Our Village, Our Monsters: Fixing Open Gov Orgs After “Me Too”

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A clear “call to action” hasn’t gone out to our village.

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.

Clear patterns and roles emerged:

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Watch out for Hans.
The hand-wringing of Smithers.
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There’s too many Arthur Poes in our industry.
This is not the village we’re looking for.
Nobody’s coming, we’ve gotta save ourselves.

What Can You Do?

Charismatic Leaders: Realize that your employees are keeping notes on you and your complacency. So are their allies in the sector. Some are waiting for you to retire. Others are waiting for the right moment to expose you. Take responsibility now for your office dynamic and start valuing your staff more than your Prince Hans. If you have a problematic rock star, you have a responsibility to protect your team. Nobody’s connections to philanthropy, tech, or media is worth endangering and abusing your team. When our sector loses brilliant people because you failed to protect them, the entire effort of transparency, accountability, open government, and civic tech suffers. We lose what they could have created. If you can’t rise to a higher level of leadership, retire.

Write a Better Story

All of us in the open gov and civic tech sectors have a responsibility to craft a better story — better workplaces — for our industry. It’s ironic that a sector who values transparency and engagement struggles with “sun-lighting” our own challenges. We must use the skills of our sector to solve our own internal problems. By doing so, we can build a future where unhelpful character types fall away as our workplaces and industry become more effective and fair.

Decade+ in #opengov, civic tech, & open data innovation. Surfer. Accidental #FoodSafety advocate/data standard expert. Author. #MeToo

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