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Some say social media allows for better education on development issues, that it disrupts the status quo, serving as a platform for better connection between rich and poor and eliminating bureaucratic NGO intermediaries.

They believe it enables "the poor" to participate more easily and more equally in the development debate.

Others say it propagates negative images and misinformation further than ever before, serving to increase divides, marginalize “the poor” and reinforce stereotypes.

They believe social media is making it easier to create meaningless, uninformed and potentially dangerous campaigns and that these lead to slacktivism, apathy or even harm (aka 1 Million Shirts and Kony2012).

Teddy RugeLina Srivastava, and Tom Murphy dig into the issues surrounding social media and “poverty porn” at the May Technology Salon in New York City, facilitated by Linda Raftree.

 Summary of the Salon.

 Imagery and stories used to frame issues of humanitarian development for advocacy and funding are often sensational and can be culturally disrespectful, representing those living in poverty as helpless victims in need, rather than as empowered and capable individuals.   These "flies in the eyes" images, like the Angelina Jolie photograph from Chad, are sometimes referred to as "poverty porn."  Fundraisers would tell you that this is a necessary evil, given that aid and development programs need to raise funds, and this is the only thing that engages the public.      - But is the pitiful portrayal of "the poor" doing more long-term harm than good?  - Does poverty porn propagate negative images and misinformation, serving to increase divides, marginalize “the poor” and reinforce stereotypes?  - Can it create misconceptions about the capacity and agency of people in "developing" countries?  - Do these images damage the reputation of entire continents, reducing investments in larger areas that might enable countries to move out of poverty?   Photos like this are just a medium of expression. It is not about how we take photos of people, the photos and our actions are the reflection of how we perceive people who are not "us" and why we do development the way we do. So, are organizations misleading the public about their work and misrepresenting those they work with? What are the ethics involved?     The issue is complex, and victimizing photos and television commercials are only a symptom of larger and wider forces at work in the development industry. Should we just throw our hands up and say "this is how things are?" or is there something that can be done to change these practices?    Please RSVP to join a unique Google Hangout with +Ethan Zuckerman +Charlie Beckett +Linda Raftree Teddy Ruge and +Lina Srivastava,  moderated by +Lindsay Poirier , that will dig into two deep questions:   1. How can we move beyond meaningless, uninformed and potentially dangerous campaigns and slacktivism, apathy or even harm (aka 1 Million Shirts and Kony2012) in development communications?  2. How can we move towards processes that truly enable "the poor" to participate more easily and more equally in the development debate, and shape not only the imagery we use, but also the very processes we utilize?  We will explore both questions and more in an open, interactive debate broadcast live on Google+.

Imagery and stories used to frame issues of humanitarian development for advocacy and funding are often sensational and can be culturally disrespectful, representing those living in poverty as helpless victims in need, rather than as empowered and capable individuals. 

These "flies in the eyes" images, like the Angelina Jolie photograph from Chad, are sometimes referred to as "poverty porn."  Fundraisers would tell you that this is a necessary evil, given that aid and development programs need to raise funds, and this is the only thing that engages the public.   

 - But is the pitiful portrayal of "the poor" doing more long-term harm than good?
 - Does poverty porn propagate negative images and misinformation, serving to increase divides, marginalize “the poor” and reinforce stereotypes?
 - Can it create misconceptions about the capacity and agency of people in "developing" countries?
 - Do these images damage the reputation of entire continents, reducing investments in larger areas that might enable countries to move out of poverty? 

Photos like this are just a medium of expression. It is not about how we take photos of people, the photos and our actions are the reflection of how we perceive people who are not "us" and why we do development the way we do. So, are organizations misleading the public about their work and misrepresenting those they work with? What are the ethics involved?   

The issue is complex, and victimizing photos and television commercials are only a symptom of larger and wider forces at work in the development industry. Should we just throw our hands up and say "this is how things are?" or is there something that can be done to change these practices?  

