​​​​ ​​​​

Category: Storytelling

Online course “Communications for Advocacy” in 6 languages

Sogicampaigns and the PITCH program (Aidsfonds/Frontline Aids/Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are launching a free 10-lesson online course on Communications for Advocacy. 

This course s based on insights of hundreds of campaigners worldwide and aims to help activists and advocates to truly engage, rally and influence people to their advocacy cause. 

The course contains many examples of successful campaigns, many exciting and inspiring videos, interactive exercises, quizzes, and concludes with a 10-step plan to build your communications for advocacy strategy.


We encourage all creative campaigners to check it out: If you think your communication can be improved, it will give you many ideas and examples and will guide you in becoming more strategic about your communication. If you think your communication is already ahead of the curve, this course will help you test your assumptions, and maybe challenge you on some aspects.

Access the online course in EnglishRussianPortugueseBahasa IndonesiaVietnameseBurmese



Storytelling: LGBT themes in Hindu mythology

The Article appeared first at The Indian Express

Agni, the god of fire is married both to the goddess Svaha and the male Moon god Soma with Agni having a receptive role in this relationship.

Hindu mythology, through evolved heroes and instances, has displayed elements of gender variance and non-heterosexual sexuality. When we see it in the context of the current laws against homosexuality, based on colonial laws, it shows that it resisted sexual norms and the commonly perceived gender binary. Spoken more subtly than directly, changes of sex, homoerotic encounters, and intersex or third gender characters are very often found in the epics, the Puranas and regional folklore.

While the reproductive connection between man and woman has always been honoured, homosexuality and LGBT themes have been documented through ancient literature and folk tales, art and performing arts alike. Essentially because gender is often seen as an idea, a belief, a conviction, the sweep and scale of which can be seen through the diverse characters, each extraordinary and unusual.

Mohini is the only female avtaar of Vishnu, who exhibits gender variability, in one case even becoming pregnant (Vishnu as Mohini and the Preserver even procreates with Shiva, the designated Destroyer to give birth to Lord Ayyappa). Each time Vishnu, in his role as the protector of the universe, took the feminine form of the divine enchantress Mohini, the world got saved. Vishnu becomes Mohini when gender-adaptability (here it’s not masculinity but femininity)  is called for, to solve a problem. Beyond the role of the saviour, the implications in dual-genderism and fluid sexuality is more analogical, wherein in each person lies in the male and the female.

Aravan, a god for the transgender community

Vishnu in his incarnation as Krishna in the Mahabharata, becomes Mohini to marry Aravan/Iravan, son of Arjun and the Naga princess Uloopi. Selected to be sacrificed for the Pandavas’ victory in the Kurukshetra war, Aravan has one last request, that of not wishing to die unmarried. As no woman comes forward to marry him, Krishna takes the form of Mohini, weds him and after Iranvan’s death, is seen as a hero’s widow. This folk tale expands where Aravan is considered a patron god of some transgender communities in the country today.

Androgynous Ardhanarishvara and Lakshmi-Narayan

Shiva has often been held as the ultimate embodiment of masculinity, but his Ardhanarishvara form is an androgynous composite of Shiva and goddess Parvati, his wife. Parvati wished to share Shiva’s experiences, and thus wanted their physical forms literally to be joined to show that the inner masculine and feminine coexist and can coalesce.

A similar union occurs between Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity and Vishnu, her husband Vishnu, forming the hermaphroditic or androgynous Lakshmi-Narayan.

Shikhandi, man and woman

Shikhandi, the warrior in the Kurukshetra war was born Shikhandini, the daughter of King Drupada. Said to be Amba reborn to exact her revenge on Bhishma, she is raised as a son by Drupada. In one story, Shikhandini as a girl discovers the garland of ever-blooming blue lotuses hung on the palace gate and puts it around her neck. Drupada panics and banishes his daughter, out of fear that he would earn Bhishma’s wrath and become his enemy. She performs austerities in the forest and is transformed into a male named Shikhandi.

In another story, she gets married to the princess of Dasharna who upon discovery, complaints to her father that her husband is a woman. Shikhandini flees to the forest and meets a Yaksha who exchanges genders. Taking the name Shikhandi, he remained a man until his death at the battle of Mahabharata. In some versions of the story, the sex swap results in Shikhandi being a eunuch. But whatever the gender, Shikhandi is seen as a brave warrior responsible for the death of Bhishma.

Agni, consort of the Moon god

There are several instances of homosexual or bisexual activity not always for deriving sexual pleasure. Agni, the god of fire is married both to the goddess Svaha and the male Moon god Soma with Agni having a receptive role in this relationship. Interestingly, another aspect of this story as advocated by ancient rishis was that there were two elements, fire (agni for sun) and water (soma for moon), determining the gender of a child.

Surrogacy themes

Similarly, Mitra and Varuna, are gods of intimacy are often mentioned together, both presiding over the universal waters: while Mitra controls the ocean depths, Varuna rules over the rivers and shores. Portrayed as icons of male affection, they are depicted riding a shark or crocodile together or sometimes seated close on a golden chariot drawn by seven swans. Metaphorically, they are associated with the two lunar phases with Varun, as the waxing one and the waning one is Mitra symbolising the same sex relations. They are said to have children (Rishi Agastya and Rishi Vashisth) through a yoni with the apsara Urvashi, something akin to having children through surrogacy.

Budh, Ila and gender swapping

Besides holding a prominent position in Hindu astrology as the planet Mercury, Budh also represents a prototype of gender roles. Rishi Briahspati, when he discovers his wife Tara pregnant with the child of her lover Chandra, curses the child Budh to be neither male nor female. Budh later on marries Ila, also cursed to switch genders every month because she trespassed into the forbidden Sharavana grove of Parvati and Shiva. Their children later established the lunar Chandra-vamsa, dynasty of kings in the Mahabharata.

Gender fluid Arjuna and the story of Bhagiratha

Arjuna, too, receives a curse from the apsara Urvashi when he spurns her and the Pandava prince has to live his exile for a year as the eunuch Brihannala, the dance tutor to Princess Uttara of the Matsya kingdom. King Bhagiratha is said to be responsible in bringing Ganga from heaven as a river on Earth. Born to two mothers, the widowed queens of King Dilipa, his birth is considered a blessing and was socially approved.

The homoerotic subtext and other abovementioned instances and characters, operate within a distinct worldview yet accommodating gender and sexual variance, generally accepted and woven into the narrative of the epics and the ancient texts as typically occurring or done.

