3 Rising action

Questions in this section: 1. Who needs to be involved in the planning and designing stage? 2. When and how long? | Timing, time zone(s), duration and digital fatigue considerations 3. How? | Format, technology, documentation design, language(s), budget and care

Who needs to be involved in the planning and designing stage?

Think about your team, your community and wider network, and tap into the pool of talents, skills, creativity, imagination, and inspiring work you all are already doing. Some general questions that can help facilitate the main workload distribution and help you plan if you need additional people on board are listed here: 

Roles and responsibilities 

If your community members are involved in the planning stage or if it is only your core-team, and/or you are collaborating with another organisation - make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to the amount of workload, expectations and role distribution. It’s good to keep in mind that roles and workload will differ before, during and after the event and that there might be an overlap. As to prevent burnout and (some) frustration, it’s best to make your own list of roles with detailed assignments during the planning phase. Other factors to take into account during your workload distribution are language and time zone considerations, especially if you are working globally or cross-regionally wise.

The teams and roles for organising and planning online events can have different types of functional hierarchies. That means that besides the roles assigned within the organisation, there is also a natural or more of an organic hierarchy where for certain roles people recognise knowledge and capacities with which they can contribute. For example, some of our coordinating team members oftentimes sign up for facilitation team or support the documentation team if there are additional slots to be covered, etc.

Based on our experience, the main teams and roles during online events are: 

Coordinating team. This is a permanent team (a team of 3-5 for smaller events, a team of up to 7 for large-scale events). They handle program, content, logistics and the entire internal and external communication flow throughout the entire process. They respond in various areas around content/issues (including tech and budget) and support facilitation team, documentation team, translation and interpretation team, participants and speakers, etc.

Tech team. This team is part of your coordination team. They are responsible for the overall tech support for teams and participants, including advice, manuals, adjustments and responses before, during and after the event. They set up the platform(s), accounts, registration forms, boards, etc. During the event they are also tech moderators in the sense of monitoring who comes into the space, and responding in case of harassment, violation of safety or principles of participation, and also providing tech support to all participants.

Facilitation team. They are responsible for content and flow of the event. In terms of roles, they are lead facilitators, care facilitators, chat and time moderators. This team is expected to be different each time, and your organisation’s team members are encouraged to get engaged, share and learn new skills. Members will look at both the content and the design of sessions (exercises, presentations, care, facilitation). This team is supported by the coordinating team (including tech) for all their related needs. 

Documentation, translation, interpretation and closed captioning team. They are responsible for documenting your event (note taking, illustrations, summaries, etc.), translation, interpretation and provision of closed captioning. This team also has a communications role, meaning that they update the participants by sharing summaries (if it’s a longer event), or possibly share tweets and short pieces (if it’s a public event). They are supported by the coordinating team for all their related needs and are also connected with facilitation team.

Social event/party team. They are responsible for designing the social and artistic part of the event (creating playlists, curating artwork and content, designing and imagining parties, connecting with and inviting artists who can share their performance, etc.).

Alongside these teams, are also speakers, who are responsible for delivering all relevant material in advance, and participants, who can be involved in different stages of your event planning and preparation. 

Check in
“What about your own safety?” Take some time and also think about your team and make sure to take your own safety into account. Is there a safe space from where the event will be organized for facilitators and community organizers who are already exposed? If it is a live streamed event, are there some landmarks that can expose the location during the event and whose account/credentials will be used?

 

When and how long? | Timing, time zone(s), duration and digital fatigue considerations

Questions in this section


Timing and time zone(s) considerations

Is the timing right? Are there other events happening at the same time? See if you should avoid overlapping altogether and find a better timing for your event or if synergies can be found between events. Look for important holidays in regions where your participants are based, and make sure your event will not clash with them.

See who you would like to connect with and adjust the time of your event to them as much as you can. Here are some of our lessons when it comes to time zone considerations:

STORY BOX From APC Member convening 2020: Walk the talk, from privilege and power to solidarity - time zones

Time zones are an invention. Or a discovery. But certainly, in the way they defined the 00:00 in relation to the rest of the world -12 and +24 are a display of colonialism, power and privilege! How would things look like if the 00:00 was set along Kuala Lumpur or Quito? Experiencing this is when power and privilege give place to solidarity.

