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 35)
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 standout Bruce Stinebrickner and author Kelsey 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 committed suicide in 2013. She found his body.

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 produces shifts in global behaviour quickly. She states that there is a need for a "Uber for organizing". Unfortunately, in her opinion, a lot of social activists look down on technology and associate it with negative terms like surveillance. She on the contrary thinks that activists should embrace technology and learn from tech companies. The rules are as follows–

The first rule is to "Fail Fast." In this she makes the point that on average one in five apps are going to be a brilliant success. One is going to be a total failure. And three out of five 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 is to "Use the right metrics." Here she gives the example that her community SumOfUs grew to one million members really quickly. But only 50,000 out of those were really active. So 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." It turns out that the results of surveys in 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 for example, designed for researching e-mail processing.
The fourth rule is to "Shamelessly plagiarize." Here she puts forward the example of Rocket Internet. This company did invest in Lineo the "Amazon.com" of Mexico or in Easy Taxi the Uber from Nigeria. The result was a massive financial success. Rather people should try to find brilliant new ideas, and apply them to the problems that 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]