The things at the core of what we do.
Everything on Tohu is free to use under CC-BY license
Values our team agrees to
We are in service to New Zealand
Our mission is to put data into everyone’s hands. We think that this will lead to big positive impacts throughout New Zealand and on the ways we work together. We are always dreaming about what we can achieve and we make big plans to advance towards our dreams. We will become invaluable by being useful to others, a tool to help them pursue their goals every day.
We want to serve everyone in New Zealand. Inclusiveness is not the norm in society or technology, so sometimes we will make choices that are harder in the short term to make things more inclusive in the long-term. We believe that building a diverse team is an important part of making inclusive decisions. Our different experiences help us to understand and serve our users better. We document and share our approaches to show how it can be done.
We are working towards delightful
To get where we are going, we need to get better every day, both individually and as an organisation. Nothing is ever perfect or finished, but constant small improvements will add up over time. No one else is doing what we are doing. We need to be adaptable and courageous to make the map up as we go.
We welcome novelty. We embrace the best new ideas in our products and ways of working. We are always looking to learn, and we are infinitely curious about how others use what we do. We reflect on our own actions, and we are always open to true, constructive feedback. We do not have all the answers, but we are committed to working them out together.
We operate with integrity
We are transparent and open. We make it easy for everyone to know what we are up to and how we are going, both inside the organisation and externally. Our data is accurate. Our approach is impartial. We won’t tell you what to think, but we do stand behind what we say.
We want to do things, not just talk about them. We are responsive, up to date, and a pleasure to deal with. We share openly so that others can re-use our work, and we make the extra effort required to produce content that could be of use to others.
We are kind
We are humans working for other humans. We work to understand each other’s views, and operate with care and kindness. We assume the best of each other, but that does not mean we let things slide or take others for granted. Our processes are here to serve us, not to get in the way.
We are approachable. Internally we recognise that we each have different expertise, but we all have useful perspectives to bring to bear. This means that sometimes we are students and sometimes we are teachers. We know when to let others just get on with it and when to offer the benefit of our point of view. When we are communicating, we consider the needs and style of the person we are communicating with. We want to create an environment where we can all be ourselves.
We are travelling together
We all have a part to play in the success of Figure.NZ. We are travelling together, but we take personal responsibility for the role we play. Nothing is just someone else’s problem. We are all are looking out for what we should be doing. If we can not fix it alone, we get more eyes on it so we can fix it as a team. We do not have to have a better answer to say “hey, this is not right”.
Figure.NZ is part of a wider ecosystem of organisations doing great things with data. We rely on some organisations, and others rely on us. We play nicely with others. And we are always curious, respectful and keen to learn about what others are doing.
Sharing widely and confidentiality
While we have a policy of being transparent within the team there are times when we are unable to share information until a certain date.
It is generally fine to talk about any project within Slack or internally to the team. However, until these projects are announced publicly by Lillian or on our marketing channels, please do not talk about which clients we have or about to have.
This is a super doooooper important part.
The confidentiality part of our employment agreement applies here.
How we communicate
Figure.NZ exists to grow data use in New Zealand, so we can all better understand our country and care for our future. We do this by making it easy for everyone to find and use our country’s numbers for free, through our website.
We’re a non profit, we care about our country, and we believe data is for everyone, not just for experts.
The way we communicate is driven by our values. Read on for more about this.
We’re happy to help people find figures that deepen their understanding of a topic. Our approach is impartial, so we won’t tell people what to think. We’re not in a position to definitively say why something has happened in the data, or whether what’s happened is good or bad – but we can help people see the right questions to ask.
All figures we share are collected by other organisations. In the “About this data” section on every chart or map page on our website, we include details about which organisation has collected the data, as well as any information that organisation has shared about how and why the figures were collected.
Figure.NZ is knowledgeable, trustworthy and impartial, while also being friendly and welcoming.
We know data can be intimidating for people who aren’t comfortable with numbers, and we want to bridge that gap by encouraging curiosity and being helpful when people ask questions. Sometimes we don’t know the answers, and we’re honest about that.
We’re humble, and we take care to talk in ways that aren’t elitist. Figure.NZ believes data is for everyone, and we try to demonstrate this through our communications by meeting people where they are.
