Veritable listening

Hit and Miss #6


I hope this finds you well. I’m fighting both tiredness and sickness today, but I wanted to share something small with you.

I spent yesterday at the Connected Canada conference, hosted at uOttawa (very happy to see my school supporting this conversation). The organizers—some great folks in the civic tech space—convened a diverse group of participants to consider the impacts of our society’s digital shift. In today’s newsletter, I want to highlight one issue that I heard repeatedly throughout the weekend:

We don’t adequately support the people who teach us.

In the opening panel, Michael Geist discussed government consultations with internet advocacy groups. For a long time, these groups clamoured for access to government, for the chance to participate in consultations, to inform debate. In recent years, the government has opened itself to these groups, bringing them in regularly to testify and teach. This is great! We need to hear from these groups. But the government does not provide adequate financial support—some of these organizations are on the brink of shutting down.

This isn’t an issue confined to government consultation with internet advocacy groups. I mentioned this case to my roommate, who pointed out that members of underrepresented minorities are rarely compensated for their teaching and awareness efforts. When organizations don’t compensate members of underrepresented minorities for their contributions, they perpetuate the exploitative practices that diminish representation from these groups—the organizations pretend to care through their words, but reveal their true sentiments through their actions.

This issue can manifest in many ways—consider the free labour we expect from people via social media and other avenues. It’s not always feasible to provide financial support, but there are many ways we can support those whose efforts better us, including in-kind contributions.

Another significant way to say thank-you? We ought to actually listen to the people we turn to for education. I bring this up knowing how government consultations don’t always incorporate their testimony into their decisions, and how those looking to improve their image often “consult” with members of underrepresented communities without actually listening.

When someone uniquely qualified teaches us, we must meaningfully consider what they share.

Sent on October 15th, 2017.