Mike Buonaiuto outlines his theory on how to create social change
From grassroots to an international level, the third sector is a crucial segment of global infrastructure. Social enterprises, charities and volunteers exist to make the world a better place and without them, inequalities fester and spread. Through the expert led pockets within our industry, we can open doors to those in need, combat debilitating diseases and share knowledge enabling us to develop as a society.
In order to achieve best practice within the sector, we need to make sure we not only move with the times, but engage across every available platform and mobilise our efforts to become as effective as possible. It’s no longer about requesting support through donations, but rather building a movement that exists to champion your every initiative.
As a social change company, Shape History has worked with the UN, Plan International and Macmillan Cancer, to name a few, tackling campaign work on a digital level, and shaping global agendas through an online collection of change-makers whose actions filter through to the real world. A tried and tested framework has meant we have built our agency and the efforts of our many clients and partners on the three sturdy pillars of Emote, Educate and Action.
In order to encourage behaviour change and activate a population of individuals who genuinely care about your message, it’s first important to generate real traction.
Firstly, we must develop and utilise emotional content that will engage with the audience at more than just a superficial level. They need to feel the reasons why the campaign exists and why it’s so important to sit up and take notice. Through the channel of imagery, video or a piece of writing, these assets signpost an individual to further steps but the ethos behind the material truly needs to resonate. For example, for our recent work with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) and the launch of the Just Say Non! campaign, we created a tongue-in-cheek video, highlighting alternative ways to spend the £30 cost of emergency contraception. This immediately provided context to the issue and allowed audiences to become involved with the topic.
Education is all about pulling on that newly-formed bond and guiding audiences to the information they require to further understand the issue. As a charity or organisation, you know why you’re spreading the message, and through the process to emote, now your audience believe in you too – but they still need to know how they can help you. Whether it’s informed infographics, a press feature or a powerful animated video that brings the topic to life, you want advocates to be enlightened and ready for the next step. In the case of our work with BPAS, our emotive film directed audiences to a campaign landing page. Drawing in a community of like-minded people, the page housed information and educated readers on the key points of the issue.
Through emotive content and education, only now will there be real action. As audiences begin to watch your films on social media and digest your influential news feature that’s placed on a website with high traffic, an authentic need to help will have been ignited. Whether your campaign objective is increased fundraising, membership growth or issue awareness, it’s about making it as easy as possible for supporters to contribute to the change. For example, this could be to take a pledge, send a tweet or even contact the relevant authorities to request they look into the issue. These are dedicated and specific actions that are tailored to your objective.
The future of the third sector lies in its ability to engage with the digital world as well as the traditional fundraising route, and inspire generations of would-be activists and supporters that they can contribute to global issues and enact real world change.
Mike Buonaiuto is an activist, campaigner and Executive Director of Shape History.