We love our country, and we want everyone to understand it, and each other, better.
The language we use is guided by our values, and we aim to communicate in a way that makes everyone feel welcome and included. This means avoiding language that’s violent, obscene, hateful, suggestive, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, or ableist.
We expect the data we share to meet these standards too, and we won’t publish anything that doesn’t. We’re happy to hear from anyone who spots something we may have missed on this front.
We value kindness. We don’t say mean, judgemental, or defamatory things about people or organisations.
We steer clear of using jargon as much as possible, and we do our best to talk in plain language that’s easy for people to understand, no matter how much knowledge they already have.
How we talk about data
Note: these guidelines only apply to Figure.NZ’s brand accounts. On an individual level, we encourage our team members to talk about data as they see fit.
- Encourage people to ask questions about data.
- Answer questions as best we can, based on the information we have.
- Help people find answers elsewhere, if we can’t answer the questions ourselves.
- Use plain language as much as possible. This applies to how we talk about technology too.
- Explain terms people might not be familiar with. Use the same terms as were used in the collection of data – for example, if data was collected “by sex”, we describe it in the same way, rather than saying “by gender”.
- Note (but not give expert commentary on) trends and unusual aspects in the data.
- Highlight certain figures from a chart – for example, the figure for the most recent year.
- Highlight supporting and background information about data – for example, who it was collected by, why it was collected, how often it’s collected, what terms used in the data mean.
- Include links for people to find out more about the data – for example, if we’re sharing data about District Health Board areas, we may include links to information about those areas.
- Use jargon.
- Position ourselves as experts on the data we publish. Having not collected it ourselves, we’re not qualified to give expert commentary. We may offer possible explanations for what’s happened in the data, though. For this purpose, we define expert commentary as:
- Coming from a subject matter expert (which we’re not).
- Stating a definite position on a subject.
- To maintain our impartiality, we don’t:
- Say whether occurrences or trends in data are good or bad.
- Share or retweet other’s uses of Figure.NZ data.
- This has value in showing people how data can be used, but it’s risky in terms of bias. For example, if we see our data being used for what we consider to be a negative purpose, we’d probably avoid sharing it further.
- The value of sharing or retweeting Figure.NZ data use on our own channels is limited, as we’re talking to people who already see the value of data use, rather than widening our reach.
- Compromising our impartiality so we can demonstrate data use to people who are already supportive of Figure.NZ’s mission isn’t a risk worth taking.
- Share links to news stories that use Figure.NZ data to promote a particular viewpoint.
- For the same reasons as above, this isn’t worth the risk to our impartiality.
- In addition, media have far greater audience reach than we do through our channels, so there’s more to be lost than gained (in terms of our impartiality) by sharing their use of Figure.NZ data further.
- We see media as having an important role to play in making data use part of everyday life in New Zealand, so we want to support journalists to keep using robust figures in their work. While sharing their work further would do this, we can achieve the same thing by working directly with them.
How we engage with people who use Figure.NZ
When we’re engaging with people who use Figure.NZ (through any of our communications channels), we follow the tone and language guidelines set out above, as well as making sure whatever we say is in line with our values.
Much of the engagement we have with people who use Figure.NZ happens on social media. Below is the policy we apply to those interactions.
Social media policy for Figure.NZ brand accounts
Our social media channels are monitored regularly by Figure.NZ. Figure.NZ is not responsible for the personal, political, organisational or religious beliefs of its friends, fans or followers across all social networks.
We encourage you to think about and discuss what you see in the figures we share. Everyone has different experiences, and that means we can see or understand figures differently.
It’s important to us that everyone feels welcome on our social media channels, so there are some things we’re not okay with. These include, but aren’t limited to:
- Violent, obscene, hateful, suggestive, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, and ableist posts, links or images.
- Use of profanity.
- Comments that threaten or defame any person or organisation.
- Solicitations, advertisements, or endorsements of any commercial organisations.
- Off-topic posts by a single user.
- Repetitive posts copied and pasted or duplicated by single or multiple users.
If you post something we think might make other people feel unwelcome, we’ll remove your post or comment. If you continue to post in this way, we’ll block you.
