Category Archives: Ada Initiative news

The Ada Initiative’s legacy, one year on

One year ago, on October 15, 2015, the Ada Initiative officially shut down, ending nearly 5 years of work supporting women in open technology and culture. But the Ada Initiative’s legacy lives on! One year on, here is a status report on how thousands of people are carrying our work forward with the Ally Skills Workshop, the AdaCamp Toolkit, and codes of conduct.

We know this post is incomplete. If you know of other examples of continuing the Ada Initiative’s programs, we encourage you to post about it and @-mention the @adainitiative if you are posting on Twitter. For the next few days, we will be retweeting or replying on Twitter as we have the opportunity.

Ally Skills Workshop

The Ally Skills Workshop taught men simple, everyday ways to support women in open technology and culture. All of the materials are licensed CC BY-SA and freely usable and modifiable by all. The Ada Initiative taught about 2000 people and trained about 40 people to teach this workshop between 2012 and 2015. One year after Ada Initiative shut down, we estimate that more than 6000 people have participated in some version of the Ally Skills Workshop. Many other people are now teaching the workshop either for an organization or independently, for fees or free to the public.

Valerie Aurora, the lead author of the original Ally Skills Workshop, has expanded the workshop to cover race, sexuality, age, disability, religion, and nationality – and it is still freely usable and modifiable by anyone. She teaches the expanded Ally Skills Workshop through her diversity and inclusion in technology firm, Frame Shift Consulting. She is also experimenting with teaching it as a fully online class using new video conferencing features, which significantly reduces the cost of the workshop.

By the end of 2016, Valerie will have taught the workshop to another 300 people and trained another 30 people to teach the workshop. She has also given a talk called “Focus on Allies: Diversity and Inclusion in 2016” over 15 times at companies including Twitter, Airbnb, Keen IO, IBM, Ericssen, Trello, and Pivotal. This talk explains why we should focus more effort on changing the behavior of people with more privilege and power. She is also working on a book about ally skills, which you can learn more about by following Frame Shift on Twitter or signing up to their mailing list.

The Ally Skills Workshop is being taught in one form or another internally at at least four companies: Google, Square, Slack, and Spotify. Several people are teaching it independently in different locations with different focuses. Y-Vonne Hutchinson is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and interested in working with small to medium tech companies as part of her work with ReadySet and Project Include. Kendra Albert focuses on fighting sexism and transphobia and teaches in both Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area. Cynthia Tee teaches only in the Seattle area. Alison Stanton focuses on men supporting women and managers working in tech, and is based in Chicago but happy to travel within the U.S. Leigh Honeywell teaches at computer security events around the world.

AdaCamp Toolkit

Mary Gardiner created and organized the first AdaCamp in Melbourne in 2012 with a goal of creating an event that demonstrated best practices for an inclusive and diverse conference. We ran a total of seven AdaCamps, adding new ideas and refining existing ones from other inclusive conferences (most notably WisCon). We created the AdaCamp toolkit as a simple comprehensive guide for other conference organizers to use when creating an inclusive event. Many conferences organizers have adopted some or all of the AdaCamp features.

Some events follow the AdaCamp format fairly closely, including features like an unconference format, conference-provided meals for every attendee’s food preferences, detailed accessibility information, accessibility lanes, all-gender bathrooms, opt-in photography rules, childcare, a quiet room, a nursing room, travel scholarships for attendees from underrepresented groups, and of course, a strong code of conduct. One of these events is AndConf, an intersectional feminist code retreat and unconference in Northern California created by Lillie Chilen, Stella Cotton, and Emily Nakashima. An offshoot of AndConf is AndXP, an unconference created by Lillie Chilen and Marlena Compton to discuss Extreme Programming through an intersectional feminist lens. AlterConf is a conference series created by Ashe Dryden in 2014 to provide safe opportunities for marginalized people and those who support them in the tech and gaming industries. Unlike the AdaCamp unconferences, AlterConf has official speakers. AlterConf also pays all of its speakers and provides live captioning for all the talks.

Many pre-existing and new conferences have started offering many AdaCamp-style improvements in the last few years. As just as one of many examples, this year Strange Loop offered childcare, a quiet room, vegan lunch options, opt-in photography rules, a strong code of conduct, and travel scholarships. PyCon NA and !!Con also offer live captioning and many of the AdaCamp features.

Conference organizers looking for advice and assistance in making their conference more welcoming and inclusive can hire inclusive conference facilitators. Ashe Dryden and Frame Shift Consulting both offer inclusive conference facilitation consulting.

