HUMANITARIAN AID REFRAMED: THE POTENTIAL FOR POSITIVE DIGITAL STORYTELLING TO RESTORE THE FAITH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL POVERTY By TYLER JONES A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2017
2017 Tyler Jones
3 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I woul d like to give thanks to my thesis advisor, D r. Michael Leslie of the School of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida. Throughout this journey, Dr. Leslie has enlightened me of the tremendous power and implications of representation in the media and the importance of communicati ng effectively. He ha s challenged me academically to go above and beyond, provided honest and constructive feedback of my efforts, took a genuine interest in my professional endeavors, and served as a model professional and intellectual within the field o f mass communications. Without his encouragement and his ability to help focus my scattered academic interests, I would not have been able to complete my degree. Thanks also to Dr. John Freeman, also of the University of School of Journalism and Communications, and Dr. Ricky Telg in Agricultural Education and Communications wi thin the University of College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, for serving on my thesis committee. Dr. Freeman has encouraged me during this process and I resp ect him tremendously for his expertise in photography, photojournalism, and visual representation. Dr. Telg has also been helpful and freely available to advise me during this process and I value his comments and suggestions particularly as they pertain to media production and communicating matters concerning agricultural aid and international food security. This thesis could not have been completed without their generous time and input. A special thank you is in order for Jody Hedge, Program Assistant w ithin the School of Journalism and Communications. Jody was invaluable in making sure that I had every form completed, that credits were registered for correctly, that I was pointed toward the best resources, basically that all the necessary boxes were ti cked each and every semester. door was always open, she had every answer, and I always felt like my needs were her priority.
4 Tracy Bryant and Ruth Borger, my supervisors within UF/IFAS Communications Services, must be acknowledged for being unbelie vably supportive and accommodating in allowing me to dictate my work and travel schedul e around this degree. I could no t ask for two better bosses, and I am grateful that they ha ve allowed me to pursue this opportunity. Finally, thanks to my parents fo r their ceaseless support and encouragement. It ha s been very challenging at times to work full time while attempting to complete a graduate degree, but they always listened to those diff iculties and reminded me that I ha ve persevered in the face of chall enges before, and that earning a graduate de gree would be no different. It i s their encouragement that has been the foundation of my success in life thus far.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 3 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................ 7 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 8 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 10 2 NGOS AND WHAT THEY DO ................................ ................................ ........................... 16 Communi cating Solidarity ................................ ................................ ................................ ..... 19 How Visual Communications Create Solidarity ................................ ................................ .... 22 Framing, Melodrama, and Complicity ................................ ................................ ................... 26 Stereotyping, Othering, Ideology, and Hegemony ................................ ................................ 28 3 A NEGATIVE AND DEVASTATING LEGACY OF APPEALS ................................ ....... 34 A Growing Awareness of a Negative Legacy ................................ ................................ ....... 41 Why Negative Appeals Persist ................................ ................................ .............................. 45 Compassion Fatigue ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 51 4 PAST POSITIVE APPROACHES ................................ ................................ ........................ 60 Post Humanitarianism Commercial Appeals ................................ ................................ ......... 63 A Critical Pedagogy ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 69 NGO Reportage ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 71 Empathy, Not Sympathy ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 75 Aid Reframed ................................ ................................ ................................ ......................... 76 Imperfect Positivism ................................ ................................ ................................ .............. 81 5 A POSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEG Y FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ............... 86 Digital Storytelling ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 87 Methodology: Selecting NGO Storytelling Examples ................................ .......................... 96 The World Food Program ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 98 Oxfam International and Appeali ng to Intrinsic Values ................................ ...................... 101 Raleigh Egalitarianism and Sustainability ................................ .................. 106 Mercy Corps and the Simple Empowerment Photo Story ................................ ................... 108 USAID Stories ................................ ................................ ................................ ..................... 110 6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................. 118
6 Implications for NGO Media Practitioners ................................ ................................ .......... 119 Implications for Teaching ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 128 Conclusion ................................ ................................ ................................ ........................... 132 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 135 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 141
7 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 Oxfam International 2003/2 004 annual report front cover. ................................ ............... 33 3 1 Oxfam International 1966 aid campaign poster advertisement. ................................ ........ 56 3 2 Save the Children 1981 aid campaign poster advertisement. ................................ ............ 57 3 3 Sample illustration of recommended representation tactics from The Illustrati ve Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages. ................................ .... 58 3 4 Sample illustration of recommended representation tactics from The Illustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages. ................................ .... 59 4 1 Negative experimental advertisement targeting viewer sympathy and guilt through the utilization of stereotypically negative a id representations ................................ ........... 84 4 2 Positive experimental a dvertisement targeting viewer empathy and altruism through the utilization of non stereotypical, positive aid framing and representations. ................. 85
8 Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts in Mass Communication HUMANITARIAN AID REFRAMED: T HE POTENTIAL FOR POSITIVE DIGITAL STORYTELLING TO RESTORE THE PU FAITH IN THE FIGHT AGAINST INTERNATIONAL POVERTY By Tyler Jones December 2017 Chair: Michael Leslie Major: Mass Communication Decades of stereotypically negative and emotional publi c appeals for financial support of humanitarian causes in the developing world by Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have resulted in increased compassion fatigu e and a loss of efficacy among the Western public that their contributions are effective. T his literature review o f NGO communications research ex plains how stereotyping, othering, and the intentional targeting of emotions such as pity and guilt, has led to compassion fatigue. It also brings to light the promise and potential that positive, alt ernative tactics cou ld have in revitalizing public support for foreign aid while instilling a belief that they can contribute positively in alleviating some of the most pressing challenges the developing world currently faces. This research examined the literature on alternative, positive NGO communications approaches, and outlines a contemporary, digital storytelling approach that is based on a hybrid practice of traditional photojournalism and public relations conventions, one that frames aid according to broadly intrinsic values, such as shared community building, participatory democracy, self sufficiency, egalitarianism, shared prosperity, and broadmindedness If widely
9 adopted within the NGO sector, such a communications approach may serve as a count er hegemonic force capable of reversing some of the damaging legacy of the stereotypically negative NGO appeals relied upon for decades. This review suggests that values matter, and NGOs that frame humanitarian aid and foreign assistance according to pro social, self transcendental, and intrinsic values, may have great persuasive power to overcome compassion fatigue and convince audiences to support their endeavors.
10 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Most Westerners that have access to a smartphone, a television, p rint magazines, and/or the Internet are likely familiar with some form of humanitarian aid appeal by Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as the Red Cross, Oxfam International, or Save the Children. If asked to recount particular advertisements, the y woul d likely describe similar visuals and messages, be it a decades old print advertisement, the child sponsorship TV ads common in the or an social media posts appearing in a Facebook newsfeed. They woul d likely describe imagery depicting non white women and children, possibly dressed in soiled and thread bare clothing, set amidst a backdrop of barren landscapes, destroyed infrastructure, or general squalor. The expressions upon the faces of those depicted might be described as sad, vulne rable, and longing, fixated upon the viewer, their gazes emotionally disturbing, possibly even triggering feelings of sympathy, pity and guilt. Such is the means by which the NGOs have depicted humanitarian aid and asked the public for financial s upport to tackle some of the most challenging natural and man made crises the developing world has faced from famine and malnourishment, to war and disease, to climate change induced natural disasters. Since the first public appeals in the wake of the Sec ond World War and the rebuilding of continental Europe, these communication strategies were effective in generating revenue to fund programs that rehabilitated populations coping with crisis and trauma. Such tactics were not without consequences, as a leg acy of ads that stereotyped, othered, and subjugated those they sought to serve, have embedded widespread misconceptions concerning the developing world and its inhabitants. Those misconceptions have only perpetuated inequality and valuations of human wor th. Combined with the ubiquity of a seemingly infinite flow of sensationalist imagery of poverty and war in the mass media, NGO appeals have become drops in a ceaseless media
11 deluge, while compassion fatigue, the gradual numbing to the effects of such ima gery and the loss of a sense of efficacy that the developing problems can be addressed, has made NGO communications decreasingly effective and audiences are tuning them out at a greater frequency (Grayson, 2014; Hudson et al., 2016). I ha ve come to understand this problem through the following thesis and literature review that examines how and why NGO appeals for support are declining in effectiveness, how the aid sector has historically attempted to mitigate some of the adverse effects of its neg ative legacy, as well as identifying some contemporary, alternative, and positive communication strategies that could be successful in combatting compassion fatigue and reversing some of the damaging effects caused by decades of stereotyping and marginaliz ing the developing world. NGOs have historically relied upon what Chouliaraki (20 10) calls effect (p. 110), those that include representations depicting aid beneficiaries as poor, malnourished, and vulnerable, because they have been the mos t effective means of attracting financial support amongst the public to date. The objective of such tactics was to foster a sense of guilt and complicity amongst the viewers that persuaded them to act by taking out their wallets and giving money to NGOs ( Chouliaraki, 2010; Wells, 2013). Contemporary research indicates that there have been long term negative consequences, most notably that NGO appeals have helped construct hegemonic Western ideologies and beliefs about what the developing world is like bas ed on gross inaccuracies. Benthall (1993) found that by the mid the majority of British citizens polled believed that more than fifty percent of all children were malnourished, when the actual figure was estimated to be closer to one perce nt of the total youth population. The B ritish also believed that three quarters of the population lived in destitute poverty when the actual percentage was nowhere near as high (Benthall, 1993).
12 Recent research by Vossen et al. (2016) clai med that British NGOs still overwhelmingly represented the developing world as if such negative tropes were acc urate, despite the fact that we a re now two decades removed from an industry wide awareness movement that negative, emotional appeals were becomi ng a destructive force in shaping public perception. NGO representations matter because they construct beliefs that can inform policy and behavior toward foreign populations in need. Since the mid the Internet became widely adopted across the globe and fundamentally altered the media landscape. Today, thanks to a 24 hour on demand news cycle and access points to it via phones and portable devices, we a re now witness to a seemingly endless barrage of images depicting tragedy and crisis predominantly afflicting distant locations and disproportionately affecting minorities. NGOs have always been intertwined with news media because news organizations traditionally depended upon NGOs to gain access to crises in exchange for publicity that demonstrated t hat a particular organization was providing immediate aid to those afflicted populations (Cottle & Nolan, 2007). However, after the proliferation of personal digital devices and the normalization of the 24/7 instant news cycle, NGOs are having to work har der than ever to distinguish their own media appeals from the overwhelming supply of negative news that we a re inundated with everyday (Cohen, 2001; Moeller, 1999). Thus, NGOs are trapped within the media cycle, adopting their tactics of sensationalism an d increasingly explicit imagery, just so that they can compete with international news and have a chance to get their message out (Cottle & Nolan, 2007). This cycle has led to the notion that Western audiences are witness to so much imagery that portrays the developing world as stereotypically negative and perpetually impov erished, that they a re
13 increasingly tuning out NGO messaging due to an erosion in their belief that foreign aid can address the problems it seeks to resolve (Hudson et al., 2016; Wells, 2013). The humanitarian aid sect or has no t been monolithic in it s stereotypically negative depiction of its work, as it experienced a period of awakening in the and responded with efforts to reverse a nd mitigate the effects tha t it ha s had on shaping inaccurate perceptions of the developing world. Oversight bodies such as the UN General Assembly of European NGOs were the first to publish recommendations of communication tactics that avoided stereotyping, while numerous other NG Os devised and adopted their own codes of communications conduct (Vossen et al., 2016). These reforms resulted in some organizations creating appeals that ranged from having overtly positive and contrived imagery, to Madison Avenue style ad campaigns that broke the mold, resembling tactics used to sell consumer goods more than they appealed to sense of charity for aiding impoverished strangers. However, positive appeals have been greeted with skepticism, codes of conduct have been non binding and la ck authority, and the fact that emotional appeals targeting pity are still effective to some degree, has meant that no single alternative NGO communications approach has been adopted and put into practice across the sector. Today, evidence suggests that in dustry wide communication tactics have reverted back to less explicit but still traditionally negative and stereotypical appeals, and audience research indicates that compassion fatigue is decreasing the effectiveness of all NGO appeals for public support (Hilary, 2014; Hudson et al., 2016; Radley & Kennedy, 1997). At the same time, audiences express the desire to see alternative representations of the developing world coming from NGOs and the media (Moeller, 1999). Therefore, this thesis defines and advo cates for the adoption of a multimedia digital storytelling approach for humanitarian aid NGOs. The
14 approach combines still, video and written media, and is informed by research regarding positive communications approaches that have been tried and resear ched in the past In reviewing the literature and research concerning efforts that have been made to present foreign humanitarian aid in a more positive light, this thesis picks certain aspects of these strategies that can be implemented into the approac h that I advocate for. It explores how intentionally communicating empathy for beneficiaries by focusing on shared characteristics and desires, could potentially have greater persuasive power than targeting the emotions of pity and guilt. It examines the emerging practice of NGO reportage, as Grayson (2014) has defined it, and suggests that such tactics of applying news gathering and visual journalism techniques to the NGO sector is an effective foundation from which to build a strategy of NGO storytellin g as it allows for the maintenance of reportage style visual aesthetics NGO are accustomed to, while being flexible enough to augment it with the more setup or arranged appr oaches to creating imagery that i s common in public relations. This thesis also ta kes a look at the how pro social, or intrinsic framing has been effectively used in environmental conservation movements by various NGOs to directly appeal to, and influence target audiences that share similar values. It describes how communicating throug h visual r epresentations and written word ; the ways that humanitarian aid and its beneficiaries gain and exercise inalienable rights, obtain the health, agricultural, and entrepreneurial k nowledge necessary to thrive; and how they lift their own communitie s up in the process; ac t as a network of surface values that come together to construct positive, all encompassing frames that altruistic audiences are likely to be influenced by. The contemporary storytelling strategy present ed here is therefore a fusion of current practices and past attemp ts at positivism, borrowing the ideas that have worked before and utilizing them to create success stories of empowered b eneficiaries through representations of aid
15 work that targets sense of charity (Crompto n & Weinstein, 2 015; Darn ton and Kirk, 2011). Reference and analysis of e xamples of contemporary NGO media where such tactics are utilized demonstrate how they are empowering to beneficiaries, while remaining simultaneously altruistic and satisfying audie desires to see non stereotypical representations. In the discussion and conclusion chapter, I address some of the challenges and potential solutions for implemen ting aspects of such practices in the field based upon my own experiences doing so in Ta nzania in 2014, as well as some possible implications for instructing this or similar NGO reportage approach es and digital storytelling within the exciting world of humanitarian aid NGO communications
16 CHAPTER 2 NGOS AND WHAT THEY DO The NGO h as become synonymous with humanitarian aid efforts such as famine relief, disaster response, refugee relocation, and capacity building efforts in the form of training and education throughout the developin g world. The World Bank defined NGOs as o rganizations that pursue activities to relieve suffering, promote the interests of the poor, protect the environment, provide basic social services, or undertake community (World Bank, 1995, p.7). Davison (2007) identified NGOs as organizatio ns outside of the public and private sectors, categorized as either southern or northern, with the southern organizations predominantly concerned with providing humanitarian aid to the developing world. That an NGO exists outside of public and private sec tors means that they a re not created by a national government to provide official services, nor are they corporations seeking to make a profit through selling a good or service. It i s not uncommon though for NGOs to partner with national governments tha t need their assistance in providing essential services, nor is it uncommon that they resemble corporations in their structure, branding, and marketing. Willetts (2001) defined an NGO as independent voluntary association of people acting together on a continuous basis, for some common purpose, other than achieving government office, making money or illegal The four main characteristics of an NGO according to this definition, are that it i s not part of the government in power, not a politi cal party vying for power, not seeking profit, nor is it a violent criminal orga nization. Willetts acknowledged that while NGOs canno t be competing for political power and cannot constitute a political party, they may sometimes be affiliated with a party in practice, and despite not being profit seeking enterprises, they can generate revenue through consulting or selling
17 publications, thus sometimes blurring the lines between NGOs and for profit enterprise (Willetts, 2001). The term NGO was coined dur ing the formation of the United Nations (UN) in the wake of World War II in order to identify and distinguish the various private sector groups that the UN would work with, though NGOs that operated nationally and internationally advocating for specific ca uses operated as far back as the early 20th Century (Willetts, 2001). There are NGOs that operate on a strictly domestic basis as well as those that con duct operations transnationally. T hus, some literature distinguishes between the two by adding n to their designation, hence t he acronym, INGO. It i s generally acknowledged that in the global political sphere, NGOs are acting transnationally, so the preceding INGO is often unnecessary and omitted (Willetts, 2001). Chouliaraki (2010) ta kes it for granted that NGOs act in ternationally as he defined an NGO as a actor that engages with universal ethical claims, such as common humanity or global civil society, to mobilize action on human (p. 108) In this thesis, I use only the acronym NGO, rather than INGO, in reference to all organizations d iscussed because all of those I ha ve identified work across borders and communicate to a global, but predominantly Western, English speaking audience. According to the website NGO.org (n.d.), an NGO is a for profit, voluntary citizens group that is organized on a local, national, or international They a re generally concerned with very specific goals and objectives like urban sanitation, public health, refugee reset tlement, or combating malnutrition just to name a few areas of specialization (Definition of NGOs, n.d.). For example, the Red Cross, one of the most widely recognized NGOs on the planet, has a mission that is narrowly concerned with alleviating human suf fering in the wake of an emergency or disaster (Red Cross, 2017). Contrast that with Oxfam International, whose stated
18 mission is to the injustice of by on the big issues that keep people poor such as inequality, discrimination, and lack of access to (About Oxfam, 2017). Like the Red Cross, Oxfam has a presence providing aid in the aftermath of a disaster, but Oxfam is more concerned with long term aid designed to gradually erode the root causes of poverty through gradual social capacity building. Since this thesis explores alternative, more positive visual communications strategies in communicating NGO success stories, its focus will be on organizations like Oxfam, entities that share long term objectives such as reducin g poverty and food insecurity Organizations such as Oxfam should have a greater ability to methodically construct the media representations of their work than those NGOs that primarily respond to traumatic crisis, given the nature and immediacy of their work. NGOs are premised upon the functioning of a civil society. Civil society in the United States is comprised of organizations of citizens acting upon their own will to advocate for desired social, economic, or political rights (United States Departmen t of State, 2017). NGOs are an important part of that advocacy as they provide a powerful means of organization and their freedom to operate unhindered by the government is paramount to the function ing of a healthy democracy. It i s estimated that there a re about 3.7 million operating NGOs working across the globe and they represent virtually every conceivable social, religious, political, and ideological cause (United States Department of State, 2017 ). While the humanitarian work that NGOs conduct in th e traditionally democratic free societies of the West is important, their value throughout the developing world is especially high because in the absence of mature civil society and democratic institutions, the organizational strength of NGOs are often the most effective means citizens have of advocating for their rights, alleviating poverty, and securing the resources they need to survive.
