Which Image Do You Prefer?: a study of visual communication in six African countries

post by Cullen_OKeefe · 2018-12-03T06:38:40.758Z · EA · GW · 2 comments

This is a link post for https://perma.cc/YJQ4-PCKA

Key findings:
The majority of respondents thought that the images in the adverts offer an accurate representation of the situation in Africa.
Most respondents demonstrated a high level of media literacy and understood that fundraising campaigns are strategic and developed to raise funds.
When asked to select imagery for a charity advert, 38% of respondents said they would show the problem, 18% the outcome, 27% the root cause and 18% a combination of all three.
The vast majority of respondents said they would choose negative imagery for a fundraising advert in order to inspire donations.
The images and adverts mostly made respondents feel sad.
The respondents felt that the images generally portrayed Africa as inferior and a continent in need.
Respondents emphasized that dignity and respect must be underlying elements in the portrayal of people in INGO imagery.
Most respondents said they were OK with the use of children in adverts, recognising that this is a deliberate tactic by INGOs to attract potential donations.
However, they highlighted the need for more diversity by for example using images of people of all ages and different races, and generally showing that people have something to offer.
Respondents felt that explicit images involving nudity or bloodshed should never be used.
The vast majority of respondents said it is fundamental to use images in the adverts.

2 comments

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comment by eirine · 2018-12-05T07:43:28.743Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I actually attended the launch of this report in Oslo. I have three main points about this report: 1) The results aren't really generalisable, yet they present the findings as if they were; 2) the actual findings of the report don't directly say that fundraising campaigns need to change; 3) although it might be a 'whataboutist' argument, I'd really like for SAIH to focus on something else.

As the report itself states: "this is a study based on a very limited selection of informants, and we cannot generalise from the findings of this research. However, the findings provide an intersting, if restricted, insight into how aid comunications are perceived at the receiving end." The data consists of 12 focus groups in 6 countries: Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Ethiopia, Uganda, and South Africa. The total amount of people interviewed was 74 people, 36 female and 38 male. The respondents are either beneficiaries or potential beneficiaries of SAIH's research partners' aid activities. Yet, in the concluding chapters (chapter 5 and 7), SAIH are calling for change based on the findings of the report. It feels a bit as if they have fallen into the same trap that the organisations they criticize fall into: generalising about Africa based on a few case studies in 6 countries.

Further, the findings themselves aren't really telling us much other than common sense. First of all, a lot of the responses to the different questions were very varied. When the responses were similar, they seemed to report that using negative images of children were the most effective - and they would use the same type of pictures. Most of the respondents felt like the pictures used in the ten examples of aid campaigns were accurate, and that they would use similar pictures as well. If the respondents were to make a fundraising campaign of their own, a majority stated that they would also use negative pictures, and 38% said they would show the problem. They also thought that negative images and showcasing the problem was more likely to increase funds.

Lastly, as SAIH are called a 'watch-dog', it would be so great to see them focus on other aspects of the aid sector than fundraising campaigns. Yes, treating people with dignity and representing an accurate and diverse portrayal of developing countries is important ... but is it really that important? The work SAIH has done through RadiAid has been great, and has resulted in many organisations changing how they portray developing countries. It would be so awesome to see this organisation who are great at making awareness campaigns look into other areas in the aid sector as well. I realise that this might be a poor argument, however, and think it's likely that I'm affected by having dealt with this group on numerous occations. I think it comes from a place of being impressed with their work, and just wanting them to focus that on something I find more important.

comment by Cullen_OKeefe · 2018-12-09T21:50:33.009Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Totally. I'll do some elaboration on why I found it useful [we discussed some of this on Facebook, but I thought it worthwhile to post publicly :-)]:

When I table for EA causes, I get a lot of pushback from left-leaning people that are worried (both justifiably and not) about histories of paternalistic and imperialistic aid in the developing world. Specifically, a lot of grad students (where I am) are already quite committed to using a social justice framework to evaluate potential interventions, which puts a lot of emphasis on avoiding these things.

I think EA as such does a good job of mitigating this at the object level by focusing on demonstrable impact. But I don't think we currently do a great job communicating this to people with those worries, which in my experience are quite popular. Adopting better messaging can be a cheap signal that we take these concerns seriously, or moral trade with people who care about donor side attitudes more than effectiveness. My prediction is that this would potentially open them up to both global giving and further engagement with EA. Otherwise, it's hard for us to distinguish ourselves from the reference class of potential white-savior-y people who want to do good overseas.