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OpenMedia Through the Looking Glass

Behind the scenes of your favourite Internet superheroes: all those things that are not included in our action pages.

Just like any other job, when I first came into OpenMedia six months ago I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. But I quickly realized OpenMedia was anything but ‘any other job,’ or like anything I’d done before, for that matter. (I was also supposed to write this blog months ago, but at the time I wouldn’t have be able to tell you this story with the perspective gained from numerous campaigns, hundreds of coffees and thousands of tweets. Let's do this!)

Where to begin? Culture, definitely culture

It probably didn’t even take me a week to figure out that OpenMedia had culture of its own that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. Here at OM (that’s what we we call OpenMedia in OpenMedia-speak) staff are allowed, and encouraged, to bring whoever it is that they are to the office. Whether you are an introverted Internet-surfer who thrives on eating pumpkin seeds, a kale-powered supermom, a Policy Wonka, or somewhere in between, there is room for a wide spectrum of personalities.


The above are known as our Team Agreements, and they were one of the very first things I learned on the job. These principles are our code to ensure a “healthy ecosystem” in the office and remind us of our capacity, as it turns out each of us “OpenMedians” behind our keyboards are only human.

This is where one of OM’s most celebrated characters comes in – the capacity elephant! Our capacity elephant is a metaphor – and a physical plushie toy we keep in the office – that helps remind us that we can only do so much quality work at any given time, before going overboard and ending up with overwhelmed staff members running against the clock to get things done and drinking copious amounts of coffee. Why an elephant? Because we are a team of keeners who seek to achieve huge (or YUGE! as Communications Manager David Christopher likes to say) things for our community, and that can easily translate to a heavy work overload. Plus, with the Internet being a place of infinite possibilities, there is never a lack of campaigns, causes or projects that we want to take on.

(By the way if you have any suggestions, feel free to throw them in the comments. We love to crowdsource ideas!)

Other iconic OpenMedia characters include the party parrot and the Anteater. The party parrot is arguably our most popular internal messaging emoji – although there is some debate among the staff about the frequency and prevalence of its use – brought to us by our Communications Specialist Meghan Sali. It’s meant to denote pure excitement, since sometimes them classic happy faces and winks just won’t do (at least not when you win a major Internet Emergency battle against Bell Canada!). The Anteater...well, that one you have to experience for yourself, so I encourage you to check out our current job openings.

Of appreciations, CATT and stilts

Then, there’s our staff meetings, which always start with a round of appreciations – one of the golden legacies left to us by our grand, (former) interim Executive Director, Alexa Pitoulis. During appreciations, we take time to commend each other for the good work and contributions team members have brought to the organization. Ranging from the small – thanks for bringing me a cheese scone this morning! – to the tall – hey, I really appreciate those five hours of syndicated radio interviews you did! – OM appreciations remind us that we're all in it together.

Although it may seem trivial, we’ve found that verbal appreciations bring individuals’ efforts into perspective for everyone else – even when you know others value your work, it’s different to actually hear it.

We will also casually celebrate our big achievements and hard work at our monthly ‘Celebrate All the Things’ or CATT gatherings – which involve beverages, snacks and passionate conversations fueled by a like-minded, but also very diverse, group of people. Yes, the TPP, C-51 and the CRTC often also make their way here...

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We also have staff retreats every year where we gather to work on high-level strategic planning and discuss #teamhealth. From learning-style specific communications models and having ‘powerful conversations,’ to cozy nighttime bonfires and canoe trips, our staff retreats are a space for us to embody the principles of our organization – taking time to be the collaborative, transparent, nimble, human, and post-partisan team we ambitiously aim to be.

Plus, this also makes a perfect opportunity for us to practice our campaigns messaging, on stilts. That’s right, you heard it, stilts! (Disclaimer: no OpenMedia staff members were harmed in the practicing of these talking points.)

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In a nutshell, these are just a few of the many things that make up the distinctive culture of OpenMedia, which I have found to be staffed by incredibly driven individuals who are here to give their all in safeguarding one of the most powerful and incredible tools of our era: the Internet. Our strategies include taking risks, making mistakes, working long hours and trying different approaches – or as we like to say ‘experimenting wildly.’

And we could most certainly not do this without such an amazing and supportive community like the one we have! Being the Online Community Facilitator, this is something that I am reminded of every day by reading all your thoughtful feedback. I learn something new from our community members every day because there sure are some smart cookies out there!

What’s the takeaway?

At the end of the day, there are two things which, to me, are the most important about working for this organization. The first, is the internal and external people who make up this team. They are the inspiration that fuels our ground-breaking campaigns work through open communications, strong crowdsourcing principles and participatory processes. The second, is being part of a movement that will hopefully have a significant impact on the lives of many and into the future. After all, you can’t be a hero, not even to mention the ‘super’ kind, if you don’t give back to the community. And that is ultimately what our team is here for.


Marie Aspiazu is OpenMedia’s Online Community Facilitator and social media wizard. Look out for her smarts and quick wit on our Facebook and Twitter!




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