Presenter Q&A with Nicole Ozer: fewer sector siloes, more collaboration

Presenter Q&A with Nicole Ozer: fewer sector siloes, more collaboration

// By Jacqueline Brennan

Nicole A. Ozer is co-presenting the workshop, “A Digital Policy Roadmap for Civil Society.” She is Technology & Civil Liberties Director at the ACLU of California, but has been on sabbatical this year working with Stanford University on a research project investigating the challenges and opportunities for civil society to thrive in the digital age. What led to her decision to go on sabbatical, and what advice does she have for the sector? Inquiring minds want to know. 😉

Q:  If you were independently wealthy and didn’t have to work, what would you do with your time?

NAO: I would hopefully have my own foundation and be able to support social justice work.

Q: What one change can changemakers make that would make a bigger impact in the communities they serve?

NAO: I’d say using an integrated advocacy model that really thinks strategically about all the different strategies that can be employed to address an issue. Really thinking outside of the box beyond one strategy to consider how to use many different strategies consecutively or in combination. In my work at the ACLU in California, we use an integrated advocacy strategy in partnership with many organizations that combines litigation, legislative work, corporate advocacy, strategic communications, and organizing.  It’s been a game-changer to really think holistically about all of the different strategies that can bear on an issue, and to really have a plan for how to deploy them in the most strategic way.

Q: What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of, but would never put on your resumé?

NAO: Supporting and mentoring the next generation of leaders. None of us get to where we are, or are able to get anything done, without the support of others and being able to learn from them. So I’m proud that I try and pay that forward and am trying to really support new generations of leaders, particularly women leaders of color.

Q: When was the last time you got stuck in a rut, and what did you do to get out of it?

NAO: Well, I’m on my sabbatical right now. I’ve been at the ACLU for 15 years, leading our technology and civil liberties work. I really felt like it was important to step out of the day-to-day work and be able to reflect on how to really build this work for the future. So I went on my sabbatical and joined the Stanford project to really do the research and study, and make recommendations hopefully for how funders and institutions can holistically support this important work going forward. I feel very fortunate that I was able to take a sabbatical and do this work with Stanford to really look big picture at what we can work together to build for the future.

Q: What one thing would you change about the sector if you could?

NAO: I’d change just how siloed the sector is, in some ways. Certain types of funders, funding certain types of issues, and certain types of organizations. I really see so much opportunity for real change if we could be more connected and collaborative, and really be able to leverage our shared knowledge and power to address interconnected issues. These are really difficult times. I’ve asked some of the folks I’ve worked with who’ve been around for much longer than I have, and these are some of the toughest times that they remember.

We’re up against some really scary and dangerous forces. I think that we need to be taking that seriously and doing things very differently, being a lot more aggressive in funding integrated social justice issues and creating the infrastructure to be mutually supportive of each other. Just thinking about issues separately — as this issue, and that issue, and that issue – it’s not how the other side sees it. We need to be really aggressively fighting together for what’s right.

A Digital Policy Roadmap for Civil Society is happening Wednesday, November 13 from 9:30 – 10:45am.

1600 900 Jacqueline Brennan
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