Codes of Conduct

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative example conference anti-harassment policy, which in 2010 was the strongest, most specific, most comprehensive conference code of conduct in existence. During the first year of its existence, only about 30 open tech/culture conferences adopted a code of conduct. Today, the list of conferences with codes of conduct is divided into nearly 30 categories and includes thousands of conferences.

Community codes of conduct are slowly being adopted as well. The Geek Feminism Wiki community has developed some rough metrics for judging community codes of conduct: Are they specific? Do they clearly distinguish between helpful communication advice and specific punishable acts? Do they have information about enforcement? Do they have clear reporting instructions and contact information?

Ashe Dryden and Frame Shift Consulting offer professional advice on designing and implementing codes of conduct, both for events and for communities.

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Announcing the shutdown of the Ada Initiative

It is with mixed feelings that we announce that the Ada Initiative will be shutting down in approximately mid-October. We are proud of what we accomplished with the support of many thousands of volunteers, sponsors, and donors, and we expect all of our programs to continue on in some form without the Ada Initiative. Thank you for your incredible work and support!

What we accomplished

80 women cheering and wearing many different colors, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

AdaCamp Portland attendees in 2014
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

When the Ada Initiative was founded in 2011, the environment for women in open technology and culture was extremely hostile. Conference anti-harassment policies were rare outside of certain areas in fandom, and viewed as extremist attempts to muzzle free speech. Pornography in slides was a regular feature at many conferences in these areas, as were physical and sexual assault. Most open tech/culture communities didn’t have an understanding of basic feminist concepts like consent, tone policing, and intersectional oppression.

Anti-harassment policy and code of conduct work

With the support of hundreds of volunteers, the Ada Initiative led the drive to make strong, specific, and enforced anti-harassment policies a standard and expected part of any moderately well-run conference. Today, thousands of conferences have these policies, including many in the area of free and open source software, fandom, Wikimedia projects, computer technology, library technology, science writing, entomology, and many other areas we never expected to influence. This work is now completely community-driven; people everywhere are developing and improving codes of conducts for online communities.

AdaCamp unconferences

We ran our first AdaCamp unconference in 2012 in Melbourne, and ran six more AdaCamps in the following years, in Washington D.C., San Francisco, Portland, Berlin, Bangalore, and Montreal. Over 500 women had an experience many of them described as “life-changing.” AdaCamp awakened their feminist identity, helped them improve their careers, and connected them with a community of support. Many women realized for the first time that what they were going through was not unique to themselves, that their negative experiences were the result of systemic sexism, and that they could make changes in their lives with the help of women they met through AdaCamp. We created the AdaCamp Toolkit so that other people could run events more like AdaCamp. Among many other things, it includes step-by-step guides on how to provide food that matches attendees’ food restrictions, create access lanes to increase accessibility, and provide childcare, all available under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

Impostor Syndrome Training

Beginning at AdaCamp San Francisco in 2013, we taught a class for women in open tech/culture communities at every AdaCamp on overcoming Impostor Syndrome. Impostor Syndrome is the feeling that you are a fraud and will be found out as unqualified, often for the work you are already performing. Many women in open tech/culture experience Impostor Syndrome, and are excited to learn how to counteract it. We will be teaching the Impostor Syndrome workshop as a standalone class in August in Oakland and Sydney. Before we shut down, we will release the materials to run the class under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.

The Ally Skills Workshop

The Ada Initiative created the Ally Skills Workshop in 2011, which teaches men how to use their societal advantages to do more of the emotional labor of pushing back against sexism and exclusionary behavior in their communities and workplaces. Research shows that when women speak up against sexism in the workplace, they often suffer retaliation, but when men speak up against sexism, they seldom suffer retaliation for it and sometimes even get rewarded. Cultural change happens more quickly when men, who are often in positions of greater power, are also actively working for change, especially in fields where women make up a small percentage of people involved. Women can then use the time and emotional energy they were spending on trying to make their community less sexist to work on their primary projects or main job duties.

In the past four years, the Ally Skills Workshop has been taught to over 2,000 people, and we formally trained over 40 people to teach the workshop. Already, at least five people are actively teaching the Ally Skills Workshops in several different open tech/culture communities and we hope more people will teach the workshop in the future. All the workshop materials, including the slides, presentation notes, workshop handouts, facilitator training guide, and video of a workshop, are available under the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.
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