[ANSOL-geral] Opening up traditionally secretive organizations

André Isidoro Fernandes Esteves aife netvisao.pt
Sexta-Feira, 30 de Outubro de 2015 - 10:22:34 WET


Recently, I drove to the Netherlands for a day to hang out with about 
half the people who work at Greenpeace International. The meetup 
actually lasted an entire week, but I only attended Thursday, a day on 
which newly formed teams gathered to do some bonding and better 
understand each other's work. We talked about purpose and vision, as it 
was the first in-person meeting after a rather large re-organization 
that has been taking place over the last year or so.

Greenpeace is striving toward a cultural shift. The organization is 
aware that it needs new strategies—new ways of being—to remain relevant 
and effective in the 21st century. And, I think open source principles 
offer Greenpeace those new strategies.

I'm fascinated by what the open community takes for granted. Outside 
FOSS, free and open source software, the idea that work needs to have a 
solid foundation before being released is deeply seeded. But, in open 
source communities we say, "Release early, release often," a phrase I 
regularly substitute now for: "Throw it into the world as soon as you 
can formulate words around it." Heck, even if you aren't coherent, 
someone might still understand you. Go ahead and share!

I won't lie: I've been afraid to share too early. I didn't publish a 
word of my first book until I'd written the whole thing. But when it 
comes to solving real world problems, I think the sooner you let other 
people in, the sooner you can start prototyping and trying and failing 
and learning and ultimately succeeding. (Read this Opensource.com 
article to go deeper into the why behind releasing early and often.)

We've been conditioned to think that if you tell someone your idea, that 
person might steal it. We've all heard about big companies finding out 
about an idea and having more resources to build it better, faster. 
We've all heard the myth of the genius innovator who got shafted. We 
know it happened for real at least this one time. But this is the 
exception, not the rule.

At least it is here in my world—in education, in social justice, in the 
nonprofit world, where we are working for the common good, we should be 
excited when someone "steals" our ideas. We should ask people to rip, 
read, remix everything we do, because if they do it likely means that 
they're also trying to make the world a better place.

We've been taught that chaos will ensue if there are "too many cooks in 
the kitchen," but a strong moderator with an empathetic ear can help 
guide a group towards productive decision making. It's true that 
designing by committee can be tricky, but it is also probable that the 
committee as a collective has better ideas and solutions than the 
individual. In my experience, inviting people into a project strengthens 
bonds, thereby strengthening contributions, which leads to greater impact.

Greenpeace is a huge organization. It wants to become more open, but has 
decades and decades of secrecy built into its utter being. When they 
say, "We're not ready to be open," what they mean is, "We don't know if 
this is going to work." I think they also mean "We don't know how this 

So I'm going to help them figure it out. Starting now(ish), I'll be 
helping Greenpeacers understand and use open practices top to bottom, 
left to right, in a mostly traditional workplace. I'm going to try to 
connect each and every Greenpeace community member (staff, former staff, 
volunteers, donors) and engage with them to unleash the power of their 
stories and their actions. An open organization encourages thought 
leadership and collaboration when it gives people the space they need to 
work on ideas without fear of failure. I'm going to help carve out that 
space and encourage Greenpeacers to use openness in support of their 
mission to conserve and protect the environment and to promote peace.

I'm excited about my new role at Greenpeace for a bunch of reasons. 
Bringing open principles into this traditionally secretive organization 
is going to be challenging. But I like challenges. There will be plenty 
of engagement, teaching, and learning with more than 4,000 adults who 
work to make sure our Earth can support all forms of life. I'm 
particularly stoked to share what I know about openness, learning, and 
technology while also learning about subversive campaign tactics, 
non-violent action, the oceans, corporate responsibility, climate 
change, deforestation, and more.

At Greenpeace I'll be living and teaching "openness," learning, 
learning, learning, fighting The Man, and sharing my journey.

(Originally published at Zythepsary. Reposted here with permission of 
the author.)

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