From the photographer: Arete in Africa

Photo: Moses Sawasawa

At Arete, we seek to tell stories that make a difference. Our assignments take us across the globe, working with some of the world’s most renowned NGOs, supporting their vital work delivering humanitarian aid. Utilising a network of local experts in photography, video, and digital, we ensure our stories are told from authentic perspectives.

Our ‘From the Photographer’ series is a collection of first-hand accounts from our photojournalists as they carry out their assignments. Through the additional medium of writing, they are able to elaborate on the situations depicted in their photographs; relaying their thoughts and emotions in the moment, as well as everything that may have occurred outside of the frame.

Over the years, our ‘From the Photographer’ series has covered natural disasters such as Cyclone Idai, the chaos caused by the COVID-19 lockdown in Colombia, Ebola in the Congo, and the national polio vaccination campaign in Somalia.

In our latest addition to ‘From the Photographer’, we have created a mini-series with some of our skilled photojournalists from Africa. They each selected one single image to symbolise the unprecedented local effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We then shared these stories every day across our social media. Below, you can explore each one in its entirety:

Ismail Taxta — Somalia

Photo: Ismail Taxta/ DECArete

“After three weeks when the cases of the Coronavirus have increased in Somalia, I went out to for a four-day photography assignment of about how the disease is spreading in the country, and the role of the health workers at this crucial moment, the general public awareness of the prevention of the disease, the fear and the effects of the poor people who live in makeshift houses on the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The hospital doesn’t have adequate oxygen apparatus, the medical staff in the hospital told me that several patients who have been admitted in the hospital have recovered and discharged, while some other have succumbed to the disease. While you are in the quarantine centre you feel a lot of fear, because some people are in a very serious situation.”

KC Nwakalor — Nigeria

Photo: KC Nwakalor

“Faith Osi pours water on her head to cool down while working on her family’s cassava farm in Obrikom, in the heart of Nigeria’s oil-rich delta. Around the world, the poor and marginalized are much more likely to be vulnerable to extreme heat; methane gas flares burning around the clock in Obrikom make this already hot area worse still.”

Angela Jimu — Zimbabwe

Photo: Angela Jimu

Fourteen-year-old Tanatswa Chasakwa stopped going to school when they closed early in March due to Coronavirus. Now she spends her time indoors or around the yard.

“Before the lockdown, I used to go to school. The thing that I miss the most is participating in group sports like hockey, we missed the whole season of hockey and that was sad.”

Brian Ongoro — Kenya

Photo: Brian Ongoro

Developing a vaccine to protect people from the potentially deadly effects of the COVID-19 virus is a priority for scientific institutions across the world.

“Here a medical officer takes a COVID-19 sample at the laboratory of Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in #Kisumu, western Kenya.”

Moses Sawasawa — Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo: Moses Sawasawa

“I took these pictures at the #Majengo market, the day after the confirmation of the first case of Covid-19 in #Goma. The country had closed its borders and declared a state of emergency the previous week. The capital Kinshasa was confined and health authorities asked all Congolese to respect social distance.

Informal sector workers with few savings and often no electricity for refrigeration, they cannot buy food for more than a day or two. This creates a permanent demand for small business and markets.

At the same time, informal workers have no form of social protection and the Congolese health system is riddled with problems. So a sick person can bring ruin into a family. Yet people continue to go to markets not because they don’t care about their health, but because they can’t do otherwise.”

Isak Amin — Somaliland

Photo: Isak Amin/ doTERRA Healding Hands Foundation/ Arete

Isak, pictured here in the right of the photo, is part of a team documenting the story of a new specialist hospital complex funded by the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation in Somaliland.

Annie Mpalume — Zimbabwe

Photo: Annie Mpalume

Johanne Maswoe Apostolic Church members are waiting for rice donated by their leader, Madzibaba Mose in Highfield. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens an already critical food security situation in Zimbabwe.

Kelvin Debirdz — Kenya

Photo: Kelvin Debirdz

“Life goes on. A mural from Plan International, portraying the safety precautions to curb the spread of the Coronavirus in Nairobi, Kenya.”

Sunday Kiir — South Sudan

Photo: Sunday Kiir

Lockdown has led to many people being isolated and emergency services overstretched. As a result, there has been a reported increase in sexual violence against girls in South Sudan.

“A coalition of activists staged a protest demanding an end to impunity for rape and violence against women and girls in the country.

The women’s march was sparked after Eye Radio reported the rape of an eight-year-old girl in Gudele-a Juba suburb.”

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies.

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From the photographer: Arete in Africa was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an…

Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an independent photographer

Ahead of our Arete photographer social takeover next month, we have put together our top tips for managing your social media platforms as an independent photographer or videographer.

You won’t be surprised to hear that there isn’t a magic formula for making your social media accounts successful marketing tools overnight. But there are some steps you can take to ensure that they authentically represent you and strategically position you to take advantage of online opportunities.

1. Choose your social channels carefully

Although being on more social channels will undoubtedly expose you to a broader audience, it can also leave you with a lot to do. If you choose to actively post on more than 2–3 channels, this will require both planning and management, which in turn could damage the spontaneity and authenticity of your posts. Find the right balance for the time you have available.

Social media management tools such as Hootsuite, or Buffer are useful — but quite often have limited options compared to posting directly on the platform. A good example is Buffer (a very popular social media management tool) that doesn’t allow you to add on additional tweets to your original post when you hit the character count. It is usually better to post directly on to platforms via their official apps if possible.

Your target audience and your content should lead your choice…

Identifying your target audience is vital. As an independent photographer, this might be publications you would like to be published in, commissioning editors or communication directors; these will be specific to your ambitions. Now you know who your target audience is, the chances are there is someone in your extended network who works in your target audience’s sector or perhaps even in the specific role. If at all possible, try to get a few minutes to pick their brain and discover which social media channels they use most regularly and for what. Failing that, a little online research can go a long way…

For example, generally, Facebook is often used as a personal storyboard for friends and family, LinkedIn is used as a networking and self-promotion tool, and Instagram is built around images, videos, and ‘influencers’.

If you would find a personal consultation on this topic helpful, please just let us know.

This is why it is important to choose your social channels carefully. Try to focus on those where your target audience is most likely to be and are designed for the content you will be posting.

As a photographer or videographer, Instagram will likely be your greatest tool. Although the most popular social platforms change from country to country, as of 2020, Instagram is the number one globally. Instagram has been built specifically for the sharing of images and short videos, so make sure this is where you are focussing most of your attention.

Separate the personal and the professional

If you like to use platforms such as Instagram personally, it is worth having a separate account for your photography identity and to set it up as a ‘business account’. This will give you more options for self-promotion and ensure other people don’t have to ‘request to follow you’ to see your posts.

Having separate accounts will benefit both the personal and professional aspects. By only having a professional account, you could end up stifling your creativity — as you worry about taking or posting photos that don’t match with your professional persona or chosen specialisation.