19 Communicating Solidarity Humanitarian aid in any form is expensive. From sheltering victims following natural disast ers, to long term health and nutrition education within a rural community, it all costs money. While some funding of NGO operations is derived from government grants that work through NGOs to achieve desired objectives, some of an effectiveness can be dependent upon public financing. In order to raise the necessary money to operate and carry out their objectives, NGOs need to effectively communicate a vision, including what their goals and objectives are, as well as report on the progress being made towards those ends, all within a coherent identity or brand. If the public reciprocates by backing their objectives and donates money to an cause, then an organization will have successfully aligned their mission with their targeted desi re to help, achieving what is sometimes referred to in the aid sector as (Orgad, 2013, p. 296; Hudson et al., 2016, p 10). Achieving solidarity and garnering the financial support necessary to operate may be the primary public communications goal amongst NGOs that depend on public funds, but for decades the means to create solidarity have too often relied upon visually and textually negative and demeaning stereotypes of the developing world and the beneficiaries NGOs serve, resulting in the d ecline of the perceived efficacy of their ability to contribute to reducing international poverty and its consequences (Wells, 2013). NGO media comprises everything from traditional print ads and annual reports, to TV ad campaigns, as well as co ntemporary and innovative social media marketing strategies that can reach the public and attempt to establish solidarity. To Davison (2007) NGO communications are about upwards and downwards accountability. They report up to trustees, donors, and host g overnments, and down to partners, staff, beneficiaries, and others (Davison, 2007). Types of NGO accountability can include, but is not limited to, reporting on finances, defining
20 organizational goals and objectives, resource use and efficiency, the socia l and/or environmental impact of operations, as well as reporting on both the immediate and long term impact their programs are having (Davison, 2007). For example, Oxfam International must be accountable for their organizational culture of making a diffe rence through collaboration with beneficiaries, social accountability, cost effectiveness, and innovation in their implementation of specific programs that secure sustainable livelihoods, health care and education, rights to life and security, rights to be heard, and rights to gender and ethnic/racial equity amongst the poor (Davison, 2007). communications and public relations arm is tasked with communicating all of that and more to their various audiences through a variety of traditional a nd contemporary online media. The type of communication and audience most relevant to this thesis concerns how an organization like Oxfam reports to the public about what their organization stands for, what they a re doing to provide hu manitarian assistanc e, how they provide aid, and what the intended audience can do to help them achieve those goals. While some of the larger, well established NGOs have budgets and communications resources that have enabled them to market themselves almost as if they were wi dely recognizable consumer brands, their communications objectives are principally concerned with selling human care and compassion, as well as social and political ideals to the public, rather than any product (Orgad, 2013). Similarly, Smith and Yanacopu los (2004) agreed that NGO communications have the objectives of funding, promoting different value systems, perpetuating an orga self interest building of their particular constituencies, and promoting an political ambi tions around development i (p. 661). Vossen et al. (2016) stated that an primary communications task is to raise funds for specific projects and/or bring about awareness of social issues. One of his studies identified the most
21 frequently enco untered purposes of NGO advertisements were sixty nine percent fundraising, eighteen percent raising awareness of a given cause, eleven percent increasing brand recognition, and two percent thanking donors (Vossen et al., 2016). With NGO ads being overwhe lmingly used for the purpos es of public fundraising, there have historically been concerted efforts put into the construction of messages that emotionally affect viewers and persuade them into giving money in support of a cause. However, in order to achie ve solidarity between audience and NGO, blatantly emotional and melodramatic visual and textual device targeting sense of guilt have historically been relied upon. Through imagery and text that reinforce negative stereotypes of aid beneficiarie s as perpetually poor, dependent, malnourished, and beholden to relentless natural and man made calamity, NGOs have effectively overshadowed any alternative narratives. As a consequence, such representations have become socially dominant perceptions regar ding the reality of the developing world in the eyes of the Western audiences, regardless of how inaccurate they may be. There is debate within the scholarship of humanitarian aid media and representation as to whether images of suffering, disaster, and tr auma can create a solidarity amongst audiences for the well being of distant others, versus the view that media representations are inadequate to establish any ethical relationship between audiences and distant suff erers (Orgad, 2013). Such a relat ionship in this sense would have a moral obligation to it, a consensus among an audience that to do nothing, to let starvation or prolonged malnourishment persist, to not assist refugees under siege of conflict to seek safe harbor, or to not provide the education or tools for a developing society to become self sufficient, would be fundamentally wrong. Most members of the general public canno t simply drop whatever they a re doing, interrupt their lives, and go to where distant suffering is taking place, but they c an indirectly act by donating the money that
22 will allow organizations to help in their name. The key to establishing that solidarity has traditionally been through the use of melodrama in the form of morality plays. Emotions of guilt and pity are intenti onally targeted through the use of a variety of storytelling device and stereotypical tropes that now seem to be doing a disservice to NGO communication objectives (Orgad, 2013). This thesis presumes that media, and particularly the images they use to dep ict the developing world while not a substitute for being present and personally witnessing the plight of those in need, can establish an ethical relationship and obligation between audiences and those who are suffering and in need of humanitarian aid. M edia representations are the only means by which the vast majority of the world will ever be able to contextualize the experiences of distant others. We must presume that depictions have real power to create positive change in the world. If they could no t, then there would be no point in trying to improve upon the representations of humanitarian aid and its beneficiaries so that they may attract greater public support and foster long term, meaningful change. How Visual Communications Create Solidarity Ga rnering public support for an cause is not a simple and straightforward function of making and then disseminating visual and textual messages to a given audience. Solidarity is the result of careful and deliberate efforts at constructing representat ions that will affect viewers in a desired way. Therefore, depictions of NGO work should no t be taken for granted as reality, but instead, as media representations that are the culmination of conscious decisions to include and exclude certain content in o rder to elicit a desired response (Orgad, 2012). Representations range on t he spectrum between being a reflection of reality, to the extent that is possible, to constructionist, where meaning is made through very deliberate inclusion and exclusion of subj ect matter (Orgad, 2012) NGOs have traditionally done both by employing the conventions of photojournalism and even relying on the press for thei r media to mirror reality to
23 taking a public relations approach by crafting their messages through staged ma nipulation and extensive pre planning The practice of NGO communications then is more than meets the eye, it i s a source of power because NGO representations power relations and thereby produce and reproduce those relations by constructing knowle dge, values, conceptions, and (Orgad, 2012, p. 25). What NGOs have historically done with that power is create representations that have relied upon stereotypically negative imagery emoti ve device, framing and othering to construct a hegemonic narrative amongst the Western populace that poverty and crisis in the developing world is endemic and intractable, with blame often placed on the beneficiaries themselves, which are directly or indirectly insinuated to be inferior. Visual imagery has been a critical tool utilized in NGO communications for decades. Davison (2007) argued that photos are as important for NGOs to remain accountable as copy and figures, so the manner in which NGO imagery might convey accountability is significant. Regard ing the power of the photograph, Sontag (2003) wrote that imagery is our surround, but when it comes to remembering, the photograph has the deeper bite and provides a quick way of comprehending something and a compact form for memorizing (p. 2 2). oft cited analysis of a single image that appeared on the cover of an Oxfam annual report demonstrates how typical NGO imagery uses specific device and techniques to not only convey tacit knowledge about the developing world, but to also aff ect a e motions to the extent that they wi ll most likely achieve solidar ity with that organization (Davison, 2007). He based his analysis on Roland Camera Lucida the standard for photographic philosophy and meaning theory, in order to d emonstrate exactly how the image in question communicates solidarity to an audience (Davison, 2007). Images such as that used on the Oxfam cover ( Figure 2 1 ) contain what identified as a stadium and a punctum, and
24 those two components work in tandem in any successful image to convey specific knowledge and to affect in a certain way (Davison, 2007). The stadium accounts for the tacit, or understood knowledge of an audience, the social codes, conventions, and symbols that are mutually understood between producer and receiver (Davison, 2007). The punctum is a certain quality or c omponent, often intangible, which punctures or disrupts a contemplation of the image, often producing an emotional response, one that an NGO h opes would trigger a sense of charity (Daviso n, 2007). The Oxfam report cover that Davison analyzed features two African children seated at a table with numerous overturned bottle caps that have letters of the English alphabet written on them. Th e crop of the photo is tight, only containing the two boys in the upper one half portion of the image, the table and bottle caps occupying the lower half. The camera angle is steep and shot from overhead, the boy on the right appears to look down at the t able while arranging the bottle cap letters in rows, while the boy on the left, gazes slightly upward and acknowledges the presence of the camera (Davison, 2007). In analysis, the stadium conveyed the notions that the viewer was already familiar with, that Oxfam works in Africa as development aid providers and that parts of Africa are poor and rely on repurposing waste such as bottle caps into useful resources (Davison, 2007). The punctum on the other hand, made up of the child's gaze, arouses t he compassion and is the quality that triggers their charitable instinct, causing them to support efforts (Davison, 2007). Davison argued that this particular punctum, conveyed an authenticity and innocence, and demonstrated that the chil education, through whatever English word or spelling game is being practiced, is working and that they are learning, results that could evoke the targeted emotions of solidarity and charity within the viewer (Davison, 2007).
25 NGO imagery can be tho ught to affect audiences according to stadium and punctum, regardless of whether the imagery is positive and empowering, or negative and traditionally stereotypical. The punctum though, what Davison (2007) referred to as the uncoded, and the is a critical means of triggering the desired emotions and action of a target audience (p. 140). When it comes to a human subject, a photograph creates an illusion that time is defeated and that the depicted person is looking back at t he spectator, but that illusion gives the subject an emotional attachment and their gaze can be interpreted in any number of ways that may dictate a response (Davison, 2007). Studies of alternative, positive aid imagery have reinforced this notio n with findings that suggest that certain visual cues have a positive emotional correlation among audiences. Cues include using children, smiling subjects, and subject/camera awareness through eye contact (Dyck & Coldevin, 1992). Imagery interpretation though is personal and subjective. Preconceptions, what people have seen before, and their beliefs about other places and cultures, factor heavily upon their interpretation of imagery, therefore, presenting a photo to them does not present a limited possi bility of interpretation. Images may reinforce existing preconceptions, or they may challenge and shatter them (Radley & Kennedy, 1997). In interviewing photojournalists that have covered international crises and relief efforts, Clark (2004) cited one pa rticular photographer statement regarding how they a re able to influence interpretation when that photographer proclaimed that: Chaotic, fractured, complex, blur, out of focus images tend to make places look like that. They make places look mad, chaoti c, w here nothing can be solved and when you apply that to Sierra Leone or Palestine for example the viewer assumes these places are beyond he lp. (p. 698) And t herein lies the power of the image within the foreign aid sector to influence audience behavior Depending upon how visual representations of aid work and the people
26 served are presented according to these basic underlying mechanics, and depending on the preconceptions held by an audience on the receiving end, images can shape mass opinion and have critical ramifications in establishing hegemonic notions of international power dynamics, race and ethnicity, not to mention human deservedness. These perceptions can influence decision makers and ultimately determine the effectiveness of foreign aid and the perceived intractability of international poverty and it s wide ranging consequences. Framing, Melodrama, and Complicity Framing of international aid and humanitarian work can be as critical to communicating solidarity a s visuals, and oftentimes, they a re mutually reinforcing. Vossen et al. (2016) defined frames as for understanding about the problem at stake, the causes and consequences, the moral judgment and the possible soluti (p. 3). In this way, they a re similar to the already discussed concept of an stadium, and can be thought of as packages of preexisting knowledge, ideas, and beliefs commonly shared amongst a group of people and triggered by certain visual or textual cues. For instance, if an NGO repor ting on a drought stricken farmer in Somalia chooses to represent him as an innocent victim of circumstance, which is a frame loaded with ideas of victimhood and c ausation, then a viewer who is no t familiar with that specific circumstances, could still b e expected to recognize that he i s in need because the viewer shares a similar definition of victimhood as the communicating NGO (Vossen et al., 2016). In other words, the frame works to convey the intended message because the NGO and the targeted audience member share the same or similar conceptions of victimhood. Therefore, fra mes are collective in that they a re part of shared memories common to large groups of people and they function to communicate common values and ideas amongst a group for an y given subject (Vossen et al., 2016).
27 Visual representations serve as frames because inclusion and exclusion of certain elements construct messages that conform to commonly held ideas and associations about the things being represented. For example, NGO media representations have historically included an overabundance of images of women and children to suggest notions of dependence and victimhood because such traits have traditionally been associated with those demographics. However unfair and inaccurate such preconceptions have existed outside of the world of international humanitarian aid, reinforced over time through repetition, thereby solidifying a widely understood and entrenched frame recognized by multiple cultures. Other frames that have been u tilized within the aid sector that can be characterized as predominantly negative because perpetuated damaging stereotypes include: aid beneficiaries are perpetually starving, that they live in squalor, that they a re adverse to working hard, and th at their nations are unusually prone to war and/or natural catastrophe (Vossen et al., 2016). Just as there exist negative frames that have shaped NGO communications and public perceptions in undesirable ways, there have been attempts at alternative frami ng. Research suggests that some of these communication tactics could be adopted amongst NGOs to serve as a counter hegemonic force and reverse the consequences of decades of damaging representations. Negative representations that attempt to garner sol idar ity by targeting collective guilt, have historically framed poverty as a consequence of legacy. Chouliaraki (2010) examined classic shock effect NGO appeals issued by Oxfam and the Red Cross in the and that utilized imagery that contrasted extremely emaciated bodies to those of healthy Western citizens. In such portrayals, complicity in the subjugation and misfortune of beneficiaries was implied by suggesting that their struggles were the consequence of colonial powers (of which the majority of the audience belonged) putting into place the institutions and
28 systems of exploitation and oppression that led to the current state of affairs, thereby leaving their audience to feel guilty by association (Chouliaraki, 2010). The resulting sense of shame was hoped to prompt public action primarily through financial donations (Chouliaraki, 2010). Psychologically, the shock effect communications approach worked to attract support because in words, ailure to act is failure to acknowledge our historical and personal participation in perpetuating human (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 111). The idea being that citizens of th e developed world are complicit in the suffering of distant others b ecause it i s the Western nations whos e economies perpetuate the poverty that so many aid appeals are seeking to alleviate (Chouliaraki, 2010). Targeting emotions of complicity and guilt through dramatic visuals and narrative device is what Wells (2013) identified as melodrama. Melodrama is dramatic storytelling, or ravagant and it i s a device that has been used in oral and literary storytelling history to convey internal struggles, particularly human suffering (Melodrama, n.d. ; Wells, 2013). Wells examined t raditionally negative NGO media and characterized melodrama as a common device employed to foster a sense of solidarity by having viewers see a subject, such as a young and vulnerable child, as that parent might. A suffering parent would be expected to feel a great amount of sympathy for their young, thereby making a potential villain out of anyone who would watch and would do nothing, the distant viewer of the aid appeal included. Using melodrama in this way simply becomes another metho d of implying complicity and targeting guilt and shame as the primary emotions upon which audiences are expected to act (Wells, 2013). Stereotyping, Othering, Ideology, and Hegemony Stereotyping is another device that constructs hegemonic notions of the de veloping world and a perceived lack of effectiveness in the fight against global poverty. Hall (1992) defin ed
29 stereotypes as sided descriptions, which result from the collapsing of complex differences into a simple cardboard cutout, becoming the esse nce of what they (p. 215). In traditionally negative NGO media, nothing is more stereotypical than the reliance on visuals of masses of visibly malnourished women and children in tattered and soiled clothing, looking pitiful and vulnerable amid st a setting of ruin and dilapidation. Over time, as NGOs predominantly used such imagery to elicit financial support, such depictions of the developing world, however misrepresentative they might be, have become reality to Western populations who have no means of contextualizing what that world is actually like outside of the stereotypes that are repeated in the media and by NGOs. Stereotypes have a particularly important role to play in the process of othering, by which Western societies and developed nations come to understand themselves, which often happens to be in direct contrast to the beneficiaries being served. Orgad contends that it i s natural for societies to come up with concepts of because how a given group of people come to underst and of them selves relies on dev eloping a strong sense of who they are not (Orgad, 2012). Othering is effectively done through stereotyping by dividing subjects into oversimplified sets of binaries, each side understood through its juxtaposition with an o pposite. Each side is ascribed value qualities of either good or bad, a process often referred to as dualism (Orgad, 2012; Hall, 1992). For example, rich versus poor, modern versus undeveloped, and civilized versus uncivilized, are but a few of the binar ies that circulate in aid and development discourse. These good and bad quality associations are defined by Western societies, those in a position of power and privilege, which has resulted in them ascribing the good values upon themselves and the bad one s on beneficiary nations as part of this process of meaning making and defining international order.
30 Othering is a useful tool in manipulating widespread perceptions of foreign populations and generally goes one of two ways. The first is to imbue the oth er with opposing and negative traits and stereotypes, establishing them as an enemy, while the other tactic is to idealize them as a stran ger, but one with which some common traits and ideologies are shared (Orgad, 2012). The foreign aid sector depends up on the latter method to foster notions of a shared humanity and interconnectedness that demands attention when those are in need because their humanity demands care, compassion, and pity (Orgad, 2012, p. 55 Othering through stereotype s though is not just another emotionally manipulated device employed to fo ster solidarity for a cause, it i s the driver of hegemonic ideologies that ultimately determine the dominant social discourse, beliefs, and action of both the providers and receivers of foreign aid. Thompson defined ideology as ways in which meaning is mobilized for the maintenance of relations and (as cited in Orgad, 2012, p. 26). Visual and textual representations of humanitarian aid construct v ery specific meaning s in regard to world power imbalances, perceptions of race and identity of beneficiary nations, and beliefs of human deservedness. Such notions make up the foundation of a dominant Western ideology and mindset that has arguably perpetuated the status quo and is partially responsible for the widespread belief that international poverty is a permanent, intractable condition. Hall (1992) labeled such an ideology as the and the (p. 201). The West includes developed European powers and the United States, who are all givers and creators or foreign aid, are imbued with generally positive and powerful qualities, while their binary, the encompasses the impoverished, war torn, malnourished, and vulnerable masses associated with lesser values (Ha ll, 1992, p. 201). The West functions as an ideology in that it: allows classification of different parts of the world, provides a set of images (accurate or not) that
31 visualize that classification, allows for a basis of comparison as to how close societi es fit their categorization, and allows us to rank societies according to positive and negative feelings (Hall, 1992). If Orgad is correct in her assertion that othering s erves the function of defining a group of people according to what they are not, the n assertions have provided an efficient frame for allowing Western populations to conceptualize their power and perceived role in aiding the re st of the world. However, that i s a frame that is largely based on antiquated colonial notions of state r elationships and the subjugation of disadvantaged populations, as well as a vehicle for perpetuating those conceptions today through the process of hegemony and ideological domination (Orgad, 2012; Hall, 1992). According to Gramsci, ideology forms a s a desire to establish one dominant frame or way of thinking about something, a hegemony, where one single group social, political, and cultural through that dominant ideology (as cited in Orgad, 2012, p. 26). Hegemony is not forced u pon a society, it is approved in mass by making the ideas, conceptions, and beliefs of a given ideology seem like common sense to the majority of society (Orgad, 2012). The ideology of the West and the rest, that there exists a selection of developed nati ons that are deemed technologically elite, who have the capital, stability, and political clout to dictate how the remainder of the rest of the world can develop, is hegemonic because from the perspective of the United States and Western scholarly culture, this paradigm for understanding the world is taken completely for granted. Representations of the developing world in the mass media, including NGO media, have made this ideology hegemonic through the stereotypical visuals and repetition of reinforcing f rames. Today the tenants of this ideology are widely accepted to the p oint that it i s the perceived reality amongst the citizens of Western nations, shaping a discourse around foreign aid that functions to perpetuate that hegemony.
32 Hall defined discourse as group of statements which provide a language for talking about (representing) a particular kind of knowledge about a topic (Hall, 1992, p. 201). The traditional discourse and frames that are perpetuated within the humanitarian sector are mechanisms for the maintenance and reproduction of ideology. Orgad stated that media engage continuously in the representational practice of othering because they hierarchize, exclude, criminalize, hegemonize, and marginalize practices and populations that dive rge from what, at a specific moment in time, is socially accepted as central, safe, legitimate, normal and convention (Orgad, 2012, p. 54). What i s important to point out about statement is that hegemony can be a momen t in beca use if premise is correct, that media and texts are contested sites of meaning making, ones that are dynamic and fluctuate, then the power imbalances and hegemonic ideas that are constructed, can also be deconstructed and new meanings formed thr ough alternative representations (as cited in Orgad, 2012). Just as the traditionally negative and stereotypical representations of foreign aid beneficiaries have legitimized a West and the rest hegemonic ideology, through careful representations that att empt to revert the stereotypes by depicting these same people as empowered, and through alternative framing techniques that target pro social behaviors, a new hegemonic ideology may be constructed. Such representations may erode the existing id eology to the extent that entrenched perceptions about international poverty and our collective ability to eradicate it are reversed, establishing a solidarity betwe en NGOs and the public that is not based on guilt and obligation, but one founded upon a se nse that some of the most difficult problems facing the developing world can be resolved.
