Reach A Hand, social media and the power of video

Whilst in Uganda last month I met with Patricia Kahill who has been working with the NGO Reach a Hand (RAHU) based in Kampala. RAHU is a non-profit youth led organisation that aims to address the key issues that leave Ugandan youth vulnerable to health outcomes like, HIV, STIs and unintended pregnancy. I have followed RAHU with great interest over the last few months as they are very active on social media. Their Twitter account has over 1250 followers and they have over 7400 likes on their Facebook page, which is very impressive for a small grassroots NGO.

At the Social Media Summit in Kampala, I predicted that video sharing sites such as YouTube will become much more popular in Uganda over the next 2-3 years. There is a noticeable and welcome increase in competition in the telecommunications industry in Uganda and mobile data prices are dropping. Smart Telecommunications for example are offering 1.5GB of data a day for the equivalent of 25 pence.

When I have viewed the YouTube channels of many small NGOs in developing countries before, the videos often have very few views. I think this is partly to do with content but mainly down to the cost of data. Will my prediction become true in the future? This is why RAHU is such a great case study as they have seen a dramatic growth in their YouTube channel in the last few months and musical content is the driver. A new ‘Musical Project’ is intended to inspire and encourage young people take care of their health by practicing safer sexual behaviour, making informed choices and choosing to be responsible citizens and make a change in their communities. RAHU are working with 9 local musicians GNL Zamba, Jody Phibi, Irene Ntale, Big Trill, Ray Signature, Maurice Hassa, Yasimine, Young Zee and Airport Taxi) and one international musician, Nyanda. Currently five songs have been promoted both online and via TV and radio stations. The artists endorsed the campaign by recording voice pops and messages that are aired during TV shows. It’s being supported by Rutgers WPF and Talent Africa. The Kaleke Kasome Remix featuring several of the above artists has had over 5000 views on YouTube.

A more recent recording “If it’s not on, It’s not safe’ has had over 3000 views in less than a month. Although there is a small advertising budget to promote these videos, it proves that good content does work as these videos have positive feedback in the form of both likes and comments.

Another successful video project by RAHU involves a flash mob in Kisenyi which was organised in the build up to WorldAIDSDay. Once again this event caught the media’s attention and was featured on NTV.

However, Patricia says that Twitter is still the most important social media tool for RAHU as media houses often pick up on the most trending hashtags. She told me of an excellent campaign earlier this year which deliberately provoked a social media discussion around the age of consent. Patricia and another member of RAHU staff were training a group of 15 young people aged 20-30 about the benefits of using social media. During the workshop they demonstrated the power of Twitter by setting up the hashtag #consentat14. The age of consent in Uganda is currently 18 but teenage pregnancy is prevalent, so the group asked provocative questions such as ‘Have parents failed their children in education about safe sex’ and ‘Has the government failed in promoting contraception.” If there are so many teenage pregnancies, why not reduce the age of consent to 14. The hashtag had over 900,000 impressions and received interest from TV, Radio and newspapers including Urban TV and XFM.

Can a hashtag change social policy – #EvilNanny

Many of you will have already seen the horrific video which was circulating on social media last week about a nanny abusing an 18 month old baby.

The father, Eric Kamanzi, had suspected that the nanny was abusing his daughter so set up a hidden camera in his living room. The video is truly shocking and shows the nanny, 22 year old, Jolly Tumuhirwe, throwing the girl to the floor after she is sick and then beating her with a torch, kicking and standing on her. The video was originally posted on Facebook and shared with friends, but then went viral and has been viewed with horror all over the world. She has been arrested and charged with attempted murder.

In Uganda the video was shared using the hashtag #EvilNanny and #NannyfromHell and was covered all over the media. The hashtag was trending in Uganda and was a catalyst for debate in civil society about child raising in modern Uganda.

