Welcome to our guide for the RightsCon 2021 Call for Proposals! This guide offers an overview of the five steps to a successful session proposal, and explains how we evaluate and build the RightsCon program.
Before you start
Whether you’re a new or returning member of our community, take a moment to review frequently asked questions about our program priorities and policies in 2021.
The proposal portal is a one-stop shop where you can submit session proposals, apply for our Connectivity Fund, and more. Create an account in the portal in order to submit your proposal.
You, as an individual, can propose a maximum of five sessions for consideration. However, you should aim for quality over quantity: we would rather receive one well-crafted proposal than five unfocused or broad ideas.
Depending on the format, a session will need to accommodate a number of roles, including:
- The session organizer, who develops the content of the session, designs the structure, and confirms and coordinates with speakers.
- A facilitator, who understands the many sides of an issue, and steers discussion and participant interaction. Many, but not all, organizers also choose to facilitate their session.
- A speaker brings their unique expertise and perspective to the conversation, and engages participants where possible.
- A technical moderator handles the technical support aspects of bringing a session online. The RightsCon team will supply one technical moderator for every session in our program.
- A participant brings a specific expertise or experience to the table and actively contributes to reaching the session goal.
Jump to the section of the guide on session formats for more details.
We take seriously our responsibility to build a program and a summit space that reflects the diversity of experiences embodied by our community. Despite a strong record on gender and regional representation, we recognize that RightsCon can and should do much more to support critical perspectives on racial and ethnic justice. In 2021, as a first step to correcting this bias, we have strengthened our policies on diversity, equity, and inclusion. These policies aim to address dynamics of privilege and power that impede trust, openness, and collective action.
Diversity is one of our core criteria for evaluating and selecting sessions for our program. As always, we welcome proposals that explore technology’s intersection with gender, race, ethnicity, disability status, economic status, or other social/personal identities. When you submit a proposal, you should arrange speaker/facilitator lineups with care and consciousness of not only regional representation, but also representation of communities in each region that are traditionally pushed to the margins or forced out of global convening spaces, such as Indigenous peoples, Black communities, and people with disabilities.
Access Now upholds a no tolerance policy for men-only panels (“manels”). We will also look critically at sessions that only feature perspectives from communities which perpetrate and benefit from systems of oppression, including but not limited to: colonialism, racism, patriarchy, classism, and land and resource exploitation.
We may reach out to organizers to offer feedback or recommend speakers/facilitators in sessions where these standards aren’t met. In rare circumstances, we may pull a session from the schedule if it violates our policies.
Before you submit your proposal, take a moment to read our Code of Conduct, which establishes principles and expectations for engaging at RightsCon and other Access Now events. If you have ideas on ways we can improve and better serve our global community, reach out to us at [email protected].
RightsCon brings together people from around the world to discuss critical issues and advance a shared agenda for human rights. Every moment counts, and every session should capitalize on, and contribute to, an environment of excellence.
For many people, hosting an effective online session feels daunting. If your proposal is accepted into the program, we’ll work with you to develop session excellence. Session excellence embodies our commitment to providing training, resources, and opportunities to connect with other session organizers, all in the service of producing a strategic and outcomes-oriented program. The process may also involve merging similar proposals into one session, refining the goal, or recommending speakers.
Your proposal should clearly articulate what you want to achieve and how participants will help you reach that goal. Participants are not passive listeners; our community attracts a range of experts with the skillset to elevate your work to the next level. No matter the format, a quality, well-structured session will make the best use of the people and perspectives in the room.
While most sessions are conducted in English, our program has supported sessions in many other languages, including Arabic, Spanish, and French. In an effort to make RightsCon more accessible, the proposal form offers optional sections where you can submit answers in another language. (Note that community labs and strategy sessions are currently the only formats which can support a live translation option. Our team is also exploring whether we can support translation for panels.)
If the proposal form presents a barrier to sending in a session for consideration, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at [email protected], and we’ll work with you to facilitate your participation in RightsCon.
This year, in lieu of travel support, we will offer funding for session organizers, speakers, facilitators, and participants who do not have access to a reliable or secure internet connection. The application form for the Connectivity Fund will open in January 2021, and we encourage anyone who needs support to apply.
Our team is taking steps to improve the RightsCon experience for people with disabilities. With our partner TechChange, we will undertake a full accessibility audit and optimization plan for the online platform where our community will convene in 2021. We are also exploring closed caption options for our Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and other featured sessions. We will keep the community updated as we take these steps.
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.
The RightsCon program emphasizes community learning and strong outcomes. In the proposal form, when you choose the format for your session, you will see a series of questions tailored to that format. The questions will prompt you to think critically about your session design.
Consider carefully which format will help you tap into the expertise of participants and deliver on your goal. Once the proposal form is submitted, you will not be able to change the session format.
Pick your session goal
In the proposal form, tell us what you want to achieve during your session and how participants will help you reach that goal. Select one of the options below to see which format works best for your goal. (The following chart is built in Infogram. Please adjust your privacy-enhancing browser extensions for best viewing experience.)
Now that you’ve decided on your program category, goal, and session format, you’re ready to start filling out the session proposal form. Remember that you don’t need to finish it all in one go – you can always save a draft and return to it later. Before you submit, make sure your proposal meets all of our evaluation criteria.
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 deliver a clear call to action or avenue for participants to engage after the session ends?
Does the proposal introduce new voices, new concepts, a new format, and/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?
Does the proposal prioritize the participant experience? Does it put forth an intentional and thoughtful strategy to ensure participants are invested in the session?
Each year, Access Now works with experts from around the world to curate the RightsCon program. Once the Call for Proposals 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 facilitator and/or speaker lineups 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 the members of your session 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 certain changes to strengthen the session. The review 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 2020, for instance, we received 1138 proposals, and accepted 349 (30.6 percent) for the final program.
Building on the success of RightsCon Online, our program for RightsCon 2021 will emphasize participatory sessions that lead to tangible outcomes and deeper collaboration across our community.
Your proposal should clearly state the expected outcome of your session. The Program Committee will take into account the clarity and feasibility of your outcome in the review 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 proposal portal.
I have completed all required questions on the session proposal form.
I have selected a program category, goal, and session format.
My proposal includes speakers and/or facilitators with diverse points of view 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 facilitators and/or speakers.
I have looked over the evaluation criteria to make sure my proposal hits all the points.
I have triple-checked my proposal to make sure I’ve answered all questions as full as I can.
8I have reviewed and agreed to the terms of Access Now’s Code of Conduct.
Get in touch
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.
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