Storytelling lessons from a life of adventure

The interview conducted by Emma Wickenden appeared first at Charity Comms.


The hunters of the remote Russian tundra must have been surprised to see Sacha Dench drop James-Bond-style out of the sky, with what essentially looked like a giant desk fan strapped to her back.

Sacha, CEO of Conservation without Borders, was on a mission to fly nearly 7,000 km across 11 countries by paramotor to help save the critically endangered Bewick’s swans.

Battling freezing temperatures, enduring injuries and treacherous conditions, Sacha flew along the birds’ migratory route from Arctic Russia to the UK. Dropping in to talk to communities across the route, she sought to understand and reveal, through stunning visual imagery, what was killing the swans and what we could do about it.

While not formally trained in comms, Sacha (AKA the human Swan) has a natural gift for storytelling which she’s used throughout her career to spotlight issues – from the plight of the shark to her latest campaign to save the Ospreys. We caught up with Sacha ahead of our annual Storyfest conference, where she was our keynote speaker, to ask about her unique storytelling techniques.

CC: In a previous life you were a biologist devoted to educating people about sharks. Can you tell us a bit more?

SD: A few people listened to what I had to say, but when I became an internationally recognised freediver, then the media listened, and I was able to really bring attention to the sharks’ cause.

CC: Is that when you realised that being part of the story could be helpful and were you ever worried your extraordinary human story could overshadow the swan’s story?

SD: Yes, the seed was planted. But it turns out, journalists can’t cover the adventure story without asking ‘why?’ And because I’m flying at the same height and altitude as the birds and suffering many of the same threats and challenges, I could talk about it with conviction from the swans’ point of view.

CC: What stories have you found change hearts and minds? 

SD: People were interested in my being the human swan. The mystery of the swans’ disappearance and the incredible stories of their journey got people engaged. But the most effective stories for inspiring real-world action were the ones of people living along the flyway, who were doing things to help. For example, the volunteers across Europe counting swans on the same days in every country – made the nomadic reindeer breeders want to help. Or the Nenets [the Samoyedic ethnic group native to arctic Russia] offering to shift what and how they hunt – in already difficult circumstances – made polish fish farmers offer to leave ponds full for longer to be safe havens for birds.

CC: What did you learn about storytelling from this campaign?

SD: Have empathy for your audience, even if they are the problem. Try to get inside their head and imagine a scenario that might make them change their mind (it’s unlikely just giving facts will do that). Allow them to be the ‘hero’ in that scenario, rather than the one in the wrong forced to change. Also, check your assumptions about who these target audiences are. For example, we hadn’t ever imagined that the hunters in remote areas shooting swans, would include nine-year-old kids. In some remote communities (where permafrost limits agriculture) hunting is the contribution of kids to family survival- they shoot on their long walk to and from school.


“Give everyone the chance to be the good guys in the story”


CC: Can you tell us a bit more about making people ‘heroes’ in your campaign narrative?

SD: I kept saying – let’s give everyone the chance to be the good guys in the story. Let’s reframe the situation. For example, with hunters in the field, I would land dramatically from the sky on the paramotor to speak to them over cups of tea and discussions about motor and navigation, a love of the arctic etc. The ones that helped fix my paramotor, showed me where to find edible mushrooms, taught me tundra survival or arranged fuel drops, later became the official ‘champions of the swan’ and are carrying on the work.

CC: You said that scientists already knew many of the things that were killing the swans – so why did your campaign focus on this question?

SD: The scientists didn’t like the idea of posing this question, as it implied that after 30+ years of research they had failed. But I insisted on making this discovery a central premise of the campaign. By letting people have ownership of the mystery, allowing them to identify their part in the situation, would make it more engaging and have longer-term impact than arriving and saying ‘we know swans are being shot here and we need you to stop’ which would have got a lot more doors and minds closed to the issue.

So, I would show images of the threats we were aware of, but the public message was that we were ‘all on a mission to find out what was going wrong for swans’. Telling this story got people’s imaginations going, made it a shareable conversation and a discussion point within communities. We invited people to share stories and photos with us. Start with creativity and questionings and speak to people as equals – their local knowledge is as important as the research data in finding solutions.


“Be radical in your communications because the world needs bold thinking right now.”


CC: This campaign was very brave. Can you offer tips for pitching radical campaign ideas to Senior Management Teams?

SD: When I had the idea for Flight of the Swans I sat on it as I thought my reasonably conservative organisation wouldn’t take it up. But they did. And probably because a few key people I broached it with were brave enough to back me first. I learned that more people are up for radical thinking than you might expect. Be radical in your communications thinking because the world needs bold thinking right now. If your own ideas aren’t exciting enough, encourage or back others’ ideas that are.

CC: Can you tell us about your next campaign – what will you do differently this time?

SD: In our next campaign, I will be flying with the Osprey and meeting people along the route for BBC and global media. Looking at how to bring the osprey back, but also looking at our planet from a birds’-eye-view. This expedition is in the runup to the next Global Climate Change Conference in Glasgow and is the first in our ‘UN 2030 Global Challenge’ series of expeditions that span the globe and keep the world interested and motivated to turn the climate and biodiversity crises around in the next 10 years.

This time I will give people smaller cameras and more practice in how to make cameras invisible – in some communities the camera became the focus. I had better interactions, learnt more, made longer-term friends when I landed with just one small camera. Also, I will tell more stories of what people had agreed to do to help.

From megaphone to mosaic: five principles for narrative communications

By Alice Sachrajda & Thomas Coombes

from “The TILT, Reframing Human Rights for the 21st Century”

How can civil society groups and charities apply narrative work in practice? Based on our work with migration groups in the UK during the pandemic, we believe a crucial step is more narrative synergy between organisations that share the same values. Scroll right to the end for practical steps and more information about how you can get involved in collective narrative change.

Have you ever looked closely at a detailed painting and then slowly stepped back to see the picture take shape and come alive before your eyes? It’s a magical feeling when the smaller component parts complement each other and align to create a unified whole. This is what happens with an intricate mosaic, where small individual tiles collectively merge to create an image that is striking to behold.

Image for post

The same synergistic principle applies to narratives. We communicate by sharing our messages and stories, but it is their accumulation over time that form lasting, memorable narratives. When we communicate strategically we need to think not just about how we craft our own message, but also how we are adding to a greater whole and strengthening shared narratives in the process. In short: to be strategic we need to be synergistic.

As the Narrative Initiative writes:

“What tiles are to mosaics, stories are to narratives. The relationship is symbiotic; stories bring narratives to life by making them relatable and accessible, while narratives infuse stories with deeper meaning.”