Conversely, with only a personal account, the photographs you display become less of a specialised edit and more of an eclectic mix of anything and everything you like to photograph. Which brings us nicely on to the next point…

2. Know your niche

Your niche or specialisation should be clear from the moment somebody visits your social media page. Think assiduously about what cover or profile photo you choose, set a scene from the start and tie this in with a short piece of informative text.

The bio section on Instagram is an excellent example of this. Your characters are limited, so it is important to choose your words carefully. Don’t be afraid to use emojis in place of certain words, and make sure you take advantage of the option to add a link to your website, Vimeo or other supporting material.

If you have decided to be a professional photographer, then you most likely know your niche by now. This could be something such as, Photojournalism, Wildlife, Documentary, Event, Sports, or Adventure. Keep in mind that anything you post (including captions) will add to the overall image of who you are as a professional photographer and person. Stay on brand, demonstrate your devotion to your niche, and people will soon begin to associate you with your speciality. Always ensure your spelling and grammar are good — people who may want to employ you will notice this.

If you look up any famous photographer you will notice immediately what their niche is:

David Hurn — Documentary Photographer

Georgina Goodwin — Documentary Photographer

3. Hashtags are your friend

Pretty much every social media platform has incorporated the use of hashtags. By clicking on a hyperlinked hashtag on a platform such as Twitter, or LinkedIn, you are immediately taken to a page. On this page, all the posts that have used that hashtag are displayed chronologically.

Hashtags can be great for joining a conversation about something that is very current, such as #Covid19 or #BLM (Black Lives Matter). Hashtags are also very useful for aligning your content to a global interest or theme, such as #photojournalism or #ThrowbackThursday.

Don’t underestimate hashtags as a tool for getting your content in front of your target audience. Think broadly about subjects your target audience may be interested in and then do a little research into popular hashtags within these subjects. For example, we work with many charities and NGOs, so we often use #CharityTuesday to position our photographs and other content in front of people who are interested in charity.

It can also be useful to spend some time exploring hashtag pages yourself. This can be a great way to stumble across opportunities for you to join a topical conversation, engage with people in your target audience, and collaborate with people in your field.

4. Collaboration is queen (or king)

The clue is in the name, social media. Don’t be afraid to contact people out of the blue to network or discuss opportunities to collaborate.

It is worth managing your expectations — keep in mind that hugely popular social media personalities with tens of thousands of followers are likely to find it challenging to respond to every single private message or comment.

A good place to start is with other photographers or photojournalists that have a similar follower count to your own. By offering to share some of their content on your page, and vice versa, each of you gains the opportunity to get your imagery in front of a new audience. Although time-consuming, this is a great way to grow your following and increase your brand awareness.

When contacting people, if they offer an email address on their profile, this should always be your first port of call. If not, then a private message should do the job. Aim to keep your message concise and authentic. If you come across too formal, it may be misconstrued as spam; alternatively, if you come across too informal, this could also reflect poorly. Just be yourself and don’t overthink it.

5. Maintain your presence and choose your content carefully

Once you have gone to all the hard work of identifying your target audience, gearing your pages to authentically represent you and your niche, the next step, and sometimes the most difficult, is to maintain your presence.

There is a lot of noise in the social media space, although that doesn’t mean you have to shout the loudest to be heard.

As a photographer, your content is your voice. Don’t just put any old up there, perform a mini-edit, and choose only the best shots. If you post too much, you will just be contributing to the noise.

A carefully thought out caption and selection of hashtags, alongside a captivating image, will go a long way on a platform such as Instagram. And remember, keep your content relevant to your niche.

Consistency is key

Aim to post a minimum number of times per week. We recommend somewhere between 2–4 times per week.

This will work to retain the followers you already have as it will remind them why they chose to follow you in the first place. Furthermore, each post will act as an opportunity to attract new followers. And finally, if there is a hashtag you often use, such as #wildlifephotographer, this will also ensure you maintain your presence and relevance on the #wildlifephotographer page for frequent visitors.

6. Your social is your shop window

Never shy away from self-promotion. There are certainly more tasteful ways to do it but avoiding it altogether because you feel awkward will only serve to harm your opportunities. Think of your social media as your shop window — a shop all about you, the professional photographer.

You’ve gone through all the previous steps to build your social media pages , curating the content, and joining online conversations via hashtagging and collaboration. Each of these steps serves to make your shop window look as attractive and interesting as possible. But even this doesn’t guarantee your target audience will engage with you.

Seek out self-promotion opportunities via the web, network both online and off, and most importantly, direct all potentially interested parties to your social media account. If there is genuine interest or they have an opportunity to offer, then your social provides them with all the tools they need to get in touch with you.

And that’s all there is to it! Now get out there and get your shopfront in order.

Contact us for a consultation on how to manage your social media channels as an independent photographer

Read more from the Arete blog


Get your shopfront in order this lockdown: How to manage your social media channels as an… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá

From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá

Arete photographer, Keoma Zec, writes about his experiences documenting the homeward journeys of Venezuelans from Bogotá. For many Venezuelans living in Colombia, fleeing the COVID-19 lockdown to walk over 500km through the extreme conditions of the Andes, looks like their best hope for survival.

A Venezuelan family takes a break outside of Bogota, Colombia on their journey home to Cucuta, Venezuela on the 3rd of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

Back in early April when the lockdown had just started, Colombia like every other country on the planet was anxiously waiting to see what the virus would do. After two weeks of waiting, I ventured out with my friend — fellow journalist Bram Ebus to the highway leaving Bogotá.

We had heard that hundreds of Venezuelans had decided to leave the city, and even the country, on foot because of the measures imposed because of Coronavirus, to return to their home country. Why? Because of the lockdown.

Since 2016 Colombia has seen a steady influx of Venezuelan migrants looking for better lives in Colombia. It is estimated that 1.8 million Venezuelan migrants came to Colombia, the majority of whom are working in informal industries. This usually means they have very few savings and so a few days of no work means no food on the table.

Venezuelans walk past a military post in Bogota, Colombia as they begin their journey back to Venezuela on the 3rd of May 2020. © Keoma Zec
A Venezuelan child pokes their head out of the cart normally used for collecting recyclable materials. His family are embarking on a journey back to Venezuela, pictured outside Bogota, Colombia, on the 7th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

As we ventured out to the highway leaving the capital city of Colombia, we instantly noticed lots of people walking. We ran into many groups of Venezuelans, mainly families with kids and they all had the same response.

They weren’t able to afford rent anymore so they had no choice but to go back. Inter-city transport had been put on hold — which is still the case four months later — so many people had just started to walk back.

