Throughout the last 18 months, we’ve been promoting women’s participation in international conferences about open data and open government, with our grant from the Hewlett Foundation. We’ve also been hosting gender-focused events around the globe both connected to and independent from these conferences.
After funding two successful rounds of travel grantees, a moment to reflect led us to ask the question — so what’s next for Open Heroines?
We didn’t need to look too far to find the answer. Our travel grantees came up with an idea that they could pursue essentially on their own: after returning home from OH events, how could they host local events in their countries and cities to promote women’s participation, and create safe spaces for women in open data, open government, and civic tech? These events would enable Heroines to actually meet up in person, network, share experiences, and support one another.
Due to challenges getting visas for all of our travel grantees (which we will discuss on another blog!), we had some leftover funds after OGP2019. We’ve decided to use them in running a trial of our events model, starting the Open Heroines Community Events Fund. Open Heroines is mostly an online community connected through Slack, but we wanted to see how more face-to-face events could amplify women’s voices and strengthen our community.
As a first step, we turned straight to our community and used Slack to call on women to apply to the new Community Events Fund. Each woman could apply for between $100-$500 to run a local event. In this first iteration, we had about $3000 of funds to utilize for community events. To remain inclusive and noncompetitive, we provided funds on a first-come-first-serve basis. Women could use the funds to go towards whatever would help them run an event — hire a space, pay for food, provide transportation, and even obtaining equipment. Often times, we’ve found that the small things — like providing plenty of snacks, offering transportation to those who travel less easily, and using the right technology to enable event access — make all the difference. Even a small amount of extra funds can make an already-good event great, and enable more women to attend.
In our first round, we were able to fund 6 events in total — four in Europe, one in Latin America, and one in Sub Saharan Africa. In the coming weeks, we’ll publish summaries of each one written by the Heroines who hosted the events, outlining lessons that can be learned from them.
We hope that by reading about these events, more women from our community will apply for the next round of upcoming grants. And even more, through this work we hope to enable even more in-person events on the ground, that will highlight local women’s voices.