Q&A Stage 2 Buenos Aires

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Questions to the BALOC from CC

Michael Terner

Excellent, and well thought out proposal. I appreciate your efforts to innovate. Below are a few questions and a couple of comments that refer to the dialog in other question threads.

Due to the fact that sponsorship is such an important part of the budget, ranging from providing 24% to 36% of expected revenues, I have several questions in this area. While the amount of sponsorship revenue you are seeking may be "typical", due to your lower costs the percentage of revenue from sponsorship is higher than typical. Indeed, it is at the “base, break-even scenario” where sponsorship would provide ~36% of revenue. To the sponsorship questions:

  • When you talk about outreach to companies, you state you will “contact local and regional companies. We will start with those that have already sponsored previous FOSS4G events.” Is there any plan for outreach to companies that aren’t “local and regional” and might include international companies?

Once FOSS4G 2020 Calgary has finished, sure. We just don’t want to distract sponsors from the next event.

  • Do you have a sense of how many “local and regional” companies have sponsored “previous FOSS4G events”?

We are the same team that organized FOSS4G-Ar and similar related events since 2013. In 2013 (FOSS4G BA) and 2016 (FOSS4G AR) we had two institutional sponsors, a public organization and an NGO. We had two companies in 2013 and three in 2016 that contributed funds. In 2017 (FOSS4G AR + SOTM AR) we had, in addition to those same institutional sponsors the support of two more public organizations, two NGOs and six companies that contributed funds. In 2019 (latest FOSS4G AR) we had a public organization as a sponsor that contributed with the venue and the food, in addition to three companies that contributed with funds and four more public institutional sponsors. In 2019 the legal and administrative coverage was provided by our own team since the legal constitution of our association (official OSGeo local chapter). In 2019 the support from the sponsors was such that we were able to have free tickets for the entire conference attendees.

  • Have any of these companies previously sponsored the global conference?

We have some shared sponsors with the global conference like GeoRepublic, Carto or GeoCat. Most of our sponsors haven’t sponsored the global conference, because the global conference was always outside their outreach. Something that drastically changes if we organize the global conference in Argentina. The companies we already contacted have express interest in sponsoring the global conference if it takes place on their region.

CEC Floor Plan
  • Can you elaborate on the “foyer in the CEC” that will be used for the sponsor booths? Will this foyer be connected/adjacent to the main hall and/or eating areas? Such an arrangement can help to create more natural encounters with the sponsor community vs. having to travel to a specific location to find the sponsor exhibits.

The Foyer is the hall that connects the ground level with the main CEC rooms entrances, it’s right in the middle of everything, as you can see in the map. The coffee breaks and lunch will be held in the same space, to ensure maximum exposure for the stands. On the map (see CEC Floor Plan), “Sala” means room and the “Avenida Figueroa Alcorta” is a public street. The “Facultad de Derecho” that is written below is pointing to the metro station that is named after our second building, the Law School.

More info at: http://www.cecbuenosaires.com.ar/espacios/

  • What are the number of sponsor booths/exhibits you’re expecting to accommodate? Based on the budget spreadsheet it looks like you’re expecting 10 “exhibition stands” from sponsors. The proposal indicates there will also be 10 table top exhibitions for the Silver sponsors. Is it accurate that the exhibit area is expected to accommodate 20 sponsors with a mix of table top exhibits and exhibition stands?

We will have enough space to accommodate more than 20 sponsors, if needed. Depending on the total number of sponsors, the foyer has a 1.600 square meters area, so there is at least 1000 square meters for many stands and other activities, like coffee breaks and lunch. The CEC also has many more common areas we can use, including the rooftop and the “Plaza Brasil”, the square that connects the CEC’s entrance with the metro and the street, for which we already have permission from the city to use.

  • Have you spoken to any representative sponsors about their exhibiting expectations? I might observe that some Silver Sponsors - who could be paying $5,000 USD - may have a reasonable expectation of having more than a table-top exhibit.

First of all, as mentioned on the proposal, it is a “tentative table” we expect to modify and extend with more features before releasing the final program. This way, we will offer more features to sponsors beyond a booth or table, extending the outreach of similar sponsorship levels from previous years. We are still researching what other events do to make the conferences more attractive to sponsors. We have many draft ideas we prefer not to disclose before they are matured and/or checked on other events. One of the draft ideas we can share: we want to add more exposure, like naming some rooms with a sponsor name (this is a very draft idea, as probably that sponsor would want to have talks related to them, not easy to sort out without conflicts). In summary: more logos/names all over the venue. Another idea is to add more gamification (like the gymkhana) so attendees research/find out what the sponsors offer without the traditional questions on the booth (which is not very efficient). These gamification ideas need to mature before disclosing more because it is difficult to balance to avoid being “too stupid”, “too boring” or “too complicated” to attract the attendees and we don’t want to give a false idea that may affect performance later. The general idea is to raise the interest on the sponsor before the attendee reaches the booth, which will serve as a central point for already interested stakeholders. Also, as usual, this sponsorship levels are open to negotiation. If some sponsor wants to opt out of some of the features or want to contribute with material/services, we may negotiate the price. Finally, if we can’t make an attractive enough proposal for sponsors, we can change who has booth and who has tables. We have enough space even to do that (more info in following questions).

  • Can you elaborate on how many, if any, “free conferences passes” will be included at each level of sponsorship from Diamond - Supporter?

It is a tentative proposal of sponsorship we still want to adjust. Each “high level” sponsorship is **probably** going to be awarded from one to three free passes. But in the case of “Diamond Sponsorship”, this is more a negotiated deal. Depending on the final negotiated numbers, more passes may be added. We want to have a very open mind for this special category, to make sure that the sponsor does not monopolize the event but they get enough revenue from it.

