Fireside Chat: Omidyar Network
As part of the Inaugural Anthem Awards Conference on February 28, 2022, Michele L. Jawando and Claire Graves came together to announce their new partnership and discuss the recent works of Michele at Omidyar.
- Michele Jawando focuses on the goals and prioritizations for the future, allowing Omidyar Network to continue to impact society with their digital technologies positively
Watch the full discussion:
Read the full transcript below:
Claire Graves 0:17
Hi everyone, hi, Michele.
Michele Jawando 0:19
Claire Graves 0:24
Hi everyone. I’m Claire Graves. I’m president of the Webby Awards Group.
I just want to say welcome, and congratulations to all our winners. Before we start, I wanted to quickly echo Jessica’s opening remarks in saying that we’ve been completely blown away by the response from our community to the Anthem Awards. When we started planning the Anthem Awards, we could never have dreamed about how incredible our first year would be. So thank you all for your support. We also could never have dreamed of a more fitting partner for our first year. We are so proud to have Omidyar Networks as our first sponsor supporting the awards. I am thrilled to be joined by Michele L. Jawando, Senior Vice President programs for Omidyar Networks to talk about their work. We’re going to have, I think, a little bit of time at the end for some questions. Let’s get started.
Michele Jawando 1:17
Yes, let’s do it.
Claire Graves 1:18
So last week, Michele and I, we spoke a little bit about, you know, the creation and the planning of the Anthem Awards. One of the themes that we keep coming back to when we’re thinking about the Anthem Awards is the intersection of impact work. We are studying the causes across issues, climate, health, humanitarian action. While all of these areas exist individually, when you think about them holistically, then that’s where really powerful change can happen. I know this is how you all at Omidyar, think about your impact. So that’s why we’re so excited about our partnership, and excited to learn from you today. So, why don’t we start with you giving us a little bit of an overview of Omidyar Network’s vision for the world, and how social change ventures are helping to make that a reality.
Michele Jawando 2:13
Thank you so much Claire. I want to just thank everyone for joining the outpouring of engagement and excitement about the first ever awards with our first ever Anthem Awards has been outstanding. So, I’m really excited to be a part of the team. I also want to recognize that this is a particularly challenging time for war impacted people. I just want to recognize and honor that before we get started, because I know that this is a challenging time for us. I think that’s why this work that we’re doing today, recognizes and honors all of our winners, all of our finalists, everyone who applies that we consider. It’s so important, because how we think about our systems, how we think about our interaction with each other, how we think about how we leave this planet. The people that are in it are so important. So, this work shows up at such an incredible time for all of us around the globe. I think at Omidyar, we wake up every day thinking with a very clear purpose. How do we reimagine critical systems and the ideas that govern them? How do we build more inclusive and equitable societies? I know that sounds really big, but we recognize that right now, our economies are geared to isolate so many. We know that our social order, and how we work with each other, is fractured. We’re broken, and we’re hurting. Our laws we know, in places all over the world, are structurally biased. So, how do we wake up and say that it’s not okay to leave it the way that I found it? We know from experience that real change doesn’t happen on the margins. It happens when we look at not just the symptoms, but what are the underlying ideas? What are the ways that we’ve decided and we’ve accepted certain norms? That includes looking at the links between the economy, between democracy, between our communities, and the technologies that knit us all together.
Claire Graves 4:25
So you have three areas that you focus on. Why don’t we dive in and talk about those three areas? Should we start with Responsible Technology?
