We build civil society resilience, power, and influence for a just society, stable economy, and sustainable planet.
Rights CoLab’s mission is to strengthen civil society and leverage markets to fortify human rights. We are a small, dynamic team with a network extending across the Americas, Europe, West and Southern Africa, and East Asia.
We partner with civil society organizations to test innovative approaches to human rights in the face of deepening authoritarianism and inequality. In the area of civil society innovation, our incubated projects explore new opportunities including social entrepreneurship, local philanthropy, and impact investment, primarily in East Asia and post-Soviet states.
We also work to reshape the systems that govern investor and business behavior. Alliances between civil society and investors can be a powerful force to improve corporations’ impact on human rights. We help investors strengthen the quality of their human rights and environmental due diligence, advocate for strong human rights standards in the frameworks that guide investment decisions, and work with civil society to uphold the voices of workers, communities, and consumers affected by corporate activity.
Rights CoLab grew out of a series of lunches between three friends who were deeply worried about closing space for civil society. Each brought their own expertise and experiences to the problem:
- Ed, a human rights lawyer and social entrepreneur, wanted to build more sustainable funding streams for local human rights groups, reflecting the challenges he had seen over two decades at the helm of the Global Network for Public Interest Law.
- Joanne, a researcher and lecturer on business and human rights, wanted to address how the accelerating trend of international corporate standard-setting could better integrate human rights.
- Paul, recently retired from a career as an asset management executive, wanted to harness the power of the investment sector to drive climate and human rights goals.
While talking through their ideas, they realized they could achieve more by working together than alone. They decided to build a platform for collaboration and experimentation, one that was open to a diversity of human rights practitioners.
Since launching in 2018, Rights CoLab has explored, learned from failure, and refined our approach to strengthening civil society and leveraging markets to fortify human rights. Some highlights of the past few years include:
- With partners Nana Afadzinu, Deborah Doane, and others, Rights CoLab incubated Re-Imagining the International NGO (RINGO), now housed in the West African Civil Society Institute. RINGO convenes a unique ‘Social Lab’ of global innovators and has launched 8 prototypes to transform INGO institutions and the systems in which they work.
- Rights CoLab became a founding member of the Taskforce on Inequality and Social-related Financial Disclosures (TISFD, previously TIFD), a global initiative to design a systemic risk management framework to reduce inequality caused by the private sector.
- Rights CoLab served as a knowledge partner to the Value Reporting Foundation from 2020-2022, supporting the development of critical human capital standards for investors, work which carries over to the newly consolidated International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB).
Rights CoLab original research, such as our 2022 report What is DEI? Market Signals for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, has been widely cited across the impact investing field.
We are a global team with diverse experience in co-creating bold strategies to advance human rights.