Our work

Civic Empowerment

Reducing barriers to marginalized groups' full participation in society, improving equitable access to effective public services, and protecting inclusive participation and dissent.

The global context

A core principle of democratic governance is that governments work on behalf of the people they serve, and that those people can engage with government.   

However, many governments do not hold up their end of the bargain. Members of ethnic and religious minorities, LGBTQ+ communities, refugees and migrants, and indigenous peoples, amongst others, face structural exclusion from society. For example, they are kept from accessing government, including the public services they need and deserve 

In addition, too many people worldwide have been systematically and historically excluded from full and active engagement with government, for example by participating in governance, politics, and society. This is exacerbated by more and more governments who increasingly threaten to disempower those who challenge them, and to restrict the expression of dissent by individuals and civil society organisations. 

These dynamics do not exist in a vacuum but are caused and worsened by deeply entrenched unjust power structures which benefit people and institutions who have power, at the expense of those who do not. 

What we do

Questions of power, equity, and inclusion are at the heart of civic empowerment.  Luminate works to improve equitable access to effective public services, defend marginalised groups’ ability to be full and active members of society, and protect inclusive participation and dissent. Our work also seeks to challenge and break down the structural inequalities that cause injustice and discrimination.  

We do this by supporting non-profit and for-profit organisations that work in these areas, and that seek to achieve full and meaningful participation in governance, politics, and society by all, not just by a few. Our work focuses on defending and amplifying the voices of those who are excluded, marginalised, and underserved, as well as those actively working to ensure that governments work on behalf of the people they serve. 

With a global remit, we actively fund organisations in Africa, Central & Eastern Europe, Latin America,  Southeast Asia,  the United States, and Western Europe. The kind of work we support varies depending on the regional context in which we operate, as barriers to Civic Empowerment can differ from one context to another.  

Civic Empowerment 2018-2022 Strategy

Our current priority areas include:


Improving equitable access to effective public services

Without equitable access to public servicesit is inconceivable that everyone can be fully included in society. We support work that advocates for and facilitates equitable access to public services, with a focus on marginalised and underserved communities. 


Defending the ability of marginalised groups to be full and active members of society

The defence of marginalised groups’ full and active participation in society is a critical step towards civic empowerment. Luminate therefore supports work that centres the rights of people who face structural discrimination and exclusion.


Protecting inclusive participation and dissent

Civic empowerment lies in the ability to participate in public processes and governance, but also in the freedom to challenge and oppose these processes, or to dissent with a government or regime. We support work that protects online and offline spaces for representative participation and dissent. 


Challenging and shifting unjust power structures

Power asymmetries are a main driver of civic disempowerment. We therefore also seek to challenge and shift unjust power structures. In addition, we hope to centre equity and challenge unjust power in all of our work, whether that’s our grantmaking, research, or other contributions to the field.

Human Dignity Trust works in countries spanning all regions of the world with LGBT activists, lawyers, parliamentarians, and government officials, to challenge or reform discriminatory laws that often date back to the colonial era. We provided support to the Human Dignity Trust to work towards the decriminalisation of LGBT people through strategic litigation and legislative reform.

The Fund for Global Human Rights works with locally rooted organisations in more than 20 countries, with a focus on those experiencing high rates of poverty, recovering from war, or building democratic governments. Luminate contributes to the Fund’s work in supporting grassroots organisations working across the globe to enable activists to remain agile in the face of crackdowns on their work.

Asylum Access transforms discriminatory laws and policies into frameworks that enable refugees to live safely, move freely, and work legally to encourage their full social and economic participation. We contributed to Asylum Access' Global Systems Change work which seeks to transform the refugee system into one that is led and influenced by refugees and host communities, and that prioritises efforts that defend fundamental rights and secure access to services.