At the time of writing a YouTube clip of the NBS report in Uganda has had well over 400 comments. Many other media channels have posted the footage, all of which have attracted similar discourse. The video has created uproar on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook across the globe and has resulted in the Ugandan government reviewing legislation as a matter of urgency. Is this an example of how social media is helping to change the world for the better? It’s a shame that we need to rely on these relatively new platforms to make people aware of such atrocities.

Ms Tumuhirwe is due in court on 8th December 2014.

Social Media Summit Uganda

On November 26th 2014 I presented at the inaugural Social Media Summit in Kampala, Uganda. The conference and CEO breakfast, organised by Intensity Technologies, was attended by over 160 delegates ranging from senior government comms officials to representatives from the police, banks, agencies, NGOs and civil society.

There were over 15 speakers including Natasha Basson, Chris Bitti, Boaz Shani, Ruth Aine, Jaya Murthy, Michael Niyitegeka, Collins Mugume and many more.

The event was the top trending story on Twitter that day with over 11 million impressions.

Below is a link to my presentation and a storify compiled by Ruth Aine, one of the speakers.



UNICEF Uganda #Imagine Campaign

Whilst in Uganda I was invited to attend a press conference at UNICEF where they launched a new social media campaign. It is part of a global campaign celebrating 25 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To mark this occasion they have launched the #Imagine programme, which is an interactive digital platform designed to connect people around the world. The idea is to record your own version of Imagine by John Lennon. The famous dance DJ, David Guetta, will then make a mix using all the voices.

They are hoping to get 1 million voices for this global sing-a-along. UNICEF have an established team of celebrity ambassadors including Katy Perry and Shakira who have already contributed their voices to the mix. UNICEF Uganda have the support of several top music artists in the country  Benon Mugumbya, Lilian Mbabzi, Navio, Irenentale, Mun G, Jackie Chandiru and Peter Miles. They have recorded their own version of the song.

In Uganda, they are aiming for 100,000 voices to publicly advocate to lift 8 million Ugandan children out of poverty. Jaya Murthy, Chief of Communication for UNICEF in Uganda said “This is a new type of public advocacy initiative that aims to unite thousands of citizens around the world through the power of digital media and music. We hope it will capture the public’s imagination to imagine a better future for children where all children’s rights are realized.”

I personally think 100,000 voices is too ambitious and I asked Jaya how they will reach the more remote marginalised communities. He agreed it will be difficult but is up for the challenge and I respect that! There was a large media presence at the launch but I think it will be necessary to reach the smaller regional media companies and community radio stations as well. It will be interesting to see if the power of celebrity advocacy works in Uganda. It will certainly help with seeding the campaign: Navio alone has 37,000 followers and between them they have 90,000.

This is an innovative campaign to create a social movement and I really hope that the target is met.

Below is the video for the global campaign.

Africa’s largest ever Lip Dub Social Media Campaign

I absolutely love the Jessie J Lip Dub from Microbanker involving over 500 women in Uganda, so I contacted them to ask for some more details about the campaign. Here is a detailed insight into the success about the campaign from an interview with Duko Hopman, Director of SYPO.

1. What made you decide to use a Lip Dub as a fundraising idea?
We were looking for a way to show the strength, not the weakness, of the women involved in the project. A fun and positive message instead of images of suffering children. A Lip Dub video seemed like the perfect way to be able to show a lot of the borrowers’ businesses in a fun way, and appeal to a wide audience through social media (given the recent popularity of Lip Dubs). Read this article explains what it is, and why it is important to do this.

2. Is it really the largest Lip Dub in Africa?
We had a long look around Youtube and Google to get some inspiration from other Lip Dubs and to confirm that this would be the largest, and it certainly seems to be! We couldn’t find any that came even close… Although there were some pretty good ones out there.

3. Did you ask the women in Uganda whether you thought it would be a good idea? Did they come up with any ideas?
The ‘loan officers’ in the project – the people that work in the organization to actually give out and collect microcredits – had converations about this idea with many of the borrowers. It was an instant success – hundreds of borrowers immediately signed up to participate. Mostly because it seemed like a good party (which it turned out to be), but also because the idea of showing sponsors what their villages are like, in a high quality video, really appealed to them.

