As COVID-19 swept the globe, it highlighted systemic inequities that had been worsening for years, testing the resilience of diverse communities and those working to defend their human rights. In this sense, the pandemic has emerged as a pivotal factor deepening human rights challenges around the world.
Facing deteriorating conditions in critical regions, the Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR) leveraged ImpactMapper’s survey tool to conduct a rapid assessment of the impact that COVID-19 had on their grantees, their work, and the communities they serve. FGHR is a leading organization equipping grassroots activists with the financial and strategic support they need to improve lives, mobilize movements, and build a better future for their communities. From Latin America to Sub-Saharan Africa, FGHR works with local activists and organizations addressing human rights challenges. Grantees operate in more than 25 countries, working on challenges including post-conflict transition, democratic governance, or poverty:
“We focus on advancing community-driven and grassroots initiatives because we know the people most affected by human right abuses are best equipped to develop their own solutions.”
Since 2002, FGHR has raised and invested over $100 million into the work of community activists, providing them with the funding, contacts, and tools they need to tackle human right challenges in their communities.
The COVID-19 Rapid Assessment Findings
From the early stages of the pandemic, FGHR positioned itself to get ahead of the curve in understanding how the crisis had affected the operational context of their grantees. As FGHR’s Learning & Assessment Program Manager, Indhira Raveneau, noted, “To equip partners with the right resources, we first had to understand in what ways the pandemic was affecting them.” The rapid assessment allowed them to take the pulse of partners on the ground and take stock of challenges and opportunities that had emerged for them over the first three months of the pandemic. There were two waves of data collection in late April and early fall in September 2020. In April, 214 respondents—representing a majority of FGHR grantees—provided a snapshot of operational challenges in a diverse set of geographies including West Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.
One of the first findings that became clear from the assessment is that local organizations played a key role from the beginning of the crisis in fighting the effects of COVID-19: “Local partners on the ground understand the needs of their communities better than anybody, they already have the relationships and the trust and can adapt swiftly,” Raveneau noted. In late April, early on in the pandemic, 51% of grantee respondents (over 100 grantees) shared that they had launched new initiatives to meet the needs of the moment.
“Overnight, local organizers were turned into frontline first responders – coping with protracted challenges together with new, urgent priorities.”
Additionally, despite needing to make adjustments, nearly 90% of grantees reported they were still carrying out aspects of their core work, such as providing assistance to victims of gender-based violence or demanding justice for hate-based violence. Only 3% of FGHR-funded groups had discontinued their activities as a result of the pandemic. Likewise, the data allowed FGHR to identify grantees in need of closer accompaniment and support. In order to meet the growing demands and more expansive activities due to COVID-19 that were highlighted by their grantees, FGHR established a $100,000 COVID response fund to support organizations grappling with the pandemic. The fund includes financial and technical support and focuses on technological capacity building.
As COVID-19 disrupted the operational context, FGHR's flexible, core funding allowed partners to adapt their work to meet shifting needs and reallocate resources. This underscored the importance of the core support grantmaking model.
FGHR's flexibility and trust in the grantee’s analysis of priority needs helped partners to tailor their approach to new contextual challenges or opportunities without worrying about having to adjust preset targets that make little sense in a new context.
As the pandemic rages, FGHR continues to put evidence at the center of their response. They have put in place ongoing check-ins as well as a follow-up survey to monitor how the situation unfolds for their partners and how they are adapting. To place the least amount of burden on their grantees, the new survey—which is available in a number of different languages—is mostly multiple choice and can be completed by multiple members in an organization allowing for a participatory approach. Indeed, the pandemic has increased the need for flexible, time-sensitive and context-specific solutions. To navigate an increasingly volatile context, data, communication and coordination is crucial to ensure that approaches are adaptable and relevant to the needs on the ground. Leveraging these assets will allow partners to most effectively co-create solutions for a new normal.
Photo credit: Robert Mentov for the Fund for Global Human Rights