Towards the Future: DFF’s Upcoming Leadership Transition
The time has come for leadership transition at DFF. After a successful pilot phase, I believe it is time to look towards the future and to how the organisation can best support the digital rights field going forward.
From the very beginning, I have been keen to avoid “founder’s syndrome”, focusing instead on building a solid organisation with great staff, steady funding streams, and sound systems in place so it could be safely handed over to the next person. In December 2021, I will leave the Digital Freedom Fund. In January, we’ll start the leadership transition process, starting with the search for a new Director, who can take DFF to the next stage and continue supporting the field for the important work ahead.
From the very beginning, I have been keen to avoid “founder’s syndrome”
When DFF was founded in 2017, it set out to deliver two things: provide grants for strategic litigation to advance digital rights in Europe and facilitate skill building, collaboration and coordination between those working on digital rights in the region. Grantmaking started in the summer of 2018 and, to date, we have provided 42 grants to 28 grantees supporting 90 cases in 21 jurisdictions and 3 regional projects.
Importantly, now that we have exited our initial 3-year pilot phase, we will be able to start offering long-term litigation support, covering multiple instances, from 2021. This will allow grantees to engage in truly strategic, longer-term planning –– something we had wanted to do from the outset but were unable to as a startup organisation.
We will be able to start offering long-term litigation support, covering multiple instances, from 2021
Our skill building and convening work has spanned from organising strategic litigation retreats, where litigators can develop a case idea into a full litigation plan, to thematic gatherings to strategise around issues such as the GDPR, AI and human rights, harnessing the potential of antitrust regulation to take on “big tech”, and the digital welfare state. Underpinning this work has been a continuous strategy process that commenced before DFF was formally established and continues through our annual strategy meetings and other gatherings.
We have also gone beyond the original scope of grantmaking and convening by initiating an important and timely conversation about the need to decolonise the digital rights field. I am proud that, this year, we initiated this important process together with EDRi and even though we are only in the early stages, the first steps and recent gathering we hosted on this topic leave me encouraged of the potential for much-needed change.
Besides further building on the foundation laid over the past years, questions about the future need to be addressed. As the digital aspect of our lives continues to increase and the “field” will continue to expand, where should we be focusing our attention and resources, both collectively and as DFF? For DFF as an organisation, what is the best structure to allow it to scale its work, potentially expanding to a multi-regional approach, leveraging best practices across other parts of the world than Europe only?
What is the best structure to allow it to scale its work, potentially expanding to a multi-regional approach?
The DFF Board has established a search committee for a new Director and will start looking for the ideal candidate to take the organisation to its next stage. I look forward to assisting them in their search and to working with DFF’s new leadership to ensure a smooth transition in the second half of 2021.
We are immensely grateful to everyone who has worked with us to help build and shape the Digital Freedom Fund –– we could not have done it without your time, energy and support. The list of all the people I want to thank is too long to include here in what is supposed to be a short blog post (and I should save something for when I do say goodbye!), but you know who you are and you will be hearing from me before I exit the building at the end of 2021!
The DFF Board has established a search committee for a new Director and will start looking for the ideal candidate
For now, please do give some thought of who might be interested in running a young digital rights organisation and ensure its continuous development. The search committee and I are happy to address questions from interested candidates following the publication of the ad in January.