How to use animation to tell difficult stories

As one of the most engaging digital mediums used to tell stories, animations are king of content.

When stories are complex and delicate, the nature of a more traditional, true to life video, can introduce factors that can distract from the story’s core message.

As an example, when a video relies on the performance of actors, it may not effectively communicate the authentic emotions and feelings of the story. Or sometimes, people watching a video may not be able to engage with the characters, which may turn them off listening to the message.

Through using animated characters or symbols to relay a message or story, the storyteller has complete control, and the content can be more easily digested by the viewer, who feels less confronted by the real-life nature of the subject. The finest details of an animated message can also be fine-tuned to ensure the message is clear and carries the point across in the most effective way.

At Arete, we often recommend the use of animated films to our clients who need to tell more complex narratives.

Complete control

Immersive storytelling

Compared to other mediums, animation gives the creator complete control over what is depicted; a skilled animator can hone in on the key aspects of each element of the story, blocking out anything that may be irrelevant or distracting. This allows for a truly immersive experience for the viewer, which in turn means that the key messages are being delivered in the most powerful way.

Communicate emotion effectively

Humans all display emotion in different and nuanced ways; through using animation, one can remove any ambiguity around what the protagonist of the story is feeling. The emotions of animated characters can be carefully controlled and, where necessary, exaggerated, ensuring that the narrative of the story unfurls in a structured and strategic way. This close control over the communication of emotion can be utilised very effectively to engage and influence an audience.

Create a connection

Research has proven that some people also find it easier to relate to, and therefore, empathise with animated characters.

As James Isgrove, Arete’s lead animator, explains, “Animated characters can be made as simplified or complex as you like. In some cases, the simpler they are, the better. This provides the viewer with enough of a blank canvas to project themselves on to the character, and therefore, imagine what the character might be feeling. This can catalyse a deep and meaningful connection with both the character and the story.”

Unbound creativity

Animation is limited only by the extent of creativity; it allows for a story to be told in almost any way. Animation offers greater flexibility to communicate through symbolism, which means complex subjects and delicate stories can be expressed in a more palatable way, creating a more engaging experience.

The most effective storytelling can utilise symbolism to communicate the emotion of the characters on-screen without using any words. UNICEF South Sudan commissioned Arete to create five short animations that would reflect the dreams of child soldiers. In this video, in which the young girl narrates her story, she doesn’t need to say that she felt scared, small, and insignificant.

By shrinking the character representing the girl and making the character that represents the soldier monstrously large, each of these emotions is symbolically communicated effectively and efficiently without need for further explanation.

Approach topics tactfully

The creative use of symbolism can also ensure difficult topics are expressed tactfully but with enough weight to indicate significance. Through the use of abstract visuals, complex and upsetting situations can be simplified so that they are easier for the viewer to watch and interpret.

In another of these videos, a young boy narrates a story that is recurring in his nightmares.

In this story, the young boy depicts how he was forced to watch soldiers slit his father’s throat. It was difficult to work out how best to portray that,” lead animator James Isgrove describes. “With upsetting and delicate scenes, such as this one, sometimes it is better to leave some of the details to the viewer’s imagination. The idea is to lead the story down a path and let the viewer’s mind fill in the blanks”.

Utilising sound

The power of the imagination can also be realised through the use of descriptive sound. One’s imagination is the most compelling storytelling tool, and with the right stimulus, it can be utilised to communicate a story more powerfully than any visual depiction.

For example, in this animation, this ex-child soldier describes how she was beaten with heavy chains. By employing the sound of chains rattling and thumping, we were able to descriptively, yet delicately, depict this horrific chapter in her story without the need to animate a distressing scene.

Educational videos made easy — Aga Khan University — How the news becomes the news

Animation can also be effectively employed to explain complex situations and processes in a simplified and easy-to-understand manner, granting storytellers the ability to create simple on-screen scenarios, which can effectively communicate a process — such as how the news becomes the news.

In this animation, commissioned by the Aga Khan School of Media and Communication in Kenya, the goal was to educate the audience on how a news story’s facts and content are gathered and checked before it is published.

To conclude, animation is a versatile medium that offers comprehensive creative control and the ability to engage with all audiences. When utilised correctly, animations can be used to tell both delicate and informative stories effectively.

Do you have a complex story that could be told using animation? Here is how to reach out to our animation team.

Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


From the photographers: Climate change

Photo: Kate Holt

“Climate Change is a phenomenon that can not be ignored. Raising awareness of the issue, and showing how the effects of a changing climate impact people’s lives, is essential to changing public opinion about the topic and forcing governments to take urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.

A warming planet is currently having a much greater impact in poorer countries, very often those that are not responsible for generating high emissions. As well as the science needed to explain what is happening, photos are essential in shaping opinion and driving change.

I have been working as a photographer for over 20 years in many of the countries most acutely impacted by extreme weather patterns as a result of global warming. Every year, more and more countries are having to deal with these events and the resilience of poorer families decreases annually.

In Somalia, for example, with every year that goes by with no rain, people’s herds of sheep and goats are reduced by adverse weather conditions, until they have nothing left. This forces them into makeshift camps where they become dependent on food aid. In Madagascar, rising sea levels are causing flooding in coastal communities resulting in increasing water-borne diseases because freshwater supplies get contaminated.

People often feel helpless when confronted by such huge issues. It is essential to also tell the positive stories which demonstrate how people are fighting back; and the impact that individual actions can have.

Tree and mangrove nurseries have sprung up in Madagascar and Somalia that allow communities to purchase to replant depleted mangrove swamps and forest, with previously stopped coastal sea levels rising. Mangroves also provide carbon sinks and are havens for a wide variety of different plants and animals. These initiatives prove that when people come together to find a solution, it is possible to reduce the impact of global warming.” — Kate Holt, Director of Arete Stories.

Photo: Kate Holt/ WaterAid UK / Arete. A young boy stands on a bridge in the evening light in the city of Morondavo in Madagascar. Despite being surrounded by water, and regular rainfall, 48 %of the population of Madagascar do not have access to clean water and 88% lack basic sanitation. Extensive flooding occurs annually in Morandavo due to depleted mangrove swamps, but communities are fighting back by replanting.

We asked several of our talented Arete Photographers to share photographs from their countries, highlighting the issues a changing climate is bringing to their communities. Some show the problem, others the solution.

Aaron Palabyab — Philippines

@aaronpalabyab

Aaron is a Philippines based filmmaker and photographer specialising in travel-oriented content and time-lapse photography. He started working with Arete last year.

These photos are from the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) in 2009, which caused never-before-seen flooding and damage in the Philippine capital region of Metro Manila. Several subdivisions were flooded and subsequently buried in mud, causing widespread destruction in the capital. Yet this level of flooding was nearly repeated last year during Typhoon Ulysses (Vamco), showing that the unprecedented is threatening to become the norm due to climate change”.

Gregory Escande — Mozambique

@photo_in_moz

Gregory Escande is a French-language teacher and photographer based in Maputo, Mozambique who has recently completed his first assignment for Arete.

Sometimes, you can see men walking and carrying a lot of 5 litre plastic bottles. They collect these bottles all around the city and neighbourhoods, and they then resell them in bulk to people who reuse them to make cubes of ice. The man in the photo has approximately 70 bottles, and he sells each for 5 meticais ($0.06)”.

In this photo, you can see Amelia, 60 years old, and she supports her entire family (children and grandchildren) by collecting cans or plastic for recycling. On her head, she has approximately $5 worth of recycling that she has collected”.

