“Good stories surprise us. They have compelling characters. They make us think, make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.” Read more
Photo: Paul Akiko and his family with a polaroid of themselves in the village of Cuivir Rainha, Niassa, Mozambique. © WaterAid/ Panos/ Adam Patterson
In the field of communications for social development, images are king. But depending on how they are used, and despite the intention, they can have positive or negative consequences. Video and photographic images can spur emotions, connect people and cultures, raise awareness, enhance evidence-based advocacy and boost knowledge, leading to increased stakeholder support, funding, partnerships and policy change. However, they can also reinforce stereotypes, misconstrue messages, cause bad publicity and negative controversy, and lessen stakeholder support and funding. Key questions in the development sector include:
- How can organizations sensitively and fairly portray the needs they are trying to address?
- How can organizations give a fuller, more rounded picture of the places in which they work?
- How can organizations use emotive images of people and communities without compromising their rights?
As part of an organization’s content strategy, images should tell the full story – the trial and error, the failure and success, and the experiences and perspectives of all beneficiaries and stakeholders. And most importantly, all of these images should respect the rights of all of the people, communities and stakeholders included.
In order to address these aspects, it is important for organizations to develop video and photography guidelines, and more specifically, an ethical image policy. The NGO WaterAid recently released a comprehensive ethical image policy covering:
- Accuracy – ensuring videos and photos are truthful
- Consent – ensuring people fully understand why they are being photographed or filmed, and are comfortable with the process and outcomes
- Longevity – how long the images should be used
- Integrity – producing respectful images, avoiding stereotyping and ensuring privacy
- Manipulation – what is and is not allowed in post-production
- Child protection – ensuring that children featured in images are safe from harm
- Equality and non-discrimination – ensuring that video and photographic practices include everyone, even the most marginalized
“I want the children of Malawi to be an HIV-free generation, that they would be educated about HIV contraction so that we can be a generation without HIV.”
This powerful photo story highlights the journey of Martha Jere who was born with HIV. Not only does she continue to live a full healthy life, but adequate treatment helped ensure that she did not transmit the virus to her baby boy. Rahim was born HIV-free!
Featured image: © UNICEF/Y66A6532/Schermbrucker
Here’s a great way to raise awareness of and engagement around pertinent issues or major reports, courtesy of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). This photo story on medium.com walks us through the major accomplishments regarding the child-related Millennium Development Goals, while highlighting what still needs to be achieved over the next 15 years, under the Sustainable Development Goals. After scrolling through the page, we’re invited to read the report that the content is linked to, namely the Progress for Children report.
Here’s what we can learn from this example: tell an engaging story centred on people (whether it’s the people that are benefiting from your initiative or the people that support it), use accessible language, highlight the issue(s) clearly, back up your statements with effective statistics, and never forget to use powerful imagery, whether it’s through photos, video or infographics.
Here’s a straightforward yet effective way of presenting your results in the last year, courtesy of the NGO Concern Universal. Strong photos, clear and concise texts, relevant/significant content, multimedia elements — it has it all!
CHECK IT OUT. And below, you can check out the awesome music video they made for their Global Handwashing Day campaign in Nigeria, featuring Nigerian musician Sunny Neji.