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Case Study: Social Media and recycling in India

Arriving in Delhi to see (and smell) heaps of rubbish lining the streets was a bit of a shock to the system when I first arrived to volunteer in January of this year. The waste management problem in Delhi is so serious that the Hindustan Times dramatically stated that “Delhi may drown in its own waste”. Although this is probably not strictly true, as much as 85% of Delhi’s residents do not have a formal waste disposal system and Delhi’s colossal landfill sites are filling up fast. You can find out more here about waste and waste disposal.

landfill

I volunteered with Swechha; a non-governmental organisation focused on education and environmental issues in Delhi. I took part in clean-ups along with a variety of other projects – however, when I agreed to work to improve waste management, social media marketing was one of the last things I thought I would be doing.

Nevertheless, after my first couple of weeks of working with Swechha, I was asked to help market Green the Gap, an upcycling social enterprise which helps fund Swechha. I soon found myself tweeting on their behalf and becoming addicted to Facebook statistics.

In order to give a bit of background, I should explain the Swechha/Green the Gap relationship. Swechha is a Delhi-based NGO which deals in education and environmental issues, including waste management. The aforementioned waste issue in Delhi is utilised by some of Delhi’s poorest – rag-pickers who survive by picking through landfill sites and selling anything of value which they find. It is an informal (as well as ingenious) form of recycling.

This is where Green the Gap comes in – Green the Gap are an upcycling company who buy waste products from rag-pickers and employ tailors from a local slum community to upcycle these products into useful and fashionable items which can then be sold at a profit. The revenue made by Green the Gap then helps to fund the work of Swechha – It’s a beautiful cycle.

tailors

I started working with Swechha at the exact time that Green the Gap was launching into e-commerce and was asked to support this launch by using social media to increase traffic to the site.  My only qualifying skills were the fact that I kept a rather light-hearted blog which had already attracted some attention and Green the Gap wanted to use humour to spread their eco-message.

Having absolutely no experience of social media marketing, I initially found this task to be a bit of a challenge. My main tactics became seeking the attention of pre-existing environmental charities that may have wanted to support Green the Gap and trying to highlight the uniqueness of their products. One thing I learned was that in social media – subtlety is not your friend. I used lots of pictures and sophisticated captions like “Holy Cr*p – products made out of elephant poo” to advertise one particular line of paper products created from elephant dung and Green the Gap’s weekly total reach on Facebook increased by 22,320.49% (to be precise).

Trying to maintain the balance of maintaining a level of humour whilst not seeming flippant to the waste management issue in Delhi was a constant battle but I learned that important issues can be tackled in a fun and approachable way. Green the Gap were giving people an easy way to contribute to their society without preaching and shoving statistics down their throats – and this was something I could really get behind. I was to be able to use social media to reach a wide audience and promote a really great cause and I think that social media can be a fantastic tool in developing countries. My efforts were probably a bit amateur, but that was part of the beauty of it – social media is for everyman (or woman) and it is these people who can really make a difference to the world. I strongly feel that other NGOs should jump on the social media bandwagon and start getting their names out there. If I can master it, then so can they!

olivia-burke

Olivia Burke is a returned volunteer from the ICS programme. She spent three months in Delhi where one of her roles was using social media to market an upcycling social enterprise as it launched into e-commerce.

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Top 10 International Development Videos

I have always been interested in how videos can be used to promote international development. In my opinion a lot of development organisations waste money on producing videos, not thinking about their audience or the message and failing to seed it via social media and other digital channels.

Saying that there are a number of brilliant videos out there. Here is my Top 10

1. WaterAid – 1 in 3 women

This chilling video is so effective and talks directly to a western audience. Many people have no idea that millions and millions of people do not have access to sanitary facilities. This video makes that point very clearly. I’m surprised it has only around 5,000 views.

2. Invisible Children – Kony 2012

I’m not a huge fan of this video, but no one can doubt it’s phenomenal success as a “vital video”. It’s been debated to death so I won’t comment here – see my earlier blog if you are interested in a critique. If for some reason you haven’t watched it – please be patient and watch all 29 minutes. Apart from the oversimplification of the storytelling, my other big criticism is that they have turned off the comments.

3. Mismanagers Folliers – Development Boy

Very professionally executed and so catchy. A great parody. I haven’t been able to get the song out of my head for the last 2 weeks, which is why it gets such a high position in my “chart”.

4. Oxfam – Pregnant women dancing in London

A staged flashmob to highlight the dangers of pregnancy and birth around the world. I also love breakdancing. Not personally, just as a spectator. Are they pregnant or aren’t they?

5. SAIH Norway – Africa for Norway

A simple but clever idea with brilliant production values. Not only has this video had over 2million views it also received international media coverage within a couple of days of its release. Read more about the seeding of the video in one of my past blogs.

