The Year in Review by OpenUp Director Adi Eyal

Adi Eyal at the NEMISA 4IR Digital Skills Summit and Research Colloquium

After a few difficult years, this year, despite the global disaster, was OpenUp’s annus mirabilis and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who have put their collective shoulders behind the wheel.

304 hours or 38 straight 8-hour days. That’s how long I have spent on Google Meets calls in the last 6 months ー 30% of all my work time since June 15. I don’t have records for my innumerable Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Blue Jeans calls, but I can safely estimate that at least 50% of my days were spent on the “phone.” 2020 was a remarkable year, not only due to the deadly pandemic raging around us, but also how our work changed to accommodate it. 

On the 15th of March we decided to close Codebridge and begin working from home. A week later, the lockdown was announced. Overnight we went completely online, but unlike many organisations who were figuring out how to adjust to a new way of working, we were the digital equivalent of survivalists whose time had finally arrived. With few exceptions, our operations carried on as normal. Our daily 9am standups continued, although moved out 10 minutes to allow us to take advantage of the lockdown level 4 exercise window. Bi-monthly sprint meetings, weekly management meetings, client presentations, and workshops. After a short hiatus, JD even resumed the Codebridge community evenings online. 

The suite of tools on which the organisation runs proved themselves, mostly Slack for communications, Google Suite for business collaboration, and Trello for project management. 

Time spent on the phone shot up, which is an inevitable side-effect of working remotely and the need to coordinate with team members. Interestingly, working remotely dissolved the imaginary constraints on working in the same city, country, or time zone. Almost half of our staff (both full time employees and contractors) work outside of Codebridge central time. Transforming ourselves into pixels also enabled virtual teleportation to remote events. In a single day, I lectured at the Wits School of Governance in Johannesburg, presented at an Open Government Partnership meeting in Pretoria, and gave a talk at the Big Data Ignite conference in Michigan. That same morning I met with the Wazimap tech lead who is based in Berlin and oversees our developers in Turkey and India. 

This hyper-mobility through time and space has come at a cost. We have worked harder this year than perhaps any other. It has been exhausting and mentally draining. In all this, it is encouraging to read comments like this:

“Very excited to join these efforts and to be on the same communications as the world-famous Vulekamali team!”

When you are working at the coal face, you don’t often have the time to reflect on what you are achieving. Only occasional anecdotes like this one are reminders that our work is recognised and exists outside of a collective hallucination. 

Considering all that has taken place at OpenUp during 2020, it is clear that we have the strongest, most mature, passionate, self-driven, and reliable team we’ve ever had. The machine is not yet perfect, but we are seeing consistent incremental progress, and importantly, a universal will to make it better. After a few difficult years, this year, despite the global disaster, was OpenUp’s annus mirabilis and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who have put their collective shoulders behind the wheel.

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After a few difficult years, this year, despite the global disaster, was OpenUp’s annus mirabilis and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who have put their collective shoulders behind the wheel.

304 hours or 38 straight 8-hour days. That’s how long I have spent on Google Meets calls in the last 6 months ー 30% of all my work time since June 15. I don’t have records for my innumerable Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and Blue Jeans calls, but I can safely estimate that at least 50% of my days were spent on the “phone.” 2020 was a remarkable year, not only due to the deadly pandemic raging around us, but also how our work changed to accommodate it. 

On the 15th of March we decided to close Codebridge and begin working from home. A week later, the lockdown was announced. Overnight we went completely online, but unlike many organisations who were figuring out how to adjust to a new way of working, we were the digital equivalent of survivalists whose time had finally arrived. With few exceptions, our operations carried on as normal. Our daily 9am standups continued, although moved out 10 minutes to allow us to take advantage of the lockdown level 4 exercise window. Bi-monthly sprint meetings, weekly management meetings, client presentations, and workshops. After a short hiatus, JD even resumed the Codebridge community evenings online. 

The suite of tools on which the organisation runs proved themselves, mostly Slack for communications, Google Suite for business collaboration, and Trello for project management. 

Time spent on the phone shot up, which is an inevitable side-effect of working remotely and the need to coordinate with team members. Interestingly, working remotely dissolved the imaginary constraints on working in the same city, country, or time zone. Almost half of our staff (both full time employees and contractors) work outside of Codebridge central time. Transforming ourselves into pixels also enabled virtual teleportation to remote events. In a single day, I lectured at the Wits School of Governance in Johannesburg, presented at an Open Government Partnership meeting in Pretoria, and gave a talk at the Big Data Ignite conference in Michigan. That same morning I met with the Wazimap tech lead who is based in Berlin and oversees our developers in Turkey and India. 

This hyper-mobility through time and space has come at a cost. We have worked harder this year than perhaps any other. It has been exhausting and mentally draining. In all this, it is encouraging to read comments like this:

“Very excited to join these efforts and to be on the same communications as the world-famous Vulekamali team!”

When you are working at the coal face, you don’t often have the time to reflect on what you are achieving. Only occasional anecdotes like this one are reminders that our work is recognised and exists outside of a collective hallucination. 

Considering all that has taken place at OpenUp during 2020, it is clear that we have the strongest, most mature, passionate, self-driven, and reliable team we’ve ever had. The machine is not yet perfect, but we are seeing consistent incremental progress, and importantly, a universal will to make it better. After a few difficult years, this year, despite the global disaster, was OpenUp’s annus mirabilis and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues who have put their collective shoulders behind the wheel.

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