It’s all about priorities #auspol

I’ve had the TISM song Big Fucking Whoopee ear-worming into my brain all day. And quite frankly I blame the Government, particularly Bishop and Pyne.

My care factor about this whole what happened to some cash 20 years ago with Gillard’s bf of the time – BFW! This is the last sitting day of Parliament, and the PM has introduced into Parliament legislation kicking off the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).  The bill sets out the structure and eligibility criteria for the scheme and will be voted on early 2013.

This is a big fucking deal people.

Did you have a shower this morning? Do you have two a day? None? But if you have a choice of when and if you shower, then you are most likely a fully able bodied person. You are very lucky then. There are thousands of people who need support for daily fundamentals like showering, going to the toilet and eating. And there are thousands of exhausted carers, family members and nurses – underpaid and under resourced and stretched to the limit.

I am lucky that my brother, although he has Cohen syndrome, is quite capable of looking after himself physically. But that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t need any additional support to give him and my family respite care and that all important factor in anyone’s life, choice. The whole point of the NDIS is to give all Australian’s independence and opportunity, therefore people are not dependant and are given choice in their lives. This is brilliantly explained by Stella Young when she was on QandA recently, and from the ABC website

“Disability advocate Stella Young says the scheme will allow people with disabilities to more easily contribute to the economy. Ms Young used the example of her wheelchair, which costs $22,000, but would be provided for under a NDIS, to illustrate how the scheme would work. “If I have a functioning wheelchair I can work full time I can be a taxpayer, I don’t claim the disability support pension or any other government benefit,” she said. “If I didn’t have a functioning wheelchair I wouldn’t be able to leave my house, I wouldn’t be able to leave my bed, I’d require full time care, and I’d be very expensive [to the Australian taxpayer].””

In other news that no one in Government has mentioned at any point in question time this week is 35 yr old Omid Sorousheh, an Iranian asylum seeker  was hospitalised  after 47 days of hunger strike in Nauru. Also on Tuesday four other hunger-strikers collapsed and were given medical treatment in the camp. Nineteen asylum-seekers are currently on hunger-strike.

I’m so glad our elected officials are focussing on what really matters, areas of legislation which have massive quality of life and human dignity implications.

Not exactly destroying the joint, just keying up the side in frustration

It seems that I have fallen asleep at the public discourse wheel. One moment the internet seemed to reflect our offline lives: some joy, some rudeness, light and dark, pictures of kittens in teacups. Then I had my micro-sleep and the world becomes rank with vitriolic misogynists who have no respect for women. Were they always around, or have some men decided to ditch the sensitive side crap and get in touch with their inner Bulldog player instead?

Did John Howard ever have some ask him about the colour of his pubes? Was Kevin Rudd ever told to get back in the kitchen? Julia Gillard was subjected to this and more on her recent Facebook chat on education. Since when was it ok to speak to the Prime Minister like that? Or any woman for that matter?

I have a confession to make. Although I got the odd pizza-face or surfboard remark at school, I was by in large dishing out more dirt than I got. I was a small-time bully. Nothing violent, just smart arse quips and made the odd substitute teacher cry and the odd note passed around that may have caused permanent mental health issues. But, like tie dyed petticoats, ripped tights and hideous beige oversized cardigans, I saw the error of my ways and grew out of it. I was 14.

Alan Jones is not 14. The people who have ‘trolled’ Julia are not 14. The Bulldogs team are not 14. Surely it takes a lot out of you being so negative and angry with the world. If you have your health, family and friends you are on a pretty good run and life can be shitty, why go out of your way to make someone else’s life more miserable – it doesn’t make sense.  Physical threats of violence towards women or any person is not ok, and it’s certainly not ok if you are in the media or public spotlight.

To quote the Doug Anthony All Stars, ‘Can’t we all just love each other, even Oedipus had a mother.’

NZ earthquake exposes Oz’s sloppy, self-interested media

Amongst the scores dead in New Zealand and the anxious wait for hundreds of families with people still missing  there has been one reported Australian fatality.

Not by any means denigrating the suffering and loss of this person to their loved ones, but seriously The Age should one Australian fatality really be the headline of the disaster that has affected thousands? I think we are all condition by these types of headline – Hundreds dead in some overcrowded ferry crash in Asia, 2 Caucasian Tourists dead – oh no! Or even more common, no Australian fatalities *phew*.

