2019 is going to be a difficult year on many levels, but in every threat, there is an opportunity.

I can’t remember beginning a year with such trepidation. We’re planning a lot research, analysis and campaigns, because the threat we face is on the rise. We need support to do everything we can, and the number one way people can support us is to become a member of the HOPE Action Fund. I hope you’ll consider it, because we really need the help.

The uncertainty over Brexit, a European Election that is likely to see a clear shift to the right in the European Parliament and an increasingly aggressive and confident far right at home and abroad.

On top of that, we have UKIP adopting far right anti-Muslim rhetoric, the possibility of former UKIP leader Nigel Farage launching a new right wing populist party, a stuttering economy and the worsening perception of integration and community relations in this country.

It is easy to get down with the current state of affairs. It would be easy to withdraw and even give up. But we shouldn’t and we won’t. In fact, it’s against the backdrop of this growing uncertainty that HOPE not hate has plans for its most ambitious work to date.

A year of Brexit

Brexit will clearly dominate the politics of Britain for much of the year (and probably beyond). It seems almost inconceivable now that Britain will leave the EU with a deal on 29 March. If we do leave on that date the UK is likely we will be crashing out of the EU, with all the economic chaos and potentially social disorder that will accompany it. 

If Brexit is delayed or another Referendum is called, then many leave voters will be furious.

And if, by some miracle, MPs can agree a deal with the EU and pass the 1,000 pieces of legislation required for it to happen in time to leave by the end of March then there will still be problems. In our deeply polarised society, very few people are likely to support the compromise that gets through Parliament and given that we have another two or three years of deeply divisive negotiations with the EU still to go, resentment and a feeling of betrayal is likely to consume both Leave and Remain voters.

The toxicity of the Brexit issue – whatever the political outcome  – will be felt in communities around the country and create a huge amount of work for HOPE not hate to do. If the 2016 Referendum is a guide, racist attacks will rise so there needs to be solidarity and support for communities under attack. A feeling of Brexit betrayal — whether from a delayed, or a “soft” Brexit — will energise the far right. This will pose a political and physical threat. If Brexit happens it is also abundantly clear that the expectations of its most fervent supporters are unlikely to be met. Without direction, explanation and alternative remedies, this resentment is likely to feed further hostility and division.

Countering the politics of despair

HOPE not hate’s strength as an organisation lies in the complex interface between our research, campaign, policy, organising and education work. Our research and data teams can identify the organisational, geographical and policy threats, the campaigns unit can shape a response, and our organising and educational staff can deliver the work.

In 2019, HOPE not hate will:

  • increase our monitoring of extremists and organised hate
  • continue to engage in local communities that are vulnerable to extremism
  • expand our schools project
  • develop better ways to counter hate online
  • challenge the democratic deficit and increase our voter registration campaign
  • increase our engagement in the policy debate to ensure we are no longer simply firefighting when problems emerge but addressing the core reasons behind our divided society.

We understand that hate comes in many forms and from many directions, so 2019 will see us expand our research operation to cover the many threats we face. 

We will engage with faith communities to better understand and challenge religious extremism; do more to monitor and expose left-wing antisemitism; and better understand the drivers of fear and hate.

Data has become a central part of our work and this will continue to be the case in 2019. Combined, our polling, data analysis and focus group work gives us a unique understanding of public opinion, of where people are, and what issues and messages move people. It enables us to be more effective in developing localised community engagement strategies. 

In 2019 we will further develop our rapid response work, organising local positive responses to hostile events identified by our research team; launch new digital organising efforts combating online hate with counter-narrative work and preventing it spilling over offline; expand our community training in vulnerable communities identified by our data work, so our learning can reach the maximum number of relevant communities and individuals, as well as developing new training programmes in conjunction with trade unions; and grow our education output, syncing it better with other engagements in local communities identified by our data.

