Executive Director December 2022
Thank you for considering applying for the role of Executive Director of Digital Action, an organisation at the forefront of one of the biggest questions of our time - how can we preserve and strengthen democratic rights in the era of “Big Tech”?
I am so proud of the strong foundations Digital Action has built in just four short years. We have a meaningful and necessary mission and a clear and coherent strategy. We’ve been able to bring together experts, advocates and those with lived experience of harm in ground-breaking campaigns that enhance human and democratic rights. We are on a strong financial footing thanks to our funding partners who are committed to supporting our unique, collaboration-based change model.
But most importantly, we’ve hired a staff of experienced and creative professionals, including a senior leadership team heading up our operations and campaigns. When surveyed about this leadership transition, our staff and stakeholders uniformly said that the special magic of Digital Action was our “friendly, inclusive team culture” and our “thoughtful approach to our work and the wellbeing of our team”.
It’s an exciting time for Digital Action, a period of growth and change that demands a new set of competencies. I believe that good leadership includes knowing when it is time to make space for fresh abilities and perspectives. As we exit our “start-up” phase and start the challenge of consolidating and building on the strong
foundations we have built, I am excited to hand over to a new leader equipped with the skills and passion to navigate the organisation through this period.
It’s a period that will see you guiding our team as it gears up for our biggest campaign yet, a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that the coming wave of elections in 2024 - when 70 countries will go to the polls - is the turning point for global tech accountability.
It is also a period that will ask you to resolve some of the big strategic questions that remain for Digital Action and for the wider world. What will the next wave of “Big Tech” regulation look like? Can we learn from how corporate accountability has succeeded and failed in other sectors? How will our sector build equity into the DNA of what comes next? How will our contribution evolve? Where do we need to grow our team to ensure that our work is truly global, and how will we do this? And what kind of operational structure will best enable this?
These are some of the challenges and questions that our new Executive Director will work on alongside our committed team and partners. If these sound like the kind of challenges you are looking for, please consider applying.
Liz Carolan, Founder and outgoing Executive Director of Digital Action
Role: Executive Director
Digital Action is at an exciting stage of development having emerged from our start up phase strong, experienced and well placed within our field. We think this is an extraordinary opportunity to lead our ambitious, highly respected global organisation to the next level of impact.
> Role Purpose: To lead Digital Action on a day-today basis, continuing to drive forward our strategy, partnerships and growth. Further increasing the reputation of Digital Action as an effective and well-respected body and force for change in global tech accountability
> Place of Work: Digital Action is a remote-first organisation, and all team members work from their homes (with necessary equipment provided) or an agreed co-working space. Although this role could be based anywhere, we would need the post holder to live within a time difference of +/- 3 hours from GMT. Any exceptions to this would need a strong case for how such an arrangement could still meet our operational needs
> Travel: The post holder would need to commit to planned international travel. Currently, this involves monthly London trips, Brussels or other capitals several times per year, and the East Coast of the US approximately twice per year, but as the organisation is evolving, this could change
> Reporting: The Executive Director will report to the Advisory Board. The role currently has 2 direct reports: Head of Campaigns, and Head of Finance and Operations
> Principal Relationships: All staff, contractors, funders, partners, the Advisory Board and the New Venture Fund (Digital Action’s US-based fiscal sponsor)
> Salary, Contract and Benefits: in the region of €91,000 EUR / $90,000 USD / £80,000 GBP per annum full time equivalent. We are committed to facilitating flexible working for all and that includes this role which could be between 30 and 37.5 hours per week. This will be offered as a two-year fixed term contract with a 6-month probationary period. We expect this contract to be renewed beyond this initial two-year term
> We offer UK employees a contributory pension, matching employee’s contributions up to 5% of salary. 25 days annual leave plus 8 bank holidays and a 3-day office closure in December. These benefits will be pro-rata for a part-time postholder (where relevant) and may vary for non-UK employees, please enquire for other locations
> Application Deadline: Monday 23 January 2023
About Digital Action
Digital Action is a globally connected campaigning organisation established in 2019 to protect democracy and human rights from digital threats. We are collaborative campaigners, catalysing movements that will protect people across the world from digital harms.
