Does our work need to pick up pace, quality, and impact? We believe it does. Many, if not most Indians today face challenges to their fundamental rights as our society transforms with the growing adoption of technology. This is a problem statement we studied closely over last year and decided to scale up and assemble a team of motivated, talented staffers that work on delivering on our public commitments. Today, through this post we introduce our 2020 team.
We would first like to thank and congratulate Joanne D’Cunha who served as IFF’s first policy and organisational counsel in 2019. Over the course of a year she helped execute key projects, build our culture of engagement and support sharp policy engagements which resulted in public victories. Joanne transitioned to a research role in keeping with her long term interest at Tandem Research and while all of us here at IFF miss her tremendously, we wish her the very best! She remains a part of the IFF community and we will hope to keep on drawing on her time and skills.
We need to move fast and fix things
It is a testament to the work the board of trustees, volunteers and donors that IFF today has 6 full time staff and one legal of-counsel. We have hired the best and our thought process in making these hires has been to search for young people who have a drive and passion towards becoming leaders in their respective fields. Our hires have been premised on the basis of actual needs and belief on the need to match the power of citizen movements and online collectives with credible institutional engagement.
With these broad principles in mind we have doubled down on our capacity to conduct and support strategic litigation. This is through Devdutta Mukhopadhyay and IFF’s Of Counsel, Vrinda Bhandari. Devdutta commenced her internship in March, 2019 and joined IFF in July, 2019 after graduating from the National Law University, Delhi. Vrinda, needs little introduction. She is a seasoned litigator, a Rhodes Scholar and a graduate of National Law School India University, Bangalore.
We have also now focussed resources towards sustainable government and parliamentary engagement. This comes with the hire of Sidharth Deb as IFF’s “Policy and Parliamentary Counsel” in February, 2020. Sidharth is a 2016 graduate from the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Kolkata. He previously worked at Koan Advisory Group and interned at research organisations like the Centre for Communication Governance (CCG) and the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS).
For impact and growth, we need to invest in the community
IFF is not just an organisation for lawyers and policy wonks. We have to remain rooted and continue to make our work public centred. To do this we have two roles which will help us build a culture through actual practice rather than mere words. The first is headed by Shivani Singh who is the Organizational and Community Manager. She is a graduate of English Literature from Sophia College for Women and started interning with IFF in October, 2019 having joined us full time in January, 2020. Shivani has been the force behind IFF’s increasing collaborations (notice all the partnerships and events?) and comes with a rich experience from being an assistant artist manager at Kommune in sensing and matching public expectations with organisational responses. She helps IFF do its burgeoning work, its financial and reporting compliances implemented with discipline. It’s a core role given the increased regulatory scrutiny that exists on the civil society sector.
Our most recent hire is Farkhanda Zahoor, who heads Fundraising and Communications and has joined IFF in February, 2020. She is a graduate from St. Stephens College and completed her Masters in Mass Communication and Media Studies from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. By rolling in a fundraising and communications role we are making sure that the pace and impact of our work results in greater public and individual funding that brings greater financial sustainability to our model. With her skills that exist in digital storytelling we hope to be more conversational and public centred as much as we continue complex, nuanced policy work.
Dharminder Kumar Rai has been with us since the beginning as our office manager. Without him we cannot do our work. He makes sure all our legal notices and RTIs go out, and our lunch gets in. He is a tremendous asset to our office who brings comfort and a sense of support to make our work possible. This leaves me. As the Executive Director of a young digital rights organisation, I look forward to supporting this growing team deploy their full talent and skills at IFF while leading on the many commitments made when IFF turned into a staffed organisation.
Finally, is this team static? How much does IFF plan to grow in 2020? While we are not making a clear public commitment on this, we have some guiding principles. We intend to remain a small team. There are several reasons for this decision but it primarily has to cater with remaining agile while also reaching a level of greater financial stability. We may look at hires in two further roles, namely a public interest technologist and an online campaigner.
We will keep you updated on our progress. All of the work IFF’s staff does is funded by donors like you, and I encourage you to reach across to any of the team members. You can contact them over email from their first name @internetfreedom.in
On behalf of the Board of Trustees