We also intend to develop new policy work areas, focusing on issues of integration and raising awareness of the cultural chasm that exists in Britain today, and ways of lessening it, as well as work on new channels to get this policy output into the hands of policy stakeholders. We will promote multicultural Britain, to both showcase how people are and can live together happily and peacefully, but also to offer an antidote to hate.

In an exciting new initiative, HOPE not hate will work with the Centre for Towns to build on the success of our ground-breaking Fear, Hope and Loss report which looked at the drivers of fear and hate to develop public policy remedies for communities that have been affected most by de-industrialisation.

The threats we face require the mobilisation of public opinion, progressives of all stripes, and core HOPE not hate supporters. We will use a range of media, social media, owned online properties, online and offline organising, and advertising to reach key audiences, giving supporters tangible ways to support our goals.

During 2019 we will continuing to win set-piece coverage for our reports and other projects, provide messaging support to stakeholders who are supporters with guidance and talking points, and seek to insert anti-fascist messages into the daily political discourse, especially as Brexit heats up.

Our Rapid Response team will support communities to better respond to short-term threats and extremist events. Our forthcoming When Hate Comes to Town handbook and training programme will support local civil society organisations in developing peaceful and positive actions and share good (and bad) practice. A new National Network Coordinator to support our local activists, and recruit more of them.

Underpinning much of the divisions and appeal of extremism today is our current democratic deficit. Anger and bewilderment at the changing world around them has been compounded for many by a sense of political abandonment and even betrayal. Almost seven out of ten people now say that there is not a political party that speaks for them – a damning indictment of a political system that is detached from many ordinary people. HOPE not hate will redouble our democratic engagement work, both encouraging voter registration amongst the groups in society that need representation most but also working with others to increase democracy and participation in society more generally.

With growing number of local communities vulnerable to division and extremism, it is no longer possible to place organisers in a handful of local communities. Based on the experiences we, and staff who responded to the questionnaire, have had, we have decided it is more effective to provide training and support to civic society groups, community organisations and faith networks in areas we identify as being vulnerable, to allow them to take our message to their own communities.

A central feature of this work will be to develop our Difficult Conversations training programme. Encouraging people to talk, and how to talk, is a key pillar of our work going forward. Our Difficult Conversations Training will deliver targeted training modules to support organisations and activists to understand and bridge the divisions in communities they work in. Our educational work has been a real success over the past two years and in the academic year 2017/18 we visited 107 schools, educated 16,983 students and created 608 HNH Ambassadors (a four-week course for Year 9 pupils, as well as running CPD (teacher training) for 212 adults). Looking ahead, we will be integrating our education work with organising and community training scheduled simultaneously in communities. Over the next two years we will expand our work, both to increase the areas of the UK we cover but also because we are increasingly concerned that the far right’s use of social media is increasing its support amongst young people. Our particular focus is to improve understanding of the issues facing young people in isolated communities, and how that is impacting on wider issues of integration and belonging in Britain today.

HOPE not hate is probably best known for our high quality, cutting edge research, and it is a testament to the whole team that we have had success after success in this space over a number of years. With an increasingly integrated set up, our Research Team will be better able to support our frontline campaigning and community organising by providing detailed background briefings and content that is easily understood and shared on social media and bolster our policy and data work by providing context and intelligence on extremist threats. One of the priorities for 2019 is to continue to develop our social media monitoring software and in particular create an early warning system that can alert us to emerging social media threats so we can better respond and ultimately limit the spread of online hate. While we will still publish in-depth research reports, we will have a new focus on the identification of proof points that can be weaponised into content to use in engaging and disrupting the online in our day-to-day battles.

Our magazine will regain its role as a window to the HOPE not hate world and 2019 will see better content, more debate and expert external writers and more themed issues. We will also increase our international cooperation through the participation in a new European-wide anti-hate table and joint research and publications with similar organisations across Europe. 2019 is going to be a difficult year on many levels, but in every threat, there is an opportunity. 

HOPE not hate’s work is more important than ever. Please help us deliver it.