Brussels – 6 January 2020
Using technology effectively and safely is key to advance victims’ rights in the 21st century. Victim Support Europe is constantly looking for ways to adapt to the transformative era of the information society. Today, our victims’ rights campaigns rely heavily on social media. That’s why we’ve partnered with Twitter to better engage with our communities, to advance improvements in laws and policies as well as to raise awareness of our work.
One winter afternoon in Brussels, Victim Support Europe’s communications team participated in Twitter’s workshop for non-profits at the ‘Civil Society Empowerment Programme Campaigns Event‘ organised by Radicalisation Awareness Network. Afterward, we introduced ourselves, and we talked. We learned about ‘Twitter for Good’ and became interested in campaigning-in-collaboration, an opportunity whereby Victim Support Europe would accomplish so much more than campaigning alone. We told Twitter’s experts Kennedy O’Brien and Gemma Shields that we were interested in getting connected with the Brussels Office of Twitter on our soon-to-be-launched ‘Crime is Crime. Even Online‘ hate speech awareness raising campaign.
It’s been a tough couple of years for frontline victim support workers from around Europe to provide quality assistance for hate crime victims. Our annual members’ survey 2018 highlighted that the majority of victims of hate crimes are not aware of how to access support services, that most of hate incidents are not reported to the police or through available third-party reporting systems, and that victim support workers lack expertise in supporting hate crime victims. Therefore, we developed a two-month awareness raising campaign and a pilot training in collaboration with Twitter to make a sustained difference with respect to helping organisations and individuals support hate crime victims more effectively.
The campaign lasted for 54 days. The storytelling was based on a drop-down approach by which we started with explaining the legal context and relative European legislation regarding online hate speech, then moved on to measures of protection, next – what is being done by social media platforms, and finishing with the realities on the frontline.
The efficiency of the campaign was ensured through the social media approach and a concentration on cross-platform partner marketing, combining owned and partner channels, Twitter For Good and Google For Nonprofits grants, and managing these tools in an overall coherent manner.
Our “Crime is Crime, Even online’ campaign proved to be a success. It involved over 85 partners from across the EU: national victim support services, police, civil society, state authorities, artists and businesses. We got a 5000 euros grant from Twitter and 5000 euros from Google. We presented the campaign at various conferences in Brussels, Budapest, London and San Francisco. In a global community we are living in, time and information are the keys, therefore collaboration is not simply desirable, it is inevitable”, says Marina Kazakova, Communications Officer, Victim Support Europe.
Another accomplishment of the alliance between Victim Support Europe and Twitter is the training ‘Supporting Victims of Online Hate Speech’ which was piloted during Victim Support Europe’s Annual General Meeting 2019 in Brussels. The workshop was developed by VSE’s Policy Officer Ruth Shrimpling in partnership with Twitter’s Stephen Turner (Head of Public Policy, Government Relations and Philanthropy at Twitter Belgium) and Silvia Caneva (Public Policy, Government Relations and Philanthropy at Twitter Belgium).
“We’re glad and honoured to have presented the training to more than 50 victim support professionals from across the EU who together serve more than two million victims of crimes each year”, explains Ruth Shrimpling.
Many of Victim Support Europe’s members – mostly NGOs – experience difficulty in finding sufficient and continuous funding for their capacity building. This problem can only be effectively addressed in collaboration between governments, civil society and business. Teaming up with Twitter allowed Victim Support Europe to leverage collective expertise to achieve greater results at larger scales, the partnership also saved thousands of euros on the cost of the social media campaign and the development of the training module.
In December 2019, Twitter’s Policy Associates London Lee and Nico Carrino took ‘Victim Support Europe’s communications team on behind-the-scenes introduction tour of their headquarters in San Francisco. That’s where VSE’s team learned first-hand about Twitter’s best practices in strategic philanthropy, fundraising and campaigning.
We also visited Twitter NeighborNest, at 95 Hayes St., a walking distance from Twitter’s front door. What started as a digital literacy center for homeless and low-income families has evolved into a cradle of hope where some of San Francisco’s most at-risk families can receive child care, computer training, movie screenings and help finding housing. The activities of the Nest were developed after a 6-month “listening tour” in which Twitter officials spoke with people in the neighbourhood about what they wanted to see in this new community space.
In 2018, the NeighborNest has seen 4,840 people visit and spend 1300 hours participating in programs, 170 volunteers from Twitter spent 250 hours in NeighborNest.
While visiting NeighborNest, we got a chance to speak with one of the visitor’s of the centre Michiko Kiyoi, a victim of domestic violence, who lost her housing, but persevered, with the help of NeighborNest, to lead a much safer life now.
On the eve of the 30th anniversary of Victim Support Europe and victim support services in Europe, this story sends a clear message that collaborations between businesses and civil society are essential to ensure that victims are respected, have access to strong rights and are able to make their voice heard.
As Victim Support Europe moves into 2020, it plans to scale up their existing partnerships, and establish more creative collaborations carried out by people with fire in their eyes.