Open Source Decency Charter Proposal for Dealing with Harassment at Technical Events

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If you’re reading this, you are probably a decent person. You shouldn’t read this thinking that you will be putting yourself in danger if you attend a tech event. I can tell you that I normally feel pretty safe at these events and you can read my story here and I’ve talked about it publicly since I want to do something good with it. Note that I don’t represent any other organization or body or person with this blog. It’s another heartdump.

Most people are pretty decent but what do you do about the ones that are not? How do victims know what to do? How do you know how to help one of your friends?

The vast majority of people want to help and are decent, and that’s why I’d like to propose the creation of an open source Decency Charter to help at technical community events which need support for handling harassment at events.

A Decency Charter would outline reasonable and decent expectations for participants within the a technical community event, both online and in-person, as well as steps to reporting unacceptable behavior and concerns. It’s fairly simple at heart: be decent to one another.

I think that it would be good to have to have something very clear in place that people can use as a template, so everyone can have a voice and feel safe. That’s why I think an open source Decency Charter is a good suggestion and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

This blog post is an attempt to bring a few strands together; namely diversity, harassment in the technical community, and a proposal for a way forward.

It’s a shame that we have to encode decency into technical events.  More and more workplaces are being embroiled in sexual harassment cases. According to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 2017, over 50% of workplaces have had an issue with sexual harassment. I think it would be good if people could adopt a Decency Charter, since it sounds more positive than a Code of Conduct. The inspiration came from Reid Hoffman, who talked about a Decency Pledge in his article The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs where he talks about sexual harassment of women in the industry. I’m grateful to Reid Hoffman for his article because it does help to have male voices in these discussions. Simply put, his voice will carry further than mine, and with way more credibility.

Followers of my blog will know that I’m trying to get support for a Diversity Charter to support diversity at events. As an additional add-on, I’d like to propose a Decency Charter as well, which gives people a template that they can use and amend to monitor their event, as they see fit. I’d love your ideas and please do email me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com with your thoughts, or leave a comment on this blog.

I am going to start to list a few things here from the viewpoint of someone whose head is bloodied, but unbowed and I want to use my voice. Everyone’s experience is different but I thought that this might help in shaping a Decency Charter that sits alongside a Diversity Charter. So, what do I actually want?

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As a starter for ten:

I want to feel safe and comfortable – Make it easy. I don’t have to have to think about it too hard if something happens to me or one of my friends – I need something that is so easy that I don’t have to look far to know what to do. I need to know what to do when something happens. I want to have a ‘home’ to go to, if something happens – that can be a location, or a person to call. I want to talk to someone. I want a number to call that is very visible on my event pass or pack so I can find it easily. I don’t want to google around for a form to fill in because that introduces a delay when it goes to an organizer, plus I am worried about putting my concerns about an individual or an event down in writing in case it gets in the wrong hands. This won’t secure my safety after the event, and that worries me, too. If I make a complaint, I can’t be sure that it would be successfully resolved and all relevant data removed, or handled confidentially. Google forms are so easily digested and forwarded by email and, like feathers, it could spread. I just want to talk to someone, in my own time. So, before, during and after the event, I’d ideally like each event to have a named panel of people who will listen to my concerns and they can act upon them in a clearly documented way.

I want others to feel safe and comfortable – I expect people to be able to answer accusations made about them. I don’t want people to think that the Microsoft Data Platform community, for example, is some den where there is a lot of harassment. There isn’t, but I’d like to see a Decency Charter in place in case there is.

I want to have a voice – I don’t want my voice taken away from me. I don’t want other people to speak for me. It’s easy for people to propose things without asking victims what they want, it’s very easy to dictate an approach from a point of privilege.

I want other people to have a voice – because everyone should be allowed to speak for themselves.

I expect confidentiality. I don’t expect people to repeat private details or rumours. At best, it immediately breeds distrust and you will never earn it back. At worst, you can deeply impact someone’s life by handling issues insensitively, and this cuts both ways. An accusation can’t be a condemnation, and there also has to be a balance with protecting people at the same time. Gossip doesn’t make me trust your processes in resolving things, and it has to be well thought out from all angles.  People can see how people behave with one another, and it’s a halo effect.

