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.

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Rusty Radiator Awards

I am delighted that I have been asked to be on the judging panel again this year for the Rusty and Golden Radiator Awards . The Rusty’s have been designed to highlight the use of stereotypes and poverty porn within fundraising campaigns. I hope that it will raise awareness amongst NGOs and charities and educate them about the potential harm of using certain types of imagery and storytelling.

Alongside the Rusty’s are the Golden’s which celebrate innovation and creativity. It is interesting that two videos have used storytelling to bring the context of distant suffering closer to the world that the donor might understand. It’s almost a “what would happen if…” strategy. It seems to work! It is also interesting that one organisation is featured in both awards, although from different countries.

SAIH have launched the awards with another groundbreaking video. How do they do it? It’s great to see Michael the charity actor making a guest appearance. I love the Feed Africa Challenge where white saviours are throwing food at people who are already eating. I also love the selfie scene which reminds me of the awful ‘Humanitarians of Tinder.’ I won’t give any more away.

Please watch the video and vote for both the Rusty and Golden Radiators. The winners will be announced on the 3rd December.

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A different approach to fundraising videos by Oxfam

Oxfam have recently published two very different styles of video about life inside South Sudan camps. The first film tells a story of a mother in one of the camps by using a GoPro camera. It’s an interesting attempt at participatory video. On one hand it has produced some very realistic images literally from the refugee’s viewpoint. But I still wonder how much was directed and edited.

The other video concept I find more intriguing. It is the story of Elizabeth who again is based in one of the camps. Elizabeth is not on Facebook, but someone has posted the kind of things she might post if she was. It’s a nice idea but somehow it doesn’t work for me. What I do like though is that Oxfam are experimenting with different styles of storytelling. Neither of these videos will have cost much to produce and I hope they continue tell stories with innovative approaches.

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Save The Children Video Viewed 2 million times in one day

Another interesting video has been made to help the Syria appeal. It starts with a young girl blowing out candles (I think I counted 9) on her birthday, this is followed by clips of her doing normal every day things that a 9 year old in the UK might do: eating cake, trying on her mums lipstick, playing her recorder, playing in the park etc. Suddenly brief excerpts of the news are shown on TV and the front of newspapers and then we hear the sound of a helicopter and realise that civil war has hit Britain.

It’s a powerful and haunting video which get’s darker and darker, depicting the potentail scenes of conflict in the UK.

In a similar vein to the Norway SOS video, the film constructs the life of a distant other through the lens of someone more familiar to the UK audience. Again, by using a child that we recognise we feel more personal connection and sympathy and thus views of the film have rocketed.

The video has been produced by Save the Children to highlight the Syria crisis. It was launched in the run-up to the three-year anniversary of the conflict where 10,000 children have lost their lives and 2.3   million people have become refugees. Jack Lundie, Director of Brand and Communications at Save The Children says

“This powerful and cleverly-crafted short film engages the viewer with the idea of what daily life might be like for children here at home, if a conflict broke out in the UK.  It’s easy to forget that Syria was a middle income country, where children enjoyed the benefits of education, healthcare and the other basic rights our children take for granted – not to mention Facebook accounts, video games and youth culture. We hope the video will resonate with the public, particularly those who don’t know much about the situation in Syria, and offer a new perspective on the devastating impact this conflict is having on innocent Syrian children.  The message to the public is “just because it’s not happening here, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”

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How to prepare and recover from disasters – British Red Cross

Welcome to Disaster Island is a wonderful interactive stop motion film which highlights the dangers that individuals and communities encounter if they are not properly prepared for the consequences of disasters. The viewer has three scenarios to choose from:

1. Farm on a fertile hillside
2. Find your fortune in city
3. Go fishing on the tranquil coast.

With each scenario you are presented with a different disaster.

This animation really is quite beautiful and what makes it even more special is that it was created by a 14 year old schoolboy, Morgan Spence in his bedroom. There are 10 elements to the film in total and if you add up the views after 11 days it comes to over 50,000. Likes and shares dwindle as you get into the subsequent elements of the film, so I’m not sure about levels of engagement. But saying that, it is one of the most inventive forms of ‘video’ I have seen in a long time from a non-profit organisation and I am sure it will help engage with a young audience. Terrific stuff!

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