Notes on this policy
- Removing vs. hiding Facebook comments:
- If the comment is offensive (as per the guidelines above), we’ll remove it.
- If the comment is annoying but harmless, we’ll hide it. This means that the person who posted it and their friends can still see it, but no one else can.
- We aim to be open and assume the best of our social media followers, so blocking is a last resort. We’ll only do this if they repeatedly breach the policy above.
- We won’t get into discussions with anyone who wants to debate why their comments have been removed or hidden. The potential for positive results from discussions like this is minimal.
Some of the data that Figure.NZ holds is about sensitive topics that could be upsetting to people.
We use content warnings so we can warn people about these types of content before we share them through Twitter.
Note: As we’ve not yet found a suitably effective content warning method for Facebook or LinkedIn, we’ll instead be selective about which content we share on those channels.
What’s a content warning?
Content warnings tell our followers in advance what we’ll be sharing, so they can decide if they want to avoid it.
Content to warn for
The list of topics that require a content warning will continue to evolve, and we’re open to feedback. If there’s a topic you think should be added to the list, please contact us.
As of now, this is the list (including content examples):
- Suicide e.g. Deaths by suicide in New Zealand
- Self-harming behaviours (self-inflicted injuries, disordered eating) e.g. Rate of intentional self-harm hospitalisation among New Zealand youth
- Abuse or assault e.g. Aggravated sexual assault in New Zealand
- Mental health e.g. New Zealand adults diagnosed with mood or anxiety disorders
- Loneliness e.g. People who felt lonely at least some of the time in the previous four weeks
- Having a low sense of purpose e.g. the lower end of Sense of purpose among people in New Zealand
- Abortion e.g. Proportion of pregnancies ending in abortion in New Zealand
How we use content warnings
- Before tweeting the content, tweet: “Content warning for [topic] for the next tweet/s. Will be hashtagged #[hashtag]”, including a word describing the topic e.g. “#selfharm”. This second part allows people to mute that hashtag so they can avoid seeing the tweets.
- Example content warning tweet: “Content warning for self-harm for the next tweets. Will be hashtagged #selfharm.”
- Once you’ve tweeted the content warning, tweet the content, threaded to the warning tweet. Make sure to include the previously specified hashtag in every tweet that contains the content you’re warning for.
Health and Safety Policy
Figure.NZ cares about the physical, mental, and emotional health and safety of our team and our guests. We want you to be safe and thrive in our workplace.
The safest environment is created when we’re all aware of our surroundings and our behaviour. Everyone is responsible for looking out for each other, identifying and managing risks, and making sure we have a safe and healthy working environment.
These are our health and safety policies. Everyone in our team reads them; if you’re new, this is part of your induction.
Physical health and safety
We keep a register of the risks and hazards in our Shortland St office. If you notice a hazard, you are responsible for adding it to the register. Of course, we’re a remote-first team, so that means we could be working from anywhere. If you’re not in the office, you’re responsible for being super-duper careful and keeping safe. This includes making sure you take plenty of breaks as well.
We’re here to help you and we care about you being comfortable. Tell us what you need to accommodate your physical needs, from special food to chairs to office temperature. If you’re a bit shy at first, no problem. You can tell someone later when you’re more comfortable. We’ll do everything we can to make it happen. If you need to go to medical appointments, that’s no problem; our hours are flexible.m
Mental and emotional health and safety
We care about your mental and emotional health and safety just as much as we care about your physical health and safety. We know that society can stigmatise mental health and that can make it hard to talk about, so you absolutely don’t have to tell us. If you choose to, we will be supportive. We will not judge. We will do everything we can to support you, same as we would with physical health and safety.
We’ll work with you to build a strategy to keep you safe and supported without the need for you to tell everyone the details. We’re used to working to avoid or mitigate triggers. When things are hard, we try to create a supportive environment. Regardless of whether you’ve disclosed anything, we’ll be proactive about checking in and seeing what’s going well and what’s not.
Sometimes, it can be hard to tell when someone needs space or if they’re really struggling and what type of help is needed. As a small team, everyone is always really busy and we try and strike a balance between productivity and supportiveness. However, we will always make space if you let us know that you’re drowning, not swimming 🏊🏽.