33 Figure 2 1. Oxfam International 2003/2004 annual report front cover Source: Davison, J. (2007). Photographs and Accountability: cracking the codes of an NGO. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal 20(1), 133 158. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513570710731236
34 CHAPTER 3 A NEGATIVE AND DEVASTATING LEGACY OF APPEALS The end of the C old W ar in 1989 marked a critical juncture in the history of NGOs and their efforts to alleviate international poverty. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new international economic order took root, one that arguably put into place mechanisms t hat exasperated economic inequality, worsening many of the problems NGOs try to alleviate. Shankar (2014) posited that neoliberal ideology, including free trade and the embrace of globalization, was partly responsible for greater economic inequality, maln utrition, human subjugation, and illiteracy throughout the world, therefore, reducing poverty through foreign aid became a chief concern amongst Western nations. As a result, the first widespread efforts to engage the public through various appeals and ad vertisements on behalf of NGOs, began in the and continues into the present era in its contemporary form (Hudson et al., 2016). However, representing humanitarian aid is not a simple and straightforward matter because representations are complex co nstructs, and for the most part, the history of those representations has been, in the words of Benthall, insensitively, generalizing, over simplifying, and distorting, reinforcing stereotypes, and denying people of their (Benthall, 1993, p. 181). One of the most damaging means of portraying humanitarian aid has been through framing aid in terms of beneficiary vulnerability and dependence. Most scholars that have analyzed NGO media agree that frames and discourse around aid have been s tereotypical in the sense that reinforced notions of developing world dependency by portraying aid beneficiaries as passive and needy recipients (Smith & Yanacopulos, 2004). as is a commonly used public face that represents a foreign other as vulnerable and in need, while Western nations are portrayed as having both the means and a responsibility to assist (Smith & Yanacopulos, 2004, p. 661). Such appeals are especially common of typical child
35 sponsorship and disaster relief efforts. Smith and Yanacopulos used the terminology to identify NGO framing, but other authors refer to this same tactic with varying terminology (Smith & Yanacopulos, 2004, p. 657). Cottle and Nolan (2007) described the dependency frame as depi cting work in the field in a way that marginalizes beneficiary cooperation and involvement. For Darnton and Kirk, dependency framing is often reinforced by the text or copy that accompanies NGO visuals, especially classic and standard terminology such as and as all three of those words come loaded with Western preconceptions of giver and receiver power dynamics and dependency (Darnton & Kirk, 2007, p. 9). To Vossen et al., stereotypical depictions of dependency were found to entail the portrayal of subjects as lacking agency and being helpless, thereby reinforcing the givers and the grateful receivers narrative (Vossen et al., c. 2.1). These methods have historically contributed to an of discourse that has constructed a hegemonic idea that the West has a mandatory role in intervening in the global south for the purposes of development aid, thereby circulating a consisting of visuals that reinforce the no tions that such populations canno t help themselves and must be saved (Shankar, 2014, p. 342). In her study of the use of melodrama in NGO video appeals, Wells demonstrated how notions of vulnerability and dependency are communicated. Wells deconstructed ads from Save the Children, P lan UK, and Action Aid organizations, three widely recognized players in the aid sector (Wells, 2013). She found all three organizations had a high reliance of depicting women and children in their ads, a tactic t hat a consensus of scholars has pointed ou t as being endemic in NGO visual communication because it effectively connotes powerlessness, a lack of agency, and innocence (Wells, 2013). Wells also noted that film s did no t feature beneficiaries speaking for themselves, having independent thoughts, no r any agency or control in determining their own
36 fate (Wells, 2013). Ideas that subtly reinforced notions of Western salvation were accompanied by the choice of color and deliberate musical scores. For instance, films transitioned from near monoc hromatic or subdued colors accompanied by somber music, to vibrant color and an upbeat soundtrack when they depicted Western intervention (Wells, 2013). In these ways, the ads employed melodrama to intentionally construct their messages in such a way as t o make a viewer feel anger and/or guilt over an injustice that has taken place, rather than prompting them to consider the rational circumstances surrounding an event (Wells, 2013). Melodrama is powerful not just because it reinforces hegemony through vis uals that are taken for granted as being accurate, but also because it encourages audiences to unquestioningly accept and act upon uncomplicated narratives without gaining a thorough understanding of context (Wells, 2013). The visual tactics and frames o f dependency that have reinforced the hegemonic discourse around humanitarian aid are not new, but emerged and persisted as common practice since the very first public NGO aid appeals. Chouliaraki identified themes of dependency and a reliance on stereoty pical images of women and children as far back as a 1956 Oxfam ad, as well as a 1961 Red Cross campaign. Both are stereotypically negative because they are classic representations of victimhood in that they establish a maximal distance between witness and sufferer through contrasting imagery of extremely emaciated bodies juxtaposed with relatively healthy Western bodies, relying on triggering feelings of complicity, shame and guilt amongst audiences as impetus to donate money (Chouliaraki, 2010). Oxford U niversity, which officially houses the Oxfam archives, maintains a website listing containing descriptions of all the promotional ads and campaign posters they have in their possession, and many descriptions corroborate finding s. Poster descriptions from the early to mid contain references to explicit use of women and children depicted as vulnerable and
37 malnourished. Subjects are described as in obvious positions of victimhood and vulnerability such as ding out a bowl in one hand and cradling a child in the (Hassan et al., 2017, A.8). Other descriptions are for posters of a campaign series that all featured images of women and children beneficiaries Oxfam was serving, appearing mal nourished and juxtaposed against healthy individuals from the same country, which is entirely consistent with the negative appeal research described (Hassan et al., 2017, A.8; Chouliaraki, 2010). Featured in a blog post from Bodlei an Library, is a 1966 Oxfam poster ( Figure 3 1 ) that i s perfectly representative of this era of Oxfam communications because it depicts a woman, who has a gaunt face that makes her appear obviously malnourished and under strain, extend ing her open hand as if to beg for assistance, while cradled in her arm is a small child, stomach distended, also holding their hand out and gazing with a sad expression fixated upon the viewer (Web, C, 2016). Such representations were evidently commonpla ce amongst the humanitarian aid NGOs at the time and all reinforced notions of developing world dependency and classic victimhood by utilizing that included victim narratives with storylines of impoverished suffering, visuals that magnified human pain and misery, and depictions of subjects who lacked any independent agency whatsoever to do anything about their plight (Vossen et al., 2016, c. 2.2; Hudson et al., 2016; Benthall, 1993). By the mid negative stereotypes were just as utilized as ever before, but a new dimension, one that could be described as the mass commodification of humanitarian aid, was added to the mix. Cohen identified Live Aid, the relief effort for the 1984 to 1985 Ethiopian famine, as the model aid campai gn for utilizing negative imagery to commodify human suffering and relief efforts (Cohen, 2001). Live Aid was an international campaign that used pop music
38 and celebrity musicians to raise awareness and fund s for famine relief in Ethiopia. It was the bra inchild of Irish musician and celebrity activist Bob Geldof, and it was his organization that rec orded the song They Know s generating millions of dollars in sales and proceeds. That unexpected popularity showed promise for pop music as a vehicle for international causes, thus becoming the impetus for the event that Live Aid is best known for, the July 1985 simultaneous US and British mega concert broadcast to nearly 2 billion global viewers via satelli te With every imaginable pop musi cian of notoriety signed on to participate, Live Aid quickly blossomed into a lu crative brand Besides the songs They Know and its more famous counterpart, Are plight was represented by stereotypical images of m alnourished and vulnerable children that were in vogue at the t ime. Live official logo featured a guitar in the shape of a dry, barren, and poached African continent with a skeletal, nude Ethiopian boy gazing at it. While Live Aid did raise global awareness and mone y for African famine relief, it i s criticized because it offered a form of commodification of humanitarian aid by allowing audiences to bear witness while simultaneously obse rve themselves caring in a self congratulatory manner through th e consumption of pop music (Cohen, 2001; Orgad, 2012). Live Aid has been heavily analyzed as a case study of NGO communications efforts in part because it was so successful in constructing lasting perceptions about Africa, starvation, and the developing wo rld in general. The music vid eo for Are the did no t show images of African children, but in parading a seemingly endless amount of musicians in front of microphones to trade lyrics like are people dying and time to lend a an d them your heart so they know someone the song relied on preexisting notions of famine and vulnerable children in Africa, thereby framing as victims, in juxtaposition
39 to the Westerners acting in the capacity of savior s (Orgad, 2012, p. 67). Twenty five years later, when Are the World for was recorded to raise funds for the Haitian earthquak e, little had changed On the surface, the most recent version attempted to put a positive spin on humanitarian aid im agery by cutting to footage of seemingly happy Haitians actively working hard to clean rubble and debris, but it i s still heavy on showing children amidst destruction and living in temporary camps. By not giving Haitians an actual voi ce to sing along, it mutes them and relegates them to passive bystanders, while commodifying the aid experience and positioning the West once again in the hero role (Orgad, 2012). In this way, Are the on two occasions, in two very different eras, has effectively u sed objectification, fragmentation, fetishization and commodification to make distant others a spectacle an aesthetic regime deeply rooted in a raci alized system of representation (Orgad, 2012). Despite going through a period of consciou sness of negative representation and stereotyping, cases such as Live representation of past and present aid campaigns, suggests that communications in the humanitarian aid sector has ma de little progress Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO) issued a 2 001 report that researched how far reaching the Live Aid legacy is, looking at the effects of the campaign upon perceptions of the developing world today. VSO concluded that the Live Aid legacy is five fold: that the developing world is a disaste r dependent upon aid from the West; that populations in developing countries are than and are helpless victims; it left audiences with a false sense of superiority simply by virtue of where they were born; that the West has a rightful role as powerful givers to weaker receivers; and a confidence amongst the Western public that these notions are reality today (VSO, 2001). The report went on to argue that Live Aid established two dominant negative frames for developing world crises The first is that widespread poverty
40 and famine are due to uncontrollable environmental factors, of which the African continent dominates public perception. The other being that war, fear, and/or political oppression due to government culpability or a lack of democ racy is the root cause of a nation or perpetual strife, of which Afghanistan, China, and Russia are the poster children (VSO, 2001). Most scholars writing about the generally negative legacy of NGO communications concur that the themes identifie d by the VSO report persist in NGO media and communications. is the term Vossen et al. used to label negative and stereotypical representations that convey undesirable characteristics of the other, which get reinforced in a varie ty of typical humanitarian aid frames that include victimization, lagging development, widespread social injustice, and bad governance, to name some of the most common (Vossen et. al, 2016, c. 2.2). Other scholars have slightly differing terminology for t he repetitious visu al and textual themes, but they a re all referring to the same hegemonic discourse by which foreign aid in countries in crisis is understood Shankar claimed that the is dangerous because without acknowledging that r epresentations are constructed and mediated, they become perceived as truth (Shankar, 2014, p. 344). Benthall identified the extent that this may be true when his research indicated that by the early the British public believed that fifty to seve nty five percent of children are visibly malnourished as opposed to the one to two percent that actually are, that seventy five percent of families in the world live in abject poverty, versus the twenty to twenty five percent that do, and that ten to twenty percent of six to twelve year olds in the world get to start school versus the ninety percent that actually do (Benthall,1993). As recently as 2016, Vossen et al. published research that examined contemporary NGO communications from British, Du tch, and Flemish organizations, looking for frequency and
41 instance of imagery, including the depictions of vulnerable children, subjects that were visibly malnourished, and similarly negative representations (Vossen et al., 2016, c. 5.2). He fou nd that the victim frame persisted in seventy nine percent of British, forty one percent of Dutch, and thirty eight percent of Flemish NGO advertisements (Vossen et al., 2016, c. 6.1). Such relatively high frequency supports the consensus that despite the fact that there was industry wide recognition of negative portrayals becoming problematic by the mid efforts to abandon traditionally negative imagery have largely failed (Benthall, 1993). Besides finding high instances of pitiful imagery that st ereotyped aid beneficiaries as malnourished, vulnerable, and severely impoverished, the study also found that the predominant frame for the developing world was that the countries in need were entirely dependent upon the West for alleviating the crisis in hand and that the majority of the representations included no indication that the beneficiaries themselves had any independent agency in resolving their issues (Vossen et al., 2016). A Growing Awareness of a Negative Legacy NGO media normalized stereotypic ally negative appeals for decades but by the mid there was a budding consciousness of the potentially negative effects of such tactics, prompting measures to reform industry wide communication efforts (Cohen, 2001; Benthall, 1993; Hudson et al., 201 6). The consensus amongst scholars is that this form of reflexivity and self examination culminated in the early to mid not coincidently, at the height of the Ethiopian famine and Live Aid (Benthall, 1993; Hilary, 2014). The saw Oxfam and the European Economic Community issue a joint report that suggested that negative humanitarian aid imagery was having the effect of reinforcing the stereotype amongst the British public that Africa was and (Benthall, 1993, p. 180). Benth all (1993) claimed that a 1981 Save the Children poster was a tipping point that initiated an earnest questioning about the
42 humanitarian communication practices. The poster ( Figure 3 2 ) depicts a white hand reaching into the frame to grasp a malnourished and skeletal hand of someone who is non white, with bold text above the image that reads to accompanied by smaller text immediately below that asks audiences to our emergency aid programs for the vi ctims of di (Aid Leap, 2013 ). The poster targets emotions of sympathy and pity by regurgitating the starving African and white Western savio r trope, commonplace stereotypes that worked to reinforce the hegemony of popular perceptions of the develop ing world and its relationship to the developed West. The debate surrounding negative and stereotypical representations is said to have peaked in 1984 and 1985 at the height of the Ethiopian famine and the first steps to be taken were the recommendation of codes of conduct that NGOs were encouraged to abide by (Vossen et al., 2016). The first of these non binding industry measures was the UN General Assembly of European NGOs adopting a code of conduct in 1989 that discouraged the use of imagery that was ne gative, sensationalist, and stereotypical in portraying international crisis relief efforts and aid recipients (Vossen et al., 2016). While the UN code was a step in the right direction, it was non binding, so it effectively had no teeth, no repercussions for organizations that did no t adhere to the recommendations. When in 2004 the Dochas Development Education Group revisited the code in order to update it, they researched the effects that the initial code had on NGO communications and found that while i ndividual practitioners could no t find hard co pies of the code, nor could they recall specific content, most were aware of the existence and believed it was responsible for industry wide awareness that representation did matter, that it was influent ial, had consequences, and that their decisions about representation were at least partially informed by that awareness (McGee, 2005). The report also found that most of the larger NGO
43 players had their own internal binding codes of conduct for representa tion. In 1991, Save the Children put out their own Focus on Images guidelines that was more careful and less problematic than the UN code, and other big names in the industry followed suit, indicating that the newfound consciousness and awareness of prac tices was being taken seriously (Benthall, 1993). However, while the big names were at least paying lip service to the need for more positive representation, the vast majority of NGOs still had no t adopted a code or guidelines for doing so (McGee, 2005). The UN code was updated for Concord, which is the European NGO confederation for relief and development, in 2007 and remains in effect today (Concord, 2012). The current code has three key principles, which are: respect for the dignity of the people con cerned; belief in the equality of all people; and acceptance of the need to promote fairness, solidarity, and justice (Concord, 2012). As far as specific communications guidelines for adhering to the principles, NGOs are to: choose images and messa ging that convey s values of equality, solidarity, and justice; attempt to depict the full context of the scenario being represented; avoid stereotypical and sensationalist images; utilize images only when participants fully agree to their likeness being us ed; allow beneficiaries to tell their stories in their own words; and adhere to standards of human rights and to protect the vulnerable (Concord, 2012). Accompanying the code is a 36 page PDF document entitled, The Illustrated Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages which provides what to do and what not to do image scenarios for each of the guidelines mentioned above The images ( Figures 3 3 & 3 4 ) are illustrated, and are intended to be e asy to understand across Western nations and cultures, with contrasting examples of what to do and not to do for a variety of scenarios (Dochas, 2014). In the examples that meet the code of criteria, beneficiaries are represented positively by s howing them
44 exercising power and agency peacefully, avoiding stereotypes that they a re helpless and inactive in changing their lives. With codes such as those put forth by the UN and adopted by Concord, as well as all the guidelines and codes of conduct cr eated and adopted internally by the largest of NGOs, it would be easy to assume the industry awareness born out of the has given way to increasingly positive and non stereotypi cal representations, yet there i s no consensus of that being the case. Vossen et al., claimed that NGO appeals are generally more positive, or that stayed about the same (Vossen et al., 2016). Smith and Yanacopulos stated that the negative of development based on the in the imagery is indeed used less frequently today (Smith & Yanacopulos, 2004, p. 657). However, Hudson et al., argued that the era of positive communication approaches w as quickly abandoned and there has been a return to blatantly emotional appeals because they a re still capable of generating more financial support (Hudson et al., 2016). Similarly, Hilary (2014) stated that, that should know better have reverted to type, calling up disaster images from the 1970s in a desperate attempt to increase their organizational income w hatever the Research examining British NGO communications over a ten year period suggested that while organizations claim to have changed tactics, in reality more than half of those analyzed showed very little statistical evidence that they had (Mc Gee, 2005). evidence for a regression to former methods was a 2013 Save the Children campaign that utilized stereotypical images without receiving significant pushback from the NGO com munity because codes such as the UN one are non binding (Hila ry, 2014). evidence supported this claim because feedback from NGO communicators surveyed suggested that institutionalization and adoption of binding codes have been obstructed be cause there has s been little to no incentive for NGOs to adopt and m onitor the use of the codes (McGee, 2005).
45 Why Negative Appeals Persist If there was awareness within the NGO communications sector that their practice was histo rically negative and undermined long term objectives, what are the possible explanations for th e seeming abandonment of the mid positive approaches and a regression back toward pity appeals? Scholars agreed that the persistence of negative and stereotypical approaches had three causal factors: that internal and external organizational tensio ns pressured NGOs into sticking with tried and true tactics they were familiar with; that in the era of ubiquitous online and digital media, NGO communications has been integrally tied to the news media cycle, which leans toward sensationalism and negativi ty; and that audiences have had an expectation that appeals should be negative, so they still responded to them by donating more money than they would to positive or alternative appeals. In interviewing NGO communicators, Orgad (2013) identified intra and inter organizational tensions as two factors having significant influence on dictating an ultimate communications approach. Intra organizational can be understood as tensions, power struggles, and competing objectives that exist within an NGO, while inter organizational refers to those that exist between competing NGOs (Orgad, 2013). The most common intra organizational tension identified amongst scholars is the tension that exists between an communications specialists and those resp onsible for financing and fund raising. As research demonstrated, communications specialists understand the potentially negative repercussions of traditional tactics that stereotype and would like to avoid them, however, they are often at odds with those responsible for generating revenue thro ugh public support because they wi ll have a greater tendency to prefer whatever method attracts the most money, which, traditionally negative appeals seem to do (McGee, 2004; Orgad, 2013). Communicati ons departments are typically concerned with long term effects of communications efforts while
46 fundraising departments focus on the short term, a tension that results in differing goals that leads to opposing visual preferences (Orgad, 2013). Smith (2004) found a perfect example of how this intra organizational tension was manifest by examining two different NGO child sponsorship appeals. In each, he identified manners by which their communications simultaneously contradict themselves by emphasizing both the need for individual sponsorship of children, which are characterized by focused, direct, traditionally patronizing views, as well as the need for supporting the communities through individual sponsorship, which are appeals that acknowledge d evelopment complexities and long term work. The visuals of both are also contradictory in that in their advocacy for development they feature positive images of empowered children but then when it comes to the action portion of the brochure, viewers are m et with traditionally negative imagery of vulnerable children (Smith, 2004). Inter organizational tensions are also cause for the persistence of ste reotypical NGO media. While it i s true that all NGOs benefit from their collective accomplishments in reduc ing poverty, these organizations compete wit h one another for public and government funding (Orgad, 2013). The international aid marketplace matters because it i s a competitive marketplace of fundraising amongst the public, which is where traditional appr oaches like individual sponsorship, remain effective (Smith, 2004). Competition amongst NGOs for funding dollars means that organizations ofte n expend vast resources to create distinct brand identities, much like a corporat ion might which is antithetical to their core mission of crisis mitigation (Cottle & Nolan, 2007). Since inter organizational tensions tend to cause NGOs to attempt to make themselves distinct from one another due to competition for public dollars, there i s the tendency for organizatio ns to rely on sensationalism in their imagery or messaging in these effo rts (Orgad, 2013). In fact, it i s the humanitarian aid historic connection to, and their
47 mimicking of the international news media cycle that is arguably the most significant culprit in their reversion to traditionally negative and emotional appeals. The media has played a key role in linking what NGOs do in the field to the public, so there has been a symbiosis between journalism and the NGO sector. Journalists have depend ed upon NGOs to gain access to tragedy and crisis to get imagery for their stories, while the NGOs that grant access and embed journalists can use that imagery to publicize their efforts, with the added advantage of having the press bring about aw areness o f the issues that they a re trying to address (Cottle & Nolan, 2007; Moeller, 1999). However, NGO dependence on the media for public support is a Faustian bargain because the media is driven by sensationalist, attention grabbing visuals and storylines; can lack the depth and context necessary within the NGO sector to educate people of the complexity of international problems; and stories that do no t meet the news criteria for newsworthiness often go unreported. News media m arket forces, the prefere nces of press editors and publications, and demand for more negative and stereotypical imagery drive a cycle of negative representation of the developing world with photographers and visual journalists having little to no power to counteract the process (C lark, 2004). Only five press agencies determine the vast majority of the imagery that Western audiences see, thus, if they tend to be sensationalist and negative and photographers are pressured to meet that demand to stay employed, then their coverage of NGO work will mimic that pattern as well (Clark, 2004). A relatively famous example of an NGO going out of its way to seek sensational imagery took place in 1985. Famed British musician Bob Geldof accompanied an NGO to locations where Ethiopians were b eing rehabilitated for malnourishment and the press pool that the NGO was relying on demanded that they be provided photo opportunities that would depict Geldof
48 with the most visibly malnourished children, justifying the request by cla iming that anything e lse would no t be new sworthy (Clark, 2004). It did no t matter that the overall malnour ishment efforts had been very successful, with most of the treated healt h restored the media still sought out images that misrepresent ed the famine as being mo re severe than it was The pool of photographers demanded to be taken to where only photos of the extreme cases of malnourished children could still be taken (Clark, 2004 ). On the flip side though, it i s argued by some that the image of Geldof with a sev erely malnourished child, was a critical turning point in the efforts to raise public funds, as the world only started to c are about the famine after that photo was released by the press (Clark, 2004; Cohen, 2001). The news media can be a lean, redu ctionist process, and increasingly so in a n era where social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, are designed for brevity. This is problematic for the NGO and humanitarian aid sector tasked with dealing with complex natural and man made crises whose causes combine social, environmental, and political factors, and where gains are measured in years, not hours. This means that media efforts to cover the work of NGOs will often get reduced to formulas and templates that prioritize certain images o ver text, isolated events are singled out so as to not get bumped by other stories, outside mediators or tr anslators are used, which deny beneficiaries a voice, and acceptable or easily identifiable victims and hero/savior roles according to Western standa rds are sought (Cohen, 2001; Dogra, 2007). This media cycle trickles down to, and is reproduced by practitioner conventions. For instance, photographers are competitive with their peers, are on deadlines, are trying to attract the most attention to their perspective, and oftenti mes seek out the most sensational images to do so. Sometimes referred to as up the usual or in the case of the famine, natural disasters, and other calamities, it will yield imagery of th e poor,
49 vulnerable, and suffering, all traditionally negative tropes (Clark, 2004). Due to these methods, any coverage of humanitarian work tends to conform to the tactics and objectives of the news media industry, not for the sake of conveying depth and context, an understanding of the root of a given issue, or what an organization is doing about it. Instead, it serves the purpose of attracting the most attention for a short period of time, until the next story comes along, objectives which run counter t o most long term NGO goals (Cohen, 2001; Cattle & Nolan, 2007). It i s possible that NGOs that deal with war and natural disaster response have greater responsibility for perpetuating the most damaging effects of negative imagery because their work will t end to rely on sensationalist imagery due to the nature of their obligations. Contrast what they do with NGOs that work to fight malnutrition and famine through multi year agricultural and nutritional education programs implemented where hunger persists b ut is not an immediate crisis, and it i s evident that the latter group have the luxury of being able to choose imagery that represents what they do in ways that dignify the beneficiary and are not sensationalist or exploitive. However, such NGOs tend to r eceive less recognition, even those that are tremendously successful, because the media cycle is fickle and sensa tionalist and what is not on the front pages or breaking n ews across a CNN scroll, does not always register as news to the masses (Dogra, 2007) So, stories containing positive or alternative imagery wil l likely receive less coverage. T hus, the issue, however urgent, will also get less attention, less funding and so forth (Moeller, 1999). Such trends do not bode well for alternative NGO commun ication approaches to g ain ground or public traction as they get out competed by the negative media cycle. Unfortunately, research indicates that the public identifies news media and NGOs as their primary sources of information about the developing world, thus public perception of those parts
50 of the world skews negative, and so too does the aid media because the most successful campaigns play upon predispositions and expectations (Dyck and Coldevin, 1992; Vossen et al., 2016). Audience expectati ons have also played a role in NGOs reverting back to negative emotional appeals. While audiences polled indicate that negative appeals are contributing to feelings of compassion fatigue and they claim that they want to see alternative representations of the developing world, there i s research that indicates that the public still believes emotional appeals have the greatest influence on their decision to give. Radley and Kennedy (1997) found that images of emaciated children were regularly picked by audie nces as images they believed would be the most likely to cause them to give, despite being repulsed by them. Likewise, images that were judged as the most negative and disturbing were ranked by participants to be what they thought would be the best at fun d raising (Radley and Kennedy, 1997). Eayrs and Ellis discovered that British audiences in the late preferred representations of minorities and aid beneficiaries to fit their preconceptions of vulnerability and dependence (as cited in Radley & Ken nedy, 1997). Audiences, while expressing a desire to see alternative representations, have it so ingrained in their minds that emotional appeals consisting of troubling imagery are what they expect to see and what they should see, that they accept them as effective. NGOs act on that knowledge and continue to produce media that fits that expectation. Whether this is due to an inability for the industry as a whole to adapt, a decades long dependence and strong influence of the mass media cycle, or because audiences desire simple, non complex, and sympathetic explanations for developing world problems, some NGOs are increasingly relying on the old methods of creating aid appeals because they appear to be the only means they know
51 of to continue to secure fund raising while increasing awareness of international crises (Cohen, 2001; Hudson et al., 2016). Compassion Fatigue The media environment bombards us at a relentless pace with negative, pessimistic, and depressing visual representations of the developing wo rld. The cumulative effect of that imagery upon Western society now appears to be inhibiting attempts to address some of the most pressing problems. Audiences increasingly tune out and turn the page when confronted with NGO appeals because they a re tired of seeing them. The repetition of the same imagery over and over again, gradually erodes the belief that their contribution has any ability to make a difference, a phenomenon referred to as compassion fatigue (Grayson, 2014; Vestergaard, 2008). Compassion fatigue from a psychological perspective is understood to work through the process of repetition, normalization and desensitization (Cohen, 2001). First, the stereotypical depictions of aid beneficiaries are so repetitious that any alte rnative representations get overshadowed and seem non existent. The repetition across all forms of news and NGO media normalizes such depictions to the point where audiences can become emotionally numb and unaffected by them, thereby ignoring the plea to act in the form of direct contributions. Cohen claimed that, can be exposed so often to such images that the impact of each subsequent one is dulled and you become too exhausted to (Cohen, 2001, p. 185). Sontag echoed that sentiment when sh e stated that shock value has term limits, that a world saturated, no, hyper saturated with images, those that should matter have a diminishing effect: we become callous. In the end, such images just make us a little less able to feel, to have our con science (Sontag, 2003, p. 105 ). It i s been suggested that the decreasing ability to be moved by negative imagery is possibly a human survival mechanism, the natural way of coping,
52 prioritizing, and carrying on with life in the fa ce of dir e circumstances that humans seemingly have little control over (Moeller, 1999). Moeller (1999), who authored an entire book on compassion fatigue, with a particular focus on the mass role, identified compassion fatigue as having four primary caus es. First, the media do repeat the same stereotypical tropes, but importantly, they repeat the idea that Western audiences are partially culpable because playing off sense of guilt has proven to be a reliable impetus for fundraising (Moeller, 1999) The second cause is that representations of foreign crises are too many, and too short, as coverage jumps from one event to another, rarely providing any context of significant depth for any particular one, despite Western audiences typically only havin g patience for a single global tragedy at any given time (Moeller, 1999). The third and fourth causes are related, that tragic circumstances depicted often seem too permanent and entrenched for audiences to believe that their contribution can make a diffe rence, and the circumstances and beneficiaries involved seem too remote and distanced from the lives for them to care (Moeller, 1999). People can comprehend the efforts needed to help a single person, but providing aid to thousands or millions makes a potential donor feel helpless and powerless. All of these causes contribute to a sense of helplessness and nobody acts as a result (Moeller, 1999). The most significant consequence of compassion fatigue is the erosion of the belief that aid can make a difference. Wells argued that NGOs face an uphill ba ttle in this respect, that they a re between the apparent intractability of poverty in developing countries and the necessity of convincing their donors that the funds they provide will mak e a difference to the lives of the (Wells, 2013, p. 277). In the early it was feared that the cumulative effect of a couple of decades of famine relief imagery of malnourished masses, followed by the
53 exhaustive ubiquity of Live Aid, would re sult in a global compassion fatigue towards the continent of Africa at the very moment they needed help the most, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic (Benthall, 1993). Research on audience responses to various aid appeal approaches suggests that compassion fatigue is real and is contributing to a declining public motivation to help. In one study that polled responses to traditionally negative and alternative, positive approaches, participants expressed that negative and stereotypical depictions ar e the majority of what they see and expect to come from t he humanitarian aid sector. It i s so dominant over other types of appeals that they become to their effects, and that sending money feels like it down the (Radley & Kennedy 1997, p. 448 449). Contrast that reaction to an overtly positive appeal, where they express that it is equally effective, positive, and that they would have a greater inclination to financially support its cause (Radley and Kennedy, 1997). In a separa te study it was concluded that images and appeals that evoke repulsion are negatively correlated to donations. Thus, there are unintended consequences due to unintended emotional responses of traditional appeals that can ultimately hamper campaign effort s to raise financial support (Hudson et al., 2016). The researchers responsible for that particular study believe that compassion fatigue is today the single greatest deterrent to public support of aid. They wrote that: While all (NGOs) are actively see king to engage publics in global poverty, their differing strategies and goals is leaving the average individual non plussed about whether efforts to eradicate poverty are worth it. They may well keep giving, but the irony is that the attempts to extract e ver more money from northern publics is not only contributing to compassion fatigue, but increases repulsion, undercuts hope and ultimately a belief that poverty can actually be alleviated. (Hudson et al., 2016, p. 25).