Elena Blackmore, writing for PIRC, has also used this metaphor to powerful effect where she writes perceptively about #BlackLivesMatter and the response that is required to change harmful narrative mosaics:

“This is the narrative mosaic of white supremacy and it comprises hundreds of years’ worth of tiles of violent history. We can understand a narrative in this way: as a ‘coherent system of stories’.”

If communications work is about crafting the right kinds of words, visuals and feelings to get a message across, then strategic communications is about stepping back and thinking about the big ideas, attitudes and behaviours we want to shift. This means thinking not just about promoting the work of our own organisation, but choosing the right stories to tell about what is happening in the world today. This means communications based more around moments than on campaigns.

These reflections are based on recent work with Unbound Philanthropy and Migration Exchange during the pandemic. We have been working to help activist groups apply narrative messaging around Covid-19 produced by communications experts such as Anat Shenker-OsorioPIRCFrameworks Institute and IMIX to their daily work. And we have been having deep conversations about narrative change through our Narrative Working Group (NARWHAL) convenings, curated by Phoebe Tickell.

Thinking of narratives as mosaics leads us to collective communications strategy

If a narrative is a mosaic, our communications must build it up tile by tile.

Every day is a new opportunity to find new tiles to add. These tiles can be planned and created by your organisation. They might also come from an ally or from grass-roots supporters.

Creating new, striking narrative mosaics requires as many people as possible offering up the same sorts of ideas, creating images that bring to life our shared values and exchanging stories that reflect our worldview.

Image for post

We have designed a messaging house to help guide this process, drawing on the idea of a Larger Us developed by Alex Evans at the Collective Psychology Project as a way of articulating what unites groups working on human rights, environment, poverty, racial justice and others in common cause.

This messaging house contains simple “common sense” ideas that we can all repeat over and over again, and bring to life in stories, videos, drawings and graphics (find out more about the messaging house by scrolling down to the practical steps below).

We use a messaging house applies the mosaic principle because rather than asking every group to use shared branding or slogans, we instead invite everyone to inject a little bit of the spirit of our shared worldview into their work.

Applying mosaics-thinking to our communications strategies is crucial if we want to change narratives.

Getting the wording of our messages right is important, but communications is often about more than words: it is about images, stories and emotions stirred by cultural products.

Five principles for creating narrative mosaics with strategic communications

There are five principles we’ve learnt from mosaic-making that help us to get to the heart and soul of strategic communications. We explore and unpack each of these principles in more detail, below:

  • Principle 1: We need to unite around shared messages that capture the spirit of our communication. It takes many different tiles to make a mosaic. If all our tiles relay conflicting messages, our tiles will simply form a blur from which no narrative emerges. Only by constantly reinforcing a complimentary, shared worldview with stories and frames on a daily basis can we make our narrative salient enough to stand out.
  • Principle 2: We need to capitalise on key moments that arise — tapping into the zeitgeist, rather than purely relying on engineering the focus. Mosaic-makers innovate all the time. We need to be open to raising up what works and what resonates in response to key moments.
  • Principle 3: We need to build up powerful bonds of reciprocity. Building a mosaic is about elevating and building on motifs that work, and generating new, iterative content as a result. Reciprocity builds strong supportive networks, helps to further the message of a Larger Us and demonstrates that we are making progress together.
  • Principle 4: Apply the rule of thirdsThere is sometimes magic to be found in placing the subject off-centre, resisting the urge of pushing problems to the front and centre.
  • Principle 5: We need to accumulate multiple stories and messages. Mosaics are created by adding together multiple smaller parts, some of which are plain and reinforcing, peppering our communications with bursts of creative inspiration. Sometimes we need to experiment many times over to hit upon a powerful message that truly resonates. Everyone can add their tile to the narrative mosaic, even by retweeting another post or asking your supporters share some positive news.

Principle 1: Uniting around the spirit of shared worldviews

Andamento is the ability to capture the mood and ‘feel’ of the overall piece, described as follows by one mosaic expert:

“Never mind the design — a design is a design — but pay attention to what is going on in the background of a mosaic and it is there that you will find the melody, the choreography, the spirit of a mosaic.”

The same applies in our strategic communications: Messages are important, just as the design helps to create the overall picture; but it is also vital to capture the ‘andamento’ i.e. the spirit or the overall ‘feel’ of the piece. This is about more than just crafting and framing our words and projecting them out to all who will listen. Instead, it’s about working together, collectively, to achieve a bigger, shared objective: It’s about making our communication fizz with energy and sing out in symphony.

The message of ‘a Larger Us’ needs to be at the heart of our strategic communications work. It is more than just a design feature; it is the ‘andamento’ — the spirit that should pulsate through all our communications.

Many campaigns start from a ‘them and us’ frame, and there is power in mobilising people to join a side who share a common enemy or opponent. But we are not as polarised as we might think. The vast majority of us are kind, well-meaning individuals who can unite around shared, transcendental values built on love, kindness and care that need to be at the heart of all our messaging if we want them to be more powerful factors in our politics.

The team at PIRC has done tests showing that thinking the best of human nature helps support for social change. Rutger Bregman, author of HumanKind, reminds us of the goodness of human nature and warns us that pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy:

If you look at empirical evidence then you find that assuming the best in other people gets you the best results.”

Covid-19 has taught us that we are all in this together. If we want to highlight just how marginal extremists really are, we must proportionately balance stories of extremism with those that show we are part of a Larger Us, rather than a ‘them and us’.

While we have to counter the threat of extremists, calling them ‘the opposition’ or ‘the other side’ gives credence to what is a minority view, worthy neither of these terms, nor of a dominant place in our mosaic.

Elevating the voices of those who share and express the message that we are united, connected and hopeful is kryptonite to extremists who seek to divide us.

Principle 2. Thinking in moments, rather than campaigns

Signature campaigns are one way to change narratives, but small, daily stories that capture people’s attention and create a “word of mouth” buzz are vital tiles that add to narrative mosaic. Rather than international theme days and other planned events, these stories and content are relevant to the spirit of the times. On social media these are known as “moments”.

Moments have the added benefit of authenticity. Moments are not just a condensed part of a news cycle, they are something happening in people’s lives. Campaigns, by contrast, are something we plan inside our organisations. Moments can be an influential figure like the footballer Marcus Rashford taking a stand on a principle like free meals for children from poor families over the summer holidays or K-Pop stars ruining a Trump rally. Or everyday people doing something that gets people talking, like banging plates on their balconies during Covid_19. These moments tend to capture the zeitgeist of a particular time, and reveal something we already know or feel about ourselves and our societies.

