Breakthrough is a global human rights organization driving the culture change we need to build a world in which all people live with dignity, equality, and respect. We do this using a potent mix of media, arts, and tech with an intersectional feminist approach.
Breakthrough plays a significant part in the broader movement for social justice in the United States. We are a hub for creatives, cultural workers, artists, and media makers who use their talents to spark social transformation.
Breakthrough is a noun, an adjective, and a verb that reflects the innovative ways we break through barriers to deliver irreversible culture change. Our name captures:
- Our vision of a world in which norms and values derived from power and dominance over others are transformed into a global culture based on dignity, equality, and respect.
- Our ambitious and innovative approach to culture change.
- The transformation we activate in individuals when we inspire them to freedom dream with us.
Breakthrough’s approach is founded upon a singular commitment to drawing the connections between issue areas that are often treated as if they are disparate. But they are not. Our work intentionally weaves together the multitude of compounding social factors and forces that shape our lived experiences and often lead to violence and discrimination.
Culture shapes who we are and how we live. But we create culture. So working powerfully and collectively with on-the-ground action and elements of culture itself, we have the power to shape culture and change culture into an embodiment of the values of dignity, equality, and respect.
“Culture is...the realm of ideas, images, and stories—the narrative in which we are immersed every day. It is where people make sense of the world, where ideas are introduced, values are inculcated, and emotions are attached to concrete change.” Jeff Chang and Brian Komar
We use culture to change culture. We use traditional media, new media, popular culture, and other forms of cultural expression to reach people where they are, spark public engagement, change social norms, and influence the public agenda through a human rights lens. We forge game-changing strategic partnerships with a wide range of players in an even wider range of fields—entertainment, art, government, corporations, community groups, and more, to reach maximum scale and impact.
We know that representation matters, both in front of and behind the camera. Our mission is to uplift the voices of those most marginalized by our current status quo, to challenge the media landscape, and to create real, lasting change.
Human rights are part of our everyday lives. They are intrinsic to how we treat each other in our homes, families, workplaces, communities, and social spaces. They are about recognizing and taking responsibility for the power and privilege we carry with us. While government agencies and human rights laws are necessary and responsible for promoting and protecting human rights, so is each one of us. And so are the creatives, cultural workers, artists, and media makers we work alongside.
“Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home...the world of the individual person: the neighborhood, school, or college; the factory, farm, or office...Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.” Eleanor Roosevelt
No. Our operational style is different from most international groups which traditionally have a structure consisting of “headquarters” and “field offices.” Our local, national, and global work emerges out of our two centers in the world’s two largest democracies: New York and New Delhi. The country offices collaborate on organizational strategy and global programming. We have a deeply-rooted shared mission, vision, and culture change approach, and each office determines culturally and politically relevant priorities and campaigns.
In 2000, Breakthrough began our human rights and culture change programs in the United States and India because our founder, Mallika Dutt, is Indian-American. Her understanding of the political and cultural contexts in both countries enabled her to develop a unique global organizing strategy. Through partnerships, collaborations, and agenda-setting on issues of global concern, the work emerging from our two centers now has worldwide reach.
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