ASPI’s events program embraces a range of different audiences and tailors events for each type. By-invitation events, which include roundtables and strategic dialogues, involve mainly members of the security community, address specific issues related to policy development and are normally conducted under the Chatham House rule.
Public events, such as ASPI report launches, panel discussions and public addresses, are designed to allow the widest possible audience to engage with leading Australian and international strategic thinkers, to exchange different perspectives on strategic and security matters and to network with like-minded attendees.
The impact of Covid-19 on the events program has been significant. Most notably, the in-person annual conference was postponed from the originally planned date in June 2020 to 2020–21. All planned public events, evening presentations and many strategic international dialogues that were to be held from March 2020 through until the end of 2019–20 have been postponed or cancelled for that reason.
ASPI has adapted the events and communications delivery model to ensure that the goal of promoting discussion in the defence and strategic space is still achieved. The events team has introduced a series of webinars (akin to public events) to allow space for discussions and for engagement with audiences to continue. This format has allowed those interested in participating in or attending ASPI events to not be constrained by location. The webinars have continued to grow in impact and will remain a useful capability until the end of the pandemic and beyond.
Table 6 summarises the major events conducted by ASPI in 2018–19 and 2019–20. More detailed descriptions of the events held during 2019–20 are given in this section,
while a detailed listing of the 2019–20 events program is in Annex D.
Table 6: ASPI events, 2017–18 and 2018–19
International strategic dialogues
Roundtable discussions and forums
Public events and workshops
As in-person events and travel were made increasingly impossible due to the pandemic, the events and communications team increased the communications output and pivoted to use online communications to a much more significant degree. That included increasing newsletters to our growing list of subscribers to update them on report launches, online events, podcast episodes, notable Strategist pieces and ASPI media content, such as op-eds and television or radio interviews. The impact of the newsletter and the increase in curated communications on our social media platform has been large, as more people and a broader global audience engage with our content.
The ASPI podcast, Policy, Guns and Money, continues to go from strength to strength, as the frequency of the series was increased from fortnightly to weekly. With ever-increasing listenership, we continue to develop the podcast as an important format for discussions of strategic issues, reaching new audiences with a variety of content.
In 2019–20, ASPI produced a four-part podcast series titled ‘Australia’s next steps’. The series’ exceptional guests attracted a great listenership and much media interest.
As opportunities to expand ASPI’s online events and communications grow, the audience for such content is extended, reinforcing ASPI’s role as a thought leader. Table 7 shows number of podcasts in 2019-20.
Table 7: ASPI podcasts, 2019–20
Podcast regular episodes
Average listenership per regular episode
2,070 average listeners per episode on soundcloud
Podcast special episodes
7 special episodes
Podcast short series
4 episodes in 1 short series
ASPI’S INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
ASPI holds an international conference annually in June. Unfortunately, this year’s conference was postponed due to Covid-19. A reimagined, virtual conference was held in lieu of this event in July–August 2020, outside of the reporting period for this annual report.
WOMEN IN DEFENCE AND SECURITY NETWORK
The Women in Defence and Security Network (WDSN) is designed to support the career development of women in the defence and security communities in Australia.
It provides networking opportunities and facilitates discussion on issues related to women’s participation and gender perspectives in the context of defence, national security and foreign policy.
Interest in the WDSN continued to grow in 2019–20, but Covid-19 disrupted planned events. WDSN events are being adapted to be delivered from a distance to ensure that the network remains strong.
The WDSN continues to publish profiles of women working within the sector, showcasing talent and career options to those in the network. Table 8 shows the WDSN events held in 2019–20.
Table 8: WDSN events, 2019–20
Public event: ASPI – Young Australians in International Affairs speed mentoring
Public event: In conversation with Assistant Secretary-General Michele Coninsx, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate
Event: Melbourne speed mentoring
Due to Covid-19, evening presentations planned for 2019–20 were postponed, cancelled or turned into virtual events.
INTERNATIONAL STRATEGIC DIALOGUES
ASPI supports Australian diplomacy by conducting Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues with international institutions and government partners on a regular basis. In 2019–20, we conducted six such dialogues. Unfortunately, many have been postponed due to Covid-19 and may now take virtual forms.
ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSIONS AND FORUMS
ASPI hosted many roundtable discussions at our Canberra premises during 2019–20, engaging a wide range of international and Australian experts in discussions about strategic and national security affairs. Many roundtables were convened at the request of overseas visitors seeking direct interaction with ASPI staff. Others were initiated by ASPI in support of our research program. Details of the roundtables held in 2019–20 are in Annex D.
ASPI PUBLIC EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS
ASPI hosted many public events in the form of keynote speaker or panel discussions throughout the year. Our public events are very popular, are officially moderated and attract media attention.
Our public event schedule was disrupted by Covid-19, so many events were postponed or cancelled. Some events were adapted into webinars (see below).
Details of ASPI’s public events in 2019–20 are in Annex D.
While Covid-19 meant that ASPI was unable to host in-person events, the events and communications team pivoted to host events such as panel discussions, publication launches and in-conversations online. Eleven webinars were delivered between April and June 2020. Participants, both panel guests and attendees, have been able to participate from across the globe and watch either live or on demand after the webinar has aired. This has allowed us to develop the capability to deliver webinars. As the world returns to normal once the pandemic concludes, this will be a useful capability to continue to use, as it increases our reach well beyond Canberra. More details of webinars in 2019–20 are in Annex D.
From year to year, ASPI hosts a range of other events on topical issues, including panel discussions and workshops. Further details are in Annex D.