The significance of moments is that they act like a spark in a tinderbox. They ignite passion in people and can often be the precursor to political or policy change, and in some cases can go on to create powerful movements, as we saw with #MeToo, #TimesUp and more recently with #BlackLivesMatter. We need to be ready to spot and amplify these moments when they arise. This means finding unusual allies, acknowledging the power and influence of public figures and recognising the significance of popular culture in catalysing social change.

We also need to sustain these moments and make sure that changes are woven into the fabric of our systems and structures. In particular, we each have a a duty to ensure that racial justice is woven into our conversations about narrative change.

Principle 3. Building up powerful bonds of reciprocity

Behavioural scientists often remind us of the intense power of reciprocity. It is one of the strongest social norms we have in our society. As Matthew D. Lieberman, author of Social: Why our brains are wired to connect, reminds us:

“If someone does you a favor, you feel obligated to return the favor at some point, and with strangers we actually feel a bit anxious until we have repaid this debt. This is why car salesmen will always offer you a cup of coffee.”

We can use this intuitive need to reciprocate with one another in our communications. If you want others to elevate and share your work, start by doing the same for others.

No one organisation can make a narrative salient by itself.

Even if you can secure coverage in a big news outlet, or the support of a celebrity influencer, it takes sustained repetition of ideas across multiple channels and platforms to achieve salience. We all need to share each other’s stories and content for it to have a chance of impacting how people think, feel and behave.

Image for post

Organisations, activists, artists and other people who share common causes can together create and source content that contributes to our narrative mosaics. This is about reciprocity: we all need to repeat each other’s ideas for them to become “common sense” narratives that people internalise and share. No organisation can, or should, try to produce this flow of content themselves, nor should they think they can distribute that content wide enough on their own. When we see something that reinforces our shared ‘Larger Us’ worldview from another messenger, we should flex every comms muscle we have to make it seen and talked about.

Image for post

Fortunately, myriad NGOs, charities and movements do not need to agree to the exact same talking points, slogans and hashtags. But they can articulate a shared vision and basic values they are working towards. All the different stories, reports and other outputs can then reinforce our shared idea of how the world works and should be. In other words, we can agree what we want the mosaic to look like, and then create tiles of our own that contribute to it, in our own different ways.

Principle 4. Give your subject space to breathe

Artists often work to a ‘rule of thirds’ principle, and mosaics are no exception. The act of off-setting the subject paradoxically helps to give it greater prominence. We can learn from this principle in our communications work. By off-setting we give our subject room to breathe.

Mosaic-makers create impact by moving the main focus of the design at least one third of the way towards the edge. Communicators can learn from that by not always pushing political divisions and social problems to the fore, but letting them sit slightly to the side of more personal and multi-faceted stories, in which the people affected by problems are not defined solely by them. This draws the audience in, touches them on a more emotional level and allows them to feel empathy, rather than pity, for the people we want to support. People who have moved to a country generally want to be seen as people, not as migrants or refugees. Make the audience care about the person first, and then invite them to relate to the situation.

In the new series New Neighbours about newcomers to Europe and the people who welcome them, the story is about the emerging relationships. The issues are there but they are not foregrounded, allowing alternative possibilities to become apparent.

Principle 5. Accumulation of stories

As George Lakoff teaches us, if your communication is based on narratives you disagree with, you risk reinforcing these negative narratives. He encourages us to make the moral case for our positions with the same values that we want to activate in all audiences, built on empathy, responsibility and hope. We know that critiquing stereotypical stories only reinforces them, that we need a flow of surprising stories that create a mosaic of tolerance and appreciation for others. In today’s media environment we can elevate myriad voices and empower people to tell their story, their way.

It’s the accumulation of different stories that makes a narrative. We should think of our communications outputs as tiles that need to be true to the spirit of the mosaic that is our narrative and our values, rather than a single canvas that needs to be perfected like a masterpiece. You cannot fit the whole mosaic on one tile, and not every story needs to capture every aspect of an issue.

We can share one story of a successful refugeeone story of a migrant who is helping out, just getting by with help from the community, and another who is grateful, if that is the emotion they themselves want to express. We also need stories of people who are not on the move, but are welcoming to those who are. Just as individual tiles need to be true to the spirit of a mosaic, we can be guided in selecting these stories by our own values, basic ethical guidelines and a desire to let people speak for themselves.

Practical steps for a mosaic-movement approach to narrative change

Step one: Agree on simple messaging

The first step is a set of shared messages, leading with the same values. The specifics of our messaging may vary for different audiences and contexts, but there are universal ideas and values that we all identify with. Articulating these will help us to respond to what is happening in the world today — to “message this moment” in the words of Anat Shenker-Osorio.

That is why we designed a simple messaging house to describe the ‘Larger Us’ messaging that ties together the values underlying migration work with other causes like climate change, social and racial justice and equality and inclusion.

We find this format of the messaging house helpful because it focuses attention on one, predominant umbrella message (in this case a Larger Us) and then explores three sub-messages that help to strengthen the overall proposition.

A messaging house focuses your communications on the ideas you want to get to get across, rather than reacting to the loudest voices or being derailed by cynical questions. It is built around our values so it can be applied to any issue or situation, keeping you “on-message”, as well as “on-narrative”. The fact that we are all connected to one another as human beings is just as important a principle to climate change as it is to migration and racial justice.

Image for post

Do take a look at the messaging house and see how you can apply it to your work. There is even a blank version you can use to adapt and apply the ‘Larger Us’ messaging to your own communications. We are happy for it to be an iterative tool and we welcome you to use it and add your comments, adjustments and input.

Step two: Organize content creators

Messaging is the starting point, but we need more than words to reach a mass audience. We need to elevate the actual stories happening in the world today that illustrate our messages without needing to use our jargon.

To that end, we can organise our supporters to be our chief storytellers. You can send them this simple cheat sheet to explain what kind of stories they can tell. That way, when they see a moment, for example, of cooperation between communities, they can take out their phone and tell the story themselves on social media. You can then elevate the best ones.

Creative artistic content can also bring our messages to life in emotive ways that may resonate with people the way political messages do not. A creative brief for cultural creators can inspire the people who can paint more beautiful tiles for our shared mosaic. For example, you can give artists and designers who want to support our cause this creative brief to articulate what you stand for, but leave them the creativity to bring those values to life in their own authentic way.

