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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.

By Martin Connelly, Nic Cook, Hinda Mohamed and Kayleigh Rousell, with Helen Flynn, Susanna Hunter-Darch and Emma Lough.

From September 2021 to February 2022, four community activists from Difference NE, Intisaar, The Annexe at The Wharton Trust and Sheppey is Ours! joined the Social Rights Alliance’s first ever Community Researchers project to use action research to explore what economic, social and cultural rights mean in their communities, and how a Human Rights-Based Approach can add value to their activism.

Anyone who has done work around taking a Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) is probably very familiar with the PANEL principles (other acronyms are available!). For lots of us, they’re a useful framework for looking at and thinking about the different elements that an HRBA entails. During the past six months we have been using them in our work with Community Researchers as a framework for our process.

On 22 February 2022 the Community Researchers gathered in London, meeting in person for the first time, and reflected on their learning. So after six months, what did they feel about the PANEL approach to human rights?

In our report, we’ve shared some of these reflections, perhaps summed up succinctly by one Community Researcher: “It’s useful as a framework, but I think it’s a bit problematic.”