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The Human Rights Lab is a new, interdisciplinary space for faculty and students at the University of Minnesota. Through the Lab process, teams investigate human rights challenges that can help NGOs, communities, institutions, and policymakers work to reduce inequalities.

Faculty across several colleges and degree programs designed this joint endeavor with 4 objectives:

  • Research: To strengthen existing faculty work and generate new research that will advance human rights;
  • Education: To expand experiential, intercultural, and interdisciplinary training for human rights students;
  • Impact: To build relationships with partner organizations and entities on the frontlines of human rights and generate meaningful work that will impact rights protections for marginalized groups in contexts of severe power disparities;
  • Sustainability: To build our lasting capacity as a nationally and internationally recognized "Human Rights University".

Over its first two years, the Human Rights Lab has workshopped and supported 12 projects by 12 teams, Each team, including a lead faculty member, a student, and a partner organization or entity, worked to address a specific human rights challenge.

1. Faculty Identify a Human-Rights Challenge and Lab Partnership

To apply for the Lab, a faculty member from any discipline presents a project that:

  • Focuses on a real-world human rights challenge that would benefit from a knowledge exchange between various academic disciplines and actors on the frontlines;
  • Involves a partnership of at least one faculty, one graduate student, and one external entity or organization;
  • Can be concretely advanced by a graduate student in a supervised, on-site summer fieldwork research placement.

The Lab has supported 12 projects in 2016-2018. Tap “Impact” below for more on each project.

2. Team Leads a Session of the Human Rights Lab to Workshop Project Design

The team circulates their challenge and project proposal to more than 40 human rights faculty and researchers in departments across the University of Minnesota.

The faculty and student Human Rights Lab team then leads an interdisciplinary faculty workshop to solicit two main types of feedback:

  • Academic insights from the lenses of law, sociology, political science, public policy, medicine, literature, and engineering.
  • Practical guidance on research design and implementation including methodology, ethics, student preparation, networking, advocacy strategies, and dissemination

The University of Minnesota is uniquely suited to support a Human Rights Lab because of the impressive depth and breadth of academic and policy expertise of our faculty.

3. Graduate Student and Faculty Member Work On-site with External Partner

As part of the Lab participation, the graduate student receives a travel and research stipend to spend the summer working on-site with the partner organization(s) under the supervision of the lead faculty member. The faculty member also receives a travel stipend to spend time at the site or bring the partner to the United States.

This engagement work significantly advances the impact and research quality of the team’s work and develops important working relationships. In particular,

  • Partner and Student: The partner and student develop direct relationship through placement. The partner receives additional support and benefits from stronger work. The students gain professional development and training through the partner and practice on-site research skills.
  • Student and Faculty: The student and faculty member develop an ongoing relationship.
  • Faculty and Partner: The faculty member and partner organization develop a lasting relationship for ongoing work and greater impact.

4. Lasting Contributions

Advancing Scholarship: Informed by interdisciplinary exchange, engaged fieldwork, and insights of those on the frontlines, the Human Rights Lab produces work that advances human rights scholarship and practice.

Preparing Students: Top graduate students benefit from unique one-on-one mentoring and are trained in practical project design, fieldwork, and advocacy and integrated into the University human rights community.

Impacting Policy & Practice: Partners are empowered by greater access to resources and deeper insights into their work. New research influences decision-makers.

Building the Human Rights University: The University benefits from strengthening its reputation for impactful scholarship, building infrastructure, and developing relationships.