During the pandemic, for example, Fine Acts commissioned artists around the world to create small, simple works of art that would inspire hope, inviting people to print them into posters and sharing on social media. They are now curating works in support of Black Lives Matter.

Dancing Fox has a new project called “We were made for these times” combining art and stories that help us imagine a better world. To make people believe in the things we are calling for, we need the help of creative people to help them visualise what society will look like after our solutions are in place.

Image for post

Step 3: Gather and curate stories

When we see a moment that reinforces our shared narrative, we need to get people talking about it. And we also need to ensure that we have a diverse range of people telling and sharing their stories. Getting news media to cover those stories is a crucial step, reaching new audiences and giving them credibility. But once we secure that coverage, we need people to share that news story. Getting the media hit is only half the work, we have to push it out on social media to drive “word of mouth” buzz around it if it is to become a salient “moment” that grows our narrative mosaic.

It is on all of us to work together to build the mosaic. There are two basic things you can do to play your part:

You can add stories you think will build up the ‘Larger Us’ mosaic in this story bank, whether you see them in the news or hear about them happening at grass-roots level.

For example, the Relationships Project has created the Spirit of Lockdown storybook to gather “the moments when we’ve noticed one another, as we have seldom noticed before.”

You can share stories that are already in the story bank, as well as stories you see from other activists and organisations, through your personal and organisational social media channels. You can use this messaging.

Step 4: Salience via distribution

We want as many people as possible to see the videos produced for the Britain Connects and New Neighbours series because they encapsulate the idea of ‘a Larger Us’. We should be sharing them through organic social media posts, sending it to others to ask them to share as well and even buying ads of our own to make sure more people who are likely to share them further also see them. That is how positive narratives around migration will become salient.

If you have the resources, you can also run social media adverts to make sure people see and share the stories, running ads to these audiences we feel are most likely to share positive migration stories. Erica Chenoweth has written that successful non-violent civil disobedience requires activating only 3.5% of the population. We can use that same principle in trying to target the stories we want shared to those most likely to spread the word.

Ask your supporters, friends and allies to add tiles of their own. You can use mail-outs and whatsapp groups to ask them to share on-message stories with their friends. We can have a greater impact encouraging a wide community of people to share the same sorts of stories. The smallest, simplest small stories from their daily lives are all small stones that make up the mosaic.

An implication of this approach is that we also focus audience research on our closest supporters, not just persuadables or extremists. Our base, after all, are the people most likely to articulate our narrative to other people and bring it to life through their actions.

Image for post

In summary, civil society and charities need to be better at working together to make the most of the resources we have at our disposal to get the message out. In the words of The Narrative Initiative we need to “connect a narrative “nervous system” of collaborators.”

Are the press releases, tweets and videos we put out every day contributing to a shared mosaic, or are we simply all tiling our own bathrooms? If we want to change narratives, we can start by working together, particularly at the level of communications team. For example, the network of the people who actually run the social media accounts of the world’s biggest international NGOs set up earlier this year by Valeriia Voshchevska and Dante Licona is a perfect space to achieve reciprocity in our communications.

What happens next?

We can all work together to share values of empathy, kindness, equality, inclusion and solidarity. We can do this through a list of ‘Larger Us’ social media influencers who all agree to regularly share stories that are on-message. We can funnel stories to this list by getting grass roots organisations and cultural groups to see this as a resource when they want to elevate their work.

As a first step for building narrative reciprocity, we have created a common global space for anyone who wants to build ‘Larger Us’ narratives. If you are interested in our ideas, please share your thoughts below or get in touch here. We look forward to hearing from you!

Interactive storytelling

We have some great information for you about interactive storytelling, do you want to hear it?

Many experts who have studied how the human mind works, argue that storytelling is the most compelling technique that humans have invented to create social links and build cultures.

And for a long time this is how it looked like:

or even like

So what’s next, now that the world has changed.

We have resolutely entered an age when audiences no longer see themselves as passive receivers of information. Everyone these days wants to have a say. More often than not, everytime someone communicates, they must give the audiences the chance to communicate back. Invitations to like, share, comment and other “call to actions” all serve the purpose of transforming old time monologues into modern time dialogues or, preferably, multilogues.

But even this is already the 20th century.

Today the trend is not only towards participating in the discussion around the story, but to participating in actually creating the story. And that is interactive storytelling.

Why opting for interactive storytelling? Well, if interactive features will make your stories greater and more meaningful, that should be a good start.

And because there is a HUGE difference between talking AT someone and talking WITH someone.

Do you want to continue to explore this with refugees from Vietnam or through the reconstruction of Haiti?

There are so many good and interactive examples, it’s hard to decide on just one or two!

Here are some more!

Wanna drive through the chain of supply and forced labor in the contemporary era? Go through SLAVERY FOOTPRINT

You are maybe willing to go through planted dreams and relive the INCEPTION MOVIE

And another one!

When fighting for those who are discriminated against and oppressed, it is super challenging to humanise your adversary. Simply, why opposing the idea that all living creatures are born equal and should live accordingly? This website provides you the opportunity to meet combatants in augmented reality. SO, meet THE ENEMY


As media narratives are concerned, interactive storytelling is without a dispute top-notch.

And maybe given examples will give you an impression this content is unreachable, bear in mind that today is possible to create high-quality, professional-looking interactive stories for free, or at a relatively small price, thanks to a wide breadth of storytelling tools!

We suggest you to search more HERE and go with some.

Sorry to hear this. Is there anything else you’d rather hear from us?

Tell as email

Well, bye then. Take care and stay safe.

Video content – campaigning trend on fire!

Although the videos have been used for campaign purposes for a long time, they have only recently gained in serious popularity.

Why is video content becoming so popular right now?

Video as a format is certainly and without any doubt more compelling and visually appealing.

But making a video today is easier than ever!

With the help of easily accessible apps like Tik-Tok, it is possible to create viral content without prior design knowledge, or investing large sums of money in the production of video animations.


As well as more brands and organisations tend to utilise videos, consumers are now watching more videos than ever before!

It is estimated that the average person will spend 100 minutes every day watching online videos in 2021.

This is a 19% increase in comparison to daily viewing minutes in 2019, which stood at 84min!


Even though it is not a brand new tactic, vlogging continues capturing social media attention in 2020. People want to feel connected to the organisation or campaigner they invest their resources in! 


Let’s check some useful tips to make your video an effective campaigning tool! 







