A new era for OpenOakland (burnout in #civictech)


Three and a half years, a dozen apps, some new laws, hundreds of hack nights, ten big public events and many new friends across the country. OpenOakland has been a huge part of my life since Eddie Tejeda and I decided our city needed us to do something, and it’s a part of my life that I’m stepping back from, with huge sadness, much love and much hope that the people I’m leaving it to will do new, great things with this vehicle for civic action we’ve built together.

As of May 30, both Eddie and myself are stepping down and we’ll no longer be leading this organization. We’ll always have pride in being the co-founders of an Oakland made creation that has seen impact across the United States of America and inspired others across the world, but we’re at a point where we both need space in our lives that isn’t possible with paying jobs and leading a civic organization. Not anymore at least.

I’ve balanced my family (three little girls), my marriage and my love for Oakland and for what we’ve made through OpenOakland, but it’s become harder to put in the time needed to really grown and develop and organization at this phase- we need to figure out our business model, raise funds, build a board and keep producing apps, advocacy and events, whilst supporting our volunteer base (love y’all). I’m aware that I’ve sacrificed much but I’ve loved doing so. But I need space for myself, space to get physically fit again, space to enjoy being a dad and not compromising weekends with my kids for retreats or hack days, and space to enjoy being a husband and not having “all those evening events”. My wife has supported me in this work for a long time, but we’ve also agreed to accountability- we’ve blown through a couple of dates we set for me to step out if it wasn’t clear there was a fundable role to take on, and my wife was gracious in that, thank you, but now it is time.

This is a hard choice, I’ve shed tears over it (I may not empathize well but I do have the feels) and I’m a bit stunned by the idea of not having an org to run, things to build, people to support, but I’ve got ideas brewing and am looking forward to the space to nurture them. I’d also love to be serving more in different ways, maybe with our church, maybe with protest movements, I’m not really sure yet.

Being part of this, maybe even being a leader in the open government movement, has been wonderful, and I’m not opting out all the way, I still think this stuff matters greatly. I’ve gotten to become friends with people I admired previously and that’s a special thing. People like Jen Pahlka, Noel Hidalgo, Derek Eder, Luke Fretwell, Dan O’Neill, Tim O’Reilly, Harlan Weber, Bill Bushey, Mjumbe Poe and many more- you all have inspired me, challenged me and pushed me to keep moving toward a vision of a better world, a better Oakland.

Our executive team at OpenOakland has a lot to take on now with both founders stepping down, but I’ve realized this past year that our team is truly amazing; their dedication, passion, creativity and ingenuity are really just incredible, and I have faith in them to guide this organization forward, even if that’s in a different direction than the one we set out on- go for it!

I’m not going anywhere, and I’m not disengaging from the civic tech world. I’ve committed to helping the brigade movement figure out how to sustain and grow, and I’ve got ideas for Oakland too. But in the near future I’ll be making sure OpenOakland has a smooth transition and then just being a social justice researcher and advocate, husband, dad, and friend for a while.

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