We are human. We will all make mistakes and say or do things that may cause distress even when we’re doing our best to get it right. Talk to someone else in the team if someone’s said something upsetting or offensive. They’ll listen, and help you figure out the best way to manage it.
If anyone does or says anything that makes you uncomfortable and particularly if it makes you feel unsafe, whether it’s a team member, a visitor, one of our partners, or a stranger, please raise it with the person you feel safest talking to. Then, let Lillian or Ngapera know. If you want to talk to someone else, Vic or Stephen from our board also welcome hearing from you.
I’ve seen something wrong
We are all responsible for health and safety in the office. This means:
- If you see something amiss, report it to Ngapera or raise a paddle in Slack.
- Then, make sure you fix it, minimise the risk, or isolate it.
This includes everything from chairs or keyboards causing you pain, to spills, to bullying.
You can (and should) read the hazard register to find out where the dangerous spots in our office are. Of course, if you’re working from home, you’ll need to 👀 look around 👀 and identify all the hazards there so you keep yourself safe.
I’m not feeling well
If you’re feeling unwell 😷🤒, and especially if you might be infectious, stay home. We don’t want germs to spread. If you feel well enough to work, then work from home. If you don’t, rest up and get better. Your health is the most important thing.
There’s been an accident
Any accidents (or serious near-misses) must be recorded in the Accident Register. The first aid kit is in the kitchen pantry.
Our first aiders are:
- Nat Dudley (St. John Level 2, 2017-11-06)
- Rob Isaac (St. John Level 2, 2017-11-06)
Serious incidents must be reported to Worksafe by Ngapera.
Someone’s asking me for help
Sometimes you’re busy, or don’t feel like you’re equipped or have enough emotional capacity to help someone else. That’s OK. Don’t leave them hanging, though. Help them find someone else to talk to, either in person, or via Slack.
Not everyone is comfortable talking about all topics, and not always in an open office. Think about everyone around you before you start speaking. By the same token, not everyone feels comfortable asking for help — check in with your team mates if you’re worried.
When you’re planning an event or a meeting, think about other people’s needs. Some people need more prep time, to be properly hydrated, are temperature or light-sensitive, or need to monitor their energy levels. Make sure what you’re planning works for all the team by asking them discreetly if they are comfortable with this, and by checking with everyone that they have what they need. This goes for guests too!
Who this applies to
This policy applies to all of us. New starters will be provided with a link to read when they join our team. This includes contractors.
Sometimes we also have short-term visitors and tradespeople come to our office. Their health and safety is important too. Point them to the version of our policy on the wall to read, or give them the highlights verbally. Make sure you also point out any hazards.
Product design principles
We serve New Zealand—all of it
In line with our kaupapa, we exist to serve New Zealand. That means we care about what we make being useful and usable to all New Zealanders. We prioritise the needs of the marginalised and those who are not tech-savvy.
We don’t take the easy technical decisions that leave people behind when it comes to inclusiveness and accessibility. We think about accessibility and inclusiveness as vital, core parts of what we do, rather than as an edge case. We know we have some work to do to fix outstanding issues, and we clear these up wherever we can.
We think about the language we use and about the technical choices we make when we add new functionality to our tools, and we work to fix outstanding accessibility issues. We use accessible colour palettes and, where possible, usable alt tags.
We’re not precious about our own website. We work to get figures into the hands of New Zealanders where they are because we recognise that it’s using figures that changes things.
We don’t reinvent the wheel
We’re here on a mission, and we need to do the most efficient things to serve that mission. This means we don’t rebuild things that already exist just for the sake of it. This includes open-source tools, but also existing services that are best-in-class at what they do. We don’t try and do search better than Google, or social content sharing better than Facebook. We use their strengths to augment our own.
We don’t do ‘new’ for the sake of new
We consider the cognitive load on our people who use our services before arbitrarily making changes to use the new hotness or before introducing new features. Whilst we love new technology, we are sensible about what makes sense to integrate into our services and what does not, especially given many New Zealanders only have access to the Internet on older Android phones.