Massoud Hossaini — Afghanistan

@massoud151

Massoud is a photographer based in Kabul, Afghanistan and 2012 Pulitzer prize winner.

“I was born in the wrong place, Afghanistan; grow up in the wrong place, Iran; living and working in the wrong place, Kabul; let’s see what will happen”.

There are two shots of a window view of Kabul. One in the sunny morning around 11 AM. And the second in the afternoon, about 4 PM, which is when people start to use their coal or wood heaters. These, unfortunately, produce a lot of pollution”.

Kate Holt — USA & UK

@kateholtphoto

Kate is a US-based photographer who has worked extensively across Africa and Asia. Kate is the director of Arete and trustee of RE:ACT disaster response and the Royal Humane Society.

“Mongias ten year old daughter Sandra drinks water from the stream in Bekalalao Village, Madagascar. Mongia says “We collect water from the small lake. It’s not suitable for us but what can we do? We get belly ache a lot, so we have to go to the doctor. But then we come back again and drink the dirty water and the cycle is repeated. But what can we do? We always have belly ache and diarrhoea. We keep getting sick.”

Bekalalo is a very poor community and there is no clean water; the community is forced to collect water for both drinking and washing from stagnant ponds in the community where livestock also drink from”.

Karel Pinsloo — Kenya

@karelprinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning African photographer. He works for many NGO’s and news organisations throughout Africa and is one of Arete’s main photographers.

I recently visited Turkana, Kenya, where UNICEF is providing safe water and energy through the construction of boreholes and solar panels. This provides much-needed water and renewable energy to a community where water has become increasingly scarce”.

Saiyna Bashir — Pakistan

@saiynabashirphoto

Saiyna is a photojournalist based in Pakistan, and a frequent contributor to the NY Times, Reuters, the Telegraph and others.

Forester, Adalat, holds a tree sapling in the field where out-of-work labourers due to the pandemic have now been hired by the government as ‘jungle workers’ in a reforestation initiative to plant 10-billion trees to deal with climate change threats on the outskirts of Peshawar”.

Below, Abu, who is out of school due to the pandemic, also works as a ‘jungle worker’ in the new tree planting initiative”.

Oluwaseun Oluwamuyiwa — Nigeria

@jomiphotography

Oluwaseun is a Nigerian born photojournalist and has been working with Arete for two years, with NGOs such as the World Food Programme.

“Climate change is staring us right in the face. With the consistent rise of human activities such as burning fossil fuels and wastes, we will need to do a better job in educating people about the hazard caused to the environment by engaging in such activities, especially in rural communities. This is a site in Adamawa State where waste is burned daily”.

Angelo Mendoza — Phillipines

@angelomendo

Angelo is a professional photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His work mainly revolves around travel, lifestyle, and adventure but also extends to documentary filmmaking and time-lapse photography.

I took this image last February, 2020, in Mangatarem, Pangasinan where I witnessed fire spreading across the mountain range. I’m uncertain how it started, but due to the heat and lack of trees, the dry grasslands allowed the fire to spread at an alarming rate. In the centre of the photograph, a tiny silhouette of an eagle can be seen flying over the burning land. In the Phillipines, as the severity of climate change increases caused by deforestation and other environmental problems, more and more animals lose their homes and struggle to thrive in the wild”.

Isak Amin — Somalia

@isak_amin

Isak is a Somali photographer who specialises in landscapes, nature, and travel photography. Isak has been working with Arete for many years for a range of UN agencies across East Africa.

I took this photo in 2016 during a severe drought which affected all areas of Somaliland, forcing rural dwellers to flee their homes on-mass and seek assistance in the cities; they had nothing to eat and no water, their livestock had gone”.

How great content and stories can help raise awareness about the effects of climate change and help people make informed decisions.

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ World Food Programme / Arete

Natural disasters are an increasing result of climate change, and the nature of our work means we often document the important work NGOs do to help those adversely affected. A recent example is a project we undertook for the World Food Programme in Pakistan with photographer Saiyna Bashir.

The Sindh Government announced a state of emergency on 25th of August, 2020, with 20 districts declared calamity-affected by an epidemic of flooding and landslides. The number of people impacted was estimated to be over 1 million, with 300,000 people in need of food assistance.

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ WFP/ Arete

In an attempt to raise awareness of the issue and the need for local and international support, we were tasked with documenting how the WFP is supporting people in rural Sindh with life-saving supplies

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ WFP/ Arete

The result was broad coverage in the local and international press, including The Telegraph, Dawn, the Independent, and Next Blue; this led to many people donating money to support those they had read about and seen in the photos.

To talk to us about telling your climate change stories and how best to disseminate them to your digital audience, you can contact us here.

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. We can work with you in your office or in the field.


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


The power of social media and blogging for NGOs and CSR

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ Arete. Motorcycle taxi operators watch a video of a policeman arresting a man on YouTube in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, on 1st February 2021. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

We live in a digital age, where the internet has enabled the connection of people and organisations on a scale never seen before. And, as we enter 2021, the power of social media and blogs to reach new, and existing audiences, for both ‘NGO’s and corporations is firmly established.

Social networks now connect more than half of the world’s population, approximately 4.57 billion people. From Facebook to Snapchat, Instagram to Twitter, each social media platform has a certain type of user, and therefore, a different level of digital marketing value for organisations (for more on this, read our blog on picking the right social media platforms to share your content here).

Social networks are here to stay. So how can you and your organisation maximise their impact in your marketing and communication strategies?

The power of social media

Reach out to current and potential supporters across the globe

One of social media’s great benefits is the ability for anyone to interact with it, anywhere in the world (providing they have access to the internet). By creating a platform on multiple social media platforms, one can maximise the potential of its global reach.

As with any brand, driving support and advocacy is vital, and, providing one has a plan, social media can be the most incredible tool for achieving this goal. At the heart of any good social media plan, is the timely delivery of consistent content that is designed to appeal to a target audience.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ Arete. Abdul Abdallah speaks to friends on Whatsapp in a restaurant in Nairobi, Kenya. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

Whether it is photos, videos, podcasts, blog posts, or digital social interactions, every time these are used by a brand to illustrate a story, social media users have the opportunity to react, engage or discover the brand. Think of every piece of content as a digital asset, imbued with the values and intentions of one’s organisation; once these assets are posted in the digital space the scope for them to be shared, used, and reused is endless.

In essence, every share or repost represents free marketing and what organisation wouldn’t want to encourage this? Many NGOs and CSR focussed organisations continue to successfully leverage the power of social media to introduce their brand and cause to new potential supporters, driving advocacy, support and growth.

Is your organisation using social media to its full potential?

Encourage supporter retention by increasing communication

Social media has also become a key channel for feedback and communication. As people become more involved and passionate about a brand or cause, it is natural for them to feel like they want to be more involved or recognised as an essential member or supporter.

Social media offers the tools, and a platform, for one’s supporters to fulfil these desires. It provides a communication channel for them to ask questions, send their best wishes or discuss their misgivings.

This communication is a two-way process, and when utilised correctly by a social media specialist, it can help bolster support and advocacy for your brand efficiently and effectively.

