This blog post is an update for the OSHWA community about the 2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen, October as Open Hardware Month, and how OSHWA will think about Summits going forward.
The tl;dr version of this post is:
- OSHWA will not be holding the Open Hardware Summit in 2019
- OSHWA will be encouraging locally-organized events and gatherings across the globe as part of Open Hardware Month this October (email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if would like to host one!)
- OSHWA will shift the Summit to the spring starting in 2020. The Summit will also be held in the same city for at least 3 years starting in 2020.
There is a lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it.
2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen
At the end of the 2018 Summit OSHWA announced that it would be holding the 2019 Open Hardware Summit in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen has a vibrant local community of open source hardware enthusiasts. Many members of the OSHW community were also very excited for the opportunity to travel to a location that is so central to manufacturing innovation.
Unfortunately, in 2017 China implemented a law governing the activities of non-Chinese NGOs operating in China. This law created a number of bureaucratic hurdles for organizations like OSHWA that were interested in holding events in China.
Among other things, the law requires OSHWA to find a local Chinese Partner Unit (CPU) willing to act as our sponsor for the Summit. CPUs can only be certain types of organizations, such as universities or registered Chinese NGOs. Companies cannot serve as CPUs. The CPU must also be willing to undertake a significant number of bureaucratic steps to officially register the event and coordinate with local authorities. In addition to the process required of the CPU, OSHWA itself would have to undertake a significant and burdensome number of steps to collect, verify, and provide paperwork to Chinese authorities (see this article “Reams of Paperwork: Preparing Documents to Get Official Status in China” and the checklist we prepared here for a sense of what is involved).
OSHWA has spent the last few months trying to identify a suitable CPU. We have been unsuccessful, and do not have confidence that we will be successful in the future. Furthermore, even if we were able to find a suitable CPU, OSHWA cannot justify the time and resources required to comply with the various filing requirements associated with the law.
As a result, OSHWA decided that it was better to cancel the 2019 Summit now, before speakers and attendees had made commitments and travel arrangements.
That being said, OSHWA is still committed to supporting the OSHW community. That is why we are pairing this announcement with two additional announcements.
October as Open Hardware Month
OSHWA has traditionally supported October as Open Hardware Month. Open Hardware Month is an opportunity for the community to hold local events, hackathons, and documentation days as part of an international movement.
OSHWA wants to take this opportunity to expand Open Hardware Month events. We will work to provide resources for the community to create to local events, aggregate information to make it easy to find events in your area (or know that you need to organize one), and collect stories, video, and images of the events as they occur. These events will not be OSHWA run or carry the formal OSHWA name. We believe that Open Hardware Month will provide us an opportunity to shine a light on open source hardware events happening around the world. It will also provide an opportunity for local communities to raise their hand and be recognized by the global OSHWA community. Please email email@example.com to learn more and volunteer to be involved.
Spring Summit 2020
Cancelling the Shenzhen Summit and focusing on Open Hardware Month will also allow us to shift the Summit to the spring. Over the years a number of Summit participants have told us that the spring is generally less crowded with events and obligations, so this shift should make it easier for more community members to attend.
Starting with the 2020 Summit OSHWA also intends to commit to a single US host city for at least three years.
For the past year the OSHWA board has been debating two alternative paths for the Summit. The first path would continue the pattern of moving the Summit every year. The benefits of this path is that it allows the Summit to come to the many different communities that support OSHW. The costs of this path are that it makes the Summit more expensive to operate because OSHWA needs to spend time and resources learning a new city every year. Switching cities also makes it hard to capitalize on the enthusiasm of local attendees in order to convert them into full community members.
Conversely, the alternative path is to commit to a single city for multiple years of the Summit. The benefits of this path is that it allows OSHWA to run the Summit significantly more efficiently and makes it easier for community members to plan. Holding the Summit in a single city allows OSHWA to grow the number of attendees by turning opportunistic local attendees into more permanent members of the community. The cost of this path is that it prevents us from moving the Summit to all of the communities that support OSHW.
After significant discussion, OSHWA has decided to adopt the single city approach. This decision was easier because we paired it with the expanded Open Hardware Month. We believe that Open Hardware Month will help fill at least part of the gap created by a stationary Summit.
While none of these decisions are being made lightly, OSHWA believes that combined they allow us to create a rhythm that is more supportive of the vibrant OSHW community. Open Hardware Month in the fall will shine a spotlight on all of the local OSHW communities around the world. The Summit in the spring will provide those communities a single place to come together and meet in person.
As always, OSHWA exists because of its community and we want to hear from you. Please let us know what you think in the comments below or in the forums.