It’s always moving to witness the impact of the work our Charity clients do, but it’s not always practical – especially when they work in some of the remoter corners of the earth. In January however, I finally travelled to Ethiopia to visit two sponsored children – one a child I have personally been sponsoring for 12 years and another a child that Copper has recently started sponsoring through World Vision UK. The trip was both a privilege and a wake up call.
Experiencing the world through the eyes of our Copper/World Vision sponsored child, Gizachew, I briefly had an unfiltered view of the communities our client strives to improve – an exhilarating cacophony of raw sounds, smells and sensations. A world completely alien to my own. That swamped me. The only way I could really make sense of it was through the stories the World Vision staff could tell me about the local project and Gizachew’s family background. It was this reliance on stories that set me thinking, but more importantly, feeling…
Normally when I travel, it’s pure pleasure-seeking. And often it’s for relaxation. My long plane journeys from London generally aim to reach the familiarity of my Aussie family. But this trip was different: a busman’s holiday I’d created to help me to think harder about how to do my day-job better. In Ethiopia I saw my own work afresh. And I was hit once again by the very simple truth… that stories are the way we make sense of the world. And that the best stories are the simplest ones…
I briefly had an unfiltered view of the communities our client strives to improve – an exhilarating cacophony of raw sounds, smells and sensations.
Every day at Copper we use the intimacy of digital storytelling to bring our clients’ supporters closer to the causes they support. We strive to create ‘moments of true activation’ that can lead them off down a well-constructed digital ‘journey’. It’s messy, technical stuff. The campaign goals might be encouraging supporters to share reactions to a breaking crisis; helping them donate for the first time; or inspiring them to consider a deeper commitment to a cause. But it’s always defined in a sort of meta-language of communication. The world we inhabit, in our Islington office, is an abstract one of ‘briefs’ and ‘proposals’; ‘copy’ and ‘image-assets’; ‘clickthroughs’ and ‘cart-abandonment rates’.
In Ethiopia I was reminded just how distant this commercial world can be from the stories we really need to tell. The danger of thinking so hard about our clients’ business problems is that we can forget to ‘feel hard’ about their impact stories.
It was late January by the time I returned. Late, but not too late for a new year’s resolution, I hope.
Inspired (I hope) by my repeated slideshows, the Copper team has committed to ensure we make more time in 2015 to really immerse ourselves in the feelings behind our clients work – whether close to home or far afield. It might be as simple as taking time to understand how a husband feels watching his wife receive expert palliative care, or paying attention to the feelings of someone who habitually sleep rough respond to advice and support. But it’s in the individual lives of these beneficiaries; not in abstract causes, and not in our technical briefs, that the real stories start. These are the stories we need to tell.
It’s human stories that supporters, and especially donors connect with – not the good governance of the charity or the pantone reference of its ‘donate now’ button (vital as these are!). If a story feels ‘right’, supporters will feel compelled to take action. 2015 is the year of keeping it simple.
Jason is the Founder and Managing Director of Copper. He’s an Australian by birth but now lives in London with his wife and 4-year-old son.