Community Updates

Report Back on RightsCon Community Calls: Rethinking Participant Experience

► Purpose of the calls

► Insights from the community

► What’s next?

Welcome to the fourth installment of report-backs from our community consultation calls! This report provides a summary of discussions centered around a crucial element of our summit: the participant experience. We extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated, shared their experiences, expertise, and thoughtful feedback.

Purpose of the calls

On November 14 and 16, 2023, we hosted two consultation calls to reflect on and improve the RightsCon experience for both online and in-person participants. We welcomed a diverse mix of RightsCon newcomers and veterans during the calls, and invited them to share their participation highlights, challenges faced, and suggestions to enhance their experience.

Insights from the community

The feedback we received was both humbling and motivating. There was an overwhelming sentiment that RightsCon is a community-led event, acting as the connective tissue between diverse stakeholders, and a place where one can meet and learn from people all over the world. This sense of community is what makes up the essence of RightsCon. Many highlighted the unique opportunities that RightsCon offers in interacting and connecting with stakeholders who might otherwise be inaccessible.

Participants were excited about opportunities to identify and understand how issues around the world are interconnected, and to learn from the different strategies communities from various regions use in tackling these issues. They also appreciated our efforts to make the summit more inclusive while reiterating the continued importance of elevating voices that are often missing or sidelined in such global convening spaces.

At the same time, a significant issue that participants noted, and that has come up in almost every consultation call no matter the topic, was the exclusion of over 300 participants, predominantly from the Global Majority, from RightsCon Costa Rica due to the failure of the visa-on-arrival process. Participants shared how this led to significant physical, financial and emotional stress for them and their colleagues who were directly impacted. In an effort to fully address these issues, we hosted five region-specific consultation calls on mitigating barriers to travel. The detailed feedback from these calls is available here.

Creating more avenues for engagement and connection

Participants showed a strong interest in having more avenues for connecting with others during RightsCon, to share information, resources, or simply to engage in conversations. In fact, we learned that during RightsCon Costa Rica many informal groups had formed spontaneously through messaging platforms. At the same time, there was a clear desire among participants for these networking spaces to be more structured and organized, while also allowing for continuous engagement throughout the year.

To enhance avenues for connection, participants had the following suggestions:

  • Develop a community platform for networking and continuing discussions initiated at RightsCon;
  • Introduce networking sessions specifically for newcomers;
  • Establish more informal and non-programmatic spaces for networking;
  • Organize more regional gatherings;
  • Provide spaces for participants to engage with speakers right after sessions;
  • Provide more information about side events happening during RightsCon week;
  • Establish a mentoring or buddy system, pairing RightsCon veterans and newcomers; and
  • Provide more avenues for participating in RightsCon beyond organizing or speaking in sessions.

Improving platform accessibility and navigation

In terms of online participation, some encountered challenges in engaging effectively with the program as hours of programming didn’t always align with everyone’s schedules. Some participants struggled with carving out time for participating in sessions amidst other pressing responsibilities like full-time work and caregiving. There was also confusion around how the time zones were displayed on the platform, resulting in some participants inadvertently missing sessions. Furthermore, there were issues with low engagement between participants on the platform, and difficulties in connecting with other participants or speakers following the sessions as much as they had planned.

To address some of these challenges, participants suggested enhancing the accessibility of the platform through improved session discovery and personalized agenda curation.

Amplifying the region we host RightsCon in

While the global nature of the RightsCon community is what makes it unique, participants brought up the importance of honoring the region we host RightsCon in by increasing local and regional representation in the summit, as well as highlighting and amplying issues of importance in the program. Participants made specific suggestions such as:

  • Continue to encourage regional and local civil society participation, with more dedicated spaces for regional and local topics and issues in the program;
  • Consider having dedicated travel support for participants in the region to encourage them to attend in-person;
  • Continue to increase language diversity in the program;
  • Increase funding for language support services as part of the Community Support fund for both in-person and online participants;
  • Consider using translation software with multiple language options; and
  • Provide more information to participants on navigating the local context and culture with respect.

Additional suggestions

We also heard helpful suggestions on strengthening the multistakeholder space that is RightsCon, implementing better knowledge management practices, and ensuring safety and security for participants, including:

  • Bring more stakeholders to the table: Broaden our stakeholder base to include parliamentarians and other legal justice actors;
  • Address power dynamics: Highlight to powerful stakeholders the importance of engaging with civil society on an equal footing at the summit;
  • Consolidate community resources: Create a central and evergreen repository of resources coming out of sessions, including toolkits and links to helpful websites; and
  • Expand our approach to safety and security: Work with local partners to better understand and mitigate risks for participants more susceptible to surveillance like journalists and media workers.

What’s next?

The feedback and suggestions we received are pivotal in shaping the future of RightsCon. While we were glad to learn which of our initiatives have been successful at creating a community-led space that is inclusive, accessible and safe, it is clear that there are opportunities for improvement in our participant experience and support initiatives. In the coming months, as we develop our approach to participant experience, we will review the feedback we’ve received and determine the suggestions that can be integrated into our planning, while also balancing our limitations as an NGO with limited resources and team capacity.

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 the participant experience, please feel free to reach out to us anytime via email at [email protected].

Daphne, Reetz and the RightsCon Team

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