Hivos website

How we work

Moving the middle

Shifting norms and attitudes among the wider public is crucial for any lasting change in terms of climate justice, gender equality, diversity and inclusion, or more responsible and accountable citizens, companies and governments.

To achieve this, our partners and Hivos need to win over the “hearts and minds” of societal leaders and decision-makers at all levels. This takes us from the family and community to governments, (religious) institutions, companies, media and artists. Actions that change minds can start in people’s direct environment and spiral out to ever widening circles, or target public opinion and policy makers through persuasive campaigns. These campaigns also act as an essential bulwark that lets us stand up against any conservative forces aiming to dismantle or undo our work.

Our strategy, based on (formative) research and Hivos’ experience in programs such as KP REACH and Strong in Diversity, focuses on the so-called “movable middle.” This is the silent majority of people who don’t have a (fixed) opinion about controversial societal issues, but tend to follow socially accepted norms. We learned that both personal stories and influential persons, presenting new and convincing narratives, can be the decisive factor in changing their minds. In KP REACH, the heartwarming stories of LGBTIQ+ people and their relatives, neighbors, and friends (“people like you and me”) describing their struggle for acceptance measurably improved public sentiment across eight Southern African countries.

Likewise, the narratives and actions of societal leaders play a key role in shaping opinions, both in our direct environment and among the wider public. We will support our partners in engaging and entering into dialogue with moderate and progressive leaders, and we will connect them with like-minded allies to help turn them into a force for positive change. Hivos offers a broad range of expertise, tools, methodologies and training to support rights holders and organizations in changing the minds of a critical mass of the population.