Navigating the Storm: Insights from the Integrity Institute's Quest for a Safer Tech Culture

For over a decade, corporate tech culture and Silicon Valley in particular have largely shaped how online platforms serve people around the world. However, a small group of pioneers believe that a new social media culture of safety for users is finally possible. This is the story of the Integrity Institute – an organisation formed by former tech executives, kicked out of their multibillion dollar tech firms, who decided to put ethical ideals into practice and try to change tech culture for the better.

The Origins and Impact of the Integrity Institute

Launched by a group of former executives from Facebook, the watchdog group has swiftly become a thought leader in the struggle to counteract the dangers of social media – including election misinformation, cyberbullying and more. The Integrity Institute’s research and recommendations have already informed EU regulators and US lawmakers, and is now standard reading inside tech companies struggling to reshape their businesses. ‘We’re killing it,’ the institute’s executive director told me after one early win.


Executive Sahar Massachi and Jeff Allen, another executive involved in the project, came to the Integrity Institute after working at Facebook: their time there convinced them that there was a need for an independent institute to help steer tech companies in the right direction.

Executive Leadership and Cultural Challenges

Despite the good intentions underpinning the Integrity Institute, tension among executives over strategic directions and a hostile organisational culture soon surfaced to remind us of the critical role that leadership cohesion, organisational climate and culture play in the process of implementation.


Executive leadership must maintain its own viability and resilience during periods of organisational turmoil. The shape of the institute’s executives was part of the pressure they faced when the organisation was embroiled in internal tensions and third-party probes. This experience underlines the need for executive stewardship to be in sound order and resilient through times of uncertainty and change.

The Institute's Struggle with Its Own Culture

Paradoxically, the institute was soon facing some of the same problems that it sought to help tech firms resolve. Angry exchanges and tensions over cultural and political matters reflected the fragile trade-offs involved in cultivating an organisation’s culture.


And their executive board took steps to address divisiveness and rally the team around their goals. This story illustrates the essential role that executive choices play in the life arc of an organisation, as well as the importance of having integrity in leadership.

Planning for the Future: Strengths and Sustainability

Despite these challenges, the Integrity Institute continues to work toward reshaping the tech culture toward greater honesty. Going forward, the organisation aims to expand its influence, broaden the makeup of its board, and sharpen its internal policies. For better or worse, these can be seen as signs of integrity. They’re signs of the possible.


With the institute on a new course, the executive team had reached what could be considered a crossroads. Whether they would move forward under effective, values-based leadership, or continue on the same track, remained to be seen.

Understanding the Executive Role

The story of the Integrity Institute is also a powerful narrative about the agency of executives in the process of creating organisational culture and tech policy. Through the prism of executive leadership, this story helpfully frames challenges and opportunities when it comes to building safer, more ethical technology. Looking outside the tech industry will also be necessary for navigating this future with integrity.

May 30, 2024
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