To give you an idea of this challenge, Bogotá is at 2559 metres in altitude (which is higher than any ski resort in the European Alps) and is surrounded by the Andes mountain range. The walk to the Venezuelan border town Cucutá can take between 3 and 5 weeks and over 500 mountainous kilometres, and that is only to the border. Over the weeks working on this project, I met people who had walked from Peru, through Bogotá, towards Caracas. A journey that is 2500 kilometres long and would take months. This journey goes from freezing cold at high altitudes to blistering heat nearing the Venezuelan border.

A young Venezuelan man, having left everything behind, rests from his 500km barefoot journey back home to Venezuela, outside Bogota, Colombia on the 7th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

After talking to many groups of people, listening to their stories and taking their photos, I decided I had to do something. Not only to get the story out, which ended up being published in The New Humanitarian and with Crisis Group, but I decided to tap into my own network of friends in Europe and gather some donations to help these people out. This is obviously far from a long term solution to a large and complicated problem, but at least I could help a few people.

I managed to raise around £1800 and started looking for other people to help me. A Dutch friend of mine, who runs a charity, decided to help out, as well as a new friend who owns a vegan restaurant and was willing to cook fresh meals. So far, we have made 250 vegan meals and taken them out to the people, as well as 250 big bags of food for families in need. We ended up driving out of the city looking for people who were walking. We handed them meals and other food that they could take with them on their long walk, as well as some blankets we received as donations.

Three months down the line, the problem hasn’t developed — nor has it been solved. Venezuelans still are walking back. The Colombian government have decided to prolong the quarantine until August 1st and cases are now hitting record highs every day for the last few weeks. This obviously puts many people in increasingly difficult positions as cases rise and the lockdown tightens, forcing people to stay inside and stop working.

An estimated 100,000 Venezuelans have returned home now, via the border town of Cucutá which is now a big problem in itself. Thousands of Venezuelans end up by the border not being allowed to cross home because of Coronavirus. Only 300 people a day are allowed to enter the country and the horror stories circulating among Venezuelans here in Bogotá of what is happening to people who are stuck in limbo — are haunting. Yet many people continue to make the decision to return home. Knowing the future is very uncertain and that they may face persecution upon arrival at the border — yet they are left with no choice. At least in Venezuela, they will have a roof over their heads and family they can count on.

A Venezuelan father and his children take shelter in their makeshift tent in the migrant camp by the highway on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia on the 8th of May 2020. © Keoma Zec

In early June, it was thought that the flow of people walking had reduced so a makeshift refugee camp was set upright on the edge of the city. Initially, about 600 people lived in the camp with no electricity or water. I decided to take a look to see what was happening and spent the rest of the donation money on helpful goods. I managed to buy an infrared thermometer, stoves to cook on and about 400 bottles of disinfecting alcohol. The migrants stayed there as a form of protest — asking for help from the Colombian government to get to the border. Now the camp has been cleaned up and a lucky few have been taken in buses to Cucutá. The rest are still stuck in the bus terminal. The Colombian government promised weeks ago to help put them on buses to the Venezualan border — but this still hasn’t happened.

This is a silent humanitarian crisis — and one that is getting very little attention globally. While people now just want to go home, they have seen the opportunity of a better life that has now slipped through their fingers. They now don’t know what is waiting for them on the other side. Once their suffering in Colombia comes to an end and they make it to the border, their next ordeal awaits them in the broken country that they call home.

A young Venezuelan man walks across the boundary of Bogota city on the 8th of May 2020. This is the beginning of his month-long walk back home to Venezuela. © Keoma Zec


From the Photographer — ‘Get me back to Caracas’: desperate Venezuelans leave lockdown in Bogotá was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


From Our Photographer: Covering Coronavirus in Lagos’ Slum-on-Stilts.

By Damilola Onafuwa

Arete photographer Damilola Onafuwa tells us about his experiences on assignment for our client the World Food Programme in May 2020. He was documenting their rollout of a home school-feeding programme in disadvantaged areas of Lagos in response to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Arete Photographer Damilola Onafuwa on assignment for WFP in Lagos, Nigeria, on 21st May, 2020. © Damilola Onafuwa

Lagos is the economic centre of Nigeria. With a population of about 25 million people, it is densely populated with a largely informal economy. Most people have to earn their living daily.

The first COVID-19 case in Nigeria was in my home city, Lagos. When it was first discovered, I could not help but wonder what a major breakout in Nigeria would be like. My main worry was that if COVID-19 spread here, it would be a disaster nobody was prepared for. It was clear that the people living in low-income areas would be the most affected.

I have lived and worked in Lagos most of my life and the rhythm of the city is like nothing I have experienced anywhere else: the colors, the noise, and the lifestyle. Lagos is a place of activity; everything is loud here, the music, the markets, the often-cramped yellow buses, the churches and mosques. At the end of March 2020, the President announced a lockdown of Lagos and other major cities within the country to help stop the spread of COVID-19. All economic activities were halted and everyone was told to stay at home to curb the spread of the virus.

A crowded Balogun market in Lagos Island, Lagos, Nigeria on 25 September 2018. Photo: Damilola Onafuwa

Another major issue presented itself as Lagos went into lockdown. With economic activities on pause, the vast majority of people who depended on daily incomes to feed their families were no longer able to make a living. This seriously affected their ability to get by.

Almost two months later, a few days after the government started to ease the lockdown, I was on assignment with the World Food Programme (WFP) who were providing technical support to Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. I was documenting the provision of home food rations to parents of children in Primary 1–3 enrolled in schools that had been closed in the lockdown.

An empty classroom with books in a Primary School in Lagos, Nigeria, on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP
An empty classroom with books in a Primary School in Lagos, Nigeria, on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

I was eager to see what difference this intervention would make for the beneficiaries; I wondered what it was like to stay locked up inside your house for weeks with no source of income because your income depended largely on daily sales.

On the first day of distribution, we visited Makoko, which is the largest slum in Lagos. The scale of the population living here in stilted houses is unknown but understood to be at least 100,000. Makoko is situated along the Lagos Lagoon, between the Lagos Mainland and Lagos Island. You can see the vast stilted community from the 3rd Mainland Bridge. I had enjoyed working in Makoko several times before and was keen to return. I was accompanied by Adedeji from WFP Nigeria. We boarded a wooden boat and were rowed for about 20 minutes to the home of Alice Tinsheme, a grandmother who was receiving the food ration for her grandson David, aged 8. David’s parents live and work in Cotonou, Benin and he lives with his grandmother, attending school in Makoko.

A view of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria, on 21st May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

Alice works as a fish smoker. She buys the fish from fishermen, smokes them and supplies them to stalls at the market. She told us her business had been seriously impacted by the lockdown because the markets have been closed. With nowhere to supply her fish to, her income had vanished. She said all the money she had saved had to be spent on feeding herself and her dependents.

Alice Tinsheme, aged 50, and her grandson David, aged 8, receive their food voucher in her home in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria. 21st May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

Alice’s story highlights the impact of the Coronavirus lockdown on people from low-income communities in Lagos.