Halima Juma speaks to a friend on the phone as Michael Aufufa looks at Facebook on his phone in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

Increase website traffic

Although social media platforms can be a powerful tool for introducing people to your brand, there are still limitations on what and how content can be shared. For example, a Twitter biography will only allow for 160 characters, and Instagram doesn’t allow hyperlinks in the body of its posts. These limitations do not apply to an organisations website where more in-depth information can be gained.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/Arete. A lady scrolls through Facebook on her phone in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

Social media platforms are an important part of a digital strategy as they provide the perfect stage to present one’s brand to the world, and specifically designed tools to funnel viewers through to one’s website.

We know, websites allow for more creativity and functionality in the design and presentation of one’s content; presenting viewers with the ability to sign up and follow the cause, donate, or purchase. it is important that as one funnels visitors through to a website, that they come into contact with a clear ‘call to action’. As a result, it will make it much more likely that any viewer interested enough to visit one’s website, will return.

The power of blog articles

The key to search engine optimisation

Each and every blog article must be designed with two key considerations:

1. the appeal of the subject to one’s target audience, and

2. the keyword phrases it will aim to rank for on search engines to attract a new audience.

An incredible 93% of all web traffic comes through search engines, with Google accounting for nearly 89% of this traffic. For this reason, blogs should be designed around certain keywords phrases, which can become a powerful mechanism for reaching out to new audiences. These audiences know what they are looking for and they are using a search engine to locate it, and by design, each blog article ranking for these keywords will increase the chance that it is your website they find.

A library of content that reinforces expertise and tells a story

Whether comprising solely of words or annotated with images and videos, blog articles provide a fantastic storytelling platform. This platform can be used as the core storytelling instrument for a short-term campaign, from which all other forms of campaign media, such as PR, social media posts, and videos spiral out of; it can share nuanced insight and discourse on a matter important to one’s cause, or reflect on current affairs.

Every blog article represents an opportunity to prove to the reader that one’s brand, or cause, is worthy of their involvement; to demonstrate expertise and credibility; and ultimately, to furnish one’s website with a library of content that provides any visitor, old or new, with value.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/Arete. Tessy Waithera looks at Instagram while walking past a garbage heap in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

Leverage the potential of the ‘blogosphere’

There are many websites designed specifically for the hosting and sharing of blog articles. Two of the most influential in the philanthropy sector, and commonly used by us here at Arete, are Medium and Exposure.

The two platforms have their differences, Medium is more suited to in-depth discussion and discourse, whereas Exposure is more suited to pieces built around emotive imagery and photography. Similarly to social media platforms, both share the ability to boost one’s content to audiences across the globe and provide another opportunity to rank on the search engines for one’s selected keyword phrases.Ultimately, both websites provide the tools and a stage to essentially ‘self publish’ one’s stories, musings, and documentaries. Whereas the algorithmic systems that underpin each website will share one’s content to its users (depending on the quality and relevance), at the last, the onus is upon you to ensure the links to your published content are shared far and wide.

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ Arete. Defer Mutara uses Whatsapp to communicate with friends in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Social media has the power to connect people from all walks of life, in every corner of the world.

The most successful digital marketing strategies combine the two

Although social media and blog articles are powerful individual marketing tools, a greater synergy can be realised when the two are combined as part of a broader digital marketing strategy.

Sustaining both should be a stream of unique and evocative content: photographs, graphic design, videos, and stories. Each captured and presented in a creative and engaging way. The digital world of social media and blogging is fast-paced and saturated, although one can consistently update platforms with new blogs and posts, high-quality content and a clear digital strategy are fundamental for cutting through the noise.

Behind the blog: As Covid 19 spreads around the world, how do we build resilience in the communities most at risk?

In March of 2020, we combined some of our early coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa, with a discussion around what steps the philanthropy sector should be taking to build resilience amongst the communities in some of the world’s least economically developed countries.

In the blog, we discussed the need to combat misinformation and get the right messages across and, calling on an example of a campaign we ran for UNICEF Papua New Guinea, how this can be achieved with creative content.

We are here to help

In this age of constant digital noise, it is crucial that organisations have a consistent stream of high-quality social media. At Arete, we offer a social media management service, in which we curate your social media platforms to engage and inspire your followers. From multi-platform post creation, blog writing, email campaigns, SEO and analytics, our packages span a vast range of services that are essential if you want to be visible in today’s world.

Our teams specialise in creating social media content and strategies for NGOs and CSR projects. If you are a small organisation, we understand that sometimes resources are limited and time is short. At Arete, we aim to provide a consistent and integrated level of support, ensuring you can maintain a strong digital presence without the cost associated with employing a full-time member of staff.

Packages start from just 200 GBP/ 300 USD per month. To talk to us about your social media, email campaign, or blog writing requirements you can get in touch here.


The power of social media and blogging for NGOs and CSR was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020

Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020

Photo: Isak Amin/ FAO Somalia/ Arete

”2020 has been an extraordinary year. For photographers, videographers and writers, it has meant dramatically changing the way they work. Many have been unable to travel, and for those who can, assignments have become increasingly challenging, with new systems needed to ensure that peoples health and well being is prioritised over everything else.

We have seen an increasing demand for locally based photographers, to overcome travel restrictions, which has allowed us to expand our consultant database. At the same time, we have also seen budgets dramatically cut, which has proved challenging. As we look ahead to 2021, we hope that we can continue to tell important stories that can help make a difference.” — Kate Holt, Photojournalist & Director of Arete Stories.

In what has been an extremely challenging year our final blog of 2020 is a reflection on some of this year’s more positive moments as seen by Arete photographers from around the world.

We asked some of the fantastic photographers we have worked with on assignments this year to share with us one of their favourite photographs and explain why this photo represents positivity to them.

Quinn Mattingly

@quinnryanmattingly

Quinn is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and has recently worked with us on projects for the Costa Foundation

Tell us about the photo: “This image was shot in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam, on assignment for Arete in one of the schools the Costa Foundation supports.This young girl is practising a dance for the Harvest Festival performance at her school, which happens every September in Vietnam”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “The look of confidence and happiness on this girls face, as she practices her dance one last time before the performance, really struck me. It represents positivity to me in that we can do anything we set our minds to, especially, and even at a young age”.

Eden Sparke

@edensparkephoto

Eden is a London-based photojournalist, specialising in humanitarian, sports, and news photography. She has worked with Arete for the last three years and carried out many assignments throughout Africa.

Tell us about the photo: “This was taken at a JHPIEGO outreach clinic in Kampala, Uganda. I was there photographing the great work of JHPIEGO in spreading awareness of, and access to, family planning initiatives. This particular clinic was in the forecourt of a hair extension and wig-making factory — the team set up the tent which had two consultation rooms and a reception area, and healthcare workers talked to the factory staff as they finished their shifts”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “The woman in the photo, Nancy, had a consultation about her options for family planning, and she chose to have an IUD inserted there and then. ’She’s laughing in the photo as it ’didn’t hurt as much as she had expected!

It represents positivity to me because her happiness underlines that we are making great strides in helping women to make choices over their bodies and their futures. This year may have put a lot of things on hold, but there is so much good work out there still to be done and so many wonderful people out there ready to do it!”

Moses Sawasawa

@mosessawasawa

Moses is a photojournalist and ’women’s rights activist, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tell us about the photo: “I took these photos in the overcrowded village of Minova in South Kivu. This village has suffered many atrocities for years but the inhabitants do not give up. In this photo, Mr Kandu Hamuli works as a carpenter. He is a father to 7 children. Mr Hamuli is the sole earner for his family — despite the hardships around him he doesn’t give up.

Mr Hamuli says “I have been doing this job for 17 years and is what my father did before me. It gives me enough money to support my family.”