Michele Jawando 4:32
Yeah, let’s do it. Listen, I think one thing that I should say is that we’re thinking about these issues with a very optimistic frame, right? Because I think sometimes we look at the burdens of the world and we say, this is too much, I don’t know my place in it, and I don’t know how to engage. But we’re optimists. We are capitalists who believe that we can make capitalism better. We are technologists who believe in technology’s fundamental promise. At the beginning of our work, when we start to think about Responsible Technology, we have a Silicon Valley DNA. We show up and we say we believe our digital technology should have a positive impact on society. So what does that look like? We recognize the development of technology today has touched every facet of our modern life. We recognize that when we think about capitalism, we know that each of us are affected by one another in our economy. So we are saying, what are the structures? What are the systems that are broken? Who are our partners that we can work with to help change? What do we think about a capitalism that benefits the many and not the few? How do we think about placing the community, individuals, our society, while being at the center of our work, so that everyone meaningfully participates? I know, I gave you a little bit about reimagining capitalism and technology. But, I get excited and I really think about this work intersecting with one another. I think, unfortunately, so much, so often, we think about our work in silos, we think about people in silos, this is their problem over there. But actually, we are this interconnected community. So I’ve been doing a lot to have our team think more holistically, so I’m sorry, Claire, I just had to jump with that.
Claire Graves 6:33
I mean, do you want to speak about each of them individually, or kind of think about them more as a whole?
Michele Jawando 6:37
Well, let me give you a little bit about how we’re thinking about this idea around Responsible Tech. I’ll give a quick little bit about reimagining capitalism. Then finally, how we think about how we are interdependent and how we create a culture of belonging. So I shared our founders, Pierre Omidyar, and he entered into the world with this idea about responsible technology, and how do you build social trust with one another? If you go back way back to 1995, it was one of the early opportunities for us to say, hey, I want to be in community with someone who I don’t know. Over this thing on the internet was the beginning of how we exchange with one another. So I think that we are at a moment of great maturity. We’re having conversations about what the next system is and what web three looks like. You can’t rebuild a broken system, or you can’t make sure everyone is at the table unless you’re looking at what underpins your current understanding. We’ve done a lot to support this fledgling Responsible Technology Movement. We’ve done things like supported entrepreneurs of color, built data trusts, worked on fair competition policies, things that really focus in countries around the world on how we develop stronger privacy protections. We’ve helped to build and support other organizations, building open source technology, ethics focus, computer science, mutual aid funds, cooperatives, and we’ve invested in both media culture carriers, narrators, led by digital natives, local activists and artists, and tech workers to kind of change and to build this responsible tech community all over the globe. One of our recent examples of some of our grantees who are doing great work is our Reboot Fellowship, where we’re taking young people 18 to 22, to explore tech adjacent topics, and everything from virtual multinational book clubs, to community mentorship. It’s this beautiful engagement of young people who just show up as digital natives who show up with a different energy and I am so inspired. We work in a global community with our partners at MostUp, Ynnetta and the Digital Public Goods Alliance, which is a multi stakeholder initiative that tries to accelerate the development of the Sustainable Development Goals. Our idea is how do you open up equity for low and middle income countries around the world? So, I’m really, really excited for some of our work there and reimagining capitalism. We recognize that we have to force our competition, create dynamism, innovation, and we have to pay attention to what unfair dominance really looks like. So, we’re trying to change who wields economic power, how we think about power, how we use our power, who’s not benefiting right now and, how can we change that. Right? So we’re working with groups like B-LABS in social finance, who are doing amazingly creative things to change how we’re thinking about skilling and how we change and think about corporate governance? How do we make ESG goals, not a thing to do, but the thing to do? So, really excited about the work and the energy that you’re seeing, moving to create more purpose driven leadership, not just in tech, not just when we’re talking about business, but across the board.
Claire Graves 10:29
It’s so much stuff, I’d love to stay on the reimagining of capitalism just for a little moment. You all say we’re capitalists who know that the current form of capitalism is fundamentally broken. Why don’t you talk a little bit more about what that means to you all, what else you’re doing to change things?