The next day food distribution started in the schools. Parents had received food vouchers the previous day in their homes and were invited to come to the school and collect their take-home food rations. At the entrance, a tap of running water and soap was provided and the WFP staff ensured that everyone maintained social distancing.

A beneficiary of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme washes her hands in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

The beneficiaries were asked to present their food vouchers for verification. After this, their names were checked from a database and they were invited to collect their food rations. It was a really easy process so everyone could get their food on time and go back home.

Beneficiaries of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme observe social distancing as they get their food vouchers verified on 22nd May, 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

On Monday 25th May 2020, I met Elizabeth who was also a beneficiary of the program. Her daughter Geraldine is student of the school and she had come to collect the food on her behalf. She told me that her dream for her daughter would be for her to “get to great heights”. She wanted her to get the education that she had missed out on herself. She expressed concern for how the lockdown had affected Geraldine’s studies but made clear that she was grateful for the food they had received. The food provision meant they would be able to manage for a while, waiting for the economy and schools to reopen.

The distribution continued for the rest of the week. I met and spoke with other parents who had been affected but were trying to stay safe while still providing for their families.

I know it is unrealistic to meet the needs of everyone affected by the impact of the Coronavirus, but I could see how initiatives like this WFP one really help to cushion the effect of such a sudden economic downturn. As the lockdown lifts and Lagos opens gradually, people will start to get back to work and be able to make a living once more.

Elizabeth Anabu, aged 30, speaks with her daughter Geraldine Anabu in their home in Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria on Monday 25th May 2020. Photo: Arete / Damilola Onafuwa / WFP

There was no shortage of technical challenges shooting in this location. Firstly, it was at the beginning of the rainy season in Lagos and we had to time the canoe trips by reading the weather so as to avoid torrential downpours. The journeys take a minimum of 20 minutes but it’s easy to get caught up in canoe-traffic-jams for a long time. Another risk to avoid was falling into the water from the canoe, as happened to me on a previous shoot in Makoko — fortunately, I managed to avoid this fate on this occasion.

Gaining access to shoot in this community was a delicate process. I worked with a fixer from within the community who was able to negotiate with the area boys to vouch for our team’s integrity. They were suspicious that we were from the government trying to evict them. Our fixer acted as a gatekeeper and a conduit for establishing trust within the community who, understandably, wanted to know how the images would be used. Once we were found to be non-threatening, the people of Makoko were incredibly warm, friendly and welcoming, even offering us food and water.

The homes of the families we were visiting in Makoko were all tiny and very dark, which created a big challenge for composition and exposure. I handled this by avoiding compositions that showed the windows, but they (and their accompanying flare) were hard to avoid. On some occasions, I was able to make good use of the stark silhouettes that these conditions create. An example of this is with the portrait of Elizabeth and her daughter, shown above, which I exposed for the scene they were looking out onto. This showed them in their immediate surroundings: their world, from their point of view.

It was a real privilege to shoot this assignment for the WFP. It felt so important to bear witness to what this extraordinary moment in global history looks like in a place like Makoko.

See more of Damilola’s photos in this article on the WFP website.


From Our Photographer: Covering Coronavirus in Lagos’ Slum-on-Stilts. was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


The power of exhibitions and whether they could work online…

Photo: Kate Holt/ Opportunity International/ Arete

The discussion around the power of exhibitions — and whether they can work online — is particularly topical at the moment as we enter the 4th month of the COVID-19 induced lockdown. The arts and culture sector in the UK is on the ropes. The closure of venues and no clear plan in place for when they will reopen, or in what form, has left the industry reeling. As a result, over 100 leading creative figures in the industry have signed a letter calling for the government to prevent the demise of the sector.

As a creative organisation, we have experienced this first hand with a planned impact exhibition for Opportunity International postponed because of the lockdown. It has made us think. There is no doubt that exhibitions are a powerful tool for charities and NGOs for many reasons which we will dive into later; however, is this power lost when exhibitions are presented purely online? Or do they have even more power?

The power of exhibitions

Impact exhibitions are usually open to the public and held in venues in high-footfall metropolitan areas, like city centres, so that they are easily accessible and attract passers-by. This is partly what makes impact exhibitions a powerful tool for charities and campaigns. Carefully curated content, such as photographs, videos and stories, can be used to attract people who hadn’t planned to attend the exhibition but are passing by. As we saw with an exhibition we created for PLAN International UK, this provides a great opportunity to educate new people about both the cause and the brand, therefore, widening the supporter base and generating advocacy for the issue/s being explored in the exhibition.

Charities can use this platform to position their organisation at the centre of the conversation around the issue, which will, in turn, raise the overall profile of the charity, its prestige, and its legitimacy as being a positive force for change. It also provides a forum for charities to bring together people from their community who wouldn’t normally meet, such as supporters, staff, and trustees. This in itself will act as a hive of networking and creativity, as people form new ideas and relationships over a selection of free drinks (if it’s the opening night!).

Photo: Kate Holt/ Plan International UK/ Arete. A photograph of Helena from the PLAN International UK exhibition by Kate Holt. Helena fled with her family to escape fighting in her hometown of Abear. All of their possessions were stolen along with many of their cattle. Helena has never been to school because she has to look after the remaining cattle, and the family normally eats once per day.

This power of bringing people together and creating a shared experience is something that can have huge impact. Exhibitions bring the issue to life, where professionally captured images and video are able to instigate a feeling of intimacy between the viewer and the subjects, catalysing an emotional response that will help the viewer feel a little of what the beneficiaries are experiencing. This is their life and their world, and for a short period of time, the exhibition transports the viewer there — taking them on a journey of discovery.

Should exhibitions continue with the risk of COVID-19?

Photo: Kate Holt/ Opportunity International/ Arete. A photograph from the Opportunity International UK Exhibition for World Refugee Week centred around the Nakivale settlement in Uganda.

The emergence of COVID-19 has certainly altered the way we go about our daily lives and although much has changed, the needs served by impact exhibitions are anything but diminished. In fact, with COVID-19 causing harm to people’s physical and mental health across the globe, perhaps now, as charities find their resources stretched, there is a need for exhibitions that help with advocacy and fundraising more than ever.

Beyond this, as already discussed, exhibitions provide a fantastic opportunity for a meaningful and shared experience, which with social distancing measures in place, is another commodity people are in short supply of right now. There will always be a need for powerful imagery that transcends the medium on which it is presented, eliciting an emotional response and a lasting connection. Exhibitions, whether carried out in-person or online, still provide a high-quality shared experience.

How could impact exhibitions continue with the current limitations?

Photo: Kate Holt/ Opportunity International/ Arete. A photograph from the Opportunity International UK exhibition that is postponed.

We have seen many organisations and industries adapt during this unprecedented time and the culture sector is no exception. Some exhibitions have been postponed in the hope that venues will be allowed to reopen, others have taken advantage of online event platforms such as Hopin, hoping to capitalise on the vast numbers of people who find themselves stuck at home and spending a large proportion of their time online.

