It has been said; a picture can say a thousand words, well how about “a picture can save, 16 billion dollars in foreign aid dollars.” Uh? Ok yes, I made that one up, but its what International Relief and Development organization Oxfam America is betting on with it’s new “Don’t Cut Aid, Its Working?” campaign.
Oxfam America has launched a new campaign featuring meme like ads with images of some very non-DCish beneficiaries which are superimposed with “DC insider buzzwords, such as “fiscal hawk” and “beltway outsider.” They are part of an impressive multi-platform advertising buy in the Washington, DC metro area, including National and Dulles Airports, DC Metro stations and Roll Call - also showing the campaign obviously knows its target audience - Washington policy and lawmakers very well, including where they spend most of their time. Oxfam America has also rolled out an online and social media campaign that also targets bloggers to share their own stories of aid effectiveness.
According to Oxfam America, the ads feature (shown below), Emiliana Aligaesha, a farmer in Tanzania; Manuel Dominguez, the mayor of a Peruvian town; Martha Kwataine, a health access activist in Malawi; and Nana Kojo Kondua IV, chief of a Ghanaian fishing town—all people who are turning small aid investments to create a sound future for their nations and their communities. They are not just nameless faces, but people we respect on the Aid Effectiveness team, and people who have all agreed to be a part of the ads and helped shape it.
I like that the campaign, like others (which my fellow blogger has written about here) has shown another side of foreign aid beneficiaries and their countries. Perhaps, such campaigns will begin to change the conversation from talking about how poor people are, to, how successful they have become. In the campaigns own words “by showcasing community leaders and advocates in developing countries who have leveraged US foreign aid investments in their work, Oxfam’s ads create dramatic effects. The ads also highlight the measurable impact that can be achieved utilizing US foreign assistance when the US partners with local leaders who are engaged in fighting poverty and injustice in their own countries.”
Oxfam America campaigns have been consistent in their intentionality to not exploit beneficiaries, for financial or other ends. Writing about this campaign Jennifer Leftner, Senior Writer for Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam America has emphatically stated, “Who are the real drivers of progress in the developing world? I can tell you one thing – it’s not us. But most international development organizations will not tell you that. Some will portray those they are trying to help by victimizing them, i.e. “look at these poor, suffering, devastated people.” Others will romanticize the poor, i.e. “despite having nothing, they are so happy” or “an entrepreneurial spirit is what keeps the poor alive.” These reductionist perspectives may momentarily make us feel something, but without enabling the empathic concern to take the next step, they easily can do more harm than good. “
I think the campaign works and is compelling not only to the primary target audience - it sends a powerful message of empowerment, aid effectiveness and social change. Bravo Oxfam America!