We just concluded our fifth annual strategy meeting and the second one we conduct virtually. As this was my first strategy meeting since I was appointed Director in January this year, I don’t have many comparison benchmarks, but I felt it was an overwhelming success.
Collectively we accomplished everything we set out to achieve with this meeting: We looked back and, analysed our highlights and achievements from the past year, and looked ahead to explore collaborations, strategies, and plans for the year to come. We explored legal tools for change, and shared key skills that are useful in our work. And we held sessions centred on restfulness and self-care through the healing justice track, mindful of the fact that ongoing circumstances in our world continue to present an unforeseen burden to all of us.
Participants were always engaged throughout the three afternoons, discussions were vibrant, and everybody showed generosity in openly sharing their strategies and activities, and respect in actively listening to others. Attendance was the second-highest we have ever had, and included a diverse range of stakeholders, including legal experts, activists, practitioners, campaigners, community organizers, litigators, and people working on racial, social, gender, economic, and environmental justice issues.
In keeping with the tradition at DFF, the agenda was built purely based on the feedback and comments from participants. Sessions on the third afternoon were shaped by the conversations we had in the first two afternoons, providing the time and space needed to delve deeper into some areas of common concern. DFF’s annual strategy meeting has been, once again, a central connecting point for our network and a key moment in the year’s calendar to ensure our activities respond to the needs of the organisations and individuals we seek to support in their fight for digital rights.
My three main takeaways from this meeting were:
- Exploring the root causes of digital rights harms together helps us uncover opportunities and be more strategic. For example, we examined the obstacles (and how to overcome them) in litigating against mass and targeted surveillance. We explored whether other countries could replicate the successful Dutch litigation on the digital welfare state. And we discussed how to build real bargaining power for workers to have control and access to their own data at work, highlighting problems that go far beyond the gig economy, and working to elevate the knowledge of marginalised communities online.
- Cultivating innovative skills and best practices can help us develop and sustain a resilient field. We honed our skills in areas as diverse as digital rights activism through gaming and theatre, understanding tech, exploring movement lawyering, using personas for guiding communications strategies, and how art practice teaches the subversive use of voice to challenge everyday conventions. Direct advocacy with creators/developers of technologies could be a way to achieve more direct results. Working together with marginalised communities means completely re-thinking the way we do lawyering, while the intersection between structural racism, mass surveillance, and AI needs to be given urgent attention.
- Thinking outside the box makes us stronger. Other conversations focused on the best ways to tackle online censorship & harms, building a knowledge-sharing hub for the digital rights field, making digital rights spaces and collaborations more accessible, exploring the intersection between climate justice and digital rights, collective redress mechanisms in the digital sphere, and on implications of the recent decision against Clearview AI. All these yielded creative thinking to approach our work from innovative directions.
We of course did not forget about the self-care and social part of coming together: at the end of the second afternoon, we had a wonderful poet and artist reciting her poems, which nurtured our body and soul. The goodies sent to participants in the strategy meeting welcome pack helped participants refuel throughout the meeting days. The meditation and other sessions under the healing justice track nourished the well-being of all participants.
The online strategy meeting has left us with a feeling of deep appreciation and admiration for the incredible individuals we get to work with every day. Seeing the energy and dedication amongst the participants, one can only feel optimistic about the future. More detailed notes will be shared with participants; everybody can access this jam board that includes links to priorities of the organisations, and useful resources for the digital rights field.
We look forward to seeing the initiatives and collaborations that will spring from this year’s conversations and look forward to supporting them. We are stronger when we synchronise our efforts and pool ideas, creativity, and resources.
In closing, please don’t forget to spend 10 minutes answering our annual impact survey here. I also wanted to thank all my colleagues at DFF and the external facilitators that supported us – it is thanks to their tireless work that we held together a fantastic space to achieve everything described above. Huge thanks.
Next year, we hope to host our strategy meeting in person, and look forward to seeing you all there if possible!