Please RSVP to join a unique Google Hangout with +Ethan Zuckerman +Charlie Beckett +Linda Raftree Teddy Ruge and +Lina Srivastava,  moderated by +Lindsay Poirier , that will dig into two deep questions:
 
1. How can we move beyond meaningless, uninformed and potentially dangerous campaigns and slacktivism, apathy or even harm (aka 1 Million Shirts and Kony2012) in development communications?

2. How can we move towards processes that truly enable "the poor" to participate more easily and more equally in the development debate, and shape not only the imagery we use, but also the very processes we utilize?

We will explore both questions and more in an open, interactive debate broadcast live on Google+.

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"Storytelling: Who Does it Well?"

 

In our next salon, we will shift the spotlight away from poverty porn and on to good storytelling.

Join us for "Storytelling: Who Does it Well?" on September 12, 2013, at 12noon EST, on G+ Hangout.  

Our speakers are:

Mallika Dutt, founder, president, and CEO of global human rights organization Breakthrough and a recognized pioneer of innovative social change.

Ingrid Kopp, Director of Digital Initiatives at the Tribeca Film Institute in New York City where she overseas the TFI New Media Fund, TFI Interactive, and Tribeca Hacks.

Michael Premo, artist and multimedia producer, currently co-creator and co-director of the participatory documentary Sandy Storyline.

Nyla Rodgers, Founding Director of Mama Hope and the Stop the Pity campaign. 

The video of the salon is here.

 

 

 

Does “Girls” Advertising Detract
From Girls’ Empowerment?

 

August 21st New York City Salon - RSVP Now

 


Thanks to the tireless work of a number of organizations and advocates, girls and their empowerment have become focal points for development agencies, multilateral global discourse, and related advocacy and programming. Girls’ voices, including those of strong role models such as Malala, have begun to be listened to in policy discussions where major decisions are made.

The private sector has joined the call, and social media and new technology enable viral campaigns to quickly reach an ever more savvy public at large scale. “Girls are hot right now,” commented one marketing professional. Ads such as Always’ “Like a Girl,” Verizon’s “Inspire her Mind,” and Pantene’s “Stop Saying Sorry” are branded campaigns that champion girls’ and women’s social issue.

Advertisers are shifting tactics and letting the public “know they care” according to the rise of 'sadvertising': Why social good marketing works.  So it's out with the obvious sales pitch and in with tear-jerking or heartwarming storytelling around an issue people feel passionate about.”

But there are mixed feelings about what these branded media campaigns accomplish for girls and women, and whether their commercially driven motivations are actually helping the cause:

  • Do these kinds of ads distract attention from the deeper, structural causes of gender discrimination? Are they too shallow to make a difference? Does it matter if the motivation behind a campaign is brand awareness rather than advocacy and political change?
  • Do branded media campaigns produce tangible behavior changes, or are they more likely to contribute to brand awareness and increased sales? Can they effectively do both? How and when?
  • How should branded media campaigns be measured to determine whether they are having the desired impact at the level of social and behavioral change? Is it enough to measure ‘hits’ and ‘likes’ and ‘eyeballs’? If not, what should we be measuring?
  • Will an overload of “girls” advertising detract from the wider movement to support girls’ rights and empowerment by trivializing the topic or wearing people out with ‘girl fatigue’? Or is mainstreaming girls and empowerment through commercial branding a new and positive way to engage the next generation and to alter deep-seated societal attitudes, perceptions, behaviors and practices around gender?

Please RSVP now to join Regarding Humanity and Technology Salon NYC for a lively discussion! Please arrive early to get a good seat. Light breakfast and coffee will be served courtesy of the amazing team at ThoughtWorks.
 

Girls Empowerment and Brand Campaigns
August Technology Salon NYC
Thursday, August 21st, 2014
9:00-11:00 am
ThoughtWorks
99 Madison Ave, 15th Floor (map)
New York, NY 10016