January ICYMI Event Roundup

We started out the year with a handful of events ranging from Internet freedom issues to the rise of populism around the world in the latest installment of our Defending Democracy event series. 

Read on below to hear some of the key takeaways from all of our January events.

Transparency and Accountability: The Nigerian Perspective

In the last decade, there have been significant numbers of civil society organizations working on ensuring the government becomes more transparent and accountable in Nigeria, while promoting a culture of citizen participation and engagement. This presentation by Oludotun Babayemi, a Reagan-Fascell Fellow at the National Endowment For Democracy, will look at the metamorphosis of these organizations and how they have challenged the status quo using online and offline technologies. It will also look at challenges in the near future, and how international organizations can support their work.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership in 2016 to work on bringing reforms to their government. However, Nigeria has had 5 presidents since the rise of democracy in their country in 1999, and while each has pledged to fight corruption, corruption has not been substantially reduced. Many civil society organizations in Nigeria have therefore rallied around that.
  2. Each level of government in Nigeria responds differently to requests for information. The federal level responds mainly to Twitter requests for engagement, but largely you need traditional methods like letters and Freedom of Information Act requests to get them to respond. The state government is more difficult, particularly as data availability at that level is unreliable. At the local level, it is almost impossible to gain traction for requests about money flows, as most say "the money is at the state level, not here". Money flows at this level are often dictated by patronage systems.
  3. Oludotun Babayemi therefore has four key recommendations on how civil society organizations can engage with leaders and citizens in Nigeria:
    1. Offline methods are still the most effective for demanding accountability for public service providers
    2. The combination of offline (print, radio, TV) and online tech such as Facebook and Twitter are very important for organizations working around social accountability.
    3. Creating more partnerships of CSOs with more independent media organizations or trusted traditional media organizations in broadcast and print is important for message building
    4. Data at the community level is important for increasing citizen participation

Democracy Dialogue: Populism and Corruption: Comparing Europe and the US

This event seeks to explore why populism has emerged both in the United States and in Europe, and the relationship of populism to various forms of corruption (including kleptocracy). It will also address the international linkages between populist sentiments spreading and between international money flows facilitating corruption across boundaries, and the ways in which Western governments or other actors may enable corrupt actors in other countries.

You can watch a full video of the event, as well as our past Democracy Dialogues, here.

Key Takeaways from our panelists:

  1. Janine Wedel, Professor at George Mason University: I would challenge the word 'populism'. This isn't your grandfather's populism; we're seeing anti-system movements. People are knocking at the door of the system and trying to get in to destroy it without any notion of what to replace it with. What we're seeing now is: 
    1. A decline in trust in public institutions, whether in government, courts, parliaments, corporations, banks, the press.
    2. Huge income inequality
    3. And now elite corruption
  2. Tony McAleer, Life After Hate: Populism is anti-democratic. We need to address the systemic problems of populism. Populism never has the right answers to the problems, but it certainly asks the right questions. So in that way it's telling us that there's something wrong that needs to be addressed.
  3. Nora Gilbert, Director of Strategic Projects & Partnerships, Represent.Us: Americans have really low trust in government because they don't see their actions having an impact, which is a driver to populism. While corruption is also a driver of populism, the anti-establishment sentiment is a component of a strong anti-corruption movement. Perhaps we should start approaching it this way. This is a possible benefit of it, and it's an organizing tactic we can use.

As American as Apple Pie? The Future of the Open Web in the US & Abroad

On January 30, the Web Foundation and EveryoneOn hosted a screening of ForEveryone.net — a documentary film which tells the story of the invention of the World Wide Web by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, and Sir Tim's mission to ensure the web remains a free and open space.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The film screening was followed by a panel discussion with Juan Ortiz Freuler (Web Foundation), Ethan Green (EveryoneOn), Nicol Turner-Lee (Brookings Institution) and Nathalia Froditsch (Communications Policy Consultant), which looked at the future of the open web in the US following the rollback of net neutrality rules, data privacy protections, and policies designed to increase internet access in underserved rural communities. Do these recent developments signify a step back for the US as a champion of the free and open web?
  2. A lively discussion between panelists and audience members ensued, and focused mostly on net neutrality, including the ramifications of the FCC's recent decision to repeal rules in place to protect net neutrality, and the best ways to guarantee the web does not become a "pay to play" space. Tackling this and a number of other threats facing the open web — from loss of privacy and personal data control to increasing centralization — is at the heart of the Web Foundation's work, and will be critical to enshrining Sir Tim's original vision for the web in practice. Learn more, and join us.

Digital Marketing 101 BBL

What marketing goals work best for your organization? Who are your key audiences? How do you conduct user research? What channels will work best for your marketing campaign? These were some of the topics that presenter Khuram Zaman, the CEO of Fifth Tribe, a leading digital agency serving the Washington DC Metropolitan Area, addressed in his brown bag presentation. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Know your audience, build up a persona of your audiences to target your marketing and make sure that you can segment people in your lists.
  2. Search engine optimization is important as so many people use Google and very rarely go past the first page or even the first few entries. While you can pay to get more towards the top of Google searches, there are easy, free things that any nonprofit can do to make this happen, such as having keywords in URLs, checking meta tags, and using tagging available from their blogs.
  3. Creating usable content is more important than the audits, plans, and testing so focus on good writing, making things scannable, and repurposing for different platforms.
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