There is a lot that we can learn from each other by simply knowing what has been done, what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. Share the work that you’ve done incorporating social media into your human rights campaigning. If possible, include information on:
- What were the challenges? What lessons did you learn?
- What was the impact (were you able to meet your tactical goal?);
- How it was implemented (what tools did you use? what resources did it require?);
- Why the particular social media tactic was chosen (how it fits into a larger strategy);
Share your experiences, thoughts, ideas and questions by adding a comment below or replying to existing comments!
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I wanted to start things off by sharing this social media example from Amnesty International USA (thanks to Christoph Koettl for sharing this information with us).
Amnesty International USA was able to get the attention of the Assistant Secretary of State, Mike Posner, with the help of several thousand supporters from around the world who used Twitter to urge the United States to respond to human rights violations in Bahrain.
Goal of this specific tactic: To get the attention of, and publicly urge the United States State Department to respond to the human rights violations in Bahrain. A secondary goal was to engage and mobilize supporters in an accessible action.
How it fit into a larger strategy: AI USA had a larger campaign that called for the United States administration to guarantee that a high level representative from the US embassy in Bahrain will attend the trial of opposition figures. This was just one of several tactics that they used to try to acheive this larger objective.
Target: U.S. State Department - specifically, the Assistant Secretary of State, Mike Posner
Tools: Twitter and Storify
I look forward to reading your examples of creative, compelling and strategic uses of social media!
- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder
I’d like to kick off with an example from UNDP that we surfaced during some of the conversations we’ve been having this year with anti-corruption activists.
To mark International Anti-Corruption day, the UNDP in El Salvador launched a "Twittertón." What’s a Twittertón? Well, it involved choosing a hashtag (they chose #ExijoSaber (loosely translated as I want or I need to know)) and sending out a lot of Tweets with this hashtag it in the weeks ahead of the event that they wanted to publicize. The complement the awareness building that they were doing online with this hashtag, they appeared on radio shows, called on citizens to participate in the hashtag conversation in general and especially on International Anti-Corruption day.
They didn’t ask people to tag any old comment with their hashtag, but instead asked people to answer one question: What information from the government do you wish you had?
When the big day came, they further complemented their online conversation by choosing one student for each university to lead outreach for their campaign. Each outreach leader put a huge piece of white paper up on the walls in their campus, and told other students to write “tweets” about what they wanted to know on piece of paper. Even though this was 100% offline, they still used the hashtag #exijosaber. The outreach leader then manually posted these "tweets" on to Twitter, combining them with the ones that originally went up online.
By the end of the day, the campaign had gathered 40,000 Tweets. Not only that, but they were able to ensure that public institutions were listening. The questions which from information about budgets to jails. The Secretary of Transparency in El Salvador was online, on Twitter, trying (with difficulty) to answer all the questions. Afterwards, the UNDP organized all of the Tweets into issue area and send them to the corresponding ministry.
- Susannah Vila of the engine room
One more example for a Twitter-related campaign: At Amnesty International we used the hashtag #eyesonsyria in the first 12-18 months of the uprising in Syria to organize our campaigning in response to the increase in human rights violations. We had quite the impact when we succeeded to create a buzz on Twitter around the first year anniversary of the uprising in March 2012 (the hashtag was briefly trending globally on Twitter).
I think this is an interesting example: while it was a successful tactic in term of metrics and numbers, of course it is difficult to call this a success considering the dire situation in Syria today. Here a few reflections on the #eyesonsyria Twitter action in March 2012 (which is similar to the previously mentioned example, but with a more global audience):
So we succeed in our short term goal to get a lot of attention to the issue around the anniversary. However, the limitations are clear, as we did not succeed in creating enough pressure to prompt a unified international response through the Security Council to stop the violence in Syria. Considering this limited impact, can we still speak of a mixed sucess? Curious to hear your thoughts...
Great question, Christoph! And thanks for sharing this example of how AI USA used the #eyesonsyria hashtag to build awareness and support for the campaign.
