International NGOs Turn to Flickr


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Photography: Heine Pedersen/Danish Red Cross

Flickr is a place to show your photos, to see the work of other photographers and to learn about photography.

It’s also, we’ve discovered, a place where photographers can sell their pictures.

And it’s become a location where businesses use images to show what’s happening behind the scenes, build a closer relationship with their customers — and pick up some new buyers at the same time.

That ability to communicate through a photography site with millions of members has not been lost on charities and non-governmental organizations. A number of groups have now joined Flickr and are using the site to increase awareness, raise participation and even to show donors what their money is supporting.

The Red Cross Arrives on Flickr
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for example, began placing images on Flickr at the end of January 2008, following positive feedback from its YouTube channel. At the moment, its stream has just two collections — one for Africa, and one for the Asia-Pacific region — each with sets divided by country and containing just a handful of photos. Some of those sets, such as those depicting the relief work that followed the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, contain some fascinating images.

The attraction of Flickr to the International Federation, explained a spokesperson, lies in the ability of photography to capture the work done by the organization and its volunteers, as well as the reach of the site itself to share those pictures with the rest of the world.

“We think that Flickr could be a good platform to share our photos, since people do not primarily come to Flickr to learn about humanitarian aid; they come to see extraordinary photos,” we were told. “We believe that the International Federation has a lot to contribute in that respect, while at the same time giving us a chance to highlight the range of activities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.”

The image at the top of the page, for example, depicting a boy with a bed net in Uganda, is intended to show the International Federation’s work fighting malaria. In 2007, the organization handed out some 28 million bed nets while 20,000 volunteers helped distribute measles and polio vaccinations.

It’s those volunteers who supply at least some of the images on the organization’s photo stream. Others are contributed by staff and by professional photographers working under contract. A small number of images were also donated by professional freelance photographers who were operating in regions that were struck by natural disasters and who wanted to support the organization’s work.

This is Where your Aid Money Goes…
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Photography: MicroAid Projects
The International Federation’s Flickr presence is managed by its communications department and the primary goal is to publicize what the group does. The images uploaded to Flickr by MicroAid Projects, which has been on Flickr since December 2006, are less aesthetic, but they also have a practical function.

The group collects funds for projects such as teaching book-keeping skills or helping villagers, mostly in Indonesia, create small businesses. The amounts requested are small, letting donors feel that each penny they contribute can make a real difference.

Each project to which donors have offered funding has a report page on the organization’s website detailing the aims of the plan, its budget and benefits. That page includes a video hosted by YouTube and a set of images embedded using Flickr’s Photo Badge application.

“Donors review the report and make feedback comments for that micro project, including the photos and video,” Jalu Wardhana, who runs the stream on behalf of the group told us. “We hope by using a photo album in Flickr, our users [which consist of both donors and the local NGOs implementing the projects] can really see what’s going on in low-income family enterprise activities.”

MicroAid Projects’ images are shot by its Community Facilitation Partners — the local community organizations running the projects at village level — then selected and uploaded to Flickr.

That doesn’t sound like it leaves much room for photographers to make their own contributions but MicroAid Projects is looking for images for a new donor website to be launched in April 2008. The theme of the site is “family enterprise around the table” and while the organization can’t pay, it would provide linked accreditation on all images used.

And that’s another way that NGO’s can benefit from being on Flickr: free quality images.

[tags] ngos on flickr [/tags]


One comment for this post.

  1. Damien Franco Said:

    Any acts of human aid awareness are great and I think that getting their images on flickr can only help their cause. Good for them.

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