IFF Changelog: 2019

The 2019 Internet Freedom Festival marks an important point in the project, since we will be celebrating our 5th anniversary.

We believe that anniversaries are great occasions for celebration, but also for reflection.

Below you’ll find some of our latest updates. Here are the TL;DR bullet-points for you:

  • This year the IFF team is focusing on strengthening wellness in the community, with various sessions being offered on this topic. In addition, the Code of Conduct will be run by trained therapists.
  • To better manage increased demands, two facilitators will join us in Valencia to better provide support to participants. Facilitators will help participants connect and feel welcomed.
  • The registration process has been redesigned to allow for verification of those wanting to attend, ensuring that we continue to serve our core audience, providing a safer environment, and better manage the increasing demand in participation.
  • The Festival will continue being a free event. However, we will be issuing tickets that would allow attendees with the option to donate towards the cost of attending the IFF. These funds would be used to support current and emerging community initiatives.
  • We are launching a redesigned fellowship, the IFF Community Development Fellowship, to create additional opportunities for groups around the world to participate in the global conversations, and support fellows to strengthen and grow their local networks. The fellowship’s redesign is aimed to provide long-term sustainability, and this year’s pilot experience is part of a two-year process that will lead to the expansion of the fellow’s scope of work and, subsequently providing them with additional stipends.
  • We have been working hard to grow the Diversity & Inclusion Fund. Moving forward, there will be no regional restrictions to apply for a travel stipend, creating additional opportunities for underrepresented communities to attend the IFF. In 2018, we supported 50% of the presenters, folks who otherwise would not have been able to participate.

A Little History

Back in 2013, many of us were concerned about the need for more trust and collaboration between communities, and the lack of diverse voices leading important conversations in the Internet Freedom community.

It seemed that critical conversations were being handled by the same small group of people, and that the most affected communities were simply not well represented. In addition, some of the community events were inaccessible to new people for various reasons ranging from spaces not feeling welcoming, to lack of network building and on-boarding processes, to undesirable cultural leanings as well as existing events being private and/or registration fees being too expensive. We knew that the Internet Freedom community could do better and deserved better.

With hardly any resources, but with idealistic eyes and a lot of heart, we embarked on the creation of a new collaborative model where communities in the Internet Freedom space could pool resources and work together to accomplish shared goals. At the heart of this, was finding ways not to just increase representation, but increase impactful participation from underrepresented communities. Central to this was to create space where individuals could support each other through these shared in-person experiences. In this vision, we saw the IFF as a community tool that would be lead by the people they served. Knowing what we know now and, in hindsight, understanding the obstacles that lay before us, it’s a miracle this project was born and we are humbled by the lessons it teaches us every day.

The first two years consisted of a lot of leg work, tears and sweat. Most of our time was spent on listening, developing appropriate infrastructure and processes, outreaching to people we so desperately wanted to be part of the Internet Freedom community, and then connecting them together.

It was a lot of hard work for an incredibly small team. We faced the same issues any new project in an emerging field confront: lack of resources, expertise, and structures. And frankly, while we still deal with these same challenges we are blessed to see the community grow and the beautiful impact of what happens when we all work together.

For us, the IFF has always been and is a labor of love. We were convinced that if everyone did a small part, something beautiful and collaborative could be born — a sort of glitter filled potluck of the Internet Freedom community that could model the world we want.

The Impact

Little by little, we began to see changes both in ourselves and in the community. By IFF 2018, 63% of participants came from the Global South, more than 50% of participants and speakers identified as women or GNC, and 50% of the presenters were provided travel assistance through our Diversity and Inclusion Fund, folks who otherwise would not have been able to participate. This was a far cry from the events that had taken place in the early 2010’s for which we wanted to provide an alternative.

The biggest impact, however, has been seeing communities getting stronger by building bridges and collaborations with other communities throughout the world. The number of local and cross-regional projects born at the IFF have been humbling. It has taught us the real value and magick of what happens when a community comes together to focus on solidarity. In addition, by coming together, we have collectively and positively influenced the culture and direction of our community. Through strength in numbers, we have made our space more welcoming, safer, and more positive, while providing better collective blueprints that help better coordinate the global community.


Looking Ahead

Vision

Just as the community has changed in the past 5 years, so has the IFF. We find ourselves faced with new challenges, opportunities and goals, but with the same commitment to serve and help

The vision of the IFF has always been to provide a space where communities throughout the world could join forces to fight online censorship and surveillance. In addition to this, we see the IFF as a tool of the community that they use to accomplish their personal or organizational goals. This will continue to be the same, with the only difference in that we are amplifying how the IFF can be used.

