Thanks for All the Fish

After 6 years of growth and success, our co-founder and co-leader, Chelsea Robinson is stepping out of her roles at Open Lunar. Read the key takeways and highlights of her time at Open Lunar.

After six years, I’m stepping out of my roles at Open Lunar Foundation. It has been an honor to lead the growth and success of the team. I'm immensely grateful for the experiences, lessons, and collaborations with such talented individuals. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this journey. 

A year ago, we made the conscious decision to enable the team to progress into a new phase of strategy and delivery, including hiring Jacob as ED in 2023. Jessy Kate, Jacob, and I have worked together throughout 2022 & 2023 to refine and operationalize the strategic direction for the next phase of Open Lunar with board and donor support.  Everything we set out to achieve is on track and the team is humming. As a cofounder and employee #1, I feel complete in setting Open Lunar up for success.

The goal at Open Lunar for me has always been to demonstrate a new political economy. With this in motion, I am turning my attention back to the incentives in our terrestrial economy.  To hear more about what I’m thinking, you can view or listen to this recent interview

Read on for a snapshot of insights from the past six years.

Key highlights

  • 2018-2020 we designed and open-sourced how to conduct a nano-lander series and lunar cubesat orbiter and I loved working alongside Ben Howard, Morgan Hunter, and others whom I learned so much from and who I remain in awe of.  

  • In 2019, we created the Moon Dialogs with the likes of Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Chris Johnson, Ariel Ekblaw, and Michelle Hanlon, and reached thousands of people - work that continues today and has culminated into the Lunar Policy Handbook that we published in January of 2023.  

  • In August 2019, we created our fellowship program.  I’ve loved leading this and working alongside every single fellow, and it continues to be our core engine of Open Lunar’s innovative approach. 

  • In the middle of the pandemic, we dove deep into policy, working alongside partners from all over the world as we all normalized remote work. Policy proposals like polycentric policy solutions for resources with Jessy Kate and Lukas Kuhn for Res Luna

  • We pioneered the use of Perpetual Purpose Trusts for steward ownership of lunar regolith by creating the Breaking Ground Trust. I enjoyed designing and facilitating a world-class international dialog process for the Deliberation on our Resource Rights (DOORR).

  • Finally, I’ve designed and codified how we bring ideas to action through our innovation process methodology, and you can learn about how our process works here.

Key takeaways

I have been transitioning out of my role over time this year. We’ve all worked collaboratively to ensure it’s been seamless and I’m proud of the strong foundations the team has for the next phase. As I leave I want to emphasize a few key takeaways

Impact takes a decade

Every organization starts with an ambitious timeline for change, and Open Lunar was no exception. It's the longest I've led a single organization, and I initially hoped to guide it from nascency to a stable state with a proven track record; securing its future. While this partially has been achieved, building a resilient, widely recognized, and generationally impactful organization involves multiple chapters of institution building. The realization that impact takes a decade struck me after co-founding a climate organization in 2011, where it took till 2021 to see significant policy change. Heading into our seventh year at Open Lunar, we're marking a crucial phase in establishing the organization's role for decades to come.

Be human through crisis

The pandemic posed challenges for everyone — economically, logistically, and personally. Amidst these challenges, we discovered new priorities that I believe are crucial to maintain as ongoing norms. We began placing a strong emphasis on well-being, prioritizing it even during tough times like layoffs or performance management moments. Offering good healthcare, flexible work hours, Fridays off, and fostering a high-trust remote work culture are now foundational aspects of our organization. This daily prioritization of care represents a shift that I see as a permanent change sparked by the pandemic rather than an exceptional circumstance.

The value of complexity

Open Lunar embodies a commitment to navigating complex futures without resorting to polarized positions. It’s typical for nonprofits to take stances for or against. Instead, Open Lunar is articulating a complex future without oversimplified positions. If we attempt to build futures that oversimplify one axis or another it’s just going to alienate and divide. Embracing complexity is essential, though it may not market as easily as simple stories. I hope we can all discover ways to effectively communicate and champion complex ideas, solutions, and futures.

Leading through doing

Open Lunar prioritizes action over discussion, advocating for nontraditional solutions by demonstrating their benefits. While new proposals are valuable on paper, bringing them to life as operational initiatives is crucial. The space industry often has more ideas than examples. Open Lunar's ongoing projects reflect our commitment to turning innovative ideas into tangible actions.  Look out for the stampede of projects from the Open Lunar’s innovation pipeline. 

Intellectual honesty

At Open Lunar, our core goals and values remain consistent, but we continuously refine our tactics through constant iteration. This is why we embrace an innovation pipeline approach. We are working towards an alternative for civilization over a 100-year span. Keeping a clear focus is crucial. We constantly question if the current program of work is the most impactful approach. Having a team and board committed to this is invaluable for tackling the challenges of our time.

The stealth dilemma

Open Lunar began in stealth, operating under non-disclosure agreements for around two years. This wasn't my first time using this approach. Stealth allowed us the time to assemble the right team, secure funding, initiate work, and then make a fully formed entrance into the scene. However, one drawback is that effective communication and PR thrive on consistent, incremental messages that build and adjust positioning over time. The visibility of a track record adds value. Only in the last couple of years has Open Lunar become more visible in its messaging and outputs. While it's great to be in this position now, I'll be more mindful of the pros and cons of stealth starts for future organizations.

Collaborative leadership 

I strongly believe in collaborative leadership, and co-leading with Jessy Kate and our founding board has been a positive experience due to our complementary strengths. While participatory decision-making can be challenging, I've found it to be not only possible but empowering throughout my career. Open Lunar continues to uphold the value of collaborative leadership by building the organization as an ecosystem catalyst, involving staff, community, board, and advisors in decisions. This is an extension of our theory of change: a statement about how governance systems on the Moon and Earth can benefit collaborative leadership. 

Fellowship programs

Part-time programs, like Open Lunar's fellowship, can yield an outsized impact for complex problems. These programs, combining project outputs with education, care, and coaching, empower participants with self-authorship and agency. I’ve designed these in many contexts, from climate accelerators to suicide reduction programs to bioregional development. I’d be happy to talk more about these ideas anytime and discuss ways these programs can help other organizations activate high ROI impact for people and purpose. 

Thank you

Thank you to our board members and donors for your leadership and passion. Thanks for supporting Open Lunar to keep pursuing this complex and important endeavor. 

Ad luna!