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


What happened when Mandy met Michael


Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager, reports back from the project’s first action planning meeting with a partner of the Consortium’s Blue Stone Rights Project

The Consortium is all about bringing people together to do something good and this week saw a milestone in our Baring Foundation funded Blue Stone Rights Project. The project is a collaboration of Consortium members to share expertise, enthusiasm and ideas to introduce ways in which our members can introduce, develop, monitor and sustain legal and human rights approaches that improve the outcomes for their beneficiaries. The project works with organisations to answer the question ‘could the people we work with get a better deal if we highlighted that they have human rights?’.

In the current policy climate of austerity, the voluntary and community sector is increasingly seeing the downgrading of people’s ‘needs’ (which have more leverage in being supported through the public purse) to ‘wants’ (which don’t). Needs are contestable; rights are not. They are enshrined in law and have international standing.

The project’s funding has enabled us to bring in Newcastle Law Centre (also one of our members) to work with nine organisations to help them identify the issues their beneficiaries face that could be helped using a legal and human rights approach.

The first phase of the project has been the Law Centre leading a workshop for the staff of each of the nine partners; to date they have delivered five; with Newcastle YMCA, Newcastle Carers, Skills for People, Streetwise and Children North East. We’ve evaluated all five and been pleased that staff have told us how much they have learned about human rights and how they think it could improve their work with the people they support.

This week we held the first post-workshop meeting, with Streetwise, to look at which ideas coming out the workshop did organisations want to implement. Streetwise provides young people aged 13-25 with free and confidential advice, counselling, sexual health and support services from its based in Newcastle city centre and on the streets. They see around 6,000 young people every year.

Having already looked at their publicity material and website I could see that the organisation was big on defending young people’s rights so how could the Blue Stone Rights Project add value to their existing work?

Michael Fawole (Director, Newcastle Law Centre), Mandy Coppin (Chief Executive Officer of Streetwise) and I met in Streetwise’s waiting area (soon to be trendy coffee bar) to review the ideas of Streetwise’s 18 staff who’d taken part in the workshop.


The evaluation of the workshop showed that staff found the workshop useful in raising their awareness of human rights and informing them of the detail of those rights but Mandy told us that the workshop had made a difference in another way. It had helped staff remind themselves of what Streetwise is all about and why they chose to work for the organisation and with young people. In the day to day hurly-burly of the job, there isn’t always time to do that.

She and Michael then set about coming up with loads of actions sparked off by ideas, suggestions and thoughts discussed in the workshop; from making a display about human rights on the notice board, to writing applications for funding to include a human rights approach, to including a question about whether young people feel they know more about their rights on the Streetwise feedback form. All practical and based on how the organisation works with young people.

The actions fell within two categories

  • Delivery – changing the way a service is delivered, the content of the service and/or designing a service to promote/enhance/improve that service’s upholding of the rights of young people
  • Strategic – eg influencing other services/professionals/funders to adopt a rights based approach re young people

We worked out how best to monitor the difference these actions made and who would do what.

It was a great start to this next phase of the project and we’ll keep you in the loop about the successes and challenges we come across.

For more information on Streetwise, go to

Coming together to celebrate our achievements and look to the future


Our Annual General Meeting, Wednesday 16th November 2016 at Gateshead Advice Centre


The Consortium achieved much last year: creating one consortium from two; building our infrastructure; continuing to deliver the Fulfilling Lives initiative; and winning funding from the Baring Foundation for a project involving our members. We also brought members together to help them bid, successfully, for a major project to help families in Newcastle in crisis.

Currently we are working with health, arts and culture organisations to develop Well Newcastle Gateshead, a pathfinder to improve the health of the poorest people fastest, in Gateshead and Newcastle.

The University of Northumbria’s survey of our members showed that our Consortium is diverse in the size of our membership and that members provide vital health, social, educational, economic and environmental services, which are increasingly in demand. They continue to face reductions in funding, find it challenging to secure grant income and some struggle to go for and win contracts to deliver the services they provided under a grant. They are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.

Blue Stone Consortium’s first Annual General Meeting went off to a cracking start with a warm welcome from Alison Dunn, Chief Executive of Gateshead Advice Centre and a trustee of the Consortium, to the gathering of 30 members and supporters. Martin Gollan of Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service very ably took photos and tweeted for us throughout the meeting so we could share the experience with memebrs and supporters who could not make it to the meeting.


