Summary available below
Thank you for joining the Anouska Teunen of Amnesty International Australia and the New Tactics online community for a discussion on Keeping the Momentum: How to maintain commitment and credibility from February 17 to 21, 2014.
Human rights change can take many months, years and sometimes decades to materialize. It requires endurance, of the human rights defenders to continue their advocacy, while maintaining a strong support base with the general public. And even when objectives seem to have been achieved, for example once a country has adopted a new constitution or other legislation, actual implementation can still be a challenge, again requiring for sustained monitoring and scrutiny of civil society groups, who again have to be sure they can count on their support base. This is especially important in countries where authorities attempt to isolate human rights groups as if they no longer have the support of the people they claim to be representing.
How are groups maintaining and nurturing the commitment of their supporters over long periods of time? How are groups addressing frustration with their own colleagues, and lost faith, or simply indifference with the general public? How to deal with counter strategies that are used in order to discredit human rights defenders over time? This conversation was an opportunity for the New Tactics community to explore these and other questions related to keeping momentum.
Tactical Examples Shared in the Conversation:
- The American Refugee Committee Somali Star Campaign utilized a narrative strategy that challenged existing perceptions about the Somali diaspora community to raise awareness and funds to end the famine in Somalia.
- The US Human Rights Network partnered with WITNESS to collect testimonies about human rights (and human rights violations) from across the U.S. to create informed dialogue about the Universal Periodic Review process at the Human RIghts Council.
- The Testify Campaign created by the US Human Rights Network motivated advocates to come together to form the Human Rights at Home (HuRAH) Campaign which seeks to implement basic human rights infrastructure within the federal-state-local government system to ensure that gains made at the international level are translated into policy at the domestic level.
- The website I Paid a Bribe allows individuals to report whether or not they were asked for a bribe, how much, where, and by whom. This is an accessible strategy other countries and organizations can adopt.
- Ruwwad used numbers and visuals to remind their team and the public of the impact their efforts were having.
Maintaining and nurturing the momentum and commitment of supporters and the general public:
Maintaining and nurturing momentum and commitment among supporters can be very challenging for human rights groups. Creating lasting change can take a long time and people can lose not only momentum to continue the work, but can lose faith that this change will come. Additionally, human rights groups often have to confront attacks from their adversaries who are actively working to discredit them and diminish their momentum. Despite the challenges, participants in this conversation shared advice, experiences and ideas on what works:
Finding indicators that show progress is important for connecting with international and local donors and the public. Inconsistent funding challenges can be overcome by networking with local donors and working towards achieving sustainable funding rather than relying on foreign donations and funding initiatives. Local donors also build credibility for human rights organizations, especially in developing countries wary of foreign influence and aide.
One participant wrote that maintaining momentum over time often takes the dance of various players--i.e. the communication of all those working on the campaign and the audience supporting it. These players should know what steps should be taken in the future, by whom, and why they are being taken. This can be a tricky balance of energy and commitment levels among group members. Continuous learning and sharing may add momentum and encourage high energy levels among the group.
Campaign narratives create a compelling story pushing the cause forward and encouraging community interest. Storytelling can be used to capture and keep public interest. Use storytelling to celebrate milestones and share data to show the impact of a campaign. Visualizing information using infographics and other data visualization tools helps share progress with your audience and team. Storytelling can also be used to deal with frustrations and lost hope as a team. It is important to remember while crafting an engaging narrative that correct documentation and archiving of the human rights campaign’s challenges are necessary for ensuring the narrative’s factual basis.
Inspiring endurance and focus within your team and allies for the long haul
Trust, open communication and dialogue are important for inspiring your human rights campaign team and allies. One participant wrote, “Storytelling and storytelling. In campaigns where the organizers and leaders are the constituency themselves (for example persons with disabilities and not activists on their behalf) story work helps deal with some of the frustration and lost hope.” Engaging narratives share frustrations, facilitate conversation about the issue, and inspire individuals to action. Oftentimes, campaigns need to challenge existing perceptions of a people or conflict--as was the case in the American Refugee Committee’s Somali Star Campaign.
Maintaining commitment and holding others accountable to their commitments is equally important to inspiring endurance and focus. This is a challenging task, which can only be accomplished through establishing a safe and respectful space for members of the campaign and allies can openly talk about the challenges and be held accountable for their actions.
- Open Global Rights: What’s a funder to do?
- Center for Evaluation Innovation: Monitoring and Evaluation for Human Rights: Three Case Studies
- Society of Libertarian Entreprenuers: Using public narratives for momentum building and campaigning
- American Refugee Committee: Somali Star Campaign
- Confessions of a Failed Activist: What does Accountability Look Like?
Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics by Sidney Tarrow
Visualization Tool: Icebergs
Resources in Arabic:
The image above comes from our case study titled Breaking the Silence: Using popular culture to engage young people in human rights reporting that describes a number of tactics used to engage and involve young people in Poland, a segment of the population whose attention can be challenging to capture and even more difficult to hold onto.