‘Inclusion’ is not a buzzword to us. From the onset, we were keen on creating a space for all folk who identify as women or non-binary in open government, open data and civic tech. A space where they felt safe to share their thoughts and ideas without the fear of being silenced.
But, once in a while, we have to stop and ask ourselves; are we really being inclusive in every sense of the word?
Patrick Kazyak-Albaladejo, one of our community members who is non-binary, shares their thoughts on what inclusivity means and their experience with Open Heroines.
My entry into the open government space was in October 2018 when I began working for the OGP Support Unit as part of the OGP Local team. I later joined OH in May 2019 at the 6th Global OGP Summit in Ottawa.
To be honest, I am no longer part of many “professional communities”. However, the ones I have been a part of in the past are starkly different from OH. Many “professional communities” or organizations, at least the ones I have been a part of, have been inaccessible (costly membership fees, archaic entry requirements, etc.) and quite frankly have offered little tangible benefits aside from conferences that are often dominated by older, white people (usually men) or boring monthly newsletters. What I enjoy about OH is that it is voluntary, free of cost, and largely virtual, especially now given COVID. The community doesn’t feel forced and the connections between members seem genuine.
I would say that the impact OH has had on my career has been subtle yet impactful. It is nice to be in a community with so many women and femmes (and presumably a few other trans/non-binary people!), who share similar interests for more open and inclusive governance. As someone who is often one of the youngest and queerest people in the room for work, it is affirming to know that there are other young people around the globe who are also involved and passionate about making changes in the areas we work in.
I think OH and every organization really should be less focused on “getting it right” when it comes to inclusion and more focused on just being inclusive. As we move into the third year of this unrelenting global pandemic that, in my opinion, has been met with egregious failings of government response, it has never been more apparent that societal inequality has been ripped open at the seams. We know who is not “at the table” so to speak. At this point, it has been decades of tables that look uncannily similar. I have heard many times that we need to “broaden the base”, and if we are to truly do that, we need to actively seek out and bring in new people, new communities, and new truths.
Desperately trying to mitigate the impacts of the ongoing climate crisis and defend their ancestral lands, indigenous peoples globally from Palestine to Colombia to Canada, are experiencing ongoing colonization and genocide at the hands of the government. From the US to Ghana to Brazil, LGBTQIA+ communities, including queer and trans women, are being imprisoned and murdered for simply existing. Disabled people globally are routinely met with eugenics policies, more so now than ever with the pandemic, that see their existence as disposable and their death inevitable.
These are just three communities out of the many that have been missing from conversations, processes, and gatherings centered on open government, at least in the three years I have been in the broader open government community. There are plenty of organizations, professionals, and activists who are from these communities who are doing incredible work that OH and the broader open government community should tap into, learn from, and of course, properly compensate and credit them.
What I hope to see more of from OH and the entire open government space, in general, is the reconceptualization of what open government can mean and include. Open government, at its core, is government without barriers– accessible government. Open government seeks to ensure a more transparent, responsive, accountable, and inclusive government that works for everyone. It is for that reason that I personally believe that any work being done by governments to ensure greater access to those communities that have been historically and systematically marginalized is in fact open government.
We know that the government works for the rich, for non-disabled people, for white people, and others who have historically been able to openly and freely engage in governance, and in most western contexts, created the current governance structures. On the contrary, we also know who is not able to freely and openly engage in governance. There are various policy areas that are not routinely discussed in open government spaces that, from an inclusion standpoint, are in fact related to open government. And I would like to see more of that in the coming year.
Overall, I’d say I feel seen and heard within the OH community! To be honest, I don’t feel as if I am the most active OH member. However, when I have engaged both in-person and virtually, whether it was a skillshare or sending an article to the reading slack channel, I have felt both empowered to share and engage with other members. I will say I do not personally know of any other trans/non-binary members of OH so if you’re out there, I’d love to connect!
Patrick is a Program Officer at OGP Local and is based in Chicago, Illinois