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? Mr Hamuli represents the bravery of his community. It also shows the love he has for his children and how he is willing to work hard to bring happiness and safety to his family.”

Aaron Palabyab

@aaronpalabyab

Aaron is a Philippines based filmmaker and photographer specialising in travel-oriented content and time-lapse photography. He started working with Arete last year.

Tell us about the photo: “This was the most surreal, foggy sunrise, seen while my girlfriend and I were riding our motorcycles up to the mountains just outside Manila. ’I’ve never seen a sunrise like this in many years of pursuing photography in the Philippines.We had to pull off to the side of the road to admire it”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “There’s this mix of beauty and foreboding unreality in this photo that for me represents 2020 well. A few minutes after this photo was taken, the sun disappeared into the mist, but then a few more minutes up the road, the fog burned away and the sun shone in full glory.

It’s a reminder that no matter how dark and uncertain these times are now, one day, inevitably, the clouds must part, and the light that’s always been there will shine through again. Nature takes its course, and there’s beauty in that, no matter how dark it seems. It’s up to us to trust the process and live through the times we’ve been given”.

Gregory Escande

@photo_in_moz

Gregory Escande is a french language teacher and photographer based in Maputo, Mozambique who has recently completed his first assignment for Arete.

Tell us about the photo: “It was taken in Maputo, Mozambique, in the Costa de Sol “bairro”. It had rained a little bit, and the ground was wet, but a group of 4 or 5 boys were playing with a ball. I asked them if they could do a jump with a ball header so that I could take a photo, and all the kids accepted to try a header. The boys tried many times, and two girls were watching and seemed to want to try too.

I encouraged the two young girls to attempt it, and this photo shows the first girl trying. Girls also play in sports in Mozambican schools, and one of the heroes of the nation is Maria Mutola, a Mozambican female track and field athlete, who is the only Mozambican, for both men and women, to win an Olympic or world title”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Mozambique is an extremely poor country, people are fighting every day for their survival and to support their families, and yet, people show dignity, kindness, and resilience. In my experience, people seem to be more optimistic and open-minded than in some developed countries. The child in the photo is also the symbol of joy, hope, and the ‘sans souci’.

To me this photo represents positivity because despite the difficult living conditions, even with the impression of a challenging future (symbolised in the photo by a grey, closed background) there are still suspended and fragile moments, in the harshness of everyday life, which are filled with optimism, joy and poetry”.

Massoud Hossaini

@massoud151

Massoud is a photojournalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan and 2012 Pulitzer prize winner.

“I was born in the wrong place, Afghanistan; grow up in the wrong place, Iran; living and working in the wrong place, Kabul; let’s see what will happen”.

Tell us about the photo: “In this photo, a man walks down the road as he sells balloons in Kabul, Afghanistan”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Positivity isn’t always easy to find in a place like Kabul. For me, the balloon seller in this photo is offering a piece of happiness, and the idea of a happier, more positive time with every balloon he sells”.

Kate Holt

@kateholtphoto

Kate is a US based photographer who works in both Africa and the Middle East. Kate is the director of Arete Stories, and trustee of RE:ACT and the Royal Humane Society.

Tell us about the photo: “This photo was taken in downtown DC about an hour after Jo Biden had been called as the winner of the US Election. I had gone down to the White House to see first hand the reaction to the news and came across queues of cars and people celebrating. I turned around and unexpectedly caught sight of these two girls looking very happy”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “This image represents hope as well as signifying change. Everything about the girls faces is positive”.

Solan Kolli

@solankolli_

Solan is a photographer and filmmaker based in Ethiopia and has worked on many creative projects for Arete.

Tell us about the photo: “This picture was taken in Adame Yirgachafe, Ethiopia for the Costa Foundation to document the impact of their work which supports schools in coffee-growing communities in, Ethiopia”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “My positive first impression of Adancech is confirmed by her interactions with other people. She was smiling andglowing in the sunlight as I photographed her on the coffee farm.

Adanchech is the story of a single mother from an impoverished village in Ethiopia who 10 years after dropping out and giving birth to five children, was able to go back to school. It is a truly exceptional story. The energy, enthusiasm, and hope that she has shown for her second chance in life taught me that you could start all over again regardless of the past challenges”.

Karel Prinsloo

@karelprinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning African photographer. He works for many NGO’s and news organisations throughout Africa and is one of Arete’s main photographers.

Tell us about the photo: “Children and a teacher walk past a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) health centre in the Mandruzi Resettlement neighbourhood, Mozambique. Mozambique continues to be impacted by the climate crisis and has yet to fully recover from the devastation of Cyclone Ida in 2019”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “I like the picture as it shows children playing without a care in the world despite their dire circumstances. They are living for the moment, a lesson we all learned this year”.

Kevin Ouma

A Kenyan based photographer, Kevin recently worked with us on a project for the World Food Programme.

Tell us about the photo: “Muhumad holds tomatoes she grows in her garden in Ceel-Hume Village , Somaliand. In Somaliland, the main overall issues affecting food security are the lack of access to safe water for human consumption, agriculture and livestock production, as well as seasonal hunger due to insufficient food and income at certain times of the year”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Even in adversity, there is still room for hope. Living in a post-conflict environment Muhammad has not been put down; she has put together a small garden that provides good food for her family and extra to sell and earn a living. Adversity will come just as Covid-19 has, but we can emerge stronger”.

Brian Ongoro

@brian_ongoro

A photographer based in Kisumu, Kenya, Brian covers East African and is an avid contributor to the AFP.

Tell us about the photo: “This photograph was taken in Kisumu, western Kenya during a cleanup exercise by a group of students. The students came out to clean areas surrounding Lake Victoria and a game park that is also next to the lake. Waves from the lake bring to shore plastics and other waste found in the lake.

The students have been home since March when schools were closed due to the spread of COVID-19. The students decided to organise themselves and spend their time at home cleaning up their environment. They want to engage in activities to help find solutions to the world’s problems — which they can participate in while they wait for infections from COVID-19 to reduce so that they can return to school.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “To me, this photograph shows that despite the challenges we are facing from COVID-19 and a lot of restrictions around the world, instead of just sitting and waiting for medical experts who are focusing on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, people can still focus their time and energy trying to solve other pressing issues”.

Roshni Lodhia

@roshni.lodhia

Roshni describes herself as a photographer for people, culture and conversation.

Growing up in Tanzania, Roshni found her calling in telling stories of grassroots conservation efforts through photography and film. Her work is unique in the way she captures light and the human spirit. Roshni has worked for conservation organisations, including The Nature Conservancy, in Tanzania, Kenya, Gabon, Seychelles, South Africa and India.

Tell us about the photo: “Joy and Antoney playing on their ancestral land in Paradamat, Kenya. Only a few kilometres away, zebras are grazing. It represents harmony between wildlife and humans.

This image is part of a series telling the story of Johnson Soit. Johnson Soit agreed to remove the fence on the land that he has leased out to Paradamat Conservancy Area to allow the wildlife to move freely. He says: “I agreed for the wild animals to roam around because that benefits us. From the lease payments, I pay my children’s school fees.”

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020 was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020

Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020

Photo: Isak Amin/ FAO Somalia/ Arete

”2020 has been an extraordinary year. For photographers, videographers and writers, it has meant dramatically changing the way they work. Many have been unable to travel, and for those who can, assignments have become increasingly challenging, with new systems needed to ensure that peoples health and well being is prioritised over everything else.

