2017 was a tremendous twelve months for HOPE not hate. I wanted to say thank you to you, as one of our supporters, and I also wanted you to be the first to hear from me about what we have planned for the year ahead.
Let's start with a quick round up of 2017 (if you want to skip ahead, the short version is that we had a cracking year!).
Our cutting edge research unit had the far-right on the back foot (again):
- Our infiltration of the banned nazi terrorist group National Action smashed an alleged plot to kill a Labour MP, for which six people now face terrorism charges.
- We led an effort that defeated attempts by the international far right to impede humanitarian ships in the Mediterranean.
- Our operation to infiltrate the very heart of the alt-right, both in the UK and the US, has won international plaudits and is now the basis of a 60-minute documentary film which we hope to release in the coming year.
People heard our message of HOPE:
- HOPE not hate was cited in over 2,300 articles and we were consulted by both governmental and non-governmental agencies multiple times.
- Our organisers developed a 'difficult conversations' training which we implemented around the country to local activists, campaigners, and communities.
- We rolled out a brand new educational program, bringing our tried and tested techniques into classrooms to teach tens of thousands of school children and hundreds of teachers on identifying and challenging hate.
- We co-ran a National Conversation around immigration with the support of the Home Affairs Select Committee, travelling the length and breadth of the country to build a comprehensive understanding of societal attitudes towards immigration.
We didn’t back down when faced with a smear campaign:
- A notable highlight was forcing Nigel Farage into a humiliating climbdown after he falsely accused us of being a violent organisation, a validation of the strong stance we have taken against anyone who uses their platform to disseminate damaging and incorrect information.
2017 was a tough year. Every step of the way, our team and our supporters stepped up. I wish I could say that 2018 is going to be a quieter, easier year, but that’s not the case. Our work will be just as important in 2018 - and we’ll need to come together to make sure we have as much of an impact.
The far-right must be tracked, and challenged:
- We will continue to monitor and expose the activities of the banned National Action, whose members are increasingly being linked to terrorism – currently, there are three separate terrorist trials involving 15 alleged NA members set for 2018, with possibly more to come.
- We plan to create a new research unit to monitor and challenge the growing threat of online hate. This will include an international collaborative effort to monitor, scrape, and analyse online far right material in real time and develop the tools to utilise advance data science techniques to create counter-narratives and support offline intervention.
- Based on the findings in our end-of-year supporter survey, this spring we will produce a detailed report exploring the impact a hard Brexit could have on increasing divisions and insecurity in local communities.
Working out how we talk to one another is absolutely vital in our increasingly polarised society:
- At a local level, we are starting a new engagement project in forty communities where voters are most susceptible to far right narratives. There will be ongoing work in these communities, both to build alliances and strengthen relationships but also to provide alternative narratives to hate.
- We will continue to expand our 'difficult conversations' training and further deepen our links to faith networks. Building these sorts of links can help break down divisions between communities and committed faith groups, those who identify with a faith on a cultural level, and those of no faith.
- We are also launching a First Responder Unit, combining organising, research, and digital, to allow us to intervene quickly to a crisis and offer support and guidance to local communities being targeted by hate.
- We will continue to expand our Educational team, reaching even more students and teachers around the country. Our research team will expand our coverage of antisemitism, Holocaust Denial and antisemitic conspiracies and we will work with partner organisations to challenge these attitudes online.
Our campaigning is stepping up as we confront the toxic political debate:
- While UKIP is in the political doldrums, hit by scandal after scandal, we cannot take our eyes off the ball. The potential appeal for a right wing nativist party is still strong – our recent Fear and HOPE report indicated that 14% of English people identified saw Nigel Farage as the political leader with views closest to their own. In May's local elections, we will be working hard to ensure that UKIP lose the 167 seats it won four years ago.
- We are involved in a civic engagement project in London with Bite the Ballot and the Democracy Club to increase voter registration and turnout in marginalised communities and ensure that local candidates are listening to the issues voters care about.
- We are delighted to welcome Matthew McGregor as our new Campaigns Director. A key figure in the Obama 2012 presidential campaign, Matthew will help integrate digital into our research and campaigns to help expand our work online.
- As we approach the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech in April, we will be launching a new project looking at the state of integration in today’s Britain.
- While the far right is small and more divided than for many years, there is certainly no room for complacency. The online reach of right wing vloggers and activists is huge and growing steadily, and it will be of no surprise if we see an upsurge of far right ideas amongst young people and on campus.
In a deeply-polarised Britain, where there is little common ground or even interest in engaging between social liberals and social and economic authoritarians, HOPE not hate is needed more than ever.
Our mission remains as such: to work to bridge the gap between communities, build local resilience to hate, and monitor and challenge organised hate wherever we find it.
Together, let's make 2018 a year when HOPE continues to defeat hate.