Although, as we will explore, there are some advantages and disadvantages to presenting an exhibition in the online space. As we found during a recent interview with painter, Daniel MacCarthy, if adequately advertised and sign-posted, online exhibitions can work well.

Dan MacCarthy is a painter based between Wales and London. He had an impressive run of exhibitions lined up for the spring and summer of 2020, but they were all affected by the lockdown. However, one exhibition, in rural Wales where he is from, went ahead online and attracted a surprising number of viewers.

Artist Daniel MacCarthy with his painting, ‘Edgar Derby’s Tea Pot’

How did you find attendance at your first online exhibition?

“A really wide range of people engaged with the exhibition online. I was surprised, a lot of people I’ve never heard of, some in America, some UK-based, friends and strangers. I think a lot came through the Instagram route. The exhibition completely sold out, so I added more pictures and it sold out again!”

With this being purely online, how did you create the exhibition feel?

“We did a written piece with the two artists ‘in conversation’, which was a nice way of reflecting on the collection and inviting the audience into a discussion around the work.”

Has anything come from this new online norm due to lockdown?

“I’ve been involved in something called the Artist Support pledge, which has been a real game changer. For the first time in my life I can make a good living being an artist. It cuts out the gallery. I’m sending out about 20 packages per week. I think people are locked down at home staring at bare walls, they’ve realised they want to invest in decent art and this is an affordable way of doing so. Lockdown has changed things in a big way, some for the better.”

We also spoke to artist and performance designer, Miriam Nabarro, about her views on whether online exhibitions could become the new norm:

Artist, Miriam Nabarro in the studio.

“Several major art institutions are making more work accessible online — which has a major impact on accessibility for everyone under the Covid Lockdown. But there is no substitute being able to immerse themselves in the real thing and the physical experience of the real thing. Galleries, exhibitions and museums are monuments of peace and prosperity. They are about being able to access priceless works of art that everyone can access for free. The experience is as much about the place and space as it is about the works on show”.

Issue 755 of The List

The List is a publication that gathers and distributes information on upcoming events and entertainment from across the UK. Robin Hodge, Co-Founder at The List, said on the topic of online exhibitions,

“Those who are prepared to experiment can find ways to present work to an audience and so keep culture alive”.

He pointed to organisations such as the Wigmore Hall, a concert venue that has continued to present performers via a live stream and downloadable content on their website.

Are online exhibitions the future?

It is clear online exhibitions can work but are they the future? There are certainly some benefits to holding an exhibition purely online; however, there are also several areas where the exhibitor will lose out. Arguably one of the most important is the ‘opening night effect’. The opening night of any exhibition, impact or otherwise, is often touted as the most crucial time. This is, generally, when the exhibition is its busiest, and it is where many of the positive results of the exhibition, such as inter-stakeholder discussion, engagement and the formation of new ideas, relationships and advocacy, are generated.

Although the ‘opening night effect’ wouldn’t be lost entirely with an online exhibition, as integrated group video calls and chat forums can make up for some of the discussion and engagement, these positive results would be diminished.

A visitor to the Oxo Gallery in London views one of the photographs chosen for the BLINK: The end is in sight exhibition by Sightsavers.

Exhibiting only online also limits the versatility of the exhibition, limiting the use of exhibition enhancing technologies such as those pictured above in an exhibition we were part of for Sightsavers at the Oxo Gallery in London. Sightsavers took advantage of cutting-edge camera and screen technologies to provide the viewers with an experience that illustrates the debilitating effects of trachoma. For people with trachoma, every blink of the eye can cause excruciating pain. Trachoma is an eye condition where the eyelid starts to turn inwards; the eyelashes scrape painfully across the eyeball. The disease is infectious and can spread easily in areas that lack proper sanitation and clean water. It is a degenerative disease that worsens over time, trapping people in a cycle of poverty and dependencey on others for their care.

A view of the Sightsavers exhibition from outside the gallery.

The camera, situated just above or below the screen — would track the eye movement of the viewer, counting how many times they blinked. Every time a viewer blinked, the image would gradually decay, representing how someone suffering from trachoma would see the world as their eyesight deteriorated. Although there are new and exciting technologies, like virtual reality, that can be utilised by online exhibitions, these are still limited by accessibility, which, it can be argued, limits the effectiveness of online exhibitions versus those delivered in-person.

Although there is a school of thought that the presence of other people during an exhibition is beneficial, the opposite could also be posited. Does the presence of other people, particularly those we are familiar with, act as a distraction? Ultimately detracting from the quality of engagement an attendee has with the exhibition and therefore the connection with the cause?

Presenting an exhibition online could allow people to be more focussed. Furthermore, the curator of the exhibition would be able to exert more control over how it is viewed, ensuring that the content is displayed in a specific order, or for a certain amount of time, which could serve to bolster the storytelling experience.

And then there is the financial cost. With no space to rent, or exhibition displays to create, an online exhibition could prove to be a much cheaper option for some organisations. This would allow for more funds to be directed towards advertising, which in turn could expose the exhibition to a broader audience.

Online exhibitions also have no borders or boundaries. Anyone, anywhere in the world, providing they have access to the internet, can buy a ticket and gain instant access allowing the impact of an exhibition to transition across borders and timezones, gathering support and advocacy from much further afield. This is, perhaps, the most beneficial factor online exhibitions can bring.

What is the conclusion?

Impact exhibitions, whether delivered online or in-person, can be a powerful marketing and fundraising tool for charities. Online exhibitions can provide an alternative for when we find ourselves living within circumstances such as those delivered by the outbreak of COVID-19; although, perhaps they aren’t the best medium to deliver content just yet.

With the development and improvement of accessibility to technologies such as virtual reality, it is clear to see how this could change. The ability of online exhibitions to engage with people all over the globe on their own terms cannot be ignored. However, the benefits gained from the ability to utilise exhibition-enhancing technologies and gathering a community in one place for the ‘opening night effect’ remain the most powerful.

At Arete, we specialise in creating authentic and engaging content, including films, exhibitions, images and articles; utilising our network of local photojournalists and content creators to search out stories on the ground. With such a large quantity of online media on offer, it is essential now more than ever to ensure content is of the highest quality.

Arete photojournalist, Kate Holt, in South Sudan for PLAN International UK.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies.

Read more from the Arete blog


The power of exhibitions and whether they could work online… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Why is it important to report back to your funders, and what is the best way to do it?

Photo: Donwilson Odhiambo/ Arete. A local health official takes the temperature of a lady at a handwashing station in Kenya.

The Coronavirus pandemic caught everybody off guard. A tremendous amount of work has been done; almost everything and everyone has been forced to focus on COVID-19. Donor funding has been re-distributed, projects have been put on hold, and organisations across the globe have had to focus their energy on coming up with, and maintaining a response. In the not too distant future, everyone will start to look back, measure, evaluate and report on their response.