Team

In previous instances, the IFF team consisted of 1 full-time employee, a number of consultants providing support at different times of the year, and a local team supporting the on-the-ground logistics during the week of the IFF. Ahead of the 2019 IFF, we now have two full-time employees, and two part-time employees. In addition, we will also be increasing the number of consultants that work with us during the week of the event. This year, we will have two seasoned psychologists and two amazing facilitators, who will be focused on improving the community health tools we have in place.

Fellowship

The IFF was launched with the mission to create spaces for bringing together the diverse voices in the Internet Freedom communities around the world, particularly those from underrepresented groups. Central to this vision was the creation of a community-driven structure to ensure that the festival’s program was representative of this diversity

The IFF Fellowship was designed to help the community self-organize, and curate a shared vision and priorities, while empowering those most affected to decide what conversations will take place during the IFF. Each year we have experimented and pivoted the fellowship with crucial feedback from past fellows and the larger community.

For the 2019 IFF, we are piloting, with limited funding, a Community Development component to the Fellowship. In order to fulfill this vision, we decided to reduce the number of fellows to 12 to provide more personal attention. Fellows would still be responsible for curating the talks for the IFF, as well as working on initiatives to strengthen their local community, for an established around 60 hours of total workload, distributed over 6 months.

Another great upgrade is the creation of the Fellowship Lead position. This part-time consultant will be responsible for supporting the fellows, providing them with guidance on specific community organizing challenges they may face, and creating necessary resources for them.

Fellows will receive full travel coverage to attend the IFF, including flight, hotel and per diem for 6 days. Additionally, before the end of the year, we will be hosting a fellows retreat where they will share their experiences, brainstorm around challenges in their work, and hopefully build lasting community connections. Full travel coverage will also be provided for the retreat.

As this is a pilot program, we welcome as always your feedback.

Programming

In addition to our general program we hope to share some new sessions that focus on mental health and community health. This year, more than ever, mental health has become a concern for core IFF communities throughout the world and we want to be responsive to the communities request to offer more holistically minded programming. In addition, because of the number of new people that use IFF as a type of week-intensive crash course, we will be providing introductory sessions to the IFF community to help emerging leaders scale their knowledge and build their mentorship networks.

Registration

The IFF has always been a free event, and will work hard to ensure it remains so. Making it accessible to everyone has always been an important goal. However, as we grow and try to work with more communities, the need for resources increases and we want to create sustainability. In addition, the demand for the IFF has grown past our expectations. While this is a positive development because it signals that more people are interested in Internet Freedom issues, we want to ensure that the IFF continues to serve its core audience, and keeps its unique characteristics.

Another change this year is the inclusion of an optional ticket fee. In 2018, several individuals stated that they would pay for the value they received through the IFF via a ticket fee, if that option was made available as part of a solidarity system. Therefore, the new ticket process will allow us to offer a sliding scale admission, and additional funds raised from solidarity ticket sales will be used to develop community and diversity initiatives at IFF.

Diversity & Inclusion Fund

Our Diversity and Inclusion Fund remains a strong building block for the IFF to both include new voices, and help improve community health. Funds raised for the Diversity & Inclusion Fund support the travel of participants and facilitators.

Additionally this year we have removed the regional restrictions of who can apply to the fund, and have opened it up to everyone who requires support to attend the event and self identifies as a member of an underrepresented community in the Internet Freedom space.

Code of Conduct

The safety and comfort of our participants is always at the forefront of everything we do. As always, the IFF will be keeping its Code of Conduct but changing the process associated with it. In 2018, we saw an increase in the number of people that used the IFF COC. We want to evolve the process as we all collectively learn more about how to deal with harm in our communities through a transformative justice approach. As a result, this year the COC will be lead by trained therapists, who have years of experience working with sexual violence, abuse, and conflict resolution. More information regarding the process will be released at a later date, as we get closer to the IFF.


Throughout the years, we are proud to have been part of so many people’s lives as they dream the world they want to live in collectively.

We have seen the community transform itself and grow, and it is an honor to be part of that journey. Hallmark programs of the festival like our Tools Showcase, Regional Meetups, Dialogues are great examples of formats that are now a staple of the festival and that were all created by you.

Your ideas transform the IFF, and especially now, as we approach our with anniversary, we are excited about hearing from you, and listening to ideas your ideas to make it a better space for us all.

We are thrilled to see all these powerful changes and look forward to continuing to build our space collectively with all of you. You can reach out to us at team@internetfreedomfestival.org, and on our Mattermost’s IFF 2019 Suggestion Channel. In addition, every week we host a weekly virtual gathering, where you can ask questions or share any ideas you may have.

Looking forward to seeing you all in Valencia!

– Lots of love from the IFF Team