The Radi-Aid Awards - originally named The Radiator Awards - is an annually event created by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH), spawned by the satirical campaign and music video Radi-Aid: Africa for Norway in 2012. By highlighting the best and worst charity ads of the year, the goal with the Radi-Aid Awards is to change the way fundraising campaigns communicate and engage people in issues of poverty and development. This year’s award ceremony will be held in Oslo, Norway (live streaming online), on December 8th. Final nominees for each category will be announced by mid-November.
The Rusty Radiator Award goes to the fundraising video with the worst use of stereotypes. This kind of portrayal is not only unfair to the persons portrayed in the campaign, but also hinders long-term development and the fight against poverty.
The Golden Radiator Award goes to the fundraising video using creativity and creating engagement. This kind of charity campaign is stepping outside of the common way without using stereotypes.
The Radi-Aid Awards aim at addressing the following issues:
- Charity campaigns risk being counterproductive to their own goals if they obscure the actual causes of poverty. We need more nuanced information about development and poverty, not oversimplified half-truths.
- In many charity ads, poor people are portrayed as passive recipients of help, without the ability or desire to make their country a better place to live. This kind of portrayal creates a significant distinction between us and them.
- The last years have shown increasing examples of creative and engaging portrayals in charity ads, demonstrating the many various ways a charity campaign can succeed without traditional and stereotypical representations.
- Stereotypes and oversimplifications lead to poor debates and poor policies. NGO communicators play a crucial role in people’s understanding of development in the world today, and therefore also a crucial role in fighting these representations.
The Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) is the solidarity organization of students and academics in Norway. In addition to long-term development work, SAIH works with advocacy activities in Norway and internationally, in order to improve the conditions for education and development globally. Read more about SAIH.
Why is it wrong to communicate this way, when it raises money to important development projects?
We need debate and action based on knowledge, not stereotypes. Simplifications and stereotypes creates an image of the receivers as mere objects or passive actors that are lacking the means and resources, and are not able to change their own livelihoods. This image can easily turn into prejudice and racism. An oversimplified or narrow picture of poverty and inequality then turns into an oversimplified debate about how to work against these problems. In the end, it might lead to wrong solutions.
So what are the solutions? How can we do it better?
This year’s and previous nominees for the Golden Radiator show how powerful you can communicate in a nuanced, creative and engaging way, without using stereotypes – and still manage to raise money for your campaign. What characterize these campaigns, is that
- They avoid one-sided representation and the single story
- The target group is presented with ownership and has an active role in providing solutions, they speak for themselves and no “white hero” is speaking on behalf of them
- Although the goal is to raise money, they avoid exploiting the suffering of people. People are portrayed with dignity – with potential, talents, strengths.
- Some take use of humour and positivity, which helps to not focus on people’s guilt or create apathy among potential donors/supporters, and highlights instead people’s strengths and common humanity. It is okay, and even good to create feelings, but not feelings like pity/feeling sorry for.
- They portray people in a way that resonate with the audience – situations, emotions etc. You feel solidarity and connected with them, instead of feeling sorry and disconnected from their reality
- The potential donors/supporters are inspired to take action beyond donating
- They respect their audience, by not exaggerating the story or suggesting that “with your donation, you have changed a life/saved the world”
- They are clear and transparent about their role in the project
- They provide context and manage to explain the underlying causes of problems, not presenting merely cheap and easy solutions to global issues.