Our Chair, Dave Woolley, set out BSC’s achievements last year, confirming that the Consortium now has 41 members, has grown and developed thanks to the support of those members and the financial investment made by Fulfilling Lives Newcastle Gateshead. He thanked Fulfilling Lives for awarding us the contract to deliver the client facing operation side of this innovative programme, which helps people with multiple and complex needs. Without this investment the Consortium would not have developed.


We said goodbye to two Board members; Mike Halsey of Key Enterprises, standing down from the Board after putting in a lot of work to help establish the Consortium, and to Nancy Doyle who has moved on to be Chief Executive of Virgin Money Foundation. Dave thanked them both and we will stay in touch with them.

The meeting appointed Steve Nash (VOLSAG), Neil Board (Changing Lives) and David Smith (Oasis Aquila Housing) to the Board.

Finally, Dave presented the Consortium’s future plans, including

  1. Continuing to support the delivery of the Fulfilling Lives programme
  2. Delivering our Blue Stone Rights Project
  3. Pursuing the opportunities around Well Newcastle Gateshead
  4. Continuing to seek business opportunities that ensure the Consortium is sustainable in 2017/18 and beyond.
  5. Continuing work to develop a common vision for the Consortium’s work across Newcastle and Gateshead.
  6. Developing the Consortium’s offer so that it is as clear and focused as possible.

Neil Shashoua, our Business Development Manager informed the meeting that the Consortium’s income in 2015/16 was £431,173 and our expenditure was £422,043; leaving a healthy balance of £9,131.

Almost all of our income was from the Fulfilling Lives contract and 92% of spend was to the six member organisations that we contract with to deliver the programme, using only 8% of our income to run and develop the Consortium and manage the Fulfilling Lives contract. In 2016/17 we have other income streams and are less dependent on last year’s sole source of funding.

The Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing

Brendan Hill, Chief Executive of the Concern Group and one of our trustees, presented the Board’s thinking on the future focus of the Consortium. The population needs are rapidly evolving; the social determinants of health, how society provides support and care for the vulnerable and the urgent need to prioritise prevention, are all challenges that government and public services are facing.


He noted that the voluntary and community sector and our members specifically already do, and increasingly will play an integral role in supporting individuals, communities and vulnerable groups to lead valued lives. As a result of this, the Consortium’s Board wishes to promote our potential as a key partner in developing solution-focused approaches from member organisations already involved across a broad spectrum of projects, initiatives and services supporting health, care and wellbeing

He proposed that this needs to be the primary focus of the Consortium going forward and he asked for the meeting’s views on this focus on two initial priorities based on soundings taken from the membership

  • young people and families
  • those with complex needs

both of these priorities include using intergenerational approaches for delivery.

The discussion that followed covered the important role Consortium members have in audience-5smldiverting people away from care and preventing them becoming ill or their condition deteriorating such that more intensive healthcare is needed.

Listening to our members

Dr Jan Myers from Northumbria University’s Business School then presented the findings of her survey of our members.

She noted that 55% of the membership responded and most of those responding were medium sized organisations. Overall, members provided a wide range of services to a wide range of people in Newcastle and Gateshead, with people with mental health problems, learning difficulties and carers being the top three categories.

jan-myers-tweet-1Members face a number of challenges; all but one experienced an increase in demands for its services over the last 12 months and most are dealing with reduced income whilst aiming to sustain their much needed services.

The level of income from grants has continued to reduce with more organisations reliant on contract income. Given that larger organisations have been in a better position to attract contracts than smaller ones, Dr Myers underlined the usefulness of having a consortium of small, medium and large organisations working together to secure resources to benefit people in the area.

Over half the respondents had no or less than 3 months reserves. Those with reserves anticipate using them to cover core costs and meet budget deficits.

Our members are uncertain as to the impact of Brexit and the halting of the North East devolution process. However, they have practical support and skills to offer each other.

Dr Myers will continue to work with the Consortium to better understand the needs of members and how members can support each other by exchanging skills and practical support.

The next three speakers illustrated ways in which they are working with the Consortium to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of disadvantaged people in Gateshead and Newcastle.

