This program provides Advocates the opportunity to learn from expert practitioners through a variety of skills-building workshops and trainings. The skills-building component varies slightly each year according to the Advocates’ interests, but generally includes the following activities.
Fundraising and Building Sustainable Organizations
This workshop guides Advocates through the cultivation cycle of major-gift donors to ensure that fundraising efforts are strategic, streamlined, and effective. Advocates identify new funders, write and critique one another’s letters of inquiry and proposals, strengthen their communication skills with prospective donors, and submit proposals to foundations. Workshop sessions also focus on long-term planning, preparing strategic business plans, and other lessons that help Advocates improve the long-term sustainability of their organizations. The course includes both individual and group meetings and is designed to be hands-on and practically oriented in order to yield tangible results.
“Learning how to use contacts and plan effective fundraising was totally new to me until I began the Program… As a result, I subsequently raised $[…] to enhance improved political dialogue and social communication.”
– Balazs Jarabik, Slovakia, 2000 HRAP Advocate
Human Rights Research, Documentation, and Reporting
Human Rights Watch senior researchers offer a six-week course on human rights research, documentation, and writing. The course includes the following topics: the conceptualization of research projects, interviewing victims and witnesses, interviewing perpetrators and accomplices, and writing. The course is modified each year to meet the specific needs and interests of the Advocates.
This training, taught by the Director of Organizing for Amnesty International, focuses on strategies for mobilizing effective campaigns. Through discussions and role-playing, Advocates learn more about outreach, domestic and international coalition building, organizing a campaign with a limited budget, and advocacy strategies.
2010 Advocates learned how to create effective campaigns at a workshop at AI-USA. Photo by Alan Orling.
During this workshop, Advocates work on their presentation and public-speaking skills. As part of this training, Advocates give brief presentations and receive in-depth feedback.
“I enjoyed all of the workshops. The stress management workshop came at the time I was really stressed and I needed a break. This workshop is not only valuable to human rights advocates but also to those of us in leadership roles. I think this is something I will be able to share with my staff and other people in communities that I serve.”
– Peter Mulbah, 2008 HRAP Advocate
Advocates participate in a workshop that provides concrete skills in recognizing signs of stress, primary and secondary trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder within themselves, colleagues, and the communities they serve. The workshop also provides Advocates with the opportunity to share their own experiences, learn ways to promote healthy work patterns for themselves and their colleagues, and effectively promote high staff morale.
Human Rights Advocacy
This course is designed to develop practical advocacy skills. Advocates become familiar with a variety of tools that they can apply to their respective human rights campaigns. The focus is on developing an advocacy strategy on a current human rights issue, including the identification of goals and objectives and appropriate advocacy targets and methods. Advocates also have the opportunity to explore broad-based human rights campaigns, use of the media, and advocacy with UN bodies, the US government, and the private sector.
HRAP participation involves networking with leaders of multilateral organizations
Advocates receive video advocacy training offered by WITNESS, a well-established NGO based in New York that uses video and online technologies to raise awareness with respect to human rights violations. They learn how video can play a vital role in advocacy campaigns without great expense or the involvement of video professionals.
Advocates participate in a workshop on press and media work, through which they learn to develop press releases and cultivate media contacts. A key part of the training focuses on improving Advocates’ television interviewing skills through videotaped mock interviews and feedback sessions.
Coursework in Human Rights
Through academic coursework, Advocates gain a deeper understanding of human rights and other fields that relate directly to their work. Participation in these courses exposes Advocates to alternative perspectives and gives them a more holistic understanding of human rights.
“What I appreciate the most…[is how] the Program…facilitate[s] people from different “Global South” countries to meet in a neutral place where they can share openly their own experiences and learn from international institutions and the famous Columbia University.”
– Hubert Masoka Tshiswaka, Democratic Republic of Congo, 2005 HRAP Advocate
Specialized Graduate Courses
Advocates two additional Columbia University seminars, tailoring the academic component of the Program to their interests. Advocates can participate in classes across the University, including at the School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia Law School, Columbia Business School, the Mailman School of Public Health, and Teachers College.
English Language Course
This course is optional, but offered to Advocates who believe they could benefit from further instruction in the English language. The course runs for a full semester and is taught at Teachers College.
Advocacy networking allows Advocates to develop a range of contacts and foster relationships with relevant US-based organizations. These networking opportunities often lead to cross-regional collaboration and joint action.
“Networking opportunities provided by HRAP through meetings (formal and informal) with similar issue based groups and networks, have presented opportunities for us to share contextual information on the situation in our respective countries and get valuable information to improve international networking and advocacy on issues which have international implications on the work I do.”
– Agnes Sia Tamba, Sierra Leone, 2006 HRAP Advocate
Advocates meet with a wide range of New York organizations that are actively involved in the Advocates’ issue areas of focus. Advocates learn more about various advocacy campaigns and strategies and develop a broad set of contacts. Advocates also share their grassroots perspective and knowledge.
HRAP also identifies and reaches out to US-based organizations whose work is particularly relevant to individual Advocates. Meetings with such organizations often lead to long-term collaborative relationships in the form of joint projects, information-sharing, funding, and the sponsorship of fellows or interns.
Washington DC Meetings
Advocates also participate in an intensive networking and advocacy trip to Washington DC to meet with relevant organizations, government agencies, and foundations. This trip includes both group and individual meetings. HRAP staff work closely with the Advocates in order to tailor their individual schedules to their specific needs and interests. Prior to the trip, Advocates also receive advice and feedback on their advocacy and fundraising strategies. Each year, this trip significantly contributes to the Advocates’ overall networking and fundraising success.
Linking with Scholars
Refik Hodzic of ICTJ discussed his experience with designing and implementing outreach programs for transitional justice
HRAP works to foster mentorship relationships by reaching out to professors who focus on issues that are particularly relevant to the Advocates’ work. Through courses and meetings, Advocates develop a deeper understanding of human rights and related fields while scholars are informed by the frontline experiences of activists. In addition, professors often invite Advocates to work on joint projects or assist in the teaching of human rights courses.
Advocates take advantage of public-speaking opportunities at universities, community groups, and other public fora in order to raise greater awareness and take advantage of fundraising opportunities.
The New York-based residency and the advocacy trip to Washington DC enable Advocates to lobby policymakers. Advocates often meet with representatives from the United Nations, US government, World Bank, and others in order to advocate on behalf of their own organizations and communities and press for changes in law and practice.
During as well as after the four-month program, HRAP supports the work of its Advocates and facilitates collaboration among program alumni. HRAP works to promote ongoing exchange of information and best practices, stimulate dialogue on human rights trends and policies, cultivate networks, and encourage mutual support initiatives.
Support and Collaboration
“I have specially enjoyed meeting the other Advocates and getting to know them—sharing our experiences and learning from them. We have created bonds that will last a lifetime.”
– Carolina Delgado, USA, 2008 HRAP Advocate
HRAP alumni can serve as invaluable resources for one another as they continue to excel in their respective fields. In order to facilitate and support networking among past and present HRAP Advocates, ISHR created a Group for HRAP on LinkedIn. Through the group, Advocates can exchange ideas and insights, collaborate on new initiatives, and provide updates on their work and activities since their participation in HRAP.