioritise sustainable travel over flying?

Whenever possible, we will try to use sustainable transport. But we understand that the Travel Grant should also apply to nearby countries, which may not be reachable unless by plane. See answer about regional travel.

  • Will you be providing bottled water or some re-usable cups (FOSS4G UK did this for 2019 - worked well)?

We will provide each attendee with a reusable water bottle and there will be water fountains all over the venue, including hot water for those who want to drink tea or mate. We are aiming for local and regional products to minimize the carbon footprint of transport. We will also use as much recycled materials as possible. Non-expendable material used on the conference will be either sold after the conference or reused by the BALOC in future events.

  • Will the food lean away from carbon-intensive foodstuffs?

We will balance the diet (unless special needs are required) with fresh non-processed food. The food that’s not eaten each day will be sent to a local organization that delivers to people living on the streets or community kitchens.

  • How do you anticipate regional participants to travel there? (I'm guessing Local = public transit and International = flying).

Extending the question regarding sustainability of the TGP transport: For distances less than 400km, bus is the preferred transport near Buenos Aires. On some exceptional cases, we may even extend this distance if there is a direct road. On the regional context, considering Latin America, it is unlikely to use any other method of transport than by plane, since distances make it difficult to use other means of transport. Bear in mind that the rail network is not as extended in the rest of the world as it is in Europe.

  • Will you default to opt-out for the t-shirt?

We want to reduce the amount of useless swag as possible to reduce waste. We are aware that t-shirts are very appreciated by a big part of our attendees, so we will offer them optionally to those who have a special interest, along with other optional swag. This also helps reducing the ticket price and allows us to operate on a lower budget.

  • Will you provide any sort of carbon-credit offset as part of the conference fee for those who choose to fly?

On the proposal we focused on the things the BALOC could directly impact to reduce the carbon footprint and waste. We didn’t plan yet for what attendees can do to reduce their pollution. But it is in the schedule to contact in the future some association like Vida Silvestre (https://www.vidasilvestre.org.ar/) and add an optional donation to compensate for carbon footprint.

  • Will you cater to various dietary requirements?

The catering will serve food for people with special requirements such as celiac disease, vegan diet, food allergies or intolerances. We will ask in advance to make sure all attendees have food adapted to their needs. The menu will be healthy and varied, covering nutritional needs.

As in FOSS4G 2018, there will be two rounds of Travel Grants. The first edition will cover under-represented groups in general, with no restrictions. The second round will focus on groups that are greatly under-represented (women and non-binary people as they represent half the population but are not as present on our events) and local under-represented groups (native americans). We care about people with limited mobility, that’s why, along with the help of the first Travel Grant, the venue is completely adapted and is located on a completely adapted neighbourhood with adapted access to the metro.

  • GeoChicas - I'm not sure what a "geochica" is, but what's the logic to arbitrarily splitting it by gender? This seems the exact opposite of the stated "inclusive".

The GeoChicas event has taken place in FOSS4G 2018 and 2019 already. Although now it also includes Women in GeoSpatial (focused on geospatial technologies) and other Women in Tech associations besides GeoChicas (focused on OpenStreetMap), we decided to keep the name as an easy reference to attendees of previous FOSS4G. The concept of safe spaces is well known in communities that work to leverage gaps on under-represented communities. Those safe spaces help in the networking, empowering and reinforcing the presence of the targeted groups in conferences, thus making the event more inclusive. In the last two years we have already seen the effects of this safe space in our community and we want to continue on this line.

* You state in regards to local sourcing: "Buenos Aires province is one of the largest meat and dairy producers in the country." suggesting you plan to provision a fair amount of this. But then in response to carbon-intensive foodstuffs you say: ```"We will balance the diet (unless special needs are required) with fresh non-processed food." ``` Unfortunately these seem to be diametrically opposed notions. I think it's worth pointing out that beef and dairy are pretty much the most carbon intensive foodstuffs in their classes (beef = worst meat; dairy = worse than plant milks (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46654042) ). Will you be seeking to reduce use of these? (Suggestion: A few seconds googling for "Food emissions" will find plenty of articles with suggestions for what's good/bad.)

Our food providers are committed to lower our carbon footprint as much as possible, while considering the local diet and available products in the process. Using a local diet is important to ensure we don’t add carbon footprint on transport.

* My question regarding the travel grant's second round - I was wondering whether you would consider disability as being suitable for this. As noted in my question, there are *far* more disabled people than non-binary. Plus of course disabled people by the very nature of their disability may have physiological and/or logistical problems travelling, not something the other groups customarily face, so the disabled would proportionately benefit the most from the grant. Would you consider including disability in this second round?

