Board Meeting Minutes, December 2023

A meeting of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Board was held via video call on Wednesday 6th December 2023  from 18:45 - 19:45

Board members who dialled in: Vanessa Barnett (VEB) (Chair), Tim Hubbard (TH), Johnny West (JW)

Observers: Renata Avila (RA) (CEO), Cassandra Woolford (CW) (DOF)

Apologies: Helen Turvey (HT) (Vice Chair), Ira Bolychevsky (IB)


Welcome & review of minutes & actions [Chair]

Previous Board minutes will be circulated for approval by email. 

Jarmo Eskelinen resigned from the OKFN board on the 7th September 2023, due to time constraints.


CEO Update [RA]

OKFN was one of three foundations invited to participate in the Digital Public Goods Alliance (DPGA) as a member. The initiative is about the architecture of open public digital infrastructure led by different governments and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The DPI underlying idea is to help the digital transformation of Governments, permitting them to abandon the big tech path and to adopt digital building blocks that are open, interoperable, adaptable and more lasting than closed solutions, rapidly obsolete. 

OKFN is working on developing a vision for digital public infrastructure, to be open, sustainable, and inclusive. OKFN were in Ethiopia with twenty-one Governments, presenting the broader vision of what we think we could contribute to building this infrastructure. By hosting workshops and roundtable discussions we aim to determine which parts of digital infrastructure are problematic. We started with Elections and will continue with environmental digital infrastructure, education digital infrastructure and health digital infrastructure to understand what is the current state, who's doing what, and how we can contribute. 

In terms of funding, two proposals have been submitted since the last meeting. One for the Open Data Editor tool, which is an editing tool for non-tech people. The tool is currently in beta mode, so the funding will invest in usability, testing, and further iterations to progress development. 

The other proposal is related to biomedical research data; which will enable us to plug in frictionless data and with the biomedical research community develop the standards for their data. A third interrelated opportunity has been identified, discussions are still ongoing however we hope to engage with them in Q1 2024.

The Network is now consolidated and growing, which is very positive for the organisation. There are seven new countries from Africa and Latin America and the network has been given the opportunity to uniform their branding with the Foundation. We hope that by the end of Q1 2024, they will have adopted the branding and all the Open Knowledge websites and logos will be the same, with their own identity colours. There is also a fundraising group focusing on the sustainability of the network. 

A Legal Fellow will join OKFN for three months to focus on updating the Licences. She will be looking at the open definition and the open data commons, and she will do a specific paper on health data commons. She has to deliver three pieces of research as part of the fellowship that she's doing with us.

An enhanced discussion took place surrounding the licences and the piece of work they require. The board felt strongly that we should not edit licences without community engagement to establish where any gaps were. 

It was confirmed that the basis of the engagement with the fellow is to primerily assess, to establish how outdated the licences are, what the recent legislation is and the impact it may have. It was suggested that a note be added to the paper for users to take into consideration the outdated legislation and the impact of that action.

The conversation moved back to the biomedical research standards and it was noted that two board members have expertise in this field and could be interested in supporting and reviewing this project. The research that is published is rarely reusable or reproducible, so a transformation needs to take place which including expert board members would be very useful. 

During 2023, OKFN submitted a lot of proposals, which was a huge learning curve for the organisation in terms of applications for  Open Calls, it became apparent that positive funding opportunities are secured through recommendations and interactions that we have with organisations from collaborations and targeted presentations that we do rather than open applications.

Finance Update [CW]

The finance update evidenced prudent spending during the year. The forecast for the end of the financial year shows a small improvement on the expected closing figures. A proposed update to the reserve policy was approved by the board and will be actioned by the end of the year. The forecast for 2024 was shared with a request for approval for the 2024 proposed budget which was approved. 

A discussion took place surrounding how the core funds overheads were calculated and whether a scenario planning exercise of expected grant approvals would be useful. 

CW confirmed that the forecasts are based on prudent calculations for overhead contributions. It was agreed that part of the monthly reporting would include the details of submitted proposals and communication with potential funders. 


Risk Register [CW]

One risk was updated from red to amber, regarding the ability to secure Funding. 

CEO Activities next year will be mainly focused on securing funding, with collaboration from the team. During the year, it has been productive to showcase our work, which will also be a priority in the next. 



The Board of OKFN also made a Vote of Thanks to Adrià Mercader who during his twelve-year tenure made a substantial contribution to the organisation and in particular the CKAN project.