We use plain language
Wherever possible, we favour plain English in short sentences. We avoid technical jargon where it’s in our control to do so. We acknowledge that some of the subject matter we work with uses complicated language, and we do our best to mitigate that.
“Do we want a team made up of people who can make it into the same office at the same time, or do we want to be able to hire the best person regardless of where they are and when they can work?”
This was a question our Chief Technology Officer at Figure.NZ, Rob Isaac asked, followed with “we can do either, but knowing which one we want will have big implications on the tools we use, so we do need to decide.”
Given the unlikelihood of the best people for Figure.NZ living within daily-travel distance of each other and being most productive at the same time of day, we opted for the latter. This challenged everything we knew about running teams.
We realised we needed to be remote-first, not remote-friendly.
This means we’re designing the way we communicate and work to embrace remote working, rather than just adding the ability for remote workers to join in on how things are currently done.
These are the details of what we are working towards.
Some of these processes we are still not perfect at. Remote-first is hard; it is time-consuming and requires ongoing attention and thought, and we sometimes get speed-wobbles during crunch-times. It’s especially hard when we need to invest more in technical solutions (like better video conference stuff).
But, it’s worth it. Here’s some of the benefits we’ve noticed:
- Everyone in the team is able to operate with deep contextual knowledge. With most communication occurring in front of everyone, the ambient awareness of what’s going on enables everyone to make better decisions for our overall goals, not just for their own domain.
- There is greater respect for different disciplines by seeing the thought and logic behind decisions that would otherwise be jarring.
- Observing conversations happening in other domains gives the opportunity for people to jump in with a solution that no one knew to ask for - i.e. a developer seeing the data team discussing an issue and being able to jump in with a quick-fix.
- Everyone can share their thoughts despite not being the fastest or loudest.
- Knowing what we say will be read by everyone makes us more conscious of what we’re saying and how we say it. We still share our thoughts, but we are more mindful. We take the time to question our assumptions and assertions and to be clearer in our thinking and expression.
Raise a paddle
Also known as “what to do when something goes wrong”.
Sometimes, you’ll get that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach. Something is going wrong. You’ve noticed something, or you’re in too deep and if you don’t get help soon, you’ll be in trouble.
Don’t worry, we’ve got a process for that.
For some background, you can read Lillian’s blog post, but the main thing you need to know is it’s called “Raising a paddle”.
Here’s what you need to do:
Set up an alert word in Slack for ‘paddle’. To do this:
- Open the Slack preferences
- choose ‘Notification Settings’
- Click to open the Notification Settings panel
- Scroll down to find ‘Highlight Words’
- Add ‘paddle’
Then, you’re all ready for when you or someone else needs help. So, how does that work?
Raise your paddle
When you notice something going wrong or you’re badly out of your depth, in Slack, say “I’m raising a paddle” and tell everyone why.
What happens next?
If you see someone raise a paddle, you’re expected to stop immediately and listen and help. This is an all-hands on deck, pay attention right now situation. As a group, we’ll decide what immediate action needs to be taken, and form a plan for next steps.
What if it’s not as big as that?
Sometimes, you notice something that isn’t quite going right but it’s not an “OH SHIT DROP EVERYTHING” raise-a-paddle moment. It’s the quiet, uncomfortable sensation when you see something and you start to worry. You think “Am I the only one who sees it?”. You fret about what will happen in the future if it’s not fixed.
Often it’s bad process built up over time that suddenly seems to be a thorn in our side. Other times it’s an impromptu process that’s been put in place to test something out in a hurry, and you can just see how it’s going to go wrong as we grow.
So, what do you do about it?
Don’t stay quiet. If you’re worried about it, we want to know.
Write out your thoughts. Create a Slack post, and tell us:
◦ What the problem is ◦ Any background information you think will help us see it too ◦ Why it's making you worried ◦ What, if any, solutions you can see to mitigate it both short and long-term. You don't have to have solutions, by the way. But we want to know about your worries.
Post it into Slack to share with the team.
We won’t always be able to fix everything right away, but what we can do is take a look at something and decide to act in a way that will cause the least pain in the future, whilst still allowing us to get stuff done.
Once it’s been shared in Slack, we’ll create a Trello card with any actions we need to take for it.