One of my most surreal experiences was meeting the Open Data Camp co-organisers in a Winchester pub before the very first Open Data Camp. Initially Sasha, Mark and James, eventually Lucy and Jamie and others. These are people that I engaged with in a digital world, had never met, but had organised an unconference with. At the weekend is the first Open Data Camp I will miss. I am sad not to be going to Aberdeen, but in order to still be part of it, this week I engaged with Pauline, Elspeth and Edafe to try and ensure that the event at the weekend and future Open Data Camps are inclusive and welcoming for all.
All of the organisers (and the attendees) are amazing people. But for me, it took a fair bit of courage to engage that first time. And as an inclusive community we want to do what we can to smooth the process and enable participants to attend, contribute to and enjoy the event. Over the years we have made good progress on gender diversity (certainly in the organising team). In Belfast, ladies (that fab bunch I am honoured to call friends as well as co-organisers and fellow gin fans) outnumbered the men – there are not many data events where that happens in my experience. There was quite a good gender balance of attendees too, although other aspects of diversity still need more work. I know that it is too late now to do much about encouraging new attendees in Aberdeen, we did put our heads together in relation to concrete actions to make it as inclusive as possible. This is supported by and aligned with other work in the space – including the work of Open Heroines.
So, we will be looking at attendance over the two days. A whole range of facets to look at gaps – those that are obvious but also those less so. Previously we have arranged so that booking for day one is separate for day two. We will look for evidence around whether this has an impact. We also have a Code of Conduct – if at any time you feel uncomfortable please look for an organiser or volunteer (easily identified by lovely new hi viz!) and they will help. There will be at least one in every session.
In Aberdeen we will be doing further monitoring – looking for patterns to help us identify whether there is anything further we can do to support people to get the most from the event. As part of the weekend we do feedback at the end of the day. From an inclusion perspective this is not always the best. So we plan to have a parking lot for post-its with feedback on diversity and inclusion for organisers throughout the event. If you have any ideas, something worked or something didn’t please tell us when it occurs to you – it is not necessary to wait for the formal feedback session. If you don’t want to add your name, that is fine too.
And finally, if you would like to help us with the diversity and inclusion aspects of future events do get in touch. We want to learn from your experiences – at open data camp and other events. The Open Data community is one of the most welcoming I have encountered. If there is more we can do to improve diversity and inclusion in the community it is well worth the effort. And if you are in Aberdeen at the weekend – have a ball – I will be watching from twitter @drsiant!