Clearly, you all put a lot of thought and planning into how you would utilize the #eyesonsyria hashtag (timing, offline efforts, including targets, etc). I would imagine that each of those smaller tactics you listed above had specific goals attached to them, such as: engaging 500 people to share the hashtag on twitter during a specific 2 hour period. Another example of a goal might be to get Dmitry Medvedev to somehow respond in a certain way to your social media pressure. So in that sense, I would bet that some of your #eyesonsyria campaign tactics were successful, and other were not.
Your ultimate goal was to impact the situation in Syria. I think it is crucial for human rights groups to have a large goal to work towards so that their strategy and tactics are focused and deliberate - but we need to give ourselves credit for the successful steps we are able to take towards these larger goals. If we didn't, we wouldn't last very long in this line of work!
So yes, we can speak of mixed success - which is exactly why New Tactics hosts these tactical dialogues - to exchange successful tactics that can be transferred from one context to another. It's also just as important to share what was not sucessful so that we can learn from those experiences, too.
It would be great to learn more about any tactical goals you had throughout that campaign, and which ones were successful and which were not (and why).
I look forward to exploring how you and others define 'success' for social media tactics, in our discussion thread on that topic.
Thanks for the response. Two quick points I’d like to highlight with a bit more insight into our Eyes on Syria campaign:
Increased visibility: I think we succeeded in highlighting the deteriorating situation in Syria at crucial dates, such as around the release of the Commission of Inquiry report in late November 2011 and around the first anniversary of the uprising in March 2012. With a protracted situation such as Syria, there’s a high risk that the topic disappears from many people’s radar, including journalists and radar. We picked key dates and a range of activities to keep the topic alive and activists engaged. We tied this all to social media (mainly Twitter) to amplify our activities, such as briefings, public rallies or the release of a new research report. The response was very good, both in terms of number of people participating on Twitter, but also in terms of geographic spread.
Move Russia: Our overall goal was and is to get a strong and unified response from the international community through the UN Security Council. I think we succeed initially to move certain (temporary) members of the Council that were initially opposed to Council action (such as Brazil or India), but ran quickly into roadblocks with Russia. We deployed similar tactics we used initially, such as online petitions, social media actions or rallies in the US or Western Europe to move Russia. In this case, I believe this was just not enough. I believe we would need more domestic pressure within Russia to see any real impact, which of course represents its very own challenges.
As a hobby photographer, I love to use intagram for taking pictures and sharing them immediatly with my networks. However, I never really used it as campaigning tool. I would think a tool such as Instagram would lend itself naturally to human rights campaigning. After all, a picture says more than a thousands words.
I am not aware of any compelling human rights campaigns using this tool, but have to admit I am not an expert in using instagram. Would love to see some examples, so would appreciate if others could share if they are aware of any cases?
I'd love to hear of any examples of this as well, although my initial reaction is that it's more about the picture and the audience for that picture than the tool. The first step towards identifying audiences on Instagram that would be relevant for activists, though, would probably be to study the first effective use of instagram for mobilization...so I'm on the lookout!!
Just off the back of Susannah's question about photos, I'd be interested to hear if anyone knows of any social media campaigns that have used artwork. Protest art can be a great way to get your message across - it grabs attention, you can make what you want out of it, and it helps prevent the public's desentisation to 'shocking' images (not to mention some of the myths such photos can propagate - eg that children in developing countries are simply either smiling or starving and in need of charity).
At Child Rights International Network (CRIN) we're developing some artwork to help spread the message that children have human rights too - not because they are the "the future" or the "adults of tomorrow", but because they are human beings today. We are developing a bunch of images of different aspects of our work, as well as ones that express different human rights.
Any ideas for how social media can be used to promote the use of art as advocacy?
I’d like to quickly draw on the work that our friends at the Greenpeace Mobilisation Lab are doing to document effective uses of social media for campaigning. Here are some campaigning case studies from their site (with tips to go along with them). Here’s one story from their site:
Clever, huh? Read more case studies here.