I expect you not to judge.

I expect to be able to get help right now, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it. This is simply making sure that event volunteers are trained in knowing who to alert when something happens and responding thoughtfully and without judging, and, ultimately, centred on sensitivity.

I expect to be able to get help after the event, and have event organizers and volunteers who can support me if I need it.  I think that having an easily-available contact in place, well after the event, would be a good step. Event organizers usually have to clear things up well after an event, so this isn’t an onerous issue at all.

So how could this shape up?

I’d like to propose that, along with the Diversity Charter, we roll out an accompanying Decency Charter, similar to OpenCon Community Values or  the PASS Anti-Harassment policy. The PASS one is a good model but it only affects PASS events, and I’d like it to be an ‘open source’ way forward for community models. I think that, if we offered a ‘package’ of a Diversity Charter plus accompanying Decency Pledge, then the community have a template of ‘add-ons’ that they can choose to flex and use for their own events. They are absolutely welcome to change and adapt as they feel fit. I think it would be great to get a version 1.1. out there for the community to review and we can see what changes I get back.

What problem does this solve?

People don’t know where to start so we can give them a hand up.

As part of the speaker selection process, speakers can submit their past speaking experience as part of the speaker selection process. Organisers can choose to follow up with those past events to see if there are any issues with speakers; in any case, they should be doing their due diligence on speaker selection anyway, so it should not cost much effort  just to ask if there were any other issues that they should know about. It’s hard to deal with attendees because they are harder to police, and they can provide anonymous details at the point of registration. However, sending a signal with a robust Decency Pledge would send a message before people turn up to the event, and they should agree to adhere to it as part of the event registration process.

It’s so much easier to talk facts to someone, which is why I think organizers can offer contact details in case anyone wants to get in touch with them after the event.

Here are some resources to follow up:

PASS Summit Anti Harassment Policy

Enforcing a Code of Conduct

Responding to Reports of Harassment at Tech Events

I also want to add these resources in case this blog triggers anyone:

Male Rape and Sexual Abuse – because men can be victims, too.

Supporting a Survivor. 

I wanted to put this poem here, which is Invictus by William E. Henley:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

You’ve got this.

I’d love to know what you think. Please contact me at jen.stirrup@datarelish.com and I’ll be pleased to know your thoughts.

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Roundup of 2017 Presentations, and what’s next for 2018?

I’ve listed out some of my key speaking engagements for 2017. I am sure that I’ve done more events but this is a good start – often I am so busy that I drop things very quickly after I’ve ticked the box and done it. I’ve noted that I’m speaking to larger audiences over the years, but I’m doing less speaking events overall because I just simply can’t do all of the events that I’d like to do, so I’ve had to focus better.

I’ve also diversified the locations of my presentations. I was delighted to go to Dubai to present, and I will be doing more over in the Gulf this year. I’m doing a session just before Christmas, and I’ll release more details about that event shortly. I’m also lining up more events in the Gulf next year, because I had such a great experience speaking in Dubai recently. I spoke at a private event in Singapore earlier this year and I’ve been invited back for 2018, and hopefully I can do one of the data or SQL Server meetups. I’ve also been invited back to Jersey for a more indepth session, and I’ll be glad to do that, too.

For 2018, I’m hoping to do more large events and to do more online sessions as well. My recent Python webinar was very well received and I like the longevity of having sessions up on YouTube.

2017

#TSQL2SDAY 96 – Folks Who Have Made a Difference

This post is part of TSQL Tuesday, a monthly blog party. This month’s topic is “Folks Who Have Made a Difference”, by Ewald CressHere is my first TSQL Tuesday in a long time – way too long, actually.

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Diversity is so important to me; tech community is a place for people to grow and there are plenty of good hearts in it. I want everyone to feel welcome, really.

The reason that I got into community was that I attended my first ever community event, SQLBits in Birmingham. I was nervous and ready to leave when this super friendly guy came up to me, explained he worked for Microsoft and he chatted away and basically he made me stay for the next session.

