This year I was invited to work in London on a global team campaign pitch project for WaterAid, a Not for profit humanitarian organisation. Coming from Australia where WaterAid’s fundraising efforts are relatively unknown, with limited knowledge, it was a privilege to learn about the focused and dedicated work they do. Powered by their global belief “Extreme poverty won’t end until everyone, everywhere has clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene” (WaterAid 2018). WaterAid works tirelessly to change this and focus their work on just three areas; water, sanitation and hygiene:
- Providing sustainable ‘clean water’ supplies to developing communities
- Providing sustainable sanitation ‘decent toilets’ to developing communities
- Providing education services on ‘good hygiene’ critical in preventing diseases
WaterAid has stayed true to these three ideals since their inception in 1981 and continue their life saving work in 37 countries. In 2016-17 WaterAid provided 1.5 million people with clean water, 2.3 million with decent toilets and 3.2 million with hygiene education (WaterAid 2018).
There are so many worthy aid agencies who rely on donations to continue their work. Humanitarian work in developing countries is not a new concept and neither is fundraising or philanthropic endeavours. Many campaigns can use similar approaches to reach and mobilise audiences to donate. The approaches using images such as starving children can be overdone and lose impact over time especially in the digital age where campaigns have a broad reach. NGO’s wanting to move away from these negative images find that they still work, perpetuating the use of emotive negative images (Wan 2015).
Our campaign group approached the sustainable sanitation work of WaterAid the brief ‘provide decent toilets’ with the approach to cut through the sameness.
Working with a group of Masters students from RMIT Australia and the University of the Arts London we formed a collective think tank of creative ideas for a campaign to raise awareness.
A truly global collaboration my strategic communication expertise was valuable to analyse audiences and create effective messaging. It was invigorating to work directly with this upcoming group of global advertising creatives.
The constraints of a tight deadline left us with little time to get to know each other. This meant exercising leadership skills to draw out and obtain consensus on the creative direction the project would take and at the same time utilising the incredible skill base of the group. The pressure cooker worked a treat cooking up an abundance of creative concepts.
Working in diverse groups is inspirational and spurs creative ideas to branch out into multiple options for the client. Our group was mindful of avoiding cliche negative imagery. Although this imagery may project universal humanitarian values of caring and the desire to reduce suffering, at the same time it projects poverty, helplessness and inferiority (Manzo 2008). Our team keen to take a different approach came up with many ideas. The one uniting ideal was this campaign needed to take people out of their everyday experience.
We decided to attempt to create the understanding of what it would be like to be a female teen in a developing country that has little or no proper sanitation facilities available. The apprehension of the search for a proper toilet for the sake of privacy, dignity, safety and hygiene is something we in the West take for granted.
Our idea was an immersive experience, an installation for strategically selected public toilets. Through a visual medium of wall size posters attached to the cubicle wall, would take the participant into an experience of the openness, filth, rubbish and lack of privacy. The participant, stepping into the toilet cubicle was to step into a visual reality of a developing world sanitation scenario. Unpleasant and an experiential talking point that could be shared via social media. This was to be supported with an online campaign that created a buzz of users’ experiences and mystery surrounding where this experience would pop up next. This fitted into WaterAid’s overall strategy of providing a ‘decent toilet’.
The campaign proposal was pitched to the London and Melbourne WaterAid offices with considerable interest for a potential campaign approach.
Working with the WaterAid group was a project that used global collaboration, drew on multifaceted skills of communications, marketing and advertising. A fresh approach to raise awareness and fundraising for WaterAid’s important work.
Manzo, K 2008, ‘Imaging humanitarianism: NGO identity and the iconography of childhood’, Antipode, vol. 40, no.4, pp.632-657.
WaterAid 2018, ‘Our global strategy’, viewed 20 August 2018, <https://www.wateraid.org/uk/uk/our-global-strategy>.
WaterAid 2018, “The Water Effect’, YouTube 15 May 2018, Viewed 15 June 2018, <https://youtu.be/DSeHNBID7Wg>.
Wan, J 2015, ‘Does charity have an ‘image problem’?’, Aljazeera, 7 February 2015, viewed 30 August 2018, <https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/02/charity-image-problem-150203063733457.html>.