Malnutrition campaign with UNICEF Laos

Malnutrition campaign with UNICEF Laos.

Work has begun with UNICEF Lao PDR on a country-wide campaign to promote healthy nutritional practices, particularly in rural communities. According to a recent World Health Organisation survey, 27% of children in Laos were recorded as underweight, with only 40% of children receiving exclusive breastfeeding throughout their first six months despite official recommendations.[1]

We’re working with UNICEF nutritional experts, communications staff, as well as government departments and local partners to design and produce a wide-reaching multimedia campaign that aims to change these statistics. We hope to engage families by producing innovative content across media platforms, including broadcast television, radio printed press and social media. The campaign aims to be accessible across rural and urban audiences.

"The 1000 days from pregnancy to infancy are crucial for a baby's cognitive and motor development."

- Uma Palappian, UNICEF Laos.

The campaign project builds on our experience producing multimedia content for UNICEF offices across Africa and Asia – for example, Togo, Burkina Faso, Maldives and Bhutan. It is an exciting opportunity to utilise the wide skill-set of our in-house team, to push our creativity and make a real difference to malnutrition statistics in Laos.

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[1]‘Nutrition’ World Health Organisation Lao PDR, 2019 ,

360 video: seeing, hearing, feeling

360 video has gradually been adopted by NGO’s and change-makers, looking to use the technology to engage audiences across the globe. The possibilities for increased empathy make it an innovative avenue for those seeking to make change in the world. Here, we take a closer look at the technology’s appeal.

360 video: seeing, hearing, feeling.

A visitor to the World Economic Forum in 2015 could have been forgiven for thinking they’d stumbled into the world of science-fiction. In the Swiss town of Davos – where the world’s most influential investors, politicians and policy-makers meet annually – hundreds of suited men and women sat strapped to chunky visors – breaths held and bodies flinching in the empty air.

Transported from the conference, headsets filled their visual landscape with one quite removed from the one they were sat in. The sights and sounds of the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan, home to over 80,000 Syrians fleeing war and violence, seamlessly surrounded them. Alpine snow had been replaced by midday sun. What they were watching was the poignant, Clouds of SidraUNICEF’s first foray into realms of virtual reality.

The film, which follows a 12-year-old girl as she goes about her daily life in the camp, was early evidence of the efficacy of 360 video. The film combines binaural audio recording to engulf the viewer in a range of immersive environments. After screening the project at a recent humanitarian development conference, participants were so moved by the experience that they donated £2.5bn to the fundraising campaign, far surpassing the £1.7bn total predicted.

Clouds over Sidra proved that 360 videos had the potential to a powerful driver for change.

VR lets you be part of the world that you’re trying to understand.

- Oculus, VR for Good.

Leaving lasting impressions.

While 360 video has revolutionized the possibilities for presenting life in a refugee camp or, for example, witnessing domestic abuse, it remains impossible to replicate the reality of living in crisis. Life in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan may be bearable for a ten-minute period – but endure it day-after-day, month-after-month and the consequences such as depression, malnourishment and anxiety are profound. For those living in these realities, there isn’t the option of removing the headset and walking away.

For Mandy Rose, a researcher of interactivity at the University of the West England, virtual reality and 360video priorities knee-jerk reaction at the expense of reasoned debate, ‘You could argue that more important than creating feelings in the viewer is creating awareness of that structural problem in which refugees, for example, end up crossing the Mediterranean in risky journeys by sea’.

Although the format brings humanitarian issues into people’s direct emotional experience, NGOs would do well to move beyond merely using 360 video as a tool of empathy and instead utilise it as a storytelling device which has the capacity to investigate truth more deeply.

You can watch our own 360 project, produced for UNICEF Sierra Leone here.

More important than creating feelings in the viewer is creating awareness of that structural problem.

Mandy Rose, University West England.


Collaborating with UNICEF Sierra Leone, we travelled to the country’s capital, Freetown, to witness the devastation caused by the country’s 2017 mudslides. Using binaural audio recordings, (which replicates the way a human hears audio) and a GoPro Omni, we followed the story of a mother and her family caught up in the turmoil. The project brought to light to the work UNICEF undertook in rebuilding the lives and homes of those affected.

Binaural audio places microphones in custom-designed ear moulds on a rig which sits the two exactly the same distance as a human head. Because the two microphones are placed at a specific distance apart and because the sound coming into them is shaped by the ear moulds, the sound that is recorded mimics the way humans hear sound. By combining this technique with 360 video, a truly immersive environment is created.

We will be showing the film during the Bond Conference on 18thand 19thMarch 2019 in London. Come and find us and experience the power 360 video for your organisation.

Mudslide 360 is also on our project pages here.

If you are considering producing any of the content discussed in this article, feel free to get in touch for more insight and information.

Character-led storytelling

Putting people first: creating emotional connections in films for development.

