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This blog was originally published as part of the Social Rights Alliance’s work. Set up in 2019 by Just Fair and funded by the Tudor Trust, the Alliance aimed to empower rights-holders to claim their rights. The Alliance’s work is now part of Just Fair’s broader mission to build a movement of people claiming their economic, social and cultural rights.

After 6 months of working in “Zoomland” the Social Rights Alliance’s Community Researchers finally got to meet in person! Gathering at ATD Fourth World’s base in London for the day, we worked with film maker Cam Nicoll to gather our journeys and learning from the project. We shared lunch, a few cakes, laughter and a lot of conversation. It was intense!

5 people sat around a large table with a board game matt in the centre and various cards in front of each person. Bowls of fruit, cake and cups of tea are also on the table

Claiming the Rights to talk about Rights

Using template pieces developed by the Community Researchers and Dan Farley, over the last few months, activists from ATD joined us to play our “board game”. The game hopes to be a tool for community groups and activists to “Claim the Right to talk about Rights”. Through developing characters who then experience events in life, the process allows “players” to identify how Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR)are impacted differently, who the Duty Bearers are in different scenarios, and what actions need to be taken by Duty Bearers to ensure people’s rights can be fulfilled. Initial feedback was positive, though the question remains, is it really a “game”? Is it something that can be “won”?

An A3 page with smaller cards with handwriting on in the middle. Different cards are labelled Character, Bureaucracy, Circumstance, Article, Rights Bearer, Action Cards

The board “game” – a work in progress

There is a more work to do – maybe even another Action Research project to develop this game/activity with a wider group of activists. Can we make this an open source resource that groups can access and then make their own? Can we use it to educate local authorities about the impact of their decisions on people’s access to rights? Can we take this to our own communities to develop our own campaigns for action? Can we use this a tool to help others Claim the Right to talk about Rights?

Returning to our original research question “Do Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) and a Human Rights Based Approach (HRBA) add value to our campaigning and projects?” we reflected on key words and themes that have arisen over the 6 months. Space, Voice, Moral Code, Play, Resilience, Fairness, Communication and many more.

Five A4 sheets on the floor, labelled Participation, Legality, Non-Discrimination, Accountability, Empowerment. Around these are multiple post it notes with key words such as Power, Courage, Space, Access written on them

Conversation took us through the principles of Participation, Accountability, Non-discrimination, Empowerment and Legality. A number of questions about these principles arose:

  • Who decides who needs Empowering? Who’s to say we are not Empowered or if it’s just the system doesn’t allow our Power to be recognised? If a project Empowers someone does that means it can also Disempower when it’s taken away?

  • Whose Participation is valued/allowed? Is Lived Experience just being rolled out to tick a box? How can it be genuine Participation without the transference of Power?

  • Is Legality the limit of Human Rights organisations and their work? Who gets to decide what is Legal, and who isn’t involved in that process? If we are limited to the Law, are we able to fulfil our needs and wants as marginalised communities?

Feeling that the principles are limited – not speaking to the love, trust or humanness that the group have come to so value, the group took the opportunity to throw out the HRBA principles as presently prescribed.

With fear of a new acronym being developed, the Community Researchers will be sharing their own Manifesto for a Human Rights Based Approach to Action in the coming weeks.

Watch this space!

The Community Researchers are made up of activists from Intisaar, Difference NE, Sheppey is Ours! and The Annexe and facilitated by the Social Rights Alliance.