Increasing Diversity in Open Source for a Better Internet

Women make up 3% of the the Open Source (OS) ecosystem. When we look at the percentage of people of color or from disadvantaged economic groups, this number is just as low. Since OS is the backbone of the Internet, this lack of diversity dramatically influences all aspects of Internet culture, ranging from what type of applications are developed, to industry priorities. Notably,it has a direct affect on the quality of innovation, and the degree to which it reflects civil society. We propose initiating a diversity program that maps the various entry and participation obstacles that exist in various OS projects, and empower current OS volunteers from underrepresented communities to tackle these obstacles in a collaborative, concrete way.

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The mission of the OS Diversity Program would be to build community-driven sustainable structures and processes that increase diversity in Open Source.

The program’s primary goal would be to research and map the various
obstacles and challenges underrepresented groups face in regards to entry and continued participation. This includes documenting case studies of both successes and failures. Not only can this provide us with an understanding of how challenges differ from project to project, they can also help us analyze how diversity plays out in various OS community environments.

During the research process we will identify OS leaders from underrepresented  communities who can serve on an advisory board focused on crafting effective, collaborative approaches and solutions based on their collective experiences that, at the same time, can be tapped for guidance and knowledge by various OS projects. We will identify ways to empower these individuals to serve as human bridges and recruiters for their specific sub groups. Most importantly, we will amplify these individuals’ voices by providing them with a platform to share their concerns, experiences, and recommendations.

The second goal of the program will be to disseminate collected knowledge, and help projects adapt best practices that lead to more open, diversity friendly working environments for volunteers. We anticipate this will take many forms from the creation of a virtual resource center, to cross-cultural trainings and consultation. Most importantly, we will use this phase to trigger and guide conversations among the wider OS community so that more efforts and attention are shifted to identified problems.

Lastly, outreach strategies will be designed and executed to bring in groups not strongly  represented in OS. This may include helping members from the advisory board secure speaking engagements in their local communities, executing an outreach campaign, and/or using social media to identify and cultivate potential volunteers. Much of this work, however, will be influenced by what the research reveals.

To initiate the program, the focus will be on helping the community behind OS anti-surveillance and anti-censorship technology, paying particular attention to groups already funded by the Knight Foundation. Possible facets of the program include:

For Projects:
  • Research and map the various entry and participation challenges as reported by current members of underrepresented communities.
  • Identify and empower current OS volunteers who could serve as human bridges and ambassadors, and work with them to create programs and solutions.
  • Organize cross-cultural communication workshops at project-specific events or provide cross-cultural communication trainings to OS boards.
  • Compile a list of diversity “best practices” and case studies of successes and failures.
  • Launch a central resource repository of tools, organizations and programs.

For Underrepresented Communities:
  • Develop and execute outreach strategies to bring in more diverse groups to the OS community.
  • With the help of existing community members, help improve the onboarding process for various tools. Additionally, ensure mentorship channels are established properly. 
  • Provide current OS volunteers from underrepresented communities with a platform to share their grievances and recommendations.

In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.

Increase diversity in Open Source projects to help create a more balanced and innovative Internet ecosystem that better serves a wider range of communities.

Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?

Users of OS tools since diversity improves innovation and creativity. Underrepresented communities who will have a stronger role in helping shape the future of OS tools. Women and other minority groups who will have a better opportunity to develop cutting-edge technical knowledge via participation in an OS project.

What progress have you made so far?

I I have been working on diversity in Open Source for a decade. As one of the few US Latinas in the OS community, I have managed a variety of diversity initiatives. Most recently, I launched Techno-Activism 3rd Mondays, which happens simultaneously in 21 cities and brings in non-technical people into the OS circumvention tech community.

What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?

Having OS projects implement changes to make the environment more conducive to diversity. Seeing more people of color volunteer in OS projects and feel comfortable! Increase the number of women from 3% to 5%.

Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?

The team working on this strongly believes in alliance building and empowering the community via a collaborative approach. Thus, while the following people will shepherd the program, we will tapping our extensive network to embrace and lead the various initiatives we design. This is because If it is not community-driven, it will not be sustainable.

Sandra Ordonez has 10 years of Open Source experience both as a volunteer and paid staff, notably serving as Wikipedia’s first Director of Communications. Besides being bicultural and bilingual, she is a native New Yorker trained in cross-cultural communications. Currently, she works as Outreach Manager for OpenITP, a nonprofit that serves the community behind anti-surveillance and anti-censorship tools. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Latino Leadership Award from the Spanish Government and the Fundacion Carolina, which included a week to Spain to meet government and business leaders. That same year she was nominated for the 2012 SXSW Revolucionaria Award. She graduated from American University with a degree in International Relations and Communications. She speaks English and Spanish fluently, and has working knowledge of Portuguese and French.


Virtual. However, the main individuals will be based in San Francisco and New York.


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Sandra!!!!!!!...sabes quien soy?...Paloma de Madrid...ponte en contacto conmigo porfi! Un abrazote!!!

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