The Last Four Years

I haven’t shared an update here on what I have been up to since the end of the Obama Administration, so now’s a good time to write some of this down.

Like many, I was extremely worried by Donald Trump’s election to the Presidency. Doing all I could to get to a different result in 2020 drove much of my work since 2017. I also tried to extend my non-profit work and grow my fundraising ability because I came to the sad realization that my fundraising ability is worth at least as much, if not more, than my strategic advice to the non-profits I care about (and I am not very good at fundraising).

All of the projects below were overlapping, and most were not full-time. They combined to be a ridiculous amount of work sometimes, and nearly no work at other times. The list below is in somewhat chronological order.

  • Thanks to Megan Smith and Tom Perez, I got to help bring in Raffi Krikorian to be the first Chief Technology Officer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Tom understood the value of tech and how badly Democrats were being beaten in this regard. He helped re-up tech within the DNC and the team has done amazing stuff under Raffi and Lindsey Schuh Cortes, and now Nellwyn Thomas and Kat Atwater.

  • Thanks to Mike Yang, Haley van Dÿck and Mikey Dickerson, I helped found and was its General Counsel for the first year. Alloy’s mission was to help improve data and technology for the progressive ecosystem. We were originally focused on legal data sharing among progressive organizations and campaigns, but once the Democratic Data Exchange (DDx) got up and running, and based on feedback from potential users, we shifted to improving basic data availability and update frequency, as well as voter registration. The wonderful Kendall Burman took over as General Counsel on January 1st, 2020. Alloy is now in talks with CiviTech to have them carry on our mission. I’m thankful for the incredible people we were able to hire, many of whom I had not met before, and for the fact that Alloy seems to have had a positive impact on the election and Georgia runoffs through its set of partners.

  • While working on the tech and data side for Dems and progressives, I also got drawn into, and did some funding of, and fundraising for, a wide set of organizations and candidates. One of the most amazing things to come out of 2016 was the incredible set of new organizations and candidates. The narrow 2016 loss to the person who would become one of the worst presidents in American history was also a catalyst for a bunch of more established organizations to do great work. I am really grateful to the many, many people who shared their wisdom and time as I was getting up to speed (I still am). I am also grateful to the folks who did the work of registering a record breaking number of new voters, helped to elect good candidates, including President Biden, and then protected those victories against the efforts to undo them. Before 2016 I had no idea of the richness and variety of people and organizations that are part of the big tent of the progressive community and Democratic party. It looks chaotic at times, but I was constantly blown away by the talented, committed people who work in politics. Many do so without much compensation or limelight, and nearly everyone I met shared a basic common purpose that was tied to getting real benefits for people.

  • Thanks to Eric Goldman, Adelin Cai, Clara Tsao, and Denelle Dixon-Thayer, I got to help found the Trust & Safety Professional Association (TSPA) and the Trust & Safety Foundation Project (TSF). I’ve wanted to do something like this for fifteen years but it took others to push for their formation.  I had the good fortune of getting to know some great Cognizant folks, including Kristen Titus and Davis Abraham, and many others while fundraising for TSPA and TSF. And then I got to talk to many old friends and make some new ones as we considered who would be the perfect first Executive Director. I couldn’t be happier that Charlotte Willner took the job. Being so immersed in a community I have been around for a long time was deeply satisfying. And the collective “FINALLY!!!” we heard on launching underscored to me that community building is important and should never be put off.

  • I’ve also spent a good amount of time working as a Board Member at Creative Commons and Data & Society. They are two great organizations from which I have learnt a lot. I am the Board lead for fundraising at both places, and so have been asking many of my friends for money to support their wonderful missions. Being a Board Member is also something I am still learning, and I have been thankful to get to watch others who are better at it than I, and to have such an intimate view of these two very different organizations during these exceptional times. I still also exist as a fanboy for the work that Creative Commons and Data & Society each do, so it is great to feel like I am helping them achieve their goals.

  • More recently, thanks to Yohannes Abraham, DJ Patil, David Recordon, Ginny Hunt, Mina Hsiang, Eric Hysen, Clarence Wardell and many others, I was lucky to get to work on the Biden Transition (and with my old friend and mentor Nicole Wong). That was a huge privilege and again underscored that working with a great team, on hard problems, with one clear purpose is a wonderful experience. I am so pleased for the folks who are going into government (and will try to write more about some of them soon). If you want to learn more about transitions, Transition Lab is a fabulous podcast and episode 46 (!!) is with  Yohannes.

I would not have thought in 2016 that I would have spent a large portion of the next four years in politics and political tech. Nor would I have thought I would have helped found three non-profits. So while I continue to be on the Board at Alloy, Creative Commons, Data & Society, TSPA and TSF, I really don’t know what the next of these updates will look like. After President Biden’s heartwarming inauguration, I am very hopeful for us all.

Finally, if you got this far and are wondering what to donate to in the new year with the hellishness of COVID still in full swing, please consider using this tool to find your local food bank and donate. I have a longer and slightly older list of COVID charities here, but know that many are having a very hard time getting basics like food and shelter, so please be generous.

1 comment:

Eric Goldman said...

Thank you for everything you have done and are doing. You are amazing. Only a select few of us have earned the privilege of being known by a one-word name, and the name "Amac" is known and revered throughout the land. Eric.