Human rights in action – a toolkit for change

What is the toolkit?

This toolkit is an introductory resource on human rights in the UK. It is aimed at anyone working in the voluntary and community sector in the UK, in particular those campaigning and providing advocacy on equalities issues. In will also be of general use for anyone wanting to know about how human rights apply to UK issues. It provides basic and practical information about what human rights are, how they are relevant to the voluntary and community sector and how you can effectively apply them in your work.

Why has it been produced?

Consultation carried out by BIHR and others has revealed a huge appetite among voluntary and community sector organisations for information about human rights. Skills and knowledge in human rights language, law and practice can support the voluntary and community sector to be more effective in:

  • Campaigning – human rights add highly effective moral and legal weight when influencing policy makers.
  • Advocacy and advice-giving – human rights provide a powerful language and additional tool in challenging poor treatment and service provision.
  • Empowering communities – communities who understand what their rights are can use this knowledge to strengthen their voice and influence with service providers and decision makers.
  • Service provision – human rights provide a practical planning and decision-making framework for designing and delivering better quality services.
  • Internal processes – applying human rights internally can help bring a fresh approach to the challenges of involving activists or service users in shaping your priorities and work.

However, we also know that there are low levels of awareness among voluntary and community sector organisations of what human rights are and how they can be applied in practice. This toolkit seeks to address this gap by providing practical information about human rights and their application in the UK.

How do I use it?

The toolkit is available to be read online or alternatively as a downloadable pdf (available soon). The chapters contain a mixture of information, practical exercises and tools.

  • Chapters 1 – 2 provide a basic introduction to human rights ideas, laws and principles
  • Chapters 3 – 5 explore how human rights can be applied in practice, with a number of practical case studies to test out what you have learned so far
  • Coming soon: we are currently developing further chapters that cover how you can apply human rights to specirfic areas such as campaigning and advocacy. These will be added to the toolkit as they are developed.  

We suggest that you work through each chapter in turn. As you start to apply human rights in your work, we hope that you will find it useful to return to particular chapters for reference. 

How has it been produced?

This toolkit has been produced by BIHR with support and funding from Capacity Builders, through the National Support Service. BIHR has been providing training and support on human rights to voluntary and community sector organisations for over 10 years, and the content of this toolkit has been strongly influenced by this experience. This initial version of the toolkit was published in 2010. We see it as a living document, and over a 12 month period it will be tested out with a range of voluntary and community sector organisations. Based on feedback we receive, a new version will be produced in 2011. We also plan to expand the toolkit with additional chapters.

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments on the toolkit we’d love to hear from you! Please complete our online evaluation form or contact us on with any feedback.