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A brief history of Open Briefing

Barbed wire photo

The campaigner and social entrepreneur Chris Abbott founded Open Briefing in 2011. Described by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as ‘radical in the proper sense’, Chris has spent his career protecting others, from frontline environmental defenders in South America and Southeast Asia in the 1990s to civilians in conflict during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the wider ‘war on terror’.

Chris rose to prominence before Open Briefing as the deputy director of the world-renowned Oxford Research Group. There he pioneered holistic approaches to global security, including groundbreaking work on the links between socio-economic divisions, climate change and insecurity, as well as regional sustainable security initiatives in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa. This work formed the basis of his first book, Beyond Terror, which the human rights activist and environmental campaigner Anita Roddick said ‘will change the way you look at the world’.

Based on his years of experience, Chris knew that the time was right for an innovative organisation to provide appropriate, effective and affordable support to those on the frontlines of civil society. With an initial focus on intelligence and research, Open Briefing soon began working with clients, beneficiaries and funders to address their physical safety and security concerns. This quickly expanded to include a human-centred, information-first approach to digital security, which dovetails effectively with the urgent need to protect human rights defenders and others physically targeted for their work.

Chris’s early training in psychology and advocacy for those experiencing mental health problems led him to realise that wellbeing and resilience are just as important as physical and digital security in keeping people safe from harm or injury. Since the addition of this final pillar of our work, Open Briefing remains the only non-profit working worldwide to provide comprehensive, holistic support to those facing attacks, harassment and censorship.

Chris has brought together an exceptional international collective of humanitarians, human rights defenders, peacebuilders, and environmentalists with wide-ranging operational, security, and management experience to form the team at Open Briefing. They all share Chris’s passion and commitment to defend, strengthen and empower those on the frontlines of civil society by keeping them and their partners safe and secure online and in the real world.