Lesson for funders – public support for Human Rights must be cultivated
Published 20/11/2019 by Claire Gilbert
The Thomas Paine Initiative has called on funders to help capture the public’s hearts and minds, and counteract the threat to democracy from populist leaders. “Public opinion cannot be left to chance”, and communications strategy must be nurtured“at every stage” of the grant making process.
The Thomas Paine Initiative (TPI), a grant making organisation aiming to buildstronger support for human rights in the UK, has called on funders to help capture the public’s hearts and minds, and counteract the threat to democracy from populist leaders such as Trump and Bolsonaro.
In today’s media environment, funders must take part of the responsibility for cultivating public support for human rights, including seeing promotion of positive public attitudes to human rights as an end in itself, say the report’s authors.
The TPI has provided around £2m in funding since 2012 towards strengthening communications in human rights, including launching online networks and information hubs such as Equally Ours and Rights Info – see for example “14 worst human rights myths” by Rights Info in 2015.
The report offers five recommendations for human rights organisations to building stronger public support for their mission, including acknowledging tactics which have not worked in the past, for example relying for donor support on a fear of UK human rights law being in peril.
Funders are now encouraged to help shift values by investing in strategic communications over the long term. Knowledge and sharing of good practice is encouraged, with examples provided of organisations who have produced valuable research, such as Narrative Initiative which supports narrative change practitioners to have long-lasting impact.
The authors note that some organisations within the human rights movement are currently reflecting on a certain lack of trust in the sectors of the public they are trying to influence. The challenges around reaching those with “different values” to enable a change in culture are significant, and more work with rural communities and on “bread and butter issues” may be required.
The report concludes that in order to win today’s communications war, “Public opinion cannot be left to chance”, and communications strategy must be nurtured“at every stage” of the grant making process.
Read more here.