Black Lives Still Matter: On accountability
by Kate Mueller

Black Lives Still Matter: On accountability

On April 20th, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. While this provides a moment of accountability, there's still a long road to full justice and equity. In the spirit of accountability, we wanted to share with you our progress on this road since our first Black Lives Matter post in July 2020.

In that initial post, I laid out five steps that we were hoping to apply to issues around racial equity:

  1. Initial identification of the problem

  2. Acknowledge and/or apologize

  3. Whenever possible, figure out an immediate band-aid or workaround

  4. Capture the more ideal long-term solution

  5. Slowly rebuild things in a better way

At the time of our original post, we felt we'd made progress on the first three elements, but not really touched the final two. At this point, we have deepened our commitment to many of the concepts in those first three steps, and have begun work on steps four and five.

Company impact

KnowledgeOwl is based in the U.S., and about half of our team are U.S. owls. The other half live in three other countries. This has made racial equity an interesting internal topic, as it has a different history and context for many of our owls.

Our main additional owl enclaves are in the UK and Australia. The June protests in central London in response to the death of George Floyd attracted thousands of supporters, and #blacklivesmatter was trending on social media around the world. Similarly in Australia, thousands took part in Black Lives Matter protests and marches across the country. So while the contexts have been different, much of our team has had an ambient awareness of these issues, which has led to broader participation in conversations and internal initiatives.

Black Lives Matter does not only affect citizens of the US, the country in which the movement was founded. We all want to do our part to ensure racial equity in our respective countries.

Progress on existing initiatives

As we reported last year, we began a #blacklivesmatter channel in Slack, where we could share resources, discuss books and lectures, etc. This channel is still active and members continue to have conversations.

Beyond sharing resources and creating a space for these discussions to happen, we've been examining our own policies around diversity, inclusion, code of conduct, hiring practices, and so on. We've not included explicit diversity requirements or quotas in our policies in the past, and, as many small businesses, we haven't always given a lot of thought to the policies of the vendors and providers we work with. So this is an ongoing process for us.

New initiatives

The remaining two steps in our five-step plan are:

  • Identify a more long-term solution

  • Slowly rebuild things toward that solution

Toward these two points, here are some of the additional changes we have worked on or are working on:

2% for People and Planet

We rolled out our 2% for People and Planet program, which donates a percentage of our profits to charities each month. We've kept these donations local to each of our respective communities, trying to impact local populations that need the most help.

Hiring

We've committed to a hiring diversity policy. In accordance with this new policy, we'll be reviewing all of our job description language and requirements to ensure they are inclusive and equitable, and researching ways we can advertise job opportunities to under-represented and minority communities to expose our company to applicants that may otherwise miss them.

KO for Good

We've been slowly building our KO for Good program. We've always offered 25% discounts off annual subscriptions to non-profit organizations, but as we noted in our original BLM post, we're extending additional discounts (and, in some cases, complimentary knowledge bases) to nonprofits doing important work. We're still shaping this program and are excited to begin sharing additional details about our recipients and the work they're doing--stay tuned. (And if you are a nonprofit doing awesome work to make the world a better place, please contact us if you're interested in any of these programs!)

JEDI Council

We recently launched our own Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) Council to engage with these issues. The JEDI Council meets every month and acts as the driving force/owner of all diversity-related initiatives and issues within KnowledgeOwl. So far we've reviewed our code of conduct, our diversity hiring policy, and a few other internal policy documents. We're also working to raise awareness on providing preferred pronouns internally and in our customer-facing communication (not racial equity, but important for inclusion in general).

Vendor & supplier assessments

As part of our application to obtain B corporation certification, we have reviewed a number of internal documents.

For our vendor management, some of the criteria we evaluate vendors on include whether the vendor is:

  • majority-owned by women or individuals from underrepresented populations

  • a certified B corporation

  • a subprocessor under GDPR

  • transparent about ethical business practices, social impact, or environmental impact, and what those policies are

We have not set explicit quotas or requirements on many of these concerns, but we favor vendors who address some or all of them. We aim to maintain 40% of significant supplier purchases from suppliers with diverse ownership, including small, minority-owned, women-owned, disadvantaged, and local businesses.

Looking forward

It can sometimes seem a bit overwhelming to engage in these conversations--concerns about saying or doing the wrong thing, or not doing things perfectly. We recognize these concerns but feel that the only way to help inch the world forward is to engage with these issues and topics, no matter how imperfect we may be.

In the coming months, you can expect to see some more blog posts on JEDI topics from us (including Black Lives Matter). We're still working out the details and it may be a bit of trial and error, but for now we'd like to write on topics we've run into in our industry, or our owls have experienced in their respective countries. We plan to share resources and learning opportunities that we've found helpful, as well, since we're all about knowledge-sharing. 😊

Black lives matter today and every day, and change is a long, slow process. We hope you continue to join us on this journey.

Kate Mueller

Kate is our Chief Product Owl and Resident Cheesemonger. She has led a checkered past, including teaching college-level English and being the head of product for another small software company. She eats cheese. And in 2018 she hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, (which inspired her to eat more cheese). She scopes features, tests releases, writes our release notes and documentation, advises on writing and documentation architecture best practices, and tries to think of creative ways to solve customer problems. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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