He sat with me through the lightning talks session and he made me feel welcome. He’d gathered up a few ‘strays’ like me and I had a really nice day; and it helped me to go back.

thanks-1804597_1920That gentleman was Andrew Fryer and I have never forgotten his kindness and he’s inspired me ever since. Andrew probably doesn’t even remember, and it may have been a little thing to him. But for me, it was huge and it helped change my life. If we can all do ‘small’ things like this, they add up, right?

If it wasn’t for Andrew saying hello that day, I would have left and never gone back to any events, probably. So I want to say Thank You to Andrew for reaching out that day, and for all of his support ever since.

 

 

HR and Digital Transformation session in Dubai

Here are the slides for my session in Dubai, on HR and Digital Transformation. I talked a little about Excel, Power BI, SQL Server and Oracle, as well as some of the new ways in which Artificial Intelligence could help HR.

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I decided I would try and show courtesy to my hosts by wearing a headscarf. I appreciated their invite deeply and I am glad that I wore it.

My HR Summit and Expo 2017 session was held on 8th November at the Za’abeel Halls 5 – 6, Dubai International Exhibition and Convention Centre, Dubai. It was a truly amazing event with great content and fantastic networking. The audience were my ideal audience – really keen to learn how they could use data and technology for the purposes of the business. I would love to go back next year. I was fortunate to attend some of the other sessions and each one was a real gem. I took a lot of notes for my Executive MBA class so it was very useful from that perspective, too.

I tend to talk ‘around’ slides rather than read off them. How is your current Digital Transformation strategy performing? Are you part of an organisation which is struggling to know how to deal with your data? Do you think that you might have a Big Data problem, but you’re not really sure where to start? How do you get the experience, skills or techniques to get it right, faster and within budget? Digital Transformation is a hot topic with CEOs and the C-level suite, renewing their interest in data and what it can do to empower the organisation. As part of the Digital Transformation story, data can help to bring clarity and predictability to the HR leader to make strategic decisions, understand how their customers and employees behave, and measure what really matters to the HR team and the organization overall. Join this session to learn about effective principles and practices for Digital Transformation for the HR Leader. You will obtain advice and suggestions to help you to tackle these issues with Digital Transformation, Big Data and other issues to drive your organisation’s short and long term future, using data and Power BI.

Here are the slides:

Enjoy!

#MeToo and being a woman in Technology

Where do I start? I never wanted to write this story and I’m going to ask for your patience if this blog isn’t as polished as I would normally do. Instead of a braindump, this is a heartdump and I hope you’ll bear with me.

As always, this does NOT represent any organisation or entity other than myself. Note that THIS IS A TRIGGER WARNING and if you need to talk to someone, there are plenty of organisations that can help.

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You can tell a lot about a girl from her shoes. Some women have too many pairs. I used to wear high heeled shoes that looked like the shoes on the left. Fun, delicate and feminine. I call this phase the ‘Before Girl’.

Then, something happened to me. Something bad. My ordeal lasted for about seven hours. I don’t want to recall the details; I will just leave it there. To this date, I am not really sure how I got out but I got help from a passing cab driver who thought I’d been hit by a car and he took me to safety. The ‘Before Girl’ died and she was left somewhere dazed and in the cold; the ‘After Girl’ was born.

Unlike the young lady who wrote her letter here, I didn’t have a cyclist or two to help me. I’m further on in life than she is, from her story, and I wish her the absolute best and her bravery has inspired me to speak here. She has been a lighthouse for me. I never knew the identity of the taxi driver but I am forever grateful; I do not believe that all men are bad, and I do think of him sometimes because he reminds me that there are good people out there.

So what happened after? It impacted everything. Probably the most visible change you’ll see are shoes. I began to wear shoes that meant I could run far and fast if I ever needed to, to get away. So I started wearing flat shoes or trainers or Doctor Martens. I do wear heels sometimes but I usually have ballerina wraps in my handbag; a silver pair or a black pair.

I decided that I was no longer going to live my life in fear; I’d had enough taken from me already. I don’t want to live my life in fear dressed up as practicalities. So I realised that my strength had to come from me. I did lots of things, namely, try to become the ‘Before Girl’ again and not the ‘After Girl’ that I’d become.