Michele Jawando 10:50
Yeah, I love it. Thank you Claire for your leadership in this space. Just like engaging in questioning and a learning moment. I think sometimes, we engage, and we say, this is something I care about, but we don’t do anything, but you’re doing it. So, I just wanted to honor you for your leadership. We still believe that capitalism can be a powerful force for good. We have to reimagine who is supporting society. How and what are the steps needed to build an inclusive economy. If we’re honest, what we currently have is markets that don’t think about everyone. We have markets that concentrate too much on shareholders and don’t think about people and our planet. We have to change that dynamic. We’re envisioning a capitalism that benefits the many. We recognize that people have historically and systemically been affected by structural racism and colonialism, and the indifference about our power and privilege. When we engage in the conversation around how do you reimagine capitalism, it’s not just a thought exercise, it is how do you structurally look at different stages in the process. We recently announced in partnership with Hewlett Foundation, and Ford and others, a kind of global exploration on what a new economic paradigm would look like. We’re working with colleges and universities in the Global South, we’re working with partners like the Historically Black College and University, Howard University, as well as Santa Fe Institute, to look at what are the underpinnings of our society as we see it. We see this as a $40 million investment and changing the norms and changing the ideas of bringing and really centering people and inclusive society. I think in many ways, this idea that everybody deserves is very simple. Yet, we haven’t built a system that reflects that. We’re trying to say let’s reimagine it. Let’s start from the beginning, let’s think about who’s wielding economic and political power, how those two intersect, and how we can shift the systems and the underlying ideas around.
Claire Graves 13:08
I envy your job because you’re working with so many amazing people and focused on the future and changing the future. I also understand that it’s challenging work, especially when trust in technology and the economy and our neighbors is at an all time low. How does belonging as pluralism fit into your overall mission as well.
Michele Jawando 13:33
I think that’s such an important point. We can fix the laws and we can change our ideas around systems and, we can make sure the technology we build is more inclusive and equitable. If we can’t figure out each other, if we can’t show up as partners here in conversation together, and all of our friends who are watching, if we can’t figure out connection and trust, then we won’t ever fix our overall systems because, that is at the fundamental core of who we are as human beings. I think connection and trust were fundamental to the eBay story at the very beginning, the bedrock of building pluralistic societies is the idea of connection. For us, our belonging work is that through line in everything that we do. We see it as a prerequisite to building inclusive and equitable societies. And I think we look at this against a backdrop of shifting racial dynamics and demographics around the world. How do you build a society that can be more equal, while at the same time we recognize we’re becoming more diverse? We recognize that there were voices missing from conversations and so we want to build equitably. We want to bring people in inclusively, and yet we know who’s at the table is currently shifting. We don’t necessarily have the mechanisms, even the language sometimes to engage in those community conversations. To get there, we’re trying to engage in critical thought. We’re building trust with our friends and our partners, and we’re recognizing that we have to do that with people who we don’t necessarily agree with. That’s the hard part, right? Like you’re engaging with people that you’re like, I don’t know about this one, Michele. But we have to do that. That is the work. Diversity means affirmatively welcoming others and bringing them to the table. We have to hold space for the tension around race and religion, and political and cultural and national and different norms. It’s not easy, we know that this work is probably some of the hardest work that we’re doing. We’ve been afraid to say that it was necessary to the human experiment. Now we know that it has to. So, if we have this world of true opportunity, where we’re meeting as equals, we’re meeting individually, we’re meeting as groups, this is important work. We’re working with organizations like the Othering and Belonging Institute, led by John Powell, who really works with communities and researchers here and around the globe here in the US where I am, and around the globe. Looking at ways to identify and eliminate barriers to create inclusive, unjust communities. We work with partners like welcoming America that think about what is the environment in the system that you need to particularly welcome immigrants into different communities. There are steps that we know that we can take, but the steps haven’t been missing, what’s been missing is the will, and the desire. Now we’re showing up and we’re saying that it’s unacceptable not to think about how we build this broader community.
