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On the Scene at IHRFG in 2016

Even though most of us are glad that 2016 is over, we’re thankful for all of the positive energy, great ideas, and enthusiastic collaboration of our members.

Last year, IHRFG members wrote 30 blog posts, organized 28 conference sessions, gave 12 lightning talks, and participated in 21 webinars.


Here’s a quick run-down of what IHRFG members were talking about in 2016!

1. Human rights funders joining forces in times of crisis


When 2016 tossed curveballs, IHRFG members used our forums to align their responses to timely events ranging from statelessness in the Dominican Republic, the changing regulatory environment for Indian NGOs, political turmoil in Brazil, and threats to civic freedoms in the US under a Trump Administration.

2. Information security: not just for activists


Through our Responsible Data Forum, organized in collaboration with the engine room, IHRFG members brainstormed what funders can do to ensure that their data is secure, and ways to promote a community of practice of responsible data. As new threats and challenges emerge, this is sure to be an evolving conversation.

3. Flexible funding, flexible funding, flexible funding


With threats to human rights defenders on the rise, IHRFG members are at the forefront of advocating for effective ways to support them including a greater focus on core, multi-year support, increased funding to support well-being, and collaboration around efforts to sustain HRDs-at-risk over the long haul. Regardless of the strategy, flexibility is key!

4. Making philanthropy more inclusive


How can philanthropy become more responsive to the needs and priorities of grantees, particularly those of marginalized and under-resourced communities? Tactics include integrating participatory grantmaking principles, fostering direct community involvement in decision-making, and investing in strong feedback loops.

5. Civic space shrinks. Funders push back.


We kicked off the year with a workshop designed by Human Rights Lab, in which funders were trained in design thinking methodology to create, test, and iterate prototypes of strategies to respond to closing space. 2016 also saw IHRFG launch the Funders’ Initiative for Civil Society in partnership with Ariadne, European Foundation Center, and Global Dialogue to carry forward funder responses, build bridges with other sectors and reframe the narrative around civil society.

6. Addressing root causes of the global refugee crisis


The global refugee crisis dominated headlines over the course of 2016, and many human rights funders are looking for ways to collaborate, address root causes, and support the rights of refugees. Ways to do this include looking at short-term, intermediate, and longer-term risks holistically. Immediate humanitarian services are critical, but the number of affected people means that the international community must also focus on development of agency, leadership, and sustainability of migrants.


7. Strategic communications can build support for human rights


With human rights movements facing backlash, messaging is crucial for maintaining and gaining public support. A few key lessons are that: investing in strategic communications for human rights organizations based in the Global South must rely on Global South expertise; collaborating with public relations, media agents, and marketing experts can help find ways to bring human rights messages to broader audiences; and public opinion polls can help human rights groups craft messages and identify supporters.

For a more thorough recap of all of these conversations, we invite you to look at the key takeaways from our San Francisco Convening, our New York Convening, and our Funder Learning Visit to Amman, Jordan–and also check out our Vimeo page for recordings of our telebriefings, webinars, and select conference sessions.

We look forward to continuing these and many other discussions with our members in 2017!


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