Great example, Susannah! It really highlights the power of the message and utilizing popular culture.
I found another great story on the Greenpeace Mobilisation Lab website, about how Greenpeace Hungary used Facebook to build enough momentum that10 companies have agreed to study their supply chains to confirm their products are GMO free.
They spent a lot of time testing the right way to share the information on Facebook and they have documented their key takeaways in this case study. Great resource!
I wanted to share a few examples of ways that social media has been used as a way to show solidarity with fellow activists and with those whose rights are being violated. Solidarity is an important piece of any movement, and social media can play a unique role in engaging a large audience of supporters.
Using social media to collectively document abuses and honor victims and activists
The use of Facebook to document and tell the story of the conflict in Syria creates a more interactive archive of human rights abuses. It provides a way for community members to contribute their voices, honor victims, and participate in the monitoring and documentation process.
By using the symbolism of postage stamps, the site also sends an implicit message that the group is sending the story of the Syrian revolution to the world.
Using social media to engage supporters in documenting their acts of solidarity
Campaigns that use photos from supporters to build solidarity, such as the Kurd Men for Equality campaign, benefit from the use of social media because it is focused on the sharing of images. This campaign's use of Facebook allows their supporters to show their solidarity without having to leave their house, and also to instantly see the support of others - supporters 'like' and 'share' posted photos...and share their own.
While the message of the campaign is no joke, the images are light-hearted and entertaining. Keeping the message and the visuals positive allows for even broader support.
Are there other examples out there of using social media in a human rights campaign to show solidarity?
This is a beautiful tactic and story. My question about tactics like these and many others featured in 10 Tactics Unstitched, is how can we evaluate the success of such a tactic? Is it enough to say that people participated if we can't connect it to some kind of larger change? Or must we wait for the long term to see what other kinds of campaigns and connections evolve from this action?
Increasingly, I see social media advocacy among the organizations and activists we work with in Lebanon and in other "developing" countries in two categories:
1) One is more a form of active, networked expression, involving tactics that are spontaneous or nearly so: a great idea that has some kind of effect but may dissipate or go latent and that may or may not spark something later equally unplanned, and
2) The second is more a form of organization (perhaps a more traditional approach to advocacy) where a mix of tactics are part of a much more tightly designed campaign consisting of a series of planned actions that consolidate critical masses and escalate involvement to shift frames and ultimately, with a lot of effort and resources, make change
I think both are essential to our efforts but I think we need to do a better job of weaving them together to create real change.
Since there was already a lot of talk about how to use Twitter in campaigning, I wanted to mention an example how I recently used a YouTube playlist as a (very successful) tactic. In cooperation with the Human Rights Channel, which is curated by WITNESS, I put together a playlist on political prison camps in North Korea.
We released the playlist at a crucial time at the UN Human Rights Council, when member states where discussion the establishment of an international Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea. The blog post announcing the playlist (and other materials) did exceptionally well and the playlist become one of the most viewed on the Human Rights Channel yet (I think one key to the success of the playlist was that we put individual stories front an center). YouTube videos are a very powerful medium to convey a message, and are very easy to share among networks. The nice thing about a playlist is further that one doesn't have to produce a video, but one can pull together already existing content.
More important than the metrics, more people started to pay attention to the topic and the at the end of March we reached our goal and the HRC established the Commission of Inquiry – by consent! Of course, the playlist was one of several tactics we deployed (lobbying, new research, media), and this was a success that was shared among many organizations (not to overstate Amnesty's role).
A great success that I'm happy to know about. Thanks! Your post mentions metrics and the fact that the playlist was one of many tactics. These are two issues, which I think don't get mentioned enough.
1) Metrics are indicators not goals. This is especially important for small organizations to keep in mind but a distinction that understood among people with expertise in monitoring and evaluation isn't necessarily understood by the average new media activist. They are proxies for measuring engagement but not representative of engagement itself. Too often, I see indicators stated as goals: We want to reach 3,000 followers or 5,000 Likes or 10,000 subscribers for example. I know that this has also been a topic at recent tech salons on the role of social media in development.
