Research & Practice

University of Minnesota Human Rights Lab

University-based researchers produce knowledge that is critical in advancing human rights protections, especially in an era of human rights retrenchment. Partnerships with practitioners can deepen understanding of complex human rights challenges, leading to more relevant and valuable research. Yet, the slow pace of scholarship production and dissemination is often at odds with the needs of human rights defenders who face immediate challenges and must make rapid decisions in response to changing local, national, and international circumstances. Further, the extractive practices of some academic researchers or their positioning as ivory-tower critics of the human rights movement diminishes trust and undermines collaboration between practitioners and academics, despite the presence of shared goals.

What common ground can we find between these two rights-concerned communities -- researchers and practitioners -- especially in this era of backlash against human rights protections? How can academic researchers adapt their practices to produce high-level scholarship that is also useful to human rights defenders? Who should set the research agenda in these partnerships, and who should participate in making, advancing and sustaining agendas? Who “owns” the research data and publications? This series of articles, which grew out of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Lab, explores possibilities and barriers to building effective research and practice collaborations. It examines ethical and practical concerns and ways of evaluating the success of such partnerships.


What is true academic solidarity?

By: Ercüment Çelik
Español | Deutsch | Türkçe

Academic freedom is being attacked around the world—how can we create solidarity networks against such attacks?

Participatory baseline water study improves scientific data and strengthens community power

By: Ellie Happel & Beth Hoagland & Olriche Jean Pierre & Tess Russo
Español | Kreyòl

An interdisciplinary research team conducted the first community-owned baseline study on water in an area included in a mining permit in northern Haiti.

Human rights in the post-truth era

By: Nicolas Agostini
Español | Français

As attacks on truth and facts multiply, can activists be falling into the traps of post-truth? Evolutions in activism, communications and politics, as well as in ...

Grassroots justice organizations are deploying research to stem the tide of injustice

By: Adrian Di Giovanni & Poorvi Chitalkar
Español | Français

Legal empowerment has the potential to improve our ability to counter threats to human rights.

Caring workspaces for human rights

By: Ezgi Kan & Kerem Çiftçioğlu

Defending human rights workers’ working conditions based on an ethic of care is one of the best ways to foster resilience and well-being.

Funding and the digital rights nonprofit space. Experiences and recommendations (Part II)

By: Juan Ortiz Freuler & Will Orr & Ana Brandusescu

Nonprofits have to balance securing funds and staying true to their mission. How can we foster autonomy among organizations?

National Human Rights Action Plans: setting the record straight

By: Sébastien Lorion
Español | Français | العربية

New research unearths comprehensive data on the global diffusion of national human rights action plans since the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights.

How do funders shape the digital rights agenda? Notes from the field (Part I)

By: Juan Ortiz Freuler & Will Orr & Ana Brandusescu

Nonprofits’ autonomy from their funders is particularly important in the digital rights space.

From legal empowerment to citizen empowerment in Chile: advancing human rights through action research in a dynamic context

By: Lisa Hilbink & Valentina Salas

Advancing human rights via a people-centered approach requires that researchers be sensitive and responsive to inevitable, and often unpredictable, challenges.

Collaborative research in the midst of crisis: an observatory on disappearance and impunity in Mexico

By: Karina Ansolabehere

How The Minnesota Model helped this organization understand its own identity and role in advocating for Mexico's disappeared or missing persons.

How NGOs in the Global South are developing strategies for protecting asylum-seekers at a time of human rights retrenchment

By: Stephen Meili

At a time when many refugee-receiving nations have ignored their international obligation to protect those fleeing persecution, constitutionalized human rights ...

History, art, and experiential learning as a platform for human rights education and advocacy in the United States and Hungary

By: Michael Winikoff & Eszter Kirs

The Minnesota Model calls on human rights practitioners to build community across national borders and challenge assumptions based on disciplinary knowledge.

Partnering with organizations in an international context: lessons from NGO workers in East Africa

By: Colette Salemi & Ragui Assaad

Academic institutions must be intentional about designing collaborative projects and fostering institutional knowledge on how to find and keep partners.

Public Education as Reparative Justice in two Settler Colonial Contexts

By: Alejando Baer & George Dalbo & Jillian LaBranche

This project seeks to identify opportunities and challenges for educators committed to social justice and healing to critically examine their practices and engage ...

The Minnesota Model for human rights: improving both scholarship and practice

By: Barbara Frey & Fionnuala Ní Aoláin & Joachim Savelsberg & Jessica Stanton

Long-term partnerships between academics and practitioners can build knowledge that both protects and advances human rights.

Embattled instruction: Military compliance with human rights

By: Cosette D. Creamer & Tracey Blasenheim

A strategic partnership around military human rights between the University of Minnesota and the IIHL reveals the importance of interdisciplinarity and stakeholder ...

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