Claire Graves 13:34
I told you last week that we weren’t going to have enough time and it feels like we don’t have enough time. I have one more question, then we’re going to take some questions from the audience. We have some coming in now. Then we have an announcement together at the end, that I’m really excited to tell you all about. Let’s do my final question. And then we can do some from the audience.
Michele Jawando 17:15
As I said, you’re focused on the future. What are you prioritizing for 2022? What’s next for Omidyar Networks? So one of the things that I’m doing is I’m asking my team all around the globe to think about how we’re building not just for today, but in a 2040 world. When we’re a more diverse society, when technology will be at a different forefront than we are today. When we’re gonna have to engage with our planet differently. What is the work that we’re doing today? How’s that going to impact our reality? One of my mentors once said, think of the end at the beginning. So I’ve really been pushing our team to think about at the end of the story, for us and for your work for however long you’re here. What is the story you want to tell? I think we’ve been doing a lot of work around thinking about our own privilege. There’s been a great conversation in philanthropy, how do we use our privilege for good? How do we use it to knock down structural inequalities? How are we thinking about prosperity and well being? How are we focusing on particularly bringing in voices who traditionally have been out of the mix and out of the kind of centers of power so, we’ve been doing a lot of work around in the United States working again, with organizations like Historically Black Colleges and Universities, we made a recent grant to my sister’s alma mater, Spelman College, which is one of the forefront and leading organizations for black women in the United States to build the next generation of AI ethicist and technologists. We’re thinking about work, particularly with indigenous and communities of color. We are continuing to constantly engage and ask ourselves, how do we want to show up? How do we use our power? How do we use our privilege and how do we change the stories that we tell? Finally, I’ve been really trying to get our team to also focus on personal well being, you know, we come in, we gather right now, after multiple years of a pandemic. We’re currently engaged in global conflict. I think mentally that there’s a little bit of change fatigue, there’s kind of sickness fatigue. So I’m really also making sure that we’re saving space for wellbeing. I mean that wholeheartedly and, I hope everybody that’s listening on here finds different ways to take care of yourself. If we’re going to be engaged, particularly in social impact work, sometimes you can burn out and so you have to be careful to pay attention to yourself to your well being because you can’t help change the world if you’re broken. You just can’t.
Claire Graves 19:58
Amazing! I love that. From my team, our team here, I also try to focus on wellbeing as well. Even for me, I know, my one thing is yoga. I find that as soon as I have that lifeline, everything around me, the energy’s just completely shifts.
Michele Jawando 20:16
That’s so right. That’s so right.
Claire Graves 20:19
All right, let’s get some questions. There’s some good ones here. What does success look like for the future of impact measurement in social change?
Michele Jawando 20:30
Great question. I think one of the things that we have to do a better job is how can we be more transparent and accountable to our partners? I think a lot of times when we think about impact, we have kind of our own ideas like we think impact looks like this. One, I think we have to do a better job of bringing in partners to help us shape what impact really looks like in different sectors. So one, I think it is more inclusive, that is hearing from local partners, it is hearing from grantees, it’s hearing from critics! It is hearing from people who you disagree with and getting a better sense of how they think impact will move. I think the other thing is, it is changing our norms of what we think success is. I think sometimes we’re like, if we feed 50 million people in 2022, then we would have been successful. But did we change anything about the systems of how people have access to food? Do we ask what the blockages were? I think we are trying to think systemically not just on the symptoms of problems, but to think long term about the underlying structures. That takes a little bit more, sometimes you have to step back when you’re evaluating problems. I think all of that deeper learning and impact, asking questions so that you are really clear about how communities are thinking about impact, and being transparent and accountable about how you as an organization are showing up in these spaces are three ways i’m hoping you’re you’re going to start to see more shift in the social impact space.
Claire Graves 22:06
Okay, how can we accelerate getting funds into BIPOC founders from philanthropic organizations that are forcing collaborations with non aligned organizations?