We have seen an increasing demand for locally based photographers, to overcome travel restrictions, which has allowed us to expand our consultant database. At the same time, we have also seen budgets dramatically cut, which has proved challenging. As we look ahead to 2021, we hope that we can continue to tell important stories that can help make a difference.” — Kate Holt, Photojournalist & Director of Arete Stories.

In what has been an extremely challenging year our final blog of 2020 is a reflection on some of this year’s more positive moments as seen by Arete photographers from around the world.

We asked some of the fantastic photographers we have worked with on assignments this year to share with us one of their favourite photographs and explain why this photo represents positivity to them.

Quinn Mattingly

@quinnryanmattingly

Quinn is an editorial and commercial photographer based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and has recently worked with us on projects for the Costa Foundation

Tell us about the photo: “This image was shot in Dak Lak Province, Vietnam, on assignment for Arete in one of the schools the Costa Foundation supports.This young girl is practising a dance for the Harvest Festival performance at her school, which happens every September in Vietnam”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “The look of confidence and happiness on this girls face, as she practices her dance one last time before the performance, really struck me. It represents positivity to me in that we can do anything we set our minds to, especially, and even at a young age”.

Eden Sparke

@edensparkephoto

Eden is a London-based photojournalist, specialising in humanitarian, sports, and news photography. She has worked with Arete for the last three years and carried out many assignments throughout Africa.

Tell us about the photo: “This was taken at a JHPIEGO outreach clinic in Kampala, Uganda. I was there photographing the great work of JHPIEGO in spreading awareness of, and access to, family planning initiatives. This particular clinic was in the forecourt of a hair extension and wig-making factory — the team set up the tent which had two consultation rooms and a reception area, and healthcare workers talked to the factory staff as they finished their shifts”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “The woman in the photo, Nancy, had a consultation about her options for family planning, and she chose to have an IUD inserted there and then. ’She’s laughing in the photo as it ’didn’t hurt as much as she had expected!

It represents positivity to me because her happiness underlines that we are making great strides in helping women to make choices over their bodies and their futures. This year may have put a lot of things on hold, but there is so much good work out there still to be done and so many wonderful people out there ready to do it!”

Moses Sawasawa

@mosessawasawa

Moses is a photojournalist and ’women’s rights activist, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tell us about the photo: “I took these photos in the overcrowded village of Minova in South Kivu. This village has suffered many atrocities for years but the inhabitants do not give up. In this photo, Mr Kandu Hamuli works as a carpenter. He is a father to 7 children. Mr Hamuli is the sole earner for his family — despite the hardships around him he doesn’t give up.

Mr Hamuli says “I have been doing this job for 17 years and is what my father did before me. It gives me enough money to support my family.”

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? Mr Hamuli represents the bravery of his community. It also shows the love he has for his children and how he is willing to work hard to bring happiness and safety to his family.”

Aaron Palabyab

@aaronpalabyab

Aaron is a Philippines based filmmaker and photographer specialising in travel-oriented content and time-lapse photography. He started working with Arete last year.

Tell us about the photo: “This was the most surreal, foggy sunrise, seen while my girlfriend and I were riding our motorcycles up to the mountains just outside Manila. ’I’ve never seen a sunrise like this in many years of pursuing photography in the Philippines.We had to pull off to the side of the road to admire it”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “There’s this mix of beauty and foreboding unreality in this photo that for me represents 2020 well. A few minutes after this photo was taken, the sun disappeared into the mist, but then a few more minutes up the road, the fog burned away and the sun shone in full glory.

It’s a reminder that no matter how dark and uncertain these times are now, one day, inevitably, the clouds must part, and the light that’s always been there will shine through again. Nature takes its course, and there’s beauty in that, no matter how dark it seems. It’s up to us to trust the process and live through the times we’ve been given”.

Gregory Escande

@photo_in_moz

Gregory Escande is a french language teacher and photographer based in Maputo, Mozambique who has recently completed his first assignment for Arete.

Tell us about the photo: “It was taken in Maputo, Mozambique, in the Costa de Sol “bairro”. It had rained a little bit, and the ground was wet, but a group of 4 or 5 boys were playing with a ball. I asked them if they could do a jump with a ball header so that I could take a photo, and all the kids accepted to try a header. The boys tried many times, and two girls were watching and seemed to want to try too.

I encouraged the two young girls to attempt it, and this photo shows the first girl trying. Girls also play in sports in Mozambican schools, and one of the heroes of the nation is Maria Mutola, a Mozambican female track and field athlete, who is the only Mozambican, for both men and women, to win an Olympic or world title”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Mozambique is an extremely poor country, people are fighting every day for their survival and to support their families, and yet, people show dignity, kindness, and resilience. In my experience, people seem to be more optimistic and open-minded than in some developed countries. The child in the photo is also the symbol of joy, hope, and the ‘sans souci’.

To me this photo represents positivity because despite the difficult living conditions, even with the impression of a challenging future (symbolised in the photo by a grey, closed background) there are still suspended and fragile moments, in the harshness of everyday life, which are filled with optimism, joy and poetry”.

Massoud Hossaini

@massoud151

Massoud is a photojournalist based in Kabul, Afghanistan and 2012 Pulitzer prize winner.

“I was born in the wrong place, Afghanistan; grow up in the wrong place, Iran; living and working in the wrong place, Kabul; let’s see what will happen”.

Tell us about the photo: “In this photo, a man walks down the road as he sells balloons in Kabul, Afghanistan”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Positivity isn’t always easy to find in a place like Kabul. For me, the balloon seller in this photo is offering a piece of happiness, and the idea of a happier, more positive time with every balloon he sells”.

Kate Holt

@kateholtphoto

Kate is a US based photographer who works in both Africa and the Middle East. Kate is the director of Arete Stories, and trustee of RE:ACT and the Royal Humane Society.

Tell us about the photo: “This photo was taken in downtown DC about an hour after Jo Biden had been called as the winner of the US Election. I had gone down to the White House to see first hand the reaction to the news and came across queues of cars and people celebrating. I turned around and unexpectedly caught sight of these two girls looking very happy”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “This image represents hope as well as signifying change. Everything about the girls faces is positive”.

Solan Kolli

@solankolli_

Solan is a photographer and filmmaker based in Ethiopia and has worked on many creative projects for Arete.

Tell us about the photo: “This picture was taken in Adame Yirgachafe, Ethiopia for the Costa Foundation to document the impact of their work which supports schools in coffee-growing communities in, Ethiopia”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “My positive first impression of Adancech is confirmed by her interactions with other people. She was smiling andglowing in the sunlight as I photographed her on the coffee farm.

Adanchech is the story of a single mother from an impoverished village in Ethiopia who 10 years after dropping out and giving birth to five children, was able to go back to school. It is a truly exceptional story. The energy, enthusiasm, and hope that she has shown for her second chance in life taught me that you could start all over again regardless of the past challenges”.

Karel Prinsloo

@karelprinsloo

Karel Prinsloo is an award-winning African photographer. He works for many NGO’s and news organisations throughout Africa and is one of Arete’s main photographers.

Tell us about the photo: “Children and a teacher walk past a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) health centre in the Mandruzi Resettlement neighbourhood, Mozambique. Mozambique continues to be impacted by the climate crisis and has yet to fully recover from the devastation of Cyclone Ida in 2019”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “I like the picture as it shows children playing without a care in the world despite their dire circumstances. They are living for the moment, a lesson we all learned this year”.

Kevin Ouma

A Kenyan based photographer, Kevin recently worked with us on a project for the World Food Programme.

