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Communications Revolution in Human Rights

Channel grantee partner, the Fund for Global Human Rights, in collaboration with JustLabs, published a new learning paper on narrative strategies for human rights funders, activists and civil society. Be the Narrative: How Changing the Narrative Could Revolutionize What it Means to Do Human Rights  is the product of a series of creative workshops that brought together 12 human rights groups from countries  “facing illiberal or authoritarian threats to better understand the populist appeal and develop practical solutions motivated by everyday human values.”

Working with diverse outside experts from the social sciences, technology, marketing, communications, culture/arts, and even neuroscience–the groups produced 12 prototypes for bold human rights work that speaks directly to people. These ideas range from a truck in Venezuela that delivers public goods like food and free wi-fi while also providing legal advice, to a social media competition in Hungary that aims to counter populist rhetoric by crowdsourcing the creation of a new, positive word for “activist”—literally changing the narrative according to the people.”

The learning paper highlights several ways funders must adapt or fundamentally shift the way they support human rights through a narrative strategy:

  1. We need to see more funding for experiments that value community-building as a way to shift popular narratives.
  2. Funders must back groups that engage in managed risk-taking, allowing for unpredictable outcomes and anticipating possible backlash.
  3. We need to level-up the huge imbalance in funding for narrative work in the US and Europe versus the rest of the world.
  4. Comprehensive narrative-building requires serious investment in grantees’ skills, capacity, knowledge and the infrastructure around them.