Branding the “Poverty to a Little Less Poverty” Narrative
Earlier this year, Charles Lee asked me on stage at the Ideation Conference: “what could our community help you with?” I responded: “branding the urban slum crisis.”
As urban slums grow from 1.5 billion to 3 billion people within the next 20 years, urban policy, which currently revolves around displacement and slum demolition, will have to inevitably shift to slum upgrading. Within this framework, our organization is building community secondary schools in urban slums and integrating a human rights education curriculum to achieve two things:
- Providing slum children with an opportunity to receive a secondary school certificate (secondary school certificates are needed in our pilot city of Nairobi to run for political office)
- Empowering them to know their rights and to become civically engaged leaders.
In a nutshell, our work is long-term and technically aims to keep urban slum dwellers in urban slums. We’ve done exhaustive research collaboratively with the community to come up with this unique solution; however, undoubtedly it creates a huge branding challenge.
THE CHALLENGE OF “SUCCESS”
The challenge exists in conveying what “success” in these slums looks like. Most donors want to see their donated dollars make quick, visible transformation. Granted, most of them understand that education is crucial and know that their investments may not necessarily see immediate returns. However, there is still an inclination to rely on WEIRD (western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic) logic to frame our understanding of transformation. We’re used to seeing successes of education measured by increases in test scores and college acceptances.
Further, generally speaking, the “American Dream” metanarrative has crafted many of our ideas of what the purpose of education is supposed to be: an escape from poverty and a gateway to a “better life.” Therefore, many want to see our children be “successful” under these same standards, removed from the horrors of slums and placed in a “comfortable” life somewhere else preferably in the city center. But the questions we constantly challenge our donors with are: what’s a better life? set by whose standards? and for what purpose?
NOT SEXY BUT TRANSFORMATIVE
So, what does success realistically look like? Poverty to a little less poverty, families securely living in slums they call home, and healthy childhood development. Yes, not very sexy, and uncomfortable to some, but responsible and transformative.
This year, our organization has focused on branding (or re-branding) this narrative, culminating to the launch of an information campaign, #HumansToo. Check it out here: http://thesupply.org/humanstoo.
Would you connect and collaborate with us on this endeavor? Email me by clicking here.
Follow us on Facebook: Facebook.com/theSupply