Methodologies and lessons learned from Digital Quotient Youth Workshop (DQYW) organised by Innovation for Change – East Asia, facilitated by Cheekay Cinco and Dhyta Caturani
Written by Kim Eunha
The DQYW facilitators guided the design and implementation of the DQYW with a few key principles to make it a space for: 1) collective knowledge-sharing 2) interactive session 3) maximise engagement 4) inclusion 5) respecting each other
Through an open reflection space, one participant had shared her thoughts on the methodology of the workshop. She expressed her needs that the workshop could improve if more concrete technical strategy was delivered more than free experience sharing. This was then responded and clarified by one of the facilitators that this workshop was never meant to be a ‘training’ event (where technical strategies shared by “experts” were centred in the design) but rather designed as an interactive, participatory workshop where participant-experience and -sharing was going to be the main focus and strategy for each participant to come to understanding of their needs and strategies for themselves. She further noted that
“The idea behind that is that each participant knows their communities and their needs the best – and what the workshop can provide is guidance for them to come to their own ways of defining what their DQ is.”
From this, I observed that some participants were eager to learn more on the technical sides of navigating the digital sphere over experience-sharing. In a way, it shows where their expectation lies in participating in the sessions and the fact that they have expressed their needs is another pointer that demonstrates some level of anticipation to take away invaluable knowledge from this workshop. Having an open reflection space in between two parts of the workshop greatly helped organisers as it provided a space to clarify and redirect to the initial purpose of the workshop.
Although not everyone had shared their mid-way reflection, some participants had really put their efforts in expressing their observation and feelings – through texts and illustration – which deserve huge appreciation.
Technical issues can always get in the way during online meetings. People would usually feel a bit frustrated about the other end not being able to connect. The sentiment felt during our workshop was a bit different. When a participant from Myanmar could not join our workshop because her internet speed was only 2MB, we as activists took it very hard the challenges our folks are having in terms of access. Another participant also from Myanmar could not fully join the workshop because she had to keep moving from one place to another to ensure her physical safety. These two incidents made some of us reflect on our privileges on safety and access to stable internet.
Moments of collective growth through learning, relearning, and unlearning
There were continuous learning and unlearning curves which allowed participants to open up to new (or different) perspectives when navigating digital quotients. Facilitators’ and resource persons’ input surely helped in perceiving things differently but feedback and interaction between and among participants also made the contents of the workshop rich. Below are some quotes that spurred deeper learning.
- Internet corporations say they are free but in exchange for our data. This way our digital (in)security is being normalised without our consent.
- The need for accountability on internet providers and social media companies. Data protection law/regulation to hold companies accountable.
- When planning a campaign related to GBV, we should always centre the survivors and our act of ‘good intention’ should not re-victimise them in any way.
- Being honest about potential risks of a campaign and sharing it with everybody involved helps in emotional preparedness. And this is part of risk management.
- There is no panacea for safe organising.
- When there is resistance from the community against digital security issues, we should be mindful that everybody has different knowledge levels and also varying capacity to handle the risk. Instead of scaring people about possible threats, try to show how the internet works. Focus on the process. When people understand how the internet works, they can assess the risk, then it’s up to their choice whether to accept it or not.
- Always prepare for a backlash.
- Instead of focusing on risks, try to unpack what are the incidents that can happen and try to respond to that.
Understanding more systematic issues behind
An indication of deep learning and growth during DQYW was gaining understanding and insights about the systematic issues behind the digital ecosystem. For instance, the cost of “free” social media was discussed. Participants got to learn and shared their opinions on how using social media seems to be free but in fact, we are the products of the social media companies and that we are giving our data as a cost. Moreover, the government not only accesses our data but is at the back which allows private companies to access our data and sell it to gain profit.
Viewing online gender-based violence with a political lens was another very significant topic that took place during the workshop. One of the resource persons emphasised that when we see online gender-based violence unfolding, we should always look at the gender and sexuality at the heart of it. Everybody is extremely invested and political parties are contesting what is good in our society while undermining the conversation on gender equality. Participants shared some of the dynamics between feminist group and other activists and human rights lawyers. There were cases where groups work together or work against each other.
Participants had also gained an understanding on the cause for ever more polarising space on the internet. Using our relationship and boosting engagement, social media helps to generate and grow extreme contents. Algorithms play a huge role in putting people in particular bubbles of like minded groups.
Discussing systematic issues helped in elevating the digital quotient. We found common incidents happening across the region, and learned from each others’ ways to approach the systematic issues. It also reaffirmed the importance of solidarity and keeping the resistance going. As one of the participants put,
“I appreciate facilitator D’s comments about keep resisting big companies and the government. If we understand the rules and knowledge, we can continue playing the game.”
About the project
DQ or digital quotient refers to a person’s ability to maneuver within the digital sphere. Given that the lives and the personal development of today’s youths are so highly integrated with technology and the digital world, it is imperative for youths to develop a high digital quotient, specifically their ability to safely lead empowered and transformative lives online and offline.
Yes, it needs to be more than just safe; it needs to be empowered and transformative as well. For the Asian youth doing human rights work, the critical questions may also revolve around how to make the internet a tool for justice and hope, how to use it to build the world they wish to live in online and off,
and how to form the communities and spaces they need to do that. In other words, what we need is not only the digital quotient to protect ourselves against threats of surveillance and disinformation, or the digital quotient to be more successful than others in a competitive capitalist world, but a digital citizenship empowered to defend, expand, and create a digital democracy for equality, justice, and human rights.
The DQ camp targets HRD youths for the potential multiplier effects with other youths, children, and parents/senior citizens within their respective villages, communities, or spheres of influence. Originally planned as a camp in early 2020, the sessions will now be held online in a series of webinars, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The planning and implementation of the online workshops will take place between Feb and June 2021.