Cultivating a more diverse, transparent, and empowered culture at Access

Access people

Access’ Deji Olukotun, Raman Jit Singh Chima, and Amie Stepanovich

As an international organization that extends and defends the rights of users at risk, Access is deeply committed to promoting human rights for all people. This means that we are also committed to diversity and empowerment within our own organization.

This year we created a Diversity Working Group with the aim of proactively cultivating our policies, programs, and culture toward one that is considerate and reflective of a diverse staff and community. We believe that a first step is to be transparent about our conversation. We frequently demand that telcos, tech companies, and governments provide transparency, so we feel we should do the same — just as we already do with our sources of funding. Too often, nonprofits share diversity information only with funders, or bury that information in tax reporting. We hope to take a more proactive approach.

Access is also uniquely placed to address and encourage diversity. We have nearly 50 staff in six offices around the world who speak a variety of languages and come from vastly different backgrounds. We are unique in that our offices are encouraged to seek out and make decisions in a decentralized manner whenever possible.

The Diversity Working Group will be asking questions about gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, socio-economic background, and national origin. What will we need to do to attract diverse talent to work for us? How can we develop decision-making processes that incorporate local concerns and knowledge? What processes do we need to put in place so that diversity is reflected and embraced at every level of the organization?

Internet users represent the enormous diversity of the internet itself. We aim to support this broad range of voices in our programming by increasingly tailoring our work and activism to support numerous perspectives. While our review involves self-reflection within Access, it includes every aspect of our work, whether by strengthening our Digital Security Helpline, by honing our emerging Access Grants program, or by ensuring that our grassroots advocacy campaigns further our commitment.

We hope our discussions on diversity will reflect not just who Access is now, but also chart an inclusive path for the organization. So over the next few weeks we’ll be examining how we want to track diversity in our workforce by surveying our staff. Our short-term goal is to produce a simple transparency report this fall that can help us take stock of where we stand, and allow us to set goals to improve diversity in our hiring and our work one, three, five, and even 10 years from now.

We’ll keep you posted as we kick off this vital, and pressing, exploration.