Somehow The Age’s headline is a particularly gross use of Othering, and some of the comments I have seen on online news sites are just plain off: “we should hold back on giving them money until we fix QLD” said one reader. Australia is the 10th wealthiest nation in the world in GDP per capita (2009, IMF figures). According to the United Nations Human Development Index, Australia has the 2nd highest quality of life in the world, after Norway. When people cry poor in Australia – it really shits me off. Yes we are a remote island but don’t go thinking that we are somehow disconnected from the rest of the world.

If anything the common bond of disasters and ‘getting on with it’ should bring us closer to our Kiwi mates. If you are a generous person and wish to extend your compassion across the Tasman Sea, donate to New Zealand Red Cross and follow their tweets @NZRedCross.

The Power of Photography

Adek Berry AFP, ABC website

A grandmother holds the hand of her three-day-old grandchild at a camp for flood-affected Pakastanis in Sukkur on September 9, 2010.

This picture really got me thinking.

In my job I see hundreds of images a day, whether I’m photo-shopping them into nice little pixel nuggets for the web or scanning the intertubes for news and the general vibe of the planet.

Working on the recent catastrophic floods of Pakistan I’ve come across many heart wrenching images which may illicit the emotive response we want (donations) but what about the people who are in the images? What about their right to grieve privately? This though often strikes me when I see footage of suicide bombings in marketplaces, particularly in the Middle East, a part of the world we already distance ourselves from.  I have a fairly active imagination, I can envision the horror and suffering a bomb could inflict, I don’t need to see it. Does the blood, cries and pain of these people bring about a better comprehension of the situation? Or does it further alienate us as an audience, seeing the ‘other’ in the worst possible circumstances?

One image that struck home from the Pakistan floods was one that was reminiscent of the images from African famines I remember from the 80s and 90s, a photograph of Reza and several of his siblings, covered in flies, featured in the Eyewitness slot and The Guardian. The shocking image of four young children lying on a filthy patchwork quilt, one of them sucking on an empty yellow bottle, all of them covered by flies stirred global support. The Guardian kept tabs on the family and now the bottle is full of milk, no more flies and The Guardian and its readership are heroes.  Too harsh? Has the ends justified the means in this case?

On the other side of the lens is another view all together. What of the people who leave their comfortable affluent lives to chase the dangerous and exciting life of a photojournalist – the fate of Kevin Carter, Pulitzer-prize winning South African photojournalist should not be forgotten. If you can’t picture the man, you will certainly remember his award-winning photograph that contributed to his suicide.

Kevin Carter's award-winning photo

This photograph showing a starving Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture won Kevin Carter the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for feature photography.

Haunted by the horrific images from Sudan, Carter committed suicide in 1994 soon after receiving the award. His father, Mr Jimmy Carter said “Kevin always carried around the horror of the work he did.” – The New York Times.

As well as being images being manipulated for a good cause, images can also be used as a weapon. Errol Morris in the NY Times wrote an excellent article which looks at the power of images and how they can shape our thoughts. From the starting point of the infamous doctored Iranian missile photo, he goes on to talk about why we need to question the images we view.  Changing history can be as easy as changing the photo – either content, or simply the caption.

Photographs can never tell the whole story and it’s up to us, the audience, to feed back to the media what is and isn’t acceptable photojournalism.

Hanging out in Melbourneo with other word nerds

Attending the 3rd Australian Aid Communicators Conference in Melbourne was a delight. When I say ‘other word nerds’ that roughly means a room full of inspiring, passionate, informed and switched-on aid and development communicators from across this sunburnt land in a slightly wet but beautiful town.*

Over our fair trade coffees and delicious multicultural vegetarian snacks we bemoaned the public’s apathy and sluggish response to Pakistan, found out who was working where these days and shared common tales of staff shortages.  There was also some good news for the sector, the old campaign strategies still ring true: be honest, stay on message and be persistent.  The (not so) ‘new’ media tools are pretty much all free and user-friendly. Have a play and see what you can do, there are no rules. Creating a social media campaign is like any other campaign. You need clear strategy and framework, something along the lines of –

People – Assess your audience social activities
Objectives – Decide on what you want to accomplish
Strategy – How will you satisfy your objectives
Tactics/Technology – Decide which social technologies to use (note how technology is last)

It’s not the first time that the Social Media POST Framework and I have shared the same space, I too have stood in front of a room of eager communicators with the trusty POST on my PowerPoint slide (I didn’t use the rather sexy, that’s quite the discovery). 