  1. Have a SEO strategy – or precisely, add keywords, have a title to catch attention, use tags properly and create high-quality thumbnails! 
  2. Make it clear what the video is about! What is this supposed to mean? Add accurate synopsis, plot the main points, or try subscribing the entire video.
  3. Provide testimonials – case studies, likes, views, comments, any sort of social proof showcasing your content is valuable and informative. 
  4. CTAs – Call to actions are a must for your videos. Because once you have encouraged people to watch your video, you should get the most out of it! Incentives, direct links to your landing page, giveaways, presents, free courses, or simple direct message would be beneficial. 
  5. Try maximising the reach – engage with your audience, ask them for feedback, respond to all the comments and invoke a dialogue. Always try to have some budget for paid ads over social media outlets. 

“Coronarratives” – Messaging in the time of COVID-19

Whether you are a non-partisan activist, part of a local LGBTQ + movement, or simply a socially engaged individual, adjusting your communication to the COVID-19 is surely a challenge to you.

This is why we have compiled a few resources to help you prompt your own thinking, and make the right decisions about how you frame the COIV-19 crisis.

Anthony Torres focuses on the frame of interdependency: Our destinies are all intertwined and only by working together  can we overcome the crisis. This frame is very much inspired by the environmental narrative.

You can access Anthony’s messaging guidance HERE.

Anat Shenker-Osorio, communication expert, complements this frame with a more political frame that the stipulates that the fight against the virus must encompass fighting against those who send us misinformation, try to profit from the crisis and strive to maintain the status quo by bringing unrest, fueling deeply-rooted stereotypes and prejudices… 

You can access more of her work HERE.


The Opportunity Agenda, an inspiring social justice communication lab, has issued recently messaging resources on COVID-19.

The social justice narrative that they develop focuses on race-class disparities in infection, as social and economic statuses make some people more at risk than others.

COVID-19 related messaging resources from OA might be found HERE.




“A rational conversation without lecturing” – How Irish feminist activists repealed constitutional ban on abortion?

With the global strengthening of the far right and policies advocating patriarchal patterns, for the last ten years we have witnessed a time in which women’s rights have been first on the strike.
This is especially the case in the US, where states are practically or literally banning the abortion procedures.
But there are other positive examples testifying to the trend going in the opposite direction. A trend that ranged from outright ban to majority acceptance of abortion as a women’s right.
It’s Ireland. How has the public managed to make this shift in three decades?
Irish activists Alibha Smyth and Tara Flynn recently spoke about the experience at Brave New Words.

Let’s take a look at what it looked like thirty years ago. The Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution has banned abortion since 1983. The women married learning that the embryo was a human being and that protected sex is virtually a sin. This situation led women to secretly go to the UK to have abortions, and have been acquiring contraceptives illegally, via Internet.



In 2016, Irish government summoned the so-called civic assembly, consisting of 99 members from different social groups, for the purpose of reviewing existing abortion measures.
And brave activists advocating women and reproductive rights gathered around the slogan Together for yes!
The result of the referendum is known – in 2018, over two-thirds of voters repealed the amendment.

How is this success explained?
Interviewees began the answer with one simple sentence that actually drives the essence – We listened to the target group.
Activists went out among the people, asked them what they thought, if they had any knowledge of it. They communicated, debated, talked.
And, based on the dialogue conveyed, they realised that they did not want harsh messages. That in the thirty years that the amendment existed, there was no room to articulate nor debate such issues.
This is why activists have decided to frame the issue of abortion so that it is seen in the light of the everyday life and the regular problems that the average Irish woman faces.
It was rational conversation, no lecturing, no imposition.

Activists also estimated that the abortion campaign would be striking and rounded if there was a personal stamp.
And there was the courageous Tara Flynn who spoke publicly about her experience of illegal abortion in Britain. Because she is already a popular face and a prominent TV and radio presenter, she talked about her experience in a humorous and personal manner, without condemnation, presenting that reproductive rights do not exist because of the whim but that they are an urgent need of all women.

An interesting lesson, but also an important incentive for all the activists around the worlds thinking that attitudes seemingly remain carved in stone and things are hard to change
On the contrary, Ireland shows that attitudes can change upside-down!
In a community dominated by deeply-entrenched religious doctrines, change came with a message entailing dialogue and discussion, in a non-intrusive fashion.
It seems simple, but experience shows that openly confronting an opinion with a contrary opinion is a very demanding job!
But, after all, in the case of Ireland, we can conclude that it has produced remarkable results.

Story or Narrative: what’s the difference?

We know that the world views of everyone are shaped by what “narratives” are out there. But what does this mean? and how does STORY-telling come into the picture.

This easy set of definitions developed by the Narrative Initiative brings a useful clarification:

Narrative Concepts

These core concepts articulate the different levels at which we engage with narrative specifically in the context of social change. Each category has discrete functions, expressions, and modes of transmission.


Simply put: “In a story, something happens to someone or something. Typically, a story has a beginning, middle and end.”


Narratives permeate collections or systems of related stories. They have no standard structure, but instead are articulated and refined repeatedly as they are instantiated in a variety of stories and messages. (Toward New Gravity)

Deep Narrative

Deep narratives are characterized by pervasiveness and intractability. They provide a foundational framework for understanding both history and current events, and inform our basic concepts of identity, community and belonging. Just as narratives permeate collections of related stories, so too do deep narratives permeate collections of related narratives. In Toward New Gravity, we used the term meta-narrative. Over two years of dialogue with peers in the field, we’ve evolved to a preference for the term deep narrative. We see that deep narrative lends itself to more illustrative uses.

These foundational terms are interconnected and reinforce each other over time. We find the concepts much easier to hold onto through an example:

  • The movie Jaws is a story about an insatiable man-eating shark
  • All the stories about insatiable, man-eating sharks add up to a broader narrative of sharks being dangerous and predatory creatures
  • The narrative and stories about sharks rest on powerful deep narratives about the human relationship to nature and a fear of the unknown

So when we are telling our stories of LGBQI+ struggles and/or liberation, how much attention do we pay to broader narratives and, most importantly, to deep narratives?

Sometimes our stories reinforce deep narratives which are broadly unhelpful, like the idea that there are two genders only.

The “screening” for deep narratives should be an essential part of message development.

Getting Hope back into the picture

This paper appeared in Open Global Rights

Its authors advocate for a change in mindset of campaigners for Human Rights.

