Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman

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Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman NYC 2012.jpg
Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman in New York City, 2012
Born (1981-11-14) 14 November 1981 (age 36)
Brisbane Australia
Nationality Australian-American
Alma mater Duke University
Occupation Activist

Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman (born 14 November 1981) is an Australian-American activist. She is the founder and was the executive director until 2016 of corporate watchdog SumOfUs. In March 2012, she and her group were active critics of working conditions at Apple Inc. supplier Foxconn.[1]

Early life[edit]

She is the daughter of DePauw University professors, former Georgetown basketball player Bruce Stinebrickner and author Kelsey Kauffman, the granddaughter of Draper Kauffman.[2][3] She was raised in Greencastle, Indiana.[4]

Stinebrickner-Kauffman graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in mathematics from Duke University in 2004.[5]


Before founding SumOfUs Stinebrickner-Kauffman was part of the climate movement for years and fought for strong climate legislation global agreements, and the labor movement, working for groups like Avaaz.org, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and the AFL-CIO.[6]

In 2011, she founded SumOfUs, an online community that campaigns to hold big corporations accountable on issues such as climate change, workers’ rights, discrimination, human rights, animal rights, corruption, and corporate power grab.[citation needed] She was the Executive Director of this non-profit organization (from 2011 to 2016) that is acting like a global consumer watchdog.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Stinebrickner-Kauffman was the partner of Internet activist Aaron Swartz until his death.[7] In 2011 Swartz was prosecuted for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), and, facing the risk of long imprisonment if convicted, he took his own life in 2013.

UX Rules for Radicals[edit]

Inspired by the book Rules for Radicals by Saul Alinsky, Stinebrickner-Kauffman developed four "UX Rules for Radicals". She believes that technology drives social change and quickly produces shifts in global behaviour. She states that there is a need for an "Uber for organizing" because, unfortunately, many social activists look down on technology and associate it with negative practices like surveillance. On the contrary, she thinks that activists should embrace technology and learn from tech companies. The rules are as follows:

The first rule is to "Fail Fast." She points out that, on average, one in five apps is going to be a brilliant success, one is going to be a total failure, and three are somewhere in between. She holds that it is important to make room for new ideas and to not spend resources on "OK" ideas.
The second rule is to "Use the right metrics." She gives the example of her community SumOfUs, which grew to one million members very quickly, but only 50,000 of those were very active. Therefore, the only members that count are the "members returning for action". The metrics that organizing sites use shouldn't provide the wrong incentives, so people should be careful about what the right numbers are.
The third rule is to "Listen to behaviour." The results of surveys of online activism are not of great use because people are bad at explaining their own behaviour. Instead of doing surveys, companies should try to use listening tools such as those designed for researching e-mail processing.
The fourth rule is to "Shamelessly plagiarize." She gives the example of Rocket Internet, a company that invested in Lineo, the "Amazon" of Mexico, and in Easy Taxi, the Uber from Nigeria. The result was a massive financial success. In other words, people should try to find brilliant new ideas and apply them to the problems they are trying to solve.

Stinebrickner-Kauffmann advocates using technology for activism, stating,

We're facing some of the biggest activism challenges in the history of the world: from growing economic inequality to catastrophic climate change. We have to change a lot of people's behaviour and we have to change it really fast. There is an entire technology industry dedicated to changing people's behaviour and they're pretty damn good at it.

— Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, From Alinsky to Zuckerberg: UX Rules for Radicals, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDIMjjZwp5g


  1. ^ Appearance on ABC News Nightline. 29 March 2012 @ 7m30s.
  2. ^ "Kelsey Kauffman". Amazon.com. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman is Aaron Swartz's Girlfriend who found him". ShowBizDaily. February 5, 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Robert A. Duffey Scholar-Athlete Award, Georgetown University Scholar-Athlete Award. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Crain Lecture Series Welcomes Pollster Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman", Depauw University, 26 November 2006. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  6. ^ "Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman". Social Transformation Project. 
  7. ^ Peltz, Jennifer, Hundreds honor information activist Swartz, Associated Press as appearing in USA Today, 19 January 2013. Retrieved 24 January 2013.

External links[edit]