Today, the Ada Initiative announced that it will be shutting down in October. It wasn’t a surprise to me. Having worked closely with Valerie in the past, I was told last week, but even before that, I knew it might be coming. The announced end of AdaCamp a month ago was only one hint.
Ada Initiative founders Val and Mary are working to make all their projects open source, and others have already expressed determination to keep those projects growing and changing to meet the needs of more women in open technology and culture. This is a very good thing indeed. In fact, it might turn the end of the Ada Initiative into exactly what we all need.
The hardest thing I’ve had to come to terms with as an activist, particularly as a feminist activist, is the inability to be everything people need. The need is so great and so strong that for too long I tried to fill every role within my sphere in influence. Obviously, I never came close to doing it. I did come very close to burning myself out.
I’m just working my way back now. One of the ways I’m doing that is by taking a good, hard look at my limits. What work drains me? What work will I resent people for if they don’t appreciate it? What kind of a return do I need to keep things worthwhile?
The Ada Initiative was one of the groups that gave me permission to ask those questions. I haven’t found a way to turn their bald declaration that people should get paid for their activist work into a sustainable living, but I have found ways to make activist work sustainable for me. I’m still working on finding more.
One of the telling things for me in seeing the Ada Initiative close is comparing the work they’ve done with where they’ve wanted to go. You can see that in this interview. The plans Mary and Val had for starting the organization went by the wayside as they followed the need. They didn’t burn themselves out, but their attempt at reorganization and expansion earlier this year was a response to coming close.
I am sorry the reorganization didn’t work. A huge Ada Initiative that was, not all things to all people because that isn’t possible, but more things to more people would have been glorious. At the same time, I’m glad to see Val and Mary find and recognize their own limits in all this work now. I would rather see them hand off the work the Ada Initiative has done in a controlled fashion than see a bigger organization go down in flames.
I don’t know whether it would have been better in the long run to continue to have a point organization like the Ada Initiative for people to focus and build their own efforts around, or whether it will be better to have people riffing off their efforts with greater freedom and independence. I do know, though, that the Ada Initiative and everyone who worked with it accomplished great things, and I trust that the people stepping up to keep building will do the same.
Maybe some of them, having different limits, will find it possible to build a new point organization like the Ada Initiative was for many of us. Maybe we’ll see a proliferation of smaller groups that target projects better suiting their own limits. Both are sustainable activism. Both are good.
In the meantime, thank you to everyone who worked to make the Ada Initiative what it was. Your work built something we are sad (and sometimes angry) to see go. That is an accomplishment worth celebrating.