Volunteer Oath

U.S. Digital Response Team Volunteer Oath

📝 A Note From the USDR Team

Thank you for being here! The first part of this Volunteer Oath outlines who we are as an organization and how we expect volunteers and all community members to show up in this work. The guidelines and examples provided in this section are designed to outline our commitment to each other and to the partners we work with. This section embodies the values we’ll uphold, the approach we’ll bring with us every day, and the promises we’ll hold ourselves accountable to in these extraordinary circumstances.

The second part of this Volunteer Oath is the stuff our pro-bono lawyers helped us write (which we need). As volunteers you will work with partners who support critical work, so it’s especially important that expectations are clear about how we treat sensitive data, who owns the project after the work is complete, and what happens if someone encounters harassment or discrimination. We recognize these sections may sound serious, but it helps create a safe and productive environment for everyone volunteering with USDR so we can stay focused on delivering for governments who need support in this time of crisis.

Thank you for your service and your commitment to these values, principles, and policies.

-USDR Team

I. About Us

At U.S. Digital Response (USDR), experienced, pro bono technologists work with government and organizations responding to crisis, to quickly deliver critical services and infrastructure that support the needs of the public. Please read more about the U.S. Digital Response (USDR) effort and our impact here: www.usdigitalresponse.org.

II. About Skills Needed

Right now, the federal, state, and local government need more experienced professionals who can fill a variety of roles as crises continue to disrupt lives. We recognize skills our community possesses -- technology, data analytics, online support, among others -- are needed in supporting roles in response to crisis. Technical needs range from creating new systems to manage COVID-19 testing requests, to supporting marketing and content development for local websites that are now overloaded. Importantly, USDR members need to be willing to work within legacy technical systems and constraints that many governments operate within. Members may also be working with employees or contractors of governments or teams that partner with USDR (“Partners”).

Keep reading this Volunteer Oath to determine if contributing to our community’s efforts at USDR is a good fit for you.

III. About All of Us

No matter what role you play, perhaps more important than hard skills you have is the attitude and emotional intelligence you bring to the work in a high-intensity environment.

Great USDR community members will:

  1. Recognize that we as technologists and professionals are in a support role. Our job is to support those on the front line of the crises. They are the heroes. Our job is to focus our support on them including understanding their needs.

  2. Assume positive intent. Public servants operate under constraints but are almost always doing their best, and we must honor that.

  3. Follow and listen to directions, and implement feedback quickly.

  4. Have the humility and confidence to do whatever is needed to support the project as directed by the partner, at all levels of a project or organization. You’re someone who will carry boxes, and also knows when to step up with grace if there’s a gap, and defer when there is not.

  5. Have high ethical standards and a deep passion for supporting your community members.

  6. Be willing to push for change where you can (e.g., let’s move away from expensive vendor solutions that will take months to configure), but also recognize that especially in this crisis, your number one job is to help others. That means you’re willing to get off your soapbox and work within legacy systems and other very real technical, legal, and capacity constraints.

  7. Come to the table asking “how can I help” as opposed to “why aren’t we doing it a different way?”

  8. Be a great communicator — there will be a lot of moving pieces and email threads you’ll be dropped into. Keep the USDR updated on your work, share your learnings proactively, identify ways we can work more effectively or have more impact, and ask for help when you need it. The last piece is especially important — we want to hear more from you!

  9. Not offer your time and energy for credit, self-promotion, or other individual advances, but be here for the work and to help others.

IV. The U.S. Digital Response Volunteer Oath

As a USDR Community Member, I promise to:

  • Listen to the direction of the partner and do what is needed most -- even if that is unglamorous. I will be the person who’s willing to carry the boxes, refill the water, and order lunch (and whatever the digital equivalent is).

  • Always start by asking how I can help, before offering new ways of doing things.

  • See what other projects, people, or organizations that might be working in a related space -- and consider how we can work together, if feasible and possible -- before getting started

  • Ask “why” when I don’t understand, recognizing that everyone’s ideas, skills, and contributions have value.

  • Listen more than I speak.

  • Recognize the sensitivity of this moment and the work, and will not speak publicly about any projects that haven’t explicitly been highlighted by USDR already in published materials or the press. Rather, when speaking about any projects or work I’ve seen or participated in, I will anonymize the government or organization’s name and project information (Ex: City of XXX becomes “a government”; Non-Profit XYZ becomes “a non-governmental organization"; data scraping from COVID-19 ethnicity state websites" becomes "analyzing COVID-19 data”).