NGO films are tasked with communicating complex development issues in a short space of time, in a format that will produce high audience engagement rates. When creating films for development, the challenge is in finding the balance between representing an issue authentically, whilst simultaneously creating a film that will grab the attention of your audience. The resounding consensus is that stories, specifically people-centred narratives, is what ultimately connect with people and move an audience to action. In this article we discuss the art of storytelling and how we can successfully apply the principles to create engaging films for development causes.

Telling stories is intrinsic to the human psyche, they give us information to help us to understand the world around us and our place within it. John Yorke, acclaimed screen writer and author of ‘Into the Woods’ theorises that ‘storytelling is an indispensable human preoccupation’, it is a good story that will resonate with people, therefore when creating films for development, crafting great stories around issues should be a primary focus.

Yorke proposes that every story, whether it’s being told in a theatre play, a novel, a documentary, a Hollywood film or even a reality television programme follows the same basic three act structure: a journey into the unknown (act one) to discover a truth (act two) which will allow us to comprehend something outside of ourselves (act three). Another way of understanding this structure is simply by the idea that every story tells the process of change from ignorance to knowledge. Capturing positive stories of change is predominately what development films seek to achieve; whether it’s the change in a character, a community or an environment, this three act structure can be applied universally.

"The journey into the woods to find the dark but life-giving secret within."

— John Yorke.

Powerful personal narratives.

As well as considering structure, the power of a personal story should not be overlooked as a method to connect an audience with an issue. Organisations are often attempting to engage and unite wide audiences on issues that have the potential to be polarizing. Issues that polarize people can often stunt progression of solutions, as people become bogged down in ideology rather than engaging with practical solutions to the problem. NGO films seek to cut through this discourse in order to facilitate solutions, one way of doing so is by crafting character-led narratives. For example, not everyone is in agreement on the causation of climate change, however, a personal story of a family dealing with the devastating effects of drought has the ability to transcend the arguments for and against and connect with people through shared emotion. Ultimately, it is the generating of empathy which will resonate with an audience and move them to action.

"People identify with heroes, living through them, participating in their journeys."

— Jon Fitzgerald.

Accountability to communities.

Alongside the ability of character-led stories to produce an empathic response in audiences, they also offer opportunities for a collaborative approach to the film production, giving contributors the voice and the agency to tell their stories. As filmmakers, an awareness of the balance of power between ourselves and our contributors is vital to make certain that we create horizontal power positions. By doing so we can ensure that we retain integrity to our subjects narratives throughout the film production process, as well as open lines of communication.

By approaching filmmaking for development with a people centred focus, alongside a solid understanding of the art of storytelling, organisations can create films that will stand up to the competition to achieve their aims and accelerate action.

The stories we tell

The stories we tell.

As filmmakers it is our craft and our passion to tell stories. Storytelling can be used as a powerful expression of experience that reconciles differences and orchestrates conversation and change, however, it can also be mis-used and present false realities which can cause harm to people and situations. There is a constant conflict of power in storytelling, as with every story that gets heard, other untold stories remain hidden or suppressed. Often it is these hidden stories that films for development are concerned with telling. Here we speak further on the politics of storytelling and the responsibility that we as filmmakers must acknowledge when creating films that tell the important stories of others.

Storytelling is an essential way of keeping a sense of agency when we are confronted with disempowering situations; it gives us a voice. When we transform events or experiences into stories, we restructure reality into narratives that give us a sense of power that we have some control over the events that befall us in life. In the case of making films on development and humanitarian subjects, the concept of giving people the ability to feel powerful is extremely important given the crisis situations that are the topic for many development films. Often the only action available in such situations is to tell the story of what is happening with the hope that bringing awareness will facilitate a physical action towards positive change. For example, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing tells the previously untold story of the genocide in Indonesia in during the 1950’s and 60’s. As a result of the story being told and heard by so many, the genocide is now being investigated to bring some justice to the victims of the atrocities committed.

"Storytelling is a vital human strategy for sustaining a sense of agency in the face of disempowering circumstances."

— Michael Jackson.

Stories shape the world around us.

Stories hold immense power over the way we view the world, in particular the way we view ‘otherness’; situations and people outside of our usual spheres. When making films for development we’re tasked with communicating the stories of ‘others’, often to an audience whose lives and experiences are in stark contrast to those whose story we’re telling. The story told will either confirm that ‘others’ do not relate to our realities and validate prejudices, or it will break down these boundaries that keep us divided between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Our aim when making films for development is to bridge the divide by telling stories in a way that connects people emotionally and supports the positive progression of ideas that will motivate change.

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."

— Joan Didion.

Everyone can be a storyteller.

The effect that a story has on the way we view a person, a community or a situation is greatly affected by who is telling the story and how it is being told. When making films for development we want to allow the people whose experiences have formed the story to be a storyteller themselves. For example, in our practice we don’t speak about or for people, we simply facilitate them being able to speak for themselves. In our short film series we made with UNICEF Burkina Faso, all of the films are narrated by the contributors themselves. Alongside supporting the authentic representation of characters, hearing people speak about their experiences in their own words serves as an effective method to connect the audience to the issue being presented.

When used effectively, storytelling through film can motivate real and lasting change in the world by engaging with people on issues that matter.