Innovation Studio: Genesis Dávila and Prudence Nyamishana

post-it notes on white board
Photo by Patrick Perkins

Recently the Innovation Initiative at Civil Rights Defenders conducted an Innovation Studio. The Innovation Initiative develops solutions to protect civil and political rights, with a particular focus on leveraging digital possibilities. Our goal is to increase the security and impact of the human rights defenders we work with. We call this approach defender-centric. To this end, we routinely conduct Innovation Studios, which bring together human rights defenders and experts to brainstorm solutions to pressing human rights concerns.

Each studio tackles a clearly defined set of issues raised by our featured human rights defenders. We invite the experts with relevant experience and expertise, to give input on the issues raised and empower our partner human rights defenders to engage with their work in a fresh new way. This time around we invited Genesis Dávila and Prudence Nyamishana to participate and brainstorm with us.

Human Rights Defender from Venezuela
Génisis Dávila. Photo: David Lagerlöf

Genesis serves as Director and Founder of Defiende Venezuela, an organisation that promotes and defends human rights in Venezuela by processing cases and raising awareness of the Inter-American Human Rights System and how to effectively request international protection when the national mechanisms fail. Today, mass demonstrations in Venezuela can no longer take place, but violations against the people’s rights continue in the form of arbitrary detentions and political harassment against government opponents and activists.

Prudence Nyamishana
Prudence Nyamishana

Prudence Nyamishana Prudence is a blogger and communications specialist that serves as Head of Strategy at Kweeta. She has been an author at Global Voices since 2013 and done consultancy work for UN Women. Kweeta is an organisation of writers, campaigners and communications strategists that specialises in the areas of and intersections between media and development, peace and conflict, social justice, governance and accountability, women’s rights, health rights, migration and climate change.

Like the others, this Innovation Studio featured not only our dear human rights defenders, but also a range of experts from different sectors who contributed to the brainstorming with their wealth of varied experiences and expertise. During the Innovation Studios, we divide the experts into groups and they brainstorm together with our human rights defenders — problem owner — who makes sure the ideas are relevant to their issue and context. This way we ensure that our sessions are tailored specifically to the real-world problems that are facing them.

This Innovation Studio had its focus on four different defender-centric issues, two of which we’ll share more of below:

1) How can we incentivise more people to become content creators (and create more socially conscious content)?

For many organisations operating in hazardous environments, the community of friendly/interested actors is limited. Of those limited actors, even fewer are skilled in the digital distribution of information and content creation. This question specifically addressed this issue. How do we encourage people to support human rights when they might not know how to create and distribute compact digital messages?

The experts shared many exciting ideas, and after much consideration, Prudence decided to pursue a solution involving a capacity building programme. The demographic structure and unemployment rate in Uganda means that she wants to focus on youth up to 30 years of age, and offer them training on for example animation, video editing, infographics and similar. This is an exciting potential solution that Civil Rights Defenders will try to assist Prudence in making happen.

2) ​We have no communication staff and almost no resources, how could we mount a successful communication campaign?

Unfortunately, the situation described by this question is common for human rights defenders in our partner network. Resources are scarce and priorities have to be made. Often, our partners are faced with the daily question of wondering how to operate in a sustainable way while also informing their public about rights related struggles and the organisation’s victories. Sometimes, it is a question of either-or. When faced with that question, communications staff, and all other “non-essential” operations generally get sacrificed. This sacrifice means crippling the organisations capacity to project its mission and success. How could an organisation face these constraints and yet still operation with impact?

post-it notes on white board
Photo by Patrick Perkins

Civil Rights Defenders is dedicated to conducting innovation in a way that is defender-centric, and the Innovation Studio format functions well, putting human rights defenders issues at the centre of attention. The next few months will determine how the proposed solutions take form. It will be exciting to see how we can work with Genesis and Prudence to improve their security and impact. We are proud of our cooperation with human rights defenders, particularly when they are as dedicated and inspiring as Genesis and Prudence.