Blog Post

DEI Audit 2021

By January 28, 2022February 1st, 2022No Comments

In early spring of 2021, the CHAOSS project embarked on a 9-month journey to reflect on its own practices and policies surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion within the project. We were fortunate enough to receive a grant from the Ford Foundation to complete this work with the idea that we could not only improve DEI in our own project but also help other open source projects who are wanting to do the same. Centering DEI in an open source project creates a healthier and more productive environment for current members, it helps lower the barrier to contribution for others, and it fosters a more diverse and stronger community. This audit was a fantastic experience and in 2022 we will be continuing to implement ideas that stemmed from this work.

Our DEI Audit Team

In order to increase our chances for a successful outcome, we realized we needed two things: a deep commitment from project leadership, and an amazing and diverse team of knowledgeable people external to the project to help guide us through the process. A commitment to DEI is baked in everything we do at CHAOSS, so that part was easy. And after some external outreach, we built the following team:

  • Kristi Progri. Kristi is the Project Manager of the GNOME Foundation and co-founder of the Open Source Diversity initiative. Currently involved with the CHAOSS DEI audit team.
  • Selene Yang. Selene is a PhD candidate in Social Communications, co-founder and coordinator of GeochicasOSM. Currently working as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion specialist at the Wikimedia Foundation.
  • Georgia Bullen. Georgia is the Executive Director at Simply Secure, leveraging design as a transformative practice to change who technology serves. Georgia also co-hosts the Sustain Open Source Design Podcast, and is currently involved with the CHAOSS DEI audit team.
  • Ruth Ikegah. Ruth is a Technical Content Manager, GitHub Star and Open Source Advocate. Ruth is an active member of the DEI working group in CHAOSS and also a Badging Initiative Maintainer.
  • Justin W. Flory. Justin works at the UNICEF Office of Innovation as their Open Source Technical Advisor. Since 2017, he has both consumed and contributed to CHAOSS metrics working groups and attended multiple CHAOSScon EU events, with a focus on the DEI working group. He currently serves as the internal community liaison for the CHAOSS DEI audit team.
  • Matt Germonprez. Matt is a co-founder of CHAOSS, a CHAOSS Board member, and very active in multiple CHAOSS working groups. Matt is also a professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
  • Sean Goggins. Sean is a co-founder of CHAOSS, Co-Chair of the CHAOSS Board, and leads the CHAOSS Risk and Evolution working groups. Sean is also a professor at the University of Missouri, and a maintainer for the CHAOSS/Augur software.
  • Elizabeth Barron. Elizabeth is the CHAOSS Community Manager, and has been with the CHAOSS project since 2020.
  • Kafayah Lawal. Kafayah is a Graduate student of Management Information Systems and a member of the DEI working group in CHAOSS and also a Badging Initiative Reviewer.

How We Worked

The CHAOSS DEI Audit Team met on a weekly basis at the beginning of the project, and the first few months consisted of:

  • Getting to know one another
  • Introducing CHAOSS to our external partners
  • Finding gaps or holes in our documentation
  • Setting a game plan and project goals for the remainder of the project
  • Identifying initial areas for improvement
  • Building a survey to gauge the general sentiment of the CHAOSS Community

We are all in different time zones, so landing on a time that works for everyone was a little tricky, but we agreed that syncing via Zoom on a regular basis is really the best way to complete this work and to build rapport among the team, so we all made it a priority. For async connections throughout the week, we used Signal. We also logged our progress and kept collaborative meeting minutes in a single Google Doc for our own reference and to keep us moving forward.

We found that the combination of these platforms worked well for our team.

Eventually, we switched to a bi-weekly cadence once the bulk of the work was done, and Matt, Sean, and I began to implement some of the suggestions that were mentioned in our weekly calls, with the guidance of the DEI Audit Team.

What We Focused On

The team concentrated its efforts on the following areas. We took a close look at the initiatives and policies CHAOSS put in place, and it was incredibly helpful to have the experiences of our team members that are in other communities that we could pull from.

  • Community inclusion work (How does the community feel about being in CHAOSS? How are we helping members feel like they belong here?)
  • On-boarding new community members (Can new members find the answers to their questions? Do they know what to do once they get here? Do they feel included?)
  • Building cross-community conversations (Do people working on different aspects of the community communicate with each other? Are there DEI conversations happening in every area of the project?)
  • Globalizing the community (How equipped are we to include members from a variety of languages, cultures, and time zones? What are we doing to make sure they can participate?)
  • Launching a metrics strategy (How can we use metrics to help guide us in our efforts? What else aren’t we measuring?)

