Coming to Terms with Uncertainty — Experimenting with Creating Webs of Safety and Care

A person & a child tend to a green, flowery field. Three patterned cloths on a line billow in the wind as the sun shines.
This blog post speaks about how tools that we developed for our ‘Enabling Defenders’ programme took a life of its own when activists and networks devised varied uses for it, rooted in their own specific contexts.

The building of webs, an emergent learning experiment

Through our ‘Enabling Defenders’ programme, we co-created with grassroots community activists a model for Webs of Safety and Care. We worked on the assumption that if activists were to be supported through a step-by-step process to activate diverse forms of support to counter the multiple insecurities they face, then they will have to be not solely reliant on emergency grants. How do we do this? We accompany them to identify their needs comprehensively, and collectively analyse and prioritise how to meet these needs with support from other collaborators, too. We provide them platforms to come together to ideate at, and together, we explore how addressing gaps in their capacities can help them respond more holistically to their emerging needs.

A circle showing four colourful, patterned patches and human figures. The central circle’s headline says ‘Safety and Care’.

From constructing the programme to pilot-testing

Almost a year into contouring our programme, we tested our NA tool with women from a community of urban poor and informal settlers, a labour union on strike, and a network supporting a healthcare worker jailed on false charges. Working on their feedback, we revised the tool, and they translated it into their language for better understanding. Then we began piloting the model with defender communities: a community of urban poor women at a national level, and a trans network at the regional level.

Adapting our tools for consciousness-raising

The breakthrough was when the activists felt safe and confident to explain where they were getting stuck:

Our tools as a reflection guide for movement-building

For another network, the NA tool and workshops became an exploration of the different stages of movement-building, and an introspection on where their trans movement is currently situated. During the NA tool workshops, we expected them to accede to designing a regional web of safety and care for their network members in Asia and the Pacific.

Sense-making and embracing the unknown

Writer and social practitioner, Allan Kaplan identifies groups, organisations, and communities as “social organisms”, living entities on a life journey. So for any intervention initiated by social practitioners like us, there are many interweaving processes to be aware of, three of which are primary: “the organism’s process, the practitioner’s own process unfolding, and the interaction between these — the intervention — which is itself a process. The practitioner is responsible for maintaining awareness and centredness in all.”



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Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific

Urgent Action Fund Asia & Pacific


A regional women’s human rights and feminist fund that protects, strengthens and sustains women and non-binary human rights defenders in Asia and the Pacific