Due to the nature of COVID-19 and the speed at which it appeared, it has not been possible to follow the normal procedure for formulating a response. Regardless, it is still important to report back to your community of funders, stakeholders, communities and governments of practices used to both evaluate the impact and to learn from this. In this blog, we will explore why it is important to report back and also, using some illustrative examples, show interesting and creative ways in which to do it.

What can the data tell us, and why is it important to report back?

It is crucial for organisations to understand what worked and what did not in order to build a framework that can be used to react to future emergencies. Understanding your objectives and whether these were achieved, coupled with evaluation and reporting on how your response progressed, will begin to give you a good insight into what worked and what didn’t.

Merge this data with reports from the voices on the ground, such as community leaders, beneficiaries, and partners. Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as, “what worked, what didn’t and why? Did we achieve our objectives? And what could we have done differently?” People’s views and needs will change over the course of the emergency, so this information should be sought at various points throughout the crisis; it is essential to track this change to understand how best you can meet the needs of the communities and beneficiaries you serve.

Photo: Brian Ongoro/UN/Arete. Representatives from the UN agencies meet with a local community in South Sudan.

A summary of all this data will be illustrative of the success, or failure, of your response. It should also provide some insight into the transition of donor behaviour during what was an unprecedented time.

This data, and the analysis you can draw from it, will be invaluable, not only, for planning future campaigns, but also, for the broader NGO community allowing for the construction of new emergency fundraising frameworks. We can see how communities have learned from, and integrated new behaviours from more geographically contained public health crises such as outbreaks of Polio or Ebola. We should be looking to use this data, in the same way, to inform NGOs, governments and local communities about how to deal with similar health crises to COVID-19 in the future.

A page from a graphical report we created to track the results of the UNICEF Papua New Guinea polio tetanus immunisation programme.

Your evaluation and analysis, creatively presented, can also be beneficial in securing future funding and support for your organisation. Whereas it is obvious to emphasise areas of success, particular partners may also be looking for constructive and balanced conclusions where things didn’t go to plan. The data, and your enquiries, can help to provide these answers.

Could your COVID-19 response have been more targeted at behavioural changes? Dispelling rumours? Or providing better support options for mental health? Could the information be interpreted through images and video, did it reach everyone in every language? Were people in vulnerable populations, such as refugees, disproportionately affected? These are all useful questions to ask.

Presenting the data in an engaging and interesting way

Although, as already mentioned, this data will be able to help in the planning of future fundraising campaigns, how you present the data to stakeholders, partners, and communities is also very important.

Data Visualisation

For many audiences, how you choose to present your data can have a significant impact on how it is received or interpreted. Presenting your data in a creative, yet easy to understand way, can be very helpful in translating your perspective to specific audiences. Data represented visually, whether via an image, video or animation, is also hugely versatile and can be an excellent way to distribute a large amount of data in a digestible way at events, in meetings, on social media and more.

(In this video we use a combination of animations and video to report back on the ongoing results of the UNICEF supported schools programme in South Sudan)

Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling

Including individual stories to collaborate with the data can be very helpful in creating a visualisation of who has benefitted from the campaign — allowing the audience to emotionally connect with the beneficiaries the facts and figures are referring to. Some might say that a case study is not impact, but rather, impact is data.

Photo: Kate Holt/Action Aid/Arete. A portrat of a woman we met in Burundi, displaced by political violence.

This is true, to a point; impressive figures can be useful in making an impact on your audience. However, when coupled with first-person narratives delivered via portrait photographs or video this data is quite literally brought to life, and the audience can develop a new level of perspective.

Photo: Kate Holt/ UNICEF/ Arete. A photo of a child to promote UNICEF World Children’s Day.

How do you bring together all the written and visual data in an effective way?

Reports are essential and don’t have to be 60 pages of text; in fact, reports don’t even necessarily need to be drafted. There are creative ways in which you can bring together the different facts and figures, images, videos, and stories to accurately represent and report on the outcome of your response, although it is important not to overload your audience with too much information. Drip-feed the content in snippets, allowing each piece to be properly appreciated.

(This video we created was shown by the UN to various audiences to report back, securing a budget to expand their programme to a further two provinces and promises of £30m from different donors)

There are many visually appealing and creative ways to report back to your funders. You could use a slideshow with animations or a short film that incorporates the data with storytelling. Perhaps even a landing page or microsite that acts as a jumping-off point for a gallery of images bringing the work of your fundraising campaign to life.

A microsite created for the charity Wharf Kids

To conclude, reporting back is imperative to share learnings, highlight key messages and communicate with stakeholders. Delivering your report in a visual and creative way can be very helpful in helping your different audiences interpret the data; and although there is no one right way to do it, it is right to do it…

At Arete, working with many NGOs and UN agencies, our team have acquired years of experience in how to creatively present the outcomes of fundraising campaigns, design data collation frameworks, and more.

To talk to us about ideas for your next campaign, to explore our global team of content acquirers and creators, or anything else — you can get in touch with us here.


Adjusting how you communicate to meet the needs of all communities during Covid-19

Photo: Kate Holt/ Jhpiego. Rosa, who has nine children, meets with Veronique, the Traditional Birth Attendant for her village in Nampula, Mozambique.

This new strain of coronavirus, known as Covid-19, is here to stay. Around the world, Covid-19 will continue to spread amongst the world’s population for many months to come. This will most likely continue until a natural immunity is developed or a protective vaccine is produced. Covid-19 does not discriminate, people at all levels of society bus drivers to doctors and prime ministers to princes are being affected. This is a global pandemic and requires a pandemic response, which means an unprecedented quantity and complexity of communications from both governments and NGOs.

Charities developing communications in some of the world’s least developed countries need to be thinking carefully, creatively, and collaboratively about the content of this communication. They need to go beyond sharing hand washing techniques and extend their reach to ensure that every community is targeted with a tailored communications strategy that is going to support them from both a physical and mental health perspective.

Supporting communities without access to adequate hygiene and healthcare facilities

A vital first step in any communications strategy around Covid-19 is to develop a wide range of public health information — explaining the virus from the bottom up. This communication needs to start by explaining the virus and why it is unique, advice on who people can contact locally for healthcare needs, details on public handwashing stations and alternative solutions to soap and hand sanitiser if these are in short supply.

Photo: Kate Holt/MedAir. Children wash their hands at a handwashing station supported by MedAir in Goma, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Developing and sharing innovative ways people can practice limiting the spread of Covid-19 is key. Yes, this means social distancing, but it needs to go beyond this. How can communities be supported in aspects of their everyday life to ensure social distancing can realistically be achieved? What can we do to help people understand what social distancing is and how it works?

Promoting and supporting a drive towards achieving or maintaining good physical health should also be considered. Social distancing is important, but how do we ensure we continue to promote exercise and healthy eating? Communications need to aim to encourage these things too. Education around which foods are scientifically proven to boost the immune system, and are locally available, is one way where your communications can go beyond traditional discourse to support people’s overall physical health.

