Launching CREA's Advocacy Lab

16 August 2017


CREA's Advocacy Lab is a six-month program that empowers activists working in the field of gender, sexuality and rights to effectively integrate technology in their advocacy work and to engage strategically in digital space. CREA is extending the application deadline to September 22nd for teams and individuals. If you are an individual applying to the Lab, please be aware that if accepted, you will be grouped with other alumni to work as a team. To see if you are eligible, keep reading and submit your application by September 22nd, 2017.

Purpose and Goals

Information and communications technologies (ICTs) and the internet -- referred to collectively as ‘digital space’ -- offer expansive potential for those working on gender and sexuality to share stories, amplify their message, access information, and shift cultural norms. Yet, for human rights activists, particularly in the Global South, there are few opportunities that combine access to the skills and resources needed to understand technology and its potential for impact.

Meanwhile, governments, corporations and other private actors are using technology to restrict human rights, and to limit the ability of human rights activists to participate in digital space. Increasingly, threats of surveillance, censorship, and online harassment deter activists from engaging in online spaces, especially those working on gender and sexuality who face intersecting discrimination and stigmas. Restrictions on freedom of expression also limit the ability of activists to access information and produce or disseminate rights-affirming content, especially content related to gender and sexuality.

This moment demands that activists working in the area of gender and sexuality deepen their understanding of the political context of digital space and build their advocacy skills to engage in it confidently and strategically. CREA’s Advocacy Lab offers activists both the conceptual grounding on the risks and potential of engaging in digital space, and the hands-on practical accompaniment on a particular project to sharpen advocacy skills. The purpose of this advocacy lab is to empower human rights activists working in the field of gender, sexuality and rights to (1) effectively integrate technology in their work and (2) advocate for digital space that is inclusive, transparent, and safe.

Content and Themes

The advocacy lab is a six-month program that allows practitioners in gender, sexuality and rights to come together to plan and implement an advocacy project that relates to digital space. Working in cohorts of 3-5 members, participants will collaborate to plan and implement an advocacy project or campaign at the national, regional or global level. The lab includes two residential workshops at the beginning and end of the six months, as well as remote support during the implementation phase.

Alumni of CREA’s institutes are encouraged to form a cohort with other alumni from any institute or year. Cohorts are invited to submit proposals that address one of the following themes (please see below under ‘eligibility’ for more information about cohorts):

● Privacy : Influencing policy development with respect to big data, privacy, and surveillance of human rights defenders working on gender and sexuality.
● Freedom of Expression : Strengthening standards to protect against state censorship and content regulation of platforms, particularly around issues of gender and sexuality.
● Access : Developing platforms or standards to improve internet access for people with disabilities, sex workers, LGBTI people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and other marginalized groups.
● Accountability : Advancing strategies to address corporate accountability or government accountability for using technology in ways that harm human rights and/or defenders of rights related to gender and sexuality.

Some examples of projects that address these themes may include the following:

● Advocacy with the UN Special Procedures (e.g., Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression) to strengthen protections for human rights defenders working on gender and sexuality who are subjected to online harassment and/or violence;
● Developing an internet platform for people with disabilities to share their stories and perspectives about sexuality to influence national or global policy development;
● Advocacy to hold corporations accountable for selling spyware to governments that are known human rights abusers and known to have used this technology to monitor activists working on gender and/or sexuality;
● Creation of secure digital platforms to share information about opposition activity that limits the progress of activists working on sexual and reproductive health and rights and to exchange strategies that have
effectively countered it.

CREA and its partners recognize that technology can work for and against activists; the purpose of the lab is to support activists to use it effectively in their advocacy work. This lab provides activists with an opportunity to approach an advocacy challenge with fresh perspectives, informed by a deep political analysis of the risks and benefits of engaging in digital space, and supported by experienced advocates in the field.

No prior knowledge of advocacy related to digital space is required to participate. However, the advocacy lab is not a training course to help activists learn about social media or digital security.


The Advocacy Lab is a six-month commitment. Cohorts selected for the lab will attend two five-day residential workshops: (1) a kick-off workshop (11-15 December 2017) to refine their project goals, define the process for project implementation, and build their capacity to engage in advocacy on technology and digital space and (2) a wrap-up workshop (tentatively 28 May - 1 June 2018) to
share results, learn from other cohorts, and plan for the next phase of their projects.

During the five-day residential workshops at the beginning and end of the lab, participants will learn about:

● the risks and benefits of using technology in the promotion of human rights, specifically for activists working on gender and sexuality;
● the landscape for advocacy on human rights and digital space, including advocacy spaces, events, networks and opportunities at the global and regional levels; and 
● information, research and case studies to help make strategic choices about appropriate technology tools, methods and platforms to implement advocacy projects.

