3 positive lessons learned during the ICSW/Virtual webinar series

After celebrating seven online conversations about people power, we are inspired by the potential of virtual engagements and the resilience of civil society

  1. Virtual events can be fertile ground for people power

Through our seven ICSW/virtual webinars, over 400 people (between attendees, speakers, collaborators and video viewers) engaged in meaningful conversations and exchanges that enriched our knowledge, souls and amplified the voices of civil society. Diverse activists from several countries shared their work, perspectives, concerns, recommendations and real-life solutions to current civil society issues related to COVID-19, global governance, youth activism, funding, digital security, positive narratives, self-care and even artivism! Some participants built connections during our webinars that translated into greater visibility and new collaboration opportunities. And these virtual conversations will be the foundation for the next step of our journey: in 2021, activists around the world will organise local events (COVID-19 permitting) to expand on these topics at a community level.

We acknowledge that there are significant gaps that must be addressed to make virtual engagements more safe, inclusive and enabling for all civil society, but we must recognise the good and try to build on it. After ICSW/virtual we are inspired by the potential of virtual events as fertile ground for people power!

2. People power is tenacious and resilient

Hosting these conversations in the middle of a pandemic allowed us to see how the crisis exacerbated the threats and challenges faced by civil society around the world, but they also evidenced the tenacity and resilience of people power.

For example, young activists in our events showed how they are working under very adverse financial conditions, but they keep leading powerful social, political and environmental movements around the world. Other activists shared how lockdowns increased restrictions on key freedoms and stopped crucial mobilisations in their countries while funding for their work plummeted, but they were very solution-driven and focused on reinventing strategies to face this new reality. While issues and injustices were voiced, people focused on the way forward, on collaborations, sharing lessons and creating solutions in every conversation. And that attitude shows in the field. Movements like #blacklivesmatter got stronger during this crisis, and as we documented in this report, despite the limited resources and other restrictions, civil society everywhere has provided vital, bold, creative and innovative responses to the pandemic.

3. Turn your good and hard lessons into useful tools

Organising and delivering a series of webinars does not seem like a big deal. But it is. Coordinating with many teams of partner hosts and numerous speakers spread around the world is quite complex. Delivering all the engagements in three languages is hard. And technically, everything can go wrong before, during and after a webinar! From dealing with problematic software to manage participants or host the events; having a bad internet connection, microphones not working or Internet trolls threaten your webinar; to losing your webinar recording.

But we learned so much! We had a learning log to track all the things that went great, not so well and very bad, and those reflections were used to develop protocols and tools to improve our webinars. Thanks to the ICSW/virtual experience, we have new checklists, security protocols, consent forms, and knowledge that helped our small team and also other colleagues in our organisation. We also have a good list of things left to do, learn and fix. We are determined to translate this learning into better experiences and an improved global conversation about people power for everyone who is following the ICSW 2020-21 journey.