CHAOSS had made some strides in these areas but we knew there was a lot more ground to cover. This work, as we know, is never complete.

Recommendations

Because the audit process was fluid and organic, many of the recommendations and ideas that were surfaced along the way were things we could immediately begin implementing. Also, implementing changes in small bits made it way less overwhelming for the ones responsible for implementing them and the CHAOSS Community experiencing these changes.

  • Community inclusion work
    • Survey the community about how they’re feeling about CHAOSS (in progress)
    • Include Inclusive Naming checks in all aspects of CHAOSS work, not just code (implemented - included this check on our metrics template for all existing and new metrics)
    • Perform a website audit for accessibility (in progress)
  • On-boarding new community members
    • Host open time for newcomers to ask questions in a safe 1:1 environment (implemented - open “office hours” occur weekly for newcomers via Zoom)
    • Give newcomers a way to connect with the community and each other. (implemented - started a #newcomers Slack channel)
    • Host a series of “Getting Started” workshops for new code contributors (implemented and in progress - hosted these for our Augur software as mini-hackathons, will continue this in 2022)
    • Make sure there is a clear and concise Community Handbook (implemented, but also in progress, as it’s continual)
  • Building cross-community conversations
    • Start discussions about the DEI Audit with the entire CHAOSS community very early on (implemented - we mentioned this quite a bit and in all working groups from the beginning, so it wasn’t a shock to anyone)
    • Bring DEI to top of mind in other work, not just the DEI-focused groups (implemented - added a DEI component to every metric we develop in all working groups, not just the DEI working group. It’s in our metrics template checklist.)
  • Globalizing the community
    • Increase resources for international communities, in this case, non-US communities. (implemented, and in progress: Chinese language Slack channel and information specifically for our Chinese participants on our Participate page, for example)
    • Create localizations, or translations, of key project and community information (implemented, and in progress: Regularly translate our metrics into Chinese and are investigating translating the entire CHAOSS website, started a Chinese-only podcast, sponsor local meetups)
    • Empower and support key community champions in non-English communities (implemented, and in progress: Chinese CHAOSS community uses social media and chat apps that work best in their country)
    • Scheduling meetings with greater sensitivity for time zones (implemented - new Metrics Model working group and APAC community meeting is APAC friendly, other meetings and podcasts are Europe/NA friendly)
  • Launching a metrics strategy
    • Use CHAOSS metrics to monitor community health (in-progress: we are working on a few metrics models to help ourselves and others more easily deploy relevant DEI metrics)

Other general recommendations that surfaced from the audit include:

  • Connect often with the leadership team (e.g., “fireside chats”).
  • Build understanding of cultural differences and working in a multicultural, distributed community.
  • Use the CHAOSS DEI Badging for Events as a good checklist for creating inclusion at events.
  • Create a DEI Council that can be helpful for resolving issues or periodically reviewing DEI practices for a project.

What’s Coming in 2022

We are extremely grateful that funding for this work was extended into 2022-2023, and that we can continue to move forward and share what we’re learning with the greater open source community. (We also selfishly love our DEI Audit Team, and are excited to keep this work going with them!)

Looking ahead, we will be focusing on a few key areas:

  • Creating a Guidebook for other communities to learn from our journey. This is in progress.
  • Surveying our community. In Q1 of 2022, we plan to distribute the inclusion survey that was collaboratively developed by the team. Afterward, we will analyze the results and the team will make further recommendations for improvement.
  • Being more deliberate in our newcomer onboarding. We have a lot of the pieces in place, but we lack a holistic and clear path for becoming a contributor.
  • Implementing our own metrics. Our Metrics Models working group is currently working on bringing together groups of metrics that should help us more easily use our own metrics for our own community.
  • Continuing implementing the other recommendations that are currently in progress.

On a personal note, this has been a wonderful experience and I am so grateful to have been a part of this process. I’m proud to be a part of the CHAOSS community, and it is incredibly meaningful to me to be able to foster a warm and welcoming place. I can’t recommend an audit like this enough! The recommendations that emerge from a process like this will be impactful and long-lasting, and your community will continue to be happier, healthier, stronger, and more productive.