From the co-founders of WeRobotics.
On June 3, 2020 we published this post on “The Power of Local and Anti-Racism” in which we committed to “running a full ‘diagnostics test’ on WeRobotics, an introspective, to identify the key changes that we must make within the organization (and within ourselves) to be the change we want to see in the world. Stay tuned.” We’ve spent the past five weeks diagnosing and learning from the many discussions on anti-racism in aid and reading the many contributions on this fundamental issue. This webinar on “How to Be Anti-Racist in Aid” resonated particularly strongly with us. We addressed these issues directly during our Board of Directors meeting at the end of June, and proposed to make key organizational changes earlier rather than later. We’re grateful to our Board for giving us the green light.
As we wrote on our Team Slack on June 19, 2020, the fact that all of us at WeRobotics are deeply committed to radical inclusion and systemic change doesn’t mean that we’re perfect at living up to these commitments, unfortunately. We are part of the existing racist system that pervades the social good space. There is no escaping this. We are not immune. This is why it is essential that we be open about the implicit biases that we can and do bring to WeRobotics. It is only when we are open to exploring these biases and systemic challenges, that we can break these entrenched patterns.
Not being racist is clearly not good enough. WeRobotics must be anti-racist and contribute to systems change. This explains why we fully commit to making the key organizational changes described below by January 2021. While some of these action-items were already on our roadmap for 2021-2022, we are moving them to the top of our roadmap for 2020.
Diversity: We will fully revamp our Board of Directors and our Advisory Board to reflect the diversity we celebrate within the Flying Labs network. We fell short on this, and there are no excuses. We simply cannot promote diversity and inclusion if we ourselves are not diverse and inclusive within our Boards. The WeRobotics core team also needs to be more diverse. We will thus implement a diversity strategy to reach this goal.
Flying Labs: We founded WeRobotics with the expressed goal of co-creating an independent organization (FlyingLabs.org) directly with local experts to shift the power to local experts across the world. We began this systems change journey by co-creating country-level Flying Labs. Today, Flying Labs are operational in 25+ countries. The next step is to co-create FlyingLabs.org as its own independent legal entity, deeply rooted in the Global South, led by experts from the Global South and headquartered in the Global South. We are moving forward on this right now and will be co-creating a Flying Labs Governance Council composed of Flying Labs who will drive the process forward.
Shift-the-Power Handbook: Our long term goal at WeRobotics is to enable foreign-first organizations to become local-first organizations by enabling these organizations to adopt the “Flying Labs Model” at scale across different sectors and different emerging technologies. The purpose of the Shift-the-Power Handbook is to consolidate all our learnings over the past 5+ years so that others can use this blueprint to inform their own local-first efforts. We will also guide organizations through this process. As a first step, we will invite diverse experts including Flying Labs to peer-review the first version of this handbook, which will become a publicly available, live document. We will continue to update the handbook with new insights and learnings.
Communications: We will develop a new communications strategy that focuses more explicitly on our core mission: shifting the power. Effective storytelling is key to systems change. You can expect to see a number of very different blog posts in the coming months, for example. This will be one of several key changes you will see between now and January 2021. And here’s one we’ve just implemented as part of our commitment to living up to the ideals of an open organization: Q&A’s on WeRobotics and Flying Labs.
We’re really, really energized to move forward on these four organizational strategies over the next 6 months. We are fully committed to dedicating the time and effort required for these organizational changes. We’ll be sure to provide regular updates on how we’re progressing on each of these priorities.
We’ve launched this site to document how we shift power back to local experts. We’ll use it to share the model we’re co-creating and co-implementing with Flying Labs in ~30 countries. We’ll also report on our progress, learnings, and mistakes.