54 Using different terminology for t he same phenomenon, Chouliaraki defined these same unintended consequences of the emo tional appeal as the and the effects, where in the former the audience feels so powerless by the complex na ture of the situation that they a re para lyzed to act, and in the latter, the complicity and guilt makes them too miserable and guilty to do anything (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 112). All three effects can undermine an efforts. Where there i s hope in mitigating, and potentially even reversin g the effects of compassio n fatigue, some researchers do no t believe that it i s necessarily an automatic or foregone conclusion. For starters, compassion fatigue is not denial that atrocities are actually occurring. Most vi ewers understand that what they a re seeing is truthful, that the facts of the ma tter may even be well known, it i s that audiences often fail to act or sometimes e ven pay attention, because they ha ve become worn down by the repetition of an undesirable truth that feels out of their contr ol to do an ything about (Cohen, 2001). It i s the moral and physical distance of foreign atrocity and tragedy relative to the Western support NGOs are seeking, that Cohen believed was the single greatest factor as to why audiences tune it out. When the mi sfortune of people of a different ethnicity, who live within vastly different socio political and environmental circumstances are depicted as such ad nauseam, that sense of remoteness from the own lives becomes exasperated (Cohen, 2001). Cohen also believes that frames of distance and remoteness are at least partially intentional because that serves the objectives of a globalized market and economy that depends on the exploitation of many of the populations that are most i n need of humanitarian aid. It i s as if the media is repeating this message that as a Western s ociety do no t care because there i s nothing that can be do ne about it, in an effort to
55 preserve the hegemonic ideology of dependency and geo political power dynamics that globali zation rests upon (Cohen, 2001). Like Cohen, Moeller does no t accept that compassion fatigue is an inevitable consequence of communications. The repeated trope that developing world problems are intractable, that history is doomed to repeat itself over and over again, is a result of framing, that it i s unavoidable consequence of the way news is now (Moeller, 1999). The cumulative effect of this i s the public perception that people do no t care simply due the fact that the nature of the medi a cycle does no t feature success stories, positivism, or provide long term coverage and context regarding any of their stories (Cohen, 2001; Moeller, 1999). Instead, the prioritization of negativity and stereotypes dominate, resulting in stories and frame s about the developing world that play into Western expectations, leaving in its wake a sense of hopelessness (Moeller, 1999). Aid agencies understand this and they do no t see compassion fatigue as much as they see or the spinning of stor ies about there being public apathy, as the primary obstacle to affecting people and causing them to donate to, or support a given cause (Cohen, 2001). Not all individuals are affected uniformly by compassion fatigue. People are compassionate and empath etic and the desire to help those in need, are universal human emotions that must be tapped into and harnessed effectively. To Sontag, pathos is an ancient device, and people want to be compassionate. T hus the key is capitalizing on the initial emotion that representations can trigger and converting them into decisive action (Sontag, 2003). Compassion fatigue sets in when there is no course of clear, meaningful action, because the notions that beneficiaries cannot be helped, that nothing ever works, tha t a id is futile, takes root and it i s then that compassion fatigue sabotages long term aid efforts (Sontag, 2003). Therefore,
56 a contemporary form of communicating aid work, one premised on positive, alternative, and empowering visuals and narratives, is n eeded more than ever before to prevent widespread compassion fatigue and to revitalize the belief that they can indeed make a positive difference in the lives of distant others. Figure 3 1. Oxfam Internat ional 1966 aid campaign poster advertisem ent. Source: Webb, C. (2016, March 7). New Oxfam Catalogues. [weblog]. Retrieved on September 2nd, 2017 from: http://blogs.b odleian.ox.ac.uk/archivesandmanuscripts/wp content/uploads/sites/161/2016/03/millions ad_1966.jpg
57 Figure 3 2 Save the Children 1981 aid campaign poster advertisement. Source: Aid Leap. (2013, April, 26). Give Â£10 Right Now. [weblog]. Retrieved on October 31st, 2017 from: https://aidleap.org/tag/humanitarian aid/
58 Figure 3 3 Sample illustration of recommended representation tactics from The Illustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages Source: Dochas. (2014). The Illustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages. Dublin: Dochas. Retrieved on September 3rd, 2017 from: http://dochas.ie/sites/default/files/Illustrative_Guide_to_the_Dochas_Code_of_Conduct_on_Images_and_Messages.pdf
59 Figure 3 4 Sample illustration of recommended representation tactics from The I llustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages. Source: Dochas. (2014). The Illustrative Guide to the Dochas Code of Conduct for Images and Messages. Dublin: Dochas. Retrieved on September 3rd, 2017 from: http://dochas.ie/sites/default/files/Illustrative_Guide_to_the_Dochas_Code_of_Conduct_on_Images_and_Messages.pdf
60 CHAPTER 4 PAST POSITIVE APPROACHES Since the early to mid when the aid sector began to acknowledge the potentially devastating effects of negative appeals and subsequent widespread compassion fatigue, various solutions in the form of alternative, positive communications approaches were experimented with. Such approaches were generally characterized as having a reliance on visuals that were non stereotypical in that they featured happier, healthier, and empowered beneficiaries. Some approaches would keep the photorealism and visua l journalism aesthetic typical of the industry, but would ex clude images featuring the dire circumstances and the most vulnerable people, while using creative image and text juxtapositions to emphasize the need for aid. Some notable organizations adopted very commercial approaches, Madison Avenue inspired branding campaigns that eschewed representations of the developing world and aid beneficiaries for trendy, abstract, and non literal framing and visual device to attract public support. Research into the se attempts showed promise with results suggesting that audiences had a strong preference to see such depictions, and even a slight tendency to make greater financial contributions in response to them. However, the industry as a whole failed to uniformly adopt any single approach or set of tactics, eventually regressing back to tried and true emotional appeals based on stereotypical imagery and framing, with the end result being a landscape of organizations with no clearly embraced set of standards, leavin g behind a mixed bag of adopted approaches. Following the industry wide introspection of the NGOs had the task of separating fundraising and public awareness, and to do so while representing beneficiaries with dignity (Cohen, 2001). There are term s utilized for appeals that came after this point such as post traditional, post humanitarian, and deliberate positivism, but the consensus amongst
61 communication scholars is that all the key characteristics of these approaches were representations that dep icted their subjects as self reliant, dignified, active, empowered, and possessing agency, rather than dependent, pathetic, and inactive beneficiaries whose fate was entirely at the whim of natural and man made catastrophes (Chouliaraki, 2010; Dogra, 2007; Orgad, 2013). Cohen described this new order of positivism as an approach designed to convey notions of social justice, actual real world complexity, empowerment, productivity, rights, and dialogue surrounding the circumstances of aid and relief efforts (Cohen, 2001). Similarly, Chouliaraki conceptualized post traditional approaches as trying to achieve a a logic of representation that orients the appeal towards a responsive balance of emotions between the sufferer and the spe ctator as potential (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 112). In this way, the positive approach solutions were still meant to target emotions, but they intended to do so by rousing sense that they were supporting efforts whereby newly emp owered beneficiaries worked together with organizations to pull themselves out of poverty, or to rebuild their own communities in the wake of disaster. Three specific representation tactics that overlap a number of the positive approaches that have been put into practice include: portraying the subjects as heroes, utilizing frames of personal empowerment, and providing thorough context around humanitarian re lief circumstances. The hero treatment elevates beneficiaries as the key active agents within thei r narrative of empowerment as a result of aid or training they received. Framing, particularly progress and social justice frames contextualize the beneficiary as moving along a continuum toward improving their own lives (Orgad, 2013; Vossen et al., 2016) The idea of including context in positive, alternative approaches is especially important because the traditional approaches lacked in that regard. With context, one can account for photorealism that depicts
62 dire circumstances, while putting into persp ective just how rare the worst case scenar io actually is, and how it does no t represent the entirety of the developing world or every humanitarian aid scenario. For example, if context accompanied certain sensationalist and stereotypically negative statem ents such as only affect five percent of a or conflicts are resolved by methods other than then audiences would have the information necessary to view images and text with a critical eye (Cohen, 2001, p. 184). The Eur opean NGO Confederation for Relief and Development, also referred to as Concord, has a code of conduct for media representations updated as recently as 2015. Concord prescribes specific representation strategies NGOs should abide by when making contempora ry appeals, strategies that echo many of the tactics found in the alternative approaches that have been tried since the According to Concord: The code offers a set of guidelines to assist organizations in their decision making about which images and messages to include in their communications to maintain full respect for human dignity. By signing the code, development NGOs commit to a set of principles, ensuring that they will avoid stereotypical or sensational images (Concord, 2012). Specific ally, there are stipulations that call for respecting subject dignity, championing equality for all, promoting fairness and justice, providing full situational context, avoiding stereotypes and sensationalist imagery, a llowing opportunity for subject s to h ave their own voice, and always obtaining permission from the subject to use their story and likeness (Concord, 2012). While there i s debate as to what form positive communications approaches should take and what specific tactics should be utilized, there i s consensus among the scholars that some agreed upon overall strategy of representation should be adopted in order to establish a counter hegemony against the emotional appeals that have created a world filled with widespread
63 misconceptions about poverty a nd the belief that it i s intractable. Explicit rules and guidelines are not necessarily needed but with the right general approach of positivism and optimism taken by NGOs, imagery can educate the public about effective development practices, thereby neg ating the dominant representations o f the mass media (Couldry, 2008 ; Dogra, 2007). It i s not necessary that alternative appeals be representative of absolute truth because representations can be constructive by demonstrating ideals of how thi ngs should an d could be if the Western public did no t give up on the developing world and turn their back on those in need (Dogra, 2007). Chouliaraki concurred, writing that a positive approach ultimately to transform the economic and political structures tha t can support a better life for vulnerable (Chouliaraki, 2010). VSO described a future that would be changed for the better by alternative representations, one that would include the following benefits: greater impact on racial tensions and attitu des toward immigration; a look toward developing world societies for values that are considered lost in the modern West; a more engaged populous with a humanitarian outlook; an interest among the public of foreign policy; as well as improved trade and inte rnational relations (VSO, 2001). Such long term effects are but a fe w of the social benefits society stand s to reap by NGOs embracing alternative representations and to that end, there has been some research conducted on positive approaches attempted by o rganizations and researchers alike since the mid Post Humanitarianism Commercial Appeals One approach undertaken by Amnesty International in 2004 avoided some of the pitfalls of traditionally negative appeals by creating a slick, Madison Avenue ins pired commercial ad campaign. effort is representative of the trend of aid organizations choosing to increasingly rely on contemporary branding and marketing tactics, which according to Vestergaard, creates a form of legitimacy, which is no t compassion (Vestergaard,
64 2008, p. 472). The TV spot is structured around nine fictional scenes with a voiceover that makes declarative statements about what the organization does such as: provide a voice for the weapons fr om falling into the wrong culminating in what you can implying audience agency in being able to help resolve a range of human rights violations occurring across the globe (Vestergaard, 2008, p. 475). Within the nine voiceovers and declar ative statements, the ad covers the core principles that define organizational objectives, yet they do so in a way that is not preoccupied with the beneficiaries, or any particular tragedy or circumstance, but instead, limits itself to the action that audiences can take to aid those in need (Vestergaard, 2008). ad is what i s called a meta appeal, or a narrative that abstractly addresses aid by discussing the circumstances and conditions around humanitarian aid (Vestergaard, 2008). Am nesty avoids falling into the traditional compassion fatigue traps by not relying on sympathetic and stereotypical visuals. The imagery does not exploit subjects for entertainment or sensationalism, so it does no t become sentimental and self serving regar ding aid and independent/dependent relationships (Vestergaard, 2008). Something the ad does unusually well is that it emphasizes agency, particularly the agency of the audience while fostering a sense of solidarity between viewer and the organization with repetition of and in efforts to provide aid through donor contribution (Vestergaard, 2008). ad is not without it s problems though. It i s overall dark and foreboding feel, with scenes of riots being monitored from afar, a home being s ecured against intruders, and hints of someone to be tortured, just to name a few, all accompanied by appropriately suspe nseful music, replace the often targeted emotions of pity and guilt with that of fear, which is not positive (Vestergaard, 2008). The dramatized scenes are also of Western domesticity and
65 Vestergaard made clear that the fear being elicited is not fear for the threatened well being of beneficiaries abroad, but instead, fear of the possible erosion of decidedly democratic princi ples at home. The underlying message of the ad is that if you give money to sup port Amnesty International, you wi ll work to protect populations, and thereby yourself, from the loss of modern Western life (Vestergaard, 2008). That the democratic way of li fe, particularly democracy in the West, is presumed to be a universal value worth protecting, is ethnocentric and is no better than appealing to sense of guilt. As NGOs have proliferated so too has their commercialization and corporate branding, wh ich can have the advantage of allowing for the public to better identify with a cause and an N core values, a factor that ha s become increasingly important in choosing what organiz ations to support. However, it i s a valid criticism that such an approa ch can over rely on strength of branding, with the relationship between consumer and brand identity becoming the impetus for taking action at the expense of moral justifications and/or deeper contextual understanding of circumstance (Vestergaard, 2008; Cho uliaraki, 2010) This is no t to say that a very commercial approach canno t be done right, in a way that engages and informs viewers, while remaining respectful and giving beneficiaries dignity, it really can, but the Amnesty effort falls a little short be cause it pres ents as many problems in regard to representation and meaning making as it resolves. Chouliaraki identified an effective alternative humanitarian appeal trend of the mid to late as post humanitarianism, a style that when executed effect ively, separated audience action from pity, replacing that emotion with an intellectual reflexivity that allowed the audience to use their own judgment about the context surrounding aid and to act according to their conscious (Chouliaraki, 2010). The way these appeals worked was through visual, textual, and
66 thematic juxtaposition, arrangements that often caused the viewer to contextualize the circumstances of tragedy and aid according to the dramatic difference between the world of the suffering and the fa miliar everyday world of the Western domesticity. The styles that such appeals took ranged from photorealism and documentarian to abstract and conceptual, all while avoiding the tropes of negative representations that are thought to induce compassion fati gue. One example of Choul post humanitarianism is by the World Food No Food video advertisement, which contrasted vastly different Western cultural habits, such as the existence of the Atkins diet versus not having food at all, against the background of the peaceful, normal domesticity of the African hut and a mother putting her kids to bed (Chouliaraki, 2010). This particular appeal was a video that depicted documentarian visuals of Africans suffering from malnutrition, but it showed them under mundane circumstances, in their home, going about their lives, and did not exploit their si tuation with the familiar trope of obvious malnourishment. The subjects do no t appear particularly unhealthy, but the audience comes to understan d that they are malnourished by the voiceover, which is the primary form of juxtaposition on which the message hinges. The voiceover recites in English a common recipe for putting a hungry child to bed via the food which tricks them into sleepi ng in anticipation of a meal when they wake, while the narration speaks to the effectiveness in relation to the once popular Atkins diet (The No Food Diet, 2005). The narration ends by stating that people a day die from the food followed by information informing the viewer of how and where they can donate (The No Food Diet, 2005). The textual game played here is the defining aspect of post humanitarianism, that the visuals contrast with the absurdity of the discuss ion of Western dieting, a luxury only afforded by an abundance of food, thus potentially prompting the viewer to question the
67 circumstances of such food resource discr epancies, and whether or not it i s a worthwhile cause to try and resolve (Chouliaraki, 20 10). The other post humanitarianism appeal that Chouliaraki singles out is also an advertising campaign by Amnesty International, entitled is not happening here. But it is happening This Amnesty campaign also relies on documentarian photorealis m, but does so in a creative way that physically places the imagery of human suffering and atrocity in Western city environments using a clever method that creates the optical illusion that the scenarios were occurring in real time before the viewer. For example, one of the installations is on the side of a transparent bus stop and features the image of an Asian woman seemingly being harassed and physically abused by a military or police official. The illusion is accomplished by enlarging the image so tha t the human subjects are life size, then cutting out the woman and the officer from the original photographic composition, before finally placing them on the side of the glass bus stop partition so that it appears as though the abused woman is sitting on t he actual bus stop bench and being harassed in that location (Gurp, 2006) This is only one example as other installations of this campaign feature child soldiers, African children foraging for food scraps, and prisoners chained and bound, all placed on t ransparent placards amidst busy European sidewalks, on train station platforms, bus stops, and the sides of public phone booths Each ad features the Amnesty International logo and the text, is not happening here. But it is happening The photo realist depictions of suffering are not overly sensational or gruesome, but they are startling and di sturbing in the way that they seemingly take place before eyes. Human rights violations, extreme poverty, and suffering from remote locations, as if in real time, effectively juxtaposed against the trappings of European urban domesticity (Gurp, 2006) The purpose of the ads is to jar the audience out of their comfort zone and force them to
68 contemplate the circumstances around human rights abuses and Amnesty work to thwart them, and to then decide if they personally want to contribute to that cause. Distance and proximity, specifically the distance and perceived remoteness of the developing world and its inhabitants from Western soci ety, is said to be a contributing factor to compassion fatigue. The two post humanitarianism Amnesty ad campaigns do an effective job of shrinking that distance through clever juxtapositions that prompt the viewer to consider how aid beneficiaries and suf fering could be closer to their own livelihoods than they previously thought (Chouliaraki, 2010; Chouliaraki & Orgad, 2011). In this way, the post humanitarianism appeal becomes a process that decouples emotional appeals brought on by simple witnessing an d imbues it with a complexity that causes audiences to carefully consider the broader context of suffering and foreign aid. It also streamlines the action process by closing with a clear message as to where the viewer can go online to help immediately, wh at Chouliaraki describes as a of (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 117). This technologization reduces giving to easy clicks on a website, harnessing the speed of the Internet to bring about a sense of thereby furthe r shrinking the distance between audience and beneficiary that can cause Westerners feel powerless to help (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 117). Potential drawbacks of this type of post humanitarianism are the same as that of the slickly branded efforts of the in itial Amnesty International campaign that it relies too much on marketing and brand recognition, and the fact that action could potentially be reduced to mere clicktivism. NGOs range from la rge to small organizations and their budgets and com munications resources also run the spectrum from large to small, and the effectiveness of taking a similar approach can be highly dependent on commercial marketing savvy a nd financial resources. There are also those organizations that are capable of hiring out Madiso n Avenue
69 firms and promoting their brand effectively, giving them a competitive advantage versus smaller organizations that lack the funds to do so but are nevertheless competing in the same NGO marketplace. Also problematic is the fact that when an organ ization fosters strong brand recognition, the public can tend to support the brands they identify with without engaging intellectually with the message or cause that organization is putting out, creating the possibility that action and donation be reduced to non reflexive and non thoughtful contributions based solely on brand identification. That runs counter to the greatest strength of the post humanitarianism approach that Chouliaraki identifies, that it i s clever juxtapositions, visual, and textual game s prompt an intellectual engagement that the simple, traditional, emotional witnessing does not (Chouliaraki, 2010). A Critical Pedagogy Not all positive, alternative NGO communications approaches have relied on branding and marketing campaigns. Shankar (2014) relied on a critical pedagogy in the formation of his visual narratives, one that simultaneously accounts for the media creator or position of power vis a vis a given subject, while giving a degree of power over the production and voice to the subjects themselves. The first step of methodology involves understanding where a particular visual media (video in this case) places the audience within the poverty discourse, then to think about how much of their preconceptions have been shaped by past media they viewed, so that he can position his dialogue to confront these embedded understandings and preconceptions (Shankar, 2014). What Shankar referred to as poverty capital is the entirety of the global NGO discourse on internationa l poverty and poverty alleviation through humanitarian aid. It accounts for the predominant discourse by which international poverty is framed, including all of the commonly repeated themes and stereotypical visuals (Shankar, 2014).
