Coffee and Circumvention Organizers Manual

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The Global Network
As an organizer, you will be part of the global CC Network, which will allow you to exchange ideas, tips and news with other organizers throughout the world. Your community will also benefit from increased solidarity cross-borders and cross-disciplines.

Your City's Organizing Team

How each Coffee & Circumvention (C&C) local city hub will be run will vary depending on the number of volunteers and context in a particular city. In a diverse community, one solution does not work for all. Having said that, C&C hubs should strive to have an organizing team made up o 2-4 people that represent different areas of expertise, perspectives and/or communities. This could include a technologist who can help with technical needs; an activist or journalist who understands the local socio-political landscape; a community manager that can help with cultivation and outreach; and a digital security specialist that can provide expertise to the group. You may determine that your city needs an additional role! Remember, each local hub needs to asses their needs.

Building a team (and diversity) may takes times - Its okay! But make sure to identify your allies!

Most hubs will not be able to build up their team immediately and/or certain profiles may not be available locally. That’s completely okay! In those situations, local hubs should do the do the best they can, understanding that the ultimate goal is to help distribute the work, and ensure that your hub is truly a community-run collective that is inclusive of different voices.

Identify your Allies Early On!

In addition, we recommend that each city setup a type of informal "allies board" that you regularly tap for help and advice. This board should be made up of a core group of people that represent a diversity of collectives, organizations or networks in your city. They could, for example, help you secure venues, pitch in to host an event, or provide a variety of resources. By identifying and involving allies early on, you are are also ensuring that your local CC remains collaborative, focused on solidarity and representative of different voices.

Your Primary Role as an Organizer
  • Secure a monthly venue
  • Design the monthly programming
  • Manage the outreach of the event
  • Host the event
Your Primary Role as a Steward of the Internet Freedom Community
  • Ensure that CC remains an effective community-owned, collaborative tool!
  • Help members of your local community network, share knowledge, find resources, and collaborate.
  • Provide space for members of your community to share their stories and receive help.
  • Make Internet Freedom issues more relevant to citizens in their city.
  • Outreach, engage and onboard new individuals from your city to the Internet Freedom community, especially those from underrepresented groups!

The Practical

Organizing meetups and cultivating your local community can be fairly easy if you have the following tools:

Venue Space

One of your first steps is to secure free venue space to use every month. If you are just starting off, you may need only a room that fits up to 20 people. However, as the meetup grows, the size of your venue will change as well. One of the best ways to find free venue space is to reach out to your contacts. Sometimes someone may have a meeting room in their office. You could also reach out to local universities. Another option is to contact a restaurant with a private room - sometimes they will allow you to host your event if they know people will be ordering food and drinks during the meetup.

Your Mailing List

The most important tool of any organizer is your mailing list. When you first start off, you will want to create a list of the local contacts you want to invite. Make sure to also ask them for help sharing your event details. As your list grows, you may use a group email tool, like Mailman, that is suitable for your local community. We advise against Google groups because of privacy issues. Reach out to us if you need help and/or guidance in this area.

Outreach & Communications

How public or private your C&C meetups are, is dependent on the threat model of your local community. In some cases, it may be okay to announce the event on public platforms, such as Facebook. In other cases, you may want to limit attendance to people in your immediate network. The following guidelines are based on events that are public, and available to people from the broader community. You can adapt this to your community as you see fit.

When you first begin to grow your community, you will probably rely heavily on your team’s contacts. However, you can begin performing outreach in several ways to attract people not in your local network. Here are several ideas that may help:

1. Event Platforms In some countries, people use event platforms to learn about events in their cities. The good news, this is a great tool to reach out to a broader community. The bad news, several privacy advocates are weary of these platforms.

2. Personalized Outreach You can routinely look for groups in your area that you suspect may be interested in Internet Freedom issues. One of the best ways to cultivate these groups is to ask if someone from their group would present on an issue that matters to them. For example, in New York City, to attract more UX professionals, events were hosted talking about UX and privacy.

3. The IFF Remember that the IFF can help you both find people in your city and/or announce your event.

4. Announce Early It is important to have the topic of your meetup at least 2-3 weeks before the date so that you can send an email out announcing the details of your event. The longer you wait to announce the details, the harder it will be for people to attend.


More than one?
Depending on the size and interest of your community, sometimes local nodes may want to host more than one event per month. For example, you may want to organize an additional social outings or workshop, especially if there is interest and competing topics.

Understanding what types of conversations or topics your local community wants to have, requires listening and establishing a strong feedback loops. You can also suggest topics to gauge people’s interest. This is where collaboration has the strongest impact. Sometimes having conversations with representatives from the groups you want to cultivate is the greatest tool in figuring out what topics are the most appropriate.

To provide an example, cities that were part of the TA3M network, a predecessor to Coffee & Circumvention, hosted the following events during their monthly gathering. Remember, these are only examples:

  • LGBTQ Surveillance & Censorship: Understanding the Challenges
  • Muslims & Surveillance in NYC: The Next Steps
  • Hip Hop & Meditation: Rejuvenation for Techno-Activists
  • Movie Night! Sleep Dealer
  • UX Sprint for Privacy Tools
  • Journalists, Security Practices & The Future
  • Privacy & Social Networks: All Is Not lost! (But We Need Your Help)
  • Tracked Online: How it's done & how you can protect yourself
  • Teaching Decentralization in a Centralized Era


A Culture of Respect, Collaboration & Safety

Cultivating a positive, and collaborative environment is really essential. Remember that people are busy with work and family responsibilities, and the meetups should be something they enjoy, and help foment solidarity and raise moral. As such, celebration is a key element to your community gatherings!