While some of their points are specific to “mainstream” Human Rights issues, that is issues with which a majority of people are theoretically OK but don’t actively support (like Freedom of Expression), some lessons hold true for campaigners for minority issues (i.e. issues that a majority of people does not support, like homosexuality in conservative countries)

Lesson 1

Talk about solutions, not problems. People want to be paired with positive stories and results, not stories of loosing victims. And by talking about problems, you reinforce their presence in people’s minds, making them sound more and more “natural”

Lesson 2

Talk about what you stand for, not what you oppose. People need a vision for the future. People need to see that we share a common vision. This is what will make them support your cause.

Lesson 3

Be part of the solution, not the problem: People need to see you as someone who brings an answer, not someone who brings trouble. It can be an answer to the conflicts they feel as several of their values are opposing each other. Or an answer to a grim society, etc.



Full article

For a human rights movement dedicated to exposing abuses, positive communication does not come naturally. But to make the case for human rights, we cannot rely on fear of a return to the dark past, we need to promise a brighter future.

Hope is a pragmatic strategy, informed by history, communications experts, organizers neuroscience and cognitive linguistics. It can be applied to any strategy or campaign. By grounding your communications from the values you stand for and a vision of the world you want to see, hope-based communications is an antidote to debates that seem constantly framed to favour your opponents, so that you can design actions that set the agenda rather than constantly reacting to external events.

A hope-based communications strategy involves making five basic shifts in the way we talk about human rights. This guide has been produced in collaboration with Thomas Coombes (@T_Coombes) to help you apply to any aspect of your daily work.

Shift 1: Talk about solutions, not problems

While the human rights movement will always have to expose abuses, we also need to show how to fix them. Positive communications are about talking about what we want to see, not just what other people are doing. It is much harder for leaders to excuse not tackling problems than it is to justify failing to implement solutions.

The danger of focusing all our attention on the worst crises is that people become inured to it. When we focus on the problem, we reinforce it in the mind of our audience. Or as George Lakoff wrote, “People tend to adapt to a new state and take it as a new reference point.”

The sense of a world in crisis pushes people into the hands of populists who offer them security, and a return to some imagined idealised past.

Caption: In India, the BJP’s 2014 Achche din election campaign promised that “Good Days are Coming”. If populist leaders are able to promise a happy future, why can’t human rights groups?

We need to convince people that another world is possible. Visionary ideas change the world, and people who put them forward set the agenda instead of being on the defensive. Campaigning against austerity measures, for example, are unlikely to make decision-makers act differently unless they make the case for a viable alternative, be it greater public investment or thought-provoking initiatives like Universal Basic Income.

The environmental movement made this shift when it realized that stories of impending doom created despondency instead of urgency. The LGBT movement shifted from campaigns against discrimination to shared values by focusing on one of many possible policy solutions: equal marriage, a call rooted in love and compassion that everyone could relate to. If we want something to change, we need to stop just saying “no” to the problem, but give governments something to say “yes” to, by putting forward bold policies: smart human rights solutions that trigger debate, and showing what the desired transformation will achieve. Even in the darkest crisis, we can always focus on the first step towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Shift 2. Highlight what we stand for, not what we oppose

The human rights movement should show how human rights is a practical application of universal shared values like compassion, solidarity and dignity, rather than defining rights by the absence of their violations (“a world without torture”, “protection from harm”).

The movement’s favourite expression today is “not a crime”. Journalism is not a crime. Refugees are not criminals. This fuses together the concepts of criminality and human rights in the minds of our audience, invites a debate about whether or not journalists are criminals. It’s no surprise, then, that surveys constantly show people think human rights protect criminals (nearly four in ten globally, according to a 2018 IPSOS survey). But worse still, it misses the chance to tell our audience what journalism brings to our society and propose measures to give us more of it.

Human rights advocates tend to do this because we believe that raising awareness is enough, that if we just let people know that journalists are being treated like criminals, we will trigger outrage and shame. Instead of name and shame, we need to name and frame. We need to call for what we want to see and spell out the shared values at stake.

Talk about the policy you want, explain how the government could do it, and explain what values it would be living by if it implemented them. Tell stories that build up our way of seeing the world without necessarily directly dealing with the issues we work on every time.

When human rights organizations talk about values, they tend to find justification for human rights in national values. But to find things that unite people around the cause of human rights, we should look beyond narrow national frames. Most “tribes” are “imagined communities” that require a common enemy to exist, something today’s populists are adept at exploiting. Human rights, as opposed to rights that accrue to national citizenship, require that people feel like they belong to a common human family. That cannot be constructed with any common enemy. We need frames that focus on the things that unite human beings, not those that keep us apart.

In new human rights messaging guidance, Anat Shenker-Osorio warns that “Evoking national identity brings ‘us/them’ top of mind and makes respondents less receptive to others’ rights”. Instead of saying “As Indians/Europeans/Christians, we believe in treating each other fairly”, Anat invites us to say “as caring people”. This bigger “we” cultivates a sense of belonging to a different, more universal identity: our common humanity.

If the human rights movement were to stop speaking within the frames of our opponents (security, the economy or other, national interests), what narrative would we shift to? What is the ideal human rights frame?

The human rights movement needs a new narrative. Today we operate in issue silos, tackling each right one by one on the merits specific to that case. As a result, wider audiences understand human rights as something that protects us, that we are “entitled to”, rather than something we can all use to make things better.

We tend to visualise what we are against, not what we are for: hands grasping bars illustrate injustice, but what does justice look like?

We should instead talk about a common, universal world view, a society where people take care of each other. A common world view that we can strengthen in the minds of the public day by day, story by story, tweet by tweet.

If we do not make the case for the world we want to see, who will?


Shift 3. Create opportunities, drop threats

When we talk about solutions, we give people an opportunity to be part of making things better, instead of using threats or guilt to make them act.

We need to reflect on the experience of being part of the human rights movement. We want to build, we want to take society on a journey to a better place, but when we talk we lean heavily on the language of conflict, which is divisive. Do we want people to think of us as fighters, radical and divided, defending the interests of the few, or builders, constructing something for all?

When we talk about human rights as protection from harm, our implicit message is based on fear and self-interest. These could be your rights. Imagine if your rights were taken away. One day it could be you.

But there is another way. We can appeal to the better angles of our nature. Human rights can connect people in solidarity. It can offer a chance to act on the human desire to be a good person, do the right thing, and help other people.

Successful movements are propelled forward by enthusiasm and passion. While Donald Trump united his base with the simple red baseball cap, ordinary people demanding women’s rights queued for hours to buy “Together for Yes” buttons in Ireland and thronged the streets wearing green scarves in Argentina. Symbols of belonging are not just about fundraising or powerful images, they create a shared sense of belonging that elevates a cause to something historical, momentous and inevitable.

