In this post, EngageMedia Digital Rights Project Manager and DRAPAC23 Event Lead Vino Lucero shares insights on the thinking behind some of the key decisions made by the DRAPAC23 Assembly team in organising the event – from an emphasis on the agenda co-creation process to intentionality in privacy and security.
We are four weeks away from meeting up at the Chiang Mai University Convention Center for the Digital Rights Asia-Pacific Assembly (DRAPAC23) – the biggest in-person convening EngageMedia has organised so far. There is a lot of anticipation about what will happen during the week-long event, so I wanted to preface all our upcoming posts for the next few weeks with a blog on how we approached the creation and preparation for the DRAPAC23 Assembly.
When I stepped up to lead the programming aspect of DRAPAC23 in January and later on leading the whole event in March, I made sure we tackled the tough but necessary questions that we should ask ourselves as an event team: How do we make this event as inclusive and diverse as possible? How can we ensure that partners and participants feel a level of co-ownership with how the event will turn out to be? And, most importantly, as an organisation with experience in hosting convenings, how can we apply the learnings from previous in-person, online, and hybrid events when preparing for and conducting the Assembly?
We kept these questions in mind as we made crucial decision points as part of the Assembly preparations. This is where it brought us so far:
Assembly agenda co-creation
While EngageMedia is the lead organiser, we wanted almost all of the sessions to be co-created or fully led by other organisations in the Asia-Pacific digital rights space. In consultation with the DRAPAC steering committee, the selected session hosts are a diverse group of international, regional, national, and grassroots organisations.
Of the 125 sessions included in the latest version of the Assembly agenda, around half came from international and regional organisations, while the other half are from national and grassroots organisations. The sessions and organisations reflect diversity not just in scope or geography, but also in specialty and focus within the digital rights space.
Thematic variety among agenda sessions
The variety in session topics and formats at DRAPAC23 are reflective of and grounded in the digital rights landscape and realities in the Asia-Pacific. So far, we have sessions on artificial intelligence, online disinformation, online gender-based violence, hate speech, big tech accountability, engaging stakeholders on digital rights, online privacy, data justice, internet censorship, digital safety, and more.
We also have a good mix of panels, roundtables, focus group discussions, workshops, networking sessions, and exhibits, and encouraged partners to organise activities beyond these session formats.
Diversity among Assembly fellows
In early 2023, we opened a call for applications for participants in need of financial support to attend DRAPAC23. From around 170 applications received, we will be supporting the attendance of 120 fellows. Since travel costs vary depending on location, from originally having a cap of USD 1,000 for the fellowship support we decided to award up to USD 1,200 and USD 1,400, depending on the costs to be incurred by the fellow, among other considerations.
We know that in some cases, the maximum amount of USD 1,400 will still not be enough to cover all travel costs, but this is the feasible step we were able to determine, given the funding limitations we have for the Assembly.
Of the 120 fellows, 50 per cent identify as female, 12 per cent identify as gender-diverse and 38 per cent identify as male. A total of 17 countries are represented within the fellows’ circle: Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Mongolia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Germany, Australia, and Timor-Leste.
The huddles will also be the space to build norms around DRAPAC23 participation and how the soon-to-launch DRAPAC Network will be established and built.
Intentionality in privacy and security
Many have noticed that we have been tight-lipped on what the DRAPAC23 agenda looks like so far, even on details such as the venues. The main reason for this is that we wanted to first get a feel of the privacy and security considerations of participants, session hosts, and other partners. After multiple conversations with different partners from varying backgrounds, it was decided that session hosts should have more control over determining how public they wanted their session to be.
In the coming weeks, you will see featured blogs on EngageMedia.org about Assembly sessions that can be promoted publicly, with consent from their respective host organisations. Meanwhile, some sessions will only be available via the DRAPAC website after logging in, and some will remain unlisted and invite-only. Wider access to crucial assembly agenda information will be available to interested parties after passing participant verification mechanisms, and sessions will be accessible in person only to those who RSVP’d through the DRAPAC platform.
The master list of participants and fellows will also not be accessible to anyone except for key DRAPAC23 team members. Those who want to invite specific target demographics for their sessions will need to coordinate with the DRAPAC23 organising team.
Personal open line with DRAPAC23 participants and organisational partners
The event team knows that there is room for improvement for some of the steps and measures above and that further measures may be needed to ensure that the Assembly upholds values of inclusion, diversity, and co-creation. To this end, as the event lead, I will be one email ([email protected]) or Signal message (+639162609900) away for those who want to share comments and suggestions. We are open to receiving feedback on how we might improve our preparations and roll out of the DRAPAC23 Assembly and apply learnings from other digital rights convenings hosted by other organisations.
We hope that these updates provide a better picture of the mindset and thinking behind the EngageMedia team’s preparations for the DRAPAC23 Assembly, and we hope you stay tuned for the next updates on the event.
In the next three weeks, please expect more blog posts and promotional content related to the sessions and other important DRAPAC23 updates. For those who are still yet to sign up to attend the assembly, please make sure to: (1) register to attend the DRAPAC23 assembly through this form, (2) check this updated FAQ page, and (3) secure your flight, accommodations, visa (if needed), and other travel needs for your trip to Chiang Mai.
See you at the Assembly!