15 April 2011

Lessons Learned: A Day Without Dignity

It was a little bit of being in the right place in the right time, but I was able to jump onto the Day Without Dignity campaign right as the idea was being kicked around by Saundra and Teddy.  Being the kind people that they are, they welcomed me in on the planning and idea sharing that quickly moved from Twitter to emails and eventually to blog posts and YouTube.

The time was short between the initial development of the idea and the intended date of the campaign.  Because of this some things went well and others could have gone better.  This post serves as a personal reflection and sharing of thoughts a week after the campaign.  I should make clear that these are preliminary thoughts and are very much my own.  For the purposes of personal organization, I will share using a bullet-point list.
  • Nearly 70 posts were written about the campaign and 3 videos were made.  Nearly all instances were supportive of the campaign.  Many of these were written by bloggers I had never seen before.  I take this as a good thing since they were inspired by the campaign to take part and join other voices publicly.  Creating awareness and reaching new people was the intention of the campaign.
  • However, all the posts being positive means that it was mostly reaching people who are either already a part of these conversations, are listening on the sidelines or are already inclined to agree with the basic points of the campaign.  In short, there were no converts and not any strong opposing posts.  Yes, commentators will always jump in and say their piece, but I see this different from creating a longer post explaining why one might disagree.  To me, this means that the campaign might not have reached a larger audience.
  • Not enough supporting information.  I strongly believe that TOMS should be doing a better job proving the impact of their programs, but criticism will always ask the other to show the evidence.  So, as I ask TOMS for proof, supporters will ask me for proof as well.  The main video does share some data, but it was not compelling enough.  This is largely due to the fact that the campaign was done in such a short period of time, but it is also indicative of the fact that there is not that much information that argues either for or against the distribution of GIK.
  • The follow up to the campaign has not been very strong.  Bonnie Koenig has written a post which addresses this with some suggestions on what to do next.  This is generally the problem with any awareness raising campaign, but it is something which should be the focus the next time around as it is more important that the campaign itself.
  • Next time around, I think we need to be for something and not against.  I would like to see a campaign that is called 'A Day With Dignity' where we explore how we can retain dignity through aid and development programs.  By starting with a positive position, we can bring about education in regards to what types of aid campaigns and practices strip people of their dignity.  We should parter with organizations for the day who want to uphold the dignity of the people they are serving.  Celebrities would talk about the importance of dignity in their lives and connect it to people around the world.  We would see images that shoe people with shoes and with out, crying and smiling and on and on. School groups would partner and curriculum would be developed to encourage people to actively explore dignity.
  • We need to find a way to harness all of these good intentions and enthusiasm that leads people to go a day without wearing shoes.  Rather than spending time talk about TOMS not being a good model, we should be learning from what makes them so popular.  There are lessons to be learned from their success.  We do not want to alienate, rather welcome.
  • This turned out to be far more successful that I imagined and I think it speaks to the fact that people want to explore what smart aid actually looks like.  There are more people who can be reached, but blogging alone will not be sufficient.
Finally, a slight re-wording, I worry that this community remains too insular.  In some ways it is a clique that only some are able to enter.  Frankly, I am not sure what it takes to gain entry outside of just pushing in and hoping that people like you.  This is not efficient nor constructive.  I am a huge fan of aid bloggers (slight bias since I am one), but things are beginning to stall out a bit.  J. pointed out the other day that he feels like he only writes a few posts different ways.  I think we are all guilty of this.

This is not for a lack of creativity.  The fact that so many posts are written about so few topics means that there are some very creative minds.  It means that it is becoming repetitive.  Some good in-roads have been the use of SWEDOW in a few traditional media pieces, but there needs to be some more cross over.  We need an Ezra Klein or Andrew Sullivan who remain a part of the community but become a part of more 'mainstream' conversations.  I am not sure who that person should be or even if it is possible, but I think it is a needed step.

Now I am going to shut up and let you jump in.  What are your thoughts about the 'A Day Without Dignity' campaign?  I ended there talking about aid blogging in general, so feel free to take on that topic as well.  One immediate improvement is that we can do a better job sharing ideas here.  Maybe the level of snark/criticism makes some hesitant, but let's try to do it more often (now a personal goal).