I think for us 2021 has been a year of working internationally without precedent. None of us can remember times or situations similar to the ones we find ourselves in at the moment. With this in mind it is affirming - as we enter 2022 - to look back at the work of the foundation team, associates and partners because for us 2021 more than any other, this work has been transformational.
I mean this not just in the sense that we have been building a Foundation, but in that this work has created a platform advocating for the safety and freedoms of everyone online which helps us .
At the Avast Foundation we begin with the premise that it is a fundamental digital right for everyone to be able to access an internet which is safe and secure. Everything we have done so far has been borne out of that central principle. What we have achieved is a series of campaigns, partnerships and initiatives that we believe will be powerful in our mission to secure that right for people all around the world. So I wanted to highlight some of the important building blocks of that work:
- Youth Leadership Board: One of the most exciting building blocks of the work we’ve done this year is our Youth Leadership Board. The future of the internet belongs to the young, and so it's crucial that young people lead the discussion on what that is. Not only that, but young people are the most vulnerable of all internet users, particularly because the internet is playing such an influential role in their formation as individuals.. I loved meeting and working with Dunola, Austin, Lei, Jiri, Fresh, Hector, Kay and Joyce - you too can get to know them here.
- The SparkFund: Following on from that commitment to young people, we want to back them in their charge against injustice and inequality with the financial resources and support to enable them to harness the power of technology to be successful.. Crucial to the success of this ground-breaking fund are the partners we’re working with - and once again I’ve absolutely loved getting to know and collaborate with our partners on this exciting project, particularly the team at Global Fund for Children and the youth members of the Spark Fund steering committee. The first grantees from this program will be selected by the end of this year so watch this space!
Central to both these important programs is the idea of co-design, and particularly the idea of involving young people in discussions about their priorities before setting our direction, instead of imposing our agenda on them. In that sense it is very much bottom-up and we think this is the future of social change.
As we’ve built our platform, we’ve begun to use it to express ourselves and amplify our values through two important campaigns:
- Troll Free Future: We have created a studentship at the Oxford Internet Institute investigating Online Hate, which will benefit a socio-economically disadvantaged student from anywhere in the world applying to the DPhil in Social Data Science. There is so much we expect to learn about the challenges we face changing the culture of the internet. That work began in earnest with the “Building a #TrollFreeFuture” campaign, through which we conducted some unique and insightful research into Trolling behavior in the US and the UK (and will be working with the AFYLB to learn even more about the nature of this behavior all around the world). If we don’t understand this behavior then we can’t address it. I learnt so much about this challenge from Anna George, a Social Data Science PhD at the OII. This is another collaboration that I’ve really enjoyed this year and one you can read more about here.
- National Diversity Awards (NDAs): Celebrating diversity and creating equality of opportunity is a part of what we mean by creating “an inclusive” digital future, and so we were so proud to be able to sponsor the LGBT Role Model award at the UK’s 2020 NDAs in September in Liverpool. It was wonderful to work with an old friend of mine, Paul Sesay - the founder of the awards - and to present the award on the night to Laks Mann. You can read more about Laks here. We’re also sponsoring the 2021 NDAs in February and I'm humbled to have been asked to take part as a judge - so stay tuned for the winners!
Combined with other sponsored initiatives, such as the Together We Open Data Competition and the RFE/RL hackathon for press freedom, these initiatives were so important because we began to contribute something to the larger discussions we want to get involved in.
But it's important not to forget that while our partners and young associates have been so essential to our achievements this year, we of course have a great deal to thank Avast itself for with amazing people who are backing our vision, above all its CEO Ondrej Vlcek. It is hard to believe it has been just over a year since I first met Ondrej at the start of this amazing journey. His aspirations have inspired me and I’m forever grateful for his help and support.
Avast staff have also been immense supporters and colleagues in the Foundation's first year. Our #ShareTheGood giving campaign was co-designed with Avastians, who care deeply about their communities. Thanks to their participation, we will be supporting organisations globally which they have nominated. So we’re so thankful to them for joining us and taking part in this work. In fact, earlier in the year, also working with Avastians and spearheaded by the Avast leadership team, we raised and donated over $200,000 USD toward relief efforts following the devastating tornado in the south Moravia region of Czech Republic. I’ve been thrilled by the energy and passion of all the Avastians we have worked with and I am excited about what we can do together in the future.
With cyberbullying, online abuse, misinformation and assaults on our privacy and security a daily threat for digital citizens of all ages everywhere in the world, there is a mountain to climb in making the internet a safer and fairer space. But in creating this platform, we’ve made a really significant start on the journey ahead. I hope you can join our community of changemakers and come along with us on that journey.
Wishing you the very best for 2022!