For the APC member Convening we thought that was important not only to acknowledge the way power and privilege are embedded in any acts or “general convention” about time, places, languages -  but to try to walk the talk and apply the logic of a dispersed network, where centres are not fixed and unmovable but are relative and can be changed and agreed upon.

During our five days of convening we rotated our plenaries in the APC member regional time zones that are based on the countries and places where APC member organisations and individual members, and also staff members, live and operate from. Our members have a time zone span from UTC -7 to +9. The two most distant regions, Asia/Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC)/North America, are separated by a gap of 15 to 16 hours. So, during our 2020 Member convening everyone experienced, at least once, waking up very early and going to sleep very late.   

How long should your event be?

A mindful consideration of the digital reality and (oftentimes intensive!) interactions online might help you in deciding on the duration of your online event in a way that you care both for your team and your participants. 

In deciding how long your event should last - consider the following:

Depending on your content, this can be a two hour event with a central session (for example, a plenary) and several activities (opening, presentation of content, break, discussion on certain topics, group work, report back, closing). If your content load is extensive, you might consider distributing the overall material in several sessions and activities that make your event. This can be distributed within one day or even several days, weeks or months. This is especially applicable to planning a larger convening, or an event which will cover one issue extensively, or many different issues.

An important factor to take into account is the format of the event in terms of timeload and communication type. Event formats can vary from (a)synchronous one-hour real time event; to distributed (a)synchronous self-paced event(s) happening in a longer span of time, days, weeks, months. You can find more content around around advantages and challenges related to both in our section “How to choose the format that suits my online event best?”. Here is a general description for now:

Digital fatigue and hidden time

Different people engage and are affected differently during online events. For some, digital meetings might be more tiring than real-life meetings: the brain and eyes focusing harder to process input and material without body language, fewer breaks that depend on one’s own self-care routine and resources, being constantly on show, feeling vulnerable in one’s home, isolation after an intense engagement without a post-event exchange of impressions, and struggles with the technology itself. 

When combined with the total amount of time spent online and in front of our devices, the above elements make what we call digital fatigue, a mind/heart/body reaction of exhaustion, lack of concentration, headaches and physical pain or discomfort which is beyond one’s personal threshold of wellbeing. There is also hidden time that is required for us all to refresh from an intense online event participation and/or organisation of the event itself. Taking into account these elements might help you in your approach when deciding on the event duration and time structure around it.

The ‘hidden time’ to recharge is something to keep in mind for your participants, but it is also vital for you and your team. As you will be both in the back end (planning and designing behind the screen) and front end of your event (implementing and running the event on screen), there is a high risk of ‘digital fatigue’ and burnout. Take into consideration the balance of online and offline time and make sure you talk about each other’s thresholds, red flags and ways of mutual support. This might also imply reallocation of your resources (time, energy) based on your sense of power in the direction of your own or your group’s wellbeing.

 

shroom-strip-extralong.png

For our APC Staff meetings we have a general recommendation for our staff which is part of APC institutional care practices. We recommend 1:1 pairing - one hour work - one hour break - for the duration of the meeting so that would mean - for a 3 hour session in a day – that everyone takes a 3 hour break also - and not attempt to do a full days work *around* the staff meeting time.

shroom-strip-extralong.png

 

Check in

Taking care of yourself and each other throughout the process will connect you as a team, and make the experience of organising the event less stressful, more fun and meaningful on multiple levels. You can read more about this in our section “How do we nurture, rest and play?”.

 

APC’s lessons learned on time, care and content

Here are just some of our insights on planning around content distribution when we organise events, bearing in mind the event duration and amount of time spent online:

Timeline of the process

A timeline is a good resource to have during the design stage. Map out your planning activities and tasks and plan mindfully in terms of time allocation. Make sure to include session and documentation design, the overall communication, team meetings, event outreach, test runs, time for rehearsals, time for care, and everything that you will explore more indepth during the event (also called showtime). 

How? | Format, technology, documentation, language(s), care and budget design

Questions in this section • How to choose the format that suits my online event best? • Which technology/platform should I choose? • Documentation design and preserving memories: How to document my event? • Language(s): Translation, interpretation, closed captioning • How do we nurture, rest and play? • How to plan my budget?

