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6 min

My First Global Conference — Part I

Pink and purple animated illustration of women faces.
Written by
Published on
February 21, 2018

Conferences have driven Open Heroines’ work since its inception. Our relationship with the International Open Data Conference (IODC) has been unique: It started with a post about the lack of women speakers in 2015, which evolved to Open Heroines organising a panel about gender and open data for IODC 2016. This year IODC reached out and offered Open Heroines a pre event slot, which we’re planing together as you read this.

This was all achieved on a volunteer basis and will continue to be so.

Our goal now is to bring new women and gender queer people to participate at the IODC 2018. We know that proactively bringing first-time women to conferences leads to better inclusion, diversity and participation for women. We know that because those first time women used to be us.

Realistically, funding for travel schemes is scarce, mainly because a lot of funders do not always see the impact of them. So, we’re sharing with you Open Heroines’ first conference experiences and how it affected their careers.

If you want to donate to us (or have some cool ideas for fundraising), send us an email to

Cécile Le Guen, OGP Global Summit 2015, Mexico City, Mexico

“None of this would have been possible without a younger version of me, guided through my first hesitating steps with the help of incredible, brilliant and committed women”

30000 feet floating in the air above Greenland, I’m on my way to my very first global conference, and I’m very excited but yet a bit anxious about it.

I’m new in the OpenData / OpenGov space, and I experience it day by day, profoundly. Having joined Open Knowledge International not even three months before jumping on that plane, I still stumble on some acronyms, the jargon feels cryptic to me, such as the ideas and challenges that shape the space, I’ve never heard of fiscal transparency before and even less of Open Government.

A few months before, I was an IT project manager in a private tech company in France. The job was boring to death and I decided to quit and learn something new. I used my compensation package to train myself, travel to hackathons and conferences in Europe and joined a data science bootcamp. I was fascinated by the open movement I was discovering, and that was more or less how I ended up a few months later moving in to London and joining OKI.

So here we are, in this plane, off to Mexico. The first time in my life traveling on the other side of the Atlantic.

I simply had no idea what an OGP global Summit even meant, the side events, the sessions, the workshops, the post-its, the parties, the meetups, hanging out with people you’ve never met before in a place you’ve never been before, the emulation and intensity coming out of it.

I was the luckiest person on Earth to be mentored during the event by my colleague Katelyn, who told me the first day on my arrival « I’m so excited for you, for all the new and great people you’re about to meet » and she was so right (as always!). She spent time with me, introduced me to people, hung out at events and parties, and days after days, my eyes were wide open, the whole event was blowing my mind. I was lucky to be also surrounded by Mor, who was a great guide through the open data crowd, to the open heroines of yesterday, the open heroines of today. It meant a lot.

Reflecting on this, I’m now more than willing to bring new women into this movement. If Open Heroines has a role to play during events, it might (also) be in welcoming new people and making them part of this space we often criticize (cause we know the limits) but at the same time, feel connected and bound, a place where it’s possible to share views, ideas, values and opinions.

This first global event mattered to me. I also remember it as a slice of freshness and innocence in this part of my life. Ten days after being back in Europe from the Mexico summit with these powerful and festive moments in mind as a living dream, I went back to Paris to visit friends and family for a weekend. That weekend was the day of the attacks against the Bataclan and the security response of the government, enacting a State of Emergency that not only is still in place today in 2018, but became an excuse to shut down basic demonstration rights, such as during the COP21 summit on climate change a few weeks later, or conducting opaque negotiations under the name of citizens, resonated to me as a direct application of all the ideas that were discussed back then in Mexico.

Two years later, the OGP summit took place in Paris and I was so happy to see all the known faces of the happy open movement crowd in my city. Very excited too.

In the meantime I had stopped working at OKI and had left the UK to settle back to France. I ammore than ever engaged in the movement, working on the French IRM evaluation, collaborating with new partners in crime, mingling with local activists. This summit was another important milestone on the road. Today as I’m speaking, me and my datactivistcolleagues are coordinating the CSO multi-stakeholder forum and engaging the French civil society in regular reflexions and conversations around open government and open data in the country. None of this would have been possible without a younger version of me, guided through my first hesitating steps with the help of incredible, brilliant and committed women. Thank you.

Anna Kuliberda, Open Knowledge Conference 2011, Berlin, Germany and POINT conference 2012, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

“Even if it sounds too good to be true, every single conference helped me (and many other participants) build better projects and have wider perspective what can be the role of technology for political accountability.”

My first big conference was Open Knowledge Conference in Berlin in 2011. I was so excited, my colleagues were almost mocking me for it. Previously, I was mostly organizing events, up to 200 people, but this going to be my first time seeing the whole open data community in their natural habitat: Open Knowledge environment. I went there when I was in between jobs, representing nobody but myself, which was very different to being an organization representative. I could just go where I was interested, talk to people I wanted and network with whoever I founded important at the given moment. And it paid off a lot. During the two days, I saw a wide range of topics and complexity of reality that I’d need to spend way more time on digging, if I was doing it online only. I was able to see my “open data idols” and even to talk to them (however, I was too shy to have a longer conversation than hello).

The event that changed my life was the first POINT conference in Sarajevo in February 2012. I went there as a representative of TechSoup Europe and that was also my first time as a speaker in English on a big stage (with very learning experience of your voice breaking in the middle of the presentation). POINT was all about networking and getting activists together. It was hard to be shy there — small space, lunches and dinners and parties designed for even shyest persons to mingle. Since then I never miss the POINT conference and I’ve helped organize 4 out of 6 conferences. And the community is growing every year, having special place in my heart. Even if it sounds too good to be true, every single conference helped me (and many other participants) build better projects and have wider perspective what can be the role of technology for political accountability.

If you want to donate to us (or have ideas about funding), send us an email to

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