Michele Jawando 22:18
Let me give you an amen, whoever asked that question, I think that this is one of the ways when I talked a little bit about showing up thinking about how we’re using our power. Listen, I recognize I show up as a black woman who comes from a rich history of civil rights workers and leaders and global activists. That is in my DNA. When I show up in an organization, I bring all of those experiences with me. This kind of global understanding about Africa and the Caribbean, and the United States. I bring that into the conversation. I think, unfortunately, too few of our organizations have made space to allow leaders to shift, who’s at the table and who’s helping to direct resources. You are starting to see that I think there was a shift globally, and how we’re funding and how we’re supporting particularly BIPOC, which means Black Indigenous People of Color Organizations. A lot of that happened post the tragedies and deaths of George Floyd. A few years removed from that, what do those commitments look like from brands and philanthropy and corporations? I think that there are three things that I would say here quickly. One, now it’s time to ask how are you standing up with your commitment? If you’ve seen a press release, or an organization say, hey, we have a commitment to being more anti-racist, and more just, then you want to see what what has the follow up been? What has been your story on that? I think too, there are a lot of organizations, brands and companies. So just quickly, one of my former colleagues at Google, Jewel Long has done amazing work in a black startup fund at Google, which a few years ago, you would not have seen. I do think that there are opportunities that are currently engaging. Then finally, I think that communities are also seeing different ways that people are thinking about capital and investment. We engaged last year in a mutual aid fund. It was the first time we’ve ever done anything like that. You’re seeing philanthropy trying to adjust to move our leadership or our privilege and put it closer to the hands of people who are affected. There’s a lot of work to do there. HBCUs, for example, get less than 2% of the overall philanthropic dollars that go to higher education institutions. So, we have a long way to go but I see that as an opportunity. Now I’m here so I’m not going to accept it as the norm. We have to keep moving forward.
Claire Graves 24:58
We’re talking about moving forward as well. We’re having lots of questions people are wanting to know about from you, Michelle. As digital rights defenders, we’re also fighting on multiple fronts. Sometimes as researchers, our research is being silenced or we are run offline. How can we hold and elevate these scholarly projects so that their light doesn’t go out? Oh, thank you so much. I actually, if you go to the Omidyar page, one of our grantees who’s done amazing work in Kenya, at the forefront of human rights work was recently recognized with the Global Pluralism Award. They were one of the grantees that we seeded very early on, because of some of their digital rights work that they were doing. We saw government’s trying to move leaders offline. I think that there are a few things that are happening. One, trying to connect with other aligned digital rights activists to find out where their access points to information and resources and network. One of the beautiful things about Anthem is that you’re going to have an opportunity to meet and see some of these people. I think it’s really important to build that community and network, right? We were informed about some members in the lawyers hub that we work in fund off of the continent, because of our partnership with another organization. I think networking is really, really important, particularly in that space. We hold digital rights, data protection, digital privacy, almost as core to our foundation. This is a like a deeply held belief, at Omidyar and I think that there are more organizations, more philanthropic leaders, like Pivotal, like Schmidt Futures, Omidyar, who are standing up and saying this. Then there are amazing organizations like Access now who work around the world and in a few months is going to have another global convening. I think, again, finding networks, a lot of philanthropic organizations go to these national and global convenings, so that we can connect with activists who are on the ground. Sometimes it’s just, there’s so much great work happening, you just don’t see it all. So, I also often say find your community. Find your family, because we are stronger when we are together. Then that way, you can also tap into additional resources.