How? | Format, technology, documentation, language(s), care and budget design

How to choose the format that suits your online event best?

When choosing the format of your event, it’s challenging to find one-fits-all as you would want to balance your goal, content, accessibility options, safety and technology choice. Will it be a real-time synchronous or asynchronous event, or perhaps a mix of two? Do you want your participants to fully engage and interact on the spot, or do you want to give out a resource and schedule a time for sharing and learning? What are the limitations or challenges of the format that you might need to adjust as to meet the different needs of your participants?

In deciding your online event’s format take into consideration the following elements:

Formats based on goals and participants’ response and engagement

Some formats provide more opportunities for engagement and interaction, such as: online trainings and workshops, collaborative sessions, (live) chat, live streaming events with Q&A session, conferences, online meetings. They are mostly synchronous with all participants in the shared space and entail “immediate response” and real time participation both from you and your participants. Though they have many benefits, such as addressing questions and issues immediately, enhancing the connection and interaction between participants, etc., they also bring many challenges. These formats rely on access to uninterrupted internet connectivity, technology, availability of all participants during the event, and also pose time zone and safety issues that need to be addressed and taken into account.

There are formats that also have the element of “immediate response” for dynamic engagement and participation, but the response is scheduled and required only after the content is shared. One of the examples of this format is a webcast where a pre-recorded content is shared on a platform while designated time for knowledge exchange and learning is set up. Another example is a prerecorded conference that is streamed and then followed by a live Q&A. In these cases, the material is prepared in advance (prerecorded) and then live streamed or shared for direct participation in real time. Choosing these formats provides you with a possibility to schedule the time for feedback, engagement and mutual learning.

Some of these formats can also be completely asynchronous and have an element of “adjusted response”. Some examples are: collaborative writing sessions, workshops, discussion boards, webcasts, etc. In these events, everyone works towards their goal, but not necessarily at the same time and shared pace. This means that the person decides when, for how long and in what way they want to participate based on their sense of safety, needs, availability and situational capacities. People take their own time and pace for processing information, which supports different participation models and diverse needs.

One of the challenges for asynchronous events is that the material preparation, documentation and shared instructions need to be thorough as to support self-paced participation, clarity in communication and avoid confusion. Schedules also have to be revisited, shared agreements on due dates made, and potential homework assigned within the group. On the other hand, while working on preparatory documentation, you can make the documentation more accessible and focus on translation, readability, adjust images, and make beautiful and creative visual and audio content. As they lack real time exchange, it might be challenging to sustain a community spirit and a feeling of togetherness, but this can be compensated with additional spaces for games, exchange of artworks, poetry, etc.

[Possible illustration] When thinking about your goals and diverse possibilities that suggest the appropriate format for the event, here are some examples of possible formats:

We suggest going back to your participants, risk assessment and survey results and align your decisions. In addition to this, it’s helpful to draft a script with your content, speakers, etc. and see how that will fit into the format chosen. The most important thing to keep in mind are the different needs of the participants, how to meet them and format limitations. The format you select will also define the technologies you will use, as well as the kind of planning and adjustments that you will have to use from this point on.

APC examples of practice on different formats

The shift from an in-person meeting to an online workshop in response to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an experimental exploration of creative and feminist space-making grounded in collective care. Up to date, this is still a learning process for us where we are combining many elements and building different structures with an intention to dedicate maximum attention and resources to our events. However, we would like to share some examples of our online events and convenings of different formats:

One of APC’s first experimental spaces was our Storytelling from remote workshop held online in August 2020 for 16-18 participants. For this five day long workshop (with two optional days two weeks after) we combined tools for synchronous and asynchronous activities: BigBlueButton for our meetings, Mattermost for instant and asynchronous communication, Telegram as back-up, Etherpads for text writing and editing (eg. on Riseup.net) and wiki pages as repositories instead of folders.  For more content around methodology and a complete list of tools used during our workshop, check our Storytelling from remote module and section Recommended resources, tools and further reading.

