Keeping the Internet Open and Free: A Dispatch from RightsCon


by Lena Delchad and Roxann Stafford

RightsCon is upon us!  SecondMuse is excited to be back and attend this global event that brings together the digital rights community to keep the internet open and free. This year the RightsCon Summit is in Lena and Roxann’s backyard, in San Francisco. If you aren’t able to attend you can livestream from the conference site.

On Tuesday, March 29, the event began with the Iran Cyber Dialogues. We heard many people from diverse backgrounds share about the work they are doing both within Iran and with Iranians outside of the country. Participants spoke from the perspectives of tool developers, policy & government, digital security experts, activists, and civil society on a wide variety of issues, from circumvention tools to networks for mobilization. There were opportunities for networking, learning and socializing among the highly capable group.

Today begins the main sessions of RightsCon where we heard from a diverse group– from business leaders to human rights experts and investors to technologists, people came together to share ideas and walked away with new strategies and a broader network to carry forward this important work. The summit continues until April 1. 

A special highlight for us was the number of presenters that are bridging the gap between civil society and tool developers. As we have encountered in our Needfinding work, tool developers are recognizing the need to engage local communities to understand how to design and improve their tools in order to best support communities — journalists, human rights defenders and everyday people. We are continuing to learn and collect examples of how civil society is engaging with technologists, in particular digital security experts, to support their work.

The workshop we are running on March 31 is called The Power of Storytelling: Using Needfinding to Design with Users in Mind. If you’re at the conference, join us Thursday morning at 10:30 in the Demo Room! In this workshop, participants will go through some of the storytelling and role playing elements of the Internet Freedom Needfinding Framework and understand how these elements could be applied to their work. This session builds on our previous RightsCon Southeast Asia workshop where we introduced the Internet Freedom Needfinding Framework. Giving everyone more opportunities to see what happens at the intersection of human-centered design and community organizing.

Visit the summit website for more details and to view a livestream. Be part of the conversation on Twitter by following @rightscon and using #RightsCon.

The photo above is from RightsCon South East Asia in 2015, courtesy of Roxann Stafford.

About the authors

Lena Delchad
Lena is an international development professional with more than a decade of experience in democratic governance. At SecondMuse she has managed the LAUNCH program and other systems transformation initiatives. Prior, Lena was a USAID contractor for complex civil society programs in the Middle East, managing budgets up to $400m. Early in her career Lena defined a national municipal equity agenda around racial equality and democratic governance, and in her various consultancies, she has written on topics of poverty alleviation, civic engagement, new urbanism and human rights.

Roxann Stafford
Roxann brings together the worlds of social impact and design thinking. Her background in mechanical engineering, business, and psychology combines the analytical rigor and empathy necessary for sustainable systems design. Prior to joining SecondMuse, she was a consultant at FSG with a focus on Shared Value and Collective Impact. As a Senior Associate at Jump Associates, she worked with visionary organizations to identify new markets, reinvent existing categories, and develop new sources of revenue. Roxann’s expertise in linking human needs with technological solutions has helped her clients develop robust strategies and successfully bring numerous products to market.

About SecondMuse Staff

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