Moving to new professional adventures
After leading Aspiration's Human Rights Technology Program for almost four years, I will move to a new professional adventure. From this month I will focus on new projects as a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, exploring how Internet infrastructure and human rights interconnect.
Now, going into the more extended version of this note:
My years at Aspiration have been a terrific journey, during which I learned and grew heaps.
I got to know technology capacity builders, community organizers, developers, lawyers and researchers who work every day to support human rights efforts all over the world, and learned from them principles that will guide me for many years ahead.
I had the honor to lead a program founded on user-centered and tool-agnostic values. Our initiatives pushed to shift power dynamics in the interest of the most vulnerable individuals, and strived to build community, solidarity and trust.
The program’s projects brought me to learn from and provide support to practitioners in Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Southern and West Africa, Latin and North America.
I conducted interviews and surveys, wrote reports, facilitated several meetings, documented even more working sessions, and left as many discussions off the record.
But most importantly, I have been welcomed into a community of practitioners who often live miles apart, but who know, trust, and understand each other with a depth that is unique to the nature of the work they dedicated themselves to.
This community includes people who at some point in their life decided to help those threatened by abuses of power. Many became information security practitioners or advocates, because they happened to be the accidental person who likes computers at the right time and place. Most of them have become targets of abuse themselves, due to their work.
From them I learned to always listen before speaking, and to approach interactions from scratch, with no assumptions. I also learned that there is no advice that fits everyone, and that protecting the psychological well-being of an individual is as important as securing their data.
I will always be grateful to every single person who has shared their knowledge with me, knowing or unknowingly so.
So what has been changing recently, and what is next?
Over the past few years, I started looking at the Internet beyond its platforms and applications. I was impressed by observing how the Internet infrastructure and technical standards can impact the rights of Internet users. So I started researching what studies had been conducted about this concept so far, and what resources and avenues there are for human rights advocates to participate in protocol and standard setting discussions.
By fortuitous timing, a few months ago I was invited to become a Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, and offered resources to focus on my research. After thinking it through, and also receiving great encouragement by colleagues and collaborators of my current work, I decide to dive into this new journey.
I will keep working on technology and how it can be used to strengthen human rights. And I already know that some practitioners with whom I collaborated in the past few years, will also be collaborators on shared projects in the months ahead.