2) The mix. Too often the whole burden of success or failure of a campaign or of online advocacy in general gets pegged to just the social media tactics. It's good to be reminded--over and over again--that one social media tactic doesn't make a campaign. We need to plan our campaigns and actions so that they're aligned with other tactics led by our complementary teams.
excellent comment, thanks a lot for chiming in! couldn't agree more
Hi all, wanted to offer an example of a digital campaign materializing right now which Amnesty is helping to facilitate. Our goals are at this point to get as much global attention on this case, and provide a sense of solidarity for Beatriz and those working tirelessly in El Salvador on her behalf.
Here's a full explanation with relevant links: http://bit.ly/EyesonElSalvador
As you may note, this is a very powerful and compelling case (which is one of the reasons I think it's really been taken up by online activists), and the NGOs working in El Salvador have been updating via their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. We've been catching wind of how quickly the material we are putting out is catching on, and #saveBeatriz & #salveBeatriz have emerged as the hashtags english and spanish speakers are all using.
AJEnglish just ran a story (http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201305152107-0022760) on the global support the case is receiving, and much of that has been garnered via online channels.
So many great examples of social media campaigning here! The organisation I work for, Child Rights International Network (CRIN), is pretty new to using new tatics in social media campaigning. I've got two (well, two and a half really) questions for people...hope you can help!
1. We operate as an info, policy, advocacy and campaign hub for children's rights campaigns all over the world (almost 3,000 NGOs access nearly 30,000 resources on our site). So a lot of our work is making sure people can access the information they need to campaign for children's rights themselves - we are about empowering local campaigns and sharing skills and expertise on everything we do. I was wondering if anyone has any ideas on how to use social media to disseminate information in a tactical way to the right people. Obviously we can push things out, but apart from using #hashtags, twitter lists and targetted newsletters, does anyone else have any more ideas on how we can use social media to make targetted access to info a reality?
2. In addition to the above work, we are starting to undertake 'harder' advocacy. Traditional forms (awareness raising, government lobbying etc) are great, but we feel they need more, particularly in the underdeveloped area of children's rights advocacy. So we have started using and promoting the use of legal advocacy (using the law to get change (using the courts etc), or getting an actual change in the law in the protects rights (strategic ligitation is an example here).
Obviously we need to be careful about using social media (140 characters can sometimes not get all the nuances...), but does anyone have experience of coupling legal advocacy with social media. They are so different, but I'm sure there is a way they can go together!
Also, does anyone have any concrete examples of where social media campaigning has helped get an actual change in human rights - whether in law or implementation of rights?
I know there's been a lot of chatter already about Twitter, and it's been great to read so many insights. I wanted to add one more: in addition to thinking of Twitter as a tool for spreading information and directly affecting an issue, it can also be a powerful tool for building relationships and developing leaders for the human rights movement. We did this recently over the last couple of years during the campaign to repeal the death penalty in Maryland, so I'd love to share some of our insights. You can also read a quick blog post about how social media changed the game for us and helped a 30 year campaign get to the finish line.
First of all, it was important to us to start slowly and develop a strategy, so we began by hosting a small workshop on how to use Twitter for social change. We put together a presentation about the basics of starting an account, and including some key tactics that might be used - including live tweeting, following and retweeting leaders and organizations working on similar issues, and Tweet Chats - and focusing on one of the keys to Twitter: it's an engagement tool. We talked about the core elements of communication (both effective messaging and listening), and then broke into groups to develop out components of the strategy, including our goals, a timeline of key dates for the campaign, allies we would want to engage, tactics, and of course, a hashtag (#MDRepeal). At the same workshop, we decided to create a dedicated Twitter account for the campaign (@AIEndMDDp), a point person to develop the identity of the account, and a team that would support the account to flourish. Each person at the workshop also set personal goals (which ranged from just starting a new account and starting to tweet, to growing followers, to immediately starting to influence our issue), and we were off.