SHOFCO (Shining Hope for Communities), an NGO in Kenya, are a great example of how charities can adapt their communications strategy to reach the most vulnerable in society. Powered by volunteers and some modest investment, SHOFCO have set up handwashing stations at every entry point into the Kibera slum and are running door-to-door campaigns to raise awareness, distribute bleach, homemade soap and hand sanitiser, while combating rumours and misinformation.

From Kibera, from communities like mine, I hope the world learns that we are capable of keeping ourselves safe, clean, and protected. Community-led efforts must be allowed to start and to lead the way.” Kennedy Odede, CEO and founder of SHOFCO.

Ensuring the marginalised in society don’t go unsupported

Photo: Kate Holt/ UNICEF. Bendu, a 2-year-old girl, holds her mother’s hand while waiting to receive treatment in Sierra Leone.

A one-size-fits-all approach to comms will most likely fail to get everyone on-side. An effective communications strategy should be sensitive to individual communities and cultures. This means developing comms to support marginalised people — so coming up with innovative ways to communicate to those who may not be able to read, who may not have access to the internet or those who are visually impaired.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has said that “[t]o effectively combat the outbreak means ensuring everyone has access to treatment, and is not denied health care because they cannot pay for it or because of stigma.

In many countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people face discrimination in accessing health care every day. Human Rights Watch has documented health care discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in many countries. This discrimination can affect access to HIV testing and treatment as well as care for other chronic diseases that can make LGBT people, particularly at risk of suffering severe illness or death as a result of COVID-19. In Mozambique, for example, 1 in 3 people are HIV positive. Developing an informative, yet sensitive, communications strategy to support communities such as this is vital.

All governments have an obligation to ensure that a serious public health crisis does not also become a human rights crisis because people are unable to access adequate medical care. Governments need to take steps to ensure everyone has affordable and accessible medical care and treatment options.

Communications also need to go beyond only physical health and have a focus on mental health too

Photo: Kate Holt/ Medair. A youth group gives a performance on how to protect yourself from Ebola at an Ebola sensitisation meeting in a Church Hall in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Public health strategies such as social isolation and ‘lockdown’ can be effective in combating the spread of Covid-19; however, they can also have serious knock-on-effects for people’s mental health. If these issues go unaddressed, then we could find ourselves emerging from the Covid-19 crisis and into a new one.

With lockdown comes economic shutdown and in many developing countries, this will also mean loss of work and, therefore, income. This can quickly become a difficult and stressful situation for many people, and once combined with social isolation, it can have a severe impact on people’s mental health.

How do we ensure communities remain connected?

Community meetings are essential at both educating and bringing communities together. Community meetings were used in both West Africa and the Congo during the Ebola outbreak by many NGO’s, to both help people stay connected and involved, but also to help them understand the risks and what to do if someone they knew contracted the disease. The challenge with the current Covid-19 crisis is that it is more contagious than Ebola, making the community meetings that worked in combating Ebola, much harder to organise.

Photo: Kate Holt/MedAir. Community members attend an Ebola sensitisation meeting in a Church Hall in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Technology has proven to be an effective way to provide an outlet or support for communities and help people to feel less isolated. Your communications can work to alert people to the existence of online forums to connect and interact, be it a WhatsApp group, social media chat room, or community video call.

However, many people will not have access to this level of technology, and it is essential strategies are created to help people think more creatively about how they can connect whilst remaining safe. Whether it is offering a freephone talk line, or encouraging people to sing and play instruments together. Encouraging people to connect with each other, while remaining safe, is an important step in supporting positive mental health.

Photo: Kate Holt/ Medair. Philimon Paluku, a Health Promoter with the Swiss NGO Medair, demonstrates how to use a handwashing station supported by MedAir in the Democratic Republic of Congo

“Community engagement and awareness is essential — once communities understand the risks they can start to understand how to stop the spread — the worst thing that can be done is isolating communities so they have no engagement with others — as this breeds fear and suspicion. We need to overcome fear and suspicion to overcome Covid-19”. Kate Holt, director of Arete, who has covered Ebola in both West Africa and Congo

We source and manage local experts in photography, video, digital and written content from around the world to help you tell stories that make a difference, working with you in the office or the field.

Contact us to find out how we can help you make an impact through exceptional storytelling and targeted communications strategies


Adjusting how you communicate to meet the needs of all communities during Covid-19 was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


As Covid 19 spreads around the world, how do we build resilience in the communities and countries…

As Covid 19 spreads around the world, how do we build resilience in the communities and countries who are most at risk?

Save burial teams bury a body in a graveyard in Freetown, Sierra Leone. ( Photo: The Guardian/ Kate Holt)

On the 12th of March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially announced the Covid-19 outbreak as a pandemic. The European region, North America and parts of Asia are currently experiencing the highest number of cases, and it is likely we will see a similar situation developing throughout Africa and across the rest of Asia.

18 of the 20 poorest countries in the world are in Africa and Asia, with the top three all in Africa. It is these poorest and least developed countries that are likely to be overwhelmed by the pandemic, so what proactive steps should we be taking now to help these people prepare for, and survive, this public health emergency?

Combat misinformation

Mariama Stevens, a community health worker, washes her hands in chlorinated water. In Sierra Leone during the Eboutbreak in 2015. (Photo: ActionAid International/ Kate Holt)

Countries that have very little health and social infrastructure in place, and where poverty is rife, are most at risk. As an example, how will the people living in Kibera, Africa’s largest urban slum in Kenya, be able to cope? What resources and information will they have access to?

As we saw with Ebola, proactive communications sharing potentially life-saving messages are crucial to improving understanding and limiting the spread of the virus, chaos and hysteria amongst populations in the grip of a pandemic.

Social media is a fantastic tool for spreading information quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, this information isn’t always factual and can prove catastrophic during a public health emergency. In order to combat this misinformation, it is vital for world-renowned brands, like charities and businesses, to be consistently communicating the correct information and health advice, providing people with a trusted and verified source to turn to.

Creative content

Information dissemination, which we cover in our next paragraph, can only do so much. The quality and creativeness of the material tasked with delivering the message are of key importance. The message needs to be delivered in a way that is understandable and engaging to people of all ages, and levels of education.

This could be through a video campaign that uses colourful cartoon characters to tell a story; via posters and social media posts to explain the risks of Covid-19; a short rhyme or song that can be recited to ensure people are washing their hands for long enough; or a photo slideshow that shows images of the different hygiene and health symptoms to look out for.

The effectiveness of your content to deliver a message is determined by both its creativity and how tailored it is to the local culture. From photos to infographics, videos to written interviews, there are many different ways to deliver a message to a large number of people.

Case Study: UNICEF Papua New Guinea

‘Happy Baby’

We were tasked by UNICEF to create content to support the roll-out of a nationwide public health campaign in Papua New Guinea. The campaign aimed to eradicate polio tetanus via education and vaccination. The population coverage target for each of the vaccines was 75%.