And we have our work cut out for us. The development sector doesn’t have the best public image. From cries of “you spend too much on advertising,” “it never reaches the people,” “what about our own problems in Australia,” “our money will end up in Taliban hands,” the list goes on … it is up to us to do a better job at explaining how aid works. And aid does work.

Want more development rants comin at ya? Follow the UNDPI Global Health Conference on twitter #AchieveMDGs – @sarfos is doing some darn fine tweetin’ from the Conference.

*If I could make babies with a city, it would be Melbourne.

Oestrogen poison that is saturating, permeating and festering in Australian media

Damn it

I can’t stand you …

While you were on Q and A last night I was giving you the Julie Bishop treatment with my eyes blazing. Oh yes, tremble in fear Janet Albrechtsen.

On one hand you point the finger of blame of our hung parliament at the bland, poll-based election campaigns we saw unfold. But it was you Janet *insert stern finger point* who said Gillard is “showcasing a bare home and an empty kitchen as badges of honour and commitment to her career” and not knowing about how to meet “the needs of a husband or partner.” How the f*k would you know Janet? Did you ask Tim if he was getting any lately? Are you under the redhead’s bed dictaphone in hand? Of course she’s not screaming ‘oh God’, she’s an atheist, and heaven forbid she might be too busy running the damn country.

I don’t care how flattering her jacket line is, how much fruit is in her kitchen or her womb for that matter. I want policies, I want choice – and I want the media to be actual journalists again.

I have a dream – but that dream is hung.

And the c hunt diaries begin …

It has been a while since I have articulated my thoughts on the intertubes. I’m sure the www has not been the same without me.

Which is not entirely true, have been beavering away socially for the NGO I work at and have been  #spilling and RTing to my heart’s content.

So bloggy-wog, a new PM eh?

The furry-angry little feminist that dwells within me (I keep her in my armpit for safe keeping) is thrilled to have an amazing, intelligent woman in the top job. And I don’t use the word ‘intelligent’ in that patronising back-handed compliment sense like ‘articulate Indigenous leader’ (implying that this is the minority?). Ms PM is super-dooper smart and is totally unflappable, even when the Grand Master of Journalism Tony Jones has her totally cornered within the confines of the ‘East Timor Solution’. Sending our asylum seekers to the 20th poorest country in the world which has 40% unemployment? Genius.

With gay marriage off the cards, dumping our ‘boat people’ onto a developing nation, the carbon trading scheme shelved until 2012, it appears its business as usual in the Labor camp.

However, Sen Stephen Conroy has put the internet filter on backburner so we can be thankful for that (for now …).

Wow, written something with more than 140 characters *lies down with a cold flannel on forehead*

Greenwashing – why do we feel so cheated?

We all know that anti-wrinkle creams don’t work, that owning a certain car won’t make you sexier or that diet pills will make you thiner, so why do we feel so personally aggrieved when we buy a fraudulently green product?

Greenwashing has become endemic over the past 20 years which in a way is a good sign. It shows that the green movement is raising the environmental and social consciousness of western societies.

This increasing concern of being hoodwinked can be seen in the greenwash tide that’s rising in the ACCC complaints department.

Graeme Samuel, chairman of ACCC  has stated that fraudulent and misleading complaints about  green ads has risen from almost none two years ago to about 500 since early 2008 which was ”very unusual”. He says such complaints were becoming as common as those about telco companies.

Graeme believes “Five hundred suggests there’s more than a moderate problem here, that this is an increasing problem. It’s a new area and in some cases marketers don’t understand, but in most cases marketers do understand and they are over-selling.”
But when has truth in advertising mattered? Advertising pushes the boundaries of truth, seeks to create an emotional attachment for you to buy a product.

Greenwashing makes consumers sceptical – this lack of trust will erode and devalue this intangible asset of reputation.

Some companies that have been pulled up by the ACCC for letting their rhetoric get ahead of reality include Woolworths, SAAB, Origin Energy, and carbon broker Prime Carbon.
But looking beyond a personal sense of being duped, Greenwashing poses one of the greatest threats of genuine environmental and social development. I think Danny Kennedy, Campaigns Manager at Greenpeace sums up this threat perfectly:

“Greenwashing fools consumers into supporting the economy’s status quo; lures  investors who link positive environmental performance with profitable financial performance; and misleads policymakers charged with designing and enforcing environmental regulations.”

