Fighting impunity and championing the critical role of civil society
Corruption, impunity and violence are longstanding realities throughout Mexico. Human rights groups needed a new narrative and support to better use strategic communication as a social change tool. By applying a shared narrative to specific issue campaigns, partnering with artists to leverage the power of creative expression and building a powerful learning network, civil society organizations are engaging new stakeholders and building expectations to achieve justice, peace and equality.
What was the challenge?
Impunity impacts every aspect of life in Mexico. There is wide-spread belief that there are two systems of justice—one for the rich and powerful, who are often not held to account, and one for everyone else. At the beginning of this project, even more concerning was the belief that this system could not change. While numerous civil society organizations, coalitions and movements were doing critical work to address specific issues, policies and practices, they recognized that the underlying acceptance of impunity was a barrier to driving change and a constant challenge to maintaining hard-won victories. They determined it was time to change the narrative as a lever to address impunity.
What did we do?
MG and our sister company, Impacto Social Metropolitan Group (ISMG), worked with a coalition of civil society groups to conduct research to understand the values and perceptions of people in Mexico on these topics. We co-created a meta-narrative and developed message frameworks that carried the narrative for numerous human rights issues.
The significant attention and citizen activation during the 2018 presidential election created a context to engage Mexicans and to elevate the issue of addressing impunity into the discourse. Research had indicated that people aged 18 – 25 were the most open to shifting perception to fight impunity but were not engaged on the issue. The 2018 World Cup offered a conduit to garner attention and engagement around human rights and impunity. In partnership with 35 NGOs and three coalitions, we co-created the Goals for Justice campaign, positioning its agenda to promote justice and safety in Mexico during the soccer games and using ads that compared Mexico’s record on key issues with the country they were playing in the warmup games and World Cup. The #Goals4Justice campaign sparked public conversation around a set of proposals on the rule of law, violence prevention and anti-corruption. Thousands of people signed petitions and shared key messages on social media. The questions about impunity were elevated to become part of presidential debates and the media coverage during the campaign.
In 2019, we launched the Public Square Initiative, a strategy that uses creative expression to engage and mobilize people to address impunity and violence. Through an interactive art exhibit, #PalabrasEnComun, and live theater performances, we conveyed the narrative emphasizing the relevance of civil society and a set of specific campaigns addressing impunity by demanding justice you can trust. In 2020, this initiative continued with the launch of #EscucharnosDecir, an interactive piece that conveys the justice narrative and invites people to share their experience in their own voice on how violence affects them and what Mexico needs to have trusted justice. The 2020 Public Square Initiative was designed as both physical and digital exhibit to ensure engagement even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As part of this multiyear initiative, we also launched Colaboratoria, a first-of-its-kind laboratory/community of communication experts working in civil society organizations for social change. The aim is to build effective strategic communication skills and to increase their application to advance social impact. Launched in July 2019 with 20 members, Colaboratoria has grown to a community of 220 people representing over 100 organizations.
Engagement with the #Goals4Justice (#GolsXLaJusticia) hashtag on social media was remarkable. Seventy-three million people on Twitter and 31 million on Facebook made a difference. The presidential contest showed the candidates embracing the potential of an anti-impunity agenda. And action was swift; the new government enacted a new law to create the National Prosecutor’s Office. The Public Square Initiative, providing interactive art and exposure to a civil society agenda, reached and engaged millions of people. Our media outreach and digital strategy reached 4.5 million people and engaged thousands. At least 300,000 people visited the exhibit. Most importantly, based on on-site polling, we identified the positive impact it had in terms of awareness, understanding and relevance: 80% of respondents better understood the relevance of civil society organizations after experiencing the art piece, 94%thought it was worth supporting organizations working on justice and equity, 93% said they thought they could improve Mexico’s reality by supporting each other and working toward common goals after visiting the exhibit, and 80% left with a greater sense of hope and trust. This work is ongoing.
From our client
“I just wanted to emphasize the fantastic work that Metropolitan Group/Impacto Social Metropolitan Group has been doing in partnership with the Ford Foundation in Mexico. We have been working for various years to advance the change in narrative and public will on the issue of impunity. This work has been innovative and groundbreaking. We have gained a great deal of experience, and it has been very successful.”
—Ximena Andión Ibañez, Program Officer, Ford Foundation Mexico and Central America