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This post is a while overdue. As I am sure you know, Medecins Sans Frontier launched Condition: Critical this year. It is a website to bring together the many stories of victims of the war, assemble video and photo tools for activism and to leave messages of support. That’s right … no money, just a letter and awareness.

As part of the effort, my mate Ben has had his hand in the first four videos pushed out to the world. Ben’s summary of this conflict and humanitarian situation;

“Its the world’s deadliest conflict since the second world war and yet the majority of people have never heard of it. According to the IRC at least at least 5 million Congolese have died in more than a decade of conflict sparked off by the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda.  Most of the deaths are linked to a lack of medical facilities as the ability to access medical care in Eastern Congo has crumbled with the war.”

Ben’s team trained the comms people out in the field to gather stories and then they edited it to relay the stories in a powerful, respectful way. First hand tales and simple honest images. No gore, only testimony.

Drawing the War is the troubling tale of a boy carried away by opposition forces and set to work.

There are four videos from the MSF Condition Critical campaign on duckrabbit vimeo profile. The other three are Mishoka’s Story, Bahati’s Story, and Francoise’s Story.

So it seems that Ben has had some success in challenging and changing the public relations that non-profits and charities have to their global audience. Now all he, us and the people of Congo require it awareness, effort and mindshare.

Ben has asked us to do one or four of four things: 1. Leave a message of solidarity on the map; 2. Twitter about it and link to it on Facebook (for Twitter use #conditioncritical); 3. Embed one of the video’s on their blogs; 4. Write something about the project. Tewfic, Mark, Charlie, Mediastorm, Daniel and Boing have done their bit. Pass it along.


I also recommend following the MSF Photoblog, managed by Bruno Decock (I think) as it endeavours (commendably) in public to deliver relevant balanced, effective, non-sensational and representative photographs of Africa. Not easy!

Photographers Dominic Nahr, Julie Remy, Martin Beaulieu, Robin Meldrum, Yasuyoshi Chiba and Cedric Gerbehaye have been involved in the collaborations with MSF for Condition Critical.


A Developing Story is a new joint venture by Johnny Bennett, Phil Maguire and Benjamin Chesterton of duckrabbit.

In an email a few months ago, Ben said to me his interest lies in “getting under the skin of NGOs” and have them realise that they can deliver their stories and campaigns in far more effective ways. A Developing Story wants the stories told in Government & NGO international development campaigns to outlast the short term objectives of said campaigns.

A Developing Story proposes that the media of these campaigns is deposited in a common silo, accessible by all (usually under a Creative Commons license) so stories – once created – can tell themselves infinitum.

While we believe that there’s clear value in bringing together this public-facing, awareness-raising communication material, we also want to do something similar for communications that are used in international development – e.g. radio scripts, posters, mobile text messaging campaigns, etc, used in health campaigns, etc.

Unfortunately, almost none of this material is available in the public domain. A public health campaign about the risks of HIV is run in South Africa, for example, but the artwork and radio scripts aren’t available to someone doing the same thing in Malawi six months later. And that’s what we want to change.

We believe that all Government funded communications for use in international development should be available in a central, easily accessible database under Creative Commons licenses. A database where photographs, posters, scripts, public information leaflets, etc, can be downloaded, copied, translated and adapted for local audiences, saving practitioners time and money and therefore ultimately saving lives.

In an age where we recycle many of our physical objects, it seems strange that most of the international development communications work funded by Governments, IGOs and even NGOs is completely lost after the short campaigns they promote.

Given the primacy of Creative Commons and open-source content, Matt and Scott at DVAfoto needed clarification on A Developing Story‘s impact on the photographer (which was provided). I have fewer worries as I feel this venture is aimed at transforming media sharing practices among government funded and NGO initiatives rather than another pressure on the distribution and remuneration of individuals’ works.

I would anticipate that the payments made to photographers and journalists by media campaign management will continue and that photographers will take on assignments in the knowledge that their work can be used repeatedly for non-profit purposes.

That said, A Developing Story is very open to individual contributions. This is the most relaxed approach to collaboration I’ve witnessed!

We’re always looking for contributing editors. So whether you’re a blogger, a photographer, an academic or an aid worker we’re keen to hear from original voices.

We’re particularly interested in multimedia work, so if you want to post monthly podcasts from the Congo, or a slideshow from Myanmar, then do get in touch. There’s no obligation attached to being a contributing editor, you only have to contribute once, and you can post as infrequently as you like.

So, as Ben asked, “Can You Help?”


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