Some of the material we created to support the UNICEF campaign

Our first step was to create a figurehead for the campaign that would become instantly recognisable and associated with the desired outcome; this led to the (conceptual) birth of the ‘Happy Baby’. This figurehead, coupled with characteristic colour branding, were visible on all materials including, posters, flyers, banners, t-shirts, animations and more.

The key message was: “Mothers and caregivers have their children vaccinated against polio.”


The results of the government and NGO coordinated campaign were excellent. The nationwide coverage of phase 2 was 95% with a total of 5.96 million doses administered. Such high coverage is unprecedented for Papua New Guinea; never before has the country reached such a high number of children in each and every province.

Marianna Zaichykova, The Communication for Development Specialist for UNICEF who ran the campaign said,

“Targeted, coordinated and preemptive communication campaigns are the key to success. And it’s not just about having materials on the issue, it’s about having materials on time and being able to address and answer the questions that are relevant to the public. The creative designs and messages were directly answering the needs and questions of medical workers and parents and targeting the rumors. It’s vital to listen to what people are concerned about, preempt any issues that may arise and be prepared to provide advice, help and guidance on time.”

Outbreak statistics from the year before the campaign was launched

Getting the message out there

Action Aid Sierra Leone has been working in Mbundoru and other villages throughout Bo to sensitise people to the dangers of Ebola and what preventative measures they can take to not get the virus. (Photo: Action Aid/ Kate Holt)

Your creative and engaging content is only as compelling as your communications strategy. It is important that your content is distributed in the correct places to hit your target audience effectively.

We often recommend an offline and online approach to ensure you are reaching as many people as possible. This could include designing, printing and putting up posters, working with local education initiatives, printing and distributing t-shirts, buying advertising space on local television and radio, as well as targeted adverts and posts on social media and alerts via apps.

Whatever combination of content you decide to use, its delivery should be coordinated. If the content you have created is effective, and the branding is instantly recognisable, then the message should also begin to spread via word of mouth both in-person and online.

Isatu Sesay, who is 7 years old, looks out of a window. Isatu’s mother and father both died in the recent Ebola outbreak that has so far claimed over 4000 lives in Sierra Leone, with a total of 11300 deaths in West Africa. (Photo: Action Aid/ Kate Holt)

We have over 20 years of experience in covering pandemics, most recently Ebola in West Africa and the outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We have created content for UNICEF, the WHO, Action Aid, the World Food Programme, and Medair — supporting initiatives like effective hand washing, how to limit the spread of the Ebola virus through physical contact, the need for community meetings at which a specific message could be delivered, and where people can get help when they are sick, where to get tested, or need emergency financial support.

A health worker washes their hands in chlorinated water (Photo: Action Aid/ Kate Holt)

What is clear is that Covid-19 is here to stay, so what steps should we be taking now to bolster the resilience and education of individuals in the places that need it most, the world’s poorest and least developed countries?

Let us know how we can help.


As Covid 19 spreads around the world, how do we build resilience in the communities and countries… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


How can your marketing communications ensure continued support and funding for a charitable…

How can your marketing communications ensure continued support and funding for a charitable project years after inauguration?

Photo: Phil Hatcher-Moore/ Team Rubicon UKArete

Many charities are designed to react to problems that arise for people who are in urgent need of help and support — whether this is a natural disaster such as a cyclone, flooding or drought, or a threat to civilians caused by war. The work of these NGOs is invaluable. A key challenge for these organisations is to ensure that funding and support are maintained in the months and years following these disasters.

As an example, Cyclone Idai first made landfall in East Africa on the 4th March 2019 and although the Cyclone passed, the damage to infrastructure and the desperate circumstances for the millions of people affected in Mozambique, Malawi, Madagascar and Zimbabwe, remain.

Using an example of emergency appeals communication support we have provided to the United Nations, we discuss how ‘marcomms’ can be instrumental in ensuring that vital funding and support continues, long after mainstream media coverage has moved on.

Rebuild and recovery

The immediate response after a disaster like Cyclone Idai is essential. But it is the ongoing engagement and support that helps communities rebuild and develop preventative measures for the future, that is just as important. It is this rebuilding and recovery phase that can often be the most challenging for NGOs as support and funding, particularly from the public, often dries up with the loss of media coverage.

A man tries to clear up his house and salvage building material in a flooded area in front of destroyed houses after Cyclone Idai destroyed most parts of Beira city in Mozambique.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ Disasters Emergency Committee/ Arete

Plan creative marcomms to boost fundraising

Investing in, and planning your marcomms for this eventuality can be a useful way to counteract a shortfall in funding. This could be monthly blog posts filled with stories and images from the source to keep people updated on the progress of what their support is cultivating; consistent social media updates displaying the dramatic transformations taking place; or videos and infographics that use data to illustrate the positive change your organisation is creating.

As with marketing in general, this follow-up in your marcomms is the key to raising awareness and ensuring the plight of your beneficiaries isn’t forgotten. Your marcomms could even address this issue, asking the public to sign up to monthly or weekly donations to ensure that your organisation has the funds to help people rebuild in the months, and possibly, years to come.

Images and stories have a greater impact

Data and statistics are very useful for painting a picture, although alone they can become monotonous and disinteresting. When these figures are combined with images and stories from the people the statistics refer to, the overall impact can be greater — particularly when trying to persuade the public or organisations to continue to fund your charitable project.

As we talk about in our blog on key considerations for designing a Christmas appeal, images are the most powerful storytelling device at your disposal. A great image can elicit an emotive connection to your appeal that forms the basis of why people donate to your cause.

And great content = free marketing

Planned marcomms will not only have an impact on your supporters and the general public, but also the media. Your blogs, videos, social media interactions and more will work to remind journalists, editors and other content creators that support is still needed for these people; and the images, stories and videos from your marcomms will provide the media with free content they can use to tell this story.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ GAVI Alliance/ Arete/ Arete and GAVI Alliance portfolio page

How high-quality marcomms secured further funding for the United Nations

The UN in Mozambique employed this strategy. They used a video we had created covering the effects of funding supplied by the Belgian Development Agency and new programmes and systems trailed in the Gaza Province of Mozambique after Cyclone Idai. As a result of this video, the UN was able to secure a budget to expand the programme to a further two provinces as well as ongoing funding promises of around £30 million from different donors.

This is how investing in carefully planned marcomms, which follow up on the positive results of the support your organisation has provided, can be highly effective in ensuring further and ongoing support for your project and beneficiaries. The content you create can often be picked up by mainstream media agencies and social media influencers providing them with the tools to tell their own story — ultimately furthering your goal of gaining continued support and funding.

The only question left to ask is, what marketing communications have you planned to support your next project?


How can your marketing communications ensure continued support and funding for a charitable… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.