70 Part of the illusion of representation is that the media creator and their hand in dictating what the audience sees, largely disappears, causing the audience to often accept what they see at face value as being accurate, whether that be masses of starving individuals or child ren in tattered clothing playing amidst seemingly endless squalor. However, the unmediated subject is a falsehood and visuals attempted to be counter hegemo nic by acknowledging that there i s a cameraman consciously making decisions of content in clusion and exclusion. He did this by using still photo and video techniques that made the mediation obvious, and while the result could be critiqued as amateurish at times, doing so offers a more authentic reality of how producers and subjects collaborat e and share in the media creation process, forcing the audience to think about the extent that media is an intentionally constructed perspective on a given subject (Shankar, 2014). Shankar also depicted aid workers interacting with beneficiaries in ways t hat emphasized their role as participants in the process. In this way, the NGO representatives are depicted as having learned and transformed alongside those they were aiding, thereby countering the common dependency frames by which Western audiences have come to understand their role in international humanitarian aid. In this way, visuals challenge the hegemony of the idea of the rightful giver and grateful receiver dichotomy that only perpetuates power inequalities (Shankar, 2014). Another st rategy that Shankar used is self relativization, whereby aid beneficiaries themselves were allowed to be active media producers. In an example from own work, he supplied a young boy with a camera in order for him to make images of himself to dep ict what humanitarian aid meant to him. The subject returned an artistic self portrait that was made unassisted by Shankar, and that visual represented the subject in an
71 intelligent way that runs counter to how he would likely have been depicted within tr aditional NGO narratives (Shankar, 2014). Shankar described his tactics as the image to present the complexity of life worlds and use these complexities to re think discourses like the of poverty without losing the possibility for action (S hankar, 2014, p. 354). They a re counter hegemonic in their inclusiveness and their honesty regarding the media creation process that all too often relies on the myth that what meets the eye is reality. While there are representational advantages to this strategy, the potential drawbacks of utilizing a critical pedagogy is potentially the loss of some control over achieving a narrative with visual consistency, which can be important in delivering a powerful, persuasive, and professional message that prompt s audience action. For instance, in the case of the self portrait of the young boy Shankar cited, it i s true that the portrait, which consisted mostly of the own shadow, is an authentic representation of the self, it could be interpreted as too artistic to fit into an overall narrative. A critical pedagogy, or forcing the audience to consider representational practices can be an important device to increase media literacy and to be counter hegemonic, but it likely has more place in research and academia then as a vehicle for getting the public at large to financially support humanitarian aid causes in a competitive marketplace filled with appeals of concise, on point messages with consistently professional visuals. NGO Repo rtage Grayson (2014) proposed a communications strategy as well as outlined the emerging professional field of what she calls, NGO reportage, which is a hybrid of public relations and depth photojournalism conventions applied to documenting NGO work to pr oduce organizational visual media (Grayson, 2014). Grayson believes that NGO media practitioners do valuable work and that by adopting NGO reportage as an approach, they can continue to do positive work while
72 avoiding images that turn audiences away (Gray son, 2014). NGO reportage exists as a relatively new photography field due to a variety of factors. First, a cult of celebrity has shaped mass media narratives in a way that has made depth photojournalism less desired by publications. Second, the increa sed ubiquity of citizen journalism providing eyewitness media has made professionals in the field redundant and often too late to a story. Lastly, the financial struggles of traditional print outlets have caused a number of journalism stalwarts that once employed photojournalists, to shut their doors. All of these circumstances have resulted in a decrease in the traditional photojournalism positions, with NGO reportage filling the void and offering jobs to experienced visual journalists who cut their teet h in the news and print industry (Grayson, 2014). Before discussing approach further, it i s first important to identify the reportage and photojournalism conventions that this practice and emerging professional field she identifies is bas ed upon. Kobre (1996) described the professional practice of photojournalism as what news ga thering photographers do. They a re visual reporters trained in conventions and practices that record and report the news through single images and/or sequences of images that convey a narrative about what happened. While they operate on a of control which simply designates to what degree they may intervene, photojournalists generally operate according to an ethic al standard that they will not intervene o r man ipulate a scene, that they wi ll shoot it candidly, or strictly through third person observation (Kobre, 1996, p. 297 299). Kobre describes their role as if they were tasked with recording a live play in that they must document what happens, but not attemp t to direct or stage manage (Kobre, 1996). Photojournalists are t rained to utilize different camera lenses, from wide angle scene setters, medium, or normal views that capture general action similar to what a person might see, to telephoto lenses that can better isolate details and specific nar rative aspects. Sometimes an entire narrative can be
73 conveyed in a single image, but p resented together with the mix of visual perspectives, series of images add up to a rich and visually diverse story (Kobre, 1996 ). S uch conventions, as well as specific f raming and compositional device lends a perceived degree of realism and authenticity to their images b ecause if something in an image does not appear setup in anyway, that it was obtained as a subject appeared un ware of the camera, a viewer tends to believe that it i s authentic Hence, terminology like photorealism, documentary style, observational, and photojournalism aesthetic, are often used more or less interchangeably to describe the general style that photo and increasingly, video journalists, often record. Due to the already discussed industry reliance on the news and photojournalism industry to obtain visuals and promote their causes, much NGO imagery to this day, remains in the reportage style. Gray son (2014) identified NGO reportage as a n emerging professional field, opening up in the wake of the collapse of traditional photojournalism outlets and employers, a communications trend some NGOs are taking on to continue to represent their services in a photorealism style, but also having a greater degree of control over the final product. In this way, it i s not simply photojournalism applied to NGOs, though it borrows heav il y from the traditional photojournalism aesthetics and practices I mentioned, but rather, it i s public relations photography where most of the visual content is obtained by documenting in real t ime the work that NGOs are conducting. NGO reportage is accomplished by practitioners accompanying aid workers into the field and spending as much time as possible with them and the beneficiaries they serve (Grayson, 2014). Though much of the visual content is obtained through keen observation and documentation of what organically transpires in the field, where the NGO reporter gains an advanta ge over photojournalists is that they may manipulate proceedings if necessary, in order to obtain the ideal image, since they a re not bound by strict non interference
74 ethics like traditional photojournalists are. In this way, NGO reportage appro ach is best thought of as a hybrid communications practice. The aesthetics and press photography lend the strategy an aura of authenticity and photorealism, yet as public relations, the practitioner is free to intervene to whatever extent is necessary to create images that tell an story of humanitarian aid effectively. Grayson wrote about her experience practicing NGO reportage in Africa and acknowledges that there are challenges to employing the tactics in the field, which ultimately came to bear on the imagery she produced. She identifies three ways that the circumstances were limiting. First, NGOs are large corporations with their own agendas and the expectations going in were for very literal images to represent the work they were doing, which can conflict with documentarian approaches where photographers are mostly at the mercy of the circumstances before them (Grayson, 2014). That NGOs often operate like large businesses brings up questions of objectivity, but from a public rela tions perspective, NGOs do not share the press obligation to the public to be objective and nonpartisan (Grayson, 2014). Secondly, there we re cultural customs that did not allow for a foreign woman to freely go where she please d and document whate ver she saw though this has less to do with the NGO reportage as a communications strategy and more to do with differing cultural norms regarding gender roles encountered in different countries (Grayson, 2014). Finally, Grayson found herself limited by t he time and knowledge of her guides, as she was an outsider dependent upon interpreting what she saw through the lens of a secondary party who were from the host culture (Grayson, 2014). I employed a hybrid public relations and photojournalist approach si milar to Grayson when I worked for a few organizations documenting aid in Tanzania in 2014, and I address some challenges and advantages of the approach according to my own experience in chapter 6.
75 Empathy, Not Sympathy Hudson et al. (2016) researched wh ether or not aid appeals that targeted empathy could have a greater effectiveness in reducing compassion fatigue while still persuading audiences to contribute financially to a cause. Empathy is being able to psychologically understand what another human could be feeling and can entail viewing that subject as an equal, while pity, which is what most traditional aid appeals target, is imbued with a sense of condescension and is rooted in inequality (Hudson et al., 2016). The hypothesis was that if communic ations were designed to encourage empathy instead of pity, then audiences would possibly have a greater sense of efficacy in their ability to contribute in a meaningful way, continuing their financial support at the same or increased levels (Hudson et al., 2016). After carefully crafting experimental appeals that targeted negative and positive emotions, researchers analyzed audience response to both types of appeals. To create a traditionally negative ad ( Figure 4 1 ), researchers e mployed the traditional tropes, including a prominently featured image of a malnourished child, alone, out of context, accompanied by text that read, can save a which reinforces dependency (Hudson et al., 2016, p. 14). For the alternat ive appeal ( Figure 4 2 ) designed to elicit empathy, the researchers featured a smiling boy in the foreground, holding a sign that read, with the background being the primary school classmates engaged in a schoo l lesson with the accompanying text stating, of us sharing a little more can make a big (Hudson et. al., 2016, p. 14). In the latter ad audience solidarity is achieved through the suggestion that aid recipients are bettering their lives through a collaborative relationship thanks to the donation, with empathy conveyed through the relatable idea that education objectives where aid is needed are the same as in the West, which is to prepare youth to be productive and functional adul ts (Hudson et al., 2016).
76 Results after testing the two types of appeals on British audiences confirmed the research hypotheses, indicating that negative appeals are undeniably effective at shaming people to donate, but also that alternative appeals can in still a sense of efficacy in alleviating poverty (Hudson, et al., 2016). While there was little significant variance between how much participants were willing to give to a cause depending on which appeal they saw, viewers did report a loss of efficacy an d a sense of general hopelessness upon seeing the negative appeal, versus a reported increase in their sense of efficacy after viewing the alternative. This lead to the re searchers suggesting that there i s little cost in targeting empathy and only an upsi de in doing so if an willingness to donate is the same or a little higher, as it avoids the effects of compassion fatigue altogether (Hudson et al., 2016). This is evidence that a key component of crafting NGO appeals could be in targeting audi ence empathy for the lives of beneficiaries through actively trying to represent them as people purs u ing the same goals that affluent populations in the West do, reminding potential viewers that people in general share the same primary motivations in life, even if those people exist far apart and cultural differences appear to be vast on the surface. Aid Reframed Perhaps the most promising communication tactics to fend off compassion fatigue involves alternative framing, specifically, using deep framing o f humanitarian aid in a manner that triggers what some scholars refer to as pro social, self transcendental, or intrinsic values. This research is founded upon approach/avoidance and framing theories, and two complimentary research teams suggested that al ternative framing could prove to be a valuable communications solution in the foreign aid sector. Each argues that presenting foreign aid and assistance in terms of values like shared community building, participatory democracy, egalitarianism, and broadm indedness, will connect to a network of related positive values and ultimately result in an
77 increase in public support as people respond out of shared motivations to be altruistic, rather than out of a sense of guilt (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015; Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Darnton and Kirk (2011) are two researchers who found that values matter in establishing solidarity between an organization or cause and a given audience. Individuals with strong self transcendent values engage in pro social behaviors more frequently than those who do no t (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). NGOs may exploit such tendencies by crafting their communications according to positive that connect to an assortment of interrelated altruistic values that trigger the desire to give and to participate in a campaign (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Frames are how humans understand words beyond their surface definitions by including all the associated concepts and ideas about a particular word (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Some frames contain predo minantly negative or stereotypical associations with foreign aid and international poverty, due in large part to decades of negative representations in the media. There exist sets of positive frames and value associations that can be used instead, framewo rks that c ould be counter hegemonic by associating with altruistic ideals and redefining the dominant perceptions the public holds about aid and the alleviation of international poverty and its repercussions (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Darnton and Kirk singl e out four specific alternative deep frames, which are embodied mind, shared prosperity, participatory democracy, and non hierarchical social organization (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Each of these four frames have an opposing frame that is contradictory, but which have traditionally dominated NGO communications and have formed the conceptual backbone as to how the West has come to perceive foreign aid. For instance, the rational actor frame is juxtaposed with embodied mind, free markets with shared prosperity elite governance with participatory democracy, and natural moral hierarchical order with non hierarchical order
78 (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). All of the positive deep frames are connected to networks of related associations, or surface frames, such as open mi ndedness, compassion, empathy, community, and altruism, and by designing communications that actively trigger these positive associations and con nect to these deeper frames, it i s possible to persuade audiences to act based on shared altruistic motivations (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Deep frames need triggering through surface frames, which offer a more specific, contextual, and situation based means of discussing ideas. They identify the traditionally negative ones as consisting of such terms as charity, ai d, development, corruption, and aid effectiveness, all terminology and part of the established aid discourse that has been taken for granted as harmless (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). However, each one of those terms connects to a network of commonly held cultur al assumptions that are negative and reinforcing of the hegemonic conceptions of existing power dynamics, as well as notions of entitlement and deservedness. However, each of these traditionally negative surface frames have opposi te, positive frames that they are matched with, such as justice and fairness, mutua l support and partnership, well being, freedom and responsibility, and good and bad governance (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). All of the surface frames in these sets, good or bad, can be conveyed through corresponding visuals or text. Through associative power, surface frames may reinforce traditional ideas of aid such as beneficiary dependence and futility, which only contributes to compassion fatigue, or if the positive ones are triggered inst ead, then associations with community egalitarianism, growth, progress, and community building should cause like minded donors to contribute financially. Darnton and Kirk acknowledged that a fully committed and sudden industry wide shift to strictly positi ve framing and targeting self transcendental values would likely result in a
79 noticeable short term decline in public support because emotional pity appeals remain a reliable source of income for NGOs, especially in the wake of sudden natural catastrophes ( Darnton & Kirk, 2011). A partial shift in framing tactics though could change public perceptions and long term giving behaviors from being transactional and shallow, to long term, participatory, and founded upon a deeper relationship between organization and supporter. They predicted that in time, this would result in a broader shift in public values that accepts aid as a legitimate and viable solution, thereby increasing the potential pool of public donors (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). The latter outcome is t heir desired endgame and it i s believed, is possible if the NGO sector adopted the positive framing tactics they outlined. Darnton and Kirk did no t prescribe any specific communications template, rather, they suggested a gradual adoption of broadly defin ed strategies that begin by substituting some of their pre identified positive surface frames for traditional ones still common in NGO communications. For instance, where a surface frame of charity is used, a better frame would be aid for social justice o r fairness because that terminology and imagery connects to positive frames of equality, rather than one based upon unequal power dynamics between giver and receiver (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). Likewise, framing organizations as charities could instead be org anizations as movements because that connotes shared involvement and collaboration between provider and beneficiary instead of the unequal superior/inferior relationships. Organizations are still encouraged to continue to use the transactional approach th at typically relies on negative framing for those times when immediate relief in the wake of a larg e scale crisis is needed, as it i s still a reliable tool for garnering a lot of needed funds right away (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). With all other non immediate response communications, practicing positive deep framing would allow greater emphasis to be given to concentrating on long term
80 aid objectives, gradually changing perceptions of the industry and giving behaviors by establishing organization/supp orter solidarity by communicating how aid helps to build societies around embodied mind, shared prosperity, participatory democracy, and non hierarchical networks (Darnton & Kirk, 2011). In 2015 Common Cause Foundation put out their own reframing research, including recommendations that compliment Darnton and Kirk. In it, authors Crompton and Weinstein (2015) divide communications into two categories, those which frame NGO work according to extrinsic values, so those founded upon ideas of social status, pr estige, popularity, and wealth, versus communications that frame according to intrinsic values such as broadmindedness, social justice, community feeling, and creativity. Their identified extrinsic values coincide with Darnton and negative deep fra mes and associations that have traditionally been used in emotional, pity based appeals, while their identified intrinsic values correspond with the alternative, positive frames (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). Five primary intrinsic value categorie s they believe should be utilized include: benevolence, affiliation, self acceptance, universalism, and community. These values connect to surface frames and networks of similar values like loyalty, honesty, helpfulness, efficiency, choice, freedom, and s o on (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). Crompton and recommendations are based on research that demonstrates the potential persuasive power of targeting intrinsic values. They reviewed a variety of communication framing experiments that suggested people who hold intrinsic values are more socially and environmentally responsible and have a greater likelihood of participating in civic action, which are the types of people humanitarian aid NGOs want to attract and build sustained long term donor rela tionships with (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). In one such study, goals of
81 the World Wildlife Foundation were framed intrinsically and extrinsically and audiences indicated they were more likely to contribute financially to the organization based upon the i ntrinsically framed samples (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). Another study found that attempting to appeal to a pre disposition toward intrinsic or extrinsic values also did no t matter, that with both types of audiences, the intrinsic value based ap peals resulted in the greatest amount of support from both types of audiences (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). Neither did an sector matter, as results indicated that regardless of whether organizations advocated for the rights of people with disabilities to championing environmental causes, intrinsic value framing was always the most effective means of attracting public support. For these reasons, they believe that NGOs and humanitarian causes should no t be any different and the fact that oth er sectors have done this successfully means that foreign aid NGOs would have a healthy precedent to draw inspiration from and follow suit (Crompton & Weinstein, 2015). Imperfect Positivism While the aid industry has experimented with everything from big budget commercial camp aigns to positive reframing, it i s never agreed upon any single communications approach or any set of regulatory conventions to abide by. Even if there were a standard communications strategy that was unanimously adopted, there woul d be no magic bullet solution applicable to all situations, or one that could stave off compassion fatigue entirely. Pos itive aid communications have their own unique drawbacks, everything from the subjectivity of what makes up a representation or image, to issues with positivism lacking perceived authenticity. One criticism of the approach is that positive depictions of aid work and beneficiaries can oversimplify the nuance, power relations, and ideologies that are embedded in any representation (Dogra, 2007). Aid work and geo political circumstances that make countries unequal and ultimately precede aid, can be very complex, and representations have the ability to skirt around
82 the complexity and convey dangerously hollow sketches of tragedy and crises. Another criticism is the subjectivity of what makes up a go od or bad image. After all, it i s not only the bad and stereotypically negative imagery that is loaded with ideology. Deliberately positive images are just as produced an d loaded with th eir own ideal about how the rest of the world and the foreign other should be, which will never be consistent with viewpoints. Chouliaraki suggests that positive representations simultaneously empower and disempower beneficiaries by ing their otherness in Western discourses of identity and (Chouliaraki, 2010, p. 113). In other words, it represents a gratitude for help that reinforces notions regarding roles of patronage and self satisfaction on behalf of the West and perceive d obligations of the beneficiaries. Simply labeling various tactics, imagery, and communication approaches as good or bad is inadequate and most imagery used by NGOs is likely somewhere in the midd le of such a dichotomy after account ing for subjectivities and meanings embedded in visuals (Dogra, 2007). There i s also the problem that many NGOs are large businesses, and though charitable, the largest of them are operated akin to large corporate entities, each with their own agenda, and that entails its own s et of ethical issues when it comes to objectivity and the representation of the poor and vulnerable (Gra yson, 2014). For instance, who i s to prevent an corporate interests in a competitive marketplace from superseding their mission to provide aid an d to represent beneficiaries in the most accurate and respectful manner possible? When it comes to the slick branding tactics discussed previously, large organizations like Amnesty International or the Red Cross, have expansive budgets for advertising rel ative to smaller NGOs. Whether they a re positive and empowering or not, employing large commercial campaigns to attract public support can lead to the commodification of the aid industry and effectiveness being dictated by
83 corporate branding more than an actual results of delivering aid and resolving the issues they seek to address (Chouliaraki, 2010). Positive imagery is also not immune to causing compassion fatigue. Ironically, this can occur because positive depictions of beneficiaries succeeding and children that appear healthy and malnourished can lull audiences into a sense that things are actually satisfactory in the rest of the world and that their aid and contribution is no t needed (Chouliaraki, 2010). In fact, scholars argue that images that could be interpreted as negative are often important in instilling a necessary sense of urgency for a particular crisis situation, an urgency that can be effective in prompting swift public financial support, something that potentially would n o t occur if all imagery were of a deliberately positive nature (Benthall, 1993; Orgad, 2012). Positivism can also lead to compassion fatigue if audiences do no t accept such imagery as being realistic, and therefore reject the appeals outr ight on the groun ds that they are somehow fake because they do no t support their preexisting beliefs about how a certain group or nation should be (Chouliaraki, 2010). There are a range of critical thoughts regarding humanitarian aid imagery from too negative and dehumaniz ing on one hand to overly positive and commodifying solidarity on the other, making the task of effective representation a hard balance to strike for any NGO. Chouliaraki best summarized the dilemma by stating that: The former animates the affective regim e of guilt and indignation to lead us into action, but such negative emotions tie action to our own complicity in global injustice and run the risk of fatigue and apathy, while the latter animates the emotional constellation of gratitude and tender hearted ness to persuade us to act, but such positive emotions tie action to a view of development as a gift, which glosses over asymmetries of power and runs the risk of denying the need for action on the grounds that it may be unnecessary, or even iaraki, 2010, p. 114).
