Day One – Living below the line

I came across the Live Below the Line website when I was researching for the #IF campaign and thought it was an interesting concept for both fundraising and awareness raising. In some ways it is similar to the PlumpyNut challenge which I have seen promoted a lot more on social media.

The ‘Challenge’ started in 2009 when two friends living together, both with a passion for poverty alleviation, came up with the idea and in 2012 the campaign raised over £500,000. The idea is that for 5 days you can spend no more than £1 a day on food on drink. This year the challenge takes place from 29th April to 3rd May 2103. The website outlines how the challenge works.

My wife and I have decided to take the challenge in April/May, when I will also write a blog from a social media promotion point of view. For now though, we thought we would have a practice run so that we can complete the challenge successfully in a few weeks time.

We didn’t really plan our shopping very well. So bascially went for quite a simple menu of

Porridge with Jam for Breakfast
Cream cheese sandwiches for lunch
Large vegetable curry with rice for dinner


So off I went to Sainsburys (probably my first mistake) with my £10 in hand and my 6 year old daughter (maybe another mistake haha).

The shopping list consisted of

Medium Loaf 0.80
3 x Tomato Soup 0.72
Baked Beans 0.28
Tomato Soup 0.24
Fruit Jam 0.29
Pasta Sauce 0.44
Sweet Potato 0.59
2 x Cheese Spread 2.00
Onion 0.14
Mushrooms 1.00
Pasta Shapes 0.39
Potatoes 1.31
Carrots 0.43
Orange Squash 0.29
Lemon Squash 0.29
Porridge Oats 0.60
TOTAL 9.97

I’ll tell you how we got on during our first day tomorrow….

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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.


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.


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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Celebrity Advocacy, Social Media and International Development

I have always wondered how much attention celebrity news and news sites like The VIP Roll get. But on the other hand, it isn’t always reflected on celebrity videos. I was preparing a lecture the other day on the use of social media by International NGOs. During my research I watched a lot of videos on Youtube and I noticed how few views many of the celebrity videos had received.

One good example is a group of videos called “What could you buy with 50 pence” made by ActionAid with celebrities including Gabby Logan, Katherine Kelly, Sarah Alexander, Fay Ripley and Mark Watson. Now I’m not big on celebrities and I don’t even know who 2 of these people are, however, what I noticed was how each video had received hardly any views. Mainly the early hundreds, some lower. I wondered to myself – how much does it cost to produce these videos? I don’t know the answer. I presume that the celebrities offer their services free of charge. I’m sure they do. But do they get expenses? If so, how much does it cost to get 5 “celebs” into a studio? How much did the film crew get? How much was editing etc. At the end of the day – was it worth it?

I then found a video by Robbie Williams on the UNICEF channel. I’ve heard of Robbie Williams 🙂 I was amazed that it had less than 5000 views (at the time of writing). Surely with Robbie’s fan base it would attract more views and shares than this via social media? Obviously not. Again, how much did it cost to shoot? Don’t get me wrong it may be very cheap. But what is the return on investment (ROI)? What is the main objective of the video? Robbie’s film has a clear call to action to donate money to Soccer Aid. The film is also educational. Maybe UNICEF are happy with the results? Again I don’t know the answer.

So after seeing these videos and plenty more I started to wonder – Is celebrity endorsement for International Development a good thing? I was then kindly sent a case study on UNICEF about their campaign #SahelNOW and how it was endorsed by Selena Gomez. Her video has had nearly 50,000 views. She has nearly 14 million followers on Twitter and each Tweet about the campaign was retweeted around 5,000 times. I won’t go into all the detail here but the campaign was a resounding success. If you want to see more stats there’s a great slideshare – #SahelNOW: Sound the Alarm, One Million Children at Risk.

So celebrity endorsement does work, esecially when you have an ‘A’ lister who’s dating Justin Beiber (at the time). There are plenty of other success stories about celebrity endorsement via social media. You just have to look at #Kony2012.

Anyway, today I was talking to my colleague about celebrity endorsement and he kindly guided me to some work by Dan Brockington who researches Celebrity and Development. His blog is well worth perusing. The research isn’t complete yet but there are some early findings, one of which is that celebrities are often the winners of charity advocacy. That’s a discussion for another day….

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Delhi Gang Rape and Social Media

I watched the horrific Delhi Gang Rape story unfold on social media over Christmas. I promised myself and more importantly my family that I wouldn’t blog over Christmas. Today’s superb blog ‘Social Media and Protest – The Indian Spring?’ by Professor Ravinda Barn has insipred me to write down my earlier thoughts which mirror her own – “To what extent were the India protests organized by Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media?

The first I knew of the story was via Twitter when Ghazala Airshad (@ghazairshad) shared a blog post on 23rd December by Indian writer Nilanjara Roy ‘Notes from Raisina Hill’.  Roy talks to many of the protesters and notes “Almost all of them heard about the protest on Facebook and Twitter, or from friends—not through the mainstream media.” She notices two very different types of protesters. In the morning peaceful protests mainly by students and by the afternoon people there just for the TV cameras. I wonder whether at the time of writing her blog she thought the story would snowball globally.

I was also intrigued on New Years Eve by the article in the Times of India “The year social media came of age”. It made me wonder whether the tweets by Sambhavi Saxena were the catalyst for the story reaching the masses across the world. I don’t think so looking back at online articles, but I’m sure it helped.

Reading Saxena’s Twitter Account I was amazed at how often she had tweeted whilst being detained. I wonder whether police officers around the world will make sure they confiscate people’s phones when they make arrests in the future?

I love that Professor Barn’s calls this the Indian Spring. I wish I’d come up with that great linkbait title, however I think she could be right. Is this just the start of the Indian Spring? Will the government’s promises to review safety for girls and women in India be carried out? Only time will tell, but I truly hope so!

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Can Social Media help to save the world?

Can Social Media help to save the world?

It has been argued that Social Media is the most important change in mass communication since the Guttenberg Press. This seismic shift in the way we communicate has positive and negative outcomes for the developing world. The Arab Spring revolutions are a fine example of positive change. Wael Gonim, who played an influential role in the Egyptian uprisings, says there is no doubt it was an “ internet sparked revolution.” Whereas the controversial Kony 2012 campaign by Invisible Children has been widely debated for both its positive and negative impacts. On the positive side it was the fastest growing viral video of all times with valuable lessons to be learned from it. The negatives were many: inaccuracy of information, oversimplification and unnecessarily large production budgets, to name but a few.

Charities and NGOs were early adopters of Social Media as a communication and marketing tool. There have been many successful campaigns such as the Greenpeace Mister Splashy Pants campaign, Oxfam’s Land Grab’s campaign and No Child Born to Die by Save the Children. Social Media has made it easier than ever before for large broadcasters to report on issues around the world and with cuts in budgets, it is more cost effective to utilise citizen or activist generated media.

Social Media has undoubtedly changed the way we communicate, it empowers individuals and enables communities to share information and have a collective voice. It has been used by international development agencies and NGOs to crowd source information during disasters such as the Haiti earthquake. NGOs have also employed social media to raise awareness of humanitarian issues, fundraise and report from the field. The negative impacts of social media have been discussed at length such as cyber infidelity, cyber bullying, privacy, addiction, criminality and cultural imperialism.

In 2002 the Guardian published an article about how the mobile phone is changing our world . At that time the number of mobiles in the world was 1.4 billion. Not many people would have predicted that ten years later there would be 6 billion mobile subscriptions and internet enabled mobiles would be more or less standard. The undoubted penetration of smartphones in developing countries over the next few years will give more and more people access to social media networks. Is it a myth that Social Media can help to save the world?

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