The Call for Proposals was open from October 23, 2019 to January 21, 2020 and is now closed. This guide offers an overview of the five steps to a successful session proposal and explains how our Program Committee will evaluate and build the RightsCon program.
First, a few reminders
In 2020, RightsCon is invested in building a strategic and outcomes-oriented program, with a focus on session excellence. Read on to learn about the new features and initiatives that are shaping this year’s programmatic approach.
The RightsCon Program Platform is a consolidated system for managing session proposals, speaker submissions, volunteer applications, travel support, and more. Create an account on the Program Platform in order to submit your session proposal.
We’re committed to creating an inclusive program that reflects the diversity of experiences represented in our community. Language barriers often exclude local and regional voices from the conversation. Last year, we introduced a language component to our program process for RightsCon Tunis and accepted more than a dozen sessions in Arabic and French, the two most common languages spoken in our host country, Tunisia.
This year, in an effort to make RightsCon more accessible for participants from Costa Rica and the broader region, our session proposal form offers optional sections where you can submit answers in both English and Spanish. If the proposal form is a barrier to sending in a session for consideration, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team individually, and we’ll work with you to facilitate your participation and involvement in RightsCon.
In our evaluation process, we take into account regional and gender representation, diversity of thought, multi-stakeholder appeal, and other indicators that a session will produce a rich, dynamic discussion. We have zero tolerance for “manels” (men only panels). Before you submit your proposal, make sure to review our Code of Conduct, which establishes principles and expectations for engaging at RightsCon and other Access Now events.
RightsCon offers a global platform to debut the latest tools, resources, campaigns, and approaches to defend and extend human rights in the digital age. Sessions that focus on skill-building and knowledge-sharing should be created by and for our community, and emphasize learning for the purpose of action.
Beyond our tried-and-true session formats, we’re looking to expand creative components of the RightsCon program. Fiction, art, and productive free play can lead to unexpected innovations, and help us see long-standing problems in a new light. If you have an idea for an exhibit, installation, or performance, we want to hear from you, too.
If you plan to propose a Lightning Talk or Tech Demo, our session proposal form will look a little different this year. Before you start, think hard about your pitch or product to showcase, and why you’re the best person to speak on this topic or project. If you have an example of similar presentations or work you’ve done in the past, send it in!
RightsCon brings together participants from around the world to discuss critical issues, deepen community learning, and advance their work for human rights. Every moment counts, and every session should capitalize on, and contribute to, an environment of excellence.
As you craft your session proposal, keep in mind the participant experience. Consider the space, accessibility and technical capacity of our venue. A quality, well-structured session should engage the audience from start to finish. At RightsCon, we discourage traditional panels, text-heavy presentations, mega-sessions with more than 5 speakers, and remote participation. (Our team can only support remote participation for those who cannot travel for political reasons.)
If your session is accepted, we’ll work with you to develop session excellence. Session excellence embodies our commitment to providing resources, moderator training, and opportunities to connect with other session organizers, all in the service of producing a first-class program. On a technical level, the process may require merging a session with similar proposals, adjusting the format, refining the goal or outcome, and recommending additional speakers.
In 2020 and beyond, RightsCon is committed to sustainability and environmental justice, both in program and in production. The climate crisis poses critical challenges for human rights in the digital age, and connects with many of the issues we’ve explored in past programs, including humanitarian response, migration and refugee rights, energy and internet infrastructures, and corporate social responsibility. We’re soliciting session proposals that build bridges between human sustainability and digital rights, and we hope you join us in contributing to this new initiative!
Have a question about submitting a session? Not sure where to start? Get in touch with us at [email protected] to schedule a one-on-one chat with our team to discuss your session ideas, and receive tips and advice directly from the source.
Ready to start? Here are our five steps to success:
The RightsCon program is divided into tracks to help participants navigate the many issue areas our community covers. The categories listed below inform the creation of our final program tracks. Take a look to determine which category is most relevant to your chosen topic.
for Business and Labor
Peace, Stabilization, and
Public Interest Tech and Human Rights-Centered Design
Automation, and the Algorithm
Protection, and Consent
Environmental Sustainability and Human Resilience
Global Governance, Justice,
Philanthropy, Wellness, and Operational Development
The Global State of
and Political Participation
Network Connectivity and
and Individual Security
Trade, Commerce, and
the Digital Commons
We work hard to ensure that the RightsCon program strengthens and connects our community. Your session should force us to confront real-world problems and encourage us to take action together. In your proposal, tell us what you want to achieve in the room (goal) and how you plan to get there (format).