Our campaigns team is working towards our biggest campaign yet. We are building a large-scale global collaborative campaign to ensure that the coming wave of elections in 2024 - when 70 countries will go to the polls - is the turning point for global tech accountability. More detail on our current campaign plan and focus can be found in the appendix.
Digital Action has built large scale coalitions that counter ad tech lobbying and secure real wins. The People vs Big Tech movement of over 100 organisations across Europe ensured big tech lobbying attempts to neuter the Digital Services Act were defeated through swift, loud public reaction. Our policy wins included tougher restrictions on how personal data can be used in targeted ads.
Our team is committed to centering historically marginalised perspectives in tech rule-making. In 2021 we launched Who Writes the Rules, a storytelling campaign that centres on historically marginalised women’s exclusion in the rule-making of their online democratic experience in the legislative process and
ad tech’s platform policies. As well as the main digital policy groups, we have worked with Antisemitism Policy Trust, HOPE Not Hate, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate; and democracy organisations - who often lack tech-specific expertise - like Fair Vote UK and the Centre for Democracy.
We have also increasingly focused on bringing together Global North and South groups to challenge inequities in online harm protections. In April of this year we launched the Global Alliance Against Digital Hate and Extremism, a truly global coalition of more than 70 organisations.
We have also worked on exposing the limits of direct tech company advocacy by civil society. We will soon publish insights gathered from 30+ global partners surveyed to capture lessons on how to use direct advocacy to platforms to achieve your goals. The key takeaway is that groups can use direct engagement for content issues, but that systemic change requires broader action.
Our Team and Culture:
Digital Action is led by an Advisory Board, chaired by Dr Heidi Tworek. Our board draws on a wide range of expertise and includes academics and non-profit leaders from the field of tech accountability, human rights and democracy.
The current Executive Director, Liz Carolan, founded Digital Action in 2019 and is ready to handover to an experienced leader for the next phase of Digital Action’s growth. This year has seen us grow our leadership team
with the appointment of an experienced Head of Campaigns and a Head of Finance and Operations, and develop Digital Action’s new campaign and ambitious growth plan.
Our culture at Digital Action is what makes our team special. We value our inclusive workplace and we prioritise connection, collaboration and wellbeing. We regularly conduct pulse surveys and these consistently show that colleagues feel valued and supported and that managers coach the team who are impactful in their work. In our recent consultation on this leadership transition the team described Digital Action’s special magic as being our “supportive and caring culture”, our collective passion, our “thoughtful approach to our work and the wellbeing of our team”, while remaining focused on impact. We involve each other in how we are growing and developing our organisation, making sure that all voices are heard and wherever possible we co-create the team that is Digital Action.
Our staff team currently consists of 8 employees and contractors based in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and we are in the process of filling two Campaigns Adviser posts, one in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and one in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). During 2023 we expect to add at least two new posts to our team, a US-based Stakeholder and Media Engagement Adviser and a Project Officer.
Global Campaigns Manager 1 FTE (UK)
Head of Campaigns 0.8 FTE (UK)
*New Post in 2023* Campaigns Officer 0.6 – 1 FTE (UK)
Senior Campaigns & Partnerships Manager 1 FTE (MENA or SSA)
*New Post in 2023* Stakeholder & Media Engagement Advisor 1 FTE (US)
Head of Finance & Operations 0.6 FTE (UK)
Campaigns & Partnerships Manager 0.8 FTE (MENA or SSA)
Operations Manager 0.5 FTE (ROI)
Operations Coordinator 0.8 FTE (UK)
About Digital Action
Our Financial Position:
Digital Action is currently in a secure financial position thanks to our supportive base of funders that have supported us since our inception, they are the Open Society Foundations, Luminate, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation.
Our turnover this year is anticipated to be US$900,000 and we have ambitions to reach an expenditure of approximately US$1.3 million in 2023, rising to US$1.6 million in 2024 and stabilising thereafter.
