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The roots of poverty


We’ve published a few articles recently challenging the way development NGOs present poverty in their fundraising campaigns (here and here). Although destitute and desperate images tug on our heart, and therefore purse strings, the preconceptions and stereotypes that they create are inaccurate and unsustainable.

This was why I was so excited to see Christian Aid’s latest campaign, ‘To end poverty we need to get to the roots of the problem’. So excited in fact that I ripped it out of my Evening Standard and scanned it in. And then I realised that it was too hard to read ... so here's a copy direct from Christian Aid themselves.

This campaign literally shows us the roots of why the boy featured is living in poverty – a chain of causes which are all manmade and driven by a mixture of political, economic and social factors, none of which are under his control. He is a far cry from the traditional figure that fundraising campaigns present us with - i.e. a child wearing ripped clothing who desperately needs a new water pump to be installed in his village by an NGO, if we donate money his life will be transformed instantly. (Even if he was desperate for that water pump, as many people in the developing world are, this narrative wouldn’t tell us anything about why it isn’t there in the first place.)

It also effectively and simply gives us an overview of the work Christian Aid do – and could do with your donation. They are there at the surface providing relief and support, but also campaigning and lobbying for these root causes to be addressed.

The injustice that this campaign highlights isn’t just the existence of poverty itself, it’s that it’s preventable and changeable. So while it succeeds in inspiring people to donate funds, it also equips and inspires an informed public to have a conversation about the causes of poverty – and to take actions such as campaigning and lobbying, volunteering, and making ethical purchases which can help address them. That’s what’s so exciting.

If you're aware of any organisations who you think are advertising well like this - let us know by posting on our facebook wall at or by commenting below.


20/04/11 11:43pm - Posted By Steven Buckley - Reply to this comment
Francesca, thanks so much for covering our Poverty Over campaign. It's the latest stage in some thinking we started on Poverty Over about two years ago now. That work began with two reports that set out our thinking that poverty is structural, complex and - more often than not - not just to do with simple measures of economic power.

As useful and informative as those reports were (you'd be surprised how few NGO's set out a vision for a world where they themselves are no longer required), we recognised that they were complex messages to get across to a general audience. With this in mind, the current campaign was born.

The project started with an unusual partnership with the Guardian newspaper. Alongside a dedicated microsite, they produced 6x films about some of the structural issues we think need to be addressed if we're to move forward on the Poverty Over agenda. The latest of these, looking at Female Genital Mutilation (in the context of inequality - the lack of control over one's body being a significant power inequality) - was launched on the Guardian site on Monday -

The project has been fascinating. Interactions on the Guardian site have reached six figures. One article on the back of the project by the Guardian's environment editor John Vidal got 30,000 'likes' on Facebook. Moreover, we've been able to engage readers and writers alike in the way that you set out so well in your post.

A final word - the illustrations used in the advertising very much follow Christian Aid's image and brand guidelines. It may well be that desperate images deliver the best results, but we very much prefer to show images that have dignity and humanity at their heart. Thank you for spotting this!

Steven Buckley
Head of Communications and Brand
Christian Aid
20/04/11 11:49pm - Posted By Steven Buckley - Reply to this comment
PS - one other thing to note: this wasn't primarily a fundraising campaign. The main purpose was to increase understanding of development issues and the ways in which Christian Aid works.

Best wishes,

21/04/11 3:24pm - Posted By rachel seaman - Reply to this comment
check out Nuru International

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