Michele Jawando 25:18
How are you engaging all individuals to join you at the table? I think that is to have the conversation that you’re looking to have? It’s a great question. It’s something that I wrestle with every day. I show up as a leader, with a daughter who is autistic, and she sees the world through a very neuro diverse lens. For my husband and I it has been a great lesson about how we think about how people receive and understand information differently. Are we doing enough to shift how we share information? So although I’ve had to change my parenting, it’s also made me think more equitably about how I’m giving information. Not everyone can read a long memo that we have on our website. We’ve had to shift and do more digital content creation. We want to partner with people in different ways, because people are receiving and understanding and getting information and a lot of different venues and places. So, we’re constantly evolving to shift that. I think if we collectively as both a philanthropic community, but also a broader community with folks like Anthem, and The Webbys are looking constantly at who’s the best of the internet, because again, we’re building a different community. Because of that, I think one of the things that you will start to see is that people recognize we have to do this a little bit differently there. There’s someone who’s been missing at the table. We recently launched work with one of the one of my team members at Omidyar that said at the beginning of the net, who was missing from the table? If we had the opportunity to build again, what would that look like? So we’re poet’s at the table. We’re behavioral science at the table. Were there enough women and people of color? No. And so now we have an opportunity to say we want to build differently. Let’s build that together and inclusively. I think that there’s still a lot of work to be done in this space but, I will tell you that something that at Omidyar we’ve been committed to doing and you’re starting to see is more change in the system in that way.
Claire Graves 29:44
I think that we may be coming towards time. There’s one more question and I do want to make an announcement about our work together. The Anthem Awards features so many organizations and agencies levering existing tech platforms for the greater good question for you Michele. How do you reconcile the potential to utilize these platforms, this way with the financial models that support those platforms?
Michele Jawando 30:09
Yeah, listen, we, one of the things I’ve shared is we believe that there has to be greater accountability, in a system that creates greater equity and inclusion. We’re clearly a part of our overall work, we think about how do you create equitable systems if you have too much unfair competition, right? There’s a thread of accountability but, it’s not just for accountability sake, it is because each of us have to look at where we were, and how do we build more holistically. So I share with you, I’m a mom of four young kids. When my kids were very young, you walked in, you knocked things over, you broke them, and you didn’t pay attention to anything. As you get older, you think about if I leave the door open, and the milk spoils, what does that do for everybody else in the house? If I don’t walk across the street with my sisters, if I leave some money on the playground? What does that mean? I think we are growing as a more mature ecosystem to say, what are the actions that I’m engaged in? How does that affect others? I think that’s a conversation that we continually need to sponsor and support and praise and highlight the great work of our partners and our friends and corporations and brands. At the same time, we have to say I love you enough that I want you to be better. If we make a better, more inclusive, equitable world, guess what it is better and more inclusive and equitable for everybody. Everybody does better in the end.
Claire Graves 31:40
Amazing. Oh, you’re so inspiring. Your work is so inspiring.Okay, so I want to I wanted to take this opportunity to tell everybody announced to everybody that together with Omidyar Network, we are going to be launching Responsible Technology categories for the Webby Awards. We have been talking about it for years now, a couple a year and a bit now. We’re so proud to have Omidyar as a partner for this and to work together on what those categories should be. We don’t want to do it alone. We want to do it with our community. We’ll be working over the summer to plan those categories and get feedback from our community on those categories. If you are interested in participating and helping us work out how we recognize this work in the right way, then do email me I’m firstname.lastname@example.org. We will get you to be part of the process.
Michele Jawando 32:42
I just want to thank you so much Claire, I mean, stepping up in this place. As I shared earlier, building this Responsible Technology system and community is so important to us. We believe we can have a tech system that works for everyone. The promise of technology is so amazing. It has mobilized and changed how we live and work and show up with each other. So let’s just continue to iterate and build the beautiful, most promising, life changing world changing work that we see happening every day. Really excited to be in partnership with you. I’m so happy about the announcement.
Claire Graves 33:23
Unbelievably excited. Well, thank you so much, Michele, it’s been so fantastic to talk to you. I’m looking forward to continuing it.
Michele Jawando 33:32
Thank you Claire, thanks for your leadership and thank you friends great questions. I know we didn’t get to everything but thank you. You can find us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and love to stay connected with you.
Claire Graves 33:43
Transcribed by https://otter.ai