By Sarah Drinkwater, Director, Beneficial Technology, Omidyar Network
In the last few years, we’ve been excited and inspired by the rise of responsible tech workers asking hard questions, course correcting, and planning ahead. From designers and engineers to product managers and founders, there’s a growing movement of passionate people committed to ensuring technology protects and benefits its users.
The importance of that movement is apparent now more than ever as we grapple with COVID-19. Tech is helping us navigate the unprecedented challenges the pandemic presents to our everyday lives—from connecting with loved ones to ordering groceries—but it is also shining a spotlight on concerns about privacy, disinformation, and more.
These are complex issues, and sometimes we don’t know where to start. Not all companies or teams have cultures that welcome fair, thoughtful conversations about business or product decisions. And even at workplaces that encourage this kind of nuance, leading those efforts can be intimidating and feel like uncharted territory.
That’s why we built Ethical Explorer.
This toolkit is a direct response to the need we’ve seen and heard from makers and builders—as well as their collaborators—for a digestible, actionable resource to steward ethical tech. Created specifically for workers at startups and small to mid-size tech companies, Ethical Explorer is shaped by input from trusted partners, the community we’re serving, and dozens of subject matter experts. Just a few of experts who provided input on topics ranging from privacy to AI include: Caroline Sinders, founder of Convocation Design + Research; Amy Lazarus, CEO and founder of InclusionVentures; and Gisela Pérez de Acha, a human rights lawyer and data journalist.
The end result is a toolkit for pioneers who want to create a future where tech products are built with responsibility at the core.
So, what’s included?
Ethical Explorer is a DIY kit designed to spark group dialogue, identify early warning signs, build internal support, and brainstorm solutions to avoid future risks.
- Field Guide: An overview of Ethical Explorer, suggested activities for both individuals and groups, and ideas for gaining buy-in within organizations.
- Tech Risk Zones: Eight Tech Risk Zone cards—plus one blank card to tailor to a specific need or scenario—to help provoke thoughtful conversations around risk, responsibility, and impact in key areas.
- Stickers: Explorers can outfit their gear with unique stickers to show off their passion for safer, fairer, and healthier tech that’s also more ethical and inclusive.
At Omidyar Network, we have a human-centered vision of tech that underpins greater individual and community empowerment, social opportunity, and safety. Our work investing in and creating partnerships with like minds has led us to the toolkit’s guiding principles: to support human values, create a culture of questioning, and ignite change through dialogue.
Building responsibility into core business and product decisions takes continual conversation and action. We encourage you, as a user of this tool, to make it your own; please evolve, experiment, and play.
We want to say a special thanks to those who made this project possible. We couldn’t have built it without the wealth of insight from the many passionate experts and organizations that contributed, especially Institute for the Future (IFTF) and Artefact. Your knowledge and creativity were essential.
Now let’s start exploring.
Want to tell us what you think of Ethical Explorer, and how you used it? Have another Tech Risk Zone you think we should discuss as a community? Email us [email protected].
And don’t forget to show your support for responsible tech by using the #EthicalExplorer hashtag!