Tell us about the photo: “Muhumad holds tomatoes she grows in her garden in Ceel-Hume Village , Somaliand. In Somaliland, the main overall issues affecting food security are the lack of access to safe water for human consumption, agriculture and livestock production, as well as seasonal hunger due to insufficient food and income at certain times of the year”.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “Even in adversity, there is still room for hope. Living in a post-conflict environment Muhammad has not been put down; she has put together a small garden that provides good food for her family and extra to sell and earn a living. Adversity will come just as Covid-19 has, but we can emerge stronger”.

Brian Ongoro

@brian_ongoro

A photographer based in Kisumu, Kenya, Brian covers East African and is an avid contributor to the AFP.

Tell us about the photo: “This photograph was taken in Kisumu, western Kenya during a cleanup exercise by a group of students. The students came out to clean areas surrounding Lake Victoria and a game park that is also next to the lake. Waves from the lake bring to shore plastics and other waste found in the lake.

The students have been home since March when schools were closed due to the spread of COVID-19. The students decided to organise themselves and spend their time at home cleaning up their environment. They want to engage in activities to help find solutions to the world’s problems — which they can participate in while they wait for infections from COVID-19 to reduce so that they can return to school.

Why does this photo represent positivity to you? “To me, this photograph shows that despite the challenges we are facing from COVID-19 and a lot of restrictions around the world, instead of just sitting and waiting for medical experts who are focusing on finding a vaccine for COVID-19, people can still focus their time and energy trying to solve other pressing issues”.

Roshni Lodhia

@roshni.lodhia

Roshni describes herself as a photographer for people, culture and conversation.

Growing up in Tanzania, Roshni found her calling in telling stories of grassroots conservation efforts through photography and film. Her work is unique in the way she captures light and the human spirit. Roshni has worked for conservation organisations, including The Nature Conservancy, in Tanzania, Kenya, Gabon, Seychelles, South Africa and India.

Tell us about the photo: “Joy and Antoney playing on their ancestral land in Paradamat, Kenya. Only a few kilometres away, zebras are grazing. It represents harmony between wildlife and humans.

This image is part of a series telling the story of Johnson Soit. Johnson Soit agreed to remove the fence on the land that he has leased out to Paradamat Conservancy Area to allow the wildlife to move freely. He says: “I agreed for the wild animals to roam around because that benefits us. From the lease payments, I pay my children’s school fees.”

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


Positive photos from a challenging year — 2020 was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Now, more than ever, it is important to tell the stories of those in need…

Photo: Massoud Hossaini/@WFP Afghanistan/ Arete . A child looks on as her mother and a doctor talk at the main hospital in Chaharikar, capital of Parwan province, Afghanistan.

As the far-reaching effects of COVID-19 continue to escalate across the world with over 60 million reported cases, now, more than ever, it is essential to tell the stories of those in need.

Although the global pandemic has presented NGOs with new and challenging circumstances for securing funding, some of which we will cover in more detail later, marketing efforts should be ramping up and not winding down. One should not give up telling the hard stories; those about people who are suffering from the effects of COVID-19 and other crises; those in urgent need of support.

The poignant question still remains: How do you garner backing for your campaigns amongst your target audiences when…

· Unemployment is rising and incomes falling — and will continue to do so. As a result, many people are struggling financially and turning to charities and their governments for support.

Financial uncertainty means people are less likely to support charities through monetary donations, as people try to reduce any non-essential expenses.

· Common freedoms have been restricted, such as the ability to purchase certain items, the freedom to go and do what we want, and the freedom to see who we want, when we want.

All of which is underpinned by feelings of powerlessness and frustration that the enforced circumstances of this challenging time lie beyond one’s control.

It’s not all bad news for driving advocacy…

A combination of being ‘locked down’, furloughed, working from home with more time on our hands and the ensuing winter months, mean that the average person is spending much more time in their home than usual, and as a result, more time online, watching television and engaging with other forms of media. This presents a unique and interesting opportunity to introduce new causes and brands via digital channels — albeit in a carefully curated way, as we will go on to discuss.

There is also plenty of anecdotal evidence that ‘lockdown’ is leading to increased boredom. With less external stimulus, people are becoming more adventurous in the media they consume; looking to engage with stories vastly different from their own.

How we are helping WFP Afghanistan tell the story of their support for the Afghan people — as featured in the Telegraph

Photo: Massoud Hossaini/ @WFP Afghanistan/ @Arete . Life goes on, girls walk to school on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan.

As an example, Arete photojournalist, Massoud Hossaini, has been covering the current situation in Afghanistan — documenting the inspirational resilience of the Afghan people as well as the unrelenting lengths the World Food Programme will go to in order to be able to reach people all across the country.

Afghanistan is facing spiralling levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Close to 17 million Afghans, or 45% of the total population, now face high levels of food insecurity and need urgent humanitarian assistance in order to survive. That’s 7.6 million more than at the beginning of this year, before COVID-19 hit. Around 2.9 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished.

In 2020, the World Food Programme scaled up its emergency food assistance to support more than 10 million people, nearly doubling the number of people WFP reached in 2019. Nutrition programmes are reaching more than 1 million individuals, including children under 5, as well as pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Photo: Massoud Hossaini/ @WFP Afghanistan/ @Arete. A local guard warms his hands in Kabul.
Photo: Massoud Hossaini/ @WFP Afghanistan/ @Arete. World Food Programme trucks carry much-needed food supplies across the snowy Afghan mountains.

People who relate, donate

The global pandemic’s devastating effects have reached individuals in every socio-economic group. Many previously financially stable individuals, in more developed countries, are now experiencing unemployment, economic uncertainty, restrictions on personal freedom and an underlying sense of powerlessness and frustration with the current socioeconomic situation, with no end in sight.

Although this is an undeniably difficult set of circumstances for anyone to experience, it does present an opportunity for empathy to flourish. We are all connected by the far-reaching effects of this virus. It is possible that previous content and stories shared by NGOs, may not have been as relatable to the middle-class as they are now. Successful fundraising should tap into this new feeling to create a shared experience between the supporter of one’s cause and those in need.

Photo: Massoud Hossaini/ @WFP Afghanistan/ @Arete. Residents of Kabul who are affected by COVID-19 pandemic line up to register to receive cash assistance from the World Food Programme in district five of Kabul city.

Content that engages and inspires

The stories we choose to tell can also be a great source of inspiration for people who may be struggling as a result of the pandemic. Content that shows people responding to adversity with strength and resilience can inspire and lift our emotions. These feelings of positivity will often be attributed to your brand and campaign as a result — driving response to, and engagement with, your cause.

Photo: Dakman/ Quinn Mattingly/ Costa Foundation/ Arete

Don’t underestimate the importance of presentation

As with all forms of impactful marketing, the success of one’s campaigns will ultimately come down to how well they are aligned to the contemporary mood and challenges of the target audience.

It is at a time when it may seem prudent to delay planned campaigns until after the worst of the global pandemic has passed. In fact we should be sharing our hard hitting stories and campaigns now more than ever.

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


Now, more than ever, it is important to tell the stories of those in need… was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Why we think it’s important to use local experts

Photo: Isak Amin/ dTERRA/ Arete

As we sit here, late in October 2020, the status quo remains the same; COVID-19 remains a threat to people across the globe and NGOs continue to do their best to mobilise and support those who have been most affected by the pandemic. Yet, this public health emergency to many is just one more issue they have to deal with; on top of insecurity, natural disasters, poverty and already overloaded health systems. Humanitarian aid has never been needed more.