84 Despite the inadequacy and subjectivity of trying to define positive versus negative imagery, as well as the unique challenges that positivism presents, this thesis is premised upon there being communication methods that serve ben eficiaries better than past tactics, so it fully accepts that any posi tive approach is not without it s unintended consequences and that those consequences are worth the potential of gaining a more engaged and compassionate p ublic. In the next section, I s ingle out some of the tactics outlined in these approaches that I believe could contribute to a better overall strategy, and I provide examples of where some NGOs are employing them successfully in media environment. Figure 4 1 Nega tive expe rimental advertisement targeting viewer sympathy and guilt through the utilization of stereotypically negative aid representations Source: Hudson, D., van Heerde Hudson, J., Dasandi, N., and Gaines, N. (2016). Emotional Pathways to Engagement with Glob al Poverty: An Experimental Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Retrieved on September 3rd, 2017 from: http://ncgg new.princeton.edu/si tes/ncgg/files/hudson_representationsemotionsdevelopment.pdf
85 Figure 4 2 Positive experimental advertisement targeting viewer empathy and altruism through the utilization of non stereotypical, positive aid framing and representations. Sou rce: Hudson, D., van Heerde Hudson, J., Dasandi, N., and Gaines, N. (2016). Emotional Pathways to Engagement with Global Poverty: An Experimental Analysis. Princeton: Princeton University. Retrieved on September 3rd, 2017 from: http://ncgg new.princeton.edu/si tes/ncgg/files/hudson_representationsemotionsdevelopment.pdf
86 C HAPTER 5 A POSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY FOR THE 21ST CENT URY A suitable contemporary communications strategy tells an story of humanitarian aid with visuals and copy that are guided by intrinsic values and obtained by production practices that combine the candid photorealism of NGO reportage with pre plan ned visuals common to a public relations approach. People respond to good stories and effective communications are increasingly reliant upon digital narratives that play across a number of traditional and new media channels. NGOs are no different and if they expect the public to buy into their cause and to effectively compete for pub l ic funding in an increasingly crowd ed media environment, then they wi ll need to tell an effective story about who they are, what they do, and how the public can help. Thankf ully, with the proliferation of digital techno logy, especially still and video image capture, along with the explosion of Internet technology making distribution easier telling an engaging story has never been more accessible and affordable. I ha ve pres ented evidence that suggests that intrinsic values matter to the altruistic audiences most likely to provide NGOs with support and using such values to guide the type of visuals NGOs should pursue in telling their story is essential to ensuring that the cy cle of negative and stereotypical ima gery of the past does no t continue. Public support does no t need to be derived from a sense of guilt, but rather, out of a sense that contributions are valuable and meaningful to a truly collaborative cause. Ima gery that triggers pro social and self transcendent values should be obtained by adopting traditional photojournalist documentation practices for coverage of pre identified success stories, with some allowance for setup photography, such as for empowerment portraiture or images that authentically re create essential elements of a narrative. This photorealism inherent in journalistic style photography and videography lend a sense of perceived authenticity that can be important in persuading
87 audiences to giv e. Digital storytelling driven by intrinsic values and wrapped up in photo and video journalism aesthetics form the basis of a visual communications approach that can be dynamic and engaging, effective in garnering public financial support, and relatively easy and affordable for organizations large and small to produce and distribute. Digital Storytelling Digital storytelling too oft en feels as though it i s a catch all term for a wide variety of marketing and advertising tactics that companies and organi zations use to persuade audiences to spend money or act in some desi red way. Couldry (2008) defined digital storytelling as a range of personal stories now being told in public form using digital media (p. 374). Humans are social animals and long before mankind could write, history, culture, and knowledge was passed on through oral tradition, which is why today, in its contemporary form, be it a series of still images, a video, or even a narration, a good story still resonates. Digital s torytelling is ubiquitous in daily life from large corporations selling their brands to private individuals expressing their identities through personal stories across their social media including Facebook and Instagram. Digital storytelling, when employe d correc tly, can be powerful because people a re al ready so accustomed to it in their everyday lives and effective communicators can take advantage of this by matching the self transcendental organizational values with those that are already meaningful and resonate with their target audience. An NGO first needs to identi fy an overarching story of its organization, developing a cohesive and comp elling narrative of who it is, what it stand s for, what its lofty ideals are for alleviati ng international poverty a nd it s consequences, and how it embodies that na rrative through the work it is doing. After establishing a sense of what an organization is about, that essence should be delivered to the public through contemporary multi media stories that contain imagery and copy that are based on some of the intrinsic values and positive, self transcendental
88 surface and deep frames already identified. NGO communications staff need to determine content by prioritizing success stories where beneficiaries have become empow ered in some way due to the aid, education, or training received, and then send dedicated photographers, videographers, and writers into the field to record that content. Key to ensuring that the visuals in this approach will be positive and will t rigger intrinsic values, will be pre determining what stories will most likely yield visual and copy that fit Darnton and deep frames of embodied mind, shared prosperity, participatory democracy, and non hierarchical social organization (Darnton & K irk; 2011). This is going to be achieved by documenting aid beneficiaries actively engaged as equals in the aid transfer and receiving process Perhaps this means that they a re p hotographed or filmed when they a re engaged in some activity t hat i s industr ious, or when they a re visibly prosperous as a resu lt of whatever form of aid they ha ve benefited from. It i s conveyed when they a re clearly acting as leaders to others in their community, working as equals with aid providers to accom plish some task, or w hen represented as healthy, happy, and able provide for others. Anybody tasked with planning communications will need to become familiar with where an efforts have been successf ul in these regards, even if it i s not the reality at all times and is o nly an ideal, and then set about documenting such scenarios as they occur, possibly recreating or staging specific elements as needed. The aim here is to avoid classically stereotypical representations of beneficiaries as passive, dependent, and disempowe red. NGO communicators and practitioners in the field should also go out of their way to find success stories that feature beneficiaries that appear well nourished, in relatively clean and orderly environments, and wearing unsoiled but still t raditional and/or daily clothing. This is no t to deny the reality of the situation, as developing nations are visibly less prosperous and their
89 populations, many of which are smallholder farmers, are poor and regularly engaged in expectedly dirty labor. It i s simpl y a recommendation that wherever possible, media practitioners in the field do their best to avoid any scenarios that would be perceived as stereotypically impoverished, scenarios that are generally the extreme cases, rather than the norm. Doing so is cou nter hegemonic because it works to revert the false perceptions established by aid media of the past that are responsible for the widespread belief that all populations receiving aid are sick, severely impoverished, and livi ng amidst squalor. Where there i s exception to this rule is if an organization such as the Red Cross must make public appeals in the wake of a massive calamity that has left a country in ruins and large sums of money must be raised in the immediate aftermath. Photographers, filmmaker s, and writers that will be going into the field to gather the raw material for these positive visual narratives should go prepared to record professional still and video imagery, as well as written, interview based stories of beneficiaries and NGO represe ntatives. Doing so will ensure that all the necessary content that could be needed to produce contemporary, narrative driven, multimedia print and/or online stories gets collected. Gathering that media should be done according to the NGO reportage practi ces laid out by my discussion of Grayson (2014) and Kobre (1996) combined with some setup scenarios where necessary, such as when something that occurred in the past needs to be recreated for story consistency, or when an empowering environmental portrait of a beneficiary could be arranged in a way that portrays the subject as proud, independent, and heroic. Rega rding visual narrative specific practices Kobre (1996) explains how photojournali sts, and by extension, NGO reportage practitioners can convey a cohesive narrative with just images. For the purposes of this approach, few stories would be told in a single image,
90 therefore it i s most important to understand how visual journalists can use a series of images to tell a story. All visual narratives are centered around a complication, obstacle, or something that the subject must overcome, followed by a resolution, or the change in circumstance that enables the subject to do so (Kobre, 1996). In a lot of NGO circumstances, such a narrative outline alr eady exists in the lives of the aid beneficiaries and how NGO intervention enabled them to enhance their lives, and/or that of their community. As previously, conveying such a narrative in imagery with reportage techniques relies upon the practitioner hon ing a key sense of anticipation for what i s about to happen, then utilizing the variety of camera lenses and perspectives, from wide angle to normal and telephoto to create a visual diversity showcasing the variety of story elements that formulate the su m of a given narrative (Kobre, 1996). Wide angle views for example are necessary scene setters that orient a viewer to how a subject relates to their wider environment (Kobre, 1996). Normal views, usually obtained with 35mm to 50mm lenses, replicate what the human eye might see, thus is a perspective and is great for conveying the bulk of general activity that occurs in a story (Kobre, 1996). Telephoto lenses, or close up perspectives of isolated details of a story focus a attention on individual elements (Kobre, 1996). To maintain consistency, all images should clearly have the same primary subject in them, or at least some significance to the subject as it pertains to what an individual image depicts (1996). With human subjects espe cially, portraiture is generally a critical part of a narrative as readers want to know who a subject in a story is, and a photographer can reveal that through a variety of different portrait treatments from environmental, which showcases how the subject r elates to their lived environment, to hero depictions, which elevates them to empowered individuals with agency (Kobre, 1996). If applied to circumstances and aid work where intrinsic values are present, then knowing how to successfully utilize all of the se
91 conventions, many of which translate to video documentary as well, will aid any would be NGO media practitioner in creating effective visuals. The media practitioner will need to travel to where the beneficiaries work and live and spend enough time with them to develop a rapport and trust that will allow them to authentically document their lives like an embedded visual journalist would for something like a long form newspaper or magazine feature. In the best case scenarios, all the dynamic, engaging, a nd positive imagery will be obtainable through hands off, professional visual journalism of the humanitarian aid and/or the beneficiary learning and adaptation process. In those cases where the visual journalist must intervene to setup a particular visual having a guide on hand that is native to the country and people being recorded, is essential. This way, if the media practitioner is a contracted cultural outsider, common when Western NGOs hire specialists from the country or region of origin, th e local guide may act as a linguistic interpreter and cultural advisor. These professionals may become valuable assistants in giving directions to subjects in their native language, and most importantly, acting as a cultural interpreter to ensure that any social norms are not violated and that beneficiaries are in no way exploited or grossly misrepresented in the process of gathering their story content. Written story content can be as critical to these digital storytelling endeavors as the visuals and wherever possible, field media and communications practitioners should plan on collecting primary accounts from beneficiaries speaking to how humanitarian aid has positively impacted their lives. Such empowerment stories are often short and generally foll ow a basic template that personalizes foreign aid by introducing the beneficiary, some problem or obstacle they faced, the form of aid or educational opportunity provided to them by the NGO to overcome that obstacle, followed by their newfound personal emp owerment and transformation as a direct
92 result of NGO intervention. All of this information can be gathered in interviews with the beneficiaries that allow them to speak for themselves and their community, in their own words, so mething that traditionally was no t done in past NGO communications approaches. In order to achieve this, interviews should be designed around open ended questioning that allows the interviewee to elaborate with long, descriptive answers. Vivid description of human subjects is impo rtant as well, as the interviewer must capture enough details to reveal a persona, presenting them as fully realized people, with similar interests and motivations as the audience. Doing so counters the one dimensional stereotypes that plagu e representations of poverty and infuse the story with a sense of humanity that audiences may be able to better empathize with. Finally, color and flair, elements that are in any good story, details that are descriptive, set a scene, and put the reader in a location, are all elements that should be included in any written content that could accompany NGO storytelling media. Story elements generally reserved for feature writing and journalism, and not traditionally found in NGO communications are tactics t hat the NGO sector can look toward for inspiration and emulation in order to b etter engross a reader into a world and success story. This digital st oryte lling communications approach I ha ve identified is best conceptualized as a three pronged approach that utilizes still imagery, video, and written components that are compliment ary While any three of components can be used effectively on its own, the most complete and fully realized effort puts all three together simulta neously, and they all frame aid efforts according to intrins ic values. Dissected into its three primary componen ts then, the strategy resembles the following:
93 1. Visual Still Imagery S till imagery is obtained mostly through traditional photojournalism/documentary/reportage/ob servational conventions Subjects are willingly followed observe d and their lives/actions as they pertain to NGO participation is documented through photography. Photojournalism narrative storytelling is implemented through : using multiple perspectives (wide angle scene setters, standard shots of the primary action, and close up/detail shots), using low/high perspectives, intentional composition/framing to draw attention to subject, and utilizing natural and interesting frames I mage s necessary to a sto ry that canno t be o btained through photojournalism conventions can be setup or arranged when: a.) it i s necessary to replicate something that happened in the past but is integral to the story b.) negative stereotypical depictions of beneficiaries or their circumstances can be avoided (example : beneficiaries working/living in unusual conditions of squalor) c.) setup, camera aware portraits are needed, including : environmental, hero, or traditional head/bust representations d.) abstract, conceptual art, and/ or studio imagery that compliments a story is needed Intrinsic value framing accomplished by beneficiary subjects being repres ented visually as independent, in roles of leadership doing/being active, appearing content and healthy, participating in their c ommunity, and capacity building with others amidst visually egalitarian relationships. 2. Visual Video Video story components should resemble story driven mini documentaries that include : a.) subject/beneficiary introduction (who is this person/community/ population?) b.) obstacle/dilemma face d c.) NGO provided aid/training/assistance received d.) a resolution of personal empowerment or rehabilitation and being able to overcome initial obstacle/dilemma as a result
94 Video structure should m ix observational/d ocumentary B roll footage of subject lives/actions as they pe rtain to NGO participation, with interview footage of the subject/beneficiary speaking pe rsonally about their experience and/or empowerment V ideos should be short in length, approximately 2 3 mi nutes per story C ontemporary filmmaking device and style should be utilized wherever possible, including: diverse and interesting angles, camera movement, quick cuts of 1 to 3 seconds per clip, and drones for aerials/scene setters where allowed or applica ble Intrinsic value framing should be accomplished by documenting the same themes of empowerment as with the still imagery but with the inclusion of the subject personally speak ing of values like embodied mind, community participation, independence, pers onal empowerment, participatory democracy, leadership, etc., in their interview footage 3. Written Text/Copy F or sh ort and long narratives, a repeatable narrative template should be utilized, such as that listed in the video section Literary device such as c olor description of subjects and locations as well things like interesting and creative leads should be utilized, as they can effectively immerse audience members into a story and setting. Look toward writing styles and structures common to f eature w riting for techniques to replicate. Intrinsic value framing of emp owerment and personal agency should be done by : a.) avoiding traditional terminology such as development, aid, and charity, and replacing them with terms and ideas that do not connote inequa lity b.) representing subjects/beneficiary actions and circumstances as the result of real world complexity (embodied mind) and not simply the result of poor decision making, poverty, or poor health (rational actor model) c.) representing subjects as suppo rting or being supported by community and shared prosperity within a community, versus purely free market/capitalist motivations d.) representing subjects as realizing their rights and being active in self governance within a democracy e.) representing sub jects as acting outside of rigid and inflexible social hierarchies and overcoming social strata and barriers to empowerment
95 There are huge advantages to gathering media in the field according to this approach due in large part to the quantum leap in digit a l image capture technology that ha s occurred since early Digital still photography and professional video capabilities have become possible on increasingly smaller and more portable devices. On the visual distribution front, online website creat ion technology has become increasingly user friendly and affordable to the point that nearly anyone with Internet access and a computer can disseminate content to the entire world at very little cost. These technologies have given rise to the backpack jou rnalist, an all in one media specialist that can carry everything they need to produce professional, high quality, broadcast standard photo, video, and written content in a small, lightweight setup. With the traditional print journalism outlets as viable employers having shrunk significantly in the wake of the rise of online media, there are now new opportunities for the backpack freelancer with a visual journalism background in the wide array of international NGOs who are increasingly turning to digital s torytelling to communicate their brand and goodwill to the public at large (Grayson, 2014). For instance, in 2014 I produced visual media and stories for NGOs in rural Tanzania and I was able to take three professional cameras, each one with the capabilit y of producing high resolution stills and high definition video, an assortment of lenses, an audio microphone, a travel tripod, and a laptop for editing and distribution, in a single protective briefcase that satisfied airline carry on size requirements. Only a few short decades ago, in order to get all of that media capture ability, even at much lower quality, would have taken multiple large cases and a team of people to utilize them on location. Now, thanks to these advances in technology, small NGOs wi th little to no budget can employ a single visual practitioner to create their stories with a level of professionalism that i s equal to that of larger, wealthier organizations.
96 Some NGOs are embracing multimedia storytelling more or less as I ha ve outlin ed above in order to co mmunicate to audiences how they a re combating international poverty. Surveying the websites, stories, and linked video media of some of the most recognized NGOs and NGO funding organizations concerned with poverty alleviatio n reveals that while variations of this approach exist, i t i s never embraced fully by any single organization, nor is it employed uniformly across the sector. This next section will delve into specific examples, which I believe, most thoroughly realize ef fective NGO reportage and multimedia storytelling. Methodology: Selecting NGO Storytelling Examples In finding examples of effective NGO storytelling, I sought to include organizations whose media satisfied some or all aspects of the approach I outlined i n the preceding section. I chose to exclude organizations like the Red Cross, whose primary mission is addressing disaster relief and catastrophic crisis, not because t his type of storytelling could no t be applied by such organizations, but that given the nature of their work, they generally have little choice but to predominantly rely on disaster imagery to raise emergency relief funds. Non emergency relief NGOs on the other hand, have the luxury of being able to pre conceive strategic communications to conform to an alternative positive approach because their efforts are targeted toward populations that are in need but relatively stable. Therefore, I focused my efforts upon finding examples from the NGO sector that targeted solutions for systemic povert y and/or malnutrition reduction through economic growth and development, agricultural capacity building, and health education. To find examples, I listed organizations that I was already aware of, simply through their general notoriety, as well as those th at I might have encoun tered while working as a visual media producer for NGOs in Tanzania in 2014. That gave me a list of NGOs and/or major NGO funders that included: Raleigh International, Oxfam International, USAID, and the United
97 Nations (UN) World Foo d Program. In addition to that list, I visited NGO Advisor online, an independent Swiss media organization that reviews the global NGO sector, whose 2013 list of the top 20 NGOs in the world is the most recent that is publicly available 100 2 016). NGO Advisor was founded by journalists, and in their mission statement they claim to understand the traditional tension that can exist between the search for the truth and NGO media needing to report to their constituents, giving them an exp ertise from which to conduct independent reviews of NGOs to determine their ultimate impact and effectiveness beyond what appears in NGO financial statements 2016). Of their 2013 list, I reviewed all 20 entries and eliminated those organiz ations that primarily dealt with disaster relief or conflict, leaving me with a select handful of NGOs that met my criteria of working in the area of economic development, capacity building, and food insecurity. Out of that list, only Mercy Corps satisfie d my criteria in employing digital storytelling in a manner that I t hought representative of the communications strategy I proposed. Combining my initial list then of independent NGOs, funding providers, and government initiatives I had existing knowledge of, with Mercy Corps, I surveyed the online media and messaging of these organizations to identify the following examples of what I believe is effective NGO multimedia storytelling that empowers beneficiaries, offers a positive and hopeful alternative ima ge of humanitarian aid, while simultaneously having the power to appeal to the public at large by triggering intrinsic values. Many of the organizations I ha ve examine d for this research have content dense websites, some of which are not clearly organized, and therefore require a lot of searching to identify stories and to make an accurate assessment of their approach to visual communications. They also change visuals frequently, update news stories, and have changed and rotated through a lot
98 of conte nt in the eight to ten months I ha ve now been periodically surveying their media as I conduct my research, so it i s possible that some organizations may have drastically changed their tactics and web presence during the during this period. By no means do I bel ieve that this list is comprehensive of all the efforts in the humanitarian aid sector to utilize contemporary multimedia storytelling, nor do I intend i t to be interpreted as such. I a m certain there are many other stellar examples of NGO reportage and s torytelling that exists that I ha ve not included here, but showcasing them all was not the point. I concluded my search for examples when I found enough to thoroughly demonstrate all of the empowering sto rytelling tactics that my approach advocates for. This is why I believe it i s most valuable to highlight the individ ual examples I ha ve selected that feature specific instances where these organizations have effectively implemented a strategy, or specific elements of a strategy, such as the one this thesi s proposes, versus debating whether that overall approach is positive, negative, effective, or ineffective. The World Food Program The World Food Program (WFP) was the first organization I looked toward in order to find examples of a contemp orary, positive, narrative driven communications approach. In browsing the diverse assortment of online media available throughout their website, I found that the use of imagery remains a mixed bag of positive and traditionally stereotypica l representations. While featuring clea n and relatively healthy individuals in most cases, some of which are smiling and very cont ent in their appearance, there still exists an abundance of images of predominantly women and children, appearing isolated, i nactive, and dependent. Refugees are pictured waiting in long lines or in dense crowds, arms extended, grasping for emergency food aid, which further entrenches popular preconceptions of humanitarian food aid as handouts. That being said, the WFP, while acknowledging that they have long term aid and capacity
99 building initiatives, does identify itself as a leading emer gency aid provider, which, as I ha ve previously stated, may slight any of these organizations toward predominantly negative visuals due to t he nature of such missions 2017). An example o f a WFP basic photo essay of empowering NGO reportage styled storytelling is their feature entitled, Food Assistance Projects in Gaza Food Assistance The feature consists of a slideshow of mostly photorealism, news style, candid documentary, with some setup empowerment images of female entrepreneurs benefitting from a variety of individual WFP programs. The subjects are all being industrious in ways that a ppear to give them quite a bit of autonomy in taking control of some of the uncertainty in their lives. In the photo series, subjects are depicted doing more traditional activities such as shopping for necessities using a voucher program, gainin g the skills to run a dairy and sell it s products, to learning computer skills in preparation for a new career Food Assistance 2016). Where there is some departure from the NGO reportage style visuals is where some limited setup pho tography has permitted the photographer to reposition the subject slightly to draw attention to the newfound confidence gained from the aid and training received from WFP. This example fits m y proposed communications strategy because, while it i s telling a broad story of a number of aid programs, it presents a straightforward visual narrative of the success that WFP is having on women in Gaza, and by showing them as industrious and actively taki ng control of their lives. They a re represented accor ding to intrinsic values and frames such as embodied mind, social justice, choice, freedom, and shared prosperity. The video story entitled electronic food vouc hers in is fitting of empowered storytelling in video form. It plays like a min i documentary about an e card voucher
100 program for small businesses and local farmers. It i s narrated predominantly by the Western perspective of the WFP, but the individual beneficiaries are given the opportunity to speak about their own empowerment in th eir language through interview excerpts. Children speak of what they hope to become, while their father explains how the program has enabled him to provide and strengthen his family ( electronic food vouchers in Lebanon, 2016). The family is also de picted making their own decisions in stores about what food to buy, rather than jus t being given rations, and they a re shown smiling and happy while eating together within their home, while the narration connects the well fed children to their ambitious dr eams of achievement. The video story concludes with a text overlay that states, investing in the World Food Program, you can nourish families like and transform entire communities with the most basic building block of life, ( ele ctronic food vouchers in Lebanon, 2016). As is the case with photo essay about the women of Gaza, numerous intrinsic values are targeted here in this story about increased prosperity. Another promising digital storytelling endeavor from the WFP is t heir recently launched project. Initiated in the spring of 2017, the project is a media production course for male and female Sudanese war refugees who have been relocated to the country of Chad and are beneficiaries of WFP services there (Magnien, 2017). The course teaches them how to utilize smartphone technology and basic editing techniques to create visual stories about their own lives and experiences as well as their future aspirations (Magnien, 2017). As of June 2017 the first coho rt of 35 participants has wrapped up and since mid May, WFP has released their stories periodically on a Facebook page dedicated to the program. The posts range from basic empowering environmental portraits accompanied by hopeful stories of who the subjec ts hope to become, such as the May 26th introduction to Abdallah Abdelkarim, an aspiring journalist and
101 broadcast radio host; to brief video clips that explain an aspect of Sudanese culture that i s being preserved in the refugee camp (World Food Program St orytellers, 2017). This storytellers program is still in its infancy, bu t it i s doing a lot of things right in creating dignified representations of beneficiaries. It features visuals of refugee life in camp, not as we ha ve come to expect them, but under conditions that replicate clean and peaceful livelihoods, not under the pressure of war or famine, but simply going about daily life where people attend school, learn, and are trying to rebuild lives. The accompanying images in the WFP blog story about t he program, as well as the Facebook images and videos, all feature positive depictions of the Sudanese refugees, includin g the empowerment, or hero depiction environmental portraiture (Magnien, 2017; World Food Program Storytellers, 2017). Most importantl y though, WFP Storytellers puts most of the narrative of these particular WFP beneficiaries in their own hands by making them the principle media producers, thus giving voice and expression to them with minimal interpretation from a Western mediator, simil ar to the critical pedagogy approach Shankar (2014) advocated for. WFP Storyte llers is still very new, but it i s on the right track, and if it eventually puts the work into a series of fully fledged visual narratives it will be a successful implementation of contemporary storytelling for other NGOs to replicate one which gives voice to beneficiaries, represents them positively, appeals to intrinsic values, all while teaching them valuable technology and media literacy skills. Oxfam Internat ional and Appealing to Intrinsic Values Like the World Food Program, Oxfam International is another one of the major global players in international aid and capacity building. Surveying their web presence reveals that they rely heavily on p hotorealism and photojournalism aesthetics to communicate to the public what they a re doing internationally. In a lot of cases, visuals are top notch, very professional, and are befitting of top quality news and news magazine photography. As is the
102 case with WFP though, Oxfam addresses long and short term international crises and challenges, thus, their professional visual journalism and documentation runs the spectrum from traditionally negative depictions of suffering, to deliberate positivism, all dep ending upon the nature of the story and aid being delivered. One area where Oxfam remains very consistent is in framing their aid work according to intrinsic values. Scattered across their site is visual and textual reinforcement that effectively frames their aid as collaborative between the organization, the donors, and the beneficiaries, suggesting an egalitarian relationship between all the parties involved. by video, which is prominently featu red atop their We Believe web page, is a good example of a positive mission statement video that deliberately targets intrinsic values. The video consists of multi national Oxfam volunteers speaking in their native languages directly to the camera while walking through public environm ents, presumably in the countries that the Oxfam representatives are from or destinations the organization works in (Oxfam by Oxfam, n.d.). They take turns repea ting the text of a message that i s written in English over the visuals, each making a statemen t concerning how much of the world is plagued by poverty and what Oxfam is doing to combat the issue. Statements such as: the power of the people against by innovative ways for people to lift themselves out of by e nabling voices of the poor to influence the local decisions that affect and by alongside the vulnerable women and men to end the injustices that cause (Oxfam by Oxfam, n.d.). All of the dialogue and copy appeals to intrinsic values of equality, social justice, helpfulness, responsibility, and community. The video ends with each speaker in the video pleading with the audience to us today for a brighter
103 emphasizing that successful aid also includes the public d onors as part of a collective effort (Oxfam by Oxfam, n.d.) The by Oxf video is also a good example of effective messaging that can be achieved on a low budget with relatively unsophisticated imaging technology. All the Oxfam volunteers appea ring and speaking in the video record themselves on a phone camera affixed to a selfie stick, with the camer a facing toward them. While it i s not a video that showcases an d obvious aid beneficiaries, it i s something that any organization could replicate b y sending specific instructions to agents in the field to record messages on their own phones, then sending those videos back to the NGO for editing into something coherent, all while maintaining a simplistic and c onsistent visual style. There is virtuall y no budget required for such a production because presumably most volunteers would have access to a similar smartphone, could readily come up with a selfie stick or an approximate, and follow instructions on how to film themselves speaking in a similar st yle to similar themes, before submitting their footage to the organization. A number of NGOs and aid organizations have videos in place of their mission statement, but all too often they play upon the sympathetic visual tropes of the past, yet the Oxfam v ideo accomplishes the same task, communicating the core principl es of what the organization values while keeping the footage positive, non stereotypical, and avoiding the pitfalls of sympathetic imagery. A good example of how Oxfam utilizes intrinsic valu e framing in their written text can be found on their we fight povert y webpage. The page only consists of a single image along the top of the page, which is of a happy, leaping African child, depicted candidly in a photojournalism style, and below i t, a brief descriptive list of the six over arching strategies to combat poverty (How We Fight Poverty, 2017). The very first strategic point
104 begins with the line people have the power to claim their basic human rights, they can escap e The second addresses empowerment and links their increased agency with stronger communities and enhanced political action. It states, is driven by empowered and that, work to help them speak out and demand jus tice and assert their (How We Fight Poverty, 2017). Such copy is common throughout the Oxfam webpages and it demonstrates an understanding that beneficiaries claiming their human rights is a positive, agency oriented frame appealing to intrins ic values like responsibility, equality, social justice, and participatory democracy, all frames that are altruistic and appeal to like minded audiences. Oxfam also has a couple of features that take pos itive still photography a step further than what I ou tlined, while still s erving as good examples of what i s achievable for an organization that thinks outside the box and seeks non traditional means of visual s torytelling. cry for peace is a portraiture story in partnership with an organization called Dear World, in which the photographer, Robert Fogarty, takes stylized portraits of Sudanese men, women, and children that have been victims of the ongoing war in South Sudan, which Oxfam has provided humanitarian aid to. The portraits go b eyond what a ty pical heroic environmental portrait would entail in that the subjects are photographed with a simple but relatively sophisticated location lighting setup not common to run and gun NGO reportage field work. In the series of photographs, each refugee writes something prominent on their body in a black marker that makes a personal statement about their feelings or how been affected by their displacement. Statements such as or will give us our home and numerous others are bo ldly displayed across the hands and limbs of individuals that appear stoic, proud, hopeful, and even happy, all in a stylized, punchy, almost fashion photography treatment
105 against the context of their starkly foreign African environment (We cry for peace, 2016). This particular appeal urges readers to click on their link, which i s an online petition hoping to a ffect a US government led arms embargo on South Sudan (We cry for peace, 2016). Such use of portraiture gives voice to the aid benefici arie s and victims of war through the ir written statements scrolled across their arms, it pla ys upon the hero representation by featuring the subject prominently in the frame, standing tall, sometimes viewed from a slightly lower perspective looking up, and all with confident, strong, and hopeful expressions, the opposite of the stereotypical victim portrayal Blue Sky of Home is an Oxfam photo essay that effectively tells the story of humanitarian assistance and speaks for beneficiaries while eschewin g traditionally negative visual tropes. The premise is photographing personal possessions of Syrian refugees in hands with accompanying copy that tells what the object is and what its significance is using the own words. In each image, the viewer only see s the hands of a refugee holding an item, never seeing their face or body. In this way the visuals do no t distract viewers from the primary subject, which is the item itself and how powerful it s symbolism is to the lives of refugees in their time of crisis. For example, there i s an image of a gold watch in a hands and in the accompanying text it i s explained that the watch belonged to her deceased son, best friend, and confidant, who was lost to war (McCabe, 2016). In another photo a hands hold a stainless steel rod that is said to be a falafel mold, representative of the individual labor and occupation in Syria. He now holds onto the prized possession with the hope that he may rebuild his life and once again take pri de in the only work he ha s known (McCabe, 2016). This is a great use of creative visual journalism that gives voice to aid beneficiaries in a way that attempts to relate their lives, hopes, dreams, and general humanity to that of the audience readin g
106 the story in a way that does no t rely on images of poverty, vulnerability, or negative stereotypes. While this form of visual storytelling goes beyond the basic NGO reportage documentation and empowerment portraiture I describe, creative visual tactics like i t and the dramatic portraits of the cry for series, f it with the communications approach I ha ve proposed, pushing it even further and enhancing its potential to engage and effect audiences. Raleigh Egalitarianism and Sustainabil ity Raleigh International is a British NGO that sends volunteers oversees to work on sustainable developmental aid and capacity building projects. Raleigh remains one of the most consistent organizations in their commitment to delivering empowering visual s and copy that represent their efforts as an egalitarian and cooperative process between beneficiaries and organization volunteers. The emphasis on collective empowerment and the tone for the visuals is established from the outset on Ralei homepage in the statement, believe that when local communities and young people work side by side to create positive ch ange, it empowers them. And it i s the energy and motivation of empowered people that creates lasting (Raleigh Internati onal, 2017). The vision of empowerment is stated numerous times directly in text and the accompanying banner image across the top of the page features Raleigh volunteers interacting and engaged with a crowd of beneficiaries. From there, th e copy and visuals follow suit, doubling down on the collective, egalitarian aspects of the work they do. Egalitarianism and an organization working hand in hand with beneficiaries are critical intrinsic values and by triggering them repeti tively in imagery and text througho ut web presence, they effectively frame their aid work according deep pro social frames that resonate with audiences that are most likely to want to give and establish meaningful and lasting donor relationships.