First of all, as mentioned on the proposal, it is a “tentative table” we expect to modify and extend with more features before releasing the final program. This way, we will offer more features to sponsors beyond a booth or table, extending the outreach of similar sponsorship levels from previous years. We are still researching what other events do to make the conferences more attractive to sponsors. We have many draft ideas we prefer not to disclose before they are matured and/or checked on other events. One of the draft ideas we can share: we want to add more exposure, like naming some rooms with a sponsor name (this is a very draft idea, as probably that sponsor would want to have talks related to them, not easy to sort out without conflicts). In summary: more logos/names all over the venue. Another idea is to add more gamification (like the gymkhana) so attendees research/find out what the sponsors offer without the traditional questions on the booth (which is not very efficient). These gamification ideas need to mature before disclosing more because it is difficult to balance to avoid being “too stupid”, “too boring” or “too complicated” to attract the attendees and we don’t want to give a false idea that may affect performance later. The general idea is to raise the interest on the sponsor before the attendee reaches the booth, which will serve as a central point for already interested stakeholders. Also, as usual, this sponsorship levels are open to negotiation. If some sponsor wants to opt out of some of the features or want to contribute with material/services, we may negotiate the price. Finally, if we can’t make an attractive enough proposal for sponsors, we can change who has booth and who has tables. We have enough space even to do that (more info in following questions).

Non-Sponsorship questions:

  • Can you elaborate on the phrase “82.11 The estimated change for 2021 by the Argentinian Government”? Fully understanding that exchange rates can be very difficult to predict does your budget change (for better/worse) if this exchange rate is not achieved/is exceeded (noting that the current exchange rate is ARS ~$60 = USD $1)?

We plan to sign most of the contracts in US$, as that’s a good way of negotiating contracts in Argentina. This means that all big contracts that are going to be sign/book/reserve on the following months will be on budget, even if the exchange rates changes. We thought of delivering the whole budget only in dollars, but that could have raised even more questions, so we decided to add the ARS column even if it was not the change in which we negotiated/calculated most of the budget.

  • Pleased to learn that you will be using a “Professional Conference Organizer” (also referred to as the “Productora del Evento”) and that you have worked with them previously. Can you elaborate on their role and responsibilities (e.g., will they be doing banking? Contracting? Registration? Audio/visual? Etc.)?

The Professional Conference Organizer has organized many events for the government, as well as charity and NGOs like us. They will be in charge of negotiating and communicating with most of the providers for the event and help the BALOC (along with the volunteers) manage the on-site logistics, as well as the social events. All contracts, billing and banking will be managed from the legal group of our association GeoLibres (chapter of OSGeo). We will hire an Administrative and Accounting Assistant that has also worked with us in almost all of our events, to be able to manage the workload.

Relevant observations:

Steven relayed that the typical "advance" from OSGeo was $40,000 USD. I can report that Boston received a $70,000 advance, and that we modeled our "ask" on previous conferences. I also know that Dar es Salaam did not seek any advance. So from my vantage, the number has moved around a bit.

As someone whose attendance will likely be funded by a corporation, I would strongly +1 both Steven's and Paul's suggestions that the semantics of registration costs matter a great deal. For me, it would be more difficult to get an expense reimbursement/approval for a "voluntary higher cost contribution" than it would be to simply pay a higher advertised fee. I think both notions of having an advertised market price with multiple options for "need-based discounts" (Steven) and/or a "corporate rate" (Paul) would make sense and would help with revenue, while providing flexibility for need-based discounts.

Thank you for the insight. We will take this into account. The idea of offering a “corporate” versus “individual” ticket is something we were not used to, but makes sense. We will also be careful on the wording, we don’t want to offend anyone nor dissuade someone from coming to FOSS4G because they don’t fit some category.

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 ?

The idea comes from lessons learned and recommendations like:

https://wiki.osgeo.org/wiki/FOSS4G_2016_Lessons_Learned#Code_Sprint

We liked the idea of an extended codesprint as in Bonn, but we wanted to make it at the same time as the conference to save costs and make it more inviting for newcomers.

The codesprint will still be there on Saturday, plus some other social events for people not interested on it. For example, we are planning an outdoors mapping party for people that want to contribute but they don’t feel like contributing with code, docs or translations.

The idea of a week long codesprint is to expand its outreach, giving more time to do longer tasks and invite people who usually don’t come on Saturday to join and contribute. We feel that having the codesprint running at the same time as the main sessions can help connect different stakeholders with the developers’ work and understand better the FOSS ecosystem. We are aware that the codesprint will not be full until Saturday as developers will be busy with sessions.

  • Is the large venue being used for more than Opening, Closing, AGM, and Lunch?

The CEC is planned to host 7 rooms for sessions (plenary and paralell), the BALOC office, the booths, the codesprint and plenty of social common spaces for networking and the catering infrastructure. (Summary on page 18 of the proposal.) The CEC provides us with spaces that we can use exclusively, whereas the Law School will have students sharing the space. Also, the Ice Breaker will be hosted on the CEC to save money.

The Law School is only planned to host 4 rooms for sessions, 2 smaller rooms for meetings or birds of a feather. If we need to extend the number of rooms for meetings or other activities, it will be done on the Law School. But, for example, we wouldn’t be able to offer lunch at all if we remove the CEC space, as the Law School doesn’t have proper kitchen or space to serve.

We couldn’t find another proper venue combination with the flexibility of the Law School and the infrastructures of the CEC within budget.