A strategy Hope-Based Communication

In a human rights movement dedicated to reporting abuse, positive communication does not come easily. But to claim human rights, we cannot depend on the fear of returning to a dark past, we have to promise a brighter future.

Hope is a pragmatic strategy, informed by history, communication experts?

organizers, neuroscience, and cognitive linguistics. It can be applied to each

the strategy of the campaign. By basing your messages on the values, ​​you defend

and the vision of the world that you want to realize, communication-based on

hope is an antidote to debates that always seem to have a frame that favors

your opponent’s so that you can design actions to set the agenda instead of

constantly reacting to external events.

A hope-based communication strategy involves making five basic changes to the way

we talk about human rights.

Talk about solutions, not problems. 

Human Base-Communication
A strategy Hope-Based Communication

Although the human rights movement will always have to report abuses, we also have to

show how to solve them. Positive communication is about talking about what we

want to see, and not just what other people are doing. For leaders, it is much

more difficult to justify not addressing problems than not implementing


The danger of focusing all our attention on the most serious crises is that people

get used to it. When we focus on the problem, we reinforce it in the minds of

our audience. We need to convince people that a different world is possible.

Visionary ideas change the world and the people who propose them set the agenda

rather than being defensive. For example, campaigns against austerity measures

are unlikely to get policymakers to change the way they act unless they

advocate for a viable alternative, be it increased public investment or

thought-provoking initiatives such as the Universal Basic Income.

The environmental movement made this change when it realized that stories of

impending tragedy generated discouragement rather than urgency. The LGBT

the movement moved from anti-discrimination campaigns to shared values ​​by focusing

on one of many possible political solutions: equal marriage, a call rooted in

love and compassion that everyone could relate to. If we want something to

change, it is not enough to say “no” to the problem; instead, we must give

governments something to say “yes” to by proposing bold policies, smart human

rights solutions that spark debate, and showing what the desired transformation

will achieve. Indeed, in the darkest crisis, we can always target the first

the step towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

Highlight what we support, not what we oppose.

The human rights movement must show that human rights are a practical application

of shared universal values ​​such as compassion, solidarity, and dignity,

instead of defining rights based on the absence of their violations (“a world

without torture”, “Protection against damage”).

The movement’s favorite expression today is “not a crime.” Journalism is

not a crime. Refugees are not criminals. This fuses the concepts of crime and

human rights in the minds of our audience, inviting a debate on whether

journalists are criminals or not. Human rights defenders generally do this

because we believe that it is enough to raise awareness, that just by telling

people that journalists are being treated as criminals, we will provoke outrage

and shame. Instead of denouncing and shaming, we need to name and frame. We

have to ask what we want to see and explain in detail the shared values ​​that

are at stake.

Talk about the policies you want, explain how the government could achieve them, and

explain what values ​​it would be adhering to if it implemented them. Tell

stories that strengthen our way of seeing the world without having to speak

directly about the issues we work with at all times.  

When human rights organizations speak of values, they tend to justify human rights

based on national values. Simply to discover things that unite people around the cause

of human rights, we must look beyond narrow national frameworks. If in the

human rights movement we stopped speaking within the frameworks used by our

opponents (security, economy, or other national interests), what narrative

would we switch to? What is the ideal framework for human rights?

The human rights movement needs a new narrative. Today we work in isolated thematic

compartments, addressing the rights one by one depending on the specific

background of each case. Consequently, wider audiences understand human rights

as something that protects us, to which we are “entitled”, rather than

something that we can all use to make things better. We tend to visualize what

we are against, not in favor: hands holding bars illustrate injustice, but what

does justice look like?

Instead, we must talk about a common and universal worldview, a society in which people

take care of each other. A common vision of the world that we can strengthen in

the minds of the public day by day, from story to story, from tweet to tweet.

Create Opportunities, Drop Threats.

When we talk about solutions, we give people the opportunity to contribute to making things better, rather than using blame or threats to get them to act.

We want to display the knowledge of being part of the human rights movement. When we speak of human rights as a protection against harm, our implicit message is based on fear and self-interest. These could be your rights. Imagine being stripped of your rights. One day it could happen to you.

But there is an alternative. We can address the best aspects of our nature. Human rights can unite people in solidarity. They can offer the opportunity to put into practice the human desire to be a good person, to do the right thing, and to help others.

For somebody to hear our messages, they need to see us as unifiers, as people who create constructive solutions, as people who will embark them on a journey, rather than as fighters. We also need them to feel that they live in a less polarized culture, contributing to a popular sense of unity and community – the ideal breeding ground for pro-human rights policies.

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