I am so moved by the myriad tactics and movements springing up to abolish ICE, defend im/migrants and refugees, and expand sanctuary. Grueling though it is – especially with the heat at the #OccupyICEphl action, the work continues. So why is this sassy blogger writing about data for changemakers, instead of spending my lunch break protesting? (Don’t worry – I did some of that too!) Because even though data can do a lot of harm (and “big data” is certainly contributing to systems that oppress us) it can also be harnessed to amplify movements for justice. And that’s what I’m here for!
In this post, I’m focusing on justice initiatives that revolve around Salesforce, since it’s such a huge company and tool, and since I spend my days working with the platform at my job. Hence, #salesfierce – my take on justice and equity in the Salesforce landscape.
Open letter to Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO
Two weeks ago, Salesforce employees circulated an open letter (with as many as 650 signatories!) calling on Marc Benioff to re-examine the contractual relationship between the company and US Customs and Border Protection. Last week, there was a second letter going around – this time from Salesforce users, leaders and community members adding our voices to the chorus. I signed it – for those of you who are TDAA readers AND Salesforce afficionados, would you add your name? The flurry of letter writing has already gotten a response from Benioff, though not nearly enough.
(By the way, this isn’t my first rodeo of databases being used for dubious purposes. NationBuilder – which provides database and website “back ends” for lots of progressive causes, including some of the community organizing that I do – was praised as a key tool in Trump campaign. 2 years since we learned this, we are still investigating whether or not we can feasibly move to a different platform).
UPDATE 7/19: Another way to get involved is to call Marc Benioff through Color of Change (this applies to ANYONE, regardless of if you use the platform or not!). They provide a call script here.
UPDATE 7/20: RAICES refused to accept $250k donation from Salesforce. See open email here.
UPDATE 7/20: Tech workers escalate campaign targeting Salesforce to cut the contract with CBP by forming a picket line at the $1B Salesforce headquarters tower in San Francisco.
Recently, I went to a lecture with Charlie Isaacs, the CTO for Customer Connection at Salesforce. He’s a jolly character, smart and insightful, and he’s been around the proverbial block for a long time. Lately, he’s taken on a role as an evangelist for “IOT” (aka the Internet of Things, which is when you connect your phone/tablet/etc to other stuff, like a light switch, a fitness device, a doorbell, or a manufacturing line, etc).
I asked him about his thoughts on “planned obsolescence” and I might have stumped him! But I think it’s a really important thing to consider, so I stand by the question.
- Planned obsolescence contributes to environmental waste and degradation
- Planned obsolescence disproportionately impacts poor folks
Using the IOT technology that Charlie is so fond of, companies can collect data on their goods and predict when they are wearing out. So they can actually *trigger* planned obsolescence before the broken thing even breaks!
- This can be good… sometimes it’s important to fix stuff before it breaks, like assistive medical devices!
- But it can also be bad… leading to replacing things instead of fixing things that are perfectly fixable, but instead lead to greater corporate profits.
I gently pushed him to take a position on planned obsolescence and and share his perspective on how Salesforce IOT can promote the advantages and limit the disadvantages, but he basically said “it’s up to the market how the technology is used.” I don’t think this has to be true! I think there have to be situations where we draw the line in terms of how good technology can be used for nefarious purposes.
at its best
Salesforce is famous for piloting the “1-1-1” model – pledging to donate 1% each of employee time, profits, & products (to me, this is like the bare minimum, but to give a modicum of credit where credit is due, this policy has absolutely moved the needle in the tech industry). Also, Salesforce is well known for implementing policies to address gender-based pay inequity.
But really the best of the Salesforce community (in my experience, anyway) is among non-profits and higher ed orgs, that benefit from Saleforce’s 10 free licenses but have also created a tremendous “brain trust” of experts and a culture of generosity in problem solving and sharing best practices, truly counteracting any “profit motive” and just. being. generous. That’s why I’m so committed to attending user group meetings, community sprints and helping new database admins get started.
Last but not least, I want to, well, amplify Amplify (formerly Girlforce, now with a more intersectional orientation) and their work to address gender, race, ability and other identity vectors that impact technology and nonprofits. Check out the awesome, ever-expanding resources page on their website!
accountability looks like
“People over profit” was the first sign I ever brought home from a protest. It was scrawled in red paint on half of a pizza box. I kept it propped above my bookshelves for years, moving it from apartment to crappy apartment until it was just about ready to disintegrate. All these years later, it still serves as one of my guiding principles.