Diversity Update for 2019

SymfonyCon

At SymfonyCon I had the pleasure of presenting a talk on what happened during the first year of the diversity initiative. While admittedly there were phases during 2018 where the initiative was lacking momentum, overall it was a great first year. So much so, I had to leave out some details to not run over my session time slot.

Also at SymfonyCon we had the first in-person meeting of several diversity initiative members during the hackathon. We discussed a lot of observations about the conference itself, the community and possible future focus areas which led to several new tickets.

Chat Meetings

We now have regular roughly bi-weekly 1-hour chat meetings on Symfony Slack in the #diversity-meetings channel. We already held one in December and another one in early January. The next one will be on January 15th at 11:00 CET. We are trying to vary the day and time of day a bit to enable people from around the globe to join. That being said, the regular people are all in Europe, so, for now, we do try to accommodate people from Europe a bit more. But please do let us know if our scheduling is making it impossible to attend and we will adjust accordingly. We, of course, publish chat logs and any topic can also be discussed inside a ticket or in the #diversity channel.

Governance

One of the trickier topics we currently try to tackle is governance of the initiative itself. How do we make decisions, especially when it comes to allocating resources? At the next meeting, we hope to be able to discuss a fairly concrete proposal based on the discussions that have already taken place. It seems that we aim to have something in place that will at least work for now, rather than trying to come up with a super complex structure without having much experience with the actual real-world challenges that we might face.

Use of donations

The topic of governance also relates to the topic of donations. How do we decide to spend the money? We have people that have given one-time donations and others are donating funds on a monthly or yearly basis. This money has enabled us to provide three people with scholarships already - two to attend SymfonyCon 2018 and one for SymfonyCon 2019. There are other ideas that may require funding. Professional expertise provides a lot of value, but such know-how has to be paid. We might also need money for logistics and other topics.

Gathering donations

While on the topic of donations, opencollective.com is a great way to collect donations. However, we realized that our initial setup was not ideal. Most of the current Symfony users and companies are in Europe and thus collecting donations in US dollars complicates things. Mainly in terms of currency, but some people also raised concerns over money flowing through the US. As such we now moved the current collective to opencollective.com/symfony-diversity-usd and opened a new collective at opencollective.com/symfony-diversity, where we are using a Brussels based non-profit fiscal host. This means it is still possible to donate in US dollar but we can now also accept donations in Euros. Any existing donor may switch to the alternative collective if they prefer to make use of the option to donate in Euros.

Note we also considered using Symfony SAS as a fiscal host. This would enable us to collect donations with fewer fees and allow more flexibility in how we pay out donations for specific causes. However, this would mean that we would no longer have a non-profit status. We are looking into other ways to reduce fees. Open Collective is also interested in our ideas to support using virtual credit cards for a more flexible method of payout.

As part of switching from one fiscal host to another, we initially planned to just have one collective and not use multiple collectives with different currencies. To be able to switch currencies we had to take out all the funds, which Symfony SAS did by filing this expense to prepare for this switch. Those funds covered the expenses for the 2 scholarships already paid out and the remaining is reserved for SymfonyCon 2019.

One nice thing about using multiple collectives is that Open Collective makes it conveniently possible to link sub-collectives together. We intend to leverage this for donation drives for specific causes. Above I mentioned the topic of determining how we use the money donated to the initiative. One way we intend to do this is by letting people donate to a specific cause as well as allowing donors to the main collective to move their donations to a cause-specific sub-collective. For example, say I am donating 5 Euro per month, and after 10 months a cause comes along that I want to support. I can then allocate 30 Euros to this cause, leaving 20 Euros to allocate to a different cause in the future. Open Collective does not support this natively yet so for now we will keep a spreadsheet where we keep track of this. As long as we use the same fiscal host, we can move money without any fees.

What is next?

The main topic we are currently focusing on is governance as mentioned above. Please feel free to attend the upcoming meetings to voice your opinion! Another topic we currently are focusing on is speaker mentoring. Expect a blog post on this very soon! And as always come to join #diversity on Symfony Slack and donate at opencollective.com/symfony-diversity. Finally feel free to leave a comment here if you have an idea you think the diversity initiative should look into.

Comments

Thanks Lukas for the update. I'm glad to see the honesty and transparency coming from the initiative, even the less-pretty parts. I imagine the growth that happens at Symfony could also end up benefiting the communities and workplaces that interact with Symfony. That's a potentially huge reach.
For the record here is the link to the speaker mentoring initiative I mentioned https://symfony.com/blog/fostering-diversity-of-thought
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