Digital Action is a fiscally sponsored project of New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity that incubates new and innovative public-interest projects and grant-making programs. New Venture Fund is the legal entity that contracts and manages our revenue and expenditure.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:
Digital Action is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion in our staff team, partnerships and operations. We believe that recruiting the best talent to deliver our mission depends on inclusive working environments and the diversity of our team. We deeply value a broad range of talents, irrespective of age, disability (including hidden disabilities), gender, gender identity or gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, or sexual orientation.
We recognise that some groups of potential applicants may face certain barriers to leadership positions. Where possible, we will work with you to break these down. We are open to considering any reasonable adjustments that potential employees may need to be successful, including adjustments through the recruitment process. Our staff team benefit from a truly flexible workplace and any candidate is able to request flexible working arrangements upfront. We are also open to job-sharers.
We want to further increase the diversity of our team and particularly welcome applications from people from historically and systemically marginalised groups. We have developed a pro-equity plan and are constantly striving to learn and improve in this regard so if you have questions or feedback, we would be happy to hear from you.
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About The Role
Mission and Strategy
> With the board and staff, shape the vision and direction for the organisation and team
> Taking a young organisation from startup phase, through a growth phase and to stabilisation
> Ensuring that the team has the right operational structure and capacities to be able to deliver global, impactful and collaborative campaigns
> Overseeing delivery of our “2024: Global Year of Democracy” campaign and setting out a vision for the subsequent phase of work
> Carefully assess the best operational structure for Digital Action’s long-term future, which might involve an adaptation or break away from the current fiscal sponsorship model
> Championing equity, diversity and inclusion in every aspect of Digital Action’s work
Leadership and Governance
> Ensuring the organisation continues to build its reputation as leaders in this field, and as brilliant partners for change making
> Growing our networks, including with Global Majority based activists and experts
> Build diverse income streams and reserves to guarantee the charity’s sustainability and growth, whilst maintaining excellent relationships with existing funders
> Provide inspiring and effective leadership and management to the Senior Management Team and wider staff team, working with them to deliver Digital Action’s activities
> Support the New Venture Fund (our fiscal sponsor) and the Advisory Board with relevant and timely information
> Take an active role in building a strong and effective Advisory Board; assist in attracting high calibre advisors for the Board and working with them to ensure their skills and expertise are fully utilised by Digital Action
Influencing and External Relations
> Harnessing the passions, diversity and collective strengths of our organisation and partners to deliver tech accountability
> Building out our networks and reach within the ecosystem, especially beyond Europe
> Lead Digital Action’s strategic communications activity, working with external agencies as required and building the teams skills and experience
> Acting as an external face of Digital Action by championing and effectively implementing our brand, profile and messaging
About The Role
Experience and Skills
> You have leadership experience with an organisation at a similar stage of its development. This might be as Executive Director, or through leading a team within a growing organisation
> Developing and implementing strategic plans to capitalise on opportunities to increase the reach and impact of a small organisation
> You have experience as a change maker, and an understanding of effective advocacy and of what makes a good theory of change
> A track record growing an organisation’s influence, operations and impact, ideally in a non-profit context.
> You have a collaborative leadership style; you can take an ecosystem view, and are adept at building networks and enabling collaboration as well as building cohesive and high performing teams
> Strong budgeting, financial and grant management skills
> You have experience in foundation fundraising and building and maintaining productive relationships with funders, and managing grants
> Experience of campaigns and / or public policy
> You know how to navigate the challenges of working internationally, and you understand the power dynamics at play in global civil society campaigning
> You understand what it takes to build effective partnerships and campaigning coalitions
> You bring strong networks across mobilisation and campaigning organisations and / or global majority civil society
> Appreciation of the challenges faced by small, start up non-profits, including funding and profile issues
> Passionate commitment to Digital Action’s mission and values
> You have lived experience and / or deep connections with global minority communities and other affected groups
> You demonstrate creativity and flexibility, and can adapt to a variety of contexts and situations, and can thrive in a “startup” environment
> You are a collaborative leader who leads with empathy and emotional intelligence
> You are an inspiring and credible leader who understands what it takes to build a supportive and high performing team
> You embody the values of transparency, valuing people, collaboration and humility
> You are self-motivated and able to work effectively in a remote organisation
> Committed to personal learning and development for themselves and the team
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How to Apply
All correspondence, at this stage, should be via Oxford HR. To apply for this post, click on the “Apply” button on the job advert page, complete our online application form, and submit your CV and cover letter. Please provide a CV and cover letter in two different documents, which should be prepared before applying as they will be considered in the application process. The cover letter should be no more than two pages long and explain why you are interested in this post and how your skills and experience make you a suitable candidate for this position
The document should be saved in PDF in the following format: Your First Name-Your Last Name-Document Name-Date (mmyy) e.g., Pat-JonesCV-122022-DigitalAction or Pat-JonesCoverLetter-122022- DigitalAction.
