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Strategic NarrativesWebinars

[Webinar Series] Communicating Human Rights and Social Change: A Dialogue Series Among Funders

Please join us for a webinar series on Communicating Human Rights and Social Change: A Dialogue Series Among Funders, an initiative of the Communicating Human Rights and Social Change community co-sponsored by HRFN and Ariadne. This webinar dialogue series is co-sponsored by Ariande, the Open Society Foundations, and Global Dialogue.

About the Dialogue Series: The dialogue series will explore how grant-makers and other narrative change practitioners, working in a variety of sectors on various issue areas, have experimented with different effective strategic communications infrastructures to communicate and disseminate messages that drive change. Drawing on real-world examples – ranging from communications hubs, evidence-based messaging campaigns, collaborative grantmaking programs, issue-based coalitions, and more.

[October 17, 2019, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm EDT] Dialogue 3 – Innovative Approaches to Changing Human Rights Narratives: Examples from Case Studies Around the World with JustLabs and openDemocracy

Building on the learning, approaches, and tools we heard about in the first two installments of the webinar series – from Anat Shenker-Ocasio (on using tools from cognition and linguistics to engage the base and shift the middle) and Thomas Coombes (on hope-based communication and a shared humanity brand platform at Amnesty) and Neil Crowther on (lessons learned from a donor collaborative in the UK supporting communications research and capacity building) – this third instalment of the series will include Justlabs discussing their innovative and creative approaches to the pervasive problems in the human rights field and OpenDemocracy’s Tracking the Backlash project training and fellowship approach to investigating the organized movements against LGBTIQ and women’s rights around the world. James Savage from the Fund for Global Human Rights will moderate this panel, and discuss lessons for funders in this work.


  • James Savage, Fund for Global Human Rights (Moderator)
  •  César Rodríguez-Garavito, JustLabs
  •  Bálint Borsos, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  •  Zsófia Moldova, Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  •  Claire Provost, openDemocracy
  •  Nandini Archer, openDemocracy

Register here for the October 17th webinar


[September 12, 2019, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm EDT] Dialogue 2 – Putting the Humanity in Human Rights: Why the Social Change Needs to Unite Around Shared Values with Thomas Coombes and Neil Crowther

To change narratives, we all need to start telling stories that celebrate humanity – stories that might be very different from our current approach. Thomas and Neil will talk about how funders can help social change organizations apply research and insights on narrative in their day-to-day work, particularly, in their strategic communications. Thomas will talk about his Hope-Based Communications approach, which is about using narrative, framing and strategic communications to talk about what we stand for, and the world we want to see, rather than reacting to populists and other opposing messages. He will talk about how Amnesty International used a hope-based approach to develop a new narrative-focused brand platform that is focused on a global narrative of shared humanity, intentionally seeking a values message that is shared with the wider human rights movement. Neil will share learning and reflect on future challenges and strategy follow his six years as Director of the Thomas Paine Initiative, a donor’s collaborative established to build public support for human rights in the UK via strategic grant-making to support communications research and capacity building, which comes to a close in September 2019.


  • Thomas Coombes is a communications strategist who has developed an approach called Hope-Based Communications to help the human rights movement develop new narratives with five simple shifts anyone can apply to their everyday communications strategy. He recently took a sabbatical from his role as Head of Brand and Deputy Communications Director at Amnesty International, to launch Hope-Based Communications as a consultancy. Over the last year he has been working on new ways to talk about human rights and developed a new narrative-focused brand strategy for Amnesty International. Based on the idea of shared humanity, it can be used across the human rights movement. He has more than a decade experience in strategic communications for business, government and international NGOs.
  • Neil Crowther is an independent expert on equality, human rights and social change with a particular interest in working to secure the rights of disabled people. Neil is the outgoing Director of the Thomas Paine Initiative – a collaborative fund which aims to support the development of strategic communications to promote the fundamental values underlying the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK. He previously led the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission’s work on human rights and disability rights and before that was Head of Policy at the UK Disability Rights Commission.
  • Moderator: Julie Broome, Director, Ariadne


[July 25, 2019] Dialogue 1 – A Brilliant Way of Living Our Lives: Shifting the narrative on human rights to engage our base and persuade the middle with Anat Shenker-Osorio

Speaker: Anat Shenker-Osorio is Founder and Principal of ASO Communications; she examines why certain messages falter where others deliver. She’s led research for new messaging on issues ranging from freedom to join together in union to clean energy and from immigrant rights to reforming criminal justice. Anat’s original approach through priming experiments, task-based testing and online dial surveys has led to progressive electoral and policy victories across the globe. Applying tools from cognition and linguistics, she uncovers where people are capable of going and how to use our words, images and stories to move them. Her research and reports include a messaging brief for Open Society Foundations – A Brilliant Way of Living Our Lives: How to Talk About Human Rights.

Moderator: Andrew Maisel, Senior Program Specialist, racial justice and narrative change, Open Society Foundations.


Stay tuned for more information on speakers, dates, and registration information for the continued dialogue in the fall. In the meantime, check-out the list of resources below. 

About the Communicating Human Rights and Social Change community: The community serves as a space to highlight what members are doing internally and externally (i.e. with grantees) around effective messaging, capacity building, and strategic narratives. The community shares tools, resources, approaches, learning, and best practices on communicating human rights and social change issues worldwide, and is a space for funders to strategize on how to coordinate as funders and develop new infrastructure(s). It builds on the collaborative grant-making of Changing Minds and the Thomas Paine Initiative, as well as the conversations from Recapturing the Narrative track at HRFN’s 2018 Mexico City Conference, and 2015 pre-conference Institute on Detoxifying the Brand: How Framing Can Help Regain Public Support for Human Rights. You can join the community here.