Digital Trainer Summit 2- Circumvention Tech Festival, Spain
From Gender and Tech Resources
I arrived in Valencia without really knowing what to expect, but really eager to acquire new skills in the field of digital security training and to exchange experiences and insights with others. My hope was to improve my ability in having an impact on the communities I interact with as an activist, as well as to learn as much as possible with a view to using the acquired skills within more professional settings. I have the feeling that not only my expectations have been fulfilled, but that I could actively contribute to the process with my personal expertise and that I have been inspired to experiment with digital security trainings and with tools and notions that I have learnt more about, or that I have got to know for the first time, at the Trainers Summit. Besides, I feel honoured to have had the opportunity of meeting so many amazing trainers and of learning from and exchanging opinions with them.
With the public day in the beginning and the ice-breaking in the morning of the second day, the Summit started slowly but in a relaxed atmosphere that made it possible to create a comfortable safe space and to get to know many participants from the beginning. After the slow start, however, from the afternoon of the second day onwards our activities became more and more compelling. As we began focusing on target groups, I gradually started to understand that what I thought were “first-world problems” regarding the difficulties in spreading a deep awareness on the issues of privacy and surveillance and dangerous behaviours in the usage of online services and digital tools, were actually shared by people from the most diverse countries – from Jordan to Argentina, from Colombia to Belarus. We were asked to imagine a target group and their potential request of help, and at this stage, sharing our personal experiences in order to conceive of a model group and their initial request was a spontaneous and smooth process that took place in a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
The same atmosphere informed the following day, when we simulated a risk assessment, with members of another small group impersonating the trainers who asked questions, while the people who had stayed in the original group enacted the organization who had asked for help. Everyone contributed to the discussion in a positive and precious manner, which struck me particularly since I was the only woman in the group and I felt free to talk and listened at. During the afternoon, when it was time to draft a possible agenda for our model group, it was very interesting and encouraging to see how the method of consensual decision-making was ingrained in everyone’s mindset, leading to an enrichment of each individual’s original ideas.
At the end of the day affinities within my smaller group and in the group of the Summit as a whole had clearly emerged, and I had a feeling of complicity with many participants, which I think could be the beginning of veryfruitful co-operations. As regards the acquisition of skills, I feel that the last day of the Summit was the most useful. During the morning we split into small groups according to the needs we still had, and by joining a group on threat modelling in organizations and one on the basics of risk assessment, I felt not only that I had grasped some notions I lacked, but also that my doubts on the possibility of spreading a more responsible attitude towards privacy tools could be dispelled by a change in my approach to digital security trainings based on a more holistic vision of the whole process. As dispelling such doubts was one of my strongest needs, I feel that taking part in the Trainers Summit has been fundamental not only for my knowledge of tools and practices, but also for my willingness to keep offering trainings as an activist (and possibly as a professional) and to experiment with the approaches that were shared among the participant trainers.
Overall, I feel very fulfilled by this experience, and there is not much that I would change, apart, perhaps, for the first day and a half. Since the first day was open to the public (though mostly attended by trainers), many of us had the feeling of having had a too long ice-breaking stage, which could perhaps have been avoided by shifting the public day to the end of the Summit. This way, we could maybe have had more non-trainers at the public day thanks to the proximity to the weekend (when more people arrived at the Circumvention Tech Festival), as well as a chance to put in practice the insights we had just acquired with a group of trainees.
Another critical point was for me the focus on speed geeking, which was used several times. Despite its doubtless usefulness when time is lacking and the group is large, this technique is particularly challenging for non-native English speakers. Naturally, speed geeking requires to speak fast, and while I have no problems in following even the quickest conversations in English, a series of very fast monologues is only sustainable for a short period of time, after which I tend to lose my concentration – and I guess this can be a common problem among non-native English speakers. In sum, I am very satisfied with the experience of both the Trainers Summit and the Circumvention Tech Festival, and I hope that there will be many such events in the future and that I can share what I have learnt with people and groups that need it, so as to make both the real world and the Internet freer, fairer and more open and inclusive.