Digital Trainers Summit - Circumvention Tech Festival, Spain

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Title Digital Trainers Summit - Circumvention Tech Festival, Spain
Category Privacy Advocacy Digital Security
Start 2015/03/01
End 2015/03/06
Scale Valencia, Spain
Geolocalization 39° 27' 30", -0° 20' 17"
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Organisation TTC /Internews/ Evergreen Circumvention Tech Festival
Target audience digital security trainers
Number of participants 10
Context and motivations
Topics Training of trainers, Spain
Media [[File:]]
Agenda My Week At Circumvention Tech Festival: A Report Back

It was an honour for me to be invited to join Circumvention Tech Festival and the first Trainers Summit in the Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain on March 1 – 6, 2015. This is a report back on how my week spent there.

1. Valencia was sunny the day the Circumvention Tech Festival (CTFestival) started on the 1st of March. Sunny but pretty chilly for someone who came from a tropical country as myself. But it didn’t hinder me from getting so excited to join more than 400 people from all over the world. CTFestival aimed to bring together activists fighting censorship and surveillance for a week of conferences, workshops, hackathons and social gatherings. Its goal was to provide a space for the community to pool resources, share knowledge, skills and experience, as well as build network. What made it more interesting was that developers were also present, which gave us, the on-the-ground activists who use tools they create, the opportunity to interact with them.

The CTFestival was opened with Circumvention Tech Summit (CTS), a one day unconference designed to kick off the festival, where participants got to know each other and the festival, as well as to explore topics of conversation that will take place on the following week. After a lightening speed of introduction for each participants and explanation of the event and its (strict) rules, a skills share session opened with tens of topics to choose from. Topic ranged from countries experience sharing on censorship and surveillance situation, to how to conduct, digital security training, to understanding tools (Enigmail, TOR, TAILS, mobile security tools, etc), to how to get organizational buy-ins and many other topics. The first day was ended with an opening reception.

2. The second day was for everyone to go to the event where they came to the Festival for. As for myself I joined the Trainers Summit organized by Internews, TOR Project and IREX. The summit was attended by more than 100 participants from all over the world with all regions being represented. The first half of the first day of the summit was opened for public and started with a speedgeeking session featuring 11 organizations presenting the work of their organization. I was one of the eleven. I presented our work at EngageMedia and Video4Change, a global network of organizations using video to affect social change where we are a part of.

The rest of the summit was private only for participants who have registered prior to the festival. For the next 4 days, participants were talking about everything about digital security training. We started out with mapping out regions and countries where participants conduct digital security trainings and whom do we train. It was such an amazing feeling to see a wide range of countries and communities everyone was working in and with. It gave an idea how digital security is being spread throughout the world. The summit also tried to map out what digital security trainers around the world need, be it knowledge/skills wise, tools wise or even other resources that will help them do their work on the ground. The best part of it (to me) was the break-out sessions where we plan a training based on (mostly) real life cases. The sessions provided us with a lot of insights and experience from different places. I personally think the session was very fruitful to me to learn about best practices, what I think I can try to apply in my trainings and whatnot from other trainers. It also tried to formulate a way to shift the focus of digital security trainings from tools to human.

The last day of the training, we had the chance to have small group discussions on tools and talked to some of the developers. It was a good opportunity to get insights about the tools and receive new updates on the development of the tools.

3. Gender and sexuality was a major intersectional issues that was discussed a lot during the summit, both built-in in the sessions and by itself. Some of the highlights was the discussion on how to work with communities of women and especially LGBTIQ on issues of privacy, surveillance and digital security as well as conversation on whether it is a good idea to mix women and LGBTIQ in general training, and if it is possible to do, what are the appropriate strategies to conduct inclusive trainings as such. The whole conversations on gender and sexuality really gave us a realization of how we need more women trainers and/or trainers who understand issues of gender and sexuality (at least to have more trainers who are gender-sensitive).

