Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Back to Blog

On culture change: A code of conduct

We believe that in order to accomplish 18F’s mission of providing effective U.S. government services, we need to involve the people who will be using those services. We’ve written previously about the importance of including users in our development processes, and also about our policy and practices around open source and transparency. We strive to partner with the public, co-creating services with the people who need them, and welcoming individuals who wish to volunteer as open source contributors.

To that end, we hold events that are open to the public and regularly interact with people in online spaces. While there are standards of conduct that apply to us as federal employees, we felt a need to articulate that we hold ourselves and our community to a standard above and beyond the usual anti-harassment and ethical policies. It has become a standard practice in the software industry to create a “code of conduct” for conferences and events. By creating our own Code of Conduct, we are defining the kind of environment we seek to create:

We aspire to create a culture where people work joyfully, communicate openly about things that matter, and provide great services for the American people and the world. We would like our team and our communities (including government and private sector colleagues) to reflect the diversity of America. We want to foster diversity of all kinds — not just the classes protected in law. Diversity fosters innovation. Diverse teams are creative teams. We need a diversity of perspective to create solutions for the real and urgent challenges we face.

To create this initial Code of Conduct, which we still consider a work in progress, we formed an internal working group and our first drafts were several pages that explored our values along with lists of detailed do’s and don’ts. At one point the work seemed to loom ahead in endless editorial sessions as we sought the right words to capture our intent. After one meeting with soul searching discussions, we scrapped the long-form and isolated the key points:

  • Obey the Law: We adhere to the GSA Anti-harassment Policy and all Equal Employment Opportunity laws.
  • Be Empowering: Consider how our words and actions can unleash creativity and potential in others.
  • Create boundaries to our behavior, considering how we can create a safe space that helps prevent unacceptable behavior by others.

We welcome you to read and give us feedback on the full text of our Code of Conduct, and check out all the community codes we consulted. We deeply thank everyone who participated with us in the working group, including but not limited to:

  • Leah Bannon
  • Gray Brooks
  • Annalee Flower Horne
  • Elaine Kamlley
  • Noah Kunin
  • Eric Mill
  • Victor Zapanta

Related Posts