2021 Member Convening: Transforming our collective futures with solidarity


What is the APC network? And what is a member convening?

APC’s network has 62 organisational and 29 individual members across the world. Together with these members, we work to build “a world in which all people have easy, equal and affordable access to the creative potential of ICTs to improve their lives and create more democratic and egalitarian societies.” The APC network convened from 15 to 19 November this year, where we explored and demonstrated to each other how APC is really a community of communities. Since the network is active across 74 countries, a member convening is our time to connect, share and learn from each other, and make our plans for the future. This year’s convening brought together participants from over 11 time zones and allowed us to exchange our stories and strategies with network peers.

Nurturing Solidarity, Achieving Transformation

This year’s convening theme was “Nurturing Solidarity, Achieving Transformation”. It built on conversations started at last year’s "Closer than ever" member convening and took them forward by considering our collective futures. How have our members managed to thrive and adapt in this extraordinary year? What lies ahead on the horizon? What strategies can we share with each other to strengthen and empower the network? These were some of the questions explored through plenaries, sessions and pop-ups organised and presented by both APC staff and members.

How does a community of communities build a collective future?

Across the convening week, the focus remained squarely on members and their horizontal collaborations. The plenaries were important gathering spaces where we celebrated successes achieved over the past year and considered challenges faced by the network, including working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Rooted in APC’s strategic priorities, we discussed emerging issues in digital inclusion, human rights, internet governance, feminist internet, environmental justice and collective power. And we took the opportunity to dream together and build a “brave space” for our network.

We explored “Members collaboration(s) and building of capacity” by contemplating several important questions, including the importance of regional networks, the changes to advocacy due to the pandemic, how we are coping and growing, and who we want to work with in the future. At the plenaries, we asked each other: What are the stepping stones, the dots, the elements that forge the APC network today? And what are the practices we can learn from one another?

We also projected our collective futures by exploring interconnections between members and staff. Given the challenges of the pandemic, the issue of how we connect with each other is more important than ever, and we examined how the APC network can recreate and reinvent itself. How do we overcome uncertainty and practice possibility? This is one key area where APC can take a leadership role by offering resources to the network to support hybrid models for meaningful connections and meetings. Importantly, even as we look forward, the value of memory is important for continuity and growth.

Collective care grounded all of the plenaries, providing both launching points and closings where we took time to explore what it means to work together as policy change actors, bridge builders, conveners and a diverse and grounded community. Activities like Qi Gong movement, joyful drawing exercises, music and play were the anchors of care that grounded these large assemblies. The importance of laughter was noted by several participants, particularly given the tiring contexts we often find ourselves working in as activists, and fuelled further discussions around pursuing collective care for our health and well-being.

In addition to the plenaries, we also held regional meetings for members in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and Latin America and the Caribbean. The numerous sessions organised by APC members and staff – 37 in total! – spanned an impressive diversity of topics, including the strategic use and support of ICTs, environmental sustainability, digital exclusion, facial recognition, community networks, feminist knowledge production, meaningful access, funding and supporting tech projects and more. These were truly precious opportunities to learn from each other, and learn just how strong and engaged our network continues to be!

Complementing the plenaries and sessions, the convening offered several other ways for the network to participate. We held a virtual world café to discuss environmental justice and ICTs. We screened seven films across the week: six from our member EngageMedia’s Tech Tales series on digital rights in Asia-Pacific, and one from the member Digital Empowerment Foundation. We also presented a number of pop-ups where participants could learn about everything from open source editing options to self, collective and organisational care. And we launched APC’s new guide to planning and designing online events, entitled “Guidelines on planning and designing online events”. This important resource is the result of our extensive experience organising online events like the APC member convening, and covers everything from initial planning to going live to winding down an event.

OUR COLLECTIVE FUTURES

LAUNCH OF NEW APC GUIDE TO ONLINE EVENTS

At the convening this year we also launched APC’s new guide to planning and designing online events, entitled “Guidelines on planning and designing online events”. This important resource is the result of our extensive experience organising online events like the APC member convening, and covers everything from initial planning to going live to winding down an event.

