"The second part of burnout is that activism takes a lot of emotional energy. It's extremely draining, and when you have to work a full time job to support yourself then you come home to death threats and angry emails and people being upset about the way you've phrased something, pretty soon you decide to stop doing that. So we also need to be able to go home in the evening and relax, and the only way we can figure out how to do that is to get paid for [activism]."
And if the founders burnout anyway over the next two years? Then, "in an ideal world, we'll have grown a couple of excellent candidates who would love to go to work for The Ada Initiative," Aurora says.
The planning for The Ada Initiative includes evaluating progress towards its goals at each step of the way. According to Gardiner, the project will be reconsidered in six months if it has not found adequate sponsorship, with any funds raised returned to their donors
Similarly, Gardiner concedes that, "it is, for instance, not realistic to expect that in 2013, fifty percent of developers will be women." Instead, Aurora and Gardiner are viewing the next two years as an initial phase in the project.
During that time, they hope to observe and document small but definite changes in the participation of women in FOSS and related areas. Aurora suggests that measures of success will be such things as "the number of women who have submitted their first patch through one of our programs, establishing a baseline for women in open source and culture, the number of groups and organizations that we have assisted, [and] the number of conferences that have adopted some form of anti-harassment policy."
By contrast, signs of failures might be the number of women who fail to keep up their involvement, or of conferences that, after adopting an anti-harassment policy, fail to enforce it.
If nothing else, Aurora and Gardiner hope that the Ada Initiative will leave a legacy of training material and advice for women's advocates who come after them.
The Ada Initiative is confronting complex problems that many others have faced with limited success, but, overall, its founders are convinced that the time has come for their approach.
"It's the right thing to do, and it seems like it's far overdue," Aurora says. "A lot of people want to do something and they have nowhere to go to do it, so there's this pent-up frustration and helplessness. We hope to give people a focus."