Using social media to promote human rights

Report of the Blue Stone Rights Project training on social media for campaigning; by our Business Development and Performance Manager, Neil Shashoua 


Blue Stone Rights Project partners got together with the people who run Newcastle Social Media Surgeries to learn how to use social media to campaign, promote the voices of their beneficiaries and demonstrate the impact side of their work.

The half day session on 5th September 2017 helped partners to understand what social media is; how it can be an effective set of tools to gather support and focus messages for change; and what makes a successful campaign.

The session ended by participants suggesting a shared promotion of Human Rights Day in December 2018.


Eleven staff from six of the eight partners in the Consortium’s Blue Stone Rights Project, funded by the Baring Foundation, came together with William Mortada and Stephanie Cole, who run the Newcastle Social Media Surgeries, to focus on the campaigning/demonstrating impact side of partners’ work.


This first event for projects partners, held on 5th September 2017, and hosted by Northumbria University’s Business School, was born from the Consortium’s discussions with those partners about whether adopting a human rights based approach could improve the outcomes for the people they serve. A number of partners felt they would like to become better at using social media, (‘spaces for online conversations’ as defined by Stephanie and William) to build relationships with people to make changes that have a positive impact on their beneficiaries; from seeing disabled people differently to hearing the voices of carers.

The training aimed to support partners in promoting the voice of their beneficiaries, targeting their messages, understanding how social media can be one of a set of tools to do so, using it for building alliances, and measuring the difference it has made.

Throughout the training, William and Stephanie emphasised the importance of planning your campaign and ensuring that plan is in harmony with whatever communications strategy is in place (formally or informally) in your organisation. Not everyone is connected online and not everyone online uses social media, so it is important to understand who the target audiences are that you want to reach online. A note on cost too – whilst social media tools are mostly free; staff time is not …so that needs to be a factor in your plan.

We then looked at two successful campaigns which had substantial online presence; one to re-open Newcastle City Pool and Turkish Baths, the other countering everyday sexism. The elements that made these effective included understanding the opportunities and limitations of social media, using hashtags to link posts from supporters, and gathering followers to show the people the campaigners wanted to influence that there was a high level of backing for the campaigns and their demands.

We went on to look at how to organise our organisations for using social media. There were some great tips including having more than one person posting/tweeting and choosing people who understand the organisation and its work William_Mortada_on_Twitter___Enjoyed_delivering__socialmedia_training_with__sharingdoing_for__BlueStoneConsor_today_https___t_co_ie3xsYxWO2_well.

There are quite a few social media platforms out there so it is good to run tests to find out which platforms your audiences use and focus on using a few platforms effectively, rather than spend time using lots of platforms. You may even find your target audiences don’t much use social media!

After partners paired up to plan their next campaign using the social media planning canvases (one template and one with questions), we discussed what next for this learning. Partners suggested doing some campaigning together and Human Rights Day in December was one focus for this.

At the end of the training partners fed back that they liked having space to plan a campaign, they now had a better understanding of what to communicate via social media, and they appreciated the resources that Stephanie and William gave out to help them.


See the slides from the training, below