All and all, the CTFestival was a huge success and the Trainers Summit was a fruitful event. I didn’t learn much of new skills in term of the use of tools as I expected before, but I guess the summit was not designed for that. It was designed to be a space to share experience and a little bit of skills in delivering trainings and it successfully fulfilled that goal. And it was proven to be invaluable! I hope that the summit would not stop there, since it would be great to have everything documented and shared widely, not only those who were discussed or shared during the summit but also any development, progress, experiment, and best practices afterwards. And I believe that level-up would be a great collaborative platform to do so.

Highlights: There were not much new things to learn from the trainer summit, but it was a great space of sharing experience and knowledge between people who do digital security training. I like that! There was still a challenge from participant about having women issues to be put as separate sector rather than integrated issues in all sessions. I personally disagree with this view. While it is true that women and LGBTIQ should be an intersectional issues, a specific caucus on the issues is very urgently needed since there is lack of gender-sensitive perspective amongst digital security trainers, let alone a good gender and sexuality perspective. What’s to be done is to have specific discussion on gender and sexuality that also tackle the issues of sexism and misogynistic perspective of many digital security trainers as well as finding the right strategies to conduct inclusive digital security trainings I encountered sexism and misogynies with one of the participants during personal dinner with 3 other people. I was getting into a heated argument with a male participant and he ended up making a statement that to me was personal attack on me and the other female participant who was also in the argument. I didn’t really address this issue to the organizers but made a statement during the closing that made people actually asked me why I made that statement With that, we really need to empower and train more women and LGBTIQ persons to be actively involve in the community fighting for censorship and surveillance as well as digital security There are few possibility of doing collaborative projects with some people and would look for more possibility to work with other (especially people who work with women and LGBTIQ in the country). I am also looking forward of doing a joint global campaign on the issues of women, sexuality and tech. Another great experience I gained from the Festival was meeting people who do and create things that matter!

Feelings DS Trainer Summit Summary of my experience at the event

I must start by saying that Valencia is a beautiful city, awesome weather and friendly people. It was a nice location to host the CT Festival. The DST summit comprised of variety of people across the globe and if am to go by the statistics we were 80 DS trainers from 43 different countries. How awesome is that? So this is an automatic plus. Las Naves was an awesome venue thanks to the sunlight patches that we had and Ali was an excellent facilitator, I never dozed off not even a blink during the sessions. That’s how amazing I found him to be. One of my major likes was the speed geeking session. Getting to hear about all the awesome works being done across the globe by different people was just amazing. All the speed geeks were great but I liked the cyber arabs the most because it was the newest site I heard of in the summit, Bahaa and the team are doing a great job. Tactical Tech new IU is also awesome. So speed geeking is a plus, I will adopt it. Another like is that the sessions time management was on point, so kudos to that and the sessions were relevant to my work. I hope that the networks I made will lead to long term collaborations which will help me in my work as a digital security trainer. All these are likes.

More likes goes to the diversity of the trainers and the pool of knowledge that came from different corners of the world. Hosting different cultures with everyone’s eagerness to learn from each other was awesome. Another great like is how the DTS sessions had a flow. We kept on building on one objective throughout the training. I dint know that, that was the goal. At the end of the summit it was a brilliant flow. My dislikes are as follows: I felt that the trainers were confined in one space, it could have been better if it was more interactive with the circumvention techies who create the digital security tools that we train about. Maybe language and security is an issue so this can be like a 50/50 comment. Not a + or a -, maybe something can be done in future festivals so that it’s more integrated.

I felt that the breakout sessions on the last day (Friday) was not well executed to some extent. I would suggest that future breakout sessions be more dynamic and the facilitators be more involving especially the tech-related break outs. There is always a language barrier between the software programmers and the DS trainers. Unfortunately, I have experienced this challenge in several conferences I have attended and not this one only. Maybe in future sessions, invite a programmer/ techie with people skills who can easily explain the concepts without much hassle. All in all, the likes out ways the dislikes and I intend to keep the likes and correct the dislikes in future summits. It was awesome to meet new people who we do similar work with and just psych one another up. Out of 10, I give DTS organizers a 8. Great job!!

Feedbacks A Report from the Trainers Summit Circumvention Tech Festival, 2 nd -5 th March 2015, Valencia, Spain by Floriana Pagano

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.

Start What will you start doing ?
Stop What will you stop doing ?
Keep What will you keep doing ?