Thank you for joining the New Tactics online community for a conversation on Engaging Non Traditional Allies from March 24 to 28, 2014.
In human rights work, sometimes the most impactful partnerships are with allies you wouldn’t expect. Allies outside of what we consider the traditional human rights community can provide additional networks, expertise and skills to your campaign. In Cairo, for example, Harassmap partners with local shop owners to create “safe zones” against sexual harassment. Human rights organizations in Thailand, Liberia and Austria work with police to promote human rights, professionalism and cross-cultural exchange. Partnerships with businesses and police are not traditional, nor are they easy. But the interdisciplinary nature of these partnerships can lead to successful campaigns.
Throughout the conversation, we discussed questions such as: How are human rights groups identifying and engaging these unexpected allies? What can we learn from examples of successful, non traditional partnerships? What challenges are human rights groups facing in building strong partnerships based on mutual goals, when the overall mission for both parties is quite different?
Tactical Examples Shared:
- EJUSA works with conservatives on reforming the justice system and campaigning against the death penalty.
- EJUSA helped run a campaign in Maryland to repeal the death penalty and use the savings from repeal to increase services for family members of murder victims.
- The Fako Lawyers Association (FAKLA) based in the South West Region of Cameroon partners with prison administrators to investigate indefinite wait periods among prisoners waiting for trial.
- In Austria, The International Centre for Cultures and Languages (ICCL) adapted the “TANDEM®” program to human rights education with police and migrant populations in a unique and profound way called “Intercultural-TANDEM®” to provide a unique and applicable model to improve intercultural understanding.
- The Women Peacemakers Program engages with multiple non-traditional allies in their work:
- The idea of men as allies of women for gender-sensitive peace resulted in 2009-2010 in the organization of an all-male Training of Trainers (ToT) Cycle focusing on masculinities, violence and peace.
- They also have reached out to faith-based women's groups in gender-sensitive peacebuilding.
- Maiti Nepal works to stop trafficking of women and girls across the Nepal-India border by involving survivors in the identification and rescue of potential victims.
- The Ekota Sex Workers Association in Bangladesh uses surveillance teams made up of older sex workers to rescue girls who are being kept against their will in brothels.
- Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program of AAAS engages with scientists, engineers, and health professionals in a variety of ways including: partnering volunteers with human rights organizations, analyzing satellite images to document mass human rights violations, bringing experts’ voices to human rights questions, informing international policy discussions regarding science and human rights, promoting respect for human rights in scientific practice, and defending the right to free and responsible scientific inquiry and practice.
- The Polaris Project has partnerships with Salesforce, Palantir, and Google, as well as with individual engineers, designers, and programmers that work in those spaces that helped build their human trafficking hotline and provide technical support for their work.
- Citizens’ Watch, a Russian nongovernmental organization, uses a collaborative tactic to engage governmental officials, who in many cases are seen as the adversary and not considered as partners. Citizens’ Watch recognized the potential for engaging bureaucrats who illustrated a level of interest in significantly advancing human rights.
- In South Jordan, Change Academy for Democratic Studies and Development and the Arab Network for Civic Education (ANHRE) forged relationships with allies in national government agencies and community organizations to advance the right to early childhood education in poverty pockets.
What are the benefits and barriers to working with allies who are perceived as non traditional?
Participants began the conversation by discussing how they define non-traditional partners and what the term non-traditional connotes. One participant described a variety of non-traditional partners, including:
- Constituencies who are directly affected/engaged in an issue but assumed to be on the "opposite side" of it.
- Constituencies who are assumed to be on the "opposite side" of an issue because of their political orientation.
- Constituencies who have historically been left out / marginalized from engaging on a particular issue, although they might have a natural affinity or stake in the issue.
- Constituencies who have simply not been engaged on an issue because it's not a priority for them, it's not perceived as directly affecting them, etc.
Thus, engaging with non-traditional allies requires a multi-dimensional approach that takes into account different types of non-traditional partners. When approaching these allies, human rights organizations should be strategic (asking what, where, why, etc.), understand the power dynamics shaping these relationship, put yourself in the position of the non-traditional ally, and have an exit strategy.
Partnering with non-traditional allies presents unique challenges and benefits. For example, technical experts may not know what human rights means in principle and practice. However, working with these technical experts offers a chance to expand the community of individuals and organizations knowledgeable about human rights.
When engaging with non-traditional allies, it is important to clarify your intent and establish a transparent partnership. Transparency and open communication can help foster cross-issue or cross-movement work, like LGBT and women's rights defenders working together, or environmental and labor rights coming together on the issues of "green jobs", etc.
How have you engaged allies perceived as non traditional? Share your examples!
Participants shared how they shifted the spectrum of their allies and engaged with organizations and individuals traditionally thought of as unreachable. Some examples include faith based groups, scientific experts, youth and diaspora populations, and government officials. See the list above for specific tactics shared in this discussion.
What lessons have you learned? Share advice and resources.
can be one of the primary mechanisms for creating and implementing successful campaigns that are both authentic and achieve real change, even if that change is small.
Reaching out to non traditional allies and building bridges is an important part of creating social change through "people power." Participants shared examples of how they have reached out to non-traditional allies such faith-based groups, human rights survivors, and government officials. These organizations often had to shift their spectrum of allies to incorporate these partners.
Partnerships with non-traditional allies often are beset with challenges as a result of unequal power dynamics. Human rights organizations can be vulnerable to misuse by government or corporate partners. To combat unequal power dynamics, organizations should set clear expectations of partnership and research the organizations and people they work with.
- Women Peacemakers Program: 2013 Report Men and Women working as Partners for Gender-sensitive Active Nonviolence
- Power: A Practical Guide for Facilitating Social Change
New Tactics Tactical Examples:
Engaging government allies to advance the right to free early childhood education in poverty pockets: provides a description of how the Change Academy and ANHRE built a coalition of non-traditional allies to address a common obstacle--the lack of resources needed by government ministries to implement national plans.
Making Allies: Engaging Government Officials to Advance Human Rights: This case study describes how Citizens’ Watch, a Russian nongovernmental organization, uses a collaborative tactic to engage governmental officials, who in many cases are seen as the adversary and not considered as partners.
Tactical Resources & Worksheets:
New Tactics: This video encourages practitioners to consider a wide range of potential allies using a strategy called tactical mapping Mapping for Human Rights and Social Justice Violations
Beautiful Trouble: Spectrum of Allies Worksheet
Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project: Geospatial image analysts who partner with human rights organizations to support their human rights documentation and monitoring efforts
- EJUSA shared a video of a campaign working with Conservatives on the Death Penalty: CPAC: The Conservative Case for Criminal Justice Reform
- SciTech Partnerships for Human Rights: This video tells the story of how science and technology are being applied in support of human rights, as told by our volunteers and human rights partners.
The image above comes from our tactic case study from Austria titled Tandem©: Cross-cultural exchange between police and migrants that describes a unique and applicable model to improve intercultural understanding.