Changing Minds

8 Powerful Persuasion Tactics

In his tactic case study, Powerful Persuasion: Combating traditional practices that violate human rights, Emile Short describes a campaign that allowed many thousands of women and girls escape religious bondage. This being NewTactics, and a blog aimed at finding methods behind effective change, I latched on a few techniques used in this campaign to engage allies and opponents alike in the successful challenge of an unjust practice.

Here are 8 potent persuasion tactics. I believe their use to be of almost universal value. See if you can apply these to your current work.

  1. Have a plan. Yes, you can go all-out on a huge one-month Persuasion Offensive that will burn up in flames as it crashes against a wall of resistance. Or, you can build a methodical plan to gradually convince layers of your reluctant opposition over the course of a few years. Guess which approach is most likely to win. Making a dent in religious enslavement in Ghana took a decade.

Powerful Persuasion: Combating Traditional Practices that Violate Human Rights

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Thank you for joining the New Tactics online community for a conversation on Powerful Persuasion: Combating Traditional Practices that Violate Human Rights from August 19 to 23, 2013.

Traditions and rituals are often supported by strongly held cultural beliefs.  The deep roots of traditional cultural practices can make it very difficult to change behaviors that are harmful and violate the human rights of a community or individual. Often, the key to this kind of cultural shift is respectful, patient, community-led persuasion to create movements for change.

Recipe for Dialogue: Corporate training for building relationships with Indigenous communities

Image of a group of people talking in the forestThe NGO Business for Social Responsibility and First Peoples Worldwide, an Indigenous advocacy organization, collaborated to help the private sector build more effective, constructive relationships with indigenous people.  Their corporate training initiatives, which are focused on extractive companies (mining, oil, gas and logging), are founded on respect for Indigenous peoples’ rights, aspirations and effective participation in the development process.

Leveraging the Money: Enforcing human rights by influencing financial institutions

Citizens protestingFoodFirst Information and Action Network (Germany) applied their influence on large mining operations that were causing various human rights abuses, by putting pressure on banks and other financial institutions that invest in those mines. This case study provides a thorough analysis of the kinds of research and pressure tactics that can provide an important new source of leverage for communities that are trying to counter the damage that can be caused by huge corporate projects on or near their land.

International Monitoring Bodies: Powerful tools for leveraging local change

Image of newspaper clippingsThe Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ) succeeded in raising the issue of human rights abuses in Northern Ireland at the international level and, by doing so, brought about significant improvements in human rights conditions. This was accomplished through CAJ’s utilization of the Committee Against Torture—one of the mechanisms available through the United Nations for monitoring governments that have signed international conventions. 

Human Rights and the Corporation: The development of the Human Rights Compliance Assessment

The Human Rights Compliance Assessment by the Danish Institute for Human Rights has created a framework through which businesses can assess their human rights obligations and measure the liabilities and human rights risks in countries where they operate or plan to locate. The tool helps companies understand human rights law, but can also help human rights groups understand companies and learn to communicate with the corporate world about human rights questions in a more constructive way.


Year of Publication: 2004
Author(s): Reed Addis

Making Allies: Engaging Government Officials to Advance Human Rights

A panel of professionalsCitizens’ 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. The author describes the unique uses of this tactic and highlights examples of cross-sectoral cooperation between a nongovernmental organization and the Russian government to advance human rights. 

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