With activists under threat, are you ready to stand up and help them?

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Rhize’s new report Understanding Activism analyzes the realities of activists in order to inform how allies can better support nonviolent social movements. Download the report.

about the report

Activists are struggling for open, democratic societies across the globe with access to few resources and little support. The concentration of existing support often comes from external actors—foreign governments, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, and private individuals—yet there has been insufficient research on how activists experience this support, until now. Understanding Activism breaks new ground by combining first-person accounts from activists with quantitative data across closed, semi-closed, and closing societies in order to understand the current support available to activists in contrast with what activists actually want.

Understanding Activism provides critical insights into practices that can be adopted across civil society to ensure more effective support to nonviolent movements at the forefront of securing inclusive, participatory democracies.

The research centered on three key questions:

  1. What type of support do activists receive?

  2. Which types of support are helpful or harmful?

  3. What types of support do activists really want?

What did we learn?

  1. Activism is under threat, with conditions worsening for activists across almost all activities.
  2. External actors differ the type and impact of support based on if the recipient is an organization or an individual
  3. Experiences of support varied widely, meaning support is not consistently delivered with a positive impact.
  4. External actors has clear strengths, and weaknesses, when it comes to supporting activists.
  5. Activists have clear needs: they want closer collaboration, security support, amnesty or safe passage and media coverage.

So what?

With activism under threat, grassroots leaders need strategic support now more than ever. However, as our data suggests, the current ways outside actors support activists leaves a lot to be desired, and can be detrimental to the very activists they intend to support. With this data and subsequent recommendations, we can rethink what it means to support activists and more effectively channel resources to what activists want.

Recommendations for external actors:

  1. Redefine relationships between outside actors and activists;

  2. Improve approaches to safety and security;

  3. Prioritize training, collaboration and connection among and between activist networks; and

  4. Tailor collaboration and support with activists’ needs at the center.

Learn to put these recommendations into action with Rhize's online course Movement Building for Social Change Professionals. Read more about the course and register.

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