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I think you should abandon the phrase "open the kimono." I'm sure I'm not the only one (especially among progressive nonprofit folks) who really squirms over the gender & ethnic power issues at work in those words.

Beth Kanter

Brad, what phrase would you use instead?


I've been thinking about it for 20 minutes, but can't come up with an alternate phrase. "Open the kimono" is so blatantly provocative that its tough to match, especially one that works across contexts. However, "transparency" is itself a hot enough word right now that it might not need the support of a catchy metaphor. Not sure what to say beyond that.

Jake Brewer

Really looking forward to seeing you at Transparency Camp, Beth! So glad you can make it.

We're very interested in transparency as it relates to organizations as well. It comes up a lot for us at the Sunlight Foundation as we're essentially forced (and want to :) model all the things we're asking government to be/do. To be sure, though, it's really not easy... and it can be pretty scary. Open kimono = major 'exposure' as it were = loss of control.

The basic check boxes such as making all donors and supporters public on our website are easy - and I think that's important, but it's also where many orgs stop. When we think about "opening the kimono," we've been trying think about it and apply it in ways we haven't necessarily seen ventured into.

For example, completely opening the design of our databases and new web platforms to our public Google groups for feedback is a pretty new approach for an org like ours. Essentially we're allowing others - including the media - to watch us, critique us, and of course help us build as we go along. The first place we're really trying it is with one of our most ambitious projects here:

Beyond projects though though, it's been an interesting to also try being more transparent in our day to day behavior. People often note that Sunlighters are awfully active on Twitter - which can admittedly seem like a little too much - but part of the reason is that we often ask in team meetings "how can the community help with this?" or "how can this be more open" and the result is that instead of an internal email that only the team sees, all of our Twitter followers see it along with our staff (who almost all use TweetDeck to manage a feed of just Sunlight co-workers, so we don't miss something).

For better or worse, sometimes the result is that Sunlight team members are informed of a major development within the organization at the same time as the public!

These are obviously just starts, and we have a lot to learn and ways to grow. I have to say it's been a fascinating experience/experiment in these last couple months though, and I for one can't wait to hear what other commenters have to say about their kimono openings.

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