Board Meeting Minutes, May 2023

A meeting of the Open Knowledge Foundation (OKF) Board was held via video call on Wednesday 3rd May  2023  from 18:30 - 20:30

Board members who dialled in: Helen Turvey (HT) (Vice Chair), Tim Hubbard (TH), Ira Bolychevsky (IB)

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

Apologies: Vanessa Barnett (VEB) (Chair), Jarmo Eskelinen (JE), Johnny West (JW)

Welcome & review of minutes & actions [Chair]

The minutes from the February  2023 board meeting were approved.

HT confirmed that proactive activities for recruiting new board members will commence in June 2023. CW will share previous Board recruitment information so the process can be reviewed and started with an aim to have new board members join during 2024.

CKAN Updates were not discussed.

CEO Update [RA]

The completion (due to internal restructuring within their organsation) of our main commercial contract, at the end of June 2023 has been further impacted by the reduction in development. The project has transitioned into maintenance and the writing of documentation for handover purposes, resulting in lower income. 

A large three year grant that was pending signature was unexpectedly withdrawn. 

The grant pitch is being used to approach other funders, however needs to be modified for each opportunity. RA secured email confirmation from the Funder as to the reasons for the withdrawal of the grant and HT shared that this is the 3rd project that has been affected by the situation from this particular funder. 

There are multiple projects in the pipeline for the CKAN team, however they are currently stalled on the funders side. 

The Frictionless project has been funded internally and despite funding proposal submissions,  new funding for development has not been secured. 

A skills map has recently been created, which shows that many of the team members are versatile with their skills however others  are CKAN focused. It was noted that the market has changed and CKAN is now quite old in comparison to new technology. There is less money available and philanthropic funders are sceptical to fund code. 

There is now a dedicated team working on proposals. The tech team recently met to propose new tech projects, products and services.  The updated business plan includes software development, training and assessment.  

Over the years, whilst OKF has delivered great projects it has been lacking for a number of years, communications and fundraising, these are key areas that are needed to continue.

All attention will be on the following goals

a) a new commercial client 

b) a new grant to support core staff 

c) a program grant 

d) define the future of frictionless data. 

The two sectors that are being pitched to, are the development sector - globally and the government sector in South America. There are advanced conversations taking place in both these areas. We will need to intensify the focus on new opportunities. 

A request was made by the board to see the pipeline opportunities and if they can be helpful with any specific funders they are available to help.

A discussion took place surrounding ensuring the fees are able to support higher rates for future projects, so OKF can pull in new contractors specific to projects. It was confirmed that the OKF rates both client and contractor, are inline with the charity / non-profit sector. 

The benefits of working at OKF are more connected to the type of work and the  conditions, eg flexible working conditions, remote working. A respectful working environment.  Realistic tech team retention is three years, as young developers are expected to move on.  It is very positive for OKF that the values and ideology that is instilled at OKF are taken to the outside world.  OKF are also exploring an alliance with a tech collective to reduce AI bias. 

RA will reach out to the board with specific project proposals, for guidance and support on who to approach for funding the work that we want to do moving forward.

RA suggested that OKF has a challenged position as it does not support any tax benefits  to donors, either in the UK or the US.  The UK presence is weak, and although a UK institution, OKF does not receive any funds from the UK, either from the government or charities and in the US, as a UK org OKF is less attractive as giving funding to the UK is not the same as giving funds to a US institute. Therefore for philanthropic funding OKF is missing out.  OKF is  interesting to developing countries as they see OKF as a leading and advanced organisation that they can learn from. 

TH shared that OKF did explore registering as a charity, this was abandoned due to the complexities.  HT shared that OKF did achieve 501c equivalency, which allows funds to be received from the US.

OKF requires connections in the UK to start asking for money and help to address some of the issues abroad under the UK flag. No other organisation is prioritising this, the majority of the organisations are operating locally. OKF does not have a UK contingency to  further this aspect however in RA’s past experience having a local office does not guarantee securing funds. 

Two modest events are taking place to return the OKF presence to the data and open government space. OGP event in Tallinn in September and the Festival da Dados in November. 

OKF lost the presence in those insider circles, and whilst it will be necessary to reduce the investment due to the present circumstances, the intention for 2023 is to return the presence and then lift the programs in those areas. New people representing OKF have been well received and embraced by the community and included. 

OKF’s presence is stong in the tabular data communities and Open Government spaces, and exploration in the development / social justice space is taking place. 

RA suggested connecting the board to OKK Partnerships, Network and Communications liaisons to assist with connections, introductions and proposal support. 

Finance Update [CW]

CW provided a high level overview of Q1 financials. OKF is prudently spending as normal, and the forecast is inline with expectations. The YE2022 accounts are complete, however in order to sign off, the Forecast needs to be updated to ensure going concern is viable for 12 months. 

The VAT apportionment process is no longer fit for purpose, CW is working with the accountants to review and update the process.

Risk Register [CW]

Circulated with the Board pack but not discussed.