About 8 years ago, I started to speak at technical events because I wanted to tackle my fears head on: standing up in a room full of men, everyone looking at me. So my first session was one hundred people, and since then, I’ve spoken all over the world, and my largest in-person audience was over six thousand people. I did lots of technical community work and I began to find my home there; I found friendship, and men who treated me as a person and an expert as I proved over and over again that I could teach and be relevant. I stopped being this afraid thing. I also learned from other people and I found some healing from my experience, simply from being part of the technical community.

I want to deeply thank the informal tech community of Microsoft and the Tableau community for giving me the opportunities that you have, and for helping me to find some healing there from the mostly great people I met. I have given a lot, but you have given me far more than you will ever know. Thank you.

I didn’t want to write about it at all, but my hand has been somewhat forced. I talked to a few people I trusted, in confidence, because the current thinking is that you should share and talk about your experiences. We live in an Oprah society; we are all supposed to talk about things. That didn’t work for me at all. I soon found that my confidence was broken and that this story was being talked about. I didn’t want my struggles to be my story. I want to talk about my failures, achievements and successes instead.

After I realized that my story was out, I felt more stricken than I’ve done for a long time. I felt I’d travelled to a different country, and came back speaking a language which nobody else knew and it was my only way to communicate. I didn’t know how far my story had feathers which carried themselves on the wind, and I’d never be able to catch all of the feathers. I felt isolated from the community where I had been working to heal myself and try to bring the ‘Before Girl’ back to life again. So I decided, after months of deliberation, just to front it out and here I am. The #MeToo campaign helped me, and I hope that this will help you, too.

When you tell people that you’ve been attacked, they look at you differently. There is a ‘look’ that people seem to give you and you know that’s what they are thinking about. There are two voices inside your head, as a victim; the first voice talks about the facts and what happened, and those facts absolve me. The second voice talks about what society thinks of you; how you were to blame, how you are tainted, and how you will always be guilty and ashamed, and held accountable. It’s at this point that my mind throws up a lot of turbulence. I was worried that people would hold the second voice about me, but not the first; not the facts.

So when you are in a state of fear, and I can only speak for myself here, you end up freezing and your limbs become weak and your hands can’t move and your eyesight dim like you’ve been rubbing your eyes too much, your ears hurt and the world goes silent. Thing is, at first, your mind-numbing, screaming fear is that you are going to lose the war over your body. Then, you do. In horror, you watch yourself lose the battle over your own body. Your fear shifts and moves on. Your new fear is that you are going to die. There is always another rung to fall down. If you have ever wondered what you think about when you are sure that you are going to die, then I can tell you with some certainty that you can only think of your loved ones and the loss that you are leaving behind, and how much grief that they are going to suffer and how changed they are going to be and how much you really really love them. Truthfully, all that’s left of us at the end, is who we hold tight in our hearts.

So, after all that, the ‘After Girl’ was going to have to adapt. I’m still me and I’m still there, underneath it all. I still want to be part of the community and talk tech and share my passions for what I do. It’s a big risk to be seen as the authentic ‘you’ but I am taking this risk; I won’t lose anyone I’ve already lost, and I won’t gain people I don’t have, right now. It’s zero sum. What I will have, however, is that I’ve risked being ‘seen’ in order to try and do something good with this experience. Ultimately, I can’t win but I have to make the choices that are right for me.

I saw the #MeToo campaign appear and I thought it is finally time to knock this on the head. I want people to know I’m okay and that I’m still here and I’m still me. If I was going to have a nervous breakdown, I’d have done it years ago. I didn’t want this part of my life to be used as some confirmatory bias that I’m not okay, and potentially turn out to further isolate and even inadvertently discredit me. I have had my lesson in human cruelty and I got through it, and I’m much stronger than people seem to think.

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So I’m getting out in front of it so that I take back some control and that people will talk to me about it, and not about me. I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to the #MeToo campaign. You have helped me feel less alone.

Honestly I don’t want my struggle to be my story, and I’m not sure how else to handle it. I’m fed up hiding and I’m fed up trying to catch feathers and I hope I can move forwards from here. I realized that I could live authentically as an imperfect person who wasn’t broken, but still shine brightly, casting out more light because of it. I’m hoping that other victims will find strength in themselves to keep going. I’m hoping more women will see that they have a home in the tech community too. I’m here, and you can be, too.