With people both working and schooling from home, there is an ever-increasing appetite for innovative online content that NGOs are keen to fill. They are also seeing a rise in the need for an increase in marketing to garner support — as much of their traditional fundraising channels, like charity shops, have dried up.

Photo: Sami Alhaw/ Oxfam/ PA

So how can NGOs respond to this increased requirement for content in an ethical and environmentally friendly way, while remaining mindful of the new status-quo? And how can they leverage strong content to help maintain funding levels?

Local talent is the key

It is encouraging to see NGO’s such as Comic Relief moving away from only using foreign consultants They have announced they will no longer be sending celebrities to Africa after criticism that such celebrities were being framed as “white saviours” (which we wrote about in 2018) and will also use local film-makers who have a “more authentic perspective” for its fundraising films.

Photo: Comic Relief

We have been working with locally-based photographers, writers and videographers from across the world for over 15 years. Local talent is abundant — but finding these professionals isn’t always straightforward.

These are some of the reasons why we champion local talent:

An unrivalled understanding of language and culture

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ World Food ProgrammeArete

Photographers and videographers born and raised in the country or region of the project possess an innate understanding of the local language and culture. This can be particularly beneficial for communication between the various stakeholders in the project, as well as gathering first-hand accounts directly from the beneficiaries. This, in turn, can lead to the gathering of more authentic and nuanced content — that is more sensitive to the local context.

Many of our consultants also work within local media either as journalists or content-providers. This often gives rise to the opportunity for the story being used by local media — bringing additional exposure to the agency who has commissioned the work.

A recent example of this was a project we were hired to undertake for the World Food Programme in Pakistan. We worked with local photojournalist Saiyna Bashir to gather the story of how the WFP is supporting people in the rural Sindh with life-saving supplies. This resulted in local coverage in the DAWN and people from Pakistan contacted the WFP offering donations and support. The local awareness the story raised about the work of the WFP was hugely beneficial on many levels.

Photo: Saiyna Bashir/ World Food Programme/ Arete

Providing jobs and building skills

In many countries where NGOs and UN agencies operate, regular employment can be in short supply. Hiring local experts and collaborating with them on individual projects means they are able to develop their skillsets to align with the standards of global foundations, thus acquiring more prestigious resumes. By investing in the local economy, our projects are also able to support local families. This collaborative approach also demonstrates respect for local people, rather than framing the situation as a disconnected and stereotypical helper/beneficiary dynamic.

It’s better for the environment

Whether we work as freelancers or for an organisation we must all do our part to contribute towards a cleaner and healthier planet. Being able to limit one’s carbon footprint is a key concern and one NGOs must take very seriously from both a PR and environmental perspective. Local teams travel much shorter distances, and often don’t have to fly at all to get to the necessary location. The benefit to the environment is clear.

Covid-19 restrictions

With COVID 19 numbers still raging, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations are making things harder than ever before. Consequently, travel, once a simple matter of getting from A to B, has become inherently more complicated and more costly with a sharp rise in flight and health insurance costs. Local experts remove this problem and the time, and money, that would be needed to solve it.

Hear from some of our local experts:

Ismail Taxta — Somalia, Africa

Ismail is a Somali photojournalist, and we have been working with him since 2015. Ismail has worked on projects for the WHO, WFP, UNHCR, UNICEF, DEC and more.

“I was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and from a very young age, I have enjoyed reflecting on human life by making art and creating images. I started to pursue journalism from the age of 10, writing my own local weekly newspaper, the Yoobsan Press, which I wrote with a ballpoint pen. I got my first experience of working with international organisations at the age of 25 when I started working as a stringer for Reuters in 2007. I take pride in covering important local issues such as the civil war in Somalia, the 2011 drought the 2018 flooding.

In 2015 I started working with Arete, and over time I have developed my photography, editing, writing, illustrating, and storytelling skills. I have worked on some amazing projects, and my work has been featured in the international press as a result — most recently in The Guardian.”

Annie Mpalume — Zimbabwe, Africa

Annie worked with us on a project for UNICEF in her local Zimbabwe to document the experiences of breastfeeding mothers, the challenges they face and the support they receive from their families and communities.

“I initially studied photojournalism and documentary photography at the prestigious Market Photo Workshop in South Africa, Johannesburg, as my country did not have a learning centre that offered the skillset I wanted to acquire.

After my studies, I chose to return home to launch my career because at the time, the political and social situation was at its peak in Zimbabwe, and I felt it was my story to tell. “”

With Arete, I received a surprise call one day and was asked to work with UNICEF Zimbabwe on a project about breastfeeding mothers. At the time, I thought to myself, the project speaks to me and was God sent since I was also breastfeeding my baby. I learned a lot from this project, and it resulted in my first feature in the international media, with my photos used by Al Jazeera.”

React quickly and efficiently with Arete

Photo: Karel Prinsloo/ DECArete

Our worldwide network of local experts allows us to react quickly and efficiently when content is urgently required, or there are time-limitations in play. The need for permits, visas, and translators can add weeks on to the lead-time of projects, increasing the cost substantially. The Arete network of media experts provides a viable alternative.

At Arete, we manage every stage of the content gathering process from sourcing local talent through to post-production and oversight. Our in-house team has over 30 years of experience creating stories and sourcing content for the world’s most renowned news, media, and non-governmental organisations and by combining this experience with local expertise, we can deliver stories that truly make a difference.

Our award-winning journalists and content specialists are eager to help you make a difference. Contact us to find out how we can tailor our expertise to meet your needs.


Why we think it’s important to use local experts was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Are you picking the right social media platforms to share your content?

A cover photo from an Arete blog by Eden Sparke on Exposure.co

The goal of social media is to connect people, to act as the conduit through which billions of messages, images, and videos flow. But although social media platforms have a shared goal, in many cases they don’t have a shared audience.

For any business or organisation, social media marketing cannot be ignored. 97% of digital consumers have used social media in the past month and 50% of the global population uses social media; that’s 3.8 billion people — with this number increasing year on year (Digital 2020).

When social media was still a fledgeling concept it was typical for people to be active with all, or most of the platforms on offer. Now with so many different platforms available, people pick and choose which social media channels they want to engage with.

This choice is based on a variety of factors, in some cases, there is an element of brand loyalty, or a feeling of personal investment, for others it will come down to how that particular social media platform is designed: is the interface easy to use? Is the type of content that is on display what they want to see? Do they like the way it is presented? Or is this where they will find subjects they are interested in and want to explore?

Knowing your audience

Understanding which platforms attract what type of people is key to carrying out any form of social media marketing. This understanding will inform decisions on which social media platforms to focus attention and how to present content.

As a brand, an exercise to identify the demographic of the target audience will already have been undertaken — but on which social media platforms can this audience be found?

Popularity is a good place to start

Although the amount of active global users a platform has isn’t the only metric that should be taken into account when building a social media marketing strategy, it is a great place to begin.

The world’s most-used social media platforms January 2020 (Digital, 2020)

Globally, Facebook and Facebook Messenger remain the most used social media platform, followed by YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram. For example, as of January 2020, Facebook had over 2.1 billion more active users than Twitter.

Picking platforms based on the target audience

At Arete, we work primarily with global brands, who are looking to target global audiences. Whereas it can be inferred from the popularity metric that platforms like Facebook cannot be ignored, this doesn’t necessarily mean Twitter should be ignored either even though it is less widely used. Ultimately, this is why it is important to tailor a social media strategy and content that targets a specific audience.

