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☀️🗺️FOSS4G 2023: Balkan experiences, reflections & advocating for women in the geospatial world 🚀

Hello tech enthusiasts,

It has been nearly a month since I attended FOSS4G in Kosovo! But as I live to the value better late than never, thought it is not too late to share some of my reflections.

This is my second time attending FOSS4G! Being new to the geospatial field my first attendance last year was quite overwhelming- see my blog! This time I knew what to expect, I knew more people and was able to enjoy the sessions, conversations and connections a lot more!

So… here are some of my highlights! Hard to capture all of them and especially all the people that have made this experience so incredible! Thanks to EVERYONE I have interacted during the conference who have made this experience so great! Let's start with a smiley photo with my HOTOSM colleagues Nirab, Synne, Kshitij, Yogesh and Can :)

From left to right: Nirab, Synne, Kshitij, Yogesh, myself and Can

Workshops and sessions: HOTOSM and FOSS4G

This year, together with my colleagues from HOT (you can see in the photo above) we organised a side event to talk about what we are working on and how people can get involved! I was so happy to see some familiar faces attending the workshop, but even more excited to connect with participants who were new to our work and were interested in learning! Feeling the enthusiast, passion and eagerness to collaborate and contribute is my key takeaway from that sessions.

We did two breakout sessions focussing on testing the Field Mapping Tasking Manager (FMTM)- see photo below- and walking through the importance of local models in our AI assisted mapping project (fAIr). Thanks to everyone who joined, shared their feedback and even raised already Github issues/PRs with their input! If you missed the side event, want to learn more and contribute, here is our Github repo:

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Hearing my colleague Can Unen's talk - Community Activation for the Kahramanmaraş Earthquake Response via OpenStreetMap and also the keynote by Said Turksever Türkiye and Syria Earthquakes Mapping Response, really brings to life why we are all here- importance of OpenStreetMap and open geospatial technology - at least to me! Technology as the enabler in response to disasters.

There were many other sessions/interactions that I really enjoyed and won't be able to capture here. I loved being able to chat more to our top-up travel grantees (Kaue, Feye and Shakti) and meeting in person one of our long standing volunteers- Sam Woodcock (his work and efforts in development of FMTM have been instrumental). Another highlight was a participant coming to me and Synne after our general talk, telling us that the sessions we led were the best/ highlights from his attendance at the conference. That really meant a lot. So remember folks - a small thank you or sharing feedback with your colleagues and friends can mean a lot (you might not even realise it!).

The Balkan Experience: Kosovo

Being from the Balkans myself (proud Bulgarian living in the UK) I was very excited that the conference will take place in Kosovo- a country I have never visited before and always wanted to. The hospitality and how welcoming everyone was really made me feel like home. The conference was so well organised - from the venue with lots of outdoor space, to the wonderful communication with attendees, the amazing socials and the fabulous social media updates- ensuring people who can't join can still feel part of the experience! Thanks again to all the wonderful people in the local organising committee and all the volunteers!

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I fell in love with Prizren - the food, the weather, the views from the fortress, the evening catch up with people and the Balkan music. One of my highlights was indeed listening to Gypsy Groove- how amazing were they? I feel touched that so many people from around the world were able to experience the Balkan rhythms that I feel very connected to!

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Women in Tech

In this blog I also wanted to make sure I highlight the women that have made this conference (at least for me!) so inspiring! Really reflecting on making this a must in every blog or story I share.

  • Miriam Gonzalez: feel like she doesn’t need an introduction: what an inspiring leader with a very humble and down to earth approach! We all enjoyed her keynote- take a look at her reflections on Twitter.

  • Synne Olsen- my close colleague and friend- who is a true inspiration every single day I interact with her! The passion, curiosity and determination together with her human centred approach to any challenge/problem is to be admired!

Synne presenting at FOSS4G 2023

  • Feye Andal- a long standing members of the OpenStreetMap community! Her blog says it all- a leader who is breaking barriers for women in the tech world.

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Thank you to all the inspiring women! I was going to say I feel grateful for being able to connect with all of you, but then also remember this TED talk, which talked about ....." understand and remember that being grateful and being treated fairly are not mutually exclusive. I can be grateful but still know exactly what I deserve. And that's the way to do it." So I will use a different word. I feel really inspired by you and appreciate all that YOU do for this community and all the hard work that you put into it! Keep being amazing in what you do and continue thriving and supporting each other!

Keep in touch my friends!! Until next time- maybe see you in Brazil next year?

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