For the next few months, we continued to develop a core of leaders who were dedicated to building the #MDRepeal message. This included point people from each of the organizations and community groups that were a part of the coalition, as well as activists we knew were dedicated to the issue. We each commited to searching for news stories and broadcasting our message weekly as we built up to the legislative session, which started in January. A key to this part of the strategy was that we all also committed to retweeting each other, to retweeting @AIEndMDDp's tweets, and to replying to each others tweets whenever possible. This helped us build relationships with each other, and develop our Twitter skills.
Let me just give 3 more tips that we found effective to build our movement: Twitterbombs, Twitter Chats, and Livetweeting.
1) Twitterbomb: A concentrated burst of tweeting using the same hashtag for a certain period of time. We did this a few times in the fall leading up to the legislative session, and concentrated our attention on the Governor of Maryland (@GovernorOMalley), a key ally in our campaign. Each time we knew he was having a townhall or press conference or other public appearance, we timed our twitterbomb so we would be sure his Twitter feed would be full of our message right as he was planning his speech. We each promoted the action within our networks, and we made sure we had plenty of people committed to the hour. And the cool thing was, it worked! Not only did we begin to get direct responses on Twitter, but when we timed it on the eve of an important meeting with the Governor, actually made an announcement the very next day that he would publically support the campaign!
2) Twitter Chat: Similar to a Twitterbomb, this is a concentrated time when people talk about a specific issue on Twitter. The main difference is that this is a moderated space. A moderator poses a series of questions, once every 10 minutes for an hour. Question tweets start with, "Q1/Q2/Q3: ..." and then we had a virtual panel ready to answer those questions, using "A1/A2/A3...". Because we promoted it well and had a core of activists and leaders primed with the questions, we ended up having very vibrant dialogues about why we needed to end the death penalty in Maryland, and we found that each time we did it, we found new people to add to our team. Check out a transcript of one of our Chats here.
3) Livetweeting: This is where people give up to the minute updates about something happening as it happens. By the time the legislative session started, we had a seasoned team of tweeters ready to make our own news. We were familiar with each other because we'd dedicated so much time to building relationships, and were committed to retweeting each other and responding to each other so that ultimately whenever there was a hearing or a debate about the death penalty in Maryland, we were the ones who framed the story of what was important in Maryland. Check out a transcript of livetweeting the historical vote in the MD Senate here.
Ultimately, we found our Twitter activity making news itself, when the Baltimore Sun did a story directly based on our Tweeting. We also found unlikely allies, and legislators told us that our activity on Twitter made a direct influence. But the most important thing that these tactics did was build our own sense of community, teamwork, and leadership. It became a space that amplified the rest of our work, whether it was grassroots organizing or legislative advocacy, or anything in between.
I hope this is a helpful little case study, and would love to see comments, questions, ideas, and other similar examples!
Thank you. Your post was very informative.
This campaign, while not exactly humans right advocacy, it reflects a couple of unusual tactics that could be valuable in developing countries.
After a successful campaign promoting voter registration (with a mix of online and offline actions) at VotoJoven in mid 2010 our goal was to promote participation in the legislative elections, specially the youth.
Context: Venezuela, a highly polarized country was living one of its polarization peaks. At the same time people weren't too motivated to vote for the National Assembly, thought of inefficient and useless by citizens of all political leanings (after 5 years of an Assembly practically with people from only one party).
Venezuela has a high penetration of Facebook and Twitter among internet users, but internet penetration is limited in rural areas and some age groups. Cellphone penetration is very high, with blackberry surprisingly common at the time.
Campaign: We produced and directed a series of videos with the hope for them of going viral, after they got mass attention levering that to try to get the videos on other offline media for free (this ties in with the discussion on complementing offline actions with online, this time in reverse).
The first video wasn't hilarious, not even funny as one could expect from a viral video, it was actually written to try to reflect Venezuelan's sentiment at the time, that they didn't see reflected on politicians or the media.
