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A Funder’s Guide to Protecting Human Rights

By Ria Sengupta Bhatt

The topic of human rights protection often evokes images of poor and disadvantaged individuals and the activities conducted and laws passed to ensure that they are not mistreated. A less common image is that of evaluators collecting data from and about these very same individuals, yet this is also a real piece in the human rights protection puzzle.

Evaluations of grantmaking strategies and programs document the experiences of grantees and program constituents through surveys, interviews, focus groups and observations. As such, it is important to protect the information communicated through these interactions. But whose job is it to ensure the rights of study participants?

It is the responsibility of both the evaluator and the grantmaker.

Evaluators are accountable to their clients, their clients’ grantees and program constituents involved in their studies. As evaluators, we are required to take action to ensure that personal information and opinions are protected (sometimes under lock and key) and that sensitive data (like health status and contact information) is kept confidential. Foundation staff are also responsible for the rights of participants in the studies that they fund. This may seem obvious; however, the established standards for protection are not always clear.

Informing Change has created resource documents and a training toolkit to help foundation staff understand how study participants should be protected and how philanthropic organizations can navigate these issues. These materials are written specifically for foundation staff responsible for commissioning evaluation and research studies. They are intended to share the appropriate amount of information and detail without overwhelming funders and to serve as a reference when questions arise about the protection of study participants.

We hope you find these materials useful to you and your colleagues at foundations!