Duckrabbit are well known in the charity/NGO sector for both their filmmaking and their superb training courses. They have just produced an excellent introduction to filmmaking which is packed with tips. The guide takes you through the process of pre-production right through to post production with advice of budgets. storyboarding, editing etc. The guide also links to examples of films which is really handy.
A few years ago I wrote a quick blog post Top 10 tips for making an NGO video – this new guide from duckrabbit is ten times better and packed with some really simple advice which is often overlooked. A must read for anyone wanting to maximise their film budget in the development / NGO / charity sector!
I blogged about my Top 10 International Development videos a few months back. At the time I wondered whether to do my Top 20 or Top 10. There are too many videos not to give you the full list……
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?
I recently met with Laila Takeh who is Head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF in the UK. UNICEF is a ‘digital first’ organisation and topped the 2012 Social Charity 100 Rankings. I have been extremely impressed in the way UNICEF has adopted digital media as a tool for advocacy, fundraising and information dissemination so was pleased that Laila agreed to a meeting.
Laila and I had a long discussion about UNICEF’s use of social media. We talked about compassion fatigue and indeed social media fatigue, and ways of iterative re-packaging strategies to overcome this. We also discussed the much debated anti ‘slacktivism’ campaign by UNICEF Sweden ‘Likes don’t save lives’, but one of the first things I wanted to know about was UNICEF’s use of celebrity, which is an area that fascinates me. UNICEF have a large number of celebrity ambassadors or “high profile supporters” including Ewan McGregor, David Beckham, Eddie Izzard, Emma Bunton, Cat Deeley, Robbie Williams and many more. They have a long history of working with celebrities, in fact their first celebrity supporter was Danny Kaye in 1954.
Just before our meeting I had been looking at UNICEF’s YouTube channel to see what videos were most popular. 12 out of the 15 most popular videos are celebrity videos. The 6th most popular video was from someone called Tom Hiddleston, who I’d never heard of even though his filmography is very impressive. If you are interested in social media and celebrity, which I am, then Tom Hiddleston is a great case study. Tom is very active on twitter and has 573,633 followers. I just had a look at Tom’s twitter feed and 5 out of his last 7 tweets mention UNICEF. Those 5 tweets have had a total of 919 retweets. Just think of the reach of those 5 messages.
One of his tweets about the #IF campaign was retweeted 417 times and favourited 486 times. Tom’s fans are digitally engaged and on cause. According to Laila, just one of his #IF tweets generated several thousand pounds on their fundraising platform. Tom’s fans (Hiddlestoners) also raised over £30k as part of a Hiddlestoners Have Heart campaign, they even set up their own twitter account for the campaign.
Tom visited New Guinea for 5 days to write a series of blogs. It was UNICEF UK’s first ever ‘digital trip’. He traveled with two members of staff from the UK office, plus his photographer and met up with one member of staff from the country office. The digital team back in the UK regularly updated Tom on daily activity and feedback from the various social media sites. They also asked followers what they would like to see Tom do whilst he is in New Guinea.
Tom’s post are beautifully written, with emotion and great detail. They help to build a picture of the work that UNICEF carry out in New Guinea. They discuss development problems such as water, nutrition, sanitation, vaccination and education, but they also tackle more sensitive issues such as female genital mutilation. I was particularly interested in Tom’s blog on Day 3 where he discusses participatory communication after visiting a rural community radio station and meeting a ‘traditional communicator’.
Kapoor (2013) believes that celebrity humanitarianism is an ideological phenomenon which often tackles the symptoms rather than the causes. He suggests that celebrities bring their ‘star power’ to raise public awareness about development issues, but there is often a tendency to individualise and isolate problems and that broader issues of politics and cultural imperialism are often glossed over.
It is probably fair to say that Tom’s blog posts do deal with the symptoms rather than the causes, but he does touch on politics and history within education. He also talks about development projects needing to be self-educating and self-sustaining. His posts are interesting and engaging with many comments from readers. I think that the ”Tom Hiddleston’s Guinea Field Diary’ was a roaring success and I’m sure there will be many digital trips to follow.
UNICEF have a long history of working with celebrity ambassadors. Unlike some other development/humanitarian organisations they have quickly adopted digital media strategies and learned how to engage with their supporters and their ambassadors’ supporters though social media.
Kapoor, I (2013) Celebrity Humanitarianism – The ideology of global charity
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.
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.
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 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.
Ten months ago Mama Hope, a charity based in San Francisco, released a video African Men: Hollywood Stereotypes. The film was produced a couple of months after the Kony 2012 video and was designed to challenge the stereotypes of African men portrayed by Hollywood. It has been a huge success, and at the time of writing has 1,048,931 views. It has 16,235 likes and only 315 dislikes with 2,909 comments mostly positive. OK, nothing by Kony standards but for a small NGO these statistics are impressive.
Not all the reviews were positive though. In a critique by Elliot Ross on Africa is a Country, he says “People might want to see this video as a counterpoint to Kony2012, and it’s of course nothing like as egregious, but I’m not sure exactly how far we can move away from the Invisible Children with a video by Joe Sabia (who directs the Mama Hope stuff). Sabia is another Silicone Valley, TED-talking master of viral narrative, which seems to boil down to not much more than a heavily concentrated dose of American sentimentality, however that sentiment is directed. Mama Hope is another white-staffed NGO run out of California. They are doing something very different by attempting to engage very broad cultural currents (as opposed to, say, organising the world’s most self-congratulatory wild-goose chase in Central African Republic), but that’s not without its problems.”
I agree. It is quite cheesy. But does cheese sell so to speak? Did the video change perceptions? Will it change behaviours? This is one of the downsides of social media for international development – it’s very hard to measure. It is near impossible to segment on social media, therefore do NGOs have to cater for the masses? One recent comment on Mama Hope’s YouTube channel states:
“I would like to see also the African Women in the video, make it douple [sic] that long and show the Women from the movies that are not shooting but only have the role to show how bad the bad guys are and than show these who are Doctors, Engineers, Scientist….”
Well yesterday, Mama Hope released a new film The Women of Nyamonge Present: Netball to coincide with International Women’s Day.
The video has been live for 13 hours and so far has only 262 views. I’m interested in whether this video will go viral as well. I wonder what Mama Hope’s seeding strategy is. Was the last video considered an antidote to the Kony video(s)? Did it effectively piggyback on their virality? It is hard to analyse as the YouTube public statistics have been disabled, but a million views is incredibly successful for a small NGO.
Mama Hope only have a small fan base on social media, Twitter (1,556 followers) and Facebook (3,969 likes). It will be hard to seed this film via their social media channels alone. So what made the last video so successful? What is through mainstream media? Was it through various blogs that commented on the video?
On a recent blogpost by Hubspot they claim “Most videos we track see about 75% or 80% of views in the first 3 to 5 days.” I’m pleased to see an NGO experimenting with a new style of video and I sincerely hope that this second video also has an impact in the next couple of days.