Creating Learning Spaces for our Members

One of Integral’s strategic objectives is to create learning spaces to share strengths, best practices and strategic issues. Integral groups regularly share expertise and take part in webinars across a range of subjects. In June members of the Integral Marketing Group took part in a webinar on ‘Ethics and Dignity in Humanitarian Communications’ …

Photo © Helen Manson, Tearfund New Zealand. 
RUSHUM, 50, Cox’s Bazar, Rohingya Refugee Camp.
“He was my whole life. We were just teenagers when we got married. I really miss him at night. That’s when I feel the most insecure. I feel so alone, I am a single older woman. I don’t have anyone. I miss our lifestyle. He was a day labourer and I would cook and clean for him. Then one day when I was at home, I heard gunshots. I saw with my own eyes as the soldiers shot my husband three times in the chest. I started to run to help him and the soldiers turned their guns on me. Their bullets hit my goat and killed it and I escaped with my life. I turned back to see them light my house on fire. I don’t know what the future holds. I sleep alone scared of the people around me. We used to have a nice life.”

A total of 33 participants from across 11 Integral Members joined this webinar led by Helen Manson, Creative Manager at Tearfund New Zealand and Sue O’Connor, Medair’s Head of Content. They spoke from their extensive field communications experience about why it is so important that photographic subjects are treated with dignity, and ethical principles are applied in photographs that will be used in fundraising campaigns. 

Helen shared: “Informed consent and sharing how the story will be used is so crucial before you even pick up your camera. I also ask myself: is this how I would like myself or my children to be portrayed in writing or imagery? As a humanitarian photographer, we are first and foremost humanitarians. We have a responsibility to tell the whole story, to do no harm and to use our photos to promote a good cause. It is important to use captions to contextualize the visual image and don’t stereotype or make false generalisations.”

Sue explained how the careful choice of photos can impact how committed our supporters are: “Our desire is to develop relationships with our donors. Choosing images and photos that preserve dignity actually draws our donors into the solution.  Research shows that shocking photos tend to lead to feelings of helplessness. We want to have people who are walking with us over time and seeing the impact of their involvement, feeling they are contributing to a solution. This allows us to tell the whole story – not only focussing on the suffering but also the hope.” 

Here are what some participants said about the webinar: 

“I think these conversations are important and valuable for those of us serving in communications or marketing roles for humanitarian organisations. Certainly, protecting our beneficiaries is the top priority in our story-telling and photography. I also think it’s important to reflect on and consider our own cultural norms and personal biases and ensure we are not imposing those on people from other cultures. This applies to what we consider “dignified” in photography, which was a focus of this conversation.”

“For me it was a valuable webinar with impressive concretisation in the form of photos. It was a good investment of time to participate because in some conversations with supporters the topic ‘dignity in dealing with people in need’ is relevant. Thank you very much for your preparation and the dedicated presentation.”

Sarah Larkin, Integral’s Head of Communications and Marketing says, “It is so good that as an alliance we can wrestle with challenging topics and out of our trusting relationships provide a safe space where people can share openly and honestly, and go deeper with one another. We already have agreed communications standards in our joint disaster responses as part of our commitment to quality, and we aim to keep sharing about Ethics and Dignity with a view to developing a ‘gold standard’ for dignity.”  

Integral Alliance Members are committed to accuracy and accountability in fundraising and marketing communications, consistent with internationally recognised codes and good practice, as well as our shared Christian values.