Insight - Reflecting on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at SWF

Friday, June 4, 2021

by Operations and Communications Associate Jihan Asher

At SWF, we believe that we can harness the inspirational power of space to be as inclusive as possible in our workplace and in all our activities, to help create a more tolerant, more inclusive, and more humane society, right here on Earth. 

We know that bringing diverse voices to the table yields better solutions. The global excitement space generates creates the opportunity to gather the best ideas in creating the systems that will help us keep space sustainable and of benefit to all humanity. SWF has consistently strived to include global perspectives in all of our programming and at every level of our organization. 

To improve our DEI efforts, over the past year we engaged in a period of sustained discernment on how we could do even better with regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion, both within our organization and our external programs. While this conversation is on-going, we wanted to highlight some of our recent activities and thinking in this area. 

International Program Planning  

SWF continues to work with both established and emerging spacefaring countries in support of improved governance of space activities. In 2020, SWF worked with the United Nations to build governance capacity in emerging space countries through the UN’s Space Law for New Space Actors Project, and other activities.

Together with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Wilton Park, and the U.S. Department of State, Secure World Foundation also contributed to three regional workshops on responsible behaviors in space. These regional dialogues focused on (i) Africa, (ii) Central Asia and Middle East including Eastern Europe region, and (iii) Latin America and the Caribbean. 

SWF continues to work with our partners in the United States and China to build engagement and understanding with China’s emerging space sector. In February 2021, we co-published a new report with the Caelus Foundation titled Lost Without Translation: Identifying Gaps in US Perceptions of the Chinese Commercial Space Sector, which was the result of extensive research conducted from May - September 2020. SWF considers this to be a step in a larger effort to build better understanding between U.S. and Chinese actors in the  space sector. SWF also continues to work with Caelus Foundation and the Chinese Society of Astronautics on an ongoing dialogue around Sino-U.S. perspectives on commercial space activities.

We remain committed to engaging with partners and audiences around the world as much as possible and bringing their voices and perspectives into the global conversation on issues pertinent to ensuring the long-term sustainability of space activities. 

Young Professional Outreach 

Secure World Foundation has been fully committed to creating opportunities for young people ever since its inception, from being the very first sponsor of the Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) to awarding annual scholarships for students and young professionals to attend the International Astronautical Congress (an award we will resume when global travel conditions allow). The goal of these scholarships is to provide young professionals an opportunity to participate in one of the most prestigious international space conferences, to further their professional development, and inject new ideas into the community. 

Staff regularly speak at SGAC events and are active across various project groups, including the Space and Cyber Security Project group and the Space Law and Policy Project group (which was founded by SWF Space Law Advisor Chris Johnson). Following a virtual interview, the group recently published a blog post highlighting his reasons for creating the group, its development, and advice for the younger generation of space lawyers.

In 2020, we launched a student essay competition as a way to promote ideas and participation from students during the Summit for Space Sustainability. In 2021 we broadened this to include students and young professionals.  With the support of our sponsors, we will  provide dedicated programming for students and young professionals during this year’s Summit. The virtual Summit remains free for students, and we have expanded complimentary access to all individuals under the age of 30. Since 2020, all proceeds from the Summit have gone to support our Young Professional programs.

From participating in student-run events to joining expert panels and invited lectures, Secure World Foundation staff took part in engagements at over a dozen colleges and universities over the past year and a half. 

Most recently, Secure World Foundation has hosted interns and visiting scholars from the University of Tokyo, Georgetown Law, George Washington University, and the University of Denver. While we are only able to provide a limited number of internship opportunities each year, these are substantive learning opportunities under the direction of our various program managers. Our subject matter experts also act as advisors for undergraduate projects as well as post-graduate dissertations.

Language Accessibility 

We are proud to have completed the first translation of The Handbook for New Actors in Space, which was translated into Spanish in collaboration with the Mexican Space Agency last year. To celebrate the release, we hosted our first Spanish-language virtual event, moderated by SWF Advisory Committee Member Laura Delgado López. Additional translations of the Handbook in French and Mandarin are forthcoming. 

In 2020, we translated the executive summary of our annual Global Counterspace Capabilities report into Spanish and French. For the 2021 edition, we added Russian and Chinese translations in addition to the French and Spanish versions of the executive summary. 

Event Accessibility

SWF saw the shift to large-scale virtual and hybrid events in 2020 as an opportunity to reach new audiences around the world and increase accessibility by providing live closed captioning. In addition to live streaming and making videos available following each event, we also produce a transcript for many of our events. These are practices that we intend to continue  as much as possible, including as we shift back to more in-person and hybrid events.

While we are all eager to begin the international in-person engagements and collaborations we enjoyed pre-pandemic, we are mindful that individual countries continue to deal with COVID-19 in varying degrees. As we are in the process of emerging, SWF is looking for those opportunities for making positive change. We continue to reflect on our organizational practices in this area and discern where we are best placed to expand access, amplify marginalized voices, and continue to promote cooperative and collaborative solutions for space sustainability


Last updated on June 4, 2021