At Rights CoLab we want activists to have the space and support they need to be resilient and innovative in their response to human rights abuses. Across our networks, we hear loud and clear messages about two major operational challenges human rights activists are facing:

  • They need to come up with new ways of raising money to fund their operations.
  • They need to stay safe and continue working in the face of increased government surveillance, restriction, and criminalization of civil society activity.

That is why we are excited to announce the launch of the Freshwater Institute, a new initiative to promote organizing, learning, and strategic exchange among human rights innovators in East Asia.

Freshwater is co-led by Ed Rekosh, co-founder of Rights CoLab, and Shawn Shieh, a Rights CoLab contributor and founder of Social Innovations Advisory. Shawn works with human rights activists to re-think, re-orient and re-strategize their work in challenging spaces such as China and Hong Kong; he also helps CSOs in other regions assess the social risks of Chinese overseas investment as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Shawn and Ed previously developed workshops for East Asian civil society organizations on alternative business models, which led to the idea to create Freshwater.

At the heart of the Freshwater Institute is a collaborative human rights accelerator program for emerging and established human rights activists and CSO leaders. By late spring, we will open a competitive selection process to select the first cohort of Freshwater Fellows. Our first big event is the Civil Society Innovation Lab, a 3-day, in-person experience to be held in May in Taipei. For representatives of Asian civil society organizations seeking more tailored support, Shawn and Ed will offer advisory services based on their decades of experience in research, organizational development, and human rights activism. We are also developing summer internships for bilingual (English and Chinese) students with an interest in civil society and human rights. 

Our goal is to develop the Freshwater Institute into a lasting NGO  based in Taiwan with regional impact. We envision the Freshwater Institute developing into a space for networking, retreat, and reflection—a place where Asia Pacific CSOs and activists gather to build trust and develop shared strategies in a safe, collegial environment surrounded by nature.


Rights CoLab 希望倡議人士的人權受到侵犯時,能夠獲得需要的空間和支持,以保持韌性和創新。我們在自己的人際網絡中,清楚地看見了人權倡議者面臨兩大挑戰:

● 如何找到籌措資金以支持活動/團體營運的新方法

● 如何在政府加強監視、限制和公民社會活動被定為非法行動的情況下保持安全、繼續行動

因此,我們很高興地宣布,我們創立了思流學院,一個旨在促進東亞地區人權創新者間組織,學習和策略交流的倡議組織。思流學院由 Rights CoLab 共同創辦人 Ed Rekosh 以及 Rights CoLab 撰稿者、Social Innovations Advisory 創辦人 Shawn Shieh 共同帶領。 Shawn 擅長與人權倡議者合作,重新思考、定位和制定他 們在極度受限地區(如中國和香港)的行動,也曾幫助其他地區的公民社會組織評估中國「一帶 一路」的境外投資可能帶來的社會風險。Shawn 和 Ed 亦曾為東亞地區的公民社會組織開發商業模式替代方案的工作坊,這也為創立思流學院的想法打下了基礎。思流學院的核心是,為人權倡議新秀和老手以及公民社會組織領袖的協作打造人權加速器計劃。

在 2023 春末夏初之際,經過了十分競爭的遴選過程,挑選出第一批加速器伙伴。我們舉辦的第一個大型活動是民間社會創新實驗室,於2023年五月在台北進行為期三天的面對面交流。對於需要更多個別輔導的亞洲公民社會組織代表,Shawn和Ed也能根據他們數十年的研究、組織發展和人權活動經驗提供諮詢服務,我們也正在為對公民社會和人權有興趣的雙語(英語和中文) 學生開發夏季實習計畫。


Photo by Andrew Bertram on Unsplash