Pick your session goal
Pick your session format
Best for: Identifying Sharing
An intimate, conversational format, with no more than three people on stage. Click to see an example.
Best for: Mapping Out Drafting
An interactive, table-based session focusing on a single issue or question. Click to see an example.
Best for: Mapping Out Sharing
At RightsCon, our panels are dynamic and discussion-oriented. Speakers can – and should – interact with the audience, without the help of Powerpoint or other presentation tools. Click to see an example.
Best for: Identifying Sharing
A hands-on presentation (20 minutes) of a new technology, tool, or technical project. Click to see an example.
Best for: Identifying Mapping Out
A TED Talk-style presentation (5-15 minutes) featuring a single speaker, and exploring a provocative new idea, initiative, or challenge. Click to see an example.
Best for: Drafting Strategizing
A substantive discussion oriented around multiple stakeholders and hosted in an intimate setting with no more than 25 people. Click to see an example.
Best for: Asking for Help Consulting
A roundtable, without the table. These “in-the-round” sessions are participant-driven and foster interactive discussions among those in the room. Click to see an example.
Best for: Asking for Help Sharing
An informal meeting on a particular issue area. This format allows participants to network, connect, and forge partnerships. Click to see an example.
Now that you’ve decided on your program category, goal, and session format, you’re ready to start sharing additional details. Remember that you don’t need to finish it all in one go – you can always save a draft of your proposal and return to it later. As you craft your proposal, make sure to hit all of our evaluation criteria as best you can.
Our evaluation criteria
Is the proposal timely and salient to the broader human rights community? Does it discuss an important and emerging issue?
Does the proposal set out an achievable goal? Does it aim for a realistic outcome that will push the needle forward?
Does the proposal introduce new voices, new concepts, a new format, or a fresh take on an issue?
Does the proposal create a space where diversity of experience and thought are inherent to the conversation? Does it feature representatives from a range of backgrounds, communities, and industries?
Each year, Access Now works with experts from around the world to curate a connected, strategic, and outcomes-oriented program structure. Once the submission period ends, the RightsCon Program Committee will carefully evaluate and review proposals based on the criteria above.
In addition to the actual content of your proposal, we look at moderator and speaker selections to check for diversity and inclusiveness. These selections can help distinguish your session from similar proposals, and hold significant weight in our evaluation process. For that reason, we strongly recommend that you confirm your speakers before you submit your proposal. Note that the program categories will not necessarily be reflected in the final program tracks.
A proposal may be accepted in its original form, or we may recommend specific changes to strengthen the session. The proposal process is highly competitive, and in years past, we’ve had to turn away many exceptional sessions for the sake of the broader program. In 2019, for instance, we received 850 submissions, and accepted 450 (53 percent) for the final program.
We are strong believers in the power of convening to drive collective action. RightsCon is a place to translate cross-sector dialogue into post-conference outcomes. Building on the success of RightsCon Tunis, our program process for RightsCon Costa Rica will emphasize high-quality, immersive sessions that spark conversation and collaboration, even after our summit ends.
As you draft, bear in mind the expected outcome of your session. Our Program Committee will take into account the clarity and feasibility of your outcome in the judging process. Below are examples of strong outcomes that have resulted from our convening.
Before you press the submit button, use our checklist to make sure you don’t forget anything.
I have created an account on the RightsCon Program Platform
I have completed all required questions on the session proposal form.
I have selected a program category, goal, and session format.
I have clearly identified my session outcome in my proposal.
My proposal includes speakers with diverse point of views and experiences, and fairly represents stakeholders and communities who are invested in the topic I plan to discuss.
I have confirmed the participation of my moderator and speakers.
I have looked over the evaluation criteria to make sure my proposal hits all the points.
I have triple-checked my proposal for any errors, inaccuracies, or spelling mistakes.
I have reviewed and agreed to the terms of Access Now’s Code of Conduct.
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