First, let me say that working with the OpenNews dream team was…well…a dream. From the outside, everyone who has been to an OpenNews event or interacted with them in any way have said that they are the most thoughtful and caring people. Working alongside them for six months, I can say that what we see from the outside is a pure reflection of how they are when nobody is watching.
The care, thoughtfulness, and heart they put into everything is something I don’t think I’ve ever seen outside of passion projects. Other national organizations talk about being community-diven, talk about how they do their work for the community, but few actually listen in a meaningful way. Fewer still work with their community every day. OpenNews does that. While other organizations say they care about their members and constituents, OpenNews puts real tangible resources into people and you can see it in how they run their programs—from childcare for conferences, to how they think about meals at SRCCON and convenings, to conferences scholarships, to how they actually check in with people. So even as OpenNews works on huge systemic problems and can talk theory and philosophy, it is in many ways also backed by one core question: “No really, how can I help you right now?”
For many of us this seems blindingly obvious, but having been around DC’s policy and advocacy circles for 10 years, there is an underlying paternalistic disdain in how many mainstream policy, activism, and journalism organizations treat the people we’re supposed to serve. So much of how our organizations talk is about making people eat their spinach—as if our members and constituents are picky children rather than fully rational people who don’t see how our work fits into their increasingly complex and precarious lives.
But when praxis is based in helping real persons and rather than idealized abstractions, you create space for real inclusion. Space where words are trusted because they carry the weight of action. When you do that, you create a community where people are willing to give real effort because when they contribute substantively, it matters. In my time at OpenNews, I saw our mailing lists break almost every rule of nonprofit communications. Every week, people went out of their way to give so much of themselves to each other through OpenNews’ projects. And that because at their core, they nurture spaces for people to raise one another up, because they build with, not for, the community. If you want to see a model of what a tech community centered around intersectionality, inclusivity, and plain old care looks like in practice, look at how the folks at OpenNews work.
Erika, Ryan, Erin, Lindsay, Erik, and Dan: I am so proud to have walked the path with you—even if just for a little while.
Next up: 18F
In my 10 years since graduating college, I started from interning on local political campaigns and for Congress to science advocacy. Projects I’ve worked on span from science policy, redistricting law, global biosecurity, to environmental justice and journalism. As I look at what I’ve worked on three threads run through all of my work:
- Tech has always been the core medium I work from.
- I’ve had to sacrifice a lot to do this, but every project I’ve worked on has in some way been for the social good.
- My proudest work centers around empowering people to participate in the governance of their communities.
In other words, I’ve worked on almost every aspect of civic life except in government as a civil servant. I’m so excited to join the amazing folks at 18F and bring my experience, knowledge, and research to better connect government to the people.
So…what does this mean for…
I kinda lost count of how many talks I gave in 2017. It was amazing, but boy howdy was it also damn tiring—so I’m cutting back. However, I would like to mentor and coach upcoming POC, queer, and trans content strategists to take my place on the conference circuit. Do you know someone who fits the bill? Is that you? Let’s talk.
…Making Space for Notes?
MSfN took an unplanned—but very necessary—break at at the end of 2017. But is returning in January, I’ll be sending an update soon.. TL;DR: I now have resources I didn’t have in 2017, and there are plans.
So many thank yous.
2017 was a shit year. And I honestly would not be here without the support of so many people—including folks who contributed to my Patreon. This community supporting me in a million very real ways. The people I’ve met and love I find in this community is what sustained me this year. Words cannot describe how thankful I am. I hope to do you all proud.
Let’s do this.