Register now for RightsCon Online: July 27-31, 2020

Community Updates

We asked, you shared: the results from the RightsCon Community Survey

Last month, we put a call out to our network asking for support in shaping how we’re bringing RightsCon Online. The results were an inspiring demonstration of the need for connecting our community this year and we want to share them with you. 

We received over 700 responses from 100 countries across 10 sectors. The below infographics capture the survey highlights, sharing an overview of the responses and providing insight into the perspectives received from our session proposers.

When breaking down the demographics of survey contributors, we were excited to see representation that mirrored the participation we’ve had during previous years of RightsCon. The enthusiasm for RightsCon Online was encouraging, too: 90% of respondents were either likely or very likely to participate in a virtual version of our summit.

For us, it was telling that the majority of responses indicated a desire to see the in-person objectives of RightsCon – strategizing, connecting, and learning – come alive online.

Another compelling insight is what issue areas are most relevant to our community’s work in this current context. Content moderation and disinformation; surveillance; and data protection are at the top of the agenda, according to the survey. However, when we looked more closely at the numbers, we found that regional representation shifts these results: respondents from Africa, for instance, ranked connectivity and internet shutdowns much higher than other regions, whereas those from the Middle East and North Africa prioritized issues related to democracy, elections, and political participation.

We also asked about preferences around the timing, structure, and special features of RightsCon Online. Interestingly, the question around timing saw a near equal distribution between the options of RightsCon Online being consolidated into one or two weeks, spread out over three to four weeks, or having no preference. We saw similar split results when inquiring preference of what month RightsCon Online should happen. New ideas for documenting our collective work – like hosting a Virtual Village or shared calendar of external events – proved popular with a majority showing interest in us building these out.

Checking in with our session proposers

We also asked for input from our session proposers, who altogether submitted more than 1330 session proposals through our most recent Call for Proposals. The Call for Proposals is the foundation for the RightsCon public program, and the themes, trends, and ideas that surfaced in 2020 will guide the direction of our online programming. 

Even in this period of change and uncertainty, we were gratified to see that session proposers remain committed to shaping the RightsCon agenda: 70 percent of those who replied to the survey said that hosting a session remains a priority for them and their work.

We heard from about 30 percent of people who proposed a session this year; however, that segment represents more than 40 percent, or 550, of the proposals received. The vast majority hoped to bring their session online, and said that strategizing with key stakeholders and connecting with others are the most important outcomes of a session. 

Many session proposers saw RightsCon Online as the ideal setting to adapt traditional formats and come up with alternative ways to engage. Smaller workshops and roundtables, according to survey contributors, are more effective for strategizing and connecting, while panels are better for learning from experts and diving deep on an issue.

Session proposers ranked content moderation, disinformation, and online hate as the most urgent issue they face – closely followed by surveillance systems and technology, and data protection. Given the significant disruption of COVID-19 to our professional and personal lives, many said the online program should bring together conversations on health, human rights, and technology. Others hoped that we would continue to focus on environmental sustainability and climate justice, as we had intended for an in-person convening. We recognize that our program will need to look and feel different this year, and the survey results have only reaffirmed our goal to create a more navigable, immersive participant journey.

Outside of our specific questions, some contributors took the survey as an opportunity to share considerations and ideas. One piece of feedback that came up repeatedly centered on the community element of RightsCon: survey contributors looked forward to making unexpected connections during the summit, and said organic, face-to-face encounters are the key to building trust. These “hallway conversations” are integral to the RightsCon experience, and one of the aspects requiring the most creativity and experimentation to translate online. As we construct our online program, the emphasis remains on deepening and expanding that sense of community connection and trust.

Our next steps

Online and off, RightsCon will always be a space built by and for our community. You’ve given us a lot to work with and we’re excited to shape a space online moving forward that is informed by your ideas and feedback. We’ll be in touch soon with a save the date, updates on the program, and opportunities to engage. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, sign up to our Rundown newsletter and follow us on Twitter. We can’t wait to welcome you to RightsCon Online!