Equally Ours is launched…and the work begins

“We need a beacon that humanises human rights, inspiring everyone to realise they benefit all of us here in the UK, every day, in very practical ways; that they are an important part of our shared heritage, helping to make equality, dignity and respect real for everyone.”

This is how Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, launched Equally Ours yesterday. As a partner and member of our steering group, we asked Paul to share why human rights are so important to the work he is doing.

“Human rights bring to life values most of us share – like respect for the law, treating people with dignity, respecting each other’s freedom and treating people fairly and equally.

A human rights thread runs through Mind’s work. They are central to our mission to achieve better mental health for all and are regularly used by people with mental health problems and their advocates to protect people from abuse and discrimination, to offset the coercive powers of the mental health system and to ensure people are treated fairly, positively and with respect. Thankfully most of us never have to worry about our human rights. But too many of us still experience indignity, injustice, unfair and unequal treatment, attacks on our freedom and more.”

More than 100 campaigners and communicators from large charities to small pressure groups joined us yesterday at the fantastic Coin St Neighbourhood Centre to hear about how Equally Ours partners have come together to work out how we develop a more positive conversation about human rights and share the stories which are not being told or heard at the moment.

Bobby Duffy, Managing Director of Ipsos MORI Social Research Institute opened the session with an exploration of how their Generations Project has found that different generations seem to have different values. When it comes to equality, social justice and rights issues, although there is only limited data, differences in values seem to be reflected in differences between generations on questions around welfare, homosexuality, gender roles and immigration.

The Opportunity Agenda have a bold mission – to build national will to expand opportunity in America. They are reframing some of the biggest debates in the US; criminal justice, healthcare, immigration. It was inspiring to watch a special video message from Alan Jenkins and Julie Fisher-Rowe about how they’ve done it.

For campaigners, understanding the impact what we’re saying has on our target audience is crucial. Richard Hawkins from Common Cause condensed a whole day session on values mapping and framing into an intense hour. Social psychologists have mapped the values which underpin how most of us will respond to a situation or argument. Knowing what these values are, and triggering values which support, rather than undermine, our aims, is the goal of communicators. That feeling you get when your brain is full of fascinating stuff came over most of us by the end of the session. Leading with values and framing what we’re saying in a way which creates lasting social change is as complex as it is vital. We could have discussed it for days, but time was marching on. A coffee and a sticky bun were needed.

Putting some of the things we’d learned into practice was the focus for the workshops. Revived, and with a sugar high to spur us on, we were challenged to identify the frames and values contained within a recent media report on a human rights issue. Some of the best campaigners in the country then put their heads together to come up with a values-based statement to respond to the story. One participant described the session as ‘transformational’, another dreamed of a group like this to be there the next time he was constructing a press release. From disability to gender identity, racism to social security, the workshop groups developed compelling and positive messages, in a human rights frame, which could change the way we talk about these issues.

And then came the dragons.

Richard Hawkins, Fiona Bawdon, Natasha Walter and Alana Avery became (frankly, very friendly) dragons for 30 minutes, hearing the statements which had been re-written and choosing a winning team. Gender identity won the day but, in the tradition of a school sports day, there were no losers. The speed in which we were all talking in the language of values and rights was fantastic to observe.

Paul Farmer said it all “As organisations working with people whose human rights are too often at risk, we want to help people understand how the human rights safety net can protect them. This can help more people understand and feel confident about challenging abuses when they happen. It can also help prevent abuses happening in the first place.

We need to facilitate that kind of conversation on a national scale and reframe the narrative. The way to achieve this is through a values-based approach to communicating about human rights. Mind supports Equally Ours because this is exactly what the campaign aims to do.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Rachel Krys, Head of Media & Communications