Having said that, it is super useful to have tools in place that will help people feel safer. A Code of Conduct (and a process to handle incidents should they arise) is always a good tool to have. You can build a COC with your community, or you can use readily available ones, such as IFF's COC. If a COC is not appropriate for your cultural context, we urge you to meet with members from your community to discuss what tools can be implemented.

In addition to this, each group is responsible for understanding their own threat model and managing their own security plan. However, we can provide training and support on best practices with a qualified digital security consultant, which then can be customized for your particular context. Please reach out to us to request a training.


Alcohol is seen differently in different communities. While we recognize this, be sensitive to the fact that certain people may not want to be around alcohol for various reasons. You may want, for example, to not serve drinks during your meetup, but instead wait till the end of the gathering. This way people can opt-in or out.

People with Disabilities

Make sure that you are cognizant of the needs of persons that may have disabilities. For example, avoid hosting the meetup in any venue that may create a physical barrier for participation. If barriers exist that may be difficult to remove, make sure you have special arrangements to ensure their participation.

Connecting your Community!

Meetups are a great time to help keep your community connected. It’s always advisable to build in networking time during the meetup to ensure that people can share updates about their work, and also meet new people. During the meetup, organizers should go out of their way to make introductions, and/or use fun exercises to make it easier for people to meet.

While some communities have setup structures that allow for passive community networking, such as interactive mailing lists, we really advise against this for security reasons and also for the burden placed on organizers to community manage them. If you are interested in setting something like this up, we recommend a room on the IFF Mattermost channel, as its hosted by IFF itself. Please do not use Facebook or any other channel that is not hosted by a trusted source.

We Are Here to Help!

If after reading this document you still have questions, remember the IFF is here to help! Reach out to us and we can provide you with consultation and support to ensure that your Coffee & Circumvention is successful and impactful!!


The following checklists may be helpful to you!

To start your city hub

( ) Setup announce-only mailing list to alert people every month of location, theme and time.

( ) Setup a private signal group or mailing list, to communicate with your organizing team and allies.

( ) Ask IFF Team if they know anyone in your city that would like to be added to the announce-only mailing list. (Trust me, we can help here)

( ) Assign the following roles to people on your team. One person can have multiple jobs, if you don't have enough people.

  • Membership Coordinator: Responsible for adding folks to the announce only mailing list and/or signal group. New people coming to your event will ask to be added.
  • Program Coordinator: Picks the theme/topic of the event and communicates with potential speakers
  • Editor Writes up the event description and post to the Coffee wiki city page and any event apps you may use.
  • Hosts: Hosts do several things. Some introduce speakers and welcomes crowd. Others make sure chairs are setup, and others collect donations.
  • COC Point Contact: Receives any COC incident reports, and communicates with team. In the future this person(s) will also help create a COC that is reflective of your community and needs.
  • Treasurer Receives donations and keep track of spending.
  • Digital Security Coordinator:Create process that ensure that your community and event space are safe. This person will also create a threat model for each city.

For every event

( ) Secure a venue. Tap your allies for this, they may have a space in their office.

( ) Pick a topic for your event.

( ) Secure any speakers, hosts or facilitators you may need. Confirm they can attend

( ) Write up a description of the event, including WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and WHY.

- add to the Coffee Wiki page for your city - Post it in any public event platform that may be popular in your city.

( ) Send the description to your mailing list.

( ) Try to secure coffee & cookies. You can encourage folks to bring their own - include this in the description.

( ) Be at the venue at least 30 minutes before hand to setup.

( ) Ask for donations at the start of the event, indicating who will be collecting. You can use this money for food/resources in future events.

( ) At the end of the event, ask people to help you clean up.

( ) Email a thank you to the organization that provided you a venue!



How long does the local organizer title lasts for? How often do local organizers change?

How long a local organizer title lasts for is really up to the local community. Each group will need to determine if there should be limits to participation, and length time. Even though the IFF team cannot get involved in local politics, we can provide advice and provide meditation when needed. However, please note these are volunteer positions.

Are local events always free or could I charge for tickets?

Events should always be free. However, you could ask for donations to help cover food, drinks, and/or any venue costs, should a free venue not be secured. In addition, you may want to run a fundraiser for Coffee & Circumvention during the year, where tickets could be sold.

How is the network governed?

Coffee & Circumvention has a decentralized approach. Each local hub is governed by the individuals that make it up. The IFF team simply serves as a type of shepherd to make sure organizers are meeting both locally, and cross regionally, and to provide checks and balances to ensure transparent leadership in each locale.

Who sets the global monthly themes?

Local hub organizers in coordination with their local communities.

Can I suggest a global monthly theme?

Of course! We encourage it! Contact either your local organizer, or reach out to and we can help.

What resources should we expect to receive from the IFF Team?

The IFF Team is here to provide local hubs with organizing and event security expertise/training, support connecting to global and local experts, and event planning consultation. In addition, the team also provides a type of check and balance, to help local hubs ensure they remain collaborative and community owned. Italic text