Goodbye, thanks and what I learned at OpenCorporates

hera-dusk

This is my last week at OpenCorporates after three amazing years of learning and action (see the Impact Report for 2016 and 2015). When I started working in OpenCorporates, I had been feeling stuck and uninspired. Since university, I had been fully immersed in the tech startup scene and while the world of startups was exciting, it felt like I couldn’t motivate myself to work for them anymore. That’s when I got involved with tech for good projects and Wikimedia, through which I landed this role at OpenCorporates.

Over the past three years, I’ve hosted over 50 FlashHacks and data dives, sat on many panels, hosted sessions and workshops at conferences, trained journalists in open data driven investigations, created collaborations with NGOs and helped academics, activists and investigative journalists with their investigations. I’ve learned about open data, open company data, corruption, money laundering, tax fraud, beneficial ownership, trusts, tax justice, supply chains, procurement and so much more. There are far too many favourite moments to recount here, though you can read most of them through our impact reports, here are some that do stand out particularly for me:

Some of my favourite moments:

  • Accepting Open Data Business Award for OpenCorporates from the founder of world wide web, Sir Tim Bernes-Lee and the Open Data Institute
  • Judging the ODI Open Data Awards and announcing the Impact award (which went to OpenOil)
  • Working with investigative journalists after the release of Panama Papers on corruption and money laundering investigations. Favourite from this is when El Pais broke a story that led to the resignation of Spanish Minister for Information and Trade.
  • Watching OpenCorporates break the 100 million companies mark
  • Campaigning in the lead up to Anti Corruption Summit on beneficial ownership transparency for both companies, and foreign companies owning property in the UK
  • Helping with the creation of OpenOwnership, and its first Steering Group before it got traction and hired its brilliant project lead
  • Tracking the impact of OpenCorporates and publishing impact reports
  • Starting our regular corporate network mapping and data scraping meetups called FlashHacks
  • Speaking at OECD on Women’s Day about how open company data impact women’s rights
  • Volunteering with inspiring trailblazing women in the open data and civic tech space to run OpenHeroines
  • From being a novice in the advocacy world to becoming the co-chair of UK Bond Anti-Corruption group alongside Rachel Davies from Transparency International UK

 

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“My wall” at the OpenCorporates office, Level39

 

I’m so proud of what I’ve been able to achieve here, with the help of my amazing OpenCorporates colleagues, and the wider transparency community. It’s hard to imagine that I wasn’t always part of this community. My list of thanks would extend for pages so figuring out how to do this in a few lines has been the hardest part of writing this post.

First of all I need to thank Chris who has mentored me and taught me most of what I know about anonymous companies, data models and investigations. He always had time for me and gave me the space to grow as a leader. Secondly, I would like to thank Seb Bacon, Peter Inglesby, Tom Curtis, Ben Parker, Ben Symonds, Alex Skene, Adizah Tejani, Rob Palmer, Maggie Murphy, May Miller-Dawkins, David McNair, Gavin Hayman, Sam Leon, Rachel Owens, Rachel Davies, Tim Davies, Alex Cobham, Kristen Robinson, Mor Rubinstein, Chido Dunn, Julia Kesuru, and John Wunderlich from the transparency community and OpenCorporates for supporting me in my learning.

I would also like to thank colleagues at Transparency International, Global Witness, Open Contracting, ONE, Web Foundation, Open Knowledge, Tax Justice Network, IDRC, Sunlight Foundation, OpenOil, Christian Aid, Open Data Coop, IDRC, OpenHeroines and Open Data Institute for involving me in their events, projects and research. Also I cannot thank the staff at Level39 enough for providing a productive and beauty environment to work from.

Finally, I want to thank all the amazing coders, academics, journalists, campaigners, investigators and concerned citizens who form the vibrant OpenCorporates community for all the work we did together.

As I leave OpenCorporates, it becomes even clearer to me that the work our team does is fundamental to establishing integrity in business, fighting corruption, money laundering and enabling watchdogs to hold the powerful accountable. For years, OpenCorporates has advocated for company information to be in the public domain as open data, so it is usable and comparable. With recent wins in the transparency movement over beneficial ownership transparency, open contracting and tax justice, it may seem like the movement has peaked but I don’t believe it has. There are threats to accountability and transparency (as a norm) everywhere but our community can fight them together.

I’ll be joining Open Contracting Partnership as a Senior Advocacy Manager from later this month to transform the world of government procurement. For those of you who want to stay in touch, you can find me on my twitter, LinkedIn, blog, newsletter and on hussain dot hera at gmail dot com (or hhussain at open-contracting.org).

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