Sharing our approach for the first hybrid RightsCon
This blog post was updated on November 15, 2022 after we launched our Call for Proposals to reflect progress in our vision for next year’s hybrid event.
Today marks the public rollout of our journey towards our first hybrid RightsCon and we want to share with you our current approach for successfully delivering an event of this scope and scale. Engaging with you, our community, when undertaking big decisions is an important step for us. It’s one we’ve valued at every turn, whether in 2020, when we transitioned our summit online or today, as we build our first hybrid experience.
RightsCon started in 2011 as an in-person only summit, a model that we replicated and improved upon for eight years, and which became a critical shared space for a global multi-stakeholder community to meet and coordinate face-to-face.
In transitioning RightsCon online, we adapted our model to a new context, learning for the first time the importance and power of virtual convening for expanding accessibility and inclusion, creating asynchronous engagement opportunities, and attracting participation from the highest levels of government and companies.
RightsCon Costa Rica (June 5-9, 2023) is a new inflection point for our convening model, requiring us to bridge our expertise in hosting in-person and virtual spaces to create a connected experience that is tailored to meet participants wherever they are and however they choose to join us.
And what we know is that while a majority (55%) of surveyed 2022 participants told us they planned to join in-person, the remainder were split down the middle: they either planned to join us online or they weren’t sure yet. Whatever the reason a participant may have to join us virtually – including but not limited to vaccine or health related concerns, travel or visa restrictions, or a desire to reduce their carbon footprint (a motivation we share and will be communicating about soon) – we are committed to ensuring that RightsCon remains accessible to all of our participants.
A shared understanding of hybrid
The word “hybrid” has become a near ubiquitous term in the events space, and while there is general agreement that the term indicates a combination of in-person and online participation, how that is achieved tactically and technically varies greatly from organizer to organizer. For some, it is a one-way screen in a room and for others, it is the introduction of complex technical choreography to achieve two-way participation.
Truthfully, what we have learned in our research and from your feedback is that creating an equitable hybrid experience that meets the expectations of all participants is difficult. We have heard about technical limitations and know that the model – intentionally or not – often prioritizes in-person participants, creating a tiered event experience. We also know that the cost of producing a hybrid event is much greater than an in-person or online convening alone, often more than doubling budgets.
For us, a hybrid RightsCon model is not a one-size-fits-all approach, nor does it reinvent the wheel by abandoning the spaces we have built in-person and online. Our intention is to interpret the hybrid model based on the needs of our community and develop flexible opportunities for crossover participation, whether simultaneous or asynchronous.
What our approach means in practice
- We will reintroduce our RightsCon Studio, acting as an anchor and home-base for our programming and participation both online and in-person;
- We will let session proposers select online, in-person, or hybrid during the proposal process, and communicate transparently about the cost and technical limitations we have for hosting hybrid sessions.
- We will host certain sessions for only one type of participant, meaning many sessions will be available only in-person and others only via the online platform;
- We will employ four approaches to executing the hybrid model, informed by the principles of participatory design, the needs of our session organizers, and the cost and capacity of production. These approaches include: one-way (livestream broadcast), two-way (real-time in-person and online interaction), playback (recording for replay), and repeat sessions (held twice, once online and once in-person);
- We will continue to offer tailored support and resources to organizers, including facilitation training and guides that reflect the different needs and goals of convening online, in-person, and in hybrid environments;
- We will provide tailored guidance for the different participant pathways, to ensure each individual – whether joining in-person or online – has an excellent experience that moves their work forward;
- We will make decisions that reflect depth over breadth of interaction and direct support where it is most impactful, recognizing that our first hybrid event will be limited by budget, can’t achieve everything, and should instead build a strong foundation for subsequent years, where we can continue to expand.
Learning alongside the community
We know we won’t get everything right the first time around. As we all reintegrate into in-person spaces and redefine our approach to virtual connection, we will be learning and adapting together. Our third online RightsCon was stronger than our first, and with your help, we hope to follow a similar track record as we embark on this new model.