(The Humanitarian Social Network)
Simple narratives of aid are problematic. I think they're problematic whether they're presenting the problem over and over again or a simple story of success for one person. Smart aid needs smart donors and smart donors need more than just a simple narrative to stay interested.
Aid marketing is, after all (at least for the most part), about trying to get people to part with their money. A lot of strategies seem to rely on shock and/or warm fuzzy feelings over pictures of smiling poor or "other" children/women/families. This works for a while but, apart from all the (many) other problems, it's probably not sustainable. People get disillusioned when they hear the same self-congratulatory story year after year.
But it's tough to break from a simple narrative in a press release. Which is basically what an awful lot of aid communication seems to be. Even on social media a lot of NGOs seem to stick to presenting the problem and/or showcasing individuals who are willing to say that their lives were changed by said NGOs activities. People have short attention spans and you probably only get them to read what you're putting out there once.
But social media platforms don't work like that. People engage with many small pieces of information over a period of time. The message people get is not a once-off, pre-polished press release; it's the accumulation of all the small messages. With the opportunity to ask clarifying questions and to request proof in between. Isn't that an ideal context to explore more complex issues in aid with an already engaged donor audience?
That sounds crazy; boiling down complexity to 140 characters. The points is that complexity doesn't need to be boiled down to one tweet - it can be explored slowly, over time, through many. The practical logic of the programme, based on reality, could make good social media content. The accumulation of many bits of information could produce better understanding of what is smart and logical. Interspersed, of course, with the happy, fluffy stuff because jaded donors would be a bad thing. Is this crazy? Are other people already doing this? Are there good examples out there of social media used to engage with complexity around aid work?