Rethinking the Human Rights Business Model

New and Innovative Structures and Strategies for Local Impact

This report investigates opportunities to diversify and broaden support (financial and otherwise) for nongovernmental approaches to realizing human rights. Such analysis is essential in light of global trends, including the relative scarcity of human rights charitable funding from local sources and increasing governmental efforts to restrict the foreign flow of funds to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The author argues for applying the concept of “business models” to human rights NGOs in order to organize thinking on areas for potential innovation according to function rather than form. He uses a business model framework for exploring examples of innovative thinking according to the following categories: (1) revenue streams; (2) key partners and resources; (3) “customer” (i.e., beneficiary or stakeholder) relationships and channels; and (4) cost structure. The report highlights innovative strategies that NGOs and others can pursue and structures they can adopt to pursue them, with a view to enhancing their impact, sustainability, and resilience.

For more views and ideas on this topic, check out this OpenGlobalRights debate series on New Business Models for Human Rights. OpenGlobalRights is a multilingual platform for critical debates on human rights strategy, policy and advocacy. Since its launch in June 2013, it has published over 1,400 articles and translations in 24 languages by human rights scholars, practitioners, activists, and donors in over 60 countries.

Photo credit: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images

Edwin Rekosh

Edwin Rekosh

Senior Associate (Non-resident), Human Rights Initiative