Understandably, my “me too” story horrified many in our field. What I didn’t expect is that so many would identify with my story and seek me out to share theirs. I listened to dozens of individuals in open gov and civic tech whose stories shocked and saddened me. In their stories, patterns and character types emerged.
Victims (and their allies) left workplaces and our industry after bullying and harassment. We have experienced a brain drain of our own making. Through their stories of exclusion, I realized that well before creeping authoritarianism could come for us (civil society/open governance/supporters of democracy/civic technologists) we decimated ourselves first.
Here, I outline the key components of our industry’s horror story. This isn’t to scare or outrage you; each of us have a responsibility to change our role and actions in our dysfunctional workplaces. Find yourself in this story? I’ve included custom recomendations for you to implement.
Your “Pandora’s Boxes” Found Me
After the Huffington Post story, I spent weeks in DC, San Francisco, and New York talking with leaders in our fields. In all organizations except philanthropy, conversations started with talking about solutions, but quickly segued to them sharing, like I was a priest in a confessional, what they experienced or saw at prominent organizations. People walked straight up to me at conferences and shared traumatic, chilling stories. I lost count of how many people shared that they left our field, left our country, left their careers to get away from harassment, assault, and bullying in our workplaces. These were “Pandora’s boxes” that would let fly a jarring mix of experiences. Experiences that soon illustrated patterns of behavior and failed leadership across our sector. From think tanks to civic tech startups, to foundations and nonprofits in our field, these problems seem systemic. While some workplaces or teams escaped these patterns, they may be the lucky few.