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Film Screenings

Tech Tales by EngageMedia

Peer to Peer

What can we learn from poets and coders who engineered a parallel internet that, by 1992, had email servers running in 72 countries? Peer to Peer’ is a deep-dive into data sovereignty and decentralised data flows as described by two generations of information communication rights peers.

Not Love Songs

A young Cambodian rapper is given a choice: apologize for his music that champions social justice, or face imprisonment under a sweeping law commonly used by the government to silence freedom of expression.

Invisible Mundu

Kuri thinks her father is a superhero, who can turn invisible with the help of his ‘mundu’. But when Appa faces Dineshan, the Great Eye in the Sky – a metaphor for state-based surveillance and digital oppression – he ends up losing his life and livelihood. How will Appa overcome the great villain?

The Offensive Internet

In 2019, Malaysia’s internet penetration was at 90 percent, with almost all of the population possessing mobile phones and also on social media. However, the Malaysian government has been clamping down on critical voices in the internet, using its Communications and Multimedia Act to block websites and imprison individuals for sharing information critical of the government.

Panulukan (Crossroads)

Can a journey across the Philippines make us question our direction as the preservers of truth, no matter what we think, decide, and believe?

Pattani Calling

To get a SIM card in insurgency-hit southern Thailand, you have to have your face scanned. Because of this, thousands of Malay Muslims are forgoing mobile communications and becoming biosecurity rebels against the state.

The Migrants by Digital Empowerment Foundation

This documentary explores the plight of migrant workers in India, many of whom had to abandon their urban livelihoods and walk back to their rural homes due to Covid-19 lockdowns. The film attempts to capture their suffering and experiences during the pandemic-induced lockdowns and governments crackdowns, including internet shutdowns.

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Collective care grounded all the plenaries, and these were some of the ideas, practices and anchors of care exchanged among network peers at the convening.

How we celebrate and thrive together

 

The final day of the convening was a time of celebration and reflection as we explored the theme of “How we thrive” through two closing plenaries. We wanted to ensure that the conversations we had started during the week will continue forward, and that we’ll continue to find spaces to learn, share and grow as a network. We also held the first ever “Best Futures Awards”, where members were nominated by peers throughout the week for their work in four categories: Solidarity, Collaboration, Innovation and Creativity. The live voting in both plenaries on the final day was exciting and all of the nominations showed what truly exemplary work APC members are doing and how they are inspiring their peers in the network. Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Throughout the convening we also crowdsourced music from participants and prepared a musical playlist with almost 40 songs. And finally, with our hearts and minds full, we wrapped up the 2021 member convening with a party! It was a space for collective celebration through music by some participants and a special performance livestreamed to the convening by Ecuador-based musical ensemble Runa Jazz. With a dynamic mix of musical influences, it was the perfect note to wrap up our time together and end the convening on a strong note. The APC network remains a thriving space for sharing, exploring and nurturing one another and forging strong relationships.

BEST FUTURES AWARDS

This year we held the first ever “Best Futures Awards” where members were nominated by peers throughout the week for their work in four categories, and decided by live voting at the final day’s plenaries. Congratulations!

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EngageMedia's Tech Tales
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Nupef
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Zenzeleni
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Leandro Navarro/Pangea
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7amleh
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WOUGNET
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Jinbonet with JCAFE and JCA-NET
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Servelots/Janastu
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eQualitie

APC World Music Café

We love music, and we love exploring new music from all over the world. One of the most joyful spaces that came out of the 2021 APC Member Convening was our connecting through the magical and universal language of music. This playlist was crowdsourced from participants of the convening.

See the full playlist
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Poetry and quotes

Many inspiring poems were shared and performed, and we found inspiration in several quotes from our network peers.

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Runa Jazz concert

We wrapped up this member convening with a collective celebration and a special performance livestreamed by Ecuador-based musical ensemble Runa Jazz.

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