 6. Greenpeace – Barbie, It’s Over


I must have watched this video 20 times and it still makes me laugh. Brilliant scripting and production. Most importantly it succeeded in its goal. Love it!

7. Rainforest Alliance – Follow the Frog

I really can’t say why I like this video so much, it just makes me smile. I’m not sure if it will increase ethical purchasing much though.

8. Mama Hope – African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes

Another interesting video in a similar vain to Africa for Norway. It seems that there is a new paradigm of development communication emerging.

9. Comic Relief – Ricky Gervais

A great sketch for Comic Relief with a few surprisingly funny cameos. See my blog on the Huffington Post about irony in development communications.

10.International Aid Worker Meets African Villager

A tongue in cheek look at development workers in ‘Africa’. Note the negative comments in the YouTube comments.

 

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How Charity:Water use Social Media

I was perusing Twitter the other day and came across a presentation by Paull Young (@paullyoung) who is Director of Digital Engagement at Charity:Water and was inspired by his talk.

Charity:Water are a relatively new charity which started in 2006. I’ve seen a couple of their videos before but not really heard much more about them. Within the presentation Paull explains about their marketing strategy and how they raise 75% through their digital channels and social media. They were the first charity to have 1 million followers on Twitter and now have nearly 1.4 million followers. They have 248,000 likes on their Facebook page. Compare this to WaterAid in the US which has 28,000 likes. Charity:Water were also one of the first three brands on Instgram and have over 80,000 followers. They attribute their success on Instagram to the quality of their photography. Smiling faces and clean water images share! In fact through their marketing communications their emphasis on strong design and image is evident – their annual report is stunning. The only other charity annual report I have seen that is so design-led is by Invisible Children. Is it a coincidence that two charities who are incredibly successful at social media marketing apprecaite and understand the value of good design? Charity:Water also have a very clean website with simple and effective information architecture. The photography is beautiful and portrays a powerful message.

An innovative addition to their digital comms is a microsite ‘My Charity Water’. Every single dollar that is donated by the general public goes to providing clean water for those in need and every dollar is tracked via GPS and photos so that individual donors can track the impact that they have made. One of the ways people can fundraise is to give up their birthdays and ask their friends and family to donate to Charity:Water instead. They have had over 15,000 people give up their birthdays including several celebrities such as Justin Beiber and Will and Jada Smith.

As a parent of two young girls it is the emotional story of a nine year old from Washington State called Rachel Beckwith that moved me. Rachel gave up her birthday as a nine year old so that she could help provide clean water for people in Africa. She raised $220 and vowed to raise more on her 10th birthday. Rachel was tragically killed in a car accident before her 10th birthday. As a memorial her parents asked people to donate to her campaign and literally thousands did, raising $1.2 million.

Charity:Water truly understand the power of digital and social media. I look forward to seeing future innovations.

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Social Media and the #IF campaign

So, who’s heard of the Enough Food for Everyone #IF campaign yet? A coalition of 100 UK development organisations have come together to launch the largest humanitarian campaign since Make Poverty History and last night it was all over Social Media. In fact there were over 21,000 tweets tagged with the #IF hashtag yesterday.

It was tweeted by a large number of celebrities including Piers Morgan, Lauren Laverne, Ed Milliband, Mel C, Davina McCall, Bombay Bicycle Club, Ewan McGregor, Eddy Izzard, Rita Ora, Sara Cox, Amanda Holden, Pixie Lott, Stephen Fry, the Prime Minister’s office and many more.

The social media reach of these 14 Twitter accounts alone is over 22 million. Last night though between 9pm and 11pm #IF wasn’t trending. What was trending was the Chelsea player Eden Hazard assaulting a ball boy during a Capital One Cup Semi-final.

independent-edenhazard

It got me thinking about several issues connected with social media and development. Have we got social media fatigue? Does a story seeded on social media carefully coordinated by over 100 NGOs and faith communities amplify a message or weaken it? People tend to multitask when perusing social media. They also tend to read articles quicker than they would do in the printed press. Why is the #IF campaign not front page news today? Is an assault by a professional footballer more important than ensuring Food for Everyone across the world? Are the media and indeed the general public that shallow?

Professor Charlie Watson questions if the sector has ran out of communication ideas and whether the public will find this campaign confusing as a collection of different demands. I’m confused a bit myself. The only ‘calls to action’ seem to be:

1. Sign up for a newsletter
2. Watch a short film
3. Share this website via social media.

IF

I’ve signed up (along with 30,000 others), I’ve watched the film and I’ve shared extensively via @socialmedia4D. I’ll now have to wait to see how I can help and if the campaign is a success.

I hope so…

 

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