  • Respect the privacy of any personal information that I encounter in my role as a USDR Team volunteer, and use reasonable security practices to protect data I have access to; comply with the USDR Privacy Policy and Security Protocol.

  • Update USDR of any changes to your availability, project status and progress, and report any issues or updates to USDR as soon as possible.

  • Understand and uphold our mission, values, and development guidelines.

  • Contribute to and uphold an environment free of harassment and discrimination on the basis of race, color, veteran status, religion, gender, sex, sexual orientation, age, mental or physical disability, medical condition, national origin, marital status, or any other characteristics protected under federal or state law or local ordinance.

  • Comply with applicable law, as well as any operating procedures of our partners.

V. Volunteer Status and Information

  • NO EMPLOYMENT. I understand and agree that I am not employed by USDR or any potential placement. I understand and acknowledge that I will not be paid for my services and that I have no expectation of compensation or benefits in exchange for such services. I further understand and acknowledge that I am volunteering for a charitable purpose only and not for other purposes.

  • VOLUNTEER INFORMATION. I warrant that the information I provided to USDR in my application and, at all other times, will be true, accurate, current and complete. I also represent and warrant that I will keep this information accurate and up-to-date at all times.

VI. Confidentiality and Intellectual Property

  • CONFIDENTIALITY. I understand that this work may expose me to sensitive, confidential, or proprietary information. I agree to hold all such sensitive, confidential, or proprietary information in the strictest confidence, to comply with all applicable privacy and information security laws and obligations, and to not use, maintain, or disclose it to any person, firm or corporation or except as directed and necessary in carrying out my volunteer work for USDR and for USDR’s Partners. I understand and agree to abide by the USDR Volunteer Security Protocol. All materials, including but not limited to business information, files, research, records, memoranda, books, lists, computer disks, hardware, software, cell phones and other wireless devices, documents, drawings, models, apparatus, sketches, designs and any other embodiment of confidential information or intellectual property received by me during my volunteer service, and any tangible embodiments of such materials created by me, alone or with others, whether confidential or not, are the property of the USDR team or the Partner. I shall securely return all such information to the USDR team or Partner upon termination of my volunteer service.

  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. I agree that all software (both source code and object code) and all other deliverables created by me in the course of my volunteer service shall be licensed to the relevant project Partner on the terms designated by such Partner, or to the USDR Team, in each case in accordance with our software guidelines. If such Partner does not specify a different open source license, I hereby agree that such deliverables are licensed under the terms of the open source Apache 2.0 license. I agree that I will not incorporate in any deliverable any code or materials for which I do not have all necessary rights and will not incorporate any third-party open source software in a manner that is incompatible with the applicable open source license under which my software is licensed.

VII. Limitations on Liability and Indemnification

As a USDR Team volunteer:

  • INDEMNIFICATION - I understand and agree that the Partner and I are responsible for managing the project and the outcome of the project depends on the collaboration between me and the Partner. I further understand and agree that USDR is not responsible for my activities, services, or duties as a volunteer under this Oath or for the services I perform for government entities partnering with USDR. I understand and agree to assume all risks of injury or death associated with my activities, services, or duties as a volunteer under this Oath and in connection with the services I perform for government entities partnering with USDR. I will release, defend, indemnify, keep and hold harmless USDR, its employees, agents and other volunteers, from all damages, judgments, expenses (including reasonable attorney fees), costs or liabilities in law or equity arising out of my negligent or intentional acts while acting as a volunteer under this Oath.

  • LIMITATIONS ON LIABILITY. I understand and acknowledge that USDR has no control over and is not liable for the conduct of Partners that work with USDR. If I believe I have been subject to harassment or discrimination of any kind, or any conduct that violates USDR’s or the Partner’s policies, I will immediately report the facts of the conduct to the USDR team and volunteer community managers. Similarly, if I believe that any other unlawful conduct has occurred when volunteering with the Partner (including, but not limited to, harassment or discrimination against employees or violations of any other state or federal law), I will immediately report the facts of the conduct to my USDR volunteer coordinator.

VIII. Survival and Enforcement

  • The obligations under this Agreement shall survive the termination of my volunteer services, regardless of the reasons or method termination.

  • The USDR team reserves the right to ask anyone in violation of these policies not to participate in USDR projects, events, and digital forums. If asked to leave a project or forum, you are expected to fully and securely transition any related project information to a member of the USDR core team prior to termination and to exit any external conversations with grace, humility, and professionalism.