We always try to be the opposite of patronizing with our borrowers – they pay for a product, and they know they’re paying for it. They are very vocal about raising improvement ideas or demanding changes in, for instance, logistics of the repayments. We treat them as clients, and they treat us as a company from which they buy a product. It is however a product that they value very much, and that they certainly do not want to lose. This means that most of them really appreciated the opportunity to contribute to this fundraising effort, which would guarantee continuity of the project.

4. Tell me about the challenges of filming 500 people? Why did you choose to film so many? What were the language barriers? How long did it take?
It was as much fun as it was stressful. We had a camera team of three (director, camera woman and choreographer), and eight local and Dutch volunteers. Still it was chaos for most of the week. Cows running through the set, pigs that wouldn’t stop screaming, children running the wrong way and of course some very challenging lyrics. We had four recording days, which could last as long as eight hours in the burning heat. We asked a couple of ‘chapati’ (local pancakes) and other food stands to set up shop in the middle of the set so that everybody could constantly get food and drinks. Towards the end of the afternoon many of the women started complaining that they had to go home to make dinner for their families. But by the time we were done everyone would be so excited that no one ended up leaving and we would all stick around and dance – why waste the perfectly good sounds systems we had installed? I think the excellent director, a Dutch guy called Ivan Mikulic, aged at least ten years in those four days, but it was well worth it.

5. How many people were involved in the filming/production side? How much did it cost to produce?
The director of the video, Ivan Mikulic, did some short videos about SYPO’s projects several years ago for Dutch television. He got really enthusiastic about our way of working, and agreed to gather a team (camera woman Berta Banacloche and choreographer Mexim Janzen), and they all charged us basically for expenses only. Editing of the video was done in the spare hours of a Dutch studio, and by a studio in Kampala. Other costs were for two Ugandan artists that were involved in the video, other local help, food and drinks for all the women, accommodation for the team, and of course all the attributes in the video. All in all it came down to 8,000 euros.

6. How long did the post production take?
One of the great things about a Lip Dub is that it doesn’t take much editing, since it’s basically one shot. Some color corrections and digital enhancements was all it took. Perhaps 4 days? We uploaded it only after we launched the website, which is why the video was recorded in June but only uploaded in September.

7. You’ve had over 100,000 views. Is this more than you expected? How did you seed the video? I see that the video was shown by Al Jazeera / BBC East Africa / HuffPost. Did any other media organisations write about the video?
The funny things is that in the end you have very little control over the spreading of a video like this. Of course we actively spread the word, but in the end most of it was organic. Some guy (we still haven’t figured out who) downloaded the video from Youtube, uploaded it on his Facebook, and ended up getting 90,000 shares. We sent out press releases, but I think none of them got picked up. Instead we got hundreds of great comments from across the globe and from corners we never expected it to come from, including great requests such as your own. Al Jazeera/BBC/HuffPost were some of the big names, but articles on and several large Dutch websites certainly helped. We were hoping for 100,000 views, but never expected it to go this fast. And counting the Facebook shares, we’re well over.

8. Do you consider the video a success? If so, how? Have you received many more donations? What others ways can you measure ROI?
It’s a tremendous success. The video was primarily made to promote our new fundraising website – a website that was made to actively involve sponsors in microcredit. On the site you can select and donate for business plans, track progress of ‘your client’ over time and recycle the repayments to new business plans. You can even ask questions to your client. We received 24,000 Euros in donations through this site already, and we’re hoping for many more. This will be an important driver of our growth to 3,000 borrowers next year. But apart from donations, the video had other great results, especially in setting up new partnerships. Organizations contacted us to work together – from requests for advice by other microfinance institutions to for instance interesting new collaborations, such as with ‘Text to change’, an NGO that uses SMS services to inform pregnant women about maternal health or farmers about commodity prices. We hope to start working with them in the near future to provide these services to our borrowers.

Please help Microbanker take this project to the next level by becoming a microbanker on