The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) has been a leader in advocacy, resource building, and public education to promote and protect human rights in closed societies for more than ten years. HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting democracy and boasts a long track record of success in this area.
The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) has been a leader in nonviolent resistance against dictatorships since its inception. Co-founded by leaders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor!, which successfully led a peaceful campaign to topple dictator Slobodan Milosevic, CANVAS now works to train leaders of civil movements around the world in the art of nonviolent resistance. CANVAS has trained activists and organizers in over 50 countries, particularly in highly repressive settings, and equipped them with the tools and skills to build successful movements for change.
Build A Movement (BAM) is dedicated to researching and spreading knowledge on the methods of nonviolent, grassroots activism to promote democracy, human rights, and social change. BAM is also providing training in digital security specifically geared to activists and civil society professionals facing surveillance, censorship and repression.
The Freedom Fellowship is a joint program between Build a Movement, CANVAS, and the Human Rights Foundation that empowers civil society activists from closed societies with training, mentoring, and support by connecting them to a global network of mentors, including democracy advocates, technologists, policymakers, philanthropists, and experts in media, strategy, and marketing.
The Freedom Fellowship program seeks to address the threat that authoritarianism has against prosperity, peace, and the planet. Authoritarian governments bear an enormous social cost. Dictator-led countries have higher rates of mental illness, lower levels of health and life expectancy, and, as Amartya Sen famously argued, higher susceptibility to famine. Their citizens are less educated and file fewer patents. In 2016, more patents were filed in France than in the entire Arab world — not because Arabs are less entrepreneurial than the French, but because nearly all of them live under stifling authoritarianism. Clearly, the suppression of free expression and creativity has harmful effects on innovation and economic growth. Citizens of free and open societies such as Germany, South Korea and Chile witness advances in business, science and technology that Belarusians, Burmese and Cubans can only dream of. Free nations do not go to war with each other. History has shown this to be the only ironclad law of political theory. Meanwhile, dictators are always at war, often with a foreign power and always with their own people. Finally, authoritarian regimes often jail and persecute or kill environmentalists, labor leaders, and investigative journalists who are working for a fairer and more sustainable future.
Therefore, one of the best ways to promote prosperity, peace, and sustainability is to empower social entrepreneurs and civil society organizations working in closed societies. Such individuals are in constant need of support, because in their home countries there is no legal way to protest, no ACLU, no free press and no opposition party to stand up for their rights. It is by building their skills and knowledge, enabling them to better organize, mobilize and act, that change can be achieved in a more effective and sustainable way.