107 A survey of visuals indicate s that they rely upon an NGO reportage, photojournalism style of photorealism documentation, but with a careful and deliberate intention to include visuals that depict their work in the most egalitarian, community emp h asized way possible. If physical labor is depicted, such as in constructing walls, moving masonry, or digging, Raleigh is careful to include images that have volunteers and beneficiaries doing the same labor together without any obvious division of hiera rc hy Virtually all of the visuals that include beneficiaries feature them candidly smiling, happy, and en gaged in whatever activity they are undertaking Despite the reality that most of the communities that Raleigh works in are imp overished and underse rved, they a re careful to exclude imagery where any extreme poverty is apparent in the form of environmental pollution or clothing appearing overly s oiled and tattered. In all, it i s a consistently upbeat and positive visual representation of seemingly ve ry productive, and fruitful youth volunteer based development aid. Raleigh also features a webpage of where they effectively communicate the work through personal stories about individual beneficiaries. The stories are g ood examples of the communications approach I recommend because they rely on simple NGO reportage narratives and are visually and textually consistent with focus on empowerment and sustainable community development. For example, Carolina is the story of the an 18 year old Nicaraguan seamstress who learned how to start, grow, and maintain a sewing business in her town (Ruth Carolina, n.d.). The story is mostly told through own words as she articulates what she learned from her Ral eigh provided training as well as her visions and goals for her future and how she wants to strengthen her community by employing other women and similarly marginalized individuals. Ruth is quoted as saying:
108 The course in Somoto has also been helpful in teaching me more about marketing my business and about the different activities I can do here in the community. I hope in the future to be able to employ a few people who would work with me to make clothes, especially someone with disabilities (Raleigh International Ruth Carolina, n.d.). Reinforced with images of Ruth sewing, being industrious, and happily interacting with Raleigh volunteers, story is a good example of how a short, image driven beneficia ry story can be positive, empowering, and appeal to intrinsic values, such as personal empowerment, responsibility, and community. Raleigh could be criticized as misrepresenting the realities of international aid work by going out of their way t o depict the work as cooperative at all times, but I see it as an effective strategy to remain consistently positive. In focusing on framing according to a few core intrinsic values such as community, efficiency, sustainability, shared pros perity, and non hierarchal division of labor, and then matching NGO reportage style imagery to those frames, the organization is simply reinforcing their ideal of what cooperative aid work should be. The overall effect of such a tactic is one that could b e very effective in serving a as counter hegemonic form of NGO communications because if the public saw only such depictions, it could potentially leave audiences with an impression that foreign aid and development is effective, that beneficiaries are eage r to learn and collaborate with providers, and that benefits are lasting and self sustaining. Such an outcome would be desirable compared to the hegemonic perception that there i s a general futility of foreign aid due to the legacy of less deliberate, ste reotypically negative, and more traditional representations of aid work. Mercy Corps and the Simple Empowerment Photo Story Mercy Corps was identified as a top 10 NGO in 2013 by NGO Advisor, and while their web presence does no t include much in the way of multimedia appeals, their use of simple,
109 positive, empowering still imagery accompanying short textual beneficiary success stories is a fi tting example of contemporary NGO rep ortage in the photo essay form The section of their website fe atures a variety of image driven stories that are centered around beneficiary empowerment and very professional positive visuals. Selecting any of the stories links to a subpage where there is a written story about a beneficiary in one of the countries th ey work in, accompanied by expert photojournalism style reportage photography. Each of the stories fits the same basic template with the first part being a lead that effectively pulls the reader into the life of an individual aid recipient with a detail ed color description of what it i s like to be that person amidst their daily circumstances. This is followed by introducing a problem that they, their family, or community regularly faces, followed by how whatever aid, education, or training Mercy Corps has provided has helped them better themselves and become more equipped to grow stronger and overcome those challenges, finally becoming leaders and agents of change for others to follow. The copy for each story is long enough to engross the reader and to al low them to empathize with the subject by providing an accurate representation of what that life is like. Peppered throughout the story are quotes translated in English that allow the beneficiary to have a voice and to personally speak to how the become empowered. Mercy visuals are some of the highest quality amongst NGOs and they borrow heavily from newspaper and magazine reportage styles. For the most pa rt, every subject, be it a Guate malan farmer who has been trained to implement b asic, affordable, crop tracking technology that meets the requirements for his product to be exported to the US; to a woman in Niger who went to an agricultural school and became a successful farmer and entrepreneur; almost all the images represent these b eneficiaries as healthy, industrious individuals applying their training and skills
110 in a non staged manner (Technology Connects Snow Pea Farmers to Success, n.d.; Halstead, 2017). Mercy still visuals are classic photojournalism in that they utiliz e wide angle scene setting images that provide environmental context, normal or standard view shots for the bulk of the action or depiction of what the subject does, as well as a scattering of close up or detail shots that fill in the gaps in the story. A ll of these visuals are taken from a diverse set of angles from low to high, with visual device such as creative and dynamic framing and established compositional techniques, all revealing a degree of professional photojournalism proficiency and lending th e stories the right amount of professionalism and engaging imagery that audiences would expect to see reserved for notable newspapers and magazines. In these photo essays, the obligatory camera aware environmen tal portrait is included but it i s not elabor ate or highly stylized, yet they feature the subject appearing powerful, happy, and full of pride in their work. These visual techniques combined with a perfectly appropriate length of text and copy that appealing to intrinsic values, is the ideal impleme ntation of NGO reportage in photo essay form. It should be noted however, that while Mercy Corps executes near perfec t empowerment photo stories, it i s only one kind of story they r egularly publish, and those a re featured alongside numerous othe r stories, that while maintaining the same quality of reportage visuals, report on crises, starvation, and subjects that dire and immediate, where empowerment and positivism are not part of the narrative. USAID Stories USAID is the United States governmen t agency responsible for funding global humanitarian aid effort to combat poverty and strengthen developing democracies. According to their we webpage, they in ideas that work to improve the lives of millions of men, women and in sectors that include: agriculture and food security; democracy,
111 human rights, and governance; economic growth and trade; education; ending poverty; environment and global climate change; gender equality and empowerment; global health; water and sanitation; and finally, working in crisis and conflict (What We Do, 2017). Though not technically an NGO, but rather, a funding source for NGOs, USAID is one of the most significant and recognizable global players in the humanitarian aid indus try, and they happen to utilize the most complete realization of a positive, multimedia storytelling communications approach according to the one I a m advocating for in the form of their collection. USAID Stories is set apart from, but ac cessible through the primary webs ite. USAID Stories is an image dominated site that is currently the launching point to view 35 personalized success stories derived from a diverse assortment of NG Os and aid organizations they fund which ad minister aid according to the s prioritized initiatives in developing countries worldwide. The s tories serve as fully realized examples of the communications approach I ha ve defined because they bring together all the necessary elements I ha v e discussed in the other examples within a single, replicable format. Each story remains consistent in structure and style, despite being produced by multiple photographers a nd videographers. In regard to format, the stories are all based around an appro ximately five hundred word written story about an individual or a group of beneficiaries overcoming an obstacle or challenge due to the aid or training received, transforming into empowered individuals capable of helping or providing for others in the process. The story text is accompanied by a photojour nalism style, still image essay that scrolls vertically down the page, resembling a blog. Each image appears to fill the width of whatever monitor the story is being viewed on, with brief excerpts of the story text between photos. Immediately below the title
112 image atop each story page, which is often an environmental portrait that depicts the subjec t as happy and empowered, there i s an embedded short, mini documentary video of approximately two to three minutes in length that activates automatically upon scrolling past it. In this format that combines NGO reportage with some setup portraiture, short, digestible but positive, text about personal and communal empowerment, and accompanied by a brief v ideo, each one of the USAID stories utilizes familiar media formats to tell quick success stories about efforts to eradicate global poverty and malnutrition. for Health is one such story that offers a perfect example of this st orytelling format. At the very top of H story webpage, there is an image of Hapsatou sitting cross legged, hands in clasped in her lap, on the floor of wh at is presumably her home. She i s wearing bright, colorful, but clean traditional African a ttire, and smiling wide toward the camera/viewer (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). The image is an empowerment portrait showcasing her in her home environment. The vantage point, looking slightly up toward her connotes strength and importance, her h appy and exuberant expression makes her appear confident and at ease. The portrait could have been staged, yet it remains casual, almost candid feeling, and blends seamlessly with the photorealism aesthetic that makes up all of the other NGO reportage ima gery that rounds out her story. Scrolling down to the very next image reveals a play button in the center of it to indicate t hat it i s the video component of story, and it begins to play automatically as soon as the image centers on whatever s creen, phone, tablet, or computer monitor, it i s being viewed on. The video is about two and a half minutes long and filmed in a documentary style that cuts between personal interview footage with Hapsatou speaking, and candid, B roll footage of her teach ing others in her community and taking a role of leadership due to the training and
113 education she received from an NGO (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). The audio is predominantly a narration taken from an interview with Hapsatou that allows her to describe her own words, how her newfound skills as a community educator and leader has allowed her to play a significant role in reducing instances of malnourishment in her village (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). English subtitles appear at the bottom of the screen since Hapsatou speaks in her native tongue, and a soft, but uplifting piano soundtrack can be heard in the background (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). The story is formulaic but simple and effective in that Hapsatou presents a problem, that of a lack of basic nutritional and farming knowledge in her village that resulted in perpetually under nourished children, followed by her being trained to be a community facilitator in the areas of nutrition and farming education, her sub sequent training the community, and the ultimate result being a near eradication of local malnourishment (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). story is framed around intrinsic values. There i s the value of community in that the story focus is no t so much about personal benefit of being able to farm and bett er provide for herself, but she i s now trained to educate others in her village, who can in turn become agents of change. This allows for healthier children and potentially gener ations of local growth and development. All of these elements are used effectively to target the altruistic values. Continuing to scroll down below the video, there are seventeen additional images that complete story. All of them ar e captured in an NGO reportage style documentation of community leadership. The remote Senegal village and som e sparse interiors of earthen homes are backdrops against which all human interaction takes place, yet this setting is featured in a w ay that excludes the stereotypically obvious signs of extreme poverty (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). Fellow villagers are all dressed in their traditional attire or farming
114 and work clothes, they a re depicted working hand in hand together, yet the y seem eager to learn, industrious, with no signs of malnourishment or vulnerability. Visuals in this way remain positive throughout, emphasizing community belonging, and appealing to intrinsic values. Finally, the copy that appears between images and m akes up the written text portion of story differs slightly from, but is consistent with the video narrative in that it presents the problem, then a solution, followed by a positive and empowering resolution. Each passage of the story is led by a bold statement, which taken together, outline the gist of the story. Each statement is followed by a brief paragraph consisting of a few sentences that elaborate on the lead. For example, the very first statement above the first story image says, he althy start in life begins with healthy followed by a brief explanation over two to three sentences concerning the malnourishment problem facing children (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). From there, the story unfolds with a series o f empowerment statements that emphasize Hapsatou as the heroine of the story. Statements like had to is a Hapsatou is a Hapsatou is an and expansion of complete the narrative of H journey to becoming an agent of change within her community and a solution to local malnutrition (Hapsatou for Health, n.d.). The explanatory text remains upbeat throughout, harkening on intrinsic values of individual and community edu cation, personal empowerment, and improved health and happiness. Hapsatou is only one example from the USAID Stories initiative, but all of the others follow this same basic template, whether it be about grieving parents coming together in a program that a ttempts to bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians in Power Is Our to more traditional forms of humanitarian aid, such as training Bangladesh smallholder farmers how to improve their rice yields in the Rice (Our Power Is Our Pain, n.d.; Twice
115 the Rice, n.d.). The formula established is particularly effective because it tell s a positive, visual story that i s relatively short, easy to understand, and utilizes all three primary forms of media, including, text, still imagery, and video making it mobile friendly and appropriate for the way society consumes media and becomes informed today. The format is also one that can be replicated by most NGOs by hiring a single backpack journalist with experience in writing and photo/video product ion, making it an affordable and accessible solution for organizations large and small. A final ex ample worth mentioning is a USAID and Feed the Future video entitled, Evodius from Tanzania Tells His S tory. Unlike s or any of the others from th e USAID Stories website, this one ha s no accompany ing written or still image component. However, it serves as an achievable example of what a slightly advanced video narrative could be, in that it takes the basic template from the USAID Stories videos and adds a few sophisticated and conte mporary video production techniques such as camera movements, drone footage, and graphical text overlays, which augment the narrative by engaging the viewer to a greater extent, while providing a little more information in the form of factoids and statistical information about the aid being showcased The video begins with basic documentary/reportage scenes of a traditional Tanzanian ric e farmer working in a field. Evodius narrates over the visual in Swahili, the subtitl es at the bott om of the screen translating his dialogue into English as he expresses the difficulties Tanzanian rice farmers face in Tanzania (Evodius from Tanzania Tells His Story, 2013) In the very next scene, only thirteen seconds in to the three and a half minute video, Evodius himself steps up to the camera from a blurred and diffused background of an agricultural setting holding a wooden implement and introduces himself. He stands proud, confident, and dressed in a clean bright
116 orange shirt The next scenes are a series of shots of his village, while he continues to narrate about the difficulties of his livelihood (Evodius from Tanzania Tells His Story, 2013) From ther e, a sequence of shots introducing the viewer to rural Tanzania and the Evodiu village. The shots have slight camera movements that move slowly from one side to the other as well as rack focusing where the camera operator goes from one subject in focus in the foreground, to another that i s in the distance. The third type of sh ot is a drone shot that goes over the main street of a bustling village, and dynamic text overlays appear over certain elements on the ground, text that gives statistical facts regarding how many farmers have been trained by USAID (Evodius from Tanzania Te lls His Story, 2013) The text that overlays the footage appear s as if it i s fixed to objects on the ground and it disappear s as the camera sweeps over it In later scenes, text appears a nchored to ob jects people carry, or to certain movements. All three of these creative video techniques are common to cinematic video and film, yet they a re employed effectively here and repeated throughout the story. The inclusion of these elements distinguishes this particular production from much of the field of NGO reportage, surprising the audience with a level of sophistication unexpected from the aid sector. s story is framed according to intrinsic values because it i s not s imply about his empowerment, it i s also about how his personal growth resulted in great benefits f or his community. Evoduis did no t just learn how to plant and harvest rice more efficiently, through the USAID training, he realized where some inefficiencies plague the local farming practice and came up with a solution Evodius devised an affordable weeding tool, one that could readily be reproduced across Tanzania, and afforded by most farmers. USAID further funded Evodius to bring his invention to fruition and to the wider market (Evodius from Tanzania Tells His Sto ry, 2013). Some of the intrinsic values that frame this story are Evodius lea rni ng and gaining
117 independence intellectually and financially, exercising leadership, and participating in and elevating his local community through the aid, training, and assist ance he received. These values are complimented visually by hero portraits of him and his family, framed looking up from a slightly low angle, with the subjects in bright, flattering natural light, standing proud, confident, and happy. When Evodius is de monstrating the creation of his device and its ben efits, he appears motivated, industrious and participating with others in egalitarian relationships Though it contains some relatively sophisticated visual production and presentation devices, From Tanzania Tells His advances the already effective video narrative structure I singled out in USAID Stories. All the methods used, though slightly advanced, are still very replicable by single NGO practitioner s in the field. The camera slider movements, while once requiring the transport and assemb ly of rail and cart systems, can now be replicated in small, packa ble portable rails that are specifically made for the small, professional mirrorless still and video cameras journalists are adopting today. As of 201 7, there are at least two drone models that are no larger than a camera body or professional lens, which produce professional visuals, and that any practitioner can carry with them in their travel production kit. The dynamic text overlays are created in consumer and professional software such as Adobe After Ef fects, and while that can take time to learn, it i s not inaccessible to anyone that might be producing this type of NGO media Utilized effectively, in a way that does no t overpower the story content, these elements can only further engross audiences while instilling production s with a degree of advanced professionalism that can impress viewers and could be the difference in why they choose to support one cause or organization over an other
118 CHAPTER 6 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION The news media in 2017 overwhelmingly depict global affairs in a dire state. Leading headlines are cause for one to believe that war, draught, famine, and climate change induced natural calamity, are mainstays in poor nations especially, a perpetually threatening, and seemingly insurmountable state of affairs. Western NGOs that have historically provided humanitarian aid and assistance to nations seeking to rebuild after some shock or tragedy, provide health a nd nutrition to citizens, or set upon a path of stable nation building and economic development, have served as a bridge between those most in need, and the citizens of the developed world who desire to alleviate the causes and consequences of war, poverty and inequality. For decades, appealing to an pity of, and guilt for, the conditions of the poor was effective to raise the necessary funds for assistance, or bring about widespread awareness and support for causes. However, that communication s legacy, combined with the ubiquity of news media sensationalism, has led to the current state of compassion fatigue amongst the audiences most capable of acting through their financial contributions. In this contemporary media environment, NGOs face a d aunting challenge to turn the tide of public perception and counter the imagery and stories that have solidified the notion that rehabilitation is a lost cause, that the poor are doomed to an infinite loop of disaster, disease, malnutrition, povert y, social strife, and instability. The good news for NGOs is that many of them do great work abroad, and are effective in empowering individuals and entire communities. The stories of success and empowerment already exi st, but they wi ll have to be communi cated through alternative s trategies and tactics than what i s been implemented in the past if they a re going to
119 overcome the increasing compassion fatigue. As Moeller (1999) claimed, compassion fatigue is not a given result of news or NGO media, it i s only a product of how those institutions communicate. This literature review has discussed the history of NGO communications that has led us to this point of widespread perceived futility of the humanitarian aid sector, but it i s also put forth a co ntempor ary, digital storytelling strategy based on telling real stories of beneficiary empowerment. It draws from some positive, alternative NGO communications tactics that have been experimented with, and uses those influences to outline a strategy that is a hybrid of conventional visual journalism and public relations, and is guided by intentional framing of aid according pro social, self transcendental, intri nsic values. If multimedia digital storytelling is more than a contemp orary communications tren d, than it will increasingly play a larger role in how all organizations, public or private, large or small, communicate their messages, services, and/or products to the public across a number of online and mobi le distribution channels. If that is the cas e, then al ternative communications methods such as the one I ha ve proposed, will need to be devised and adopted by practitioners, as well as researched and taught in colleges and universities. The following discussion addresses some of these broader impli cations. Implications for NGO Media Practitioners One of the reasons I chose this thesis is due to an experience I had in 2014, working as a media specialist for one USAID funded initiative, as well as an independent NGO in Tanzania, Africa. Those experi ences introduced me to the world of NGO media and communications, and over a four month period, I gained valuable experience as a visual and written story producer. IAGRI, or the Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative, was a USAID funded, Feed the Fu ture Initiative program that offered masters
120 and PhD scholarships for Tanzanian agricultural professionals and students alike who would earn their degrees through one of a handful of leading agricultural institutions (the University of Florida included) by conducting agricultural and food nutrition research that was immediately applicable to most pressing nutritional and agricultural needs. The Tanzanian Agricultural Productivity Project, or TAPP, was an independent NGO under the umbrella of the Fintrac global organization, and it provided agricultural training and capacity building resources to Tanzanians. For IAGRI, I had a four month stint with duties that required me to head up their own st ory telling initiative, where I woul d create persona l stories of their student beneficiaries, the research they were conducting, as well as the benefit to Tanzania, in the form of mostly photojournalism, long form written stories, and a few brief promotional videos. For TAPP, I was given a contract for a s ingle week, provided a driver and interpreter, and then ferried around the country to document their success in agricultural efficiency training and capacity building. Though I had yet to begin this thesis research and was unfamiliar with the budding fie ld of NGO reportage, what I was doing was exactly that. Neither organization gave me steadfast rules, only that I was to use my photography expertise, as well as some feature writing training, to craft positive and visually engaging stories that the organ izations could use to report their successes and progress to stakeholders, including principle funders, as well as the public. What follows are some of the challenges, solutions, and practicalities I encountered while employing some of the multimedia stor ytelling devices that I endorse in the approach I ha ve defined Much like (2014) account of practicing NGO reportage in the field, this section serves as guide for NGO communicators deployed to challenging environments and foreign cultures with the