Closing Date: 23 January 2022
Oxford HR interviews (on-line) with shortlisted candidates: 6 Feb onwards
All candidates will receive an update regarding their application after the closing date. We advise candidates to add the role email to their safe senders list and regularly check their spam folder.
Equality and diversity are at the core of Digital Action’s values. Staff are expected to work collectively and individually to promote a constructive and sensitive approach to others from a variety of backgrounds, where the work of others is valued and respected.
If you have any queries on any aspect of the appointment process, need additional information, or would like to have an informal discussion, please email at digitalaction-executive-director@ oxfordhr.co.uk in the first instance.
Digital Action interviews with final shortlist: 2/3 March (to be confirmed)
Credit: Sum of
About Oxford HR
Oxford HR operates globally - mainly within the international development and charity sectors. We carry out retained executive search mandates at board and senior management levels. We also offer human resource and organisational development consultancy.
Oxford HR has many years of experience in search as well as an extensive network of international development, social sector, corporate, public sector, and academic contacts from across the world. We carry out comprehensive and often international searches designed to meet the specific needs of our client.
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Appendix: Our Current Campaign Focus and Plan
2024: Global Year for Democracy
A once-in-a-generation opportunity
In 2024, the ‘Year of Democracy’, more than 2 billion people will be entitled to vote as US Presidential and European Parliamentary elections converge with national polls in Sudan, South Africa, Ethiopia and some 50 other countries. When it comes to the widespread use and impact of social media, 2024 will be the make-or-break year for democracy globally and a test for ad tech companies’ readiness to support elections.
In recent years it has become ever clearer that there is a global equity crisis at the centre of tech accountability. Ad tech companies headquartered in the global north - and the regulators responsible for them - have been negligent when it comes to dealing with the impact of tech on the global majority. Corporate leaks and on-the-ground civil society experience suggest that companies are barely investing in harm assessment and mitigation outside the US and English language content.
Elections are seen as a priority for ad tech integrity efforts globally, and former staffers-turned-opinion leaders have chosen elections as a key pressure point. To date, there has been a lack of global north media and policymaker attention on the global majority.
The coming wave of elections in 2024 offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to engage media and other influential voices in addressing patterns of harm in the global majority.
Appendix: Our Current Campaign Focus and Plan
Digital Action is proposing to co-create a global, multiyear, collaborative campaign which would lead to:
Major ad tech companies – Facebook (Meta), Twitter and Google/YouTube – being compelled to establish effective and equitable safeguards against the risks their products and policies pose in the context of elections across the world by 2024, the biggest and most significant year for elections globally this century.
This campaign – ‘2024: Global Year for Democracy’ –will achieve this goal by catalysing a global movement of collaborators - from civil society to national electoral commissions, legislators, activists and journalistsleveraging their respective power, influence and voice in favour of equitable and effective ad tech safeguards to protect democratic and human rights during the 2024 global election cycle.
This movement will highlight the reality of harms as they materialise, inequities in protections and responses to those harms, and seek to better understand the limitations or inadequacy of voluntary safeguards.
Our work will ultimately serve and enable long-term collective efforts to develop globally impactful governance frameworks for ad tech companies.
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