Inside Kroo Bay with Save the Children

Ever since I came across the website ‘This is Kroo Bay’ last year wanted to learn more about how such a comprehensive and innovative approach came about. Well, thanks to Rachel Palmer, Photography & Film Manager at Save the Children UK I got what I wanted.

‘This is Kroo Bay’ needs to be seen – it is full of photos, stories, video and marvellous interactive 360 degree panoramas to explore. There are in fact two Kroo Bay sites, as Rachel explains below. Both are worth your time and raise the bar in regard to the use of multimedia / interactive websites by NGOs.

Many thanks to Rachel for responding so well to my inquiries and providing an insight into the use of visual media by an INGO.

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Hi, I’m Rachel Palmer and I’m the Photography and Film manager at Save the Children UK. I manage the film and photo team who deliver all the film and photo assignments at Save the Children. This includes covering our development work, work responding to disasters, our campaigns or fundraising work. I developed the concept for ‘Kroo Bay’ and produced the site working with Anna Kari and Guilhem Alandry, who has produced a great deal of panorama work in the past.

With the ‘Kroo Bay’ site we wanted to push the boundaries of how an interactive experience could  place our programme work in the homes of our supporters, to give them a  ‘ real life ‘  experience  of a community in Africa  through cutting edge multimedia technology. The idea was to allow them to explore the world and lives of the people they are supporting with Save the Children,  to really connect them with the issues and dilemmas they face .

We chose Kroo Bay, a slum in Freetown, for this project because it ‘ s one of the worst places in Sierra Leone ,  a country that ‘ s officially recognised as the toughest place in the world to be born. 1 in 4 children die before their fifth birthday. They die from diseases we know how to treat and prevent ,  diseases like malaria, cholera and pneumonia.

We chose to work with Anna Kari and Guilhem Alandry on this project. Anna has worked for Save the Children on a number of assignments previously and always produced high quality, emotive images that have been very effective in our campaigns. I saw Guilhem’s 360 images in an exhibition he held and was very impressed. We got talking about a multi media project he and Anna had worked on in Glasgow using these 360 degree images, sound and photography. Concurrently at Save the Children we were exploring ways of bringing our supporters closer to our work without actually taking them on visits and I thought there must be something creative we could do with the concept Anna and Guilhem had developed. We met up and discussed possibilities and I pitched the idea to the Head of Communications at Save the Children. It all went from there!

The project has enabled people to connect with our work in a new and more meaningful way, helping us create deeper relationships with  our supporters.  I think it’s been a very successful way of demonstrating a sense of place but also a way of communicating the richness of community life, the highs as well as the lows. So often we only have the opportunity to show the ‘need’ of the people we work with and aren’t able to show the complexities of their lives. This project has given us the opportunity to explore experiences that connect people from across the world – such as children’s passion for football, mother’s hopes for their unborn child, the different hairstyles and fashions found in Kroo Bay. We’ve found it particularly successful within the classroom environment when teachers have used it as a means to engage their pupils with development issues.  There’s been some fantastic feedback on the ‘Kroo Bay’ message board.

Although the webisode updates are less frequent than they were in the first year of the site launching we’re still doing updates when it fits with what’s going on in the community and with other campaigns that we’re running. We also have the news feed where we post news that’s relevant to the community.

We have done a similar project in Liberia – ‘This is Kingsville’ – which was done in conjunction with the Sunday Times. We have also used the technology we developed for the Kroo Bay site to be able to do one off interactive panoramic scenes to report back on the situation for children in disaster situations such as Haiti.

The reason there are two ‘Kroo Bay’ sites is because Anna and Guilhem wanted to create their own that was based on the same concept but didn’t have all the functionality – such as campaigning and donating. We were happy for them to do that even though the work used on their version was done for Save the Children because we feel it’s more important to engage people in overseas development issues as broadly as possible.

You can check out the Save the Children ‘This is Kroo Bay’ site here. And Anna and Guihem’s version here.

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