I’m also hoping that this will encourage new speakers. People sometimes tell me that they are ‘afraid’ to get up and speak. You’re not afraid; that’s privilege speaking from people who don’t really know what it means to feel fear. You might be nervous but you’re not in fear. If you want to speak, think about me; if I can do it, you definitely can.

I want to move past this, so let’s talk a little about what’s next for me?

Diversity Charter – I’m trying to set up a Diversity Charter so tech community orgs, such as user groups, can show that they are truly welcoming to people of different backgrounds.

Thought Leadership – I’ve also become attracted to thought leadership and I do industry analysis as a freelancer. I’m still interested in this part.

Events – I’ll continue speaking for as long as people want to hear me.

Diversity is important to me because it means I can try to find something good with what’s happened to me. I know what it feels like to be powerless and have your voice taken away from you. I know how it feels to have a second voice talk over the first voice; hold onto that first voice. Ultimately, I want to be able to find some meaning.  I’ll never be able to apologize to the women that were attacked after me since I was not the last in a line, it seems, and their experiences are a burden which I partially bear because I could not find the strength to speak out. If only I’d been more successful in getting my voice heard, their pain might never have happened. I’m doing it now because my voice is all I have. I want to try and make something good out of it. Diversity makes sense to make because it’s all about trying to make sure that everyone is included and they aren’t isolated from doing a job or a community activity that they love. And techies do love technology and everyone’s inner geek should be welcome.

What should you do if this happens to you?

These are just my opinions and they are given out of concern for your welfare:

Get yourself safe. Get away.  I was too injured and distressed to do anything other than let the taxi driver help me into the car. I had no phone and my bag had disappeared so I had no money.  I don’t recommend that you do the same thing; that’s just what happened to me.  Call the police. They will never criticize you for it and neither will anyone else. That’s what they are there for. Use your cell and photograph everything.

Call the Police and get medical help and every bit of evidence you can. You got this. Police Stations are the loneliest places on the planet. So when the police are looking at you across the table, they ask you things like ‘why didn’t you fight back then? If you didn’t fight back then you didn’t really say no, did you?’ remember that they are dialling up the second voice by playing around with the first voice, and that’s why so few cases go to court. This is what happens – people mix the first and second voices. I hope that, if you go to the police, you will keep that in mind and you will will make sure that the first voice ring true and that your ‘Before Girl’ gets to speak. And take someone with you, if you can.

There are plenty of organizations that can help you e.g. In the UK, you can call the national Rape Crisis helpline (run by our member Centre Rape Crisis South London) on 0808 802 9999 between 12 noon – 2.30pm and 7 – 9.30pm every day of the year for confidential support and/or information about your nearest services. Put the number in your cell phone; if not for you, for someone else. Just in case. Oh, and that goes for guys, too; one of your female friends might need help someday.

If it’s a tech community event, tell the organisers but make sure you are safe first. Tell a friend.  I put the police first since they can also help you out.  PASS have the Anti Harrassment Procedure and I think that’s one of PASS’ greatest achievements. I think that other community events could adopt it although I’m not speaking officially for PASS here.

Don’t be hard on yourself. You got this and you’ll find unexpected friends along the way.

As for me? And maybe, one day, I’ll get back into high-heeled shoes for keeps. The ‘Before Girl’ has gone and this is her obituary, but the ‘After Girl’ understands what it means to value life and the importance of leaving something good for other people.

Life after serving on the PASS Board

I didn’t put myself forward for re-election to the PASS Board, and I officially step down on 31st December. I’ve always struggled with the question – why get involved in the tech community? If tech community is something that you think about, I can’t say it enough – it will change your life for the better. Please, don’t hesitate. I’m not leaving the community. I’m just going into a new phase and I’ll contribute in different ways.

