At a time when COVID-19 could turn back the clock of decades of progress, UN Women sought a virtual space for their global conversation on gender equality.
The Generation Equality Forum Public Conversation Platform aims to create a changed equality landscape by bringing diverse voices to the table. Howspace's support enabled UN Women to move seamlessly to a virtual environment, on which the conversation could take place and continue to grow.
In 2021, UN Women launched the Generation Equality Forum Public Conversation Platform. It is a collaborative online space through which the Generation Equality Forum (GEF) aimed to engage everyday citizens and gender equality advocates in the processes and outcomes of the Forum.
“The Public Conversation is about aligning the Generation Equality Forum vision to create a public open space for us to reflect on the past 25 years of the women's right movement, think about our collective future, and build a collective agenda for that future. This platform allows space to do that in a way that feels democratic and open,” says Maria Rohani, Public Conversations Lead at UN Women.
The Public Conversation Platform brings diverse voices to the table throughout the entire Generation Equality Forum—a global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-chaired by France and Mexico, in partnership with civil society and youth. The Forum kicked off in Mexico City in March 2021 and culminated in Paris in June 2021.
“This is a huge moment for women's rights. We’re bringing the public into the UN process and showcasing that it’s not only the UN and governments that are leading the agenda, but all of society,” says Nancy Khweiss, Deputy Head of GEF Secretariat at UN Women.
The Public Conversation Platform, held on Howspace, aimed to create a changed equality landscape at a time when COVID-19 risks derailing the advances of past decades.
“When we first started working on the Public Conversation strategy, COVID-19 hadn't yet hit. The Public Conversation was just going to be one corner in the larger Forum. But now in the current situation, a virtual space is more important than ever,” says Maria.
“Howspace has allowed us to keep up this momentum and seamlessly shift to a virtual space. We are bringing the broader public into the Forum and that’s quite a unique approach for this multi-stakeholder initiative,” she continues.
Everyone from activists, policymakers, and corporations—among many other stakeholders—are uniting to discuss tangible next steps in the fight for gender equality. The Public Conversation is a unique opportunity for the general public to engage in a United Nations process and share their ideas for actions they want governments, corporations, and others to take for a gender equal world. Participants were able to provide ideas for commitments for each of the six Action Coalitions—what the Forum defines as global, innovative, multi-stakeholder partnerships that will mobilize governments, civil society, international organizations, philanthropies, and the private sector to accelerate progress on gender equality over the next five years.
When thinking of different ways to hold the Public Conversation, UN Women first considered simply using social media, but ultimately decided that the conversation needed its own space.
“We wanted it to be focused rather than lost in the social media world. That’s what attracted us to move away from social media and for the conversation to have its own platform,” shares Nancy.
Maria elaborates on the unique type of platform UN Women was looking for: something between social media and virtual spaces used by institutions that host the usual suspects who always get a seat at the table. “We needed something in the middle that was open and democratic but also curated, where it’s safe to have conversations and talk about delicate subjects, where folks can share information but not be harassed, and where you don’t need to be an expert to be at the table,” says Maria.
Howspace gives UN Women the flexibility to adapt as they go along and shift the space when needed to ensure it remains accessible.
“It was key for us to have such an easy, accessible, and flexible tool. We didn’t want something static, but instead wanted something that can flow with us as we move through the process—that’s what attracted us to Howspace. Together with the Howspace team, we’re creating an accessible space, and we’re able to respond to last-minute needs,” explains Nancy.
Topics got quite specific during the Forum in Paris and UN Women could adjust the platform as needed. This is where international high-level stakeholders revealed their commitments on concrete and transformative actions that will be implemented during the next five years to advance gender equality and women’s rights around the world.
Unlike more traditional platforms where a middleman is needed to make changes, this platform allows for easy and quick layout changes and for new questions and dialogues facilitated by UN Women with the support and guidance of the Howspace team.
The platform’s technology allows for conversations to be objectively analyzed in real time through Howspace's built-in AI-powered clustering features.
“The best part of Howspace is being able to see analytics,” says Nancy. “It’s very simple: you just click a button and see everything. Without the ability to aggregate comments into word clouds and analyze them, we would have to read through all the comments and interpret them ourselves.”
Speaking up is a power. Learn more about the Generation Equality Forum and see the conversation about gender equality on the new Public Conversation Platform here.
Everyone who joined these discussions were contributing to the development of the outcomes of the Generation Equality Forum and shaping a shared vision for our future.