Community Updates

Report Back on RightsCon Community Calls: Community Input into Location Selection for RightsCon 2026

► Purpose of the calls

► Insights from the community on our current location selection process

► Getting the community involved in the process

► What’s next?

We are excited to share the last installment of report backs from our community consultation calls! (Read more about our report backs on community support, the RightsCon program, mitigating barriers to travel, and participant experience.)

This report provides a summary of discussions focused on community input into location selection for RightsCon 2026. We are deeply grateful to everyone who participated, and shared their expertise and thoughtful feedback.

Purpose of the calls

On January 23 and 25, we hosted two consultation calls to reflect on the current location selection process for RightsCon, and explore ways to engage the community in the decision-making process.

At RightsCon Costa Rica, there were requests for greater transparency around the selection process for RightsCon’s host location, as well as significant interest from the community in contributing as thought partners in the process. Recognizing that where we choose to host RightsCon has a huge impact on who is able to access the convening in-person, we are committed to shedding more light into our location selection process and criteria, as well as creating pathways for the RightsCon community to provide their input.

While we have shared our intention to host RightsCon in Africa in 2026, we are excited to work in collaboration with the community to determine exactly when and where in Africa we will convene.

Insights from the community on our current location selection process

We kicked off the calls by sharing a brief overview of what our current process is for selecting a location, and inviting participants to share their feedback on what works, what we’re missing, and alternative approaches we can take.

Rotating regions

Until 2018, RightsCon alternated between being hosted in Silicon Valley and different regions. Following the 2016 presidential elections in the United States and in an effort to broaden RightsCon’s reach, we decided not to return to Silicon Valley and instead begin traveling to a new region every year, which led to our last three in-person events being in Canada (2018), Tunisia (2019), and Costa Rica (2023). Historically, we have selected regions where RightsCon has not been hosted recently or ever before, and have weighed favorably toward locations where Access Now has a registered office.

Participants strongly supported our current model of rotating regions, and highlighted that doing so enables us to build relationships with different governments, as well as amplify issues of regional and local importance at a global scale. They emphasized the importance of not only bringing RightsCon to the different regions, but also bringing the regions to RightsCon.

However, some participants suggested that we consider returning to the same country in different regions, rather than having to start our planning from scratch with every iteration of RightsCon. They pointed to the opportunities this would bring to strengthen our relationship with governments that we have already established trust with, leverage our familiarity with visa systems and processes from past experiences, and in turn, improve the support we provide to the community, enhancing access and inclusion.

Evaluating countries within the region

Once we decide on a region, our next step involves identifying viable host countries by considering factors such as venue infrastructure, representation of existing community members, potential risk to participants and our organization, and overall costs.

Another factor to consider is government engagement. In planning previous iterations of RightsCon, we have grappled with the uncertainties associated with election cycles and changes in government. These situations disrupted the continuity of our relationship-building with government officials in the country we were hosting RightsCon, and have resulted in challenges in obtaining support from the new administration. Participants suggested that we prioritize countries where such uncertainties would be minimal during the planning period for RightsCon 2026.

With the shortlisted countries, typically no more than 5, we then evaluate them more thoroughly with a set of indicators that include:

  • Risks or unknowns (e.g. election cycles, geopolitical tensions)
  • Civic space ranking
  • Government receptiveness
  • Safety of marginalized groups
  • Venue infrastructure, details, and availability
  • Cost of business travel
  • Visa requirements, embassy presence, accessibility of the visa process, and reported visa experiences
  • Language, navigation, and payment applications

Our evaluation is done collaboratively with our regional team, in consultation with partners in the different countries, and informed by at least one site visit to our top two choices. We recognize that every country where we could potentially host RightsCon comes with opportunities and challenges, requiring us to weigh what is logistically feasible with the experience we and our community will have in participating.

When asked for feedback on our location selection process, participants commented that our current list of indicators were comprehensive and fair, while noting that some indicators would need to have greater weight than others due to the context of the region we are hosting in. They mentioned that it would be important to align on and articulate which indicators are prioritized during the evaluation process, depending on the regional context.

In terms of refining or expanding the set of indicators we use, participants suggested:

  • Evaluating the right to freedom of expression and treatment of journalists, in particular, when considering a country’s civic space ranking;
  • Leveraging regional connections and support networks as an additional indicator. Participants emphasized the importance of connecting and building relationships with key stakeholders in order to obtain support from the government for the successful planning and execution of an event at the scale of RightsCon.
  • Hearing from and taking account the lived experiences of racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, as well as the LGBTQIA+ community, when considering the safety of marginalized groups; and
  • Scoping the flight paths and number of international flights connecting the country to the region and beyond, and the cost of flights as intra-regional travel.

Getting the community involved in the process

While participants had differing views on how our location selection process evolves, one thing we were all aligned on was the importance of incorporating the community’s feedback, expertise, and suggestions as vital factors that complement our team’s experience and knowledge in designing and producing the summit. In doing so, it is essential that we balance community input with the practical constraints of what is feasible, as well as clearly outline which areas are open for community feedback and where reliance on our team’s expertise may be needed.

When asked how they wanted to get involved, participants made specific suggestions such as:

  • Open calls: Regularly hosting open discussions to explore the potential of shortlisted countries, identifying unique challenges and opportunities, and broadening our network of stakeholders.
  • Community pitches: Inviting the community to pitch for their recommended country, enriching the selection process with personal insights and local knowledge;
  • Advisory committee: Establish a multistakeholder advisory committee for location selection, including members from different countries in the region, and members having defined roles and responsibilities; and
  • Community voting: Allowing the RightsCon community to vote on shortlisted countries.

Beyond the location selection process, participants also expressed eagerness to contribute to broader event planning such as sharing local cultural insights, assisting with visa policy research, mapping safe travel routes for participants, and supporting risk mitigation to enhance overall participant safety.

Participants also highlighted Africa’s linguistic diversity, and stressed the importance of enabling the participation of non-English speakers in such community-centric processes. This is an important flag, as we look into expanding language support at RightsCon, including reviewing how we can incorporate such support into our Call for Proposals, Community Support Fund applications, and more.

What’s next?

We are invigorated by the RightsCon community’s willingness for support and collaboration. The feedback and suggestions we have received are instrumental in determining how we can create pathways for consistent community input at different stages of the planning process. At the same time, we acknowledge the kind of time and effort this requires from participants, and aim to be thoughtful in the way we consult the community, and continue doing the work to make such consultations accessible, meaningful, and participatory. In the coming months, we will determine the suggestions we can incorporate into our planning process, while balancing our limitations as a small team working to organize a summit at a massive scale.

Once again, thank you to everyone who participated and contributed to these discussions. If you were unable to attend the calls and would like to share any reflections on how we can improve our location selection process, please feel free to reach out to us anytime via email at [email protected].

Reetz, Nikki, and the RightsCon team

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