About 8 years ago, I started to speak at technical events because I wanted to tackle my fears head on: standing up in a room full of people, everyone looking at me, in a very male oriented environment. So my first session was one hundred people, and since then, I’ve spoken all over the world, and my largest in-person audience was over six thousand people. I did lots of technical community work and I began to find my home there; I found friendship, and I’d specifically like to thank the community men who treated me as a person and an expert as I proved over and over again that I could teach and be relevant. I stopped being this afraid, shy, nervous thing. I also learned from other people and I found some friendship, simply from being part of the technical community. Gentlemen – you have such an important role to play in small and large ways and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you who care about these things, your voice and actions carry further than mine and, simply, thank you.

I want to deeply thank the informal tech community of Microsoft and the Tableau community for giving me the opportunities that you have, and for helping me to find some friendship there from the mostly great people I met. I have given a lot, but you have given me far more than you will ever know. Thank you.

Eventually I was elected to the board of PASS as a Non Executive Director and I hoped to make a difference, primarily in the fields of analytics and diversity. Thank you to everyone who voted for me. I thought that the influence would give me the ability to do good things for others. These are my passions. This didn’t work out as I’d hoped and, after four years of my life, I’ve decided that I won’t be putting myself forward for re-election. Hopefully the next person will find it easier to make a difference for EMEA, and be empowered to do things where I just could not have an impact. I’m going to do other things instead, and I’ll come on to those at the end.

I want to move past this, so let’s talk a little about what’s next for me?

  • MBA – I’m going to do my MBA. Academic success is something that I value. I learned a lot over the past four years but it’s time to spend time and effort on something that is for me. I’ll share my experiences in data-driven wisdom and I hope you’ll find it valuable as you grow in your careers.
  • Diversity Charter – I’m trying to set up a Diversity Charter so tech community orgs, such as user groups, can show that they are truly welcoming to people of different backgrounds. I’m hoping to be a part of the Diversity party that Microsoft are having. It’s easy for Diversity to start to mean ‘sticking pretty babes up on a stage’ and I’m hoping that the narrative doesn’t start to focus only on young women; it involves other aspects of people, such as age, disability, transgender identity, sexuality, race, faith and respect for other people.
  • Thought Leadership – I’ve also become attracted to thought leadership and I do industry analysis as a freelancer. PASS do Tech Leadership but that is not real Thought Leadership, which transcends technology. My efforts to have real Thought Leadership podcasts fell by the wayside and I only got two produced and the third one was never processed. I thought it would be a great way for PASS to connect, learn and share with industry thought leaders (not tech leaders) to promote the community at a more strategic level.
  • Events – I’ll continue speaking for as long as people want to hear me.

Diversity is important to me because it means I want to focus on something positive. I know what it feels like to be powerless and have your voice taken away from you. I want to be able to find some meaning in life and how we can help one another.  I’m doing it now because my voice is all I have. I want to try and make something good out of it. Diversity makes sense to make because it’s all about trying to make sure that everyone is included and they aren’t isolated from doing a job or a community activity that they love. And techies do love technology and everyone’s inner geek should be welcome.

 

Diversity Charter

For those of you looking for the Diversity Charter effort, you need to go here: https://diversitycharterblog.wordpress.com/

It is a team effort, not just me!

I’d love to see a Diversity Charter that user groups and communities could use, to show that they are welcoming and open to all members of the technical communities. I think that the charter could look something like this draft:

We believe that all members of the technical community are equally important.
We are part a tech community where we value a diverse network, and learn and share from one another:
regardless of age,
regardless of colour,
regardless of their ethnicity,
regardless of their religion or beliefs,
regardless of disability,
regardless of gender,
regardless of sexual orientation,
regardless of their race,
regardless of their ability or lack of ability,
regardless of nationality or accent.
We are a diverse tech community where we are all individuals with differences, but we are all members and we can all learn from each other.

I have other ideas:

  • A logo for the Charter. I have some ideas, but I’d be delighted for help
  • I have set up a Slack channel for people to discuss the Charter – please ping me on jen.stirrup@datarelish.com to find out more
  • I would love forums where people can ask questions and have community-led answers on how to be open and welcoming to people from different backgrounds. No question is a stupid question. The main thing is that you are talking about it with enquiry and openness in mind, in order to understand other people better. Nobody can fault you for having a kind heart that is trying to learn.