121 explicit task of collecting the raw visual and written material to create positive and engaging stories of humanitarian aid and capacity building endeavors. One of the key advant ages of the strategy I a m advocating for is the fact that a single adequ ately equipped and trained individual can serve as writer, photographer, videographer, and editor of content. However, there is a caveat to this rule. In some instances, a small support team acting in capacity of a translator and/or fixer, is often requi red to pull off this type of work if the hired media specialist is from a country and culture that is different from the one that is the subject of the media being produced. For instance, without personally having any functional knowledge of Swahili, havi ng a native speaker on hand was an absolute must for me to be able to accomplish what I did in Tanzania. Also, as a cultural outsider to Tanzania, I found that I needed some help in navigating important cultural differences that can impede media productio n in places where media and journalism are perceived differently and are generally conducted according to differing conventions. Both IAGRI and TAPP provided me with the support crew I needed. Such arrangements can generally be expected when working for the larger NGOs or humanitarian aid organizations, but for the very small outfits with limited staff, it may be necessary for a media specialist to hire their own reliable personnel. In the case IAGRI, my help consisted of a single driver/interpreter/fix er, who was responsible for getting me to and from re mote research locations where I woul d conduct interviews with the student scholars, photograph what they were doing there, and document their research and/or training and education of locals. Because IA primary beneficiaries were Tanzanian students who were well versed in the unofficial second language, English, I only needed the IAGRI driver to physically take me to the students and to arrange
122 accommodations for overnight stays in places I was unfamiliar with. Any discussion or interpretation necessary with locals, for whom the student beneficiary and my story subject had to interact with, was interpreted by the student/subject. For TAPP, they provided a team of two, a Tanzanian driver t hat worked full time for the NGO and had some logistical and technological knowledge of their operations, as well as a second individual who worked strictly as an interpreter. Navigating a contrasting perceptions of journalism and media productio n, including photography and video, is one of the more critical functions of an interpreter, particularly one native to the culture th e media is being made in. They wi ll be the most adept at understanding differences and being able to convey those to the practitioner so that they can act in a manner customary and appropriate to the culture in question. In Tanzania it was explained to me that though the culture has a general understanding of the role of media as a watchdog and voice of the people, they of ten associate the visual technology of the profession, still cameras and video, as tools o f espionage. Therefore, they are very suspicious of, and sometimes hostile to those wielding cameras and taking photos. The origins of such suspicions are derived f rom a number of causes, but for me, it meant that I had to gain an under standing of when it was or was no t appropriate to take pictures and video, and I had to have a greater reliance on my interpreters to adequately explain to my subjects who I was and wh at I needed to make visual documentation for. Working for TAPP, there were few instances where I could have simply approached my subjects, taken out my cameras, and started recording. I learned this lesson early on when, despite having all production gea r secured in a nondescript bag and having an interpreter approach and explain beforehand what our intentions were document a group of farmers selling goods at a small village market, they
123 reacted aggressively to the request and vehemently denied us the abi lity to record or conduct interviews on the grounds that we were commercial producers who desired to profit off their likeness and goods. No amount of explaining or credentials in that circumstance could have gotten us the permission we needed. Those men were simply too suspicious of our intentions, and had I presumed that I could work in that environment and simply started documenting, an already tense situation could have potentially become very hostile and unsafe. Even when a group does fully understan d intent to produce media and gives approval, their idea of what professional imagery is, it may be in stark contrast to the imagery styles and conventions of the country. Therefore, having cultural sensitivity and personal communicat ion skills are necessary in employing a communications approach and getting desired visuals. For example, in Tanzania, as well as in China and southeast Asia, I have found that when it comes to photographing people, there exists a cultural perception that they must always be prearranged in rigid groups according to a strict social hierarchy, and that they should always be camera aware. There was very little expectation of the candid, photojournalism, photorealism, and documentary approach to recording vis uals in those countries and regions. Understanding this ahead of time, I sometimes had to placate the subjects of the photo by taking the images they thought were appropriate visuals first, then have an interpreter explain Western reportage and visual cus toms, and only afterward, was I able to proceed as I was accustomed. Likewise, many locals that would be depicted in a candid fashion as they farmed and went about their daily practices, had to have the interpreter explain to them why this was necessary a nd sometimes needed to be reminded a few times before they relaxed and went about their lives as if I were no t present.
124 Another instance where differing cultural attitudes toward photography manifests itself is in the prepa redness to be pho tographed. It i s common that there is relatively little familiarity with candid, documentary styles of photography in many parts of the world, so subjects who are expecting to be photographed will sometimes dress in the very best clothing they own, regard l ess of the circumstances they a re to be p hotographed in. So, even if it i s a smallholder farmer who must be depicted doing t he type of farm labor that they a re accustomed to, they may choose to wear a nicer shirt or suit jacket than they would otherwise On one hand, this can be a positive for a media practitioner, as they do no t have to worry as much about the attire being tattered or overly soiled, circumstances that can potentially contribute to negative stereotypes. On the other hand, a fa rmer planting in business attire can be problematic in achieving a sense of photorealism. In such cases, an interpreter who understands the differences in cultural perceptions, can be invaluable in getting an individual to dress appropriately and to expla in the need for it without embarrassing or shaming any individual. In regard to social hierarchies, they a re generally more rigid and paid much greater deference to in the non Western countries that make up much of the developing world where NGOs regularly operate. In practice, this means that before one can meet with and record aid beneficiaries, sometimes all of the higher ups in a local hierarchy must be seen and acknowledged prior to gaining access to the primary subject of documentation. In Tanzania, working for both IAGRI and for TAPP, this was very common in all but the larger cities. I would first have to go with my driver and interpreter to a local gover nment office, where we woul d have to meet with the local town administers, even if they had ha d nothing to do with the media or stories being made and were entirely removed from the work. In most cases, this was just a
125 formality, customary where hierarchies are rigid and permissions to do anything are top down and must go through that sort o f approval process. With al l of these cultural customs, it i s critical any media practitioner who will work in developing countries become versed in differing customs either through independent research, or through having discussions with interpreters or support staff, prior to producing any media. Doing so will increase the likelihood of avoiding any negative violations of customs that would at best inhibit production practices, and at worst, break unfamiliar laws. The drawbacks to relying on others to conduct NGO reportage in the field can be a loss of control. However, if one becomes adept at navigating cultural sensitivities by working to first actively accommodate their desires while explaining needs and pursuing them only after establ ishing positive rapport and mutual understanding, in my experience, adequate leeway and freedom to produce the type of work needed will gradually be granted. Grayson (2014), in her account of practicing NGO reportage, came to a similar conclusion, that by satisfying the needs and expectations of her hosts first, trust was established, and she eventually gained greater power and agency over the creation process to the point where she could adhere to the practices she was accustomed to, regaining control ove r the outcome. Aside from the challenges associated with different cultural perceptions of media and media practice, there were a few notable practical challenges I encountered in Tanzania. For starters, there i s the issue of time, or the lack thereof. The communications approach I a m advocating for is derived from long form photojournalism tactics, specifically, the candid nature of visual documentation that presents itself when a photographer and videographer spends a significant amount of time living with their subject. With the NGOs I worked for, I had a very limited time to
126 employ such techniques. With TAPP, there was the logistical challenge of getting to projects that were scattered nationwide, and to document as many as possible in only a week. This meant that there was only time to arrive, meet the subject, speak or interview them briefly to get a gi st of what they do and how they ha d benefited from humanitarian aid, then photograph them in the field before needing to move on. Thus, everythin g about the NGO reportage process was highly compressed. Under such circumstances, I found that pre planning a formulaic approach was essential in getting everything I needed. I understoo d going into every shoot that I woul d need time to photograph the gist of the story of how the subject had become empowered since receiving the aid in the form of agricultural or nutritional health training. To get a full visual story, I knew I needed wide angle scene setter shots, a variety of normal shots, detail shot s, and a few different environmental portraits. So, upon arriving I made a mental checklist and pre determined where I might get such shots based on the little information I had for each subject prior to arriving. As I followed them around recording thei r work, I made sure I was covering all four types of shots I needed, as I would no t have a visually complete story till I had. With IAGRI, I had a written component based on interviews I conducted with each student researcher in addition to the visuals I recorded. So, I woul d always follow the same routine to make sure that I worked through each subject getting what I needed systematically. I devised an interview template with open ended questions, one that I modified according to what I could read abou t their research prior to my visit. I woul d conduct the interview first as that would inform some of the visuals that might be possible as well to bring me up to speed regarding what it was the subject researched. I also stuck to the same basic story for mula that I tweaked slightly from subject to subject.
127 I would often begin with a lead that personalized the subject, offering personal insight into their motivations behind their research, or I woul d use a color description of a location setting to pull t he reader into the environments that the research was being conducted in, followed by an explanation of what the research was, how it would improve the overall well being of Tanzania, and so on. Having a slightly adapted but repeatable template was essent ial in not having to reinvent the wheel for every new subject and story, but also to m aximize what abbreviated time I woul d have to work in field for each one. I also found when working for TAPP, that due to the infrequency of site visits and contact from the program administrators with some of the beneficiaries, some of the remote sites were no t what we expected. Thus, the visual opportunities I anticipa ted would not be possible and I woul d be forced to think and adapt on the fly. In one such instance, w e traveled about four hours along barely passible back roads and field tracks to visit a bell pepper farm where rudimentary drip irrigation had been employed and the farmer was reportedly benefiting from higher yields as a result. We lost a good amount of time getting to the site en route to other sites and my driver and fixer were left upset and disappointed because they had supposedly communicated with the farmer subjects ahead of time and were assu red that they woul d be there and that the field was acti vely kept up. Upon arriving, I quickly surveyed the fie ld and understood that I could no t shoot wide angle shots that represented a healthy crop here, nor could I take any setup environmental portraits of empowered farmers because there was nobody present on site, and it had no t been maintained. However, since drip lines were still in place and there were rows and green pepper plants growing in them, I was able to weed small sections, tidied up a dirt row or two, and then take useful detail photos that we re close ups
128 featuring just the plants, the drip line, and how individual plants were getting water. Taken out of the context of the otherwise unkempt field, the images still illustrate the agricultural advancements that the aid beneficiaries had utilized at one point. The lesson here for any field practitioner is to not panic when site visitations do no t appear as expected, because there could be aspects of the site or circumstances that can be selectively documented to meet communications objectiv es. Adaptability, not just to think quickly and make the best of a non ideal situation but to have the patience and wherewithal to problem solve and adapt to any challenge, is the single most important skill that an NGO visual communicator can have in the field. Any practitioner must understand that aid and development often occur in places where the basic amenities and infrastructure that allow for certain efficiencies to be taken for granted in the West, are largely absent from the developing world. The refore, someone working for an NGO, be it a communications specialist, a program administrator, right down to a volunteer, must understand this and adapt their tactics and expectations frequently. Patience is especially essential in order to maintain comp osure and not get impatient with beneficiaries whose customs and expectations may differ drastically, and are often at the mercy of socio economic and/or political circumstances that are out of their control. This is why having routines and conventions th at can be readily adapted to changing circumstances, and then having the willingness to change them as needed, is essential to being an effective international and intercultural communicator working in the field. Implications for Teaching What I discussed in the preceding section, the challenges, solutions, and practicalities faced in the field when implementing aspects of this or a similar alternative,
129 empowering communications strategies, has potential implications for academic instruction at colleges and universities. In her research describing NGO reportage, Grayson (2014) identified the practice as an emerging professional field. I ha ve used NGO reportage label throughout this thesis to describ e the practice that my own approach best resembl es, but as an expanded version, one that takes the visual journalism aspects that is founded upon, but also emphasizes where it can diverge from the strict confines of journalism ethics, straying into more setup public relations conventions where necessary to create to intentional imagery. My research accepts the premise that this type of NGO reportage will be part of the larger aid industr y storytelling endeavor that we wi ll see a greater number of NGOs utilizin g to tell their story. If that i s true, and hybrid visual journalism and public r elations media production strategies are adopted to create such media, then colleges and universities should begin to seriously consider devoting curriculum development for training students that would potent ially be interested in entering this field as a viable alternative to the shrinking opportunities traditional photojournalism offers. A curriculum for preparing students for the field of NGO reportage and visual communications would borrow from academic di sciplines and programs that would conceivably already be in place at institutions with an established communications and journalism department. Since NGOs seem to have a preference for the visual aesthetics associated with photojournalism, be it due to th eir legacy dependence on the media, or an innate preference for photorealism when it comes to their visuals, the foundation for teaching students how to produce this type of imagery, should be based on existing photojournal ism instruction. With the approa ch I advocate for, most of the visuals that would tell an NGO story, would ideally be obtained through non interference,
130 observational based, photo documentation. Therefore, knowledge of how visual journalists see and anticipate narrative images and/or se quences of images using an assortment of lenses that simulate varying perspectives and which isolate or emphasize certain visual elements, is an essential skillset. Since some aspects of NGO reportage require some pre meditation and setup, then knowledge of how to use basic portable flash equipment, employing it in field, posing other human subjects, and some basic technical instruction for operating cameras and artificial light together, should augment any photojournalism curriculum. The combination of p hotojournalism and public relations, or more setup/studio photography practices, would give students the necessary technical knowledge of how to craft engrossing stories through mostly observation and documentation, with the added knowledge of when to inte rvene in order to setu p appropriate visuals that cannot be achieved through purely photojournalistic practices. Since this digital storytelling approach incorporates multi media, including video and written storie s, then it i s also necessary for any would be practitioner to acquire a working skillset of video/documentary production and narrative story writing. NGO video stories are typically brief, relatively formulaic, and resemble mini documentaries. Since professional video and still image capabilities have merged into single, portable devices, a media specialist can get more than enough quality to produce all necessary content on one device that can be with them at all times. This means that it i s not necessary for a practitioner to know how to produc e a full fledged feature film, but rather, how to simply translate their photojournalism training into simple but effective video shorts, something that is already a part of many college and university photojournalism curriculum due to convergence in the j ournalism industry. As for the written component of this strategy some basic coursework in journalism that would
131 adequately prepare a student to successfully interview and acquire all the necessary factual elements from a source would be a necessity, pos sibly combined with some creative feature writing instruction in order to be able to write, contemporary, engaging stories that draw a reader into the lives of a subjects. Personally, I found the most applicable value for what I did for IAGRI in T anzania, came from a graduate level magazine feature writing course I took. It provided me with an understanding of story structure and some go to approaches for writing the personal stories that accompanied my photo essays. Finally, and perhaps the most important part of an NGO reportage specific curriculum, is intercultural communications and media studies. As I discussed in the previous section, w hen I employed aspects of this approach in the field in Tanzania, there were a number of cultural barriers that inhibited me from simply traveling around and shooting and recording whatever I desired. I was adequately prepared to encounter such obstacles, and had the patience and training to deftly navigate those challenges only because of my extensive past ex perience of working in foreign cultures and due to intercu ltural communication coursework, I completed in this graduate program. Many parts of the developing world are vastly different from the West culturally, and have many different customs and media co nventions, and any practitioner has to be prepared to handle and negotiate cultural difference in a manner that remains respectful to the foreign culture in question. While not a substitute for the real world, college level intercultural communications tr aining is an adequate precursor. Media studies compliment intercultural communications, as it allows the media practitioner to gain an understanding of the potential power of media representation. As this research has demonstrated, representation is a c onscious decision and a constructed
132 product, and the way that an entire industry has traditionally represented their work, has led to very negative consequences that have shaped global perceptions of the developing wo rld and its inhabitants, and we a re onl y now trying to counter these damaging, deeply rooted, and often inaccurate perceptions. Only with a proper foundation of media studies coursework, and the ability to understand how conscious inclusion and exclusion decisions work, how framing works, can an NGO communicator intentionally produce multimedia stories that simultaneously empower their subjects while fostering a sense of solidarity between an organization and the public. Conclusion The positivism and multimedia storytelling this re search and co mmunications approach promotes is not a magic bullet that can prevent compassion fatigue from taking effect. NGOs and the media they produce are only one voice amongst an increasing cacophony of visual and textual information and misinformation about the developing world and the challenges it faces. For decades though, the approach that NGOs took in informing the public of international crises and what the public could do to help alleviate them, only added to the negative perceptions of the international poor and established a hegemony of thought that made possible for the maintenance of the status quo of global geo political and economic inequality that perpetuated those circumstances, and were some of the root causes of global inequality. The awakening to the potent ially destructive effects of it s communications legacy in the mid led to some soul searching, some experimental attempts at deliberate positivism, and some non binding international codes of conduct and strategic communicati ons recommendations, but no approach was ever fully embraced, and landscape of NGO media that mixes traditionally negative stereotypes with some alternative and empowering tactics, is proof
133 that there exists a lot of room for growth and improvement in the communications efforts. Deliberate positivism has its potential drawbacks, such as a lack of perceived authenticity amongst the public, as well as unintended consequence of convincing audiences that international problems have been solve d and that no further aid is necessary. Despite the possibility of such outcomes, the little rese arch on NGO communications that i s out there suggests that there i s real potential for alternative communication methods to attract public support for causes at a greater rate than emotional pity appeals do, and the media and technological landscape is such that multimedia digital storytelling is currently an affordable and accessible vehicle for NGOs of any size to effectively tell their story and attract incr eased levels of public support. The ubiquity of seemingly bad news streaming out of the developing world would have us believe that the world is ending tomorrow and that the tide of international crisis and misfortune is i rreversible. I understand that is not the case, as I ha ve personally witnessed NGOs contribute to both individual and communal good abroad, and I ha ve been fortunate enough to have played a role in crafting some of those success stories myself. Further research, experimentation, and de velopment of positive, empowering, intrinsic value based, digita l multimedia storytelling approaches should be pursued but the need for global humanitarian aid is plentiful, and some NGOs seem to be communicating that need with the gradual adoption of pos itive digital storytelling. By adopting a visual communica tion strategy such as the one I a m advocating for, NGOs may begin to reverse the notions of futility associated with foreign aid, and in time, just might be able to establish a new hegemony of thou ght, one that represents the developing
134 world not as it i s currently believed to be but one that imagines it as it could be: prosperous, nutritionally and economically self sufficient, healthy, and equal.
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141 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Tyler Jones is a graduate of the Univer sity of College of Journalism and Mass Communications. In the fall of 2017, he receive d a MAMC Mr. Jones tailored his graduate curriculum to his area of interest in international and intercultural communications, particularly that of internati onal aid and humanitarian work. Mr. s professional interest in international work began in 2001 when he completed his AA with a foreign study in immersive Spanish language at the University of Salamanca in Spain. From there, he transferred to the University of Virginia, where he continued to pursue foreign studies, and in 2004 he re ceived his BA in international r elations. A year long stint in China following his undergraduate studies rerouted Mr. s professional ambitions from state departm ent work to that of visual storytelling and communications In 2006, Mr. Jones began working as a photographer for the University o f Florida, responsible for creating and arc hiving the still imagery that represent s the Institute of Food and Agricultural S ciences (IFAS) research, teaching, and extension efforts throughout Florida In his tenure as IFAS photographer, Mr. work has been published by the New York Tim es, the Washington Post, and National Geographic. In 2011, Mr. Jones enrolled part tim e in the graduate p rogram at the University of Florida continuing to fulfill his full time duties as UF/IFAS ph otographer A 2014 internshi p as a visual storyteller and media producer for the Innovative Agricultural Research Institute (I AGRI) in Tanzania Africa, further solidified a professional interest in NGO and foreign aid communications, a f ield Mr. Jones intends to explore further