How are Local Chapters formed?

Once the community of OpenStreetMap contributors in an area is mature enough to warrant the creation of a national (or regional) organisation, they can set up a formal group and apply to be recognized as a local chapter of the OpenStreetMap Foundation. The sequence is key though – creating a formal group is never the first step for OSM activities in a country. Instead, a formal group should only be set up once there is a certain amount of OSM activities, from a diverse group of people in the country, who can then together found the organisation.

Local chapters must be nonprofit organisations dedicated to supporting the aims of the OpenStreetMap Foundation and the OpenStreetMap project.

Generally, a group that applies for local chapter status in a country is expected to represent the OSM community in the whole country, and membership must be available to everyone in the country. For example, a local hackerspace in the capital or a group of students from a university might not be the best-suited groups to form a local chapter because they tend to lack the inclusivity and reach we are looking for. We're also expecting local chapters to have democratic structures so that the OSM community members who join the group can decide in the local chapter's affairs. While it is possible for a local chapter to be part of an existing entity rather than a separate organisation, such a local chapter would have to demonstrate how the OSM community members can make decisions without being unduly controlled by the parent organisation.

An organisation that applies for local chapter status should be sustainable financially, and should have a track record of OSM-related activities, either as an organisation or at least through their founding members. When evaluating a local chapter application, the OSM Foundation will not look at what the chapter is planning to do, but at what they have done already!

The Local Chapter application process is described here.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation is happy to talk to groups who do not yet meet the requirements set out above for a local chapter, and work with them to become a local chapter in the future.