This creates the perception that change is occurring even though we are still walking down the exact same path and nothing has in reality, changed.

save planet poster

Another problem is us, the consumers and the Green Halo Effect – the moral superiority and the psychological trade off people create in their minds. A holier than holy green ablution because you can afford to pay $2 more for your toilet paper with a tree on the packet; I drive a Prius therefore I can continue to fly business class; I turn my lights off for an hour once a year therefore I can have a TV screen the size of a small elephant in my lounge room.  This is human nature; it’s the green equivalent of starting your diet or quitting smoking next week. We are all guilty of it.
Markets respond to demand. We are creating a demand for a quick fix, an easy solution. An off-set for our conscious.

Reflections on changing the world in 2.0 days #emc2010

Summer conjures up many ‘s’ words; sun, sexy surfers, swimming and summer school.

Being the consummate dork that I am, I find all of the above as equally exciting, especially when the summer school is about the limitless bounds of 2.0 to create social and environmental change.

To seem like a total smarty pants, none of the information presented was new to me, but then again how can it be? With over a third of Australia’s population on Facebook, established about 5 years ago with about 400 million users globally, social networking sites like FB are no great secret.  But it was the framework of how to engage with communities to start a dialogue and flipping the funnel which got me thinking about our online/offline selves and drivers of behaviour. No matter how carefully crafted your integrated marketing strategy may be it is so hard to get people to care and act.

Even if people are engaged with a subject matter which is often the hardest step, we are so saturated in information and misinformation. For example my friend who is an environmental education officer and I had a conversation about climate change and both of us realised very early on in the piece that the issue is almost too big for us the fathom, so what about the people who don’t care at all? How is change ever going to occur?

I like the idea of leveraging cognitive surplus; the web has created a platform for creative debate but also of videos of goats falling over – both are of equal importance. Never underestimate the power of fun

 – Also, per previous post, I found the men!  Men it seems if they forgo the wealth of the private sector like to loiter in the halls of power and politics. Journalists, campaign managers, freelance consultants; these men are working towards a social good yet some have the air of a Prius driver about them and wear expensive shoes.

For blogs that are more informative than mine: – Very useful blog if you want tips to make the most of the latest tools and to optimise your online presence. Especially written for not-for-profits but good for any group. – Paul Gillin, author, blogger and pioneer writer in the field. Definitely worth subscribing to.

Marketing in the 3rd World: Losing the battle against clipart

It goes without saying that marketing and communications in one of the poorest islands of the developing world is very different to pitching in the air-conditioned comfort of Sydney.

For starters I’m wearing flip-flops and shorts and can feel the beads of sweat form on my shoulder blades race down my back. And occasionally my pitch is interrupted by the blood curdling death squeals of a pig, toddlers wandering in and receiving ‘blessings’ from the staff or the power disappearing for no apparent reason.

I’m a flexible individual and take these factors on board, but it’s the Filipino aesthetic that can be the real issue in my work.

sppi-lowresOur logo that the wonderfully talented Tim Neve assisted me with is clean and simple. For starters the name of my organisation is a challenge, its in Waray, the local language, not Tagalog, the national language and after 5 months of being here I still can’t say it without it being written in front of me – Sentro ha Pagpauswag ha Panginabuhi, Inc. Our acronym when googled comes up with Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (SPPI) among other companies that are not us.

When I was presenting to the Board of Trustees they were highly concerned that the logo had no picture, “there should be hands holding fish and crabs,” “and root crops”, “and seaweed…” Explaining that would be visually confusing and distracting from the message of local economy development and in our campaigns we would have supporting photos took a lot of explaining, but I stood my ground that day.

With my counterpart I am organising the Mud Crab (Kinis) Festival with our local mud crab farmers of the Mangrove Crab Producer Association of Rosario (MCPAR). He has a natural business mind and over the 5 months I have seen his confidence grow and very critically for marketing, he is a natural networker with an ability to relate to farmers and managers alike.

I will use one word to describe the festival logo – clipart. Now one can assume my opinion so it need not be said, but our co-workers, who essentially represent our target market, love it. It’s colourful, it’s fun; it’s what it is. Am I consumer focused or am I imposing an ideal like a neo-colonialist font-Nazi (Well we could use Comic Sans, what about Calibri?)

But it’s not just our NGO on an impoverished island, all of Philippines marketing appears to be trapped in an early 90’s time capsule. You just need to see the national tourism website to see that.

All marketers and creatives have to pick their battles and use the gentle art of persuasion, that’s part of the job. I think my greatest achievement here has not been a logo, a brochure, the blog  or marketing workshops. It’s planting the seed of how critical networking is at a grass-roots level for any organisation to be viable and sustainable.