In April 2017, the Executive Director of the Drupal Association, Megan Sanicki, came to Whitney amidst a community crisis that was playing out on message boards and in the national media.
A prominent leader on the Drupal project was discovered to be engaging in ethically-questionable behavior in their private life, and the loosely-established governance process had failed, eventually escalating the issue to the Drupal project founder. The founder hastily expelled the accused from the community, and the accused went public.
The Drupal community of more than 1 million members internationally became divided, arguing their points with increasing vitriol on public and private forums, which eventually got picked up by the press — tech pubs and the alt-right.
The Drupal Association engaged Whitney two weeks before their annual conference to begin to find resolution and reunite the community.
Whitney took on the role of community mediator in an engagement designed to achieve the following ideals:
- A Drupal community where all members feel respected, included, and safe
- A set of agreed upon standards for behavior and belonging in the Drupal community
- Improved governance, processes, policies, and procedures for community members who fail to meet these standards
- Community healing around recent situations and resolution on how to successfully address future situations
Over the course of 4 months, our process included:
- Understanding the full context of the community issue involving the accused, the Drupal Association, the Drupal Board of Directors, and the Drupal Community (30+ interviews with members around the world completed in 10 days)
- Facilitation and mediation of several community discussion sessions around the immediate issue and its broader implications — seven 90-minute sessions at DrupalCon 2017 in Baltimore and seven 90-minute sessions online for the global community’s participation — using ground rules and process rooted in Nonviolent Communication
- A set of community agreements about personal conduct as community members, including potential updates to the Drupal Code of Conduct, DrupalCon Code of Conduct, Community Working Group guidelines, and other associated documents
- Sharing of findings to the Board of Directors and the international community through multiple live presentations and a series of blog posts
- Monitoring of ongoing community discussions around agreements, with updates to agreements as necessary
- One-on-one coaching throughout the process with key individuals involved
The overwhelming response from the Drupal community has been that this was a healing experience. People who came into the community discussions on opposite sides of the issue walked away feeling connected by their shared needs and hopes for the Project. Several leadership changes were made, and new community governance process is underway. There have been substantial improvements to communication, transparency, clarity, participation, and trust.
Thank you to Megan Sanicki, Dries Buytaert, Tiffany Farriss, George DeMet, Shyamala Rajaram, Rachel Friesen, Tim Lehnen, Brendan Blaine, and the entire Drupal Community for allowing me to support you in this important time of self-reflection, connection, and growth. — Whitney