Online 2021 FOI Summit promotes greater inclusion, sets attendance record

The 2021 FOI Summit, hosted by the National Freedom of Information Coalition, set an FOI Summit attendance record, bringing together 304 total attendees, including 72 speakers. 

The 2021 Summit saw a 95% increase in attendance over the 2020 Summit, which drew 156 total attendees. The NFOIC switched to an all-online Summit in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This year, NFOIC staff and board saw the potential to expand its network. The online format allowed the organization to make the three-day summit more accessible and inclusive. 

“We’re committed to opening doors into the FOI community, knowing that new perspectives in the open-government sphere will promote healthy civic engagement and a stronger democracy,” said Todd Fettig, NFOIC executive director. “We were so pleased to see the positive response to our lineup of diverse topics and speakers.”

Of this year’s speakers, about 57% were women and 39% BIPOC, compared to 55% women and 41% BIPOC in 2020, and 42% women and 24% BIPOC in 2019. 

In addition to prioritizing gender, racial and ethnic diversity, the NFOIC sought to highlight the work of rising stars in the FOI world, including hosting a session titled “Seeing FOI Through Millennial and Gen Z Eyes.”

Of the attendees who indicated an occupation, 27% identified as journalists, 22% identified as nonprofit leaders, and 21% identified as scholars, including professors and students.

The 2021 FOI Summit, Sept. 28-30, was made possible thanks to generous support from Bloomberg and the Society of Professional Journalists. It was hosted on the Whova event platform, and used Zoom video conferencing technology.