FAO in Somalia Twitter page

Although it is useful to know the typical demographic of the users for each social media platform, it is also important to find out how effective each platform is on a country-by-country basis. For NGO’s and the charity sector, this can be a very useful tool for social media advocacy campaigns in particular regions; as well as allowing organisations to know how to develop different content for different countries

Instagram

Instagram certainly ticks the popularity box. It is the 5th most popular social media application in the world, with more than 1 billion active monthly users, with the average person spending 6 minutes and 35 seconds on Instagram every day.

It is also a tried and tested platform for business, with 92% of all Instagram users saying they have followed a brand, clicked on their website, or purchased something after seeing a product, or service, on the platform. This seamless integration of purchasing options can be very beneficial for NGOs looking to fundraise, either by selling merchandise through an Instagram shop or by adding a donation button to their profile.

Age International Instagram Profile with ‘donate’ button enabled

In terms of demographics, Instagram has a balanced range of people, based on gender and age, and a useful global reach; touching, on average, 15% of the world’s population.

From a content perspective, it remains the best place to share visual content such as photographs, graphics, and video. If the content is eye-catching, then Instagram is the place to be.

Facebook

Facebook, as we know, is the most used of all the social media platforms worldwide. Similarly to Instagram, it is used by a diverse range of people and boasts the presence of over 140 million businesses on its platform.

Furthermore, as Instagram is owned by Facebook, both platforms have been designed to work well together — allowing social media managers to crosspost content across both platforms in the click of a button, and displaying any paid-ads on both of the platforms at no extra cost.

Having a presence on Facebook has become non-negotiable for all consumer-facing businesses now, with 64% of people saying they would rather use Facebook to message a business rather than call or email. Particularly for charities and NGOs that are looking to target the younger generations, it is imperative to have a strong presence on Facebook for both outbound and inbound marketing.

Content on Facebook is geared more towards visuals such as photograph and video, but it also has a more extensive character limit per post, allowing for longer, story-type posts that can be more engaging and appeal to people on a deeper level than a typical tweet.

Globally, Facebook reaches an amazing 95% of people in the United Arab Emirates on one end of the scale and 7% of people in Russia — which is still 10.1 million people! On average, Facebook will reach 32% of the world’s population.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is one of the more specialised social media platforms, with the aim of being a digital network for professionals. This has an effect on the type of content people post and engage with on LinkedIn and, as a result, how necessary organisations feel it is to have a presence.

DEC Linkedin Company Page

With 675 million monthly users worldwide, it pales in comparison to the likes of Instagram and Facebook; however, this 675 million people represents a specialised audience of ‘business people’. Consequently, 97% of B2B (business to business) marketers use LinkedIn for content marketing.

Interestingly, the largest percentile of people on LinkedIn are 25–34 years old and male.

Although, these demographics are less useful to businesses looking to market on LinkedIn. LinkedIn allows organisations to target audiences on indicators such as job titles, job experience, and organisations worked for, rather than simply age, gender, and interests.

Snapchat

Snapchat has become a go-to platform for many brands looking to reach the youngest members of society, particularly in the 13–20-year-old bracket. This makes Snapchat an interesting element for charities and NGOs as it is a proven way to reach millennials, generation z, and generation x users.

According to research, Millennials as a group are socially aware and willing to donate to causes they care about. Furthermore, 72% of Gen Z users on Snapchat are not reachable by TV Adverts.

The quality of engagement organisations and brands can drive on Snapchat is also thought to be much higher than apps such as Instagram, with an average Snapchat user spending 30 minutes on Snapchat every day (compared to just over 6 minutes on Instagram).

Due to Snapchat having a much smaller global audience than apps such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, a high potential reach rate doesn’t extend to many countries around the world. This means it can work well as a part of a geographically targeted strategy but perhaps not as well in a Global targeting strategy with an average 6% reach rate worldwide.

Greenpeace USA uses Snapchat to promote climate change awareness to the young audiences in America sharing quick and easy to digest content around helpful tips on how to build greener habits.

Don’t ignore smaller but more specialised platforms

Medium.com homepage

Online platforms such as Medium.com and Exposure.co aren’t large enough to make it on to a list of the Top 15 most used social media platforms worldwide; however, this doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your time and investment.

In fact, if you have fantastic imagery to share, and you have stories to tell, then both Medium and Exposure are places that should be highly regarded in your content marketing strategy. Not only do these platforms have their own, sometimes exclusive, audiences, both also have great synergy with the more popular social media platforms — creating eye-catching previews simply by entering the URL link.

UN Human Rights Medium Page

The United Nations Agency, UN Human Rights, actively uses Medium to post interviews and opinion driving conversation and awareness around topics that will garner support. These 4–5 minute reads are designed to be easily digested by their target audience, whilst still being able to cover enough ground to present a detailed and nuanced discussion.

Medium is the largest blog sharing platform on the world wide web, sharing your stories here will open up the opportunity of your story being discovered by someone entirely new who might not frequent any of the Top 15 social media platforms. Furthermore, as it is a blog sharing platform, you can tell your stories in far more detail than a simple social media post.

Exposure.co publications page

Exposure.co champions photo-led stories and curates all the content on the platform into different categories, which helps channel interested audiences. The ‘Causes’ section is filled with stories from various NGOs including the WWF, UNDP, and Oxfam.

An email Exposure.co will send if your article is featured

Both Exposure and Medium also have content curators who will decide which blog posts feature on the front page of a category. One of our From the Photographer blogs was recently featured in the Photography publication.

Exposure is younger than Medium and has been created in much the same way, with stories at the heart of the user experience. The key difference between Exposure and Medium is the way the stories are presented. On Exposure, far more emphasis is placed on the imagery, allowing for full-page photographs, eye-catching arrangements, and more. Exposure also has a large number of charities and NGOs on its platform; this attracts a certain audience, which you most likely want to get your stories in front of too.

Tailor the content to the platform and the audience

It is a waste of time trying to share in-depth stories on Twitter, or essays of text on Exposure. These platforms aren’t designed for this type of content and the audiences that frequent them won't enjoy it.

NGOs and charities that have successful digital marketing strategies, will carefully consider where to post the video update of the latest project, whether to use photos, text, emojis or links to promote the latest appeal, and the type of language that should be used to raise awareness for strategic partnerships.

The subject of the content will be consistent across all platforms, and this is key raising maximum awareness of the issue; however, the medium in which that content is delivered should always be tailored to the platform and the audience that typically resides there.

So which platform should we be using?

Ultimately, it will come down to who the target audience is. For example, global organisations with an international audience will likely be running different marketing campaigns targeted at a variety of audiences from around the world. These campaigns will be in different languages and take into account subtle differences in culture and syntax. The quality of the content and size of the budget allocated for advertising on social media will also influence the success of the campaign.

The best starting point with any foray into digital marketing is to ensure the carefully curated content is getting in front of the right people.

Taking the time to research and understand each target audience and then comparing these demographics with the data on the different social media platforms will ensure more targeted and efficient campaigns that ultimately pay dividends in achieving campaign goals.

At Arete, working with many NGOs and UN agencies, our team have acquired years of experience in the use of data to inform social media marketing, creatively present the outcomes of fundraising campaigns, design data collation frameworks, and more. How could our data-led approach help you?


Are you picking the right social media platforms to share your content? was originally published in Arete Stories on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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.

Read more from the Arete blog


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.