But we cannot generate lasting passion and enthusiasm that pressures leaders purely through outrage and disgust: we must celebrate what we stand for. Joyful, inspiring content like Planned Parenthood’s Unstoppable campaign serves not just to inspire, it creates political momentum:

For people to hear our messages they need to see us as unifiers, people who build constructive solutions, people who will take them on a journey instead of fighters. We also need them to feel like they live in a less polarised culture, by contributing to a popular mood of togetherness and community—the ideal breeding ground for human rights friendly policies.

Indeed, more and more research points to the fact that fear and pessimism triggers conservative and suspicious views, while, hope and optimism tend to more liberal views. New research from Hope not Hate, for example, says:

“Where people are more likely to feel in control of their own lives, they are more likely to show resistance to hostile narratives, and are more likely to share a positive vision of diversity and multiculturalism.”

In Hidden Tribes, a 2018 report from More in Common, insists that the media landscape accentuates the conflicts but downplays the solidarity in our society. It advises us to find common ground to counteract the divisions magnified on our screens with stories of human contact and respectful engagement that “spotlight the extraordinary ways in which [people] in local communities build bridges and not walls, every day.”

Shift 4. Emphasize support for heroes, not pity for victims

Instead of inducing pity for victims, offer people an opportunity to side with heroes, and be a part of making change happen. Show them ordinary people who show extraordinary perseverance, determination and courage. Help your audience make connection to individuals, not groups, by highlighting the little details that  everyone can relate to.

If we want people to be compassionate, show them other people being compassionate. Presenting people in a way that induces fear, pity and anger may also inadvertently contribute to dehumanisation. If a politician calls a group of people animals, do pictures of those people in cages reinforce that metaphor? Faced with dehumanizing politics, human rights must do everything it can to re-humanize people.

A focus on re-humanizing people as an end in it itself opens up a whole new avenue of potential strategic operation for human rights campaigns, in which organizations pursue attitudinal change that would make possible a raft of policy improvements. We can focus on telling positive stories that will change attitudes towards the people we are trying to help.

More in Common research in Italy identifies not only fear of migrants but also a sense of solidarity and a disgust with racism, arguing for the need to strengthen values of hospitality and empathy, demonstrating “the real-world integration stories of migrants into Italian cultural life—in areas such as language, sport, food, community activities and entertainment.”

These kind of insights can be the basis for targeted content that tells humanising stories to specific audiences based on their values and interests, like the Swiss NGO that served up YouTube ads introducing refugees to people before they could watch racist videos.

Much of our audience has in-built stereotypes about “other” people, that sometimes will not be changed by hearing their story. But, as the HeartWired guide for change-makers written by communication strategists Amy Simon and Robert Perez notes, we can open them up to change by showing them someone like them engaging with the “other” and changing their mind.

The HeartWired approach’s focus on changing mindsets offers a new long-term strategic goal for human rights communicators – focus on campaigns that bring about long-term shifts in attitude towards other groups of people.

People who change their minds and decide to help are also heroes, as in this powerful for add for marriage equality in Ireland where the heroes are traditional parents supporting their children.

These are also stories of a changing society, stories that show how change happens, and offer a glimpse of the world we want to see.

Practically, this means creating social media moments based on interactions between people, that organizations can package as b-roll and images and send to digital news organizations like AJ+ and NowThis News, changing the narrative from “us vs them” to one of humanity. A Danish travel agent used DNA to show a group of people how much they had in common, Heineken asked people who were very different to build a bar together, and Amnesty International Poland asked refugees and Europeans to look in each other’s eyes for four minutes.

We are in a world where the majority of people want to do the right thing. But crisis and conflict-driven media narratives paint a different picture. We need to tell stories that reinforce the human rights worldview—where people take care of each other, and stand up for the rights of people far away just because they are all human.

Above all, we need to tell stories of humanity and compassion, thus reinforcing the idea that human rights are about people standing up for each other. We need stories that put the human in human rights.

Shift 5: Show that “we got this”! 

Political strategist Mark McKinnon says all campaigns are either a narrative of hope, fear, threat or opportunity. How do we talk about hope and opportunity when human rights defenders are under attack and we need to defend ourselves, to fight back?

We need to stop talking about human rights under attack. That makes us seem like a losing cause and who wants to get on a train going in the wrong direction?

You light a candle when its dark, and you need human rights most when they are absent. Human rights defenders have “long been on the front line”, but frames of crisis and peril can inadvertently harm perceptions of the movement’s effectiveness, as Kathryn Sikkinkrecently argued.

People want to be part of something successful. Amnesty International France are running a “Thrill of Victory” campaign to associate the words “Human Rights” with “victory” instead of “problem” or “violation”.

In her pioneering study of human rights language, Anat Shenker Osorio urges the movement to display a quiet confidence:

“Where white nationalism offers an explanation and antidote for what feels like the world spinning out of control, human rights often provide a storyline that cements the feeling of unrelenting and accelerating change. Although the human rights paradigm is, by many measures, about order and known outcomes, the sense that “we got this” or there could be some steady, reliable, normalcy rarely comes from human rights.”

To show that “we got this”, we need to show more human rights in action. What does it really mean to do human rights and what does this look like? What is the picture we want people to have in their head when they think of human rights, human rights defenders and human rights activism? For some, this might mean holding protests, calling up politicians and writing letters to political prisoners for others it could be people coming together at community events or cultural moments.

Whatever they are, the activities the human rights movement undertakes need to tell a story of change, and show that human rights are not just a thing that we are born with or passively receive from governments, but something we do: a tool for making our societies better or a way of living together. Describing human rights as actions helps indicate that we must constantly make choices to cultivate and grow them.

Moreover, we need to change the expectations and associations with the very words “human rights”, explaining them as a metaphorical “tool” that we put in the hands of ordinary people to make change. Anat Shenker-Osorio’s research provides several avenues for further testing: Is human rights a shield or insurance policy that protects people from harm, a map or compass that points us in the right direction, or string or glue that binds us together in our common humanity? This way of thinking about human rights can not only inform our messaging, it can revolutionise the way we human rights and other organizations carry out their mission.

There is hope for human rights. People share our values and they want to do what is right. We just have to get better at activating those values, and talking to people about them.

These shifts will feel unnatural to many in the human rights movement. But the evidence shows they are the path to victory. And human rights is too important not to do whatever it takes to win.