Mor Rubinstein, on co-creating a governance structure for Open Heroines. Online Discussion Notes

FabRiders’ Network-Centric Resources Project supports the development of people-powered and participatory resources that establish assets for networks and communities. Our past online discussions have focused on developing content with and for communities and network’s, such as Heather Leson on co-creating data-literacy curriculum with Humanitarians in IFRC’s Data Playbook, Greg Bloom on creating Data Standards with Health and human service providers through his organisation Open Referral, or Sarah Allen who told us about building a massive collaborative event known as MozFest that replicates a healthy internet with close to 2000 people participating.

On March 21st, we had an online discussion with Mor Rubinstein about her experience co-founding Open Heroines, a peer support network of women working in Open Data, Open Government and Civic Tech. Here’s some key takeaways from that discussion:

  • Open Heroines’ mission is to bring more diversity and a gender lens to open gov, open data and civic tech space. They also believe a feminist perspective will lead to more inclusivity and stronger social change.
  • It is not a legal entity, everyone involved is doing it on a volunteer basis.
  • The problem with meritocracies is they can do well for men who will easily speak up and take credit for their work, where women will do a lot of the uncredited work.
  • The blog on Medium exists to amplify voices and issues that women face.
  • Open Heroines’ Rules of Engagement, are lightweight and are easily accessible to anyone who wants to participate in the network. They act as a way for women who want to participate to feel permitted to do so.
  • Mor recommended the book: Invisible Women, exposing data bias in a world designed for men by Caroline Criado Perez.
  • Men have a role in the debate around gender. However, it’s not about solving the problem. It’s about listening, understanding the problem and being allies.

The Online Conversation in Full

Raw Notes:

Mor is a co-founder of the Open Heroines and contributes as a volunteer.

there are currently 500 Women (and growing) from across the world.

It got started in 2015, at the Mexico City, OGP.

They define ‘Woman’ as anyone who defines themselves as a ‘Woman’, so it’s not just CISGender women in the network.

It is not a legal entity – there are not an official organisation. It got started because Mor and Mariel Garcia Marquez felt they needed the peer support being women working in this space. All the members are volunteers and the members are the resource within the network.

There is a blog on Medium. Initial people thought all the posts were by Mor, but they were just using her name when the authors of the posts didn’t want to be named.

They started before the #metoo movement, and they have benefitted from it, but harrasment is just a small part of what they are about.

There mission is to bring more diversity and a gender lens to open gov, open data and civic tech space. They also believe a feminist perspoecive will lead to more inclusivity and stronger social change.

The blog ( is a place to amplify the voices of women and genderqueer people. THey have a monthly newsletter that is curated by the community. They also have meetups.

They have a slack channel with 500 people in it – but there is an agreement that whatever is said in the slack channel stays in the slack channel.

There is a ‘rules of engagement’ that is on their blog

No means no – if someone says no, then it’s a no.

She the 10/90 formula is true – 90% will lurk and 10% will take an active roll. They do encourage women to lurk. And they do have about 50 active women.

They have a group of moderators that members can interact with to take care of issues, handle questions, etc.

They have ‘rules of engagement’ – everyone is a volunteer – no one makes money. They have learned that it is important to document all decisions, not everyone is online when things get discuss.

Mor tries to let the community do as much as it possibly can.

They have very light weight governance – rules of engagement are online and are accessible. It’s meant that any woman can join the community and read the rules of engagement and understand how to participate.

Language is an issue – ‘rules of engagement’ is a weighty term in some cultures, so they are thinking about changing that.

They are learning from Facebook on what NOT to do (users have no say).

They try to make it easy for members to feel permission.

Meritocracy can be not so good for women (there’s lots of studies that point to this). It’s a bit too prevalant in the CivicTech community – men will talk more about what they do, but women won’t talk that much about what they do.

Language is really important. Women need to feel permitted to take charge.

Women do a lot of the uncredited work.

Data Standards is a very male dominated field.

If you ask a child at the age of three, to draw a person, it tends to be a drawing of a man.

They have to put a constant reminder that members can participate and do things even if they have done very little in Open Heroines. Anytime you want to participate, or anytime you need to participate, you can.

You always need to be open for feedback so you can make improvement.

What can be tough is when you need to pay for tasks, but you still have tasks that need to be done by volunteers.

They have raised money to bring women to conferences.

Men need to participate in the conversation about gender. Men need to be an active role in the solution. React and let women know that you are an ally – silence is not helpful. BUT DEFINITELY MEN NEED TO LISTEN AND DO ACTIVE LISTENING, understand the problem, rather than try to solve it.