As facilitators of collaborative design workshops, we partnered with the Open Society Foundations to think critically about human rights work.


Since March 2016, the Human Rights Lab and OSF have been holding a series of regional workshops to think about the critiques and future of the human rights movement.

The workshops have been held in Rio (March 2016), Budapest (June 2016), Nairobi (September, 2016), and Bangkok (October, 2016). They have brought together human rights lawyers, activists, and practitioners.

The purpose of the workshop series is to understand the most prevalent critiques of the human rights movement and identify areas where we should rethink critically and creatively our approach to advocacy.

Is there a crisis? And if so, how is it framed, experienced, and countered?

Each of the workshops is intended to facilitate the production of critical and innovative ideas, responses, and challenges in a regionally specific and relevant way.



The workshop combines diagnosis and prognosis, to reflect on the status quo of the field and brainstorm about future trajectories.

Each workshop was organized around two key background papers.

Both papers  take stock of the existing critiques and question the underlying assumptions and methodological choices of these criticisms.

Participants break down a generic challenge into an actionable sub-problem, identify potential allies and stakeholders, and brainstorm concrete actions to address the problem.



Throughout all four workshops, participants identified several opportunities for action.


They discussed various ideas for forging and deepening new and more strategically defined alliances. Learning from other groups and movements can also strengthen human rights work. 

There was also discussion of the need to improve existing tools and acquire new ones. New forms of communications could help translate core human rights values to broader audiences.



Participants identified the importance of long term strategies to address discourse and cultural shifts challenging the fulfillment and narrative of human rights at the global level. 

In all workshops, participants identified the importance of new funding models since current ones are being used to weaken and delegitimize human rights organizations.