Just Ground is a new research and advocacy project that aims to advance the visions of communities working to address corporate activity that threatens or violates their human rights. Working at the intersection of theory and practice, we conduct research to identify barriers to real participation of rights holders in processes that impact them, and highlight the practical realities of community-driven and rights-holder led approaches to access to remedy. We also directly support rights holders in their efforts to confront and change harmful practices. By amplifying the value of rights holders’ epistemic agency, we hope to support a more sustained shift in power. 

Rights holders and their allies have long been at the forefront of resistance or response to corporate abuse and offering new ways forward. They continue to point out systemic barriers, identify and apply new tactics, and engage in cross-disciplinary collaborations. Yet they continue to be under- acknowledged and under-resourced. While the business and human rights discourse emphasizes community engagement and acknowledges a need to address power imbalances, it fails to fully interrogate and address the various exercises of power that create, perpetuate, and also resist, these imbalances. 

We hope to contribute to these needed changes by examining different exercises of corporate power, amplifying ongoing efforts to challenge them, and identifying and supporting opportunities for countervailing exercises of power. We examine where epistemic injustice is perpetrated in the context of stakeholder engagement and access to remedy and support efforts at both the individual and structural level to address those injustices. Our direct support aims to amplify the existing strategies of those we work alongside.

Just Ground intends to operate not as a top-down organization, but rather as a project that serves rights holders behind the scenes. We seek to avoid extractivist structures by placing ourselves as rearguard support to the communities we serve, who remain in the forefront. The work is informed by a commitment to transparent, reflexive allyship. 

Rights CoLab is a fitting home as we build out the project, with a shared focus on shifting power. Our approach similarly seeks to identify changes and reconceptualizations needed at the systemic level. We look forward to joining a team that has done creative work on reimagining the international NGO and fostering civil society innovation to advance human rights. Rights CoLab provides the space for us to start this exploration.


Photo by Samson on Unsplash