A single point of commissioning – Blue Stone Rights Project

Michael Fawole of the North East Law Centre talked about how his organisation is working with the Consortium to enhance the work of members by helping them introduce legal and human rights work.


The project is a good example of how a funder can use the Consortium as a single point with which to work with a range of diverse providers.

With £28,600 of funding over two years from the Baring Foundation, the Consortium and Law Centre have set up a project to bring together nine of the Consortium’s members with the Law Centre to raise their awareness of legal and human rights approaches and help them to introduce and monitor the use of those approaches to improve the help they can give to their beneficiaries.

To date, the Law Centre has held workshops with Newcastle YMCA and Skills for People and has dates in the diary for workshops with Newcastle Carers, and Streetwise. Workshops with Children North East, the Angelou Centre, Involve North East, and Riverside Community Health Project are being arranged.

Brokering relationships and opportunities

Newcastle’s Help Through Crisis bid – how the Consortium helped bring together partners to win a bid.

In late 2015 the Consortium brought together a number of its members to develop a bid for the Big Lottery’s Help Through Crisis Fund, in Newcastle. Neil Baird of Changing Lives presented the useful role the Consortium played as an ‘honest broker’ to gather members to explore developingneil-baird-tweet-1 a bid to this fund, which is  aimed at people facing hardship. In the end, three of the organisations went on to bid successfully for £500,000 over 5 years to deliver a project to provide tailored support, advice and advocacy to enable families to address difficulties and be in a better position to improve circumstances and plan for their future.

The partnership, led by Newcastle Law Centre, has contracted with the Consortium to be the independent chair of the project steering group, to give all partners an equal voice in the governance of the project.

Can the Consortium help communities create, connect, and aspire to improve the health of the poorest, fastest?

Professor Chris Drinkwater, Chair of Ways to Wellness and long term champion for reducing health inequalities, presented the meeting with an exciting initiative with the Consortium to improve the health of people in some of our most deprived areas in Newcastle and Gateshead.


He is working with Well North, an initiative to develop pathfinders in some of the poorest parts of the North of England, to develop the next pathfinder in Newcastle Gateshead. The Consortium’s Board has set up a committee to lead the development of Well Newcastle Gateshead, focussing on improving the health of people in four parts of the area, majoring on work with

  • children 2 to 7, their parents and grandparents
  • adults, to improve their mental health and be more socially connected

by using arts, heritage and culture to help people have fun by using their creativity, connecting them together, and helping them aspire to be more active and healthy.

If the Well North Board accepts the proposal, they will release £1m over four years, matched by £200,000 from each of Gateshead and Newcastle local authorities. Arts and place-based voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations would deliver much of this work.

After questions to the speakers, it was over to the participants to discuss

  • how could they make use of the Consortium in the next 12 months
  • their thoughts on the Consortium’s new area of focus and where they see themselves contributing and benefitting from it.

It was clear from the discussions that members and supporters want

  • Help to identify business opportunities
  • Linking in with existing Consortium initiatives, such as Well Newcastle Gateshead
  • More communications with funders to help providers reduce/avoid duplication and to bring members and funders together
  • Connections with national and strategic bodies
  • Greater focus on asset based approaches that are genuinely people led

There was also support for the Consortium’s new focus on health, care and wellbeing.

The meeting ended with tea and cake provided by the lovely people at Gateshead Advice Centre.

Thank you!

And our partners for the Blue Stone Rights Project are…

Last month we announced our success in bidding to the Baring Foundation for a training, education and capacity building grant for a two year project for us to work in collaboration with the North East Law Centre and some of our other members to support them to develop and use legal and human rights approaches to make a difference to the lives of their beneficiaries.

We were very pleased that we had 15 applications to be our partners in this project, as well as a number of suggestions as to what the project could be called. We have decided to name it the Blue Stone Rights Project, as suggested by Jeremy Cripps of Children North East. Thank you Jeremy.

Today we are very excited to announce that we have chosen the following organisations to be partners with us in the project. We’re really looking forward to working with them and chuffed to bits that they are keen to be involved.

The Angelou Centre

Children North East

Involve North East

Newcastle Carers

Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service

Riverside Community Health Project

Skills for People


YMCA Newcastle