Committee Guidelines

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These guidelines for OSGeo committees on effective operation OSGeo style.

How your OSGeo Committee Works

  • While input from all is welcome, a committee is an official body of the foundation, and should keep good track of it's own voting members. Committee members can be added to and removed from the committee by motion passed by the committee.
  • By and large OSGeo committees should be operated on a consensus basis. If a committee member is strenuously objecting to something, all reasonable efforts should be made to hear their objections, and adapt policy in some commonly acceptable way. If that proves not to be possible a motion can be passed by a majority of the committee assembled for a duely announced meeting, or email vote. If voting is close enough that it is hard to know whether something has passed then consensus has not been achieved.
  • Generally speaking folks with skills and interest should be welcomed to join a committee. A large committee that isn't having problems reaching consensus is generally a good thing, especially if all or most members are actually contributing to the work of the committee and the "cost" of inactive members is not high.
  • Anyone can become a committee member. Voting members of OSGeo have no special status at the committee level, and any qualified member of the community is encouraged to participate in committees.
  • A committee's chair is technically assigned by the board of directors, allowing them to be an officer in the foundation.
  • If a chair is resigning, or if the committee would like to select a new chair, a motion on the topic should be fielded at a committee meeting and the result forwarded to the board for approval; this should be a formality. There should be no harm in the new chair acting as chair till this is finalized.
  • In theory, each committee is subject to the board, which can direct it by an official motion. This might be to alter policy, mandate, membership, chairmanship, or the existence of the committee. Individual board members cannot direct a committee.

Decision Making

Chairs run meetings and should exercise some discretion in soliciting motions, when to declare the motion passed or whether to defer a controversial motion for further discussion and a vote at a later meeting (if it is felt that important parties are missing from the discussion).

  • OSGeo Committees are expected to be transparent and inclusive, as such we ask that each committee publish how volunteers can take part on the OSGeo website.
  • Each committee will need to sort out how meetings are held, set an expected quorum required, and how voting is expected to work.
  • When voting it is traditional to indicate support as "+1", a veto as "-1", weak support as "+0", and weak lack of support as "-0". If a motion isn't getting +1's from the majority of those present and voting perhaps it requires further discussion. This tradition comes from the software projects such as MapServer.
  • Should you have a "-1" veto? Some committees find "veto" unproductive, requiring each "-1" to provide an alternate proposal showing the group a way forward.
  • Should you have a Quorum or 100% response? This depends on how active your committee is; can you expect a 100% response.

Motions may also be made by email on the primary email list of the committee:

  • Example: As long as the motions collect at least two +1's, and no -1 vetos over a period of two business days, they will be considered passed, subject to the judgement of the chair (who might choose to defer a motion to a meeting for instance). Some committees may chose to only rarely "meet", instead handling most committee business by email.
  • Incubation Committee: The incubation committee is slow to respond (since it is only operating via email), motions are made via email and held open for two weeks to give everyone a chance to respond. Each motion requires a 50% Quorum within the two week period. If a motion does not gather a response it is a clue we need to cut down inactive members. Voting consists of +1 (approval), +0 (no response, slight agreement), -0 (no response, uncomfortable), -1 (against). There is no veto in the incubation committee, but we tend to respect -1 votes and withdraw motions that are troubled.


  • Incubation Committee - example of email based committtee, with mandate to provide recomendations to the board
  • GeoServer PSC - example of project steering committee, with extra language to "bootstrap" the initial psc membership. Worth reading for detailed example of how to handle a veto, and when a veto is can be ignored.

Guidelines for Committee Chairs

  • Meetings should generally be via IRC, and announced well in advance by email on the committee mailing list. Use the World Clock like 1600 UTC to indicate time in all time zones (be sure to select the correct date so that day-light savings time is taken into account).
  • Recurring meeting times are desirable, and should be noted in the Foundation Calendar.
  • Meetings should have an agenda prepared ahead of time, usually in the wiki.
  • Generally speaking, any interested parties should be welcomed to join committee mailing lists, speak, and join IRC meetings. In IRC meetings the Chair will sometimes need to exert influence to keep discussions on topic and meetings progressing. Off-topic discussions can be directed back to the mailing list.
  • For non-trivial matters it is encouraged that official motions of the committee be well formed and clear. For complex policies, they ought to be written up in advance of a meeting so the committee members have an opportunity to review them in advance.
  • Know your committee's mandate. Generally a committee is formed by a motion of the board of directors, and that motion will include details on the responsibilities and role of the committee.
  • You are responsible for your committee. Have a review of our code of conduct and ask for help if needed.