Sponsorship policy

The Ada Initiative ceased major operations in October 2015 and is no longer accepting sponsorship proposals. This archival page remains public for free reuse by other organizations under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike license.

The Ada Initiative will only accept sponsorship or partnership arrangements that further our mission of increasing the status and participation of women in open technology and culture. This policy describes how we decide to begin or end these arrangements.

Beginning sponsorships or partnerships

We do some basic research on organizations and people who want to sponsor or partner with us before we accept. We search for public information such as news stories, ask current or former employees about their experiences, and draw on the personal networks of our staff and advisors. Here are some of the questions we ask when deciding whether a sponsorship or partnership will advance our mission of supporting women in open tech/culture:

  • What are the publicly expressed opinions and actions of senior leadership in this organization?
  • At a systemic level, does this organization or person improve the environment for women in open tech/culture or make it worse?
  • Do its business activities directly harm women or open tech/culture?
  • Does it encourage reporting of incidents of harassment or discrimination by or within its organization?
  • When it learns of such incidents, how does it respond?

We look for organizations and people that proactively work to prevent problems in the first place, accept responsibility for problems, apologize sincerely for the harm done, make amends where possible, review the circumstances that allowed the problem to happen, and institute changes to reduce the likelihood of future similar problems.

While past behavior is a strong indicator of future behavior, we don’t make sponsorship decisions based solely on whether or not an organization or person has done something wrong in the past. As organizations grow, the likelihood of someone in the organization doing something that harms women in open tech/culture grows. Organizations exist in the context of today’s society and its injustices and inequalities, and all of us are complicit at some level in those injustices and inequalities. We are interested in the direction of change in the organization, both internally and in its effect on the outside world.

Ending sponsorships or partnerships

Sometimes we will come to the conclusion that an existing sponsorship or partnership no longer supports women in open tech/culture. This is not a decision we make lightly, and usually involves a large number of factors and inputs, not all of which are public. Most, if not all, decisions involve weeks or months of discussion with dozens of people, trying to find more information that would help us make the right decision to support women in open tech/culture.

If we believe that it would be an effective use of our time to talk directly with the sponsor or partner about why we are ending a partnership, we may do so – e.g., if we have a long history of working closely together with a specific person at the organization, or if an organization has a history of asking for feedback and correcting mistakes, or if they come to us with what appears to be a sincere request for help. Part of what we do at the Ada Initiative is advise people and organizations on how to support women in open tech/culture. However, the Ada Initiative is a very small organization with extremely limited time and funding, so we choose carefully how we spend our time. We don’t choose to invest our time in organizations or people who have a history of harassment by top management, who have a history of harassment without visible consequences for the harasser, who have repeatedly ignored advice from outside experts, or who appear insincere in their desire to support women in open tech/culture.

Resuming partnerships

If we have discontinued a relationship with a person or organization, we will consider resuming it only after significant, repeated actions over a long period of time, a major change in leadership, or other significant, costly changes that indicate a change in the future behavior of the person or organization. Some examples of actions that might change our partnership decision include: sincere and detailed apologies, making legal agreements to the benefit of injured parties, instituting new policies with credible enforcement systems, requiring new, tough, specific training for employees, making significant private charitable donations to related organizations, resignation or other consequences for responsible parties, signing non-disparagement agreements to the benefit of victims, monetary restitution of damages, hiring independent outside consultants and implementing their recommended changes, and dissolving harmful partnerships. In general, we prefer to see organizations and people supporting or following the lead of existing advocates and communities and the programs they create, rather than creating their own in-house programs or promoting their own employees’ voices.

Reporting problems

If you believe that we are not living up to the standards and commitments we make in this policy, or would like to discuss concerns about one of our sponsors or partners with us, please email us at contact@adainitiative.org.