(The Humanitarian Social Network)
In Lindsey's discussion about that trying.too.hard.to.be.funny.thus.failing.to.be.funny video promoting Save The Children's math literacy programmes (the discussion + video), Tom Murphy rightly points out that it's part of the 'simple narrative.'
I think that all development and aid marketing I've ever ever ever seen has been 'simple narrative.' I cannot think of an example of development marketing which does not fall into the simple narrative category.
1) if someone knows of an example of development marketing that isn't simple narrative and would be so kind as to paste the link, I'd love to see it.
2) how do we move development/aid marketing past the simple narrative? (and if you say 'we can't/won't because it's what our donors want...', then I'll think uncomplimentary things about you and donors)
A new ODI study points towards people wanting to hear newer stories.From the Guardian today:
[T]he report urged policymakers and campaigners to confront head on the weakening of public support for current aid levels, which reflects growing scepticism about the effectiveness of UK aid programmes. The report found that efforts by the Department for International Development (DfID) to justify aid programmes on grounds of self-interest rather than moral worth did not resonate with the public.
The report yielded other unexpected findings: a strong desire for stories on how developing countries achieve progress and how aid works (or does not work), and a distaste for images depicting only starvation or those in desperate need.
The report said participants at workshops were most engaged when they heard stories about progress and were intrigued to know more about how change had taken place. "Hearing 'good news stories' about the progress of countries like Vietnam and Brazil in addressing hunger sparked a positive interest in many participants, leading to questions about how this had been achieved," the report said.
that feels to me like a simple exchange of one 'simple narrative' for another. the exchange of simplistic explanations of poverty or 'the problem' (that dumb math video, for example), for simplistic explanations of success ('good news stories' of success in Brazil*, for example).
1) I'm guessing it exists somewhere... (I haven't completely lost hope in all humanity yet)... but you/we likely don't know of it because it's buried or forgotten or or or or or.... What we see/hear/read has to get to us in some way or another. Traditionally, that way is marketing or media in small doses or large. Would be cool if exceptional aid marketing got as much mainstream attention as say... young American entrepreneurs. Also keen to see examples if anyone can recall any.
2) I wouldn't want you thinking uncomplimentary things about me so I'll reserve to keep my comments to myself. But that is to say -- we are at the same party.
1) I, too, want to believe that it exists. But then again, to paraphrase Richard Dawkins out of context, if you say something exists, then the onus of proving that it exists rests with you. Short of that, you can assume that it doesn't exist.
2) I personally think that moving development marketing out of 'simple narrative' mode will require us to intentionally market in ways which do not resonate with donors. Not because we want to not resonate with donors as a matter of general principle, but because if we continue to base development marking on surveys and studies about what donors want, we'll continue to be steered towards 'simple narrative.'
1) If we're going to paraphrase anyone out of context, can't it be Darwin? I recall something about how false facts hinder the progress of science... but false views, when supported with evidence, harm not for all men commend the pleasure of proving their falseness. // One issue I've long had with marketing is there is such a selection of numbers and data that it's not difficult to find some evidence that what is being done is good, even if the majority of evidence proves the opposite. Who decides what data or proof is shared and what isn't? The marketers. (I feel I may have lost my point here except to say that a little proof doesn't make the question answered.)
2) Oh, definitely. I see everyday the ramifications of the past 10 years' simple narrative marketing. Except now we get a fine blend of philanthropic capitalism, celebrity endorsement, and Twitter news bits that were far less visible a decade ago. I fear the world we live in will only continue to evolve in this way... it's easier for me to think of it as the "stretch" narrative... simply stretched. Our breaking point, then, is more like a ripping point -- how long and how far can we be stretched before we rip?
Question: how does aid marketing compare to other marketing in different countries in terms of selling a simple narrative?
For context, I live in a country that has a sophisticated media market where simplistic aid narratives often look silly compared to commercial marketing, which, for example, regularly uses political commentary to sell chicken. For some reason aid marketing people here are still stuck on the simple narrative. Having spent less time in developed countries, I wondered if the same was true?
Claire - that's an interesting question. I'm sure that culture plays a role in how marketing/advertising/salesmanship happens. But in the case of aid and development marketing, I *suspect* that there's not really all that much variation between the USA (where I'm based), and where you are (So. Africa, right?). The reason, I think, goes back to two things:
1) What you said really well in your post about when aid gets personal. Donors want to believe that it's all about them. For whatever reason(s) we (the aid industry) seem unwilling to systematically disabuse them of that perspective.
2) Continued unwillingness on the part of the general population to see aid/development as a profession, preferring, instead, to see it as a hobby that (for example) high school students can have a go at during spring break...