Following the first residential workshop, cohorts will implement their projects for a period of six months with practical accompaniment support provided by CREA and its co-sponsors during the full implementation phase. Resource people from CREA’s institutes will also provide support to cohorts.

Each cohort will receive between $5,000-10,000 in seed funding from CREA for the six-month implementation phase of their project or campaign. Upon completion of the program. CREA may assist cohorts that have successfully implemented their projects to raise additional funds for scale-up or next phase implementation.

Co-sponsoring Organizations

CREA 's mission is to build feminist leadership, advance women's human rights, and expand sexual and reproductive freedoms. CREA is a feminist human rights organisation, based in New Delhi, India. It is one of the few international women's rights organisations based in the global South, led by Southern feminists, which works at the grassroots, national, regional, and international levels.

CREA has partnered with two organizations -- The Engine Room and the Association for Progressive Communications - Women’s Rights Programme -- to build the capacity of participants to engage in advocacy in digital space. Representatives from both organizations, along with other activists with expertise in digital space advocacy, will serve as resource people at the residential workshops. All three organizations will provide practical accompaniment to cohorts during the implementation phase.

The three organizations bring unique expertise to the advocacy lab. CREA will provide the substantive theory to shape the course content from a feminist perspective and the resource people to connect theory and practice. APC will offer expertise in advocacy on digital space and its intersection with gender and sexuality. Engine Room provides tactical support to social change organizations
interested in using technology to enhance their impact.


Applications for the lab are open ONLY to the alumni of one of the following CREA institutes: (1) Sexuality, Gender and Rights Institute (global); (2) Disability, Sexuality and Rights Online Institute; or (3) Feminist Leadership, Movement Building and Rights Institute in East Africa, South Asia, and Middle East and North Africa. All members of a cohort must be CREA alumni of one of these institutes. CREA can assist alumni to form cohorts based on thematic interest or regional expertise.

People with disabilities, sex workers, LGBTI people, people living with HIV/AIDS, and other marginalized groups are encouraged to apply. Applicants must apply as a cohort (3-5 people) with a specific idea that addresses one of the five themes listed above. CREA may ask applicants to combine cohorts if applicants are interested in working within the same region or on a similar theme. Individuals affiliated with organizations, networks or coalitions are eligible to apply. Students or academics are not eligible to apply for the purpose of conducting academic research (but may apply as part of an activist-led project). All efforts will be made to provide a range of accommodations for persons with disabilities. The residential workshops will be accessible for wheelchair users. For questions about accommodations, please contact Nafisa Ferdous at .

The residential workshops will be in English only. Participants are expected to be able to engage in academic level coursework in English (reading, writing, and presenting).

Application Information and Deadline

Each cohort must complete one online application form . Applications are due on or before 22 September 2017. If you are unable to complete the online application due to accessibility concerns, contact Nafisa Ferdous at .

All proposals must fulfill the selection criteria in order to be considered for acceptance:

● Clear and achievable advocacy goal;
● Realistic plan for implementation of the project within the six-month implementation phase;
● Concept or strategy of how technology can help to achieve your advocacy goal(s) ;
● Demonstrated leadership of Global South activists and marginalized groups;
● Includes clear benchmarks to monitor progress and evaluate outcomes of the project.

Dates and Location

Participation in the Advocacy Lab requires attendance at two residential workshops, one at the beginning and one at the end of a six-month time commitment. The first workshop will be held in Beirut, Lebanon or Nairobi, Kenya from 11-15 December 2017. The second workshop will be held 28 May - 1 June 2018, and the location will be announced by the December workshop. All participants in each cohort must be present at both residential workshops. Participants are required to stay for the duration of the course (for example, for the first workshop this requires arriving on 10th December and departing 16th December).


Course fees, as well as accommodation and meals during the two residential workshops, are fully covered by CREA. Participants are expected to cover costs associated with local travel (ground travel to/from airports) and visa fees . Accommodation will be on twin-sharing basis.

Participants are encouraged to cover their own airfare. Limited scholarships for travel are available, with priority given to participants from the Global South. Information on scholarships is included in the application form.


Participants are responsible for obtaining their own visas to attend the residential workshops. CREA will assist with the application process by providing a letter of invitation and required visa letters.


The timeline for selection of participants in the advocacy lab is as follows:

● 22 Sept 2017 : Applications due (Click here for application form)
● 13 Oct 2017: Notification of selection of cohorts
● 11-15 Dec 2017: First residential workshop
● 15 Dec-25 May 2018: Implementation of projects
● May 2018 [exact dates TBA]: Second residential workshop