Report Back on RightsCon Community Calls: Community Support
Today we are excited to share the first in a series of upcoming reports from our community consultation calls, as part of our commitment to increasing transparency and incorporating community input into the redesign of RightsCon’s core elements. This initial report provides a summary of the discussions focused on community support. We are grateful to the members of the community who took time out of their day to join the calls and share their insights with us.
Purpose of the calls
On October 24 and 25, we hosted two community consultation calls with the goal of evaluating our current community support model, and gathering valuable feedback on how to refine our support mechanisms to better meet the needs of our growing community.
Our existing community support model
Over the years, we’ve refined our support initiatives to amplify the participation of civil society members who wouldn’t otherwise be able to join us at RightsCon. This led to the creation of our Community Support Fund, an initiative designed to enable and amplify the participation of underrepresented communities, joining us in-person or online. Applications to the Community Support Fund are reviewed using a selection criteria which prioritizes civil society members participating as session organizers, Program Committee members, facilitators and speakers in the RightsCon program.
For accepted applicants attending in-person, support is provided in the form of flights, hotel accommodation, and partial funding, as requested. For Community Support Fund recipients participating online, we provide funding for connectivity support in the form of additional bandwidth, translation services, childcare, or secure connections (such as VPNs).
Over the past five years, we have funded more than 560 participants from 88 countries, distributing a total of 275,712 USD. During the same period, we provided participants with more than 34,000 free tickets to RightsCon.
We look forward to continuing to broaden our support, identifying where the gaps are and where to direct our focus. At the same time, we acknowledge that the demand for this support will far exceed our means as an NGO. This year alone, we received more than 900 applications for the Community Support Fund and had to turn away strong applications due to limited resources.
While we are committed to allocating a larger proportion of our event budget to the Community Support Fund, we want to be transparent about our limitations. Maintaining a balance between supporting our community sustainably and within our budget and team capacity, is an ongoing process. We remain dedicated to prioritizing members of civil society who, without our support, would not be able to attend the summit.
Insights from the community
During the consultations, we invited participants to share initiatives that have either succeeded or fallen short in facilitating their participation at RightsCon or similar events, as well as the types of support they consider essential for engaging effectively in convening spaces.
Many emphasized how vital travel and connectivity support have been in enabling their participation and forging meaningful connections at RightsCon. As for areas where participants face the most challenges, difficulties in obtaining visas and passport discrimination consistently emerged as significant barriers in attending global events.
These are some of the specific suggestions that participants made during our discussion:
Visa and travel support
- Provide more comprehensive guidance on entry and transit visa requirements
- Provide more resources to assist participants with the visa application process, including funds to cover visa-related expenses
- Develop relationships with embassies to facilitate a smoother visa process for participants
- Establish a response plan to assist participants during their journeys to/from RightsCon as well as provide support in navigating immigration at airports
Scope and criteria for support
- Increase funding for online participation, particularly for those in regions with significant data costs
- Include daily stipends during the week of RightsCon as part of the Community Support Fund
- Revise the criteria of the Community Support Fund to prioritize applicants from Global Majority countries that have been previously underrepresented at the summit
Adjusting our timeline
- Provide early funding decisions and disbursements to allow more time for planning, and to potentially reduce travel costs
- Better align the timeframes for key decisions, such as when Call for Proposals notifications go out and when Community Support Fund application decisions are released, to allow participants more time and flexibility for planning
- Enhance the accessibility of our funding form for applicants with disabilities
- Expand interpreting services for both online and onsite experiences
- Create more avenues for participants to inform us of their access needs and requests, both before and during the summit
- Provide more disability-specific support to enable easier navigation and engagement at RightsCon and side events
- Provide more guidance on navigating the summit platform, and make low bandwidth options available
Facilitating connections between community members
- Increase guidance for new community members in navigating the event
- Create more spaces for new community members to network
- Provide a dedicated channel or platform for community members to connect with each other, coordinate on logistics prior to the summit, and cultivate connections post-RightsCon
Create opportunities for organizations working in the same region or on similar thematic issues to collaborate on sessions
Over the next few months, we will conduct a thorough review of our community support model and outline specific steps we will be taking to incorporate the feedback we’ve received. We will communicate transparently about the steps we can take, within the limited resources we have as an NGO, as well as the steps we are unable to move forward with at this moment. With this in mind, we will be placing particular emphasis on areas that consistently emerged as priorities during these calls, such as visa and travel support.
Acknowledging the unique visa and travel-related concerns of different communities, we also hosted five region-specific consultation calls aimed at mitigating barriers to travel. We will share our learnings from these calls in the following weeks.
Once again, we want to express our gratitude to everyone who attended and contributed to these discussions. If you were unable to join the calls and would like to share any reflections about how we can improve our community support initiatives, reach out to us anytime via email at [email protected].
Daphne, Kristi and The RightsCon team