We had a good number of twitter followers and brand recognizability between university students but wanting to reach a wider audience, we also knew many people checked twitter on their mobile phones that weren't youtube-friendly at all (BlackBerry and featurephones) so instead of youtube we included a little-known service primarily, Vuclip.
Tactics: We published the videos on youtube and in Vuclip which is a phone-centric video service that worked in most Nokia feature-phones and Blackberries, during the day we would mostly tweet the phone-friendly vuclip link. We would post links to the youtube video on Facebook and twitter in the evenings.
But the key was to take advantage of the real social networks between people and include other online communication tools we don't always consider social networks in the same sense as Facebook. We let the wide base of volunteers and supporters in on the plan, and started mass BBM messages with the BB-friendly video link (BBM was the rage in the country, we also promoted use of SMS) This helped the first video in the campaign explode in viewership, after the first mass BBM message was sent phones would sound non-stop.
Impact: The videos amassed large amounts of views on youtube but exploded on the mobile-friendly Vuclip, almost a million views in less than twelve hours. After that, it was easier to get that and following videos on TV, news websites as reaction to the viral response and on all cinemas of Venezuela for free. The participation on the election was much higher than expected and higher than the usual for a legislative election.
Take Aways: Think outside Facebook and Twitter for unique opportunities, adapt tactics for your unique terrain, leverage popular content to get featured in other media and try to resonate with your audience's emotion specially if they have no other outlets for it.
- Andres Azpurua, Venezuela Inteligente
Andres - Thanks so much for writing that up. I would add that one of the reasons that your work with videos in Venezuela have (I think) worked is that they are created by youth for youth, so you really know what kinds of visuals and messaging your audience is going to respond to.
Another comment about this video work is that they are being disseminated in a highly polarized political environment, and you and your colleauges are very conscious of giving equal face time to people who are both for and against the political opposition. You also use visual cues like colors to show that the videos are about participation and rights, not about choosing a political party.
These tactics might also be relevant for human rights advocates working in politically polarized contexts.
Definitely, the conciliatory message was part of resonating with the current mood, the country was not only highly polarized, but also tired of the confrontation.
Together with message of "we all face the same problems regardless of political preference and we all need solutions" with careful representation of both sides helped us particularly in the first video of that campaign.
As Susannah said, it was all done by students and on a spuper low budget, borrowed DSLR camera, lenses and mic, rented studio an lights at steep student and friend discount, both of which could have been improvised some other way in necesarry. The following couple of videos were even cheaper: free, with the help of a internet tv company.
This April at Red Elección Ciudadana, a coalition of Venezuelan NGOs around elections we promoted. We coordinated an election monitoring effort focused on receiving and documenting human rights abuses and other irregularities and giving assistance to those citizens, receiving incident reports online during the campaign, election and following days. You can check the public reports at https://eleccionciudadana.com/mapa/ (running very modified ushahidi)
On election day we had a sizable amount of volunteers working together receiving reports via multiple channels: phone calls to a central line, Email, SMS, website and a web form; all of witch had a pretty straightforward workflow.
But we also used twitter for incidents, monitoring mentions and a hashtag could provide some unique insights but came with several drawbacks including lower quality information, repeated incident reports from second hand with informed consent issues similar to those described by ckoettl here.
So to get better information and a clearer picture we needed to talk back to users to ask them questions. This required multiple people working in a coordinated way; it would be too easy for someone to process a tweet and another to do the same, a copy or retweet of it again.
For this we used a paid collaborative social suite so that one or two persons could assign tweets to groups or individuals only once, most of these tools have a version of this capability. This keeps a person-specific inbox of tweets to process, discarding non-actionable messages and keeping things in order.
The other side of the equation was the communication from the volunteer to the reporter, in the past trying to handle all of that communication on a main twitter account would saturate the number of API calls and messages per hour, to solve thous we created a number of secondary accounts for each operator to handle this communication, clearly identified and connected to the social media suite.