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The actions captured in this report reflect the energy, diversity and growth of the APC network. New members AlterMundi, from Argentina, Point of View, from India, Rhizomatica, from Mexico, Social Media Exchange (SMEX), from Lebanon, and Zenzeleni Networks, from South Africa, have added to the richness of the APC community and the breadth of our reach.

Growth in the number of APC’s organisational members suggests that social change and development organisations recognise the need for being connected to others in ways that are formal, based on commitment and trust, with joint decision making and collaborative implementation.

I believe this is a direct response to the proliferation of online networking and recognition of its limitations.

This expanded network of APC members approved a new strategy for the network during the period 2016 to 2019, with a clearly defined impact objective: “People affected by repression, discrimination, exclusion and inequality, in particular women, are able to access, use, shape and defend a free and open internet for their needs, priorities and for the realisation of human rights.”

To achieve this we will focus our efforts on six key result areas: access; rights; a feminist internet; internet governance; internet use and development; and the APC community. See the full APC Theory of Change here and read about the progress made during 2016 here.

This is both an introduction to the 2016 APC Annual Report and an opportunity for me to say goodbye and express what an honour it has been to be APC’s executive director for the past 16 years.

Leadership is demanding, but in my case, it was always facilitated by extraordinary support from the entire APC community, including APC members, and most of all, from those I worked with most closely, the board and the staff.

To my colleagues, thank you for seeing me as a human being, not just as an executive director. Thank you for teasing me by referring to me as your “leader”. This annoyed me, but it also reminded me of my accountability and responsibility.

Thanks to those of you who lean towards anarchy, who resent hierarchy and authority, but who nevertheless put up – mostly – with all my bossiness and interference. Thanks to those who advised me and criticised me when it was necessary. Thanks to those who thought they knew better than me and said so. Thanks to those who trusted my instincts and to those who provided emotional support when I would not have survived without it. Thanks to those who inspired me with their energy, and with caring about their work and about the people we work with, and for.

To APC members, being an APC member is still part of my identity, as I first became part of this community as a representative of a member organisation, SANGONeT, in 1993. As a member of the council (from 1993 to 2000), of the board (from 1996 to 1999), and then as a member of staff, I tried always to be aware of and responsive to the challenges faced by members – financially, politically and institutionally.

No matter how difficult it has been to sustain APC, I know that most members face much worse challenges, in harder circumstances.

Thank you for the trust you place in APC staff to implement the network’s strategy, and for your crucial contributions to the results we manage to achieve.

To the board, thank you for all your hard work, for doing it with rigour and compassion, and for being there when difficult decisions have to be made.

To APC’s new executive director, Chat Garcia Ramilo, enjoy the journey, the challenges and the rewards. Remember that you will never have to walk entirely alone… there is a network around you.

In closing, thank you to all our donor partners and our strategic allies. Your support, partnership and collaboration are indispensable, not just because they enable and amplify our work, but also because they contribute knowledge and insight.

Anriette Esterhuysen

Executive director of APC