Introducing Ethical Explorer

Tl;dr Launching today, Ethical Explorer is a digestible, accessible (& free!) toolkit designed to help founders, product managers, designers and their collaborators build better, more responsible technology.

Back in 2018, my team co-created EthicalOS alongside our friends at Institute for the Future. We’re so proud of it but, in the last year, it became increasingly clear it needed to be reimagined.

For one thing, 2020 isn’t 2018.

Even before the disruptions and distractions of a global pandemic, incoming recession and ongoing fight for deeper racial justice, there’s been incredible change in the responsible tech movement.

The clearest example I can think of — only April 2018, barely two years ago — is “Senator, we sell ads”.

Zuckerberg’s famous dismissal of an unsophisticated Senate question symbolised how easy it was in that era for those in leadership roles and Big Tech in general to ignore the real, valid concerns the media and civil society had been raising for years.

Fast forward past WeWork’s failed IPO, Google’s Thanksgiving Four, Unilever joining the Facebook ad boycott and countless other signals big and small, and it’s clear that so many of the cultures and norms we’ve established in tech are being held up to the light and found wanting.

What’s interesting is who is doing the holding; the tech workers themselves.

In the last few years, I’ve been excited and inspired by the workers asking hard questions, course correcting and planning ahead; the designers, engineers, product managers, founders and their collaborators stepping up when the conventional leaders won’t.

These true leaders are who we designed Ethical Explorer for.

Issues essential to creating responsible products, from monopoly power to data use and exclusionary design, are complex. They resist easy answers.

Sometimes we don’t know where to start.

Not all companies or teams have cultures that welcome fair, thoughtful conversations about business or product decisions. Even at workplaces that welcome nuance, leading this kind of work can be intimidating, can feel like forging uncharted territory.

Ethical Explorer is a direct response to the need we’ve seen and heard from makers and builders — as well as their collaborators — for a digestible, actionable resource to steward ethical tech.

So, what’s included?

Ethical Explorer is a DIY kit designed to spark group dialogue, identify early warning signs, build internal support, and brainstorm solutions to avoid future risks.

  • Field Guide: An overview of Ethical Explorer, suggested activities for both individuals and groups, and language to help you gain buy-in for this work.
  • Risk Zones: Eight Tech Risk Zone cards — plus one blank card to tailor to a specific need or scenario — to provoke thoughtful conversations around risk, responsibility, and impact.
  • Stickers: Because they’re cute.

At Omidyar Network, our work investing in and creating partnerships with like minds has led us to the toolkit’s guiding principles: to support human values, create a culture of questioning, and ignite change through dialogue.

Building responsibility into core business and product decisions takes continual conversation and action. We encourage you to make it your own; please evolve, experiment, and play.

Now let’s start exploring.

Director @OmidyarNetwork's Beneficial Tech. Ex-head Google's @campuslondon. Into communities, London, looks and books.