To build the best TGP possible, we will consult with previous TGP coordinators (such as Steven Feldman and the Oceania LOC), on how to build an inclusive program.

* Geochicas - you call this a "safe space". I was under the impression these were spaces that are hostility free (i.e. https://equal.org/safe-space-program/ ), and they were open to all (a sound notion). To me at least it seems that by disallowing a certain group of people in you're saying that group of people are not safe, something that's definitely exclusionary. Plus it could be read that other minority groups (disabled, GBTQ, etc) aren't worth a safe space, only women and non-binary are. Would you consider making this more inclusive?

The full conference itself is already a safe space, according to your definition, with a CoC as a safeguard. The social event we are discussing is a safe space according to the definition usually used by feminist and people of color groups.

Safe spaces are not treated as a response to something negative like fighting an existing hostility; but a way to generate the confidence needed to participate in mixed spaces. It is an extra step to help networking and empower people that otherwise will tend to be isolated and therefore be at a disadvantageous position.

Paul Ramsey

  • Your plan to scale back facilities in the event of shortfall in registrations is wise. A question on that: what are the deadlines for cancellations? How much of the deposit will they retain? Unfortunately you will not have a clear feel for potential attendance until the early bird registration period closes, which can be only a few months before the final date. At some point, the venue will ask for full payment. Do your schedule points for things like early bird line up with your decision points for things like venues?

If we don’t use the building, the deposit will be lost.

But we are still in negotiations to lower the seed amount. We don’t want to disclose our estimated numbers in public because that may impact the negotiation. Part of that negotiation may be lowering the amount of booked rooms and add them at a later stage when we have some more income. Considering the Law School has many classrooms and the risk of not being able to book more rooms at a later stage is lower, that may be a possibility, even if we lose part of the CEC. On the worst case, it may mean reducing the social spaces so activities will have to share spaces or maybe move them to the park, if weather permits.

The rest of the services will charge based on the attendees number, so we don’t foresee much impact here.

  • If you'll excuse my language, the facility prices you quote seem very "international", that is, they would be not surprising in any other major global city. At the same time, the entry fees seem very low, compared to the general foss4g trend. I see that the A/B and food costs are lower than I would "expect", have those been validated in the marketplace? Generally expensive venues have exclusive catering arrangements with firms that are equally expensive, are you allowed to use your quoted catering in the venues you have chosen?

You are right: the venue prices in Buenos Aires are on the high side, we were very surprised (appalled more like) by this. Buenos Aires is a central city on the region, attracting many international events, thus making prices similar to other big cities around the world.

Every price has been checked with the provider by our professional events organizer, who already knows all of them and is negotiating each contract. There were some alternative venues we discarded for being too small, not being able to offer basic services (like internet), and/or outside the city and not well connected.

About the catering, the main venue (CEC) has a variety of exclusive companies from which to choose the catering from. The one we asked to budget all the meals is the cheapest but also the one the events organizer knows to be most reliable and with high quality.

Our events organizer checked also with other companies to see if the prices were sensible and it is similar to what would cost to hire an external company for it. Even when the venues are expensive, food in Argentina is cheaper.

  • How much of your $122K in budgeted sponsorship is "sure" already? That is, have the government corporate sponsors of this proposal made some kind of non-binding statement of interest in sponsorship?

We don’t want to disclose much of this because nothing is signed yet and some companies may step back if they think we are going too fast.

We have the non-signed understandment of some government entities to help us find sponsors, which may attract new players. Although most of those players will probably fall on the local category. We haven’t included those new players to the list.

Actively looking for sponsorship for 2021 when it wasn’t sure and 2020 is currently looking for sponsors seemed to us a bit aggressive, so we contacted mostly companies we understood are not that interested in Canada but may be interested in Argentina. That prevented us from contacting many tentative sponsors.

We have estimated based on what we have asked around, plus the average sponsorship levels from previous FOSS4G (with lowered percentages as this depends on the “commercial” effort of each team, which we can’t measure this properly, but also the interest on the region, which also depends on many factors).

As a very very gross estimate, between a third and a half of that sponsorship is “sure”.

  • Not a question, but one way of squaring the "can afford it" pricing problem is an "individual" rate vs a "corporate" rate. The community pgcon.org conference in Ottawa uses this construction.

It’s a good idea to consider. We will study it before releasing the early bird release. In any case, separation based on regions (or economic capacity) is something we think is important.

Eli Adam

  • Before eliminating the separate-day code spint, can you poll this, tosprint list ?
  • Is the large venue being used for more than Opening, Closing, AGM, and Lunch?