APC member convening Closer than Ever was a five-day long multi-lingual online convening with about 200 participants organized in October 2020, which also marked the 30th anniversary of APC. The programme spanned across all time zones, starting at 3:30 UTC and ending at 22:00 UTC. Each day was dedicated to a theme where we had 12 plenaries (90 and 120 minutes) in two major time zones, intended for everyone to participate. Each day we had two main plenaries with translation, interpretation and captioning. Along with the plenaries, we had:

The convening ran in two main spaces, one structured and the other flexible with five types of possible event formats (60 to 90 minutes) organized by the community. We also prepared a Host/Propose an event template for participants to fill in with necessary information so we could support them, along with relevant repository links for materials and a list of tools. Here are the possible formats that were featured:

Following our member convening, in December 2020 we organized Take back the Tech 2020 as a three-day long online convening for 50 persons with a more fluid structure. Our aim was to explore creative ways of holding space online in ways that are inclusive and forefront of self and collective care. We designed a series of facilitated and self-paced asynchronous jam sessions, real-time sessions of care and playfulness, and live multi-lingual plenaries. 

Since COVID-19 outbreak we have started experimenting during APC online staff meetings on formats that help connecting with one another, enhance participation and facilitate learning. APC Staff meetings are three-day long meetings held quarterly for up to 50 APC staff members. Our meetings represent dedicated time to come together as team, share information, learn from one another and have a space to develop and deepen the way we work, influence and create changes. We have a staff meeting wiki (fashioned after the APC convening wiki), a separate staff meeting Mattermost space to keep conversations in one place and a folder in Share2 for all documentation. Formats used are:

How? | Format, technology, documentation, language(s), care and budget design

Which technology/platform to choose?

Essential to your event design are the technological platforms and tools that will be used. This determines accessibility, opportunities and possible limitations for your event. Be flexible and make sure the team designing the event involve technologists. They can be part of your coordination team or trusted members and partners of your network. They can provide advice and support throughout the process.

Here is an overview of the basic tools you will probably need during the overall process of online event planning and implementation:

We suggest checking our Closer than Ever guide for a deep dive into the use and choice of ICTs for online work, as well as its specifications and limitations. Here is also a list of Available FLOSS tools with a high level of stability, adoption (and available support) in the APC community that you might want to consider as well. You will probably use a combination of tools that fits the needs and conditions of your organisation and your participants. The most important thing is that it is user-friendly, safe and accessible for your team and your participants who will be using it.

Make sure you check the specifications of each tool you are considering. Here is a list of general questions to consider at this stage:

If you are worried that the tool will pose a threat to your team or your participants, you would want to consider finding an alternative and safer tool. You can find more information on the specific software, platform and apps in our FTX: Safety Reboot, Alternative tools for networking and communications including a referenced Alternative To website that can help you check the security functionality of any tool and offer a spectrum of alternatives.

Check in
Be aware that you will still be doing adjustments as the planning process proceeds. You might drop some of the original technological solutions and choose some other or you might be confronted by costs or human resource implications when moving forward into the planning.


Free/libre and open source software

APC prioritises free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) and open standards. This is important because it reminds us that our choices need to always make sure that they are:

Which are amplified and echoed by the values of Feminist practices and politics of technology:

In terms of concrete choices for our online events, most of the platforms and tools we are using are FLOSS tools and tech platforms, such as: CiviCRM, Mattermost, WeKan board, etherpad, wiki and/or Nextcloud suite.

We are using Mattermost as one of the main open source, cross-system, communications platforms hosted on APC servers that ensures synchronous and asynchronous private one-on-one or group communication. We have designated spaces (channels) for different threads (topics) and also use it as a quick and simple back-up channel for announcements during our events. Mattermost has become our shared “office space” where we check in, come together as a team and have conversations.

For real time video conference APC uses a self-hosted open source conferencing system BigBlueButton (BBB). It provides us with whiteboards, presentations, breakout groups, chat and shared notes features - for up to 55 participants (stress-tested!). We have internal practice of not going all on video at the same time as not to stress both the system and individual devices. We have been developing a translation interface for BBB and are currently in the testing phase of providing a safe and easy interpretation system.

At this stage and despite the investment of time, human dedication and funds, the BBB installation is not stable enough to host larger plenaries. We hope that in the future, with the collective effort of many organisations investing in alternatives and autonomous infrastructures, we will be able to run our real time video convening securely, smoothly and comfortably on FLOSS platforms and tools only.

Limitations to the adoption of FLOSS

While FLOSS development and promotion remains APC's priority, we are also very aware of the real-life limitations to the wide adoption of FLOSS for all of our ICT tools and services.

We understand that using FLOSS can represent a significant change in organisational and individual culture and behaviour, and it can require considerable effort to switch from one system to another.

We understand that promotion and use of FLOSS requires (non-monetary) investment from users, and the price to be paid can in some cases include longer production times, lower usability of FLOSS tools, more frequent bugs that require frequent workarounds, etc.

When some challenges or barriers (such as the limitation on the number of our participants) become too costly, we make a conscious decision to use proprietary solutions, but always with the long-term goal of migrating to FLOSS when this becomes a viable option. For example, in case of our large 2020 member convening we needed to complement BBB with a proprietary system and we communicated our decision with our participants. In BBB, the load is on client-side processing, as opposed to server-processing on proprietary system. In this particular case, it was not a question of server power, but the architecture of existing systems. The BBB developers explicitly discourage hosts from attempting to bring more than 100 people to a single session.

How? | Format, technology, documentation, language(s), care and budget design

Documentation design and preserving memories

Documentation can be utilized to the extent of easing the entire process of event preparation and further used as your organisational and community archive for community knowledge building. Not only does it serve your participants for preparation and the navigation during the event, but it can also be a great tool for your own organisation for reflection, lessons learned during the process, or as a capacity building or advocacy tool. Preparing and saving all documentation related material would be a strategic move as it could be a resource that you can further develop, build on, adjust and share in your community and wider network.

Here are some types of preparatory documentation and materials to consider during your planning and designing stage. You would probably want to have some or most of these ready at different stages, as well as to include your participants in the design of some of the documents.

Check in
Remember to communicate with your speakers, facilitators and other relevant persons on delivering their prepared material as soon as you design your program so it can be adjusted and/or translated in advance and that it is accessible to all people. Also, don’t forget that some of the material will contain personal data and content that could put some people at risk. Make sure to anonymise any compromising data (gender, region, name), secure your channels of communication, as well as your repository system.


Documentation and participants

Some of the documents listed above will need to be designed and sent out to your participants beforehand. Think how to engage your participants in documentation design process so you can be on the same page and create a good plan. Here are some questions to have in mind when thinking about documentation and your participants:

Think if you plan to share and use the entire event or some aspects of it later on for promotion or resource development. Go back to your “Who will attend” section. Think of privacy, risks and safety of your participants when it comes to documenting the event and ask yourself some questions that can help you prepare in advance:

Check in
All of these listed questions involve consent forms, revisions of platform policies or adjustments and announcements you might want to start making already at the planning stage. You will find practical examples that address these issues during your online event in ‘Consent, privacy and confidentiality’ section of this guide. 

 

How will you document your event?

As we already shared in this guide, there are dozen documents that you would want to prepare in advance. However, the documentation of the event itself is an element that is adapted, adjusted and made unique by each organisation’s framework: values, practices, approach, content and issues covered. Documentation serves the function of preserving the memories of powerful shared moments, conversations, insights and people - which can always be revisited. In this way, you can go back to the conversations, review highlights, and reflect on what worked and what can be improved. Video recordings, notes, quotes and visuals can also be incorporated in your advocacy activities, media campaigns, research, reports, etc.

To decide what to document go back to the purpose of your event as mentioned in the “What do I want to accomplish” and choose what can help you achieve that. Different forms will suit your different needs. For example, at APC we find visual documentation and graphic recording very effective to convey the content of meetings and discussions. Here is an example of APC Member Convening 2020 - Closer Than Ever graphic recording.

Documentation can take different forms: audio recordings, text notes (reports, highlights, summaries, transcriptions), video recordings, visual/graphic notes (illustrations), whiteboards (as a freeform space that could be informal but also intentionally